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Local schools to get a taste of 21st century alchemy

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Local schools to get a taste of 21st century alchemy

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Published by University of Leicester Press Office for University of Leicester in Education and also in Communities

Schoolchildren from across the Midlands are set to witness a spectacular display of fireballs, and amazing chemical reactions at an event sponsored by the Royal Institution and the Royal Society of Chemistry and hosted by the University of Leicester.

The University has brought the Modern Alchemist touring lecture series to the city – and schools, students and the general public will be able to see the spectacle at De Montfort Hall in March 2014.

The show follows the popular 2012 CHRISTMAS LECTURES series held by the Royal Institution – which was presented by University of Cambridge chemist Dr Peter Wothers. This year’s lectures featured Leicester’s own Professor Eric Hope who assisted in staging one of the riskier experiments involving the highly reactive element fluorine.

The series, shown on BBC Four over Christmas, proved so successful that the Royal Institution and Dr Wothers, teamed up with the Royal Society of Chemistry to put on a touring lecture show.

Like the CHRISTMAS LECTURES, the live show echoes the explosive stunts and sense of spectacle created by medieval alchemists for their royal masters.

But unlike the showmen of the Middle Ages – who never gave away the secrets behind their spectacular stage tricks – Dr Wothers always uses the impressive feats as a way of explaining the scientific principles at work.

The University of Leicester managed to secure a performance in Leicester, and will host the show on 14 March - with a 2pm showing for local schools and a 7.30pm performance open to the general public.

The University’s Department of Chemistry was a natural choice to host the show in the region – as it has a great record of working with partners to deliver multi-institutional outreach work to school children of all ages and to the general public.

Professor Paul Cullis, of the University’s Department of Chemistry, who led the bid to bring the Modern Alchemist show to Leicester, said: “In the Modern Alchemist show, Dr Wothers will be performing fantastic demonstrations of the chemical world.

“Medieval alchemists would never tell you what’s going on in the background to their displays. Chemists can do similar flashes and bangs today – but we do them to understand the world.

“We will be working with other partners who also expressed interest in bringing the event to the Midlands to ensure that we reach the widest possible audiences.

“Events such as this teach real science in an exciting context. It engages the imagination and hopefully encourages more pupils to go on to take chemistry, physics, engineering or any other form of science in the future.”

Tickets for the public show are £5, with concessions £3 available from: www.demontforthall.co.uk or 0116 233 3111.

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