The Question Game

This article is part of a series of blog posts about a research collaboration with students from Didcot Girls’ School. All posts can be found under the category STEM Club

What happens when you ask a bunch of 14 year old girls to each write a question on a piece of paper anonymously and put it in the middle of the table for a scientist to answer? I found out on Thursday, when the Didcot Girls’ School students arrived and we had lunch together.

Some questions were very sensible.

Where did you go to university?”
I went to both universities in Munich – in Munich because I am German. I changed uni after three years because the Technical University had better courses in the fields I was interested in. Some girls only believed that I was German after I said something in German :D

What happens if we break the microscope?”
“You will have to pay for it and it costs £250.000.” Shocked faces all around. “I am joking. You can’t break the microscope.”
Short silence, then someone chirped in: “I am sure we could if we tried.” Right. “Ok- I am sure you could. Don’t break the microscope. Don’t spill something on it. Don’t kick it. Don’t sit on it. If you break the microscope, everyone will be REALLY angry with you.” That seemed to satisfy them.

Other questions were unexpected.

Did the Big Bang make a sound or if not, is its name thus misleading?”

I had no clue. My immediate response – and that of everyone else I asked later – was: “If a tree falls in a forest and noone is there to hear it…”. This question actually led to a long debate between a bunch of scientists from different fields, who all came up with different replies. We am still not completely sure, but we all agreed that “Big Expansion” doesn’t sound as catchy. Great question!

According to this website, the Big Bang sounded more like a Big Scream. Here is  a suggestion by Prof Mark Whittle from the University of Virginia about how the  universe’s first million years might have sounded like – compressed into five seconds: Another suggestion was put together by Prof John Cramer, University of Washington.

Have you seen any dead bodies?

No. The only dead bodies I have seen so far were dead Golgi bodies. My job isn’t THAT exciting.

The easiest one was: “Where can we get a cool Brookes pen?” I had a bunch in my office. In grey and pink.



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