Cheltenham Science Festival

It's a Science Festival!!!

It’s a Science Festival!!!

This year, for the first time, I attended the Cheltenham Science Festival as a tourist. And it was great!! I was particularly pleased to see how much geoscience there was there, and had a number of great chats with scientists and engineers on the value of the festival and of the work or research that they were doing. As a quick snapshot, here are a few of my favourite things from the festival…

Visual information

Visual information

Giant molecular models

Giant molecular models

For some common materials as well as uncommon ones

For some common materials as well as uncommon ones

Fabulous women engineers engaging future engineers....

Fabulous women engineers engaging future engineers….



And engineering...

And engineering…



Even rooocckkks from spaaaaaaceeee!

Even rooocckkks from spaaaaaaceeee!

All signs leads to science!

All signs lead to science!

5 films you didn’t know are about geology.

When I’m not wandering the coast looking for fossils, stitching up a mean quilt or just generally musing about how awesome geology is (and it is. Seriously.), I like to watch the odd film. Or two, or many. In fact it was a standing joke with an old housemate that I could start my own DVD rental if I wanted to. In fact I had to join a DVD postal rental service (which shall remain nameless) just to curb my addiction. It does mean that I have a rather nerdy knowledge of films and am quite often asked which is my favourite geology film. THERE ARE SO MANY!! But The Core has to win hands down for sheer absurdity and comedy value. You want to see someone actually destroy a TV through frustration at the scientific inaccuracies? Watch The Core with a geologist. It’s like watching Avatar with a zoologist – brilliant.

But the Core, although being amazing (ly terrible) is quite obviously a geology film. So what about those hidden gems that you didn’t know have great geology in them?

Here are my top five:

5. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

The volcano has it...

The volcano has it…

So apart from the totally awesome fact that J.R.R. Tolkein based the structure of Middle Earth on modern (at the time) theories of contiental drift, let’s not forget that the One Ring that ruled them all was forged in the fires of Mount Doom – not a really badly named forge, but a kick-ass volcano, brilliantly visualised erupting in a strombolian style at the end of the movie, with fantastic volcanic bombs flying all around the outcrop of basalt that Frodo and Sam lay on until they got rescued by the eagles (and did anyone else think ‘why didn’t the eagles just fy them there in the first place?’).

So no volcano, no Ring, no movie.

4. Superman

Watch out for the meteorites Superman!

Watch out for the meteorites Superman!

The original version here not any of the reboots, though I was pleasantly surprised by Man of Steel. One of my favourite recent discoveries was that of actual Kryptonite (OK technically described in Superman Returns, but we see it first in Superman). Yes Kryptonite, or sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide, is an actual mineral. Unfortunately it isn’t green, but white and it doesn’t come from the planet Krypton, but still…. cool huh?!

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it's sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide!

Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, it’s sodium lithium boron silicate hydroxide!

3. Billy Elliot

It's all about the coal...

It’s all about the coal…

Another film where the geology is in the background, and yet a central part of the whole film. Billy lives in Everington (a fictional town) in the north east of England and he wants to dance, but his coal miner Dad doesn’t like the idea of it. The film is set during the Coal Miner Strikes of the mid 80’s and actually depicts what happens to a town when the mineral wealth runs out. The coal miner storyline is integral to the emotional plot and you wouldn’t get that without the mine. Plus facing a little of the realities of coal mining in the 80’s is a little scary – it was not a fun job.

2. The Shawshank Redemption

All you need is a rock hammer...

All you need is a rock hammer…

‘Oh, Andy loved geology. I imagine it appealed to his meticulous nature. An ice age here, million years of mountain building there. Geology is the study of pressure and time. That’s all it takes really, pressure, and time.’

Basic motto of this story, if you want to escape from jail – make friends with the geologist. If Andy Dufresne had been a taxidermy enthusiast instead of a geology enthusaist, the story would’t have ended in quite the same way me’thinks.

1. The Poseidon Adventure

Watch out for that giant wave!! And Gene Hackman!!

Watch out for that giant wave!! And Gene Hackman!!

‘From the seismographic station in Athens, sir…..Subsea earthquake, 7.8 on the Richter Scale, epicentre 130miles northwest of Crete…’

So begins one of the best disaster movies of all time. And it HAS to be the original – the modern one doesn’t hold a candle in comparison. For one thing, given the fact that right up until the Asian tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, tsunamis were called tidal waves and were depicted as waves crashing on the beach, this film has a lot of good information in it. From the seismographic station giving details such as the epicentre of the quake as well as it’s magnitude, to the way the wave behaves as it approaches the ship, this is a classic hidden geology film. Plus you get to see Gene Hackman playing the PERVIEST preacher ever and Leslie Nielsen, as Captain Harrison, gets one of the best conversations of the whole film

Captain Harrison: [about the oncoming tsunami] It seems to be piling up in those shallows… By the way, Happy New Year.

First Officer Larsen: Thank you, sir. Same to you.

Harrison: [back to business] What’s its speed?

Larsen: 60 knots, sir.

Harrison: It must be mountainous…

Tsunami, what tsunami?! He is so cool!!!!

Anyway, those are my favourite ‘not so obvious’ geology films, what are yours?!