Ed Byrne stars in Oxford science animation

The stand-up comedian Ed Byrne has starred in a new Oxford-based animation that helps to explain the science of volcanoes.

The new animation, Underwater Volcano Disaster, sees Byrne play the part of Hank, the computer on a mini-submarine that gets trapped underwater after an earthquake. Hank’s successful attempt to navigate the submarine back to safety allows for a fantastic journey through the deepest insides of a volcano.

Ed Byrne commented, “It isn’t every day that Oxford University asks you to play a rogue computer piloting a submarine inside an exploding volcano, so I couldn’t resist! I like the idea that by watching everything going wrong for poor old Ossie – as he gets shaken, shrunk and boiled alive – you’re actually learning something about how volcanoes are made deep beneath the ocean. It goes to show that exploring the latest science can be a whole heap of fun.”

Oxford University scientists were behind the animation, which is the latest in a series of videos from Oxford Sparks, a website dedicated to making Oxford’s science accessible to the general public.Oxford Sparks’ other projects include podcasts, apps and virtual tours. It also hosts “Into the Lab”, a series of blogs by Oxford scientists.

Professor David Pyle, from the Department of Earth Sciences, was lead scientific advisor to the project and has been involved in science outreach for several years.

He explained that the focus of this video was to demonstrate how the melting process in subduction zones – places where one tectonic plate moves under another – is caused by changes in the minerals that make up the rocks that are being subducted.

Pyle commented, “I am delighted with the way that Karen Cheung [the animator] has captured both what rocks actually look like when we look at them under a microscope; and has also managed to illustrate the way that fluids and melts percolate through rocks in the mantle and crust as they rise.”

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In 2011 Professor Pyle was a zone winner in the online X-factor style competition, I’m a Scientist, Get me out of here, which allows schoolchildren to meet and interact with scientists. His love of volcanoes began “at the age of seven, while sitting on the freshly erupted deposits of Villarica volcano in Chile.”