Super September

To kick start September our resident maths and learning fanatic Tom Ding got us making pretty patterns in Spirograph Maths. For the uninitiated, the Spirograph is a geometric drawing toy that was first sold in 1965 and is based on gears that were part of The Marvellous Wondergraph from 1908. Spirographs work by rotating one circular cog around the other (either inside – hypotrochoids – or outside – epitrochoids) and we looked at the trigonometry (i.e., the maths) behind this. As Tom alluded to later in the month this was very much the ‘pretty side of maths’ with a stronger focus on twirling bits of plastic around than actually number crunching – although there was definitely a lot of maths involved it wasn’t too hard and we did get to make some pretty patterns.

Chris Ward then dimmed the lights and got our spines tingling as we talked about Cosmic Horror & HP Lovecraft. In his short and troubled life HP (Howard Phillips) Lovecraft was largely ignored but he has managed to influence many aspects of modern day culture including the horror genre, comics, games and music. In Chris’ class we learnt all about the life of HP Lovecraft and heard about some of his troubles that went on to strongly dictate and figure in his work. After addressing some of these key themes we moved on to identify elements of HP Lovecraft’s ideas in modern culture and we finished off the evening with some scary story-telling.

Our favourite Italian foodie Francesca Zaccarelli was back for some Unconventional Baking and taught us how to bake some of her personal delicacies all in a frypan! We baked and tasted a sourdough and Bat-Bot bread (I’m not making this up!), Moroccan bread, sweet bread and a pizza dough with a twist, all topped off with some delicious 5 minute biscuits! It really was as yummy and as fun as it sounds.

With the smell of baking still hanging in the air it was time for some Music for the Non-Musical with Melissa Main who also goes under the alias of the Musician’s Accomplice. The award-winning songwriter, singer, musician and teacher worked her magic on those of us who would describe ourselves as ‘musically uncertain’ and after a brief exploration of rhythm, pitch and tone, had us bravely making some noise. With everything from guitars and basses to melodicas or bongos there was something for everyone and we shocked ourselves by forming a pretty decent beginners’ jam.

So, what actually is the The Higgs Boson? Former theoretical particle physicist (even the job title sounds difficult!) Chris Lassig took us on a journey through the history of people attempting to understand the inner workings of the universe; from atoms to nuclei to quarks to photons. With helpful models and lots of pictures we started to understand how all of these subatomic particles piece together and how the last remaining piece, the Higgs boson, was needed to explain how the other particles had mass. We can now comprehend how the Higgs boson was finally found by smashing other particles together at ridiculously high speeds in Switzerland and discussed what comes next for physics. Chris even managed to slip in an analogy to Maggie Thatcher in a Tory convention!

In Making Monsters, Rose Morgan, who works as a freelance illustrator, got us to set our imagination loose as we put pencil to paper to create our own creatures. With a brief chat regarding ideas, possible themes and common tricks that artists use when designing new beasts, we sketched, shaded and coloured away. The results were seriously fantastic!

Our karate black-belter Kelly Goding came back to Laneway Learning to teach her second class with us. This time the topic was Nutrition: Just A Little Taster and Kelly drew on her formal university teachings as well as general life learning. We talked about the major food groups including vitamins, minerals and fibre, and we dispelled the myths (and hopefully the fear) surrounding carbs. In fact, carbohydrates have the lowest energy count per gram and are burned off by the body in preference to everything except alcohol. We also learnt that ‘light’ or ‘lite’ often doesn’t mean ‘healthy’ at all. Be warned.

After Kelly came the wonderful Maria Yebra to talk about Steampunk. With her prop bag of goodies and a wealth of knowledge, pictures, movie clips and heaps of enthusiasm she showed us just how fascinating this relatively new genre can be and why it is taking the world by storm. With some top tips for immersing yourself in the Steampunk revolution and making your own costumes and contraptions she wowed us and we were left eager for more.

We concluded the month as we started when Tom Ding once again took centre stage to teach us what The most beautiful equation actually is. Unlike Spirograph Maths which had a pretty element to it, there was nothing cute about this class as lengthy numbers and equations filled the screen. Tom quickly had us considering the possibility of beauty in maths however with quotes and philosophy, pictures and history and he certainly eased us in slowly – starting with the number 1! We then moved on to pi, zero (the ‘discovery’ of which came after that of pi!), ‘imaginary’ numbers and e to get? That’s right, Euler’s eiπ +1 = 0. Gorgeous!

Last but not least we welcomed back Erica Louise of Recycled Fashion for a repeat of her popular Upcycling – Making Bowls class. Once again we got busy cutting, folding, sticking and gluing and there was excited chatter as bowls came together and the occasional moan when they came apart.

See you next time!