December 22, 2010

Happy Christmas Lectures 2010

Mark Miodownik by Joe Dunckley, on FlickrAs Tom Lehrer once sang on his christmas carol:

“Christmas time is here, by golly,
Disapproval would be folly,
Deck the halls with hunks of holly,
Fill the cup and don’t say ‘when.’
Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens,
Mix the punch, drag out the Dickens,
Even though the prospect sickens,
Brother, here we go again…”

Which must mean it’s also time for another seasonal tradition: the Royal Institution Christmas lectures. This year they are being given by the materials scientist and engineer Mark Miodownik with the title “Size Matters“. After nearly a decade in the wilderness of More4 and Channel 5 and elsewhere, this year the lectures will be back with the BBC broadcast on the 28th, 29th and 30th December at 8.00pm (also subsequently on iPlayer). Topics this year include:

  1. Why elephants can’t dance (but hamsters can skydive) see “crash test pets” video below.
  2. Why chocolate melts and jet planes don’t – chocolate is “one of the most sophisticated and highly engineered materials on the planet”!
  3. Why mountains are so small (Yes, small) – how rocks behave like liquid.

Mark has a reputation for being an entertaining and passionate [1] speaker, who unlike some previous lecturers – likes to improvise without a script which will probably make for lively and educational viewing.

Where ever you are this winterval, have a happy holiday.


  1. Mark Miodownik (2005). Facts not opinions? Developing both the physical and aesthetic properties of materials Nature Materials, 4 (7), 506-508 DOI: 10.1038/nmat1416

[Creative commons licensed picture of Mark Miodownik at the Science is Vital rally earlier this year in London by Joe Dunckley]


  1. I heard Mark on Start the Week last week (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00wlbsq), he was excellent. I reckon he’ll do a grand job.

    Comment by Paul Dobson — December 23, 2010 @ 12:02 am | Reply

  2. Quite the worst of a long line of what used to be interesting and informing events. This year many of the visual aids bordered the superficial and appeared to be little more than time fillers. The lecturer certainly managed to bore me within minutes, and judging from some of the yawns from the audience, I was not alone in this. His delivery was painful. Must do better in future.

    Comment by TE — December 31, 2010 @ 12:30 am | Reply

    • @TE I disagree. Are you serious? I thought the lectures were excellent and you have to remember Mr Miodownik was aiming the content primarily at *children* not adults… (“all adults must be accompanied by a child” as they say at the RI)

      Comment by Duncan — January 8, 2011 @ 3:27 pm | Reply

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