Jamie Thomson

Thoughts, about stuff

The Royal Institution Christmas Lectures on Channel 5

with 2 comments

[This is only really significant for you if you live in the UK.]

I wanted to talk about the Royal Institution Christmas Lecture series that has been appearing on Channel 5 every night on this but in fact Steve Clayton beat me to it when he said:

the last 4 nights have offered some of the best TV I have watched in a long time. I’m referring to The Royal Institution Lectures that I mentioned earlier in the week. They have been showing each night this week on Channel 5 here in the UK and presented by Chris Bishop. I’ve bored anyone who is prepared to listen about them for the last 48 hours for their brilliance in making some of the complexities of computing both fun and interesting. 

This is how computing and science really ought to be taught and I think Chris and the team just raised the bar significantly.

  • Check out Lecture 1 for how microchips are made on silicon using rice as an example.
  • Check out Lecture 2 for some great demos of Surface that are met with gasps from the audience and if like me, you don’t really knew who LCD’s work a brilliant 5 minute practical example explains.
  • Lecture 3 has a great physics experiment where Chris risks his life in front of the audience.
  • Oh and Lecture 3 has a guest via satellite link – none other than Bill Gates.
  • Lecture 4 was all about untangling the web and though I enjoyed this one, it wasn’t as good as the first 3. Still worth a watch for some clever ways to discuss encryption on the web.

Chris Bishop works for Microsoft Research but I only know that because Steve mentioned it in an earlier blog post – there is no deliberate product placement whatsoever and in fact the only brands I’ve heard mentioned so far are iPod and Google. The lecture theatre audience are all children so don’t think that this is some kind of highbrow pontification – the emphasis is on learning for the lay person. here’s how the lectures are billed by Channel 5:

Initiated by Michael Faraday in the mid 1820s, the Christmas Lectures are held annually and are the flagship of the Royal Institution. They serve as a forum for presenting complex scientific issues to young people in an informative and entertaining manner, and are well known for the participation of students in demonstrations and experiments. This year, the theme of the lectures is ‘Hi-tech Trek’ – the quest to find the ultimate computer.

There are two more lectures to come making 6 in total and you can watch them all on demand from Demand Five. I’m not sure if they can be accessed from outside the UK (perhaps one of you can tell me) but if you DO have access, they’re well worth 3 or 4 hours of your time in watching.

Incidentally, I would never have known about these lectures if I hadn’t notice Steve mention them on his blog earlier this week. Someone might want to tell the self-styled web 2.0 glitterati that blogging is alive and well. And flourishing.


Written by Jamiet

January 2, 2009 at 7:29 am

Posted in Uncategorized

2 Responses

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  1. And whiile your at it, tell the Windows Live Team that blogging is alive and well (and flourishing!) 😉 It is the biggest growing area on the Internet. And yes Jamie the Institution Lectures have always been a ‘must see’ . I totally agree with your sentiments.


    January 2, 2009 at 9:22 am

  2. Agree completely – these are great fun to watch, and very informative. Chris Bishop has a great way of explaining complex topics – reminds me a bit of Johnny Ball (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Ball), which is a good thing 😉


    January 2, 2009 at 11:38 am

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