Nicky's Blog / Students Blogs

Day six at the festival with Nicky

The final day of the festival. Its been a busy week and today was no different. To start the day was a lecture on the use of supercomputers in science. Computers have a very limited purpose; largely being rapid calculations. But that single task can be very useful in science, simulating experiments or theories that may never be feasible through practical experimentation. For example, those that are too difficult to calculate such as many mathematical equations. Too expensive or dangerous such as what happens in the centre of a volcanoe. Virtual experiments on computers are an in-expensive way of testing theories within set parameters and have allowed major advancements such as the Large Hydrogen Collider. All experiments performed in the LHC have been computer simulated multiple times before the LHC was built. Your standard standalone computer at home is obviously not suitable. Supercomputers have vast amounts of power, thousands times faster than the laptop I’m using right now.

Socks are useful for so many things, even in lectures on 14-3-3s protein evolution

Next on the list of events was a talk about using seismology to map the interior of the earth. Here I learnt loads about the planets interior and how it was discovered that the mantel is liquid and that the planet’s plates move at the same speed that our finger nails grow. Who do you think you are? The 500 million year addition followed this talk which wasn’t quite what I expected. Rather than talking about our origins, the talk was concentrated on the 14-3-3s proteins which evolved over 2000million years ago. These proteins are present throughout the animal kingdom and allow the activation of glucose channels, glycolysis and the removal of the acid by-products from glycolysis.

I found the next talk more interesting, the science of sleep by Dr Chris Idzikowski. This was a fascinating talk. Through the night, our brains try to cool down by releasing heat through

Computer simulated image of a neutron star

our face, hands and feet. Our minimum core body temperature is about 4am which is coincident with the time of day where most accidents occur (aside from those influenced by alcohol). We have a more disturbed sleep if we cannot cool down. If we don’t get enough sleep it can affect our vision, memory, concentration, make us more risking taking and the list goes on.

The final talk of the day, and of the festival, for me was the extreme universe. Space has the worst of all extreme conditions; super high magnetic fields, extremes of pressure and density, ultra high and fast energy releases alongside extreme gravity fields. The experiments we can perform on Earth are obviously limited so many scientists observe (or listen) to the univserse. From dark matter, to black holes and neutron stars. They all have visual effects and sounds we can perceive on Earth. We can even still hear sounds from the original Big Bang.

So the end of the day was finished with a Speed Science event which basically consisted of speed dating scientists and choosing who you wanted to hear talk in more depth about their work at the end of the show. It is amazing how much you can learn about someone in ten minutes. The festival was ended with a fabulous evening of Scottish Ceilidhdancing. An apt end to a wonderful week of science.


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