One giant leap for science

Chris Johnston

If it's true that a butterfly fluttering its wings in the Brazilian jungle can result in a hurricane in the north Atlantic, will hundreds of thousands of children jumping at the same time in Britain cause an earthquake in China?

If such a catastrophe does result from the stunt to launch Science Year on September 7, Nigel Paine will be in big trouble. No insurance company has been prepared to provide cover for the Giant Jump, which aims to get a million young people to jump simultaneously.

The idea is not just to publicise Science Year, says Professor Paine, its director. Seismologists will measure the vibrations and students can use the data in experiments. The Science Year team is confident the jump will have an effect: earlier this year, the jumps of 250 Year 7 students at Plumstead Manor school in Greenwich, south London, registered on seismic equipment. The hope is that the jump will set a new world record.

The aim of the pound;20 million, year-long campaign is to change young people's attitude to science. "We want to achieve a permanent change in the uptake of science beyond the end of school," says Professor Paine.

But he believes that will not happen without better careers advice. "Children are not aware that a science or technology background opens up a new world to them." Eighty per cent give up on science at 14.

As part of the drive, the Department of Trade and Industry's science ambassadors programme will link science graduates and schools.

Resources and links to other relevant material will be added to the year's website at www.scienceyear.com where schools can also register for the Giant Jump

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Chris Johnston

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