Science week: Tuesday

After a very busy day one of science week activities at the Purcell school, on day two the events have continued in earnest with another full day of activities and science inspired lessons.

The English department have continued to lead the way, embedding science into their lessons. Miss Pearson mixed in the Robert Browning poem ‘The Laboratory’ as an unseen text, in preparation for their GCSE exams later in the year. Year 9 made some beautiful jewellery which they turned into golden brass and pupils taking GCSE German explored the work of the great German Scientists (pictures to follow soon!)

Of course, it’s also March 14th which is Pi Day! The maths department ran a whole host of fantastic π related challenges in the dining hall with slices of real pie for correct answers. A new activity for me was using sticks to help calculate the value of π. With lines drawn on a sheet of paper exactly as far apart as the length of a cocktail stick; you throw a number of cocktail sticks up in the air so that they land at random and count those that touch the lines. Then times the total number of sticks by 2 and divide that by the number of sticks which touched the lines and you’ll have the number pi. An interesting investigation was to increase the number of sticks and see the number get closer to that of pi.

Outside of academic lesson time we were delighted to welcome Richard Norwood, founder of Richard Lawson Pianos (one of the largest dealers of Yamaha Pianos in the south of England) to piano class. He gave a fascinating talk about the physics and engineering behind the piano to year 9-11 pianists. He discussed the vibration of a string and how that can be used in compositions with prepared piano. To hear some of the harmonics which can be created by using a nail on the string and other techniques was fascinating. To follow this he took the mechanism out of the instrument to demonstrate the engineering involved. I was simply astonished by the number of parts in each single note.

I am always amazed by the complexity of the instrument, we often forget that there is so much more behind the playing of a piano and that every single time a key is pressed a huge number of complex events take place resulting in a small hammer perfectly striking a string or up to three strings in exactly the right way to instantly produce a beautiful sound every time.

To finish off the piano class, composer Carol J Jones spoke briefly about her work with physicists and how she produces new music based on astronomical events such as Solar Flares and the Satellite, Cassini, which is exploring the rings of Saturn. It’s a subject we’ll hopefully be returning to later this week.

Tomorrow is another action packed day with our Science week concert which includes the first movement of the Borodin Sextet. This will be performed by all the sixth form string playing scientists (and me!) It’s one of my favourite pieces and so much fun to play!