Mad Scientess Jane Expat (nanila) wrote,
Mad Scientess Jane Expat

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Royal Society Summer Science Exhibition 2016: A Comet Revealed roundup

[From L to R: Me, Peter, Sam, Agata, Geraint in our formal attire at the Comet Revealed stand before the Royal Society soiree last Wednesday night]

Last week, my London days were largely spent at the Royal Society Summer Science exhibition doing public outreach about the Rosetta mission's discoveries at Comet 67P. I did five four-hour shifts in 2.5 days, which is about the limit a person should do when talking pretty much non-stop. I completely lost my voice after my last shift.

It was great fun, though! I was one of the stand organisers (coordinated the rota & polo shirt printing). The glorious backdrop in the photo above is an image from the OSIRIS camera on board Rosetta. The little stand next to me contains a number of 3D-printed famously rubber-duck-shaped Comet 67P nuclei as well as some of our smell-o-vision postcards. More on those below the cut.

This is a view of the stand unobstructed by volunteers and visitors. You can now see our 1:3400 scale 3D-printed comet nucleus. Note the labels and wires showing the positions and trajectories where Philae landed - and, unintentionally, bounced. The exact final resting place of the lander is still yet to be determined. It's proved difficult to locate. There are a lot of small patches of ice on the surface of the comet that, from one viewing angle, appear to be the lander, even though from a slightly different angle, they're obviously not.

The box labeled "What is a comet made of?" allowed visitors to view three different lamps through a spectroscope. One lamp gave off a continuous spectrum. The other two gave the emission spectra of hydrogen (H2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) which have distinctly strong lines in specific and very different colours. This illustrated how spectroscopy helps scientist determine the chemical composition of Comet 67P with Rosetta (and indeed, the chemical composition of lots of other things that aren't in space).

Luise, a postdoc from Reading, spent a lot of time running the Virtual Reality simulator. This was quite a cool collaboration, as the VR crew from Reading were in the Psychology department. They used the images from Rosetta and Philae to allow visitors to experience viewing the comet from Rosetta's perspective and from Philae's. You could stand on the comet. It was rather wonderful.

Here I am with Colin and Matt. Colin organised the "Smell the Comet" aromatic postcards. Matt is the Rosetta Project Scientist. As you can see, we are enjoying ourselves. And our little rubber-duck comet. (Favourite comments on the mini-comet: "Is it real?" from a very excited schoolchild and "It looks like something you could buy in a specialist shop in London *eyebrow wiggle*" from a posh gentleman with a very red nose.)

Here I am talking excitedly to some visitors during a normal public session. I think this was just before tyrell visited.

Here I am talking excitedly to some visitors during the soiree. (Confidential to dizzykj: note the shoes! :D) The soiree was peculiarly quiet. I think perhaps being up against the men's Wimbledon quarter-finals and the Wales v Portugal match of the Euros made the event lose some of its appeal to celebrity guests.

These are Geraint's very cool comet cufflinks.

I'm only just visible here, laughing my head off at something Annie has said to me. The main purpose of this photo is to show off the back of the polo shirts with our logo.

Photo from my second shift on the stand. You can just see my head next to the television screen showing a movie of comet images and notable graphs from important research papers. I had a long conversation with the gentleman in the blue jacket, who went on a passionate rant about how harmful he thought Brexit was going to be for the poor and the young, and how angry and upset he was that older people had, by and large, voted to make things harder for us (he put me in the "young" bracket, bless him).

Simon Pegg getting a noseful of Eau de Comet on The One Show. I don't think he liked it. Not many people did. It was rather like mothballs with an undertone of cat pee. My favourite comparisons were "public toilet just after it's been cleaned, where it's clean but is still clearly a public toilet", "my gran's house" and "gone-off bath bomb". Full disclosure: I brought a few home on Thursday, thinking I'd give them away because the artwork is so lovely, but the stench of them in my office was so bad that I threw them out on Friday.

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Tags: outreach, photo, rosetta, royal society summer exhibition

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