Cool Stuff

Posted on Friday 14th December 2007

Dr Ed Tarte, a leading researcher in superconductivity based at the University of Birmingham's Department of Electronic, Electrical and Computer Engineering, will deliver the 2007 Christmas Science Lecture.

In this interactive talk, 1300, 11 and 12 year old children from schools around the country will be introduced to the concepts of temperature and what happens to things when they are very very cold. They will also have an introduction to electrical resistance, superconductivity, electromagnets and magnetic fields as well as discovering magnetic levitation and electric currents that are generated by the body and ways of measuring them.

Scientists and engineers throughout the world have been striving to develop an understanding of superconductivity for years. Superconductors are among the most interesting materials known to scientists - they have discovered that when superconductors are cooled to approximately 200 degrees below room temperature, they have no resistance to the flow of electric current and lose very little energy. Once set in motion, electric current will flow through a superconductor forever in a closed loop, making it the closest thing to perpetual motion in nature.

When electric currents flow in a coil of wire like this they can generate the large magnetic fields that are used in body scanners which help us see the brain and other parts of the body in great detail. Superconductors also enable us to measure the small magnetic fields which are caused by electric current flowing in our brains when we think or our heart when it beats. To demonstrate this, we have secured the services of teachers from the schools visiting to act as our guinea pigs.

Carolyn Moody from the University of Birmingham says, 'Christmas Lectures are a great opportunity for young people to learn about the pioneering research that is carried out at the University. The practical applications of superconductors are a fascinating area and this lecture will give the students the opportunity to get involved in experiments in a fun and interactive environment.  We hope that the lectures will inspire the students to view the importance of science in our everyday lives and will hopefully encourage them to work that little bit harder back at school.'

Dr Ed Tarte, who will give the lecture, says “ We will show the students how to have a really smashing time with a bunch of deep frozen flowers, how to lift a car with your bare hands and that not only eastern mystics can make things levitate. They will also be shown what my brain looks like on the inside. We will even try and explain how Santa can fly through the sky using nothing more than his superconductive sleigh!”

Father Christmas will also drop in on the students at the end of  every lecture to hand out gifts for them to take away with them, before he gets back on his superconductive sleigh to fly to his next drop off point. Every student that helps with the experiments, will also get to choose a magnetic present from under the Christmas tree.

1300 school children will be attending the lectures at the Haworth Building on Tuesday 18th (12pm) and Wednesday 19th December (10am, 12pm and 145pm).

Ends

Notes to Editors

For further information

Kate Chapple, Press Officer, University of Birmingham, tel: 0121 414 2772 or 07789 921164.

Mohammed Ansar Outreach officer University of Birmingham tel 0121 414 7169 or 07974180154 (on the day of the lectures)