Thursday, 28 May 2015

FameLab is great!

22 April 2015, 7.30 pm

We go on to the finals of an event called FameLab.  FameLab is great.  You get young enthusiastic scientists and you give them three minutes to talk in an entertaining and fired-up kind of way about something scientific, and then you decide who was the most entertaining and fired-up and give them a massive cardboard cheque which no-one will cash.  The speakers are not allowed Powerpoint®, only props, which is certainly a good starting point if you are aiming to entertain.

Most of the young enthusiasts were not even born when I drank my first gin and tonic, or indeed my thousandth.  (I am currently at 8,912 although the real total may be higher as some of my memories aren’t 100% numerically reliable.)  From them we learn many things, however:

  1. Weedkiller + rocket fuel + fireworks = oxygen.  And, perhaps more scarily, this is how oxygen is generated on board an aircraft when the cabin pressure drops.  (On EasyJet® you pay a separate supplement for each of the three ingredients, and obviously there is little point just paying for the first two.)  I am not sure about the ratios of the reactants, so you should not try this at home even if you do happen to have a supply of rocket fuel in your garage.
  2. Puffer fish toxins can be used to create zombies.  Or indeed just normal dead people.
  3. When you are in love, lots of hormones surge around your body and this is why you act strangely.  If you act strangely at other times, there may be another reason, and you should seek professional help.
  4. Crystallisation is a bit like people dancing the Macarena in a night club.  If you turn the wrong way at the wrong time you create a different polymorph.  As a chemist but a rather muddled one, suddenly I understand much better now.
  5. The number 1 appears loads more times than any other number.  No matter where you look.  You can use this to detect fraud because if a set of accounts has the same number of 1s as 2s or 3s or 4s, someone is clearly not being a proper mathematician.

  1. Insulin is produced by angry E. coli bacteria, who would presumably rather be in someone’s gut causing life-threatening illnesses than sitting on a petri dish being genetically-engineered to save people.

  1. The colour magenta doesn’t exist.  So really, we should all stop using it.  This should instantly reduce the price of printer ink by a quarter.

  1. Expectant fathers can make themselves useful during labour (no, really), by plotting the duration and frequency of contractions on a spreadsheet and using simple mathematical models to predict the eventual time of birth.  Apparently there is an app to help you do this.  Apparently it is not very popular with expectant mothers.  Apparently they are not hugely interested in lines of best fit.

Anyway, Mr Davies and I are hoping that next year we can find some young enthusiastic patent attorneys to be all entertaining and fired-up in the FameLab competition.  But we are thinking that a certain amount of reconditioning may be necessary to turn a patent attorney into an entertainer, so we are probably better off asking trainees not senior partners.

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