This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – brightrecruits.com can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today

Blog

The great physics bake-off

By Matin Durrani

Cakes from the Great Physics Bake Off

Cakes from the Great Physics Bake Off, with the overall winner second bottom on the left. (Courtesy: Chris Hodges)

And so to the physics department at Bristol University last night, which played host to “The Great Physics Bake Off” organized by PhD students Janina Möreke and Sara Carreira. The aims were simple: to showcase the cake-baking talent of the department, have some fun, and at the same time raise money for IOP for Africa – the scheme run by the Institute of Physics, which publishes Physics World, to boost physics education in some of the poorest countries in the world.

Great Physics Bake-Off poster

Calling all bakers – click to enlarge

With 18 entries from seven research groups, the judging panel, which naturally included Bristol’s famous foodie physicist Peter Barham, must have consumed a fair few calories in picking the winning entries. Ian Griffiths eventually bagged first prize, which was appropriately a Raspberry Pi mini-computer. Researchers from the Micro and Nanostructural Materials Group won the “group award”, while Nicole Killat picked up a prize for the cake with the “most scientific relevance”.

Sadly, I didn’t get to taste any of the goodies myself, which are being sold today to raise money for IOP for Africa. But certainly Nicole’s effort was my pick of the bunch, probably because it took the physics connection way too literally. She’d baked a 3D composite structure – a high-electron-mobility transistor, in fact – consisting of a silicon-carbide substrate underpinning a delicious-looking dark-chocolate cream “nucleation layer” and a separate gallium-nitride layer, all topped with a 2D electron gas (vanilla cream with strawberries) and an aluminium–gallium-nitride layer. The upper surface of the cake featured a silicon-nitride passivation (chocolate cream) and  electrical contacts in the form of more vanilla cream. Like I say, the cake took the physics connection to the limit.

Guests were also treated to a light-hearted lecture by Peter Barham on the physics of baking a sponge cake. Doing it right is not, ahem, a piece of cake; cakes are, after all, complex composite materials consisting of fat, sugar, flour, eggs, flavouring and that all-important ingredient – air. As Barham pointed out to the audience while sipping on a glass of red wine, without some good bubbles in your cake, you’d be eating a lump of stodge. And no-one wants that do they?

Barham also had some useful top tips for the kitchen – a cake with too little fat will quickly go stale – and some interesting factoids, such as that the baking soda used in a “standard” 100 gramme cake emits 1.8 litres of carbon dioxide, a third of which will go into the cake itself.

So what’s your secret for the perfect sponge cake? Let us know below.

Update 15 July 2013: Janina tells me the Bristol physicists raised  £448.69 for IOP for Africa. Well done them!

This entry was posted in General and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Leave a comment

Your e-mail address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Guidelines

  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="http://www.google.com">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="http://iop.org/">IOP</blockquote>
IOP
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="http://www.worldwildlife.org/who/index.html">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text
WordPress Appliance - Powered by TurnKey Linux