Friday Phenomena

22 01 2011

If you are working as a science presenter then I’d definitely recommend you subscribe to BIG-CHAT and join BIG, the British Interactive Group. Once you’ve joined BIG-CHAT you can play Friday Phenomena.

Matt Bagley of Camouflaged Learning suggested the game. “I’d been toying with the idea of posting Friday Phenomena for weeks, and after slightly too many coffees I’ve decided just to go for it and hang the consequences.” The game is simple.

You get 50 words or less to answer/explain/define as eloquently and elegantly as possible a phenomena set by the previous week’s winner.

“The idea is that you are challenged to think within some serious constraints and everyone else gets to read a selection of attempts” explained Matt (pictured left in cartoon form).

The phenomena that have been set so far are Reusable Heat Packs and The Bernoulli Blower. This week the phenomena set is The Airzooka. If you want to play join up to BIG-CHAT and here are a list of the rules as they currently stand. NB: These are the rules as defined by posts to the list before 22/01/11. These rules are subject to change due to the wonderfully fickle and experimental nature of the BIG-CHAT mailing list.

Friday Phenomena Rules

1. The aim of Friday Phenomena is to encourage people think within constraints. As such no answer will be complete, no answer is ever perfect. Everyone on the list is welcome to try. Every submission will be valued and treated with respect.

2. The phenomena will be set by the previous week’s winner and posted to a thread on BIG-CHAT called Friday Phenomena

3. Attempts to describe the phenomena should be eloquent, elegant and be achieved in 50 words or less.

4. The winner is chosen by the setter of the phenomena- their decision is final- they can chose to offer a prize for that week if they want to.

To maintain everyone’s sanity, good will and to make the thread flow as smoothly as possible all you need to do is submit your 50 word or less answer. Please DO NOT preface your attempt with preambles or attempts to contextualise. The whole point of the game is that you only have 50 words. The thread should read as a list of submissions that can be read one after the other.

Any discussion about the content of a submission or the scientific value of a submission should be posted to a separate thread. Please DO NOT fill up the Friday Phenomena thread with comments of your own about what someone else has written. If someone has submitted something that you don’t agree with all you need to do is send in your own attempt. People reading down the list of submissions will see there is a discrepancy and can follow that up if they chose. If you really want to you can post your comment to a separate thread.

Good luck and have fun!

Previous winners

Reusable Heat Packs

Below their freezing point substances can remain liquid. Although they would rather be big crystals than liquids, they would rather be liquid than minute crystals. The clicker exposes some relatively large crystals that were trapped in its crack. These start to grow releasing lots of latent heat until everything crystalises.

Written by Dave Ansell, chosen by Matt Bagley.

The Bernoulli Blower

Some air bounces off the ball and stops it falling but most wraps itself around the ball and then continues upwards. Like water curving off the back of a spoon when the ball moves left air being deflected left forces it back towards the centre and vice versa.

Written by James Soper, chosen by Dave Ansell.



Smoke hitting a wall of still air will spread outwards and back on itself. Smoke rings are stable because the friction within the ring is much smaller than that between the outside and the surrounding medium. Non-smokers can try tapping their cheeks on a cold day while saying ‘Oh!’.

Written by Dr Mark Lewney, chosen by James Soper



Casimir Sphere

The ball, the bar and the plate have nothing all around them. However, nothingness is relative and there’s less nothing between the ball and the plate than elsewhere. The more nothing on one side of the ball pushes more than the less nothing on the other side closing the gap.

Written by Chris Robbins, chosen by Mark Lewney


Why does a gas get  hotter when you compress it and colder when you expand it?

Gases are essentially very friendly. When you squeeze it into a smaller space it gets hotter because it’s closer to its own kind and therefore happy. Unfortunately when it expands into a larger space it gets colder because it’s unhappy; don’t worry, it always looks on the bright side.

Written by Helen Reardon, chosen by Chris Robbins


What is the difference between global warming and climate change?

The average temperature of our planet is increasing. We call this “Global Warming”. However, weather is complicated! This warming messes up the weather systems; rather than everywhere just getting a bit warmer, local weather will change in different ways (hotter/colder, wetter/drier, etc). This is called Climate Change.

Written by Jenny Shipway, chosen by Helen Reardon





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