- Brad Gross.
Fascinating question. Why Science? I dunno. It just seems like such a bottomless subject. Like Music. You never really get "good" at it, just find yourself asking lots more questions. A good understanding of science is a good understanding of facts. We live in a world full of rubbish, cheap talk, internet gossip and blah blah blah. Science is fact. And we are learning more facts each and every day about ourselves, each other and the world around, under and above us. I find all of this most interesting. So yea, science.
- Brad Gross.
Ahh, geology. The science of time and pressure. What's under your bed? Stinky socks? Lego? Dust? And what's under that? Pipes, electrical wires? And under that? Rock? Miles of it. And under that?!?!?! A ball of magnetic molten magma. Next time you are on the internet, type in the word PANGEA. It's a word to describe when all the continents on earth were one big land mass. One big party. Then, as the earth cooled and spun, the continents, floating on a sphere of molten lava, started to spread out. Scientists called this GONDWANA. As they floated around (and they are still floating around, and moving) they create earthquakes, and volcanoes. This type of earth science is called Plate Tectonics. India was floating around, and smashed into Central Asia, thus creating the Himalayas. As the cracks between the plates moooovvvveee, they occasionally let some of the magma seep out, oops. The plates push together and form a point, and the lava comes out, creating new land. The earth is covered with active volcanoes. Some people still live very close to them. Ask the folks in Pompeii if they are worried. They were when they got buried in ash, preserved for eternity. If you want to get up close to a volcano, learn more about geology, and take a few courses. Then go on a field trip to an active volcano, and take a whiff of a real crack in the earths bottom. You'll be glad you did.
- Brad Gross.
I don't, and I never will... But I'm interested, and I try to get other people to be interested. An inquisitive mind is a busy mind. And a busy mind is sharp. A rolling stone gathers no moss. Use it or loose it. A mind is a terrible thing to waste. And all that.
Wolffia is the smallest plant in the world (nothing at all to do with the Wolf!) They are incredibly small, just a bit bigger than a grain of sand each. But they grow in big numbers together so it’s easy to see them. It grows on water so if you dipped your hand in it would look something like the picture above.
And the best thing about these plants? They are edible! And quite nutritious. They are eaten in parts of Asia and you could probably fit around 100,000 plants inside your mouth at once. That’s a pretty good way of getting your ‘5 a day’ vegetables I think. I can’t promise it will taste nice.
- Ivan Teage.
‘General Sherman’ is the biggest tree in the world. Yes, it has its own name and is a ‘Giant Sequoia’ tree which is almost 1500 cubic meters in volume. That is the same size as 10 double decker buses or 1000 cows; or about 50 times the size of your bedroom. It is also 84 metres high, which is nearly as tall as Big Ben in London but not quite.
It all depends how you measure ‘big’ of course! There are taller trees (some are 115m high), and there are wider trees, but this one is probably overall the biggest and heaviest. There were probably bigger trees in the past, and there may be a bigger tree out there somewhere still (let us know if you find it!).
- Ivan Teage.
What will the effects be on the Earth when the magnetic poles flip? Mrs Cook, age 48, Westfield School.
The liquid iron outer core of the Earth is in constant motion due to convecting heat and the rotation of the planet. This causes the magnetic field to move and shift around. Roughly every million years the magnetic field flips entirely about 4 or 5 times, so that the north and south poles swap places. The last one took place about 780,000 years ago during the Stone Age.
We see evidence for this in the new crust that is created between tectonic plates as they move apart. The mid-ocean ridge in the floor of the Atlantic Ocean shows many field reversals, with magnetic patterns in the hardened lava showing the history of the Earth’s magnetic field.
There seems to be a reduction in the magnetic field at present, suggesting that a reversal may take place in the next couple of thousand years. A reversal happens gradually and so would go largely unnoticed. There is no scientific consensus as to the effects that would be experienced. With the weaker magnetic field providing less protection to Earth, it is possible that the effects of the solar wind may be stronger. This might cause holes in the Earth’s ozone layer and increase the rates of skin cancer. However, the atmosphere would still provide considerable protection and so it is also possible that these effects may be minimal.
Some animals, such as pigeons, bees and whales, are thought to use the Earth’s magnetic field for navigation. It is therefore theoretically possible that they may become disorientated at this time. However, the slowness of the reversal may also mean that individuals are able to adapt.
- Catherine Bell
Planets are roughly spherical because they form in a rotating dust cloud around a rotating, newly-forming star. Gravity pulls the material together as it collapses into a “ball”. The equator is an imaginary line around a planet, exactly half-way between the two poles. The rotation also causes a “bulge” to form at the equator so that the Earth is more of a slightly “squashed ball".
It is hard to say who first found the equator. Ancient Greeks and Polynesians who travelled by sea, navigating by the stars, would have been aware that the Earth was spherical. Christopher Columbus is often believed to have proven that the Earth was spherical rather than flat, but this appears to be a myth; the Earth was known to be spherical before his time.
- Catherine Bell.
An X-ray machine is made up of a source of X-rays and a detector. When a doctor (or radiographer) makes an X-ray image of your body, X-rays are fired towards you. X-rays can pass through the soft tissues of your body to reach the detector but X-rays that hit your bones reflect and so do not hit the detector. Technically there’s no reason why this couldn’t happen in space. You’d need a power source (probably solar power), an X-ray source and a detector. And an astronaut in between!
As it happens there are lots of astrophysical sources of X-rays already in space, including our sun. The gravitational fields around, in particular, white dwarfs, neutron stars and black holes are very strong and pull stellar material towards them. The material gets very hot and emits lots of X-rays, some of which have much more energy than the X-rays used in medical X-ray machines and would be damaging if fired at your body.
There are also a fair few X-ray detectors in space at the moment. X-rays are absorbed by the Earth’s atmosphere and so astronomers need to use space telescopes to detect them. XMM, Chandra and Swift are three satellites with X-ray detectors that have been orbiting the Earth for over 10 years each, detecting X-rays from stars and galaxies and sending data back to astrophysicists on the ground. The data are analysed and provide lots of information about the stars and galaxies from which the X-rays came.
- Catherine Bell.
Is it possible for the Sun to blow up and if so what could cause it? Tali, age 11, St. Paul's CE Primary.
Dear Tali, Brad here. Thank you for your excellent science question. And a heavy one at that! The Sun has always mystified people, even back to the Egyptians. They called the Sun god ‘Ra’. And long before, the Sun is why we are here. Not too hot, not too cold, just right…
The Sun is a living thing, like all of us. It was born about 13.7 billion years ago and will live its life, then get older and eventually pass away.
The Sun is a nuclear furnace turing hydrogen into helium at a temperature of millions of degrees. Eventually, like a fire around a campsite, it will use up all its fuel and go out. Sometimes a star will fall in on itself and explode into a supernova. But our star probably isn't big enough for that, so chances are, in a few billion years, it will just start to go out. Get smaller. Make us colder. Much colder.
If you look on the internet about how to make a pinhole camera, a solar telescope, or a filter on glasses, you can experiment with safe ways of checking out the Sun - but only under strict supervision. It can be dangerous. With the correct filter, you can look directly at the sun. And it's amazing. You can buy special astronomy glasses for about £5. Very cool. Then you could bring them in, let your class have a go.
But you have summer in Hastings to look forward to. And a few billion summers to go. So don't let it get you down. Enjoy the sea and the Sun (wherever it was this week?!!!?!) and thank you for your excellent science question. St. Pauls is awesome. Be cool to your school. Thank you to Lucy for sending it, and we hope to see you again.
- Brad, Blast Science.
P.S. Don’t forget about the free science events happening on the Pier this summer. First come first serve! Have fun, and ask good questions! That’s what a good scientist does.
Dear Kyle, Brad here from Blast Science. Thanks for writing in, and thanks to your Dad for helping to send it. I had an awesome day at Sandown. You guys were full of energy and a great audience. Thank you.
Now, to your excellent question. Science project? I used to work at London's Science Museum, as a member of a science gang called Punk Science. We travelled all over the UK and Europe doing crazy fun dangerous science performances. We did a bit of TV, radio… a few kids books, and even met the Queen! It was awesome.
One time, to demonstrate non Newtonian fluids, I rented a cement mixer. We filled it with cornflour and water and mixed up this goo that acts very strange. We filled a small swimming pool with this messy stuff, and ran over it barefoot!!!
If you stop, you sink. If you continue to apply pressure, it stays solid. You can make it using cornflour or custard powder and a little water. Mix it in a small bowl. Then give it a punch. Solid!?! Then try to pick it up. Gooey!!!?! It's crazy. But it's also a great demonstration of material sciences.
Good luck with your schooling, and your excellent question asking. And keep up the good work at Sandown, Kyle.
- Brad, Blast Science.
Please email us with your questions!!
* Kids - ask an adult before you use their email
* Please include your age!
* The best questions will win a brilliant Science book featuring Brad!
Below are some of the questions kids have asked Brad and Lydia! VID 1: Do you love your job?
VID 2: Can you come to my party?
VID 3: What is your favourite experiment?
Our team of Scientists...
Brad Gross - is a Science entertainer and educator for over a decade and co-founder of Blast Science. Brad has worked at the Science Museum in London, at Herstmonceux Observatory in Sussex and is also a Jazz Drummer in Cocktail Safari - so is an expert on all things Science and Music.
Lydia Samuel - a Primary School Science Specialist Teacher and co-founder of Blast Science, Lydia has answered unending questions about Science from hundreds of children for over a decade - including her own son and daughter - and has a wealth of Primary Science classroom experience.
Catherine Bell used to an astrophysicist who studied the different sorts of light coming from star material as it falls towards a black hole. We can work out what physics takes place close to the black hole by looking at how the light changes. She is now taking a break to home educate her children but will be back again one day…
Tom Holloway is a Primary Science Teacher and Space Enthusiast. Alongside being a full time teacher he runs Star Gazing evenings, is a Science Advisor, has established a Darwin Garden in his school in Caterham and won Primary Science Teacher of the Year in 2013/14. Watch the video here!
Keita Lynch - has helped Sussex 'stay curious' by coordinating the Brighton Science Festival for three years. She's passionate about sharing science in simple
and engaging ways; without all the big words.
Keita's also a keen supporter of campaigns
like Let Toys Be Toys that encourage toy makers and retailers to stop limiting children's imagination by branding things for 'girls' or 'boys'. Astronaut suits and dinosaurs for all!
Dr Sarah Newnham - I am 26 and have a degree and PhD in biochemistry. I enjoy learning new things and have spent 7 years at university studying and experimenting with molecules and microorganisms. I mainly like to play with bacteria and get them to do new things and produce different chemicals. I also enjoy helping with Science projects in schools and enthusing children about my subject.
Dr Matt Edwards
Dr Matt decided to become a doctor when he ran out of his own scabs to pick. He used to work in Accident and Emergency in Brighton, pulling broken bones back into place and sewing up cuts. He now works in Brisbane, Australia as a Family doctor. This involves cutting out lots of funny lumps and sticking his fingers in every hole that people have. In his time he has been covered in every body juice you can think of, and once juggled with three hearts. Ask him anything about bodies and Gross Science.
(Engineer at Ricardo) Had a strange fascination with all things mechanical from an early age and would often spend time 'fixing' his Dad's car without telling his Dad first. Rarely did it end happily, so of course he decided to continue this into a career than now spans almost 2 decades of designing engines for big names the world over. Having studied Mechanical Engineering at university he has been working since at a world leading technology consultancy, principally creating models and simulations of engines big and small for everyone from McLaren to Volvo. These days you're as likely to find him on a ship or looking at a tidal turbine, but it's still engines that keep him running.
Ivan is a experienced all-round scientist. He studied astrophysics after a childhood of being obsessed with going to the moon, and now works at the Natural History Museum in London using technology to explain Science to young and old audiences. Ivan is interested in the science of music and is keen to help people understand the natural world, how it works, and what it has to offer. He is looking forward to your questions about nature, space, music, sound & the meaning of life.
Alex Nicholls - With A-levels in Pure Maths, Applied Maths, Physics and Chemistry he went to Uni to read Nuclear Physics, but in the end switched to Law. He nevertheless retained a great interest in Science and has an encyclopedic general knowledge about nearly everything. Alex is also the linchpin of the Blast Science props dept but helps out answering complicated questions about Science for light relief from complicated carpentry. He also builds amazing brass sputnik lamps from his workshop in Hamble-le-Rice.