Category Archives: Science

ATOM2021 Abingdon-and-Beyond Science Trail


There was a stall on the Market Place to let us all know that there is a science trail with 24 locations in Abingdon-on-Thames. At each location you can do an activity using a smart phone or tablet.

You can download the app from https://www.atomfestival.org.uk . It has a map. At each location on the map is a QR code the app can scan and launch one of the virtual activities.

At the Abingdon Millennium Needle, for example, the virtual activity involves watching a video from the Jenner Institute and then answering a couple of questions on Cells and vaccines.

The trail is available from 11th – 13th June 2021. Lots of different organizations have provided the virtual Science lessons, and donated prizes for the best answers.

The hash tag #ATOM2021 is being on social media to share pictures about the Science trail.

Peachcroft Christian Centre Innovations


Peachcroft Christian Centre used to have the smallest church building in Abingdon. Like churches in medieval times they added an extension that more than doubled the size of the church.

Peachcroft Christian Centre normally hold a Christmas Day lunch at Peachcroft for anyone in Abingdon who is on their own. Unfortunately, this year, because of Covid, they cannot hold the lunch.

Instead, they will be delivering gift bags, packed full of treats (edible and non-edible) on Christmas Day and wishing people a happy Christmas. The only criteria is that people should be on their own on Christmas Day and live in Abingdon.

If people know someone who would welcome a visit and a gift, please contact events@peachcroftcc.org or 07379 469311.

After building the bigger church most of their ground was used up. They are using that remaining patch to generate energy. A channel has been dug and some pipes are sticking out. An information boards explains that they are installing a Ground Source Heat Pump. From what I can gather they have drilled two boreholes 150 meters into the ground. Each borehole has two pipes. Very cold water will be pumped down one pipe (with anti-freeze to stop it freezing) and it will return up the other pipe warmed by the earth – having gained heat energy. With every unit of electrical energy used to power the pump they get back 4 units as heat energy. That heat energy can then be used to heat the building and for hot water.

P.S Churches were back worshipping this Sunday after ther November restrictions and some lit the 2nd Advent Candle. Many use a booking system and spaced seats and face masks. They listen to pre-recorded hymns as singing is not allowed.

ATOM Science Festival on Abingdon Market Place

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There were about twenty stalls with free science activities on Abingdon Market Place today as part of the ATOM Science Festival. Talks were also ongoing throughout the day elsewhere.
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These two people help at the festival. James White is the founder of the festival  and Dr. Jennifer Turner the founder of Bright Sparks Science, a Community Interest Company based in Abingdon, with an objective to make science fun.
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Dr Mark Thornton has taken over Chairing the Science Festival this year. Previous to that he ran Mostly Books in Abingdon with his wife for eleven years.
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Heather Brown has been involved with admin and publicity, and Dr. Graeme Smith is the Science Co-ordinator at  St Helen and St Katharine school. The animal in the picture is the Tardigrade, one of a number of weird and wonderful creatures put in shops in Abingdon for children to find.
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There were lots of local scientific companies and education institutions  with demonstrations, and offering have-a-go science activities, for all the family. Oxford Instruments, who produce super magnets for research purposes, were showing some properties of magnets. The Ferrofluid in this flask shows the magnetic fields in 3d.Science
Oxford Biomedica develop gene-based medicines, and were showing some of their equipment. What I gathered is they grow kidney tissue in layers in that box and then develop a vaccine specific to the patient that gives them a boost in fighting back against illnesses. Kidney cancer was mentioned. They are also working on something that helps Parkinson Patients produce their own dopamine. The nerve cells that normally produce dopamine have died in Parkinson’s Disease..
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These two Phd students from Oxford have created a system for predicting weather around the globe using 4 Raspberry pi computers (that cost about £30 each).
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Abingdon Naturalists’ Society had various vessels containing creatures dipped out of a pond yesterday. This glass contains Toad Spawn and tadpoles and water plants.

Many youngsters and adults were entranced by all that was happening on these and all the other stalls.

Hannah Fry – ATOM Science Festival

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Hannah Fry is a Mathematician, whose speciality is mathematics and human behaviour. She is best known for her television documentaries, and recently got an award for her contributions to the public understanding of mathematics. She came to Abingdon this evening to give a talk to a packed Amey Theatre on ‘How to be Human in the Age of the Machine’ – part of the ATOM Science Festival.

The talk went through many examples where machines make decisions in real life. She talked about algorithms – that is where a machine decision is based on set rules. She also spoke about Artificial Intelligence (AI) where the machine has the ability to learn. There was the example of a Judge making a custodial sentence decision verses an algorithm. The Judge might be inconsistent at times and subject to human idiosyncrasies. The algorithm is consistent but does not understand concepts such as fairness and justice and so can go awry. She went through other examples such as generating music, disease detection, driverless cars, identifying images. In a question and answer sessions she also talked about some of the ethical issues. One conclusion was that machines work best where we as humans question their decisions, and correct their mistakes.

After the talk Hannah signed copes of her book Hello World: How to be Human in the Age of the Machine.