Swiss snow, physics and protons

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By Winnie Guo and Harry Green, 6.2

Last Friday the 6.2 physicists set off to Geneva, Switzerland.

We visited the History of Science Museum on the first day which was on the frozen icy banks of Lake Geneva. Saturday was spent at CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research where they operate the largest particle physics laboratory in the world and focus on research in fundamental physics.

We visited various departments in CERN and got a chance to talk to the researchers. The excellent displays and presentations were very helpful for understanding the principles behind the processes used to recreate the conditions just moments after the ‘Big Bang’ and generate and detect exotic particles including the elusive Higgs Boson. The many stages of accelerator feeding the Large Hadron Collider took protons to 99.999% of the speed of light before colliding them head-on.

The technology needed to keep the particles on track, and to make them move with the necessary precision, required super conducting magnets and electronic feedback control systems – and this interested us the most. We toured SM18 (the world’s leading magnet test facility) and discussed the implications of developing high temperature superconductors.

On the third day we also went to the UN buildings and the International Red Cross Museum before a trip to the snowy Jura Mountain where we had lots of fun. It was a brilliant trip – many thanks to the Physics Department and Vikki Alderson-Smart!

Chemistry in Action for 6.1s

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Head of Chemistry, Emily Seeber: On Wednesday 23 November, 6.1 chemists headed to UCL for a day of inspiring lectures on various aspects of chemistry which are beyond the scope of the A-level specification. We also had a brief talk on exam technique from a chief examiner, and I was pleased that she echoed all the advice that we give to students on a regular basis: read questions carefully, break them down, annotate them with hints, be specific with the terminology or formulae that you give, etc. The students have written short summaries of each of the topics below…

Ed Adams and Jasper Oltmanns: The first talk was held by John Nicholson from St Mary’s University, Twickenham and was based on the use of poisons. He described a history of murders and serial killers over the last 100 years that used poison, including the forensic case built up against the notorious Harold Shipman. He gave an introduction on how to kill someone with table salt and a demonstration showing which forms of diamorphine would disappear without a trace once the subject reaches their end…

Molly Graham and Alice Lester: We then had a talk by University of Surrey nanochemist, Sujata Kundu, about living in a materials world; it was a lively and gripping lecture that got everyone involved as she was a good presenter who knew how to keep the audience involved. She explained various possibilities for the future, such as a lift into space, whilst showing what is possible now and the advances she is making in her own field.

George Peattie: In ‘The Science of Scent’ Principal Scientist at Proctor and Gamble, Will Andrews, talked about making perfumes. We were shown how to create artificial scents, and also to extract natural scents using gas chromatography. We were given samples of scents to smell during the lecture which overall built up to give us the odour of Coca Cola: orange and lime form the top notes, cinnamon forms the heart of the scent and vanillin is the base.

Izzy Milford and Lauren MacMillan: After that we had a series of lively demonstrations on chemistry you can do with items in your kitchen: from changing water to apple juice then to coke, to rockets firing across the stage. The speaker, Stephen Ashworth from University of East Anglia, also talked to us about our bodies being good electrical conductors and demonstrated this using a human circuit on stage to play Coldplay through the sound system, as well as making square bubbles.

George Ford and Joe Murray: Our final oration was delivered by Peter Wothers from the University of Cambridge on the topic of ‘God, the Devils and Alcohol’. This was a wide-ranging, shampoo-inspired lecture on the origins of chemical names and alchemical symbols, supplemented with Greek and Roman mythology, medieval art, Arabic science and sex and scandal. We learned that the original metals known by the Greeks were named after planets, and that Lavoisier named oxygen and hydrogen the wrong way round. There are also chemicals in shampoo which derive their names from the camel urine they were historically extracted from, or a particularly interesting variety of orchid named the ‘testiculus canis’.

…After all this excitement we ate lots of pizza and discussed the lectures, before heading back to Petersfield…

A visit to: Wired Next Generation Day

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By Lara Loasby, Block 4

Wired Next Generation Day is an annual event put on by the innovation and technology magazine Wired, to inspire teenagers to experiment with and learn about the latest technologies. They have on average 15 speakers, ranging from an international drone racer to a memory scientist to topics on animation and CGI at Pixar. They also have a room filled with different interactive displays, such as an interactive ultrasound hologram that will be used for advertisements and has been sold to Crypton Future Media for hologram concerts.

The talk I most enjoyed was by Heston Blumenthal on the science of taste. During the talk he made us all take a glass of Coke and look at two screens, one had ‘Coke’ written in spiky bold writing and the other had ‘Coke’ written in soft bubble-style writing. He told us to take a sip whilst looking at one of the two screens, and when we looked at the screen with the spiky writing the Coke tasted almost sour and when we looked at the bubble writing it tasted even sweeter than normal. He explained that this was because our senses work in a specific order, sight, sound, smell, touch and then taste so the way that something looks or smells can greatly affect the way that we taste food, which I found really interesting.

Another talk that I really enjoyed was by Julia Shaw who was a memory scientist specialising in manipulating memories. She told us that she could delete memories or create them, and that this was not a special skill. “You do it all the time” she said, and then proceeded with examples of when she, as a teacher, asked students to write about their favourite moment of the holidays. When she was creating memories, she changed at least one specific detail of the students’ memories and with some she wrote a new one. When she gave them back to the students, none of them realised that anything had been changed, and when she asked some of the students who had had theirs completely re-written, she was surprised to find that they could tell her about the event that she made up for them in startling detail –  even though that event had never happened.

There were many other fascinating talks, for example a bionic arm builder and Pixar’s leading animator – all in all it was an amazing day and I really loved it.

Bath bombs, beeswax and more!

Gemma Klein Photography

This science activity is a great one to join – especially if you love wonderful smells and making your own ‘Lush’ products.

They are fun experiments with often hilarious results! Days at Bedales can be very busy, and so it is great to just enter the lab and explore and experiment with science. Making our own cosmetics and bath products was relaxing and simple. Every week we meet in the lab and make different things such as bath bombs, lip balm, sugar scrubs, moisturisers and more (see photos below).

It is amazing to learn how to make these brilliant concoctions and to be able to create them at home too. Until I joined the club, I hadn’t realised how fun and easy it was – I love to take what I have made back home as everyone is so impressed with the results.  Lesley and Allen are very helpful in the lab and let you be creative and independent and it is so fun working with your friends.

By Carrie Kemper, Block 3

Bedales takes on ‘Biology Challenge’

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Bedales Block 4 students have scooped a host of awards in the Biology Challenge, a national competition set by the Royal Society of Biology.

Of the 20 Bedales students that took part, 11 were awarded Gold, three were awarded Silver and three Bronze, with a further three pupils being ‘Highly Commended’. The Biology Challenge, which was taken by over 30,000 students across the county, is an online competition which tests students’ knowledge of Biology and Natural History. Harry Snell scored an outstanding 102/120, Raphael Henry 99/120 and Goose Milton 97/120, these scores were well above the 81 points required for the Gold award.

Congratulations to all involved.

By Mary Shotter, Biology Technician

Brain Day

On Monday the 21st of March, Psychology and Biology students attended Brain Day, a series of talks and demonstrations concerning the science of the brain from Dr. Guy Sutton. We learned about subjects ranging from the effects of cannabis and other drugs on the brain, to new technology using brain waves that was once thought as science fiction, as well as issues such as mental health. Dr. Sutton also dissected a sheep’s brain in front of the students to allow for a closer look into the structure of the brain, as sheep and humans share a similar structure. The students were also allowed to hold, touch and feel the brain giving way to a further insight via a more interactive exercise. In conclusion, Brain Day was a way for the students to further their learning in the field of neuroscience that was applicable to both the subject of psychology and biology.

By Morgan Burbridge, 6.1

World expert in paediatric nutrition returns to Bedales

Gemma Klein Photography

Prof. Alan Lucas and former teacher, Andrew Routh

We were delighted to welcome Professor Alan Lucas, Old Bedalian, back to school last week to give a Civics lecture entitled:  “A personal adventure in early nutrition and early life influences”. Alan founded the Child Nutrition Research Centre at the Institute of Child Health in London, where he is now professor of paediatric nutrition. It became evident during his talk that his work and determination have led to substantial advances, even upheavals, in our understanding of the effects of paediatric nutrition on conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

His use of randomised trials to investigate, for example, the effects of breast milk vs formula milk and the effects of various nutritional regimes on the long term health of individuals were both remarkable, and a revelation.

Alan reminisced warmly about his years (from 1956-1964) at Dunhurst and Bedales and he particularly paid credit to his inspirational Biology teacher, Andrew Routh who, at the age of 91, was sitting in the audience. This was one of those magical Civics lectures that entertained, informed and allowed adults and students alike to learn and discuss such important issues with the leading academic in the field.