Back in town for its 21st instalment and gearing up to ask the big questions about life and the universe, the Cambridge Science Festival returns this month, bringing with it an eclectic line up of science-based activities, talks and workshops.
This year’s festival, which takes place from 9-22 March, will be the biggest yet, offering a total of 275 events covering everything from the environment, neuroscience, health and well-being through to space, religion, art and much more.
“Every year, the Science Festival grows in both size and popularity and this year is no exception,” says Dr Lucinda Spokes, the Science Festival coordinator. “We’re delighted to host yet another Festival that promises to be a spectacular presentation of scientific ideas and discoveries. As ever, the calibre of speakers and the quality of the events showcasing the latest in scientific research to the public is outstanding.”
Among the impressive line-up of speakers this year are comedian Robin Ince; seven of the new Fellows of the Royal Society; author, journalist and TV presenter Simon Singh, and the Astronomer Royal, Professor Sir Martin Rees. In addition to the talks, debates and activities that will be on offer this year, there’s also a heady mix of science comedy, theatre and art, promising something for everyone.
The Science Festival kicks off with a bang on Monday 9 March, with the opening day yielding a varied line-up of talks and events, from the African Scientists Research Showcase at Hughes Hall to the final of FameLab, an international science competition. The Arts Picturehouse will also once again play host to Cambridge Shorts, showing a series of exciting short films produced by Cambridge University researchers and film-makers on topics including dementia, decision-making and ancient stories about the Buddha’s past lives.
On 11 March, join a fascinating debate on engineering our climate – which will explore whether it’s possible to fix the damage we’re causing with CO2 emissions through ‘geoengineering’ – and the technical challenges involved therein. Also up for discussion in week one is the question of how work can make you healthier, how the universe is like a lightbulb, whether there’s a right diet for each individual and the mathematical theory of chaos.
There’s a heady mix of science comedy, theatre and art, promising something for everyone
Science on Saturday and Sunday
Moving into the first weekend of the festival, it’s all about Science on Saturday, the busiest day of the whole event, which features a dizzying array (100 to be precise) of hands-on activities and workshops for all ages. Head to the Corn Exchange from 11am-4pm and get stuck into the science of eating, discovering DNA and bottling your genes. Come 6pm, there’ll be an opportunity for the grown-ups to enjoy the activities (without worrying about pushing in front of kids) with a session just for adults until 8pm; grab a drink and have an explore.
The Guildhall will be a hive of activity on Saturday 14 March, offering activities including ‘The Eyes Have It’, a look at the amazing tricks your brain plays with your eyes, as well as an agility test designed for basketball players and an action-packed demonstration by Dr Peter Wothers on the chemistry of light. There’s plenty more to marvel at, too, including a peek into the secret world of code-breaking, custard fireballs, vacuum bazookas and big bangs.
On Sunday, there’s another busy day of activities at the Guildhall and Corn Exchange, plus plenty more at the Cambridge Science Centre – including slime making!
The festival continues apace for its second week, offering up treats including a special screening of Jurassic Park on Monday 16 March, complete with a talk by a dinosaur expert, plus talks on stem cell research and experimental studies into drug addiction.
For something completely different, head along to ‘Sex by Numbers: Statistics of our Intimate Lives’ on 18 March, when renowned statistician Professor David Spiegelhalter will explore findings from the latest survey of sexual behaviour in Britain. On the same day, join an interactive talk in celebration of the 2015 Year of Light, which will look at the great experiments that have shaped our understanding of the nature of light and colour, or explore the mind at the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit on Chaucer Road.
For a bit of light relief on the 18th, join Cambridge’s troupe of science boffs turned stand-up comics at The Portland Arms for a night of comedy based on their work, or take a journey through the digestive system at ‘Fartology’, an intriguing look into the science behind our own chemistry lab.
For the second ‘Science on Saturday’, The Centre for Mathematical Sciences, The Institute of Astronomy and departments on the West Cambridge Site open their doors, offering an exciting day of talks and exhibits including laser lab tours and a real-life invisibility cloak.
The festival finishes on Sunday 22 March with a day of talks by leading medical research scientists at the Cambridge Biomedical Campus, plus hands-on activities and a look at the power of science in popular culture, led by actor Stephen McGann, the doctor on BBC’s Call the Midwife.
:: Cambridge Science Festival, 9-22 March
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