Easter eggs-periments — scientific egg-sploits from The University of Nottingham!

20 Apr 2011 15:30:00.000

PA 138/11

Want to know more about your Easter egg than simply what’s inside it or how many you can eat?

How about an MRI scan of your Easter egg? Crash testing your Easter egg? Or using egg pendulums to demonstrate other fascinating aspects of physics?

Scientists at The University of Nottingham have come up with a few light-hearted ‘eggsperiments’ for their Easter series on the video website ‘Sixty Symbols’ — created by award winning film maker in residence Brady Haran — www.sixtysymbols.com/eggs

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Brady said: “Last year we did a bunch of chemistry demonstrations on crème eggs for our sister project Periodicvideos. This year the team from Sixty Symbols applied their talents to the same problem. The ideas ranged from brutal crash tests to a rather esoteric discussion of egg-shaped extra dimensions and their effect on the expansion of the universe. I must thank everyone who stayed behind after hours or came in on their holidays to perform these demos.”

Never before has the Easter egg been put under such scientific scrutiny:

First of all the crème egg was subjected to a series of ‘eggs-periments’ in The University of Nottingham’s Biomechanics Lab.

The compression and impact tests were carried out by Dr Donal McNally, an expert in spinal biomenchanics, within the Faculty of Engineering. He said: “Crème eggs are just like the bones of the spine, their strength and the way they fail depends on how fast you break them. However, although the vertebrae of the lower back are about the same size as a crème egg, they are 30-40 times stronger.”

In the Sir Peter Mansfield Magnetic Resonance Centre the crème egg was used to illustrate some of the key features of Magnetic Resonance Imaging.

Richard Bowtell, Professor of Physics, said: “We imaged some crème eggs using an MRI scanner and produced some surprisingly good pictures — crème eggs are quite a lot harder to image than people. We also compared images of chicken's eggs and crème eggs and used this comparison to try to illustrate some of the key features of MRI.”

Two crème eggs then found themselves suspended from bits of string to demonstrate coupled oscillators.

The ‘magic trick’ was performed by Roger Bowley, Professor of Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy. He said: “I made two identical coupled pendula with the crème eggs as the weight on each pendulum.  I attached the pendula to a horizontal string to create coupled oscillators in which energy is magically transformed from one to the other and back again. When one pendulum is kicked into motion it gradually loses its kinetic energy and comes to a stop whilst the other gains the kinetic energy; and vice versa. Paul Daniels did it in a magic show on TV.”

Ed Copeland, Professor of Physics in the School of Physics and Astronomy, uses his egg to discuss the cosmological constant — a mysterious value which governs the expansion of the universe. Professor Copeland whose interests lie in observations of both the largest scales (astronomy) and the smallest scales in the universe (particles) explains how two extra dimensions — which are shaped like tiny eggs — help shed light on one of sciences great mysteries.

Professor Copeland said: “One of the unsolved problems in particle physics is explaining why the cosmological constant is so small and these toy models provide a hint as to how it may work. The egg model is an easier title then the official ‘six dimensional gauged chiral supergravity model.’”

If you want to see what the scientists got up to last Easter here’s the link: www.periodicvideos.com/videos/feature_creme_egg.htm

— Ends —

Notes to editors: The University of Nottingham, described by The Sunday Times University Guide 2011 as ‘the embodiment of the modern international university’, has award-winning campuses in the United Kingdom, China and Malaysia. It is ranked in the UK's Top 10 and the World's Top 75 universities by the Shanghai Jiao Tong (SJTU) and the QS World University Rankings. It was named ‘Europe’s greenest university’ in the UI GreenMetric World University Ranking, a league table of the world’s most environmentally-friendly higher education institutions, which ranked Nottingham second in the world overall.

The University is committed to providing a truly international education for its 40,000 students, producing world-leading research and benefiting the communities around its campuses in the UK and Asia.

More than 90 per cent of research at The University of Nottingham is of international quality, according to the most recent Research Assessment Exercise, with almost 60 per cent of all research defined as ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’. Research Fortnight analysis of RAE 2008 ranked the University 7th in the UK by research power. The University’s vision is to be recognised around the world for its signature contributions, especially in global food security, energy & sustainability, and health.

May Fest 2011 is on Saturday May 7, 11am to 5.30pm, at The University of Nottingham.

The University is throwing open its doors to the community — with heaps of free activities for all ages. The Physics Buskers, thunder and lightning on demand and brain games. Get a glimpse of some of the amazing things that are happening on your doorstep. Visit: www.nottingham.ac.uk/mayfest

More news from the University at: www.nottingham.ac.uk/news

Story credits

More information is available from Brady Haran, sixtysmbols@hotmail.co.uk
Lindsay Brooke

Lindsay Brooke - Media Relations Manager

Email: lindsay.brooke@nottingham.ac.uk Phone: +44 (0)115 951 5751 Location: University Park

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