The Science Challenge is an annual science communication competition run by the RCSU. It is your chance to submit an entry communicating your passion for science, and to win up to £1000. Choose to enter in one of the four categories, answering one of the questions chosen by our panel of judges according to the theme. The theme for this year, chosen with help of a student vote, is “One Small Step, One Giant Leap”.

While the theme obviously nods to the famous first words said on the Moon, it is also a metaphor for what happens often in science: that the smallest of changes can result in the biggest of shifts. In almost every area of science, there are countless examples of phenomena like this.

Consider the structure of the universe – why are there regions of the universe which are more densely packed with galaxy clusters than other areas? Tiny fluctuations in energy density at the beginning of the universe were ‘magnified’ by inflation, and led to the large-scale structure of the universe we see today – entire regions more populated with galaxy clusters than others, simply because those regions happened to have a bit more energy due to random primordial fluctuations.

“The smallest of changes can result in the biggest of shifts”

This effect of the small relating to the large is seen not just in cosmology: there are many systems that are extremely sensitive to small changes, such as those on our planet. Climate change presents massive effects: a change in average air temperature of just 2°C is enough to cause large rises in sea levels and vastly increase the risk of major flooding throughout the world, with devastating consequences for ecosystems.

The theme can also be extended to how seemingly small contributions to scientific research lead to milestone discoveries. For example, Photograph 51 is an X-Ray diffraction image of DNA taken in 1952 at Rosalind Franklin’s King’s College lab. Watson and Crick later used this image to deduce the double-helical structure of DNA, providing a breakthrough in biochemistry. Without the small step made by Franklin’s lab, this giant leap in our understanding of biology would not have occurred.

“One Small Step, One Giant Leap” is a theme that allows for judges to come up with some truly interesting questions, reminding us of the small, meaningful things that go on in science. Come along to the launch on Tuesday, where the judges will announce their questions. There will be scientific demonstrations hosted by a variety of science societies, as well as free food. Don’t miss out on the keynote speech, which will be delivered by Lord Robert Winston, the Science Challenge Ambassador.

You have until 12pm on Monday 22nd of January 2018 to submit an entry. Visit our website for more information.