Friday, June 15, 2007

BBC documentary on Northern Irish astrophysicist

I really enjoyed the recent BBC One Northern Ireland documentary "Northern Star" about the remarkable life of pioneering astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell - unsurprisingly perhaps as I suggested the idea for the programme!

Broadcast on June 13, 2007 it tells the fascinating story of how the Nobel prize for discovering pulsars was not shared with her - despite all her hard work on it. It also gives an insight into how scientists feel about their work - and makes the hard science accessible by presenting it in the context of a very personal story. For a behind the scenes account of the making of the documentary visit the Belfast Telegraph site, and Wikipedia has a detailed biographical account of her life.

Interior design for space craft

As astronauts on board the International Space Station struggle to fix the shuttle and their computers, design aesthetics are probably the last thing on their mind.

The interior design bar has been raised with this new sleek design aimed at the space tourism market - but is it perhaps a bit too minimalistic? Although it does beat the clutter most space craft succumb to! (story via

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Beautiful science photos

I really like the photos in the Photographing Science on-line audio slide show just published by The New York Times (which I first read about on the site).

Says the story's narrator (and research fellow) Felice Frankel:
"I have the wonderful joy of helping researchers visualise there work"
And she touches on the sometimes controversial issue of:
"How much can we manipulate an image in science?"

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tips on filming science demos for the web

There's great scope for filming science demos for use in the classroom using relatively cheap and easy to use video cameras. But telling good stories that work on tv isn't always easy and takes a little bit of getting used to.

The SciCast Video Skills workshop to be held on 23 June 2007 in Manchester aims to give teacher's a crash course in making good videos (and "mini movies" as they call them):

"A one-day video-skills workshop, organised by the British Interactive Group, based on teachers' workshops run as part of the NESTA/ ETB/IOP SciCast project. Facilitated by science TV professional Jonathan Sanderson, participants will work in small groups to film and edit a short demo-based movie, learning about working in video, from script to performance, and exploring what makes a compelling web video."
This is a really interesting project and their well designed and written website has some great tips on visual story telling as well as some videos showcasing best practice - including a silent movie by the staff of the Glasgow Science Centre.

(This story is also from the Institute of Physics e-bulletion for the North West region of the UK - see below for another interesting story they mention.)

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Short film helps get science funding

A major new science initiative called 4th Generation Light Source (4GLS) is being pursued at the Daresbury Laboratory in the UK - and they're using a well made short film to explain why the research is important and worth funding.

You can watch the film online and I really like the smooth moving equipment shots and graphic transitions and overlays they're using in it.

I also like the emphasis on the real world practical applications (and I'll look up the hard science later, honest). It's particularly interesting that they say that the science will be helpful in the world of "security" - i.e. combatting terrorism and drugs by helping detect chemical traces. I remember when it was enough to claim that the research would help make faster computers to secure funding!

And if you're wondering what the facility actually does, well according to their website:

"4GLS will be a world-leading photon facility to enable internationally outstanding science in the UK. The 4GLS facility will combine energy recovery linac (ERL) and free electron laser (FEL) technologies to deliver a suite of naturally synchronised state-of-the-art sources of synchrotron radiation and FEL radiation covering the terahertz (THz) to soft X-ray regimes."
So there you have it. The video glosses over that bit!

(This facility was mentioned in the recent Institute of Physics e-bulletin for the North West region in the UK - compiled by Louise Butcher and distributed to IoP members via e-mail.)