Journey into Science


Journey into Science is exploring with great success how an ancient historic church which has been at the heart of the City of Bristol for nearly a millennium can be a special place where all people whatever their convictions are enabled to appreciate and reflect on the new worlds which science and technology are opening up for us all.


Begun in 1996, Journey into Science is unique in opening up new possibilities for partnership between science and the community. It is a place for sharing and does not address any particular belief group. The project is attracting strong support not only from the church community, but from many other groups in the city. The programme is in association with the Bristol and Bath branch of the British Science Association.


Journey into Science is led by Dr Eric Albone, Director of Clifton Scientific Trust, who is also a member of St Mary Redcliffe Church. It has the strong support of the church community, as well as of the scientific community in Bristol.


The Chaotic Pendulum


The St Mary Redcliffe Chaotic Pendulum - a Journey into Science project - is a popular permanent feature of the fifteenth century north transept of the church. This chaotic device, driven by a flow of recycled water, is unique and is to our knowledge not on display anywhere else. It runs continuously and is an extremely beautiful, non threatening icon of our modern understanding of the world. It fits well into its medieval setting and is as much a fascination for young children as it is for professors of physics. Some describe it as mesmeric and healing, others that it contains a deep message about our world which we must ponder; university students are directed to it as part of their studies on chaos.


Chaotic Pendulum in the north trancept of St Mary Redcliffe Church The Chaotic Pendulum was launched on Saturday, 25th October 1997, by Professor Sir Brian Pippard FRS, former Cavendish Professor of Physics at Cambridge University, who had the original idea for this chaotic device and who is advisor to the project, by Mr Robert Knight, who constructed the Pendulum, and by Dr Eric Albone, who had the vision to bring it to the church. The Launch, which attracted a capacity, very diverse and very enthusiastic audience, incorporated two "Reflections on Chaos" by Professor Sir Michael Berry FRS, University of Bristol and the Reverend Tony Whatmough, who was at that time Vicar of St Mary Redcliffe.


Designed and constructed by Mr Rob Knight (Op-Tricks, Bristol), the pendulum was generously sponsored by Bristol Water plc.


The pendulum is a deceptively simple device which obeys very simple physical laws, yet is unpredictable in its behaviour. The following text beside the pendulum encapsulates its significance.


Water, which is recycled, slowly flows into the centre of the cross beam, which tips to let it out.

But which way will it tip? What is remarkable is that with all the science in the world, no one can predict exactly how it will be moving a minute from now.


This is the way the world is. In this simple machine, you are looking at a new frontier in our understanding of the world. Scientists call it chaos.


Some people look to science for certainties on which to base their lives. Increasingly we realise our knowledge can never provide certainty, even for this simple machine. The world is a more wonderful and a more surprising place than we could have imagined.


After the launch, a number of people sent in comments. The following gives the flavour of the contributions:


I found this a very exciting and healing event. This "Chaotic Pendulum" is so beautiful in itself. By accident?, impulse?, I wandered into Mary Redcliffe on a walk back from Temple Meads on Thursday (before the event) and found the Pendulum, and the leaflet of this event was thrust into my hands. On Saturday afternoon by accident? I met a friend shopping in Clifton. We had tea together. I enthused about the Pendulum and she had nothing better to do on Saturday evening... made it possible for us both to come (I don't drive). So all those beautifully random events brought us to the Happening. I love the concept that no longer are we stuck with the idea of science or maths being in one separate box (made of concrete) and religion or spiritual wisdom in another box equally set in concrete. This is real liberation and creativity can thence ensue. More please, and thank all concerned for this one.

Journey into Science Events


There are curently no forthcoming Journey into Science events at St Mary Redcliffe, although above you can listen to audio of a recent Christians in Science event: Why Stephen Hawking is nearer to God than he thinks, a talk by Professor Keith Ward, which took place at St Mary Redcliffe on Wednesday 16 November 2016.