Wherever we look, we can see the results of scientific research and technological innovation: from the cellphones in our pockets to health-care drugs, from the clothes we wear to weather forecasts. Despite its overwhelming presence, however, many people still consider science unapproachable. The BBC’s documentary series “Rough science” shows in an original and entertaining way how science can be used in everyday life, starting from some basic knowledge, a substantial amount of curiosity, a trial-and-error approach and a lot of hard work aimed at developing new technical solutions.
In these documentaries, five scientists and experienced technicians are flown to a remote location and asked to share their expertise to build sophisticated devices and pass the tests they are given. To do that, they are only allowed to use their ingenuity and the materials they can find on site. Wood, pieces of metal and shells are used to build an alarm clock, a sound-recording device, a camera, a microscope, a transceiver, an accurate map of the island, a compass, a thermometer and even some ice. Because the only way to fully understand science is through a hands-on approach!
The episodes included in the show are from the first two series produced by BBC and are located on the Italian island of Capraia and on the Caribbean island of Carriacou, respectively. Let’s take a look at the challenges the scientists will have to face day after day.
This time the challenge is about building a compass. The scientists decide to use electricity to magnetize a needle. But how can you generate electric power? They are going to use sea water to try and operate a battery. The team is also asked to take a picture of the island. Today we can take pictures with all sorts of devices, including cellphones. But how can we do that using only natural materials?