Lost in space: your first challenge is to get inside. (Courtesy: RAL Space)

Dan Cooper, a chemistry teacher from southwest England, has released a new physics-based escape-room-style online game. The project, which is funded by the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, is free to play and is based at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the Oxfordshire, UK.

The aim of the game is to navigate around the RAL Space centre and tackle a series of challenges – such as calculating the kinetic energy of an Ariane rocket just after launch – to reveal a lost password that will enable engineers to launch the latest mission. Along the way, players meet several people – including software developer Nijin Thykkathu and senior project manager Melissa Lee – who work at the lab and discuss their careers to date.

Cooper says that the game challenges are based on the specification of a GCSE physics course and that the main aim of the project is to showcase careers in engineering to physics students. “It will hopefully increase interest in physics and engineering beyond GCSE level,” Cooper adds. Check out the game here.

Not the first

This isn’t the first game to be inspired by a research facility in Oxfordshire. Last year, three scientists with connections to the Diamond Light Source created a board game that simulates how science is done at the synchrotron. We were so impressed that we invited the trio onto our podcast and you can listen to that conversation here.

Everyone knows that the best stones for skipping across the surface of water are flat and thin, right? Wrong, according to two mathematicians in the UK who have done calculations that show that more of a potato shape can sometimes be better. Writing in Proceedings of the Royal Society A, Ryan Palmer at the University of Bristol and Frank Smith at University College London describe how chunkier stones can achieve surprisingly high bounces off the water if their shapes have the right sort of curvature.

Palmer told The Guardian, “If you’ve got a heavier rock, you can get a super-elastic response, where you get a single mega-bounce rather than lots of little bounces…There’s this almighty leap out of the water.” He explains that this involves some of the horizontal motion of the stone being converted into vertical motion. As a result, stones that are too heavy to skim will bounce up and continue their flight over the water.


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