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A stray tweet in TAM London a few weeks ago has lead to my setting up, with three other comrades in arms, Cork’s first Skeptics group in the city.

We are busy working on the agenda and details for our first meeting, which will take place in Blackrock Castle on Thursday next, November 25th at 8pm. We have a Twitter account and a Facebook page already, some posters on the way and a website in the works too, where we can post all sorts of stuff and nonsense.

The group is part of the global Skeptics in the Pub movement, where people come together to share stories and to discuss a wide range of topics, from pseudoscience to proper science, medicine to alternative medicine, parapsychology to psychology, and goodness knows what else.

I just want to say that I’m really appreciative of the work everyone is putting in. We have Dylan Evans from UCC lined up to do a speech on Alternative Medicine on Thursday and I’m hoping I can get a few more people to talk to us over the coming months. We hope to meet every month in Blackrock Castle. The Castle has a great café with a full drinks license. We couldn’t have asked for a better location and meeting room.

If you have any ideas or suggestions on what else we can do to get the group off the ground, I’m all ears.

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Today, I brought my kids along to the Discovery 2010 exhibition in Cork’s City Hall. The show is the centrepiece of Science Week in Cork and it features exhibitions from CIT, UCC, Blackrock Castle Observatory, the Tyndall Institute, Lifetime Labs and many more.

There were tons of interactive displays. The Alimentary Pharmabiotic Centre were showing the kids petri dishes full of bacteria and luminescent microbes from the deep sea. There were Venus flytraps and molecular construction kits in the UCC stall, as well as a strange game that allowed two contestants to challenge each other using mind waves alone. The Tyndall display had a lot of of weird electronics on show, from photoelectronics to nanotechnology to wireless sensors. Pharmachemical Ireland were showing lot of hand-on demonstrations including a great explanation of keyhole surgery. Across the way, the Cork Electronics Industry Association were displaying magnetic levitation (MAGLEV) technologies using flying saucers and rotating spheres.

The Defense Forces and Gardai were there too. The Defense Forces had a highly informative display on land-mines and bomb-disposal. They even a heavy kevlar bomb-protection suit for people to try on for size. The Gardai were handing out high-visibility vests and armbands to all the kids.

Blackrock Castle Observatory were there with the StarDome – a mobile planetarium used as part of their astronomy outreach program. I managed to squeeze myself and the kids in for the last showing of the day. Inside was an informative surround-movie depicting a solar eclipse from the perspective of a base on the Moon. My kids gave it the thumbs up as their favorite exhibit of the show.

I was also highly impressed by some of the demonstrations by the Lifetime Labs people, showing how to make simple batteries out of lemons. They tell me that you would need 500 lemons to light up a small incandescent bulb, so if I notice my kids storing lemons everywhere, I’ll figure out quickly what is going on.

Scattered throughout the show area are many interactive displays. What particularly caught my kids’ attention was a revolving planet model that went beautifully turbulent if you suddenly stopped its motion.

Not only were the displays impressive, some of the people at the show had interesting and inspirational stories to tell. I spoke briefly to Ms Xiao Fang Zhang, who won the European Laurate of Innovation Award for the invention of an air-bubble extractor – extremely important for intravenous infusions of any sort. She is a student of Mechanical Engineering in CIT and is currently studying for her PhD.

The show is well worth bringing the children to. The exhibits are hands-on and geared to what kids are interested in. There is a sense of energy and fun amongst the exhibitors. In brief, the organisers have done a great job and the kids will love it.

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