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Wrapping ideas and spectacle into the perfect Christmas present

This year's Christmas Lecturer Peter Wothers describes how he's spent the past six months cooking up the ultimate in chemical demonstrations.

A few years ago, I demonstrated the science behind buoyancy by attaching helium-filled balloons to a teenage girl and floating her off Alexandra Palace in north London. “It was boring,” she said, on returning to earth. “All we did was fly.”

Kids, eh? In the age of Harry Potter and the Xbox, it can be hard to thrill with mere reality. And yet the world’s increasingly synthetic nature has also created an appetite for unmediated experience—think of how attendance at live music has boomed as record sales have collapsed.

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