• Question: What was the hardest experiment you have done ?

    Asked by Olivia to Gavin, Karen, Mark, Michel, Roisin on 9 Nov 2016. This question was also asked by yyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeeee bboii, Daniel Darwin.
    • Photo: Michel Destrade

      Michel Destrade answered on 9 Nov 2016:

      Yes good question! I once proved that brain matter is softer than jelly. But it took us two years to figure out how to measure the force it takes to deform brain and compare it to the force it takes to deform jelly. The experiment was really difficult to realise in the lab, while meeting the standards of good science. For instance, we had to make sure that the experiment could be reproduced and provide the same result over and over, by us or by other scientists. Once that worked, the maths was easy, pfew!

    • Photo: Mark Kennedy

      Mark Kennedy answered on 10 Nov 2016:

      I’m currently doing the hardest one I’ve ever done.

      I’m trying to work out why a system got a lot fainter than it normally, and all I have to work with are photographs (which is essentially all astronomy is!). It’s very tricky, because I’m trying to predict the behavior of a system which is 4,629,000,000,000,000 km away from Earth. I don’t even know if the system actually looks like I think it does! For all I know, it could be someone just standing above my telescope turning a flash light on and off every few minutes, and I wouldn’t be able to tell the real difference!!

    • Photo: Roisin Jones

      Roisin Jones answered on 10 Nov 2016:

      I think the hardest experiment I’ve done was one where I was using a starting material that was super-sensitive to air and water! It meant that I had to make sure everything I was using was bone dry (which means drying it in a hot oven before hand, then setting it up while still warm, and then flame drying with a Bunsen burner when it’s set up), and replacing the atmosphere in my reaction flask with nitrogen, which is inert (meaning it doesn’t react with other things). Then I had to try and get everything into the flask without introducing either air or water into the vessel, it took quite a while!

    • Photo: Karen

      Karen answered on 10 Nov 2016:

      That was my final year project for my degree, it was very time consuming and yielded very little results. Even the name of it still depresses me…screening members of malignant hyperthermia pedigrees for known Ryanodine receptor mutations using a novel genetic detection technique…yes soul destroying. Anyway I got there, handed it in and never thought of Ryanodine receptors again!!