Festival of Physics

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University of Exeter, The Forum

Stocker Road



United Kingdom

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Event description
A day out for everyone interested in Physics, especially school students and their families

About this event

Institute of Physics South-West Branch

and Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Exeter


Our Autumn Festival of Physics will take place this year at

The Forum, Streatham Campus, University of Exeter.

Click here for maps and directions to the University

The SW Branch of IOP may be able to offer a subsidy to schools from Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset who wish to bring a group of students to the event. Please email about this. Schools in the North of our region may be interested to know that we are expecting to organise a similar event in Spring 2022 in Bath or Bristol. This will be advertised on


The date is Saturday, 6 November: make a note in your diary!

There will be a full programme of lectures and workshops.

Please register if you plan to attend: the event is free!

Covid Precautions

Please do not come if you have symptoms of Covid-19, or a recent positive test. We no longer require a registered Covid-19 test, but would strongly encourage you to do a self-administered lateral flow test the day before. (The kits are available free from many pharmacies.) Hand sanitizer will be available at the entrances to the Forum. We recommend wearing a mask while inside the building (unless exempt, or while eating and drinking.)

In the lecture theatre, please seat yourselves respecting social distancing.


This is a whole-day event particularly for school students who are studying for qualifications in Physics, their friends and families, but also for people of all ages who are interested in Physics, including members of the Institute of Physics. We will have lectures, demonstrations and workshops throughout the day. Our objective is to inspire and enthral, showing young people the joy of physics and highlighting the fascinating career opportunities that may be available if they study physics at school and university

Provisional programme of the day:

(Subject to change: please check nearer the date.)

09:45 Doors open to visitors, registration + coffee (Free coffee and tea available until 10:30)

10:30-11:30 1st talk: “The Wonder of Light” – Professor Sir Roy Sambles FRS HFInstP (Details of the talk can be found below)

11:30-12:15 Break (exhibits/demonstrations on display)

12:15-13:15 2nd talk: “Winchcombe: the first UK meteorite in 30 years” – Dr Natasha Stephen (Details of the talk can be found below)

13:15-14:30 Lunch break. Exhibits/demonstrations on display

Free coffee and tea available from 13:15 to 14:15. Visitors are invited to bring their own sandwiches or buy snacks from Costa (Level 2 in the Forum.)

14:30 -15:30 3rd talk: “Launching Cornwall into Space” - Dr Heidi Thiemann (Details of the talk can be found below)

Doors close for visitors 16:00

Workshops: There will be two sets of workshops running throughout the day:

1. Exeter Science Centre at 10:15, 11:15, 12:00, 13:30, 14:15, 15:15.

2. Badminton Girls' school: "Is a Grape Magnetic?" at 11:00, 13:00, 14:45.

Spaces are limited. but there is no separate booking for these workshops: just turn up!

Details of the talks:

1. The Wonder of Light or Wave-Particle Duality and the Frightening Consequences: Professor Sir Roy Sambles FRS HFInstP

Abstract: Three of the greatest Western scientists were distracted by the question ‘What exactly is light?’ Newton rhetorically suggested that rays of light were ‘very small bodies emitted from shining substances’. Young, with his double slit experiment, provided convincing proof of the wave characteristic of light. Then Einstein, by explaining the photoelectric effect, developed a quantum theory of light. But who is actually correct? All are! This demonstration lecture will explore some of the disturbing aspects of wave-particle duality.

Speaker Bio: Professor Sir Roy Sambles has been a member of the academic staff at the University of Exeter since 1972 and has made significant contributions to our understanding of the melting process, spin waves in metals, resistivity of thin metal films, molecular rectification, liquid crystal optics, plasmonics and microwave and acoustic metamaterials. He was promoted to a personal chair in 1991 and was elected to the Fellowship of the Royal Society in 2002. His prizes include the George Gray medal of the British Liquid Crystal Society and the Thomas Young and Faraday medals of the IOP. He has served on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the Defence Science Advisory Committee and as the only academic scientist on the Board of the Counter Terrorism Centre. He was a member of the 2014 Research Excellence Framework Panel for Physics and has recently been appointed a Distinguished Visitor to the National Physical Laboratory.

Most recently, Roy has focused his research interests on metamaterials and their application to microwaves and sound. This has led to prototype device production through collaborations with QinetiQ, Thales, Dstl, Flann Microwaves and BAE. Since 2014 he has led an EPSRC Doctoral Training Centre in Metamaterials, supporting more than 80 PhD students over an eight-year period.

Roy has developed a passion and a gift for taking physics to the community. His outreach activities over the last seven years have reached more than 2,500 teachers, students of all ages and members of the general public.

This enthusiasm for physics was evident in Roy’s very successful time as President of the Institute of Physics. During his four years as President Elect and President he made some significant and invaluable changes to the way the Institute works and how it interacts with its community.

In 2017 he was appointed Distinguished Visitor to the National Physical Laboratory.

In 2018 he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Institute of Physics and in 2020 was appointed a Knight Bachelor by the Queen for scientific research and outreach.

2. Winchcombe: the first UK meteorite in 30 years – Dr Natasha Stephen

Abstract: On the 28th February 2021 a fireball was seen/heard across the UK. Dedicated fireball cameras, as well as dash cams and doorbell cameras, across the UK recorded the event and calculated that a meteorite may have dropped in Gloucestershire. Thanks to a public appeal by meteorite scientists across the UK, who mobilised during UK lockdown being sure to follow all laws & procedures at the time, several pieces of the new meteorite were quickly recovered. As part of the initial recovery team, Natasha was one of the first scientists on the scene to see & hold the meteorite. She is now leading an analysis team at the University of Plymouth who have a small fragment of the newly named Winchcombe meteorite, and is beginning to unravel its mysteries. Join us as we explore the science behind the observation, recovery, and classification of the UK’s first new meteorite in 30 years.

  Speaker bio: Dr Natasha Stephen is a geologist by training, focusing on extra-terrestrial materials & planetary science. Natasha is Director of Plymouth Electron Microscopy Centre at the University of Plymouth, where she is also a lecturer in the Faculty of Science & Engineering. Natasha has been working with extra-terrestrial materials including the Moon, Mars, and asteroids, for 12 years since starting her PhD at Imperial College London jointly with the Natural History Museum, London. Natasha has searched for meteorites in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres, and classifies them using the non-destructive techniques available in her own analytical microscopy facility in the SW of England.  

3. Dr Heidi Thiemann - Launching Cornwall into Space

  Abstract: In the summer of 2022, Cornwall is going to make history. Spaceport Cornwall will be the first to launch a rocket from UK soil, but this rocket and its payload is unlike any other. In this talk, you’ll find out about Cornwall’s long heritage in space, from broadcasting the Moon landings in 1969 to controlling missions around Mars in 2021, and why the Virgin Orbit rocket launching from Spaceport Cornwall is so unusual.

  Speaker Bio: Dr Heidi Thiemann currently works at Truro and Penwith College where she leads the Cornwall Space and Aerospace Technology Training project, developing apprenticeships and training to launch the space careers of young people in Cornwall. She previously worked as an astronomer at The Open University where she used data from the SuperWASP telescope to hunt for red giant binary stars which may one day merge and cause stunning stellar explosions.

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University of Exeter, The Forum

Stocker Road



United Kingdom

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Organiser Institute of Physics

Organiser of Festival of Physics

Institute of Physics.

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