The Nature of Things - Opposites Attract

10 footnotes:

Hair-raising electrostatic experiments.

A series of outside broadcasts filmed by the BBC at the Royal Institution in the late 1950s and early 1960s, The Nature of Things was presented by William Lawrence Bragg with the assistance of Bill Coates.

Coates recalled Bragg once remarking to him: 'never talk about science, show it to them', and The Nature of Things set out to do just that. Like the Christmas Lectures, the programmes were structured around a series of demonstrations and were filmed as a sequential lecture in the Ri's theatre. Although the filming took place with an audience of adults, the series was aimed at children and broadcast on children's television.

'Opposites Attract' explores the properties of electrical charge through a variety of visual and hands-on experiments. By making things stick together or move apart, Bragg breaks down popular misconceptions to demonstrate the true nature of positive and negative charge, conductors and insulators as well as the largest electrical machine of all: thunderstorms.

Lab Technician Bill Coates is on hand to set up a variety of instruments including a Wimshurst Machine, a Van de Graaf generator and a 100 hundred old mysterious object referred to as a "game sucker" (see 6:10).

Although dated in terms of the rather clipped presentation style – not to mention the use of a cigarette in one experiment – the series proves the enduring legacy of the many science demonstrations pioneered at the Royal Institution. 

Themes

Materials

Details

Type:
Event
People:
Sir William Lawrence Bragg, William Coates
Location:
London, UK
Filmed in:
The Theatre
Published:
2012
Filmed:
1959
Credits:

The Royal Institution

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Explore the Ri Archive

Licence: © The Royal Institution

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