Karl Byrne


  • Karl Byrne


The CHRISTMAS LECTURES Manager is responsible for running the CHRISTMAS LECTURES, working closely with the television production team and the Christmas Lecturer to produce the lectures. He manages the process from start to finish; working with a large team of TV producers, script writers, demo designers and a whole host of others to create the 3-lecture series. In his role, Karl deals with a wide range of scientists, including past lecturers and Nobel Prize winners, as well as lots of children and various animals, all while ensuring the lectures are delivered on time and within budget!


Scientific inspiration

I’ve been inspired by a lot of scientists and science communicators, but top of the list would have to be Carl Sagan. One of the first books I remember looking at (before I could read) was a copy of COSMOS, filled with images from the TV series. It became one of my favourite books and still holds pride of place on my book shelf and gets reread often. I remember watching bits from Sagan’s CHRISTMAS LECTURES while at school, catching up on the TV series of Cosmos (I re-watch it regularly to this day) and reading his other books (I would recommend everyone reads Demon-Haunted World). His work on all these things as well as his studies on the Greenhouse Effect while looking at Venus, designing the  plaques for various probes including the Voyager Golden disk, being integral in getting the famous “Pale Blue Dot” picture taken make him the biggest inspiration in what I do now. Some of the science in his books and TV shows has now been surpassed by new breakthroughs, but Sagan’s ability to get across a sense of awe and to inspire has never left me.

Favourite demo

Making a glass beaker “disappear” using just household supplies (Pyrex beaker from a small cafetiere, set inside a larger cafetiere). You fill the smaller beaker with glycerine (which you can buy from the chemists or cake suppliers). Then fill the gap between the small beaker and larger beaker with more glycerine and the inner beaker disappears! It’s due to the pyrex and glycerine having the same refractive index, so light passes straight through without bending.  When I’ve used this demo in shows , I’ve had the inner beaker already submerged  in the glycerol and it’s reveal always gets a gasp from the audience.

Best thing about the Ri

Being surrounded by so much science and science communication history. Knowing that I’m working in the very building where so many incredible scientific discoveries were made, and being part of the Christmas lectures nearly 200 year history. Also, Michael Faraday’s lab- a place so special to me that I recently proposed to my fiancée in it!

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