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Brian Cox’s Star Lectures to teach children the wonders of space

21 Jun 2010

Hundreds of schoolchildren will have the chance to be enthralled by rock star scientist Professor Brian Cox OBE at an interactive lecture to launch a new teaching tool.

Professor Brian Cox is sharing the wonders of space with schoolchildren

The cult academic is holding the first in the ‘Star Lectures’ series at The University of Manchester, where he is a lecturer in the School of Physics and Astronomy, on Monday 28th June.

It will also beamed into hundreds of classrooms by live webcast. The lecture will then be divided into ten-minute, bite-size clips broadcast on YouTube for teachers to incorporate into science lessons for GCSE students.

The Oldham-born scientist will dazzle his young audience with stories about the wonders of our solar system.

As well as being watched in schools, around 300 lucky local children will be at the lecture to see Professor Cox in person and some will even have the chance to ask him questions.

The star of the acclaimed BBC TV series "Wonders of the Solar System" will base his talk around two key areas – the importance of studying science and his passion for it.

Once transmitted, the lecture will be broken up into ten-minute slots and will be uploaded onto a YouTube channel, a resource teachers can use in their GCSE lessons.

Earlier this month, Professor Cox was awarded an OBE for his services to science. One of the reasons for the honour was the recognition of his ability to make science and the universe so accessible and fascinating.

Professor Cox wrote the lecture with Stuart Bond, a science teacher at Manchester Enterprise Academy, to make sure it fitted in with the curriculam.

Professor Cox said: “The lecture will be based around the curriculum, but will focus on the big questions such as the big bang, the universe and cosmology.

“This is such an effective way of passing on the message of why learning about science and the solar system is so important. Youngsters of this age are so impressionable and receptive to learning.

“In fact this is how I first became interested in space – listening to people like Patrick Moore when I was a teenager really inspired me and gave me the drive to get where I am today.

“To be able to not only have the lecture sent out live on the Internet but also put onto a You Tube channel is an effective and modern way of learning.  I have noticed that many of my documentaries are watched by youngsters on You Tube so it is obviously a means of learning they are interested in.”

Julian Skyrme, Head of Student Recruitment, said: ''The University of Manchester already delivers one of the most extensive programme of outreach work in the UK to encourage youngsters to consider university study.

“So there is no-one more fitting than Professor Cox to launch the exciting new 'Star Lectures' series on our new YouTube channel so that we can reach out to more pupils and teachers across the UK and beyond.''

For the five-part BBC series, Professor Cox told how Earth, of all the planets in the Solar System, is the only one to have a moon that completely obscures the face of the Sun.

Professor Cox described how every molecule of every drop of water is moved around our planet by the Sun’s energy for the series  praised by BBC Radio Two DJ Chris Evans as one of the best he has ever seen.

In Norway he witnessed the battle between the Sun’s wind and our planet, as the night sky displayed the beautiful Northern Lights.

And in California he made contact with Voyager, a space probe that has been travelling since its launch 30 years ago. Now, 14 billion kilometres on, Voyager has just detected the solar wind is beginning to run out of puff.

Professor Cox – along with thousands of other scientists – works on the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, the famous scientific research centre in Geneva.

The team hope to recreate conditions in the Universe less than a billionth of a second after the Big Bang and uncover some of its unsolved mysteries.

Professor Cox was a member of nineties pop act D:REAM while studying for his PhD at The University of Manchester.

With the band, he played “Things can only get better” at the famous Labour Party victory celebration at the Royal Albert Hall after the 1997 General Election.

He is also a regular presenter on the BBC flagship science programme Horizon and acted as scientific advisor on the 2007 film Sunshine, directed by Danny Boyle and written by Alex Garland.

He has received many awards for his efforts to publicise science. In 2002 he was elected an International Fellow of The Explorers Club and in 2006 he received the British Association Lord Kelvin Award for this work.

Notes for editors

Professor Cox’s lecture will be available to view at www.manchester.ac.uk/starlectures on Monday 28th June from 1.30-2.30pm.  

The lecture itself will take place in the Crawford House Lecture Theatre at the Oxford Road campus. A room will be set aside for media interviews after the event.

The schedule for the day is as follows:

1.20

Welcome and Introduction

1.30

Lecture

1) The Cosmic Ray Shield / Making of the moon

·         The magnetic field, why there is one

·         Making of the moon

·         Why is the magnetic field important

·         The Northern Lights

1.38

2) Comets and Asteroids

·         What is a comet?

·         What is an asteroid?

·         How does the earth defend itself against asteroids?

1.46

3) Looking into space

·         What is the electro magnetic spectrum?

·         How is it used?

1.54

4) Redshift

·         What is Redshift

2.02

5) The Big Bang

·         What is the Big Bang?

·         What evidence is there for it?

·         Current research – Particle Accelerator

2.10

6) Why Study Science

·         How is research into science, and in particular Physics, relevant to our everyday lives

·         How I became interested in science and the world of Physics

·         Why young people should continue to study science

2.18

Question and Answer Session

2.30

Close

Professor Cox is available for interview but please give as much warning as possible if you wish to speak to him as he is travelling frequently.

More information can be found at http://www.manchester.ac.uk/undergraduate/schoolsandcolleges/starlectures/

For media enquiries please contact:

Dan Cochlin
Media Relations
The University of Manchester

Tel: 0161 275 8387
email: daniel.cochlin@manchester.ac.uk