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Launch of York Science and Innovation Grand Tour
9:14am Wednesday 23rd May 2012 in Features
The centre of York is about to become a giant outdoor gallery, celebrating the city’s contribution to science and technology, as STEPHEN LEWIS discovers.
HOLD on to your hats. The centre of York is about to get a whole lot more interesting. Next Wednesday sees the official launch of the York Science and Innovation Grand Tour. It is modelled on the York Grand Tour of 2008, when reproductions of great works of art displayed on buildings and walls turned the city centre into a giant outdoor art gallery.
The same will happen this year – but with a difference. More than 60 stunning images – including those on these pages today – will go on public display at locations across the city centre. But as well as being works of art in themselves, the images will each showcase a piece of pioneering scientific research or innovation connected to York.
Each of the images is designed to stop you in your tracks as you walk about the city centre, and make you think.
“They all have that ‘wow’ factor,” says Prof Tony Robards, the former University of York biologist turned innovator whose idea this year’s grand tour was.
“It will be about saying ‘did you know that all these things were happening on your doorstep?” adds Nick Townend of the York-based Ideas Group.
Nick has been working with Prof Robards to organise the tour.
It is hugely important to get people interested in science, Prof Robards says, if we’re to continue to thrive as a city and a nation.
York has always been a city of scientists and innovators. Some of the key astronomical discoveries that helped us understand our place in the universe were made here.
John Snow, the man once voted the greatest doctor ever for his work in developing the science of epidemiology – which helped us better understand the spread of disease – was born here, in 1813.
And Sir George Cayley, known as the father of aviation, was born near Scarborough and did much of his work at Brompton on the North York Moors.
It was there that his coachman, John Appleby, became the first man to fly in a heavier-than-air craft: a glider designed by Cayley.
But while York has always been a great place for science and innovation, we haven’t always been great at shouting about it, Prof Robards says.
All that will change from next week. Every one of the images on these pages – and every one of the images that will go on display in the city centre next week – illustrates a tale of scientific ingenuity or innovation involving York scientists and inventors.
Our main image shows a chocolate crane fly. It is just one of hundreds of species of flying insect found on an area of land at the Yorkshire Air Museum that will next month open as a Nature of Flight conservation area. The image celebrates the work of the Rev Francis Orpen Morris – the Victorian entomologist and ornithologist who was one of the founders of the Royal Society For Tthe Protection Of Birds and who wrote definitive books on the moths and butterflies of the British Isles.
The picture represents more than that, however: it celebrates the part that York played in our conquest of the skies. Throughout our history of learning to fly, we have copied birds, butterfies and insects, says Ian Reed of the Yorkshire Air Museum.
That’s why so many early aircraft were named after insects – the Gypsy Moth, Mosquito and Dragonfly, for example.
Cayley ensured this part of Yorkshire was a world leader in aviation: a tradition carried on by the Airspeed factory in York’s Piccadilly, which from 1931 onwards was producing a three-engined biplane airliner.
York has been a world leader in many other fields as well, however – and remains so today. York trumpet-maker Richard Smith has used quantum physics to design the trumpets which will sound the state fanfare to announce the Queen’s arrival at her Diamond Jubilee celebrations and the opening of the Olympic Games in London. The image shows a laser holograph of a trumpet’s bell which illustrates how the walls of the instrument vibrate when it is played.
Other images show:
•A prosthetic arm. York College has educated more than 6,500 local people about science, technology and innovation over the last five years. Many have gone on to great things – including Adam Clawson, who did his A-levels at the college from 2001-2003. He is now studying for his PhD in bioengineering at the University of Brunswick in Canada, where he is working on upper limb prosthetic research.
•Aero bar bubbles. Each bar of Nestlé’s Aero has about 20,000 tiny air bubbles trapped in the chocolate, increasing the flavour. The bubbles are created by applying pressure to dissolve and disperse the air in the chocolate.
•The National Railway Museum is a shrine to technology and innovation. The image shows the inside of the museum photographed through a bubble.
Inside the National Railway Museum
•Every weekday, trains belonging to York-based East Coast travel in total a distance equivalent to going one and a half times around the world. Keeping those trains moving is a busy job.
The photograph shows a thermal image of a train’s wheel – a technique used to check for fractures.
Thermal image of a train's wheel
•Children are the technologists and innovators of the future. Aviva works with the University of York to create innovative advertising workshops where local schoolchildren are inspired to produce their own adverts.
A youngster helps make an advertisement for Aviva