Scientist roughs it for TV series
23 May 2000
For immediate release
Scientists are a clever bunch, but could they really survive in the wilderness with little more than a few old saucepans, some lengths of wire and their own ingenuity?
Certainly the skills of University of Sussex physicist Dr Jonathan Hare were put to the test when he became a castaway for a TV programme. Together with a marine biologist, a chemist, a molecular biologist and an ethnobotanist, Jonathan was sent to a remote Mediterranean island for Rough Science, a new Open University series which begins on May 26 on BBC2 at 7.30pm.
Using just a few basic tools, the island's natural resources and whatever they found in a deserted prison, the team made their own soap, toothpaste, insect repellent and various mechanical devices. Jonathan's rudimentary radio consisted mainly of a saucepan sawn in half, a chunk of a mineral called a galena and a mass of barbed wire. He also made a battery out of jars filled with salt water and pencils and a wooden record player powered by weights.
The first major challenge posed for the team by presenter Kate Humble was to calculate the latitude and longitude of their exact location. With the aid of a simple sundial and by picking up a time signal on the radio, they worked out they were on the unpopulated island of Capraia off the coast of Italy.
"It was a very rugged and beautiful island," recalls Jonathan, who spent a total of three weeks there with the film crew and his fellow scientists last year. "And it was a fantastic experience working together as so much of your time as a scientist is spent on your own. Hopefully, this shows us as real people rather than mad boffins in kipper ties."
The series, which has already won the Erasmus Bridge Award at the Rotterdam Market for Educational Programmes, is intended to demystify science and make viewers realise what fun it can be. The Open University is producing a free booklet showing how to do some of the activities at home.
Jonathan, who is a member of the Sussex Fullerene Team led by Nobel Prize winner Sir Harry Kroto, also set up the Creative Science Centre at Sussex. He said: "My real skill is in making things and I'm all for encouraging people to learn about science by making things themselves."
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