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Discovery hub

Event

Location

The Royal Society, London, 6-9 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AG

Overview

Join some of the scientists funded by the Royal Society at our interactive discovery hub.

Meet some of the scientists funded by the Royal Society at this hands-on hub of discovery.

From scientists who 3D print the Earth, to astrophysicists who can transport you to outer space at the touch of a button, the Royal Society funds a range of leading researchers who invite you to join their scientific adventures. Could you escape the clutches of a hungry pitcher plant? Can you reveal the contents of a hidden message using terahertz radiation? Come along and give it a go to find out.

Drop-in activity - these activities run continuously and you can drop in at any time. Please note if the venue is at capacity you may have to wait.

We will also be showing the FIFA Women's World Cup Semi-Final between England and USA from 8pm.

Attending the event

  • Free to attend
  • No registration required
  • Limited spaces, admittance based on venue capacity
  • Adults only
  • Travel and accessibility information - contact us directly to arrange any specific accessibility requirements
  • Food and drink will be available for purchase at our onsite café
  • Please note we operate a challenge 25 policy. ID may be required when purchasing alcoholic beverages

For all enquiries, please email exhibition@royalsociety.org.

Discovery hub

From scientists who 3D print the Earth, to astrophysicists who can transport you to outer space at the touch of a button, meet some of the scientists funded by the Royal Society in this hands-on hub of discovery.

The Royal Society, London 6-9 Carlton House Terrace London SW1Y 5AG UK
Summer Science Exhibition: an ant on the lip of a pitcher plant

The tricks and traps of insect-eating plants

Buzz into the fascinating world of carnivorous plants and their insect prey with Dr Ulrike Bauer. 

Watch ants harvesting nectar right from the mouth of a live pitcher plant, and see how a bit of moisture turns a safe feeding ground into a deadly water slide. Step into an ant’s shoes and experience first-hand how the sophisticated surface of a tropical pitcher plant traps even the most skilful of escape artists. Learn how sticky footpads and sharp claws enable insects to walk on almost any surface, at any angle, but are still no match for a hungry pitcher plant. Last but not least, take a moment to appreciate the sheer beauty of these plants that fascinated scientists and plant collectors since Darwin’s time.

3D printing the world

Did you know that after a large earthquake, the Earth vibrates like a bell? And, much like the sounds that musical instruments make based on their form, these vibrations can tell us about the structure of the landscapes that lie beneath the surface of our planet.

Using modern 3D printing techniques, Dr Paula Koelemeijer brings the landscapes of the deep Earth to life by allowing you to uncover the Earth’s structure layer by layer. Make and take your own paper version of these Russian nesting doll models and discover the importance of plate tectonics in shaping the structure of Earth and other planets. You will also get the chance to listen to the very sounds and vibrations of the Earth that were used to create these models.

Summer Science Exhibition: a 3D printed model of the Earth showing its layers deep below the surface
Summer Science Exhibition: a magnified image of microscopic rock-eating fungi

The rock eaters

Meet the “rock eaters”, a group of microorganisms that can excel at the very thing that their name suggests.

Through a process called bio-weathering, these fungi dissolve the minerals found in soil and extract nutrients like potassium and iron. Understanding how and why these fungi control their appetite and chose their next meal is, however, still a mystery.

Join Dr Flavia Pinzari, who is trying to answer this question, and unearth the role of fungi in shaping the make-up of soil. The first step in this process is recognising if a fungus has been eating at all and this is where you come in. Examine rocks that show unusual markings and decide whether you think they have fallen victim to a “rock eater” or not. Watch as fungus meets mineral in a Petri dish before your very eyes and don’t forget to find out why this process is crucial to the future of sustainable farming and conservation efforts.

Let’s get wavy

There are waves all around us. Not the type that you might be used to seeing at the seaside, but waves that surround us and travel through the emptiness of space at the speed of light. From low energy radio waves used for television signals to high energy X-rays used for bone imaging, these waves make up the electromagnetic spectrum.

While many parts of the spectrum are used in our everyday life, terahertz waves are yet to have their moment in the sun.

With characteristics such as being able to pass through materials such as paper, wood and plastic, these waves have a number of potential real-world applications, from investigative policing to climate change monitoring. Meet Professor Giles Davies who will reveal the secrets of terahertz radiation before putting this technology to the test using a prototype laser to identify concealed objects.

Summer Science Exhibition: lab equipment emitting a green terahertz laser beam that can identify concealed objects
Summer Science Exhibition: virtual artwork of a constellation on a starry background

Walk amongst the stars

You won’t need a spacesuit to explore the Universe with dark energy expert Dr Tom Kitching. Be transported into a virtual world where you can walk within the Milky Way and have a front row seat to witness particles being warped into a black hole.

Learn about Euclid, a space telescope being launched in 2021 and how researchers will be able to map dark matter and better understand the nature of dark energy by observing over 3 billion galaxies. Discover the crucial role that virtual reality simulations play in helping scientists to visualise and interpret the massive amounts of data collected by missions such as Euclid.  And once you’re back on Earth, build your own cosmic web using only a ball of wool.

Exploring the 2D world with a 3D printed microscope

Have you ever heard of graphene?

This remarkable 2D material is made up of a single layer of carbon atoms. Its properties of being lightweight, incredibly strong and an effective conductor of energy mean that it has a number of real world applications. Join Dr Sara Dale to discover exactly what these applications are and make your very own layer of graphene using the sticky tape method.

Then, its over to Dr Richard Bowman who will guide you through using a 3D printed microscope to examine and identify your creation based on colour. Learn about his work designing 3D printed scientific instruments for use in developing countries and hear about how this microscope technology is currently being trialled in Africa as a way of detecting malaria.

Summer Science Exhibition: a scientist demonstrating how 3D printed microscope are helping us investigate graphene
Summer Science Exhibition: a piece of equipment that uses a vacuum chamber surrounded by coils to cool atoms to extremely cold temperatures

Getting deep

Imagine if it were possible to detect life-threatening hazards deep underground, predict potential droughts and prevent flooding or reduce the number of headache inducing roadworks. 

Professor Kai Bongs and colleagues from the Quantum Technology Hub are developing gravity sensors that will allow us to do these very things by letting us look deeper underground than ever before. 

Dig deeper into the real-world applications of this technology and discover how it has the potential to improve your own life. See the science behind these sensors in action with a live demonstration of atoms being cooled below zero and have the opportunity to influence their movement.

The sweet world of microbes

Tiny micro-organisms, such as bacteria, have played a mighty role in shaping the world that we live in. Unlocking the secret as to how they have done this over the past 2 billion years lies in their DNA.

Join Dr Patricia Sanchez-Baracaldo as she shares her work reconstructing the family trees of bacterial groups that have changed our Earth and the atmosphere that surrounds it. Gaze through the microscope at the micro-organisms that have adapted to live in one of the harshest environments and discover what they can tell us about climate change.

Test your skills and see if you can build DNA using only sweets and bring out your competitive streak in a head to head game of DNA PolymeRace.

Summer Science Exhibition: woman holding up a model strand of DNA made out of sweets
Summer Science Exhibition: model of the protein PBP2a from Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), bound with the new antibiotic Ceftaroline which can treat MRSA infections

The battle of antibiotic resistant bacteria

Literally meaning “against life” in ancient Greek, antibiotics work by targeting and killing bacterial cells without harming our own cells. However, nearly 100 years later, bacteria are adapting. Antimicrobial resistance is one of the biggest challenges facing society today. Can you imagine if a simple scratch could kill you?

Enter Dr Ying-Chih Chiang who is just one of the researchers contributing to the fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Discover the surprising physics behind the development of new medicines to fight evolved bacteria by getting hands-on with Newton’s laws of motion. Prepare to battle as you face off in a board game of antibiotics versus bacteria. And go on a virtual reality adventure into one of the simulations used to study the effectiveness of new antibiotics.

Nanobots: light activated machines for fighting cancer

Swing into high gear as you step onto the track in the battle against cancer, a disease that kills over 8.2 million people per year worldwide.

Meet Dr Robert Pal whose research is driven by a vision to develop molecular nanomachines, known as nano-drills that target and destroy cancer cells.

Then, take the wheel of a remote controlled forklift truck and go on a mission to eradicate the cancer cells around the track. Power your car using a unique activation light and discover the incredible theory behind how nano-drills use light to target and safely eradicate cancerous cells in the body.

Summer Science Exhibition: light activated remote controlled cars that demonstrate how nano-drills are being used to fight cancer
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