All the world’s a stage

A busker with a banjo entertaining in Cathedral Square, Christchurch, 1927Christchurch’s 15th annual World Buskers Festival kicked off last night at the Arts Centre.  For the next 10 days the city’s streets and squares will set the stage for all manner of street performers from around the world.

While being a professional street performer is probably a realistic goal for a only a few of the most talented, acquiring a performance skill is not.  Who knows, maybe beneath your business-like exterior beats the heart of a frustrated juggler?  Perhaps you’ve a hidden talent for unicycling?  Check out some of the following resources and unleash the busker within!

Plutonium & the Radioactive Boy Scout

RadiationClimate change seems to be the world’s current fear, but once upon a time it was the nuclear arms race that had us all atremble. Like a lot of people who were teenagers in the 1980s, I had a bit of a thing about nuclear weapons, MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) etc.

At the core of this interest (so to speak) is the mysterious 94th element of the periodic table –Plutonium. Remember the brilliant BBC tv series Edge of Darkness when hero Ronald Craven (Bob Peck)  brings together two bars of plutonium causing a criticality accident? Plutonium is the stuff of nightmares. Jeremy Bernstein’s book Plutonium: a history of the world’s most dangerous element is a combination of science, history and a discussion with a very smart friend.  He ambles around the characters and the hard science – from the history of uranium, the periodic table, to Los Alamos and beyond.

Bernstein looks at famous scientists like Curie, Rutherford and Fermi – but he also uncovers some lesser known names (and interestingly many of them are women) including Ida Noddack who presaged nuclear fission and Lise Meitner who was scandalously overlooked when her collaborator Otto Hahn won the 1945 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.

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