YOU might have heard of wheeltappers, ouija board tappers or rubber tappers but I bet have you not heard about the scientific skill of tin tapping.

The skill of tin tapping was told to me by Adam Hart-Davis, scientist, author, photographer, historian and broadcaster.

He learnt it many years ago while working as a researcher on a television show called Don’t Ask Me which was presented by Magnus Pyke.

The reason he picked up his ‘skill’ was he had to think of a way of showing how you could tell the different between a tin of chicken and mushroom soup and a tin of chicken soup if each tin had no label and you could not open the tin to find out.

The way you go about finding out which tin is which is you hold one end of a tin to your ear and flick the tin with you finger. The tin which goes ping is clear soup, the tin with a thud has solids inside.

This scientific fun fact helps to encapsulate Adam Hart-Davis who hopes when he appears at the Taunton Literary Festival, to give people a few laughs and they also get to learn something.

The man himself has been learning for years and it all started when he was 10 years old and was told by his maths teacher, Mr Turner: “Adam, I have only one thing to say to you science.”

And as Adam said: “The fact I remember it 65 years later then it must have been important as I went off to study science.

“What I have learnt about myself during my career is I am not very imaginative and I do not have good focus.

“And to be great scientist you need imagination and focus. I am interested in everything.

“I like to make things out of wood and made 8/10 chairs, then 10 tables, then bowls, then spoons and now knobs for some chest of drawers. If I stuck to one thing I might get better.”

Speaking to Adam you can see why he has an inquisitive mind, it is a bit like having scientific ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder” as there is always something better on the horizon or something better to study.

He said: “Science is endlessly fascinating.

“You can read all about how something works what it does but you are always left asking more questions.

“It can go on forever and you might not get an answer.

“It is like peeling the skin off a onion, you get more and more layers and more and more questions.

“With science you can always be proved wrong but if you make a prediction and it comes true like Edmond Halley did with a comet.

“He said this particular comet would return to earth in 75 years and it did and is now called Halley’s comet.”

Looking at his television career both as researcher and presenter he said he learnt so much and found what he did absolutely fascinating.

Today he does not believe science is held in high regrade by programme makers or television schedulers.

He said: “Television is run by people who are not scientist.

“95 per cent of those who run television are arts people and they think science is boring.

“David Attenborough is a remarkable person who I got to now well. But when he gets too old to make these programmes like Blue Planet, there is no one to take his place.

“People love him and when they hear his voice they tune in.”

You can tune in so as to speak when Adam Hart-Davis comes to town for the eighth Taunton Literary Festival next month.

Adam will be giving a talk called Schrödinger’s Cat: & 49 Other Experiments That Revolutionised Physics.

It looks at science through 50 of its greatest experiments

It will be held at the Temple Methodist Church, Upper High Street, Taunton, at 6.30pm on Monday, November 19.

Looking ahead to the festival this month, Adam said: “I hope the people who come along get a few laughs and they might learn something.

“Schrödinger’s Cat is very interesting as there is no answer.

“Is the cat alive or is the cat dead?

Further information on the Taunton Literary Festival can be found online at

Or you telephone: 01823 337742, visit: Brendon Books, Bath Place, Taunton TA1 4ER or email@