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Finding and smelting gold, building a metal detector, measuring earthquakes with a home-made seismograph, making mercury and devising accurate scales to weigh their haul of gold are just a handful of the challenges facing the ingenious scientists in the third series of Rough Science. The popular Open University/BBC science series returns to BBC TWO in October, with the five Rough Scientists swapping the warm Caribbean of the second series for the rugged, and much less hospitable landscape, of New Zealand's south island. In this six-week series they take on the role of gold prospectors, following in the footsteps of those who first plundered the area in the 1860s in their search for gold.

The team of diverse scientists is faced with winter weather, traversing glaciers and exploring gold mines in the course of the challenges, as well as coping with the main, geological phenomenon earthquakes!

Each week, presenter Kate Humble sets a series of seemingly impossible challenges, allowing the scientists three days and minimal basic tools and equipment to complete the tasks involved. Apart from this, all they have to rely on are the local natural resources, their own ingenuity and scientific knowledge, and a good sense of teamwork.

Series producer Steve Evanson says the geology and geography of the island presented the scientists with some real challenges, and the team learnt to appreciate the scientific expertise of the gold rush miners.

"What was fascinating was that we were asking a group of highly-trained university scientists to re-invent the technology developed and applied by prospectors 150 years ago. Even when gold was plentiful, it was still a 'needle in a haystack' search for tiny particles of the precious metal. The original prospectors probably had little formal education, but they were using an incredibly broad range of sciences in very inventive ways," he said.

The aim of the series is to make science fun but in it we also get to see more of how the scientists live and get on while filming the series.

Rough Scientist Mike Bullivant says :
"This series of Rough Science will definitely have a different feel from that of the previous two. We're certainly making more use of the natural resources of our beautiful south island location, and many of the challenges are stretching us to the limit. Our sense of enjoyment still shines through though."

The series is scheduled for broadcast on BBC2 from Friday October 25th at 7.30pm. The challenges are:

October 25th:
Find gold in a river; build a metal detector and an accurate weighing device

November 1st:
Devise an automated gold-extracting machine; make lanolin hand cream; work out the date of the last major earthquake

November 8th:
Find and mine a gold-bearing rock; make a waterproof tent and create and record an 'earthquake with a DIY seismograph

November 22nd:
Build an ice lens; create chemical heat, and measure the speed and melt of a glacier

November 29th:
Extract gold from rock and sand; build an altimeter and use it to find buried gold from a treasure map

December 6th:
Build a furnace and bellows, and smelt and form gold to make souvenirs

*Please note break in series on November 15.

The Rough Science website can be found at www.open2.net and will be active from Friday October 25th, 2002. It will feature background information about the challenges, the scientists' diaries, interviews with the scientists and photographs of them in action. There will also be information about the science behind the challenges and details of studying science with the Open University, including the OU's range of special science short courses for those keen to return to study without committing themselves to a full undergraduate course.

Editor's Notes
The scientists taking the Rough Science challenge are: chemist Mike Bullivant from the Open University in Milton Keynes; physicist Jonathan Hare from Sussex University; Oxford- based virologist Mike Leahy; physicist Kathy Sykes from Bristol and botanist Ellen McCallie from the Missouri Botanical Garden in the USA.

More information about studying science with the Open University will be available by calling 0870 900 9581 after each programme.

Preview tapes, interviews with the scientists, electronic images, the scientists' biographies and any other information are all available by contacting the media relations officers below.

Contact details
OU Media Relations Fiona Leslie 01908 653256 F.M.Leslie@open.ac.uk
Gary Spink 01908 653343 G.R.Spink@open.ac.uk
Neil Coaten 01908 652580 N.D.Coaten@open.ac.uk
Eulina Clairmont 01908 653248 E.Clairmont@open.ac.uk

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Dr Jonathan Hare, Physics Dept., The University of Sussex
Brighton, East Sussex. BN1 9QJ

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