Defying Gravity Lecture in U.L. – Ben O’Sullivan(TY)

Defying Gravity Lecture

Ben O’Sullivan(TY)


On Friday the 29th of January 2016, Transition Year students went to the annual Tyndall

lecture; “Defying Gravity” in the University of Limerick concert hall. The interactive session

conducted by physics enthusiast Laura Thomas, covered several topics in relation to

real world physics including the “physics of spaceflight”, which looks at how rockets function

and the process behind getting them into orbit.


Laura used some simple analogies to explain several concepts, such as the comparison that

if the earth and moon were the size of a beachball and tennis ball, they would have to be

slightly over seven metres apart to maintain actual scale. She also made some interesting

points about how the political tension between the United States and Soviet Union during the

ColdWar era, was actually the prime motive that instigated the Space Race.


In addition to the discussion, there was a couple demonstrations that required some

assistance from members of the audience. Glenstal TY student Ronan Quinn eagerly

jumped at the opportunity to come up on stage in order to hold an inflatable globe and

attempt to jump in synchronisation with other students to show the effects of gravity.

Towards the end of the lecture, Laura spoke about current research being undertaken at the

International Space Station (ISS) regarding British astronaut Tim Peake. She also briefly

mentioned the potential future of spaceflight innovation, with upcoming missions such as the

Mars One project which hopes to send people on a oneway trip to the red planet starting in

2026 and will continue to send crew on a two year cycle.


Overall, I found the experience to be definitely worthwhile and beneficial for any students

who wish to gain a deeper insight into the world of physics, and see how it contributes to

practical applications in the modern world. The concepts were not too difficult to grasp, as

Laura Thomas did an excellent job of breaking it down into the basic elements. I would

recommend this event for all students in second level education.