Our Potion and Alchemy classes at Edinburgh International Science Festival

17 Apr 2018

ECFP swapped lab coats for wizard robes at the Edinburgh International Science Festival to present Physics Wizardry: Potion and Alchemy Class. Classes took place at the National Museum of Scotland and the children/apprentice physics wizards were introduced the magic world of potions by Headmaster Dr JC Denis who kicked off the class by demonstrating ferromagnetic and photochromic liquids. The kids were then sorted into four houses and undertook four potion classes: Making ‘baby-boggarts’ (Slime), Divination (Marangoni Effect), Brewing Polyjuice Potion (Emulsions) and creating healing potions (Alginate beads). 

ECFP were delighted to present alongside one of our local industrial partners, Hyaltech, who took apart a large model of the eye and described why special polymer solutions are required to maintain space while the lens is exchanged for a new one during cataracts surgery.  The children then created multi-coloured hydrogel beads to take home, by squirting coloured polymer solutions into a salt solution (which induces cross-linking between polymer chains).

In the baby-boggarts class wizards were taught how to make slime and how these materials have both solid and liquid like properties similar to shapeshifters in the magical world. Divination demonstrated how liquids with different surface tensions spread when mixed, creating beautiful alive patterns, a bit like reading tea leaves. When brewing polyjuice potion wizards learned how to make the base of many magical potions/complex fluids: mixing liquids which normally do not like to mix, and stabilising these mixes. These three activities were carried out by a wide range of Physicists (from PhD students to senior Professors) from the School of Physics and Astronomy

After the workshop the wizards then reviewed what they had learned and wrote their best memories of the workshop on magical pensieves (turntables filled with rheoscopic fluid). The event was coordinated by the Ogden-ECFP Outreach Officer, Dr JC Denis. With 3 classes conducted each day for 3 days, we saw about 210 apprentice physics wizards attending. 

(Written by David Crosby)