7 awesome things I learnt at Pint of Science 2018

Pint of Science 2018 is all over. But right here in Southampton our festival was a huge success with a complete sell out of all our tickets. This is the first of two posts I want to write about this year’s festival and to continue celebrating the awesome research that is being done on your doorsteps! So for those who might have missed it – I spent three evenings last week running round a load of pubs listening to scientists talk about their research to the public whilst trying to share highlights with those who couldn’t get tickets or couldn’t make it. But tweets and Instagram stories get easily lost in the volume of things, so I thought I would share again 7 things that I learnt at this year’s Pint of Science festival in Southampton and perhaps a little taste of the sort of things you could learn if you attended one of the events next year! A little shot of science!

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Our universe has a soundtrack!

The first night I headed to the Atoms to Galaxies event all about gravitational waves which featured one of my favourite scientists and scicommers Emma O aka Emmanigma! We were all taught about what gravitational waves looked like, what is needed to make a gravitational wave and the announcement of the first detection of a gravitational wave in 2016. To know more about gravitational waves, you have to go and check out Emma’s Instagram and YouTube channel, but when the first gravitational wave was detected, the distance measured was teeny tiny! In fact, the distance measured was the width of a hair divided by a million, then taking one of those pieces and chopping it up into a million pieces again. Then, taking one of those pieces and splitting it into a million pieces again! One of those pieces was the distance measured as a result of two black holes colliding to create a gravitational wave! But what was even more awesome was that that meant our universe has a soundtrack! We often think of space as a vast, empty vacuum with no sound – which I suppose it is, but detecting these gravitational waves revealed that perhaps it is not as quiet as we thought it was. Check out this video clip from the night of Emma sharing exactly what that soundtrack is.

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We can use nanoparticles to clean up polluted waters

The second half of the first night I spent at our Planet Earth event and I managed to catch our speaker that was showing how something that was invisible to the human eye were being engineered to fight our huge environmental problems. Nanoparticles are the size of a billionth of a millimetre! For example, if a marble was the equivalent to a nanometre, then that would make the Earth the equivalent of a metre! Just think about how many marbles that would be! Nanoparticles exist naturally in the air, water and soil, but this night I learnt more about how they were being engineered to clean up water pollution. But why nano? As they are so small, you can add more nano particles! This will increase the surface area and remove more contamination compared to using a particle the size of a ping pong ball for example.

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The richest 62 people in the world own the same amount of money as the bottom 50% of the world!

A different night, but another Planet Earth event for me! This time looking at the natural and unnatural disasters of the world and I learnt about the effect of economics, migration to cities and population growth on our planet. I learnt that as a world we are getting richer and slowly dragging more and more people over the poverty line. But the fact that blew my mind a little was that the 62 richest people in the world had as much money as the bottom 50% of the world! That’s 62 people having as much as nearly 4 billion people!

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83 million 18-25 year olds are estimated to be affected by mental health disorders.

Mental health awareness is something I believe we should all learn more about so we can help or understand, so I was very keen to attend the talk at our Beautiful Mind event featuring a Mental Health First Aid Instructor. His talk started off talking about some facts and figures including that you have a 1 in 20 chance of walking past someone on the street who is having suicidal thought but this one in particular again resonated with me as this is the age group of the vast majority of university and grad school students of which we know there is an ever increasing issue with mental health in. But 83 million 18-25 year olds are estimated to be affected. That is more than the entire population of Germany! And yet how many of us would know what to do or would have the confidence to speak to someone who’s mental health you were concerned about.

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There’s an anxiety scale!

As part of our mental health first aid instructor’s honest and engaging talk, he shared the Goldberg anxiety scale with us. It included nine questions to answer such as β€˜Have you had headaches or neck ache?’, β€˜Have you felt on edge?’ and β€˜Have you been worried a lot?’. You β€˜score’ 1 point for each question you answer β€˜yes’ to were the average score was 4. So, the anxiety scale made me a little anxious after working out that I had scored 7 out of 9 over the past week! And 7 out of 9 over the past month! Anyone can experience anxiety or stress at any point in their lives as we are exposed to different things we have to deal with, but I also learnt that you would have to have experienced these symptoms of over a certain score to get the diagnosis.

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Some mental health first aid advice!

Are you concerned about someone’s mental health? Would you know what to do? Would you have the confidence to ask them about it? I don’t think I would personally. But some advice from our speaker about approaching someone you might be concerned about and starting a conversation with them was to first of all collect some evidence. You have to check that your perception is right before approaching? How would you feel if your boss accused you of always being late when in the past two weeks you had arrived at 8am except for two days that they spotted you arriving at 9.30am. Collect some evidence, notice what has changed and how long has that been going on for. Then you can see if you need to investigate further. Ask them are they ok. They will probably say β€˜yeah I’m fine’ because we all do right? Then you can share the reason about why you’re asking and share the evidence you’ve gathered and is there any help you can offer? There might be a perfectly reasonable explanation for the change, or perhaps that person hadn’t really noticed themselves. But I’m pretty sure that person would be grateful to know that someone was looking out for them.

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Gin and tonics can glow blue!

My final stop of the festival was to the Tech Me Out event which was wrapping up with a live science podcast from The Science Shed. Steve and Nick were sharing some of the science behind your pub experience including handing out some G&Ts and making them glow blue right before your eyes! How? Well, tonics contain a chemical called quinine and when exposed to ultraviolet light, quinine fluoresces and glows blue! There was also the science of spice and some taste testing which you can learn more about on The Science Shed podcast!

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So that’s just a handful of the wonderful and varied research and science that I learnt about at Southampton’s Pint of Science festival. There were also talks about substance abuse, stem cells, cancer immunology, climate change, black holes, artificial intelligence and more that I missed. Unfortunately I can only be in one place at a time. But maybe YOU can help me share more of the science that was shared at Pint of Science 2018. Did you attend one of the #pint18 events this year? Let us know what city you were in and what you learnt in the comments below? If you missed this year’s festival and don’t want to miss out again – then head to the Pint of Science website and sign up to their mailing list! Let’s share some more pints of science soon!

Science love.

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