It’s been some time since I last visited campus to attend an event, or any event for that matter - especially after working from home since the beginning of the pandemic last year. I was left astonished on 29 November, walking over a blanket of snow and experiencing the newly revamped infrastructure of the Faculty of Arts Building, passing the mural on my way down to the rejuvenated Warwick Arts Centre. Alongside a flock of families from the local area all bundled up in their mittens and coats, this was an ideal atmosphere to start my countdown to Christmas.
Warwick's Christmas Lectures have become one of the region's greatest winter traditions, and after 10 years have achieved legendary status. Yes, Warwick’s Christmas Lectures have returned with a bang, and have enthused another generation with a love of science through the wonders of the secret life of chocolate, junk in space and how Christmas Elves are the most dedicated engineers of all time, and we should be thanking them for all their hard work, not just Santa!
Firstly, I would like to praise Professor Don Pollacco for his opening lecture about satellites in space. I think personally this one stuck with me the most, because it made me go back to when I was a young child; being told we were the generation to make change and yet, although there has been some inspiring sustainable progress, I'm still from a generation where we could have done more, and simply, haven't done enough. It was really sad to see the representation of how the sky will look in 2030 and how it will consistently change, due to the environmental impact of space pollution, sending hundreds of satellites into space every week. I never realised how much junk is left behind in space but I was relieved to learn about how astronomers are on a mission to rectify their mistakes by creating robots that can capture the junk with nets which will burn up on entry into our atmosphere, instead of becoming lost in space, or falling into our beloved oceans.
Professor Don Pallacco demonstrated the impact of 1cm junk in space in a way that children could understand by using a laser and Maltesers, firing the chocolate into his very own satellite made from sugar glass which showed that something so small travelling at a high speed can have devastating effects on our satellites, costing billions of pounds to replace. Fun fact: This is called Kessler syndrome.
I definitely need to applaud Fatemah Jafar, Year 3 Physics Student at University of Warwick for her passion and knowledge of the elements of chocolate! Yes - chocolate! The second lecture definitely did lighten the mood and explain why there was so much chocolate given out at the beginning of the show. I was especially impressed with the children (and myself, of course) resisting the urge of eating them all before the show actually started. It was a fun, light hearted way of explaining why milk, white and dark chocolate are so different from one another, and how the molecules of chocolate work together. We then got to taste each type and choose our favourite, with the explanation of why this may be the case. It turns out making perfect chocolate does exist, and if tempered correctly, you will hear the perfect SNAP!
Whilst Christmas lights glistened in the theatre room, Dr Phil Jemmett suddenly bounced onto the stage with his magical Elves on standby to help with his Christmas demonstration. He teaches children about the simple engineering mechanisms and how these simple devices make a huge difference in our every day lives - especially for Santa to be able to deliver all those presents to the children around the world in just one night on his sleigh! These simple devices include a lever, a screw, a ramp, wedge and pully; and with the help from Santa's Elves and participants from the audience, children were able to engage with the lecture and learn all about mechanical advantage - the measure of force and distance.
You can hear more from Dr Phil Jemmett about this lecture in his video below.
Overall, the atmosphere was electric, the lectures were engaging, and it was joyous to see a new generation learn about the wonders of science. A Christmas delight for all the family.
Blog by Shannon Stevenson, Community Communications Executive & Coventry local!