How many times have I heard people say, “What’s the point of science; what’s it for?” Well, to answer that question twelve year students visited the Summer Science exhibition at the Royal Society on a beautiful sunny London day in July.  Accompanying them on the trip were Mr Cruickshank (an all round science legend), our trusty driver, Pip (a legend full stop!) and Pip’s wife who kept Pip company while Mr Cruickshank and Y11 whizzed around London.

We arrived at London with the first job being to negotiate the London Underground; if you ever get the chance to go check it out…a great way to get around.  (Message to staff members: However, I was on pins checking that we all got on and off; the doors closed on me at one point.  Students and passengers enjoyed that).  We got off the underground at Piccadilly Circus and made our way to the Royal Society.

Thumb cutting Ants

At the summer science exhibition we all split up and were able to see cutting edge science in action.  The first exhibit some of us saw were the leaf cutter ants; OK, it might not seem special at first but these leaf cutter ants can grow the size of a thumb while they have mandibles (jaws) that can cut your thumb off!  But their benefit to science was to use the natural fungi they generate (which can grow to 3m high) to find new antibiotics that us humans can use to fight infection.  This is very important as many infections are now becoming resistant to current antibiotics (what this means is that if you get infected we might not have antibiotics to fight that infection and you could die); so are you getting the drift, science does matter.

Another really interesting fact is that when these ants invade a bees hive, these particular bees all vibrate and ‘buzz’ together.  This massive vibration from all these bees raises the temperature by 8OC and literally fries the invading ants!

My dog can’t find my tennis ball – Technology for dogs

 Another exhibit had scientists designing people’s homes so that dogs can actually do jobs that could support these people in times of need. For an example an old person who can’t move very well would have her dog help with little jobs such as switching a light on or pressing the panic alarm if she’s unwell.  But that light switch has to be specially designed so that the dog can recognise it and press it.  The problem is that if the light alarm was red and the panic alarm was blue, then the dog wouldn’t be able to see the difference.  The scientists were actually able to find out what colours dogs could actually see; what they have found is that dogs can’t see reds for instance.

Also, dogs don’t distinguish yellows and greens very well, so try asking your dog to find your yellow tennis ball on the green grass.

What else?

I’m sure you’re getting the idea by now; science is used everywhere.  We watched a robotics show that explored how scientists design robots.  We found out how scientists can land the Rosetta space probe onto asteroids so they can find out where life came from.  We even used a machine that allowed our brain waves to control a video game.  I’m only touching the surface here; the way science touches every aspect of our everyday lives and improves our future lives is amazing…I could add ten more pages at least (I know, you’d love me too, but the editor won’t let me!).  It was a fantastic occasion which really confirmed how important science is to our lives; you wouldn’t be doing many of the things you do now without science…don’t take it for granted.

Was it only science?

You can’t go to London without seeing the some of the sights.  We left the Royal Society and walked the short distance to the Mall which led down to the Queen’s house (Buckingham Palace in case you don’t know).  But we turned the other way as Mr Cruickshank had never been to Trafalgar square and was obsessed with Nelson’s column (I was disappointed to note that many year 11 students did not recognise why Trafalgar and Nelson were so important; start learning your British History Kids!!)

Pop Quiz: What would you find on the top of Nelson’s column?

We then jumped on the tube and headed to Piccadilly circus which was where the famous neon signs are (check out the group selfie).  Selfie’s seemed to be flavour of the day; after egging on from Adam Newman, Dylan Jones got himself a selfie with some ladies. In fact turns out that Dylan seems to be a bit of a ladies man! 

Pop Quiz: In the middle of Piccadilly circus was a statue of Eros; who is Eros?

Answers available from Mr Cruickshank

After our McD’s we then headed back on tube where we met Pip and his wife who took us back to Wales.  A great day had by all; the group was fantastic and done Tonypandy and Wales proud.

Well done Year 11.