Physics magic at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

Some of the wizarding community from EFCP and the School
Some of the wizarding community from EFCP and the School

Edinburgh Complex Fluids Partnership (ECFP) and the School of Physics and Astronomy 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 to 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 where they undertook potion classes and demonstrations.

Potions classes

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. The divination activity demonstrated how liquids with different surface tensions spread when mixed, creating beautiful 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.

Industry demonstrations on polymer solutions

Colleagues were joined by local industrial partner, 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 cataract 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).

Capturing memories in the pensive

After the workshops, wizards then reviewed what they had learned and wrote their best memories of the workshop on magical pensieves (turntables filled with rheoscopic fluid).

Wizarding community

Around 210 apprentice physics wizards attended these events as part of the Edinburgh International Science Festival.  The event was coordinated by the Ogden-ECFP Outreach Officer, Dr JC Denis, with input from PhD students and academic staff.