We had a larger than usual turn-out for our President's Day, with guests coming from as far afield as Bradford, Leeds, Manchester and Todmorden to see Prof. John Brown, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland talking about 'Black Holes and White Rabbits'.
John spoke about his early childhood in Glasgow and the regular visits to Tam Shepherd's magic shop which had fuelled his interest. His main aim for the day was to show the ways in which simple magic 'tricks' can be used to explain, or at last illustrate, the complex laws of physics and astronomy.
He began with a standard magic colouring book in which planets appeared on previously blank pages and then became coloured - but this had been custom-made by his talented wife who confirmed what a difficult task it had been. His good lady was also responsible for an embroidery circle covered in material, on which a ping-pong ball showed why planets travel around the sun, represented by a wooden ruler.
The penetration of solid matter was shown by means of a guillotine, and gravity could be slowed down when a weight passing through a metal tube became magnetic. This application was transferred to modern trains, and there was a discussion of the theories of Newton and the possibility (or impossibility) of anti-matter . . . or was that Auntie Matter? This then led on to a ball slowly rolling down a plastic chute, the close-up items being projected onto a large screen for improved visibility.
Making notes on the Faraday Cage was just like being at school again. A dove pan was employed to produce heavy metal, while an evaporated liquid jug, a colour-changing D'Lite and the Professor's Nightmare were also brought into play - as was a white domino with moving black spots (marketed as 'What's Next?')which illustrated perfectly the proliferation of black holes. A Ring-on-Rope effect made an appearance, while a coin passing through rubber had been used by John when appearing on The Sky at Night, the longest running television show of its type, spanning some 55 years.
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The time passed quickly (or was that just an illusion created by the fourth dimension?) and the Professor returned after the interval to field questions in a Q & A session.
Ian thanked John, and was in turn thanked by Chairman Roger Woods; as were Irene and Kate, who had worked as valiantly as ever in the kitchen.
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