Making physics more exciting will encourage pupils to have a go

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The Independent Online
Kathy Sykes spent last week doling out chocolate and apricot ice- cream to 400 schoolchildren - all in the name of physics. The former Bristol University PhD student, now helping to set up Science World - a giant science exhibition, part of Bristol's Millennium project - is passionate in her efforts to bring science to the public.

Ice-cream played its part during a two-day physics study course for sixth formers, who watched amazed as Kathy tipped liquid nitrogen into ice-cream mix to create an instant freeze - and demonstrate thermodynamics.

Her talks, she finds, help to convince potential students that physicists can be young, humorous and - particularly important in attracting girls - female. "Pupils can get put off by the media portrayal of the ageing, bearded physicist," Kathy says. "I think it would make a huge difference to the numbers taking physics if we could change that image."

Changing the content of courses, including adding some of the well-publicised, cutting-edge scientific developments, would also make the subject more attractive to young people in future, she feels. "That may mean sacrificing some of the more mundane content, but it could be that academics will just have to accept they will have to let students fill that gap once they get to university"n