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Iain's Communication Diary Day 1 2 3

Day Three

A few late beers had put the moping to bed and an early start finds a reasonable volume of gypsum powder for me to start making my plaster of Paris plaque (yes, I’d forgotten what it was all for too). Anyway, all the trouble thinking about how to get the gypsum hasn’t left much time for creative thinking about what to put on the blasted thing. Some brainstorming with the others brings out lots of clever ideas about what are the essential elements of planet Earth and even some philosophical debates about whether we should be communicating the ingenuity of our planet or the ingenuity of us humans. In the end, desperate times meant desperate measures.

I decided that Kate and I were in this together. After all, a few years ago she’d co-presented The Essential Guide To Rocks – BBC Two’s last geology series. As an honorary geologist, she should have recognised it was calcite veins as well as gypsum. She should share the humiliation. What better then than a plaster of Paris mould of her face? The only trouble is that when calcium sulphate mixes with water the chemical reaction gives off heat, so people using it wear gloves to avoid burning the skin. Clearly Kate didn’t deserve to lose her skin for what was a relatively minor geological mistake. A safer way to make the mould was to have her make the impression into wet sand, and then pour the liquid plaster of Paris into it to set in the mould.

But would our lovely Kate really agree to bury her face in wet sand? Of course she did – what a girl! With her delicate features (squashed nose and double chin) preserved in stone for eternity, my bit was done. Of course – the others had their challenges to complete. Having been a bit too preoccupied with moping I hadn’t had much chance to check up on how theirs were going, so it was brilliant to watch as first the magical ‘sound-on-a-sunbeam’ light-communication device and then the topsy-turvy space pen worked. Magnificent. Team hugs. End of moping.

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Iain Stewart
Scientist Diaries

Will the Rough Scientists be able to get their message across? Read what they communicated through their diaries: