Astrophysical cookery is among projects to win IOP grants for engaging the public

26 February 2016

A project to convey astrophysical concepts through the culinary arts, and one to encourage people to interact with data sampling from the space above Newton’s birthplace, are among nine to receive funding in the current round of the IOP’s Public Engagement Grant Scheme.

Pubic engagement grants

The scheme provides grants of up to £2,000 for those running physics-based events or activities in the UK and Ireland. There are two rounds each year, and projects funded in the current round have to be completed between 1 March and 31 October this year. A total of nearly £14,000 has been awarded for projects in this round, with applicants ranging from festivals and universities to an arts in education charity and a Black and Ethnic Minority Housing Consortium.

Activities to be partly or wholly funded through the grants in the current round include promoting a touring play and workshops about the nuclear physicist Lisa Meitner, building a model orrery to be used at outreach events to demonstrate the transit method for finding exoplanets, and developing a science show and busking activities for a Physics Fiesta this July in and around the Telegraph Museum Porthcurno in Cornwall.

Projects associated with festivals include a lecture, exhibition and workshop at the Edinburgh International Science Festival in April about David Brewster’s pioneering work in optics, and an installation and family-friendly physics activities at Dublin’s Festival of Curiosity in July, designed in collaboration with visual artist Laura de Burca. There will also be a variety night, “Peake into Space: Cosmic Cabaret”, at the Glasgow Science Festival in June that invites the audience to explore the physics of space through music, comedy, poetry and activities.

One project to receive a grant is a series of 10 workshops on understanding the physics of rockets and building rocket models, aimed at vulnerable and hard-to-reach groups and run by the BME Housing Consortium in Wolverhampton. The series will end with a science fair for participants to showcase their rockets, and it is hoped that a science group will be set up as a legacy of the project.

Two of the more unusual projects are Sky Cube and g-ASTRONOMY. For Sky Cube, microlight pilot and digital artist Joanna White will fly above Woolsthorpe Manor, Grantham, where Sir Isaac Newton was born and grew up. She will use electromagnetic modulation equipment to record audio traces within a cube of air 1 km on each side, and these will be analysed and the results presented at an interactive exhibition during the Gravity Fields Festival in September.

For g-ASTRONOMY, astrophysicist Dr Roberto Trotta will work with molecular gastronomy chef Jozef Youssef and his team at Kitchen Theory to develop activities based on three dishes to embody in a metaphorical way the characteristics of dark matter, black holes and the big bang. Venues for public engagement events based on these will include the Imperial Festival in May and the Cheltenham Science Festival in June. The team also plan to hold an event with specially designed activities for visually-impaired children.

Round two of the grant scheme will be open to applications from September 2016.

The IOP’s head of outreach and engagement, Johanna Kieniewicz, said: “This round of funding attracted our largest ever number of applications and the quality matched the quantity. I am pleased we were able to support a portfolio of projects ranging from collaborations with the arts to festival events that will engage and inspire the British public with physics.”