Colleagues and I, ever eager to step away from our desks and computers and excited to discover whether we are capable of successfully carrying out experiments (…no…), have taken ourselves, laden with the most preposterous items, to various Science festivals. We were at the Stratford Olympic Park for the UCL Spark Festival in August 2015, with a tub of corn syrup, food colouring, 100 kg of cornflour and a large paddling pool; trying to talk about reversible flows, Reynolds numbers and non-Newtonian fluids while children jumped up and down in the mixture of cornflour and water that filled our paddling pool. (An account of the glorious event and the mess that followed might still be found here.)
And later on that year, we headed for the Science Museum’s Maths festival where, with a guitar and some metronomes and this rather cool Kundt’s resonance tube (which was definitely not ours), we tried to explain the principles of waves and resonances to adults and children alike.
Science festivals are a great way to spread the joy and shear barminess of mathematics, to take ourselves out of our comfort zones and explain the work we do to a broad and diverse range of people, challenging ourselves to find different ways of describing it so that the person we are speaking to can understand. Whether the experiments actually work or not is then another matter…