6 February 2018

On 19 January a group of 15 boys travelled to the impressively large New Theatre in Oxford to listen to some short lectures by well known scientists, as part of GCSE Science Live. The event featured individuals from television programmes such as the anatomist Alice Roberts and doctor and politician Robert Winston. The range of subjects covered was wide, encompassing a huge range of scientific studies.

The event began with a talk on computer science with a lot of emphasis on its future. This was delivered at an extremely fast pace by Professor Dave Cliff from the University of Bristol. He told us that whilst the near future of computer science can be predicted fairly accurately, the next few decades may be very different, as scientists have reached a critical point in developing technology; as components are becoming smaller, quantum physics is beginning to have an effect on the most modern devices we use in everyday life. Other subjects covered included robots, and how some are being programmed to learn how to act as legs for people with missing limbs.

Next, was the famous doctor Robert Winston who gave a lecture on fertility and the development of embryos and foetuses. As well as being quite humorous, a lot of interesting information was conveyed about this subject and the scientific advancements in allowing foetuses to develop in test tubes for example. The footage shown was extraordinary and in some cases unique, including a video of a human embryo forming from dividing cells. Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock finished off the morning with a lecture on both the history and future of space travel in which she described her own ambitions as a young child to become an astronaut in the future.

After a lunch break, Professor Alice Roberts gave a fascinating explanation of the theory of evolution and how it could be explained even without the existence of fossils. She showed us the similarities between the skeletons of humans and other great apes and similarities between embryos of seemingly hugely different creatures, apes and dogfish. Professor Andrea Sella delivered the final, rather upbeat lecture of the day in which he brought the audience’s attention to the fact that ice is the only well known substance which expands during freezing. He also showed us, in an experiment involving dry ice, that atmospheric pressure affects the melting and boiling points of all substances.

Overall, everyone on the trip learnt a great deal about different areas of scientific research, interspersed with a few lectures on exam technique during science exams, so we all enjoyed the experience.

Written by Ashwin Tennant

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