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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 12:38 GMT
Life science - but snot as we know it
The Rude Science event is as disgusting as the organisers can make it
The Rude Science event is "disgusting", the organiser says
Snot and puke are going under the microscope as some of England's most gifted children probe the mysteries of the inner self - such as why vomit always seems to contain diced carrots.

Thirty students aged 11 to 14 will be taking part in a National Academy of Gifted and Talented Youth event, entitled Rude Science, in London on Saturday.

By letting them find out such things as why some people smell, the organisers hope to show that medicine and biology can be fun.

Why does vomit always seem to contain diced carrots?

"There's always a science angle but I do try to make it as disgusting as possible," said Nicola Gibbons, who works with the children.

The "snot" is made up from cornflour, PVA glue and food colouring in different consistencies, and the children then plonk it on a sloping ruler to measure its viscosity.

"I'm always covered in it by the end of the day," said Ms Gibbons, who is a Brunel University PhD student.

The "vomit" on offer is actually cold vegetable soup.

"There's always one who says 'I don't think that's really vomit' and I say 'All right then, you taste it.'

"Nine out of 10 won't but some will then we spend the rest of the day debating whether it was.

"Cold vegetable soup smells like sick. I have to get someone else to open the tin, I'm so squeamish."

The appliance of science

Other fascinating facts include the way breast milk is just a special form of sweat.

The children also get the chance to eat "dandruff" (coconut) and drink "urine" (coloured water).

The more serious aim is to encourage the teenagers to consider pursuing sciences and medical research later in life.

"Children look at science as being a very inaccessible subject," said Ms Gibbons.

"They think it's very hard and dull. We try to apply it to things in their everyday lives."

Other events

The academy is hosted by the University of Warwick, which said the event would offer an introduction to the principles of human biology.

It is open to the top 5% of "gifted and talented" pupils in England.

Its director, Professor Deborah Eyre, said: "Following the successes of our summer schools the academy has developed a comprehensive range of outreach events to meet the needs of the brightest students in the country.

"Pupils with high potential need to have the opportunity to become high-achievers, and giftedness needs to be brought out through access to challenging opportunities."

The academy currently has 2,500 members. It is offering about 200 similar events this year.

It says other themes will include the archaeology of human remains and the history of medicine, youth crime and "deviance".

Answer: The "diced carrots" commonly found in vomit are actually parts of the stomach wall lining. Vomiting is such a violent process that bits of it come off.

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