X Close

Events

Home

UCL events news and reviews

Menu

Three eggs, two eyeballs and one Minister of Science – Behind the Scenes at Cheltenham – Day 3/6

news editor15 June 2012

Katy Ordidge and David Willetts

Katy Ordidge gives a speech alongside David Willetts

  Katy Ordidge, UCL CABI

Behind the Scenes at Cheltenham is a daily blog from the UCL CABI team at Cheltenham Science Festival. Every day, a member of the team will be talking about their experiences of running a stand.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

What a day in the Discover Zone! Today, we were surprised by a visit from the Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts.

I was chosen to represent the Discover Zone and talk to Mr Willetts about why we love communicating science with kids. I started by debunking some myths around MRI scanners: just for the record folks, there is no harmful radiation in MRI scanning, and it’s completely safe (as long as you don’t walk in to the scanner room with any metallic objects!).

After my speech and a whirlwind tour, Mr Willetts was off again and I returned to our stand, where today we were scanning some new delights, other than just fruit and veg… (more…)

David Cameron, Nick Clegg and superconductors… oh and Vivienne Westwood and climate change!

Marion E Brooks-Bartlett14 June 2012

So this sounds kind of weird to you, right? Well, let me start by explaining what a superconductor is and then we’ll see from there.

Superconducting materials are those that can conduct electricity with no resistance, so electrons just glide through a superconducting wire happily, unlike in a material such as copper where the electrons experience resistance and hence more power is needed to keep electrons flowing.

In magnetic resonance imaging – which is used in radiology to visualise internal structures of the body – superconducting material is arranged as a closed-loop coil. Since another consequence of being superconducting is that the material becomes magnetised – known as the Meissner effect – if you supply power to the material once and it’s in a closed loop, the electrons just keep going round and round, even if you then remove the power supply, and there you have it… a magnet that will stay on for some months.

They’re also using superconductors in the study of nuclear fusion, so they’re very important types of material. The small print to all of this, of course, is that you need to keep the superconducting material at temperatures close to absolute zero (4K with liquid helium), otherwise you will exceed the transition temperature by which this effect works.

(more…)

Quantum Fruit – Behind the Scenes at Cheltenham – Day 2/6

Nicholas Powell14 June 2012

MRI Fruit and Veg

Children guess the MRI-scanned fruit and veg

Behind the Scences at Cheltenham is a daily blog from the UCL CABI team at Cheltenham Science Festival. Every day a member of the team will be talking about their experiences of running a stand.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6

Mark Lythgoe, festival and much-loved CABI director, has been on the hunt for pig testicles all day.

For scanning, you understand.

As briefly mentioned in yesterday’s post, the centre of our stand here in the colourful heart of Cheltenham’s Town Hall is occupied by a tabletop 1 Tesla, 1.5 tonne MRI scanner, prevented from falling through the floor and sinking towards Earth’s core by a strong scaffolding platform.

(more…)

Tears and Water Protons – Behind the Scenes at Cheltenham – Day 1/6

Thomas A Roberts13 June 2012

CABI at Cheltenham

Katy Ordidge demystifies the physics of MRI

Behind the Scences at Cheltenham is a daily blog from the UCL CABI team at Cheltenham Science Festival. Every day a member of the team will be talking about their experiences of running a stand.

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 |

Two hours into my first shift at Cheltenham and I’d already made one child cry. Not quite the start I’d anticipated.

My colleagues and I from the Centre for Advanced Biomedical Imaging (CABI for short) are at the Cheltenham Science Festival to demonstrate how magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanners work and why they are important.

Our “MRI: Can You Scan It?” stand is pitched in the centre of the Discover Zone inside the grand Cheltenham Town Hall. The main draw is a tabletop – in the loosest sense of the word – 1 Tesla Bruker MRI scanner which people can feed with fruit and other small objects to produce live images. Accompanying this are a couple of presentations explaining how MRI works and how it can be applied to imaging your brain.

I was in charge of talking through the latter slideshow and explaining the basics of fMRI: functional magnetic resonance imaging. You’ve probably seen fMRI images in the papers: regions of the brain ‘light up’ in response to a stimulus such as touch, smell or sight. The waterworks incident occurred when I was demonstrating one region of the brain we can probe, using the video below of a dead snake.

(more…)