Explore the RSE school talks on astronomy and astrophysics.

Did we really land on the moon?

Professor Martin Hendry MBE FRSE

More than 50 years after Apollo 11, and as plans unfold to return humans to the Moon within the next few years, there are many theories around that claim Neil Armstrong’s famous “One small step” in July 1969 was an elaborate hoax, filmed in secret here on Earth. Conspiracy theorists point to waving flags, strange shadows, no stars in the sky and deadly solar radiation to support their claims. In this talk, using real Apollo video footage and some simple experiments and demonstrations, Martin Hendry takes a closer look at the science behind “moon hoax” claims, and asks whether we really did land on the Moon.

Exploring the dark side of the universe

Professor Martin Hendry MBE FRSE or Professor Giles Hamond FRSE

We live in a very strange universe in which less than 5% of all the matter and energy exists in the form of atoms while the other 95% is mysterious “dark matter” and “dark energy” – the exact nature of which is one of the biggest unanswered puzzles in science. Join Professor Martin Hendry on a whistle-stop tour through nearly fourteen billion years of cosmic history and explore the very latest theories of the Big Bang.

Gravitational waves

Professor Martin Hendry MBE FRSE or Professor Giles Hamond FRSE

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave observatory comprises two detectors located in Hanford, WA and Livingston LA. These detectors are 4km long Fabry-Perot Michelson interferometers and the most sensitive length measuring devices in the world. They are able to sense a change equivalent to 1/1000th the diameter of a proton over their 4km baseline. This talk describes the technology development necessary to realise the LIGO detectors, and also describes the gravitational wave signals that have been observed from binary black hole systems. The talk also provides insight into the astrophysics which can be gained from these “dark systems”,only observable by listening to the Universe.

The physics of rainbows

Professor Giles Hammond FRSE

Rainbows are beautiful natural phenomena; they are seen when it is both raining and the sun is out. But why do we see the colours in a rainbow, and why do all rainbows show the same colouring in the primary and secondary bows? This talk will discuss how light is split up into its constituent colours, and how these colours are separated in the raindrop. We will further explore why rainbows are circular, why they have no end and why the colours in the primary and secondary bow are interchanged.

Quarks, leptons, bosons and all that: physics with CERN’s Large Hadron Collider

Dr Victoria Martin

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN is the world’s largest machine. Since the first collisions over 10 years ago, experiments at the LHC have discovered the Higgs boson particle first predicted by Scottish physicist Peter Higgs, explored the difference between matter and anti-matter and measured the fundamental particles that make up our Universe. The LHC will run for the next 15 years and should continue to improve physicists’ understanding of physics at the smallest accessible scales. I will introduce the Standard Model of particle physics, the Large Hadron Collider and explain how Scottish physicists are collaborating with scientists from all over the world into understanding the fundamental physics of the Universe.

The Science Of Star Wars

Professor Martin Hendry MBE FRSE

For decades generations of moviegoers have marvelled at the Star Wars universe. But how much real science is up there on the big screen? Could we ever travel to other planets,
crossing the vast distances between star systems using shortcuts through hyperspace? What kinds of alien worlds might be out there, and could they bear life forms like the
creatures found in Star Wars? Could a Jedi Knight really fight with a light sabre? Could the Death Star really blow up a planet? In this lecture astrophysicist and life-long Star Wars
fan Professor Martin Hendry explores the science of Star Wars and feels the force!

The Secret Lives Of Galaxies

Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans

When we look at galaxies like our own Milky Way, we can see stars, gas and dust. But what else is there, that we can’t see? And why are there so many different shapes and sizes of galaxies? How do galaxies form and evolve over time? These are some of the questions that we will address in this interactive talk, which is all about the Secret Lives of Galaxies.

What Goes Up

Dr Patrick Harkness

We are used to the idea of gravity simply attracting objects towards the Earth, but it also has some rather surprising effects in space. Gravitational forces are at least partially responsible for the Earth’s ocean tides, volcanism on Jupiter’s moons, and the stability of Saturn’s spectacular ring system. In fact, we can even exploit gravitational forces to accelerate spacecraft away from the Sun through manoeuvres called gravitational slingshots. This talk, with some accessible demonstrations involving bouncing ‘planets’, will show how all these different effects arise from one single relationship proposed by Isaac Newton many hundreds of years ago.

What’s in space?

Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans

There are lots of different things in space, ranging from space stations and planets to stars and nebulae. In this interactive talk we are going to explore all the different
objects in space: what is there, where is it, and what is it doing up there? You choose your favourite objects in space that we will be discussing in this session, and there will be lots of opportunities to ask all your questions about space.

RSE school talks programme

Activities to support the curriculum for excellence

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), offers free school talks, aimed at P6-S6, at any point during the school terms, either in person at your school or online.

Download the RSE school talks programme 2023/24 (PDF, 2MB)

All RSE school talks

Explore the RSE school talks on astronomy and astrophysics. Professor Martin Hendry MBE FRSE More than 50 years after Apollo
Explore the RSE school talks on biology. Professor Karim Labib FRSE The first living creatures can be traced back to
Explore the RSE school talks on expressive arts. Professor Ian Brown FRSE In this talk, Ian Brown draws on over
Explore the RSE school talks on health and wellbeing. Dr Roger Scrutton FRSE In this talk, we’ll move outdoors for
Explore the RSE school talks on languages. Dr Alice König Authors like J. K. Rowling and Michael Morpurgo are amazing
Explore the RSE school talks on mathematics. Dr Michael J. Barany Numbers and calculations play a major role in our
Explore the RSE school talks on physics. Alison McLure Mountain Rescue Teams go out in all weathers, at any time
Explore the RSE school talks on religious and moral education. Professor Michela Massimi FRSE What counts as evidence in science?
Explore the RSE school talks on social studies. Dr Alice König Did you know that modern medical students still learn
Explore the RSE school talks on astronomy and astrophysics. Dr Joyce Klu It is essential that any measurement is as
Explore the RSE school talks on technologies. Dr Caroline Wilkinson FRSE This talk will focus on describing facial depiction from

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To discuss talk availability for your school, or more information, please get in touch with us by email Jessica Fletcher on [email protected] or by the enquiry form:

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