Museum of Science and Industry alchemists turn metal into gold for Science Festival week

By Ben Miller | 21 October 2010
A photo of a woman burning a coin in a chemistry experiment
The MOSI is heating up the Manchester Science Festival
If you ever need to spot real gold, give it a sniff. "You can tell the difference between shiny brass and gold," explains Alice Laferrerre, a researcher at the University of Manchester's School of Materials. "The brass smells, but gold has no smell."

The trick of turning metal into gold was once described in the ancient art of alchemy, but corrosion engineers from the academic powerhouse will be illustrating the science behind the magic at the Museum of Science and Industry’s Corrosion Summer ball.

Part of a colourful Manchester Science Festival, the workshop will coat tarnished copper pennies in a tasty mixture of caustic soda, zinc and extreme heat.

"The zinc melts into the copper to form a copper and zinc alloy, which is brass," says Laferrere, who will also be showing visitors how to electroplate copper pennies and create a glowing fruit battery. "It's an old trick that was used by alchemists."

Other extraordinary sights at the Museum during the Festival include the creation of Ribena caviar courtesy of author and TV presenter Stefan Gates and an appearance by Saci Lloyd, reading from her latest novel Carbon Diaries.

The sound-twisting which sent Lady Gaga to the top of the charts and psychic experiments run by Professor Richard Wiseman are also planned.

"We've got a packed programme," says the MOSI's Marieke Navin, promising magic maths and bird of prey demonstrations for good measure.

"There's something for everyone, whether you're interested in science or just want to come and have some fun."

Visit the Museum's events page for full details.

See our preview of the sonic boom at Manchester Metropolitan University, and keep an eye on Culture24 for more from the festival.
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