The story so far

The IOP’s national science communication competition, 3 Minute Wonder (3MW), was born out of successful science communication events held by the IOP’s East Anglia Branch in early 2012 and 2013 at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge.

3 Minute Wonder

The remit of these events was to afford IOP members and the general public the opportunity to learn about cutting-edge physics-based research in an exciting and novel way.

In 2013, keen to find a mechanism by which all the IOP’s nations and branches could unite on a common project, London and South East branch and central IOP staff, saw huge potential in developing the 3MW format as a national science communication competition.

Having reworked the rules, the idea was simple: each nation or branch would be asked to run a 3MW competition by inviting local researchers in physics-related fields (industry or academia) to explain their work to the public in just three minutes. The participants could use one slide, one video and as many props as necessary to publicise their work. Each contestant was scored by a panel of established science communicators with points being awarded for physics content, presentation skill, level of engagement and entertainment value - but also deducted should the presentation finish significantly above or below the 3 minute mark! The winner, and runner-up, from each national, or regional, heat would then compete again at a grand final in London.

In late 2013, the competition’s inaugural year, seven heats were held across the UK culminating in fourteen early career physicists massing, on Thursday 15th May 2014, for the final in the Faraday lecture theatre at the Royal Institution of Great Britain, London. All presentations were highly entertaining and ranged from demonstrating, to a packed auditorium, how to ‘detect’ mechanical damage via a Mexican wave to impact crater creation using a vat of tomato ketchup!

From parents, students, and a representative from the Chief Scientists office, support for the competition was overwhelming. As a result, 3 Minute Wonder returns in 2015 – but this time, bigger and better than before!

Mark Telling
Chairperson, IOP London and South East branch

Further information about the 2014 Grand Final and the 2013 London and South East branch heat see: