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The University of Sussex

 1 May 2002 

Rough scientists take up the tropical challenge

Last summer, University of Sussex scientist Dr Jonathan Hare went to a tropical island to film a TV series. But he didn't join a tribe, he didn't win a million pounds and the challenges he faced weren't about survival or competition.

The BBC was more interested in Dr Hare's skills as a physicist. On the Caribbean island of Carriacou, TV presenter Kate Humble set him and four other scientists a string of seemingly impossible challenges designed to test their combined scientific knowledge, resourcefulness, ingenuity and team spirit.

You can see how they got on in the new series of TV challenge show 'Rough Science', which returns to BBC 2 next week.

The six-part Open University series shows how the team of scientists stretched their diverse skills to the limit, swapping their hi-tech laboratories for a disused lime factory and a kit of only the most basic tools and equipment. It also shows them having a lot of fun in the process. "Doing science can be enjoyable, that's the message," agrees Dr Hare.

For the first programme, to be broadcast on Tuesday 7 May at 7.30pm, Kate Humble challenged Dr Hare to make a phonograph for recording sound. He enjoyed that but wasn't so keen on the second challenge, to forecast the weather by constructing instruments for a weather station.

"It would be hard to make one in three years, let alone three days," says Dr Hare. "It was a non-starter right from the beginning." In any case, he adds, it was easy to forecast the weather: very hot, humid and sunny, with frequent downpours. (Hence the ever-present mozzies.)

Kate Humble describes Dr Hare as a "radio nut", so it was no surprise that she then asked him and fellow physicist Kathy Sykes to put together a radio transmitter and receiver. But his favourite task was making something called a parabola to catch the sun's rays and distil water. "I'd always wanted to make one," he says, "but I'd never got round to it."

For the last programme in the series, Dr Hare worked with the chemist in the team to make fireworks for a grand finale. "That was really good fun," he recalls. "It was real Boy's Own stuff, making bombs!"

He lived to tell the tale and will be available for online chat via the series website after each programme.

 Notes for editors 

For further information, please contact Alison Field or Benedict Brook, University of Sussex, Tel. 01273 678888, Fax 01273 877456, email or

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