Posts Tagged ‘Neil Downie’

Man-Made versus Natural

June 14, 2012

An object that I found in my garden this morning. ‘Man-made’ or ‘natural’?

As an undergraduate I attended a lecture by the inspirational Eric Laithwaite. He began by asking the audience to imagine a device which could pump water from 30 metres below ground to 30 metres above ground, but which was completely solar-powered. We pondered… and he then showed us a picture of a tree.

He then spoke about the difference between ‘natural’ and ‘man-made’ solutions. As I recall the talk through the haze of age, I seem to remember that he just asked questions: one question after another with no answers. And I was enthralled.

One question I remember in particular was:

“How was it that we could instantly recognise objects as having been either ‘man-made’ or ‘naturally’ produced?”

I was reminded of this when I viewed a video of a 4 gram domino knocking over a 16 kilogram domino.

This system is obviously made by humans. And it struck me keenly that I was witnessing the physical embodiment of the financial system, created entirely by humans and which is currently ‘looking after’ my pension investment.

And the ‘natural’ pension investment? Well they are in bed now ­čÖé

Vacuum Bazooka

June 13, 2012

Today I spent a few pounds and a couple of hours with my son making a bazooka. Is there a better way to pass a Sunday afternoon?

Our adventures were cut short by rain, but I hope that next week we may be able to find the tweaks that will double the projectile speed to perhaps 30 metres per second.

The project is described in a new book┬á(The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science)┬áby a colleague from Air Products, Neil Downie. Neil is a man on a mission to get people doing things – preferably things to do with┬áscience and engineering. If you like the sound of this but don’t know where to start, this book will give you inspiration, enough information to get started, and a description of the science involved. What it won’t do is tell you exactly what to do. I am sure this is deliberate.

I built this bazooka by copying pretty much what was in the book – copying is just such a great way to learn! But there are so many variables that it is inevitable that everyone who builds one of these projects will have to invent something for themselves as they go along. And it is by doing this that people will take ownership of the projects – and I am sure that would make Neil smile.

Christian and I may have begun by copying, but when we have finished, that bazooka will be ours!

The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science

The Ultimate Book of Saturday Science by Neil Downie. A source of inspiration for science projects that will takeabout an afternoon.

We are still a little way from raw rambo-esque figure of the naked scientist strutting the halls of the Royal Institution!

But just give me a rain-free weekend!

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