A couple of weeks back I took over @RealScientists for 7 days. It was awesome! I thought that, while some of you might have caught my full week, it might be nice to put together a summary (along with some behind-the-scenes stuff) into a final blog post. @RealScientists’ mods write a kind of mini summary on their site RealScientists.org which I’ll also link to when it’s up…. which probably won’t be till I’ve sent them my questionnaire *cough*
This is meant to be the gentle ‘feed-in, introduce yourself’ day on @RealScientists. Twitter is noticeably quieter on Sundays and less of the followers are reading the feed and replying. My original plan for Sunday was to plug the various “this is me” stuff I’d already written, and just say hi to the followers.
However, the previous week’s curator was @alomshaha from the Royal Institution and he had been plugging lots of at-home science experiments under their #ExpeRimental brand. So given how fun those looked, I decided to spend the afternoon trying a few with my 5 year old son, and share them on Twitter.
In the end we managed to try jumping flames and washing up liquid powered boats with varying success, all of which were helpfully recorded on Vine!
Honestly, being a RoCur was tons of fun, although getting used to having my phone light up with notifications every few seconds took a while. It’s strange going from having just a few replies, to people replying multiple times to every tweet you post.
So I started off introducing lasers gently with a few explanations of my laser and what I was doing with it.
While also dealing with some requests for modifications to my laser, as there was no little disappointment that it wasn’t attached to a shark… But it was during the introduction to the laser that I made a throw-away comment about the power it…
…which led to what would be a week-long series of discussions about the application of lasers to potatoes. Quickly this descended into complex discussion about (XXXX) I’m not sure why but I started to think that the followers of @RealScientists really had a thing for burning potatoes! Thankfully one follower was more excited by other possibilities:
I did eventually bring in a potato and try to answer some of the demands of potato destruction. In the end the most I managed with my laser was to give it a little suntan!
I also showed off my lab, and explained how our sensors worked, but people seemed a lot less interested in that and were more critical of how clean my lab was!
The chemistry I focused on discussing was a technique called ‘Langmuir Blodgett’ coatings – which involved cool, floating monolayers of purple stuff. I tried to show how I can use these floating layers to coat the fiber sensor I had made with the laser, with calm detached professionalism.
I also shared a load of figures, and a video animation I made some years ago that showed off the chemistry behind the technique. As well as sharing a few chemistry secrets on the sourcing of some materials when I can’t be bothered to wait for the suppliers delivery…
Towards the end of the week I even got to show off the results of my chemical experiments, with the use of a big glowing green laser to excite my very excitable purple coatings.
Although NOT triggering my photosensitive chemistry by photograph was a step I had actually over-looked in all my planning, so had to come up with something on the fly to give myself a light source that wasn’t going to activate the coating.
I even got results that looked almost sensible!
Seeing as I was giving away 3D printed dice during my week, it seemed only appropriate that I showed off the printer and the things it can do.
Which I did improve on by enhancing my original featureless cube to a featureless other thing. All of this was to both demo the machine and to prepare a block to mount fibers on for SEM work in the afternoon of the same day.
I also introduced one of the PhD students I help with, who is working on transparent plastics for microfluidic applications. I didn’t share too many photos of his work as he’s still working on it and not quite ready for the limelight yet.
I also took some time to show off how we embed fiber optic sensors in 3D printed plastic for a load of sensor applications.
SEM is still a pretty new technique to me but I figured that sharing some images and some tweets from my training session would be a good way to show off the chemistry I had done earlier in the week. I hadn’t actually looked at any of the surfaces before so it was a massive gamble that we’d see anything at all!
I also took a moment to do some very serious manipulation of the electron beam to delicately alter a surface.
Yeah there was also data analysis.
This triggered a lovely discussion – mostly about how terrible labview is and how not to over-analyse data.
In addition to all the work-based science things I did, I also spent some time doing science experiments at home.
This was mostly awesome because everything we did was accompanied by a call of “Show the Internet, Daddy – and see what it thinks!”.
Bedtime stories were also a big favourite topic! I asked for science-y bedtime stories to share with people and the followers delivered 🙂 The best suggestions were:
- The Dinosaur that Pooped a Planet
- Star Stuff
- It will take a lot to lift a hippopotamus…
- accurate ‘Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star’ lyrics
It’s certainly give me a long Amazon wish list!
You can read all my tweets in this cool timeline -> @MCeeP on RealScientists.
You can also see a summary of all the science experiments I did in this handy infographic of what I discovered.