Back on Sept 6th, on the opening night of the British Science Festival, the Public Engagement Working Group helped sponsor an event curated by Flatpack film festival. Things That Go Pop was an evening of combustible vapours, scientific cocktails, and free thinking inspired by chemist, theologian, and all-round visionary Joseph Priestley. This event was included in the British Science Festival programme and featured experiments and demos led by University of Birmingham researchers from Chemistry and History departments. In the lead up to the event, the University’s research pop-up shopThink Corner  also ran chemistry inspired activities to promote Things That Go Pop.

Chemist, Rowena Fletcher-Wood was one UoB researcher who was part of the evening’s activities. We asked Rowena to write us a mini-review which you can read below.

Were you there? If so, let us know what you thought in the comments below! Should we do more of this type of thing?

Things that went Pop

by Rowena Fletcher-Wood

On Saturday night at the launch of the British Science Festival, I found myself kicking off the Priestley-themed evening “Things That Go Pop” with liquid nitrogen, liquid oxygen and flames. This event, hosted by Flatpack film festival, featured a variety of activities in different rooms, including a laboratory, where

Prof Gron Tudor Jones repeated (with a modern set up) one of Priestley’s “popping” experiments: lighting a tube of hydrogen gas, Dr Matt Pritchard performed scientific magic tricks and and David Price made science simple as the audience selected demos and he battled to fit as many as possible into his half hour time slot We saw popping pots, card tricks, deodorant rockets and musical instruments made from a tube and a rubber glove. Elsewhere in the building were soapbox talks and a theatre of films, and between activities people gathered in the pop up bar, where cocktails were made (and modified) using dry ice. There was even one called “hangover free”! In the bar, the science buskers roamed, demonstrating tricks like getting a ring off a piece of string by twisting it. I borrowed a balloon, poured out some more liquid nitrogen, and began compressing the air with cold.

Overall, it was a fun night; plenty of people without being rushed or busy, which was a good job as the bar staff had plenty to do. Deep in the bowels of the Birmingham and Midlands Institute, it was a bit of a maze, but well labelled. Some people were disappointed to have to choose between talks and demos, and the gaps in turnover did make a more staggered programme possible – allowing people to choose one or the other, or mad dash between soapbox, laboratory and bar. I never heard from anyone who had visited the theatre…

 Images – courtesy of Rowena.