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Flying High



Just spent the day performing science demos with an audience in a field. My recent al fresco work has been busking from a cart which usually dictates I have no electricity and limited access to other utilities such as water too. The plan for this was slightly different in that I was going to be delivering shows and it’s been a while since I did that.


Last time was on the Solar Stage at the Green Man festival; famed for highlighting the role of renewable energy by banning generators to run the stage. And that works! On a ‘green note’, we do need to think about how we have to adjust our lifestyle to a world where conservation of resources means we have to adapt to make the most of what we have, including power supplies.


Fortunately, for this event, I did have access to a generator and it was a good one, not a tiny domestic version. All went well, right up until my smoke machine tripped it. That’s when I took time to look at what wattage my equipment was drawing. Hmm... a 700W hotplate (on full), a 400W smoke machine, a 2000W kettle and a 2600W leaf blower. Ok, so they are not all on at the same time, but I’m not surprised it tripped.


Having never needed one before, I started to spec up some generators suitable to invest in. Because I like to save my voice and want something that is quiet, light powerful and preferably is an inverter generator to provide a smooth supply for laptops, projectors and other sensitive stuff like my BioPac, the price goes up. A long way; even to the point where I have to admit that what I want does not exist. There are a couple of possible solutions. Either better choreography in the ballet of switching stuff on and off in sufficient time to make it work only when it needs to; or get smaller equipment. Something useful to think about when planning shows.


Anyway, what was I doing? Well I went to provide activities at the National Aerospace Camp event. Repurposing elements from my first Science Showoff routine with sections from this years show, ‘Under Pressure’, I painted an appropriate context onto some fundamental physics. The audience were air cadets and have a clear interest in understanding these things in a very specific arena. They enjoyed it, but when compared with their trip in the Chinook, and Carol Vorderman being on site the previous day, I knew I had to bring something special.


Then I had a lucky break! Mid-show, we were approached by a VIP who I immediately invited to take part in a demonstration of the uncontrolled release of energy prior to it being released via the choke of a rocket outlet.


I could tell she was a great sport! The resulting picture, Which I’ve shared from Squadron Leader Vicky O’Dell’s twitter feed, has taken on a life of its own. Apparently, everyone was commenting on it, liking and retweeting it. It turns out VIP was top brass. I didn’t realise she was Air Commodore Dawn McCafferty CBE RAFR.


So I guess we’ve all learned a lot. I had an absolutely wonderful time at Syerston and look forward to going back. Thank you to Phil and Vicky who took such good care of me throughout the day. I’m sure I’ll see you all soon and keep your eyes peeled for a suitable VIP to ignite.