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Everyday science

Physicists take on the ice bucket challenge

05 Sep 2014 Michael Banks

By Michael Banks

The ice bucket challenge, which involves people pouring a bucket of ice-cold water over their heads, has taken the social media world by storm raising millions of pounds for motor neurone disease and other charities.

Not wanting to miss out, researchers have also got involved in the act. One of those to take part is the Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking, who has suffered with the disease since he was 21. He stepped up to the challenge – albeit with a twist. In a video filmed outside his family home in Cambridge, UK, Hawking says that as he suffered from a bout of pneumonia last year it would “not be wise” to have a bucket of ice-cold water poured over him. So instead he passed over the challenge to his children – Robert, Lucy and Tim – who were then doused with three buckets of icy water, while Hawking watched on.

Following ice-bucket etiquette, Hawking then went on to nominate Ian Blatchford, director of the London Science Museum, as well as the chancellor and vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge – David Sainsbury and Leszek Borysiewicz, respectively. Yet as far as I could tell – from a quick Google search – Blatchford and Sainsbury are yet to take up the challenge.

Not to be outdone, Matt Parker – a former maths teacher who is now a stand-up comic of StandUp Maths fame – decided to put his own spin on proceedings, changing it to the dice bucket challenge. He poured 1584 dice over his head before donating cash to WaterAid.

But maybe the ultimate ice bucket challenge goes to Muhammad Qureshi from the University of Toronto. Instead of using ice water he poured liquid nitrogen over his head while wearing just a T-shirt and shorts. “Do not try this at home,” warns Qureshi quite rightly, before doing the deed and then frantically trying to stop the nitrogen from getting stuck in his hair and under his clothes to prevent it from freezing. Rather you than us, mate.

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