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Inventions Going Bang
Published on Sunday, 07 August 2011
4

4 stars

Assembly George Square (venue website)
Childrens
3-14, 16-21 Aug, 1:00pm-2:00pm
Reviewed by Craig Thomson

 Parental Guidance. Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

Marty Jopson has been making television programmes about science for 15 years.   I have to admit I’ve never seen him in his most famous role – I’m just seldom in front of the telly at the right time – but for families attending this explosive afternoon seminar, Jopson will be well-known as the crazy inventor from the BBC’s One Show.

Although there are just enough Inventions Going Bang to justify the title, the main thrust of proceedings is a lecture on the history of science and invention. Now, it's a very entertaining and genuinely fascinating lecture, and Jopson is an enthusiastic communicator and educator.  But there's no getting round it - kids (and adults) are going to learn things at this show. The boys and girls clamouring at the front loved it, all the same, as Jopson took us from Archimedes to Brunel – with a good number of less-appreciated inventors, scientists and engineers also dotted through the way.

Funnily enough, his opening demonstration didn't go bang, but it was probably the most impressive display on offer. After explaining a little about the worthy Sir Charles Vernon Boys (1855-1944), Jopson picked up a plastic water butt he had modified into one of Boyes’ inventions, a vortex cannon – if you're not sure what that is, it's essentially a smoke ring maker.  And what beautiful, ethereal things the rings were! If only all teaching could so simply capture the wonder and majesty of the world around us, we'd be a nation of scientists and engineers again in no time.

But we have to work with what we've got, I guess, and I sensed at times that the attention of the young crowd was waning – particularly during longer segments of exposition, which spend a lot of time discussing various eighteenth-century noblemen.  What's more, while I don't doubt it is all properly risk-assessed and insured, there's a certain unreasonable stickiness in heating up a can of fizzy soda and spraying the contents over the front row.  The carrot cannon finale, gravely pronounced as extremely dangerous, was a bit oversold and in fact out of sequence.

This remains a worthwhile afternoon family excursion, full of ideas that you can take home and set fire to.  And if nothing else, I'll always remember to 'ooh' louder when I see a blue firework in future.

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