Queuing outside the Royal Institution on a cold evening in November, it struck me as a little odd that to celebrate bonfire night I had decided to attend an Ri Lates event instead of seeing any fireworks. Luckily, the evening turned out to be full of explosive fun.
The evening, with its theme of ‘Gunpowder, Treason and Plot’, promised to explain how fireworks and gunpowder are made, the science of betrayal, and how animals plot. Admittedly, the ‘plot’ part of the theme was mainly ignored by visitors, who gathered around the many flaming experiments instead. On offer were fiery experiments and explosions – including replicating Humphry Davy’s famous experiment by lighting a piston with only air pressure – but also rocket building activities, stalls on animal plotting, and games led by comedy duo, Wifi Wars. There a full programme of events that kept us busy for the entirety of the evening, without any one activity being too crowded to join.
The most popular part of the evening was definitely a talk given by Imperial’s own Dr Simon Foster, on gunpowder. His hilarious talk was full of Star Trek references and followed by audience members having a go at creating their own gunpowder from his tried and tested recipe.
Standing out in Mayfair, the building itself is wonderful to explore. The evening’s talks were given in the theatre where Michael Faraday founded the Christmas Lectures and there is a small museum area in the basement, showing Faraday’s original laboratory.
The crowd was full of young professionals with a passion for science, who all seemed to enjoy the evening. It was entertaining, and I managed to learn quite a lot too. There was plenty to do, but no pressure to join in if all you wanted was to soak up the atmosphere with an explosive cocktail or two.
Lottie Dodwell is studying for an MSc in Science Communication.
Feature image: Steve Allen, Shutterstock