Royal Institution Christmas Lectures 2019
  • Science
  • Senior
  • Sixth Form
  • STEM

The annual Royal Institute Christmas Lectures were initiated by Michael Faraday nearly 200 years ago at a time when organised education for young people was scarce. They were first broadcast on television in 1936 - making them the world’s oldest science TV series. This year an LEH STEM delegation visited the Ri’s Albemarle Street home to participate in the first of the 2019 Lectures.  They were broadcast on BBC Four after Christmas Day and were live streamed to select venues around the UK.

Mr Brittain accompanied Sasha (UVS), Ashna (LVS), Ella (UVP), Issy (UIVM), Ellie (UIVX), Chloe (UIVX), Aria (UVIE), Paulina (LVIE), and Josephine (LVS).  We were delighted that our friend and ex-LEH pupil, Amelia, was also able to come along.

This year’s lecturer was Associate Professor in the Mathematics of Cities at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis at University College London, Dr Hannah Fry. She works alongside a unique mix of physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists, architects and geographers to study patterns in human behaviour, particularly in an urban setting. Her research applies to a wide range of social problems and questions, from shopping and transport to urban crime, riots and terrorism. 

Dr Fry demonstrated that, although we think our lives unfold thanks to a mixture of luck and personal choices, actually there’s an unseen layer of mathematics that governs every aspect of our world. A wide variety of techniques were used to show that the biggest events in our lives – such as finding the perfect partner or a job, staying healthy and happy – rely on a huge element of luck. Dr Fry revealed that the mathematics of probability can help us to understand and predict complex systems.

Attending this event gave our students a unique insight into the making of a scientific television program.  It was interesting to see how the audience were taught how to behave and how the warm up act kept us focused and engaged during interruptions. We saw multiple takes of experiments that didn’t quite work and observed small sections of footage being reshot at the end.  This experience gave us a unique understanding of the edited and refined broadcast on Boxing Day.  It was a fascinating and educational experience.  It is nice to be part of history!

By Mr Brittain - STEM Co-ordinator and Physics Teacher