On August 23rd 2015 we held a big science-themed day of exploration and discovery: The Laneway Learning Science Spectacular. With support from National Science Week, we pulled together more than 20 scientists and science enthusiasts to speak about (and demonstrate) how amazing the universe is. From the gravity of the biggest structures in space to the weirdness of the tiniest quantum effects and everything in between!
Did you come along? If so, we’d love some feedback. We have a survey you can fill out (survey now closed), which will help us figure out what we can do better next time! And if you want, tell us what you think in the comments below.
Classes for the curious
Laneway Learning wouldn’t be Laneway Learning without our trademark style classes!
Class: Build Your Own Time Machine.
Pascale Pitot showed how to identify planets by subtle features you might have otherwise missed.
Class: Release Your Inner Botanist.
Josh Richards, who may well be an astronaut himself one day (followed closely by becoming a Martian), gave people their first taste of astronaut training.
Class: How to Become an Astronaut.
Kitty van Cuylenburg explained where Australia’s amazing geology came from and what we do with all the minerals we dig up.
Class: Minerals and Mines – The Geology of Australia.
Class: Carbon Emissions: All You Need to Know.
Pamela Ferrada jumped into the deep end to talk about one of the modern frontiers of the biological sciences: epigenetics.
Class: Epigenetics: You Are What Your Great Grandparents Ate.
Jo Mitchell revealed how psychologists have been studying happiness, what insights they have discovered, and how you might be able to implement change in your own life.
Class: The Science of Happiness.
Toby Brown made the incomprehensibly big seem comprehensible when teaching us what galaxies are and how they form.
Class: How To Build a Galaxy.
Walk-up and do some science
There was simply too much science to squeeze into one little blog post, but a few highlights will give you a feel for what was on display. Aside from 3D printing, asteroid photography, computer animation, food and energy, gyroscopes, insects, nature and design, neural knitworks, the quantum eraser, solar technology, spectroscopes, static electricity, and the human voice there was also:
Right out the front Captain Melville we set up a chemistry laboratory with a bunch of fun (and safe) experiments for young and old. DNA was extracted from bananas, milk was set in motion with detergent creating flowing colourful artworks, and a bit of science-sleuthing was used to identify acids and alkalis.
Aaron Brown, Stephanie Bellmaine and Tessa Young donned lab coats and passers by couldn’t help but step up and try out some science.
Do you think jalapeño chillies are hot? How about habanero? Pfft, these are nothing compared to some of the devilish chillies that Jen McInness brought along to challenge the bravest. There was a hotness-ranking game: could you put the chillies in order of mildest to hottest just by looking at them? It turns out it is possible: the most evil chillies actually look it, all wrinkly and bright red, daring you to eat them.
For the adventurous, you could even try one so hot that a simple dab on the tongue of a toothpick that had touched the juicy flesh would be like eating a whole “regular” chilli!
Most of us played with a microscope at some point in high school science, but have you used professional ones like those at world-leading medical research organisations? You would be able to answer “yes” if you had been at our Science Spectacular, as Lachlan Whitehead from WEHI brought one along.
And what was on the visual menu? Malaria parasites infecting red blood cells! You could see the difference between the healthy, uninfected ones, the cells undergoing infection, and even the remnants of destroyed cells after hundreds of new malaria parasites burst free.
How to ride a bike
I bet you’re thinking to yourself “I already know how to ride a bike” but it turns out you were wrong. Bikes don’t work at all the way you think they do. It is not, as it turns out, about gyroscopic motion at all.
Chris Lassig showed us one of the bigger paradoxes: that to turn right you actually steer left first. Don’t believe it? Neither did we, but the wet tyre-tracks left behind in the live demonstration proved otherwise. Next time you’re on a bike, pay close attention to how you turn. Although, don’t focus too much on it or you might suddenly find you can’t do it any more!
The preserved animals you see in museums very rarely stuff themselves. Taxidermy is the art of preparing animals for display in this manner, and it includes the removal of the skin with surgical precision, and the lifelike posing of the stuffed result.
Natalie Delaney-John from Rest in Pieces Taxidermy showed us phase 1 of the process: she expertly removed the skin from a dead mouse, giving a mini anatomy lesson to the audience along the way.
Relive the fun
One Man Band Video created a video to remind us of the great times that were had and the scientific knowledge and wonder that was passed from person to person.
Thanks to everyone involved
The Science Spectacular could not have happened without the support of so many people, thank you to them all!
Captain Melville kindly let us take over their wonderful establishment for most of the day, so a big thanks to Ashlee and the other staff for helping with logistics, cooking delicious burgers and pouring tasty drinks.
We had so many presenters happy to be part of the day, sharing what they love about science and the world with others. Eight teachers: Toby Brown, Eli Court, Pamela Ferrada, Chris Lassig, Jo Mitchell, Pascale Pitot, Josh Richards and Kitty van Culenburg, as well many other demonstrators and presenters: Jarrod Anderson, Stephanie Bellmaine, Aaron Brown, Nicole Cliff, Tara Crowley, Natalie Delaney-John, Terry Huddy, Dana Kabaila, Peter Lake, Jennifer McInnes, Scott Phillips, Sebastian Saliba, Munir Vahanvati, Lachlan Whitehead, Wallace Wong and Tessa Young.
We were lucky and honoured to have financial support from National Science Week and Inspiring Australia, as well as help with promoting the event from Science in Public.
We had some keen people provide general assistance with running the day, to make everything go as smoothly as it could. Thanks to our helpers Olivia Wong, Lee Gal and Charlie Higgs, as well as Justin Sorbello, Moniqeu McLennan, Julianna Rozek and Maxine Lotherington from Young Scientists Australia. And we have a record of the day in photos and video to make up for our frail human memories thanks to Ivan Krpan and Steve Rowland.
And finally, a big thank you to everyone who came along to be part of it. We hope you had a great time, learned something (or multiple things) and perhaps got inspired to go do some science yourself. Remember all you need to do science is a question and a desire to find the answer!