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Astrophysics Research Centre

School of Mathematics and Physics

School Talks

Staff within the Centre offer talks to interested schools, as part of the Maths & Physics Outreach activities. Below are brief descriptions of some of the talks currently available. Feel free to contact us for more details or if you would like us to come and speak at your school.

"Why is the sky blue?" – Prof. Mihalis Mathioudakis

The appearance of the Sun changes with the time of the day and we are often amazed by the spectacular colours associated with sunrises and sunsets. This lecture will provide a description of the processes involved in the generation of the colours we encounter in the sky.

"The death of the dinosaurs" - Prof. Alan Fitzsimmons

We now believe that the dinosaurs probably died out due to the collision of an asteroid or comet with Earth. Will this also be the fate of humanity? This talk discusses how scientists have reached their general understanding of this, and explains the role of school-level science such as radioactivity, energy and the solar system. An overview of how scientists are tackling this threat is also given. This talk is suitable for years 11-14 (GCSE/A-Level).

"Supernovae & gamma-ray bursts" - Prof. Stephen Smartt

Supernovae are the explosions of the most massive stars in the Universe. Their energy release is immense, they can be more than a billion times brighter that the Sun. Supernovae have created the chemical elements that make up ourselves and our solar system, providing the critical ingredients for life. The mysterious gamma-ray bursts first discovered in the 1970s as unpredictable pulses of gamma-ray radiation scattered over the sky have recently been shown to be linked to the most energetic of supernovae. These are explosions where a rapidly spinning star collapses to form a black hole. This talk describes the life and death of the Universe's most massive stars.

"The Science in Science Fiction films and TV" - Prof. Francis Keenan

In these presentations I use short clips from films and television programmes to illustrate how science-fiction in the media sometimes gets science right, but more often gets it wrong! Additionally, I show how difficult it is to make accurate predictions about the future, and hence why most science-fiction films and television are extremely unrealistic. There are four presentations to choose from:

  • To boldly go where no-one has gone before. This presentation looks at the depiction of space travel in science-fiction movies and television shows, and how realistic it is.
  • Set phasers to stun! A look at weapons in science-fiction, such as ray guns, and space battles from movies such as Star Wars.
  • We Come In Peace. A look at the portrayal of aliens in science-fiction, including that staple of many movies and television shows, the alien invasion.
  • Back to the future. A look at how the predictions made in science-fiction movies and television shows have sometimes come true, but are often totally wrong.

The presentations are aimed at children aged 14+, i.e. GCSE and A-Level pupils. Each presentation runs to 45 minutes, and requires facilities for XGA video display and audio. Although presented in an unconventional manner, these talks raise several points of key relevance to GCSE and A-Level Physics, and will provide many issues for later class discussions.

"That's no Moon! A look at some of the best SciFi weapons" - Dr Robert Ryans

Derived from a common ancestor to 'Set phasers to stun!', this talk looks at selection of iconic SciFi weapons, compares them to what's available in the real world, and also manages to bring in The Simpsons. Using a combination of humour and many video clips we cover a lot of physics topics in a way which can provide many follow-up topics for later discussion.

blog/2015120412h42m52s_school_talks.txt · Last modified: 2015/12/04 15:06 by David Young

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