St Peter’s School science department has been giving a Christmas Lecture to the students and staff of the school for over thirty years.
The latest in the long line of Christmas science lectures, this year’s multi-media presentation looked both at the body and medicine. Since the lecture covered the three scientific disciplines – biology, chemistry and physics – teachers from each department had experiments and demonstration lined up.
Members of the school Physics department were first up. Moving through the different regions of the electromagnetic spectrum, they used demonstrations to show how different wavelengths allow the body to be examined in different ways. For example, the method by which the brain communicates with the rest of the body was illustrated by exploding a gherkin, whilst a resonating jelly demonstrated how ultrasound is used to treat kidney stones.
Then members of the school Chemistry department demonstrated how salicylic acid can be extracted from willow trees and converted into aspirin, and how to make the perfect gin and tonic using quinine extracted from the cinchona tree. The chemists also looked at ‘optical isomerism’ and how Thalidomide caused birth defects.
Then it was the turn of Biology, to show how scientific concepts can be used to treat diseases. For example, the way that Green Fluorescent Protein is utilized to tag and destroy cancer cells (it can also create glow-in-the-dark pets!). The highlight of the lecture for many was a demonstration of how a synapse works…this was done by exploding a dustbin full of table tennis balls.
The lecture was designed to be fun and entertaining but also to be illustrative, with some explosions thrown in for good measure. It was enjoyed by pupils from 3rd Form right up to Upper Sixth.