Between January 2008 and July 2013, over 10,000 key stage 4 school
students and their teachers directly engaged with active research of the
Cavendish Laboratory, Department of Physics, University of Cambridge
through an annual interactive 3 day exhibition, titled "Physics at Work".
In 2012 the event attracted 31 non-selective state schools and 17
selective/independent schools, 23 of which had visited the exhibition 3 or
more times previously- a testament to its success. Building on the
enthusiasm that the students showed during their participation in the
event, teachers noted an increase in the number opting to study A-level
physics and stated that those previously with no interest left with a very
positive image of the subject.
The power of physics, from the largest to smallest scale, to capture the
imagination is unrivalled. This has been used as a vehicle for engagement
and education in a wide-ranging series of public-engagement activities
over the period 2008-2013. These activities (over 130 outreach events per
year) are closely linked to the full spectrum of the School's research.
Here the focus is Astrophysics, Nuclear Physics and Particle Physics and
is built around live events, hands-on demonstrations, educational software
development, and media work. The activities have engaged young people
through schools and family groups, with a broader cross section of the
general public also reached. Birmingham's leadership is evidenced through
its major role at each of the Royal Society Summer Exhibitions since 2011,
the delivery of extensive national and regional activities supported by
the IoP and the STFC, its extensive schools' programme and wide media
exposure. The activities have communicated the significance of recent
discoveries in physics and astronomy, showing how research, including by
Birmingham scientists, has led to these.
Research undertaken in the University of Cambridge Department of Physics
has provided benchmark data on, and fundamental physical insights into,
the high strain-rate response of materials, including powdered reactive
metal compositions. The data have been used widely by QinetiQ plc. to
support numerical modelling and product development in important
industrial and defence applications. One outcome has been the development
of a reactive metal perforator for the oil industry which significantly
outperforms conventional devices. These devices `perforate' the region
around a bore-hole, thereby substantially enhancing recovery, particularly
in more difficult oil fields, and extending their economic viability. Over
a million perforators have been deployed since their introduction in 2007.
A new company, Geomerics, was created as a spin-out from the Cavendish
Geomerics now employs 22 full time staff, with offices in Cambridge, UK
and Vancouver, Canada.
Geomerics has pioneered a new business sector in selling lighting
middleware technology, based
on Cambridge research, to games developers. Customers include Electronic
Arts, Square Enix and
Take 2 (three of the five largest publishers) and licenses have been sold
in Europe, North America,
Japan and Korea. In 2011 the first game released using Geomerics software,
Battlefield 3, became
the fastest selling game in Electronic Arts' history, having sold nearly
In collaboration with film-maker Brady Haran we have developed the
YouTube channel Sixty Symbols to present topics related to
research in physics to the wider public. Since the 2009 launch of Sixty
Symbols we have posted 212 videos, which have amassed 21.2M views,
over 200k comments, over 266k subscribers and a content approval rating of
99.4%, placing Sixty Symbols in the top 0.01% of all YouTube
channels. The success of Sixty Symbols led to commissions from
Google and STFC for the launch of additional science-focused YouTube
channels, and to the formation of the company Periodic Videos Ltd
by Brady Haran (2011). Quantitative evidence gathered by management
consultants, O'Herlihy & Co, demonstrates Sixty Symbols'
global reach, and significant impact on the attitudes, scientific
understanding and career aspirations of its audience. Overall the impact
has been on society, culture and creativity through the promotion of
public engagement and discourse on science and engineering, and through
educational use in schools.