British Science Festival: our highlights How do blind astronomers ‘see’ the universe? What makes the love life of sea slugs so special? Can gaming lead to gambling? These are just some of the hundreds of mind-bending questions that were explored at this year’s British Science Festival. While these questions may seem modern, the Festival itself is steeped in history. It’s been travelling to a different city in the UK, every year, for nearly 200 years. The science and technology on show have changed almost beyond recognition since the early 1800s – but the sense of wonder and excitement from visitors and participants has stayed much the same. This year, it was the turn of Coventry and Warwickshire to sample all that’s new in the science world. Hosted by the University of Warwick, the Festival enchanted visitors over 4 days on both the university’s campus and throughout the city centre, with events that spanned all corners of society and explored things that touch every aspect of our lives. If you didn’t get a chance to be part of it this year, don’t worry – we’ve put together our highlights so you can get a taste of the action. Maybe we’ll see you next year instead, where it’ll be planting its roots in Chelmsford? Events that inspired What’s special about the British Science Festival is how broadly it encompasses the word ‘science.’ Science is all around us - from the clothes we wear, to the food we eat, the technology we use and the environment we shape. The Festival’s programme celebrates this diversity. To see what we mean, here are a few of our favourite events… A dark tour of the universe Guests donned a blindfold and joined Nicolas Bonne from the University of Portsmouth, who guided them through a tactile experience of the Universe with his award-winning project: The Tactile Universe. The project demonstrates how visually impaired astronomers approach their research through 3D printed images of galaxies. Visitors were given the unique chance to feel and listen to real astronomical data, widening their understanding of fascinating and recent discoveries in astronomy, from a completely different perspective. Holotronica Attendees were treated to a retro futuristic synesthetic trip, merging sound frequencies and colour frequencies that jumped out at them in 3D. This truly immersive experience was both visually and audibly mind-blowing, with the new holographic technology drenching the audience in electronic music and pulsing holographs. Cook together, eat together Cook Together, Eat Together is a free cooking club for the over 55s in Coventry, teaching people healthy eating skills while tackling the growing problem of social isolation. This drop-in event allowed people to share the joy of food and discover how this scheme is benefiting the lives of people across the city. The Botanist: late night garden The Botanist is a popular and stunning local bar in Coventry city centre, bursting with plant-life and garden décor, with a beautiful food and cocktail menu. On the first night of Festival, we took over The Botanist with a selection of exciting drop-in events, including giant periodic table Jenga, antibiotic virtual reality, and the delightfully fun ‘Ballnado’ challenge pictured above. Star speakers It wouldn’t be a Festival without some familiar faces added to the mix. This year, we welcomed brilliant people who are well-known and trailblazing in their fields. They gave fascinating talks and took part in important debates, allowing visitors could see their heroes in action. We were delighted to bring the following into the Festival-family this September… Angela Saini Angela is one of our 2019 Honorary Fellow recipients and is a pioneering journalist and author. Her most recent books, Inferior and Superior, talk about how science got race and gender wrong through bias and the misuse of research, contributing to much of the inequality we see today. At the Festival, Angela reflected on some of the conversations the books have kickstarted across the country and on social media, discussing why taking an intersectional approach to inequality is important in the struggle for social justice. Professor Alice Roberts Alice is a big name in the science world. She’s a popular anthropologist, biologist, television presenter and author. She’s Professor of the Public Engagement in Science at the University of Birmingham and has just started her year-long term as President of the British Science Association. As part of receiving her title, she had the honour of giving her Presidential Address at the Festival. Alice’s talk reflected on ex-BSA President Sir Peter Medawar’s Address, which he gave 50 years ago on the capacity of humans to effect change emerged amidst a general gloomy sense of melancholy. She found similarities with our modern climate, pondering whether we can drag ourselves out of this current political mire, and whether we can or should let ourselves believe in our capacity to make the world a better place. Konnie Huq Konnie Huq became a household name following her long stint as a Blue Peter presenter. These days, she’s turned her attention to children’s books, having recently written and published her first children’s novel: Cookie! And the most annoying boy in the world. At the Festival, she was joined by Director of the Science Museum, Roger Highfield, in conversation about her life and work, where they discussed the intersection between science and the arts. Jack Monroe Jack has made a name for herself as a food writer, journalist and activist who campaigns on poverty issues, particularly hunger relief. She’s published many cookbooks that feature ‘austerity’ recipes and meals which can be made with little money. We were therefore delighted to welcome her to the Festival this year in a thrilling event called Tackling food poverty. She used her experience of eating healthily whilst living on a low income, being self-taught to out of necessity. She was joined by a panel of guests to discuss how social stigma is harmful to people in these situations, and how cities like Coventry are tackling food poverty. #BSF19 There are so many things going on at the Festival that we’re not often able to see everything as it happens. That’s where social media comes in handy! Below are some great posts from guests, organisations and event participants who were right there in the middle of the action. The Festival was a great pre-cursor for Coventry’s City of Culture campaign. The area will become City of Culture in 2021 and will hold the title for the whole year. The title is given to a place in the UK to build on the success of Liverpool's year as European Capital of Culture 2008, which had significant social and economic benefits for the area. The British Science Festival helped to put Coventry on the cultural map through its showcase of life in all its nuance, as it brings a rich, cultural experience to the area it visits each year. Improving the diversity of science and the people who engage with it is one of the cornerstones of our work. We were honoured to once again bring Out Thinkers to the Festival this year – an event which showcased the incredible work of LGBT+ researchers, in a safe and welcoming space where they could celebrate themselves and their community. With such a long and iconic history, the Festival brings up thoughts and memories of the UK’s influence on science and technology across the globe. Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was debated at the Festival way back in 1860 and the words “dinosaur” and “scientist” were coined at some of the earliest meetings. It’s great to see patrons take advantage of the 100+ free events on offer throughout the week. In the news A celebration of science this big always draws in some lovely attention from the media, who want to showcase all the great speakers, events, and latest research to the world. Below are some of the best stories that came from this year’s Festival. Tube passengers are automatically heat-scanned for knives Alice Roberts – how to approach humanity’s huge challenges I'm a space gynaecologist and this is what I've learnt about women's bodies and zero gravity Men 40% more likely to initiate conversation with an alien, Oxford study finds Breath test to reduce overprescribing of antibiotics 5G provides breakthrough for driverless car tests Women 'better than men at disguising autism symptoms' Neanderthals weren’t the strong, strapping cavepeople we imagine Partners Last but not least, we'd like to give huge thanks to this year's supporters, without whom the Festival could not have happened: Host The University of Warwick The University of Warwick is one of the world’s leading research institutions, ranked in the UK’s top 10 and world top 60 universities. Since its foundation in 1965 Warwick has established a reputation of scientific excellence, through the Faculty of Science, Engineering and Medicine (which includes WMG and the Warwick Medical School). A global university, Warwick was named in the top 20 of the Times Higher Education’s Most International University rankings and 10 subjects in the QS World University Rankings by subject. Principal Partners Cadent The UK’s largest gas distribution network with a 200-year legacy, working day and night to ensure gas reaches 11 million homes from Cumbria to North London and the welsh borders to East Anglia. Jaguar Land Rover The UK’s largest automotive manufacturer, built around two iconic British car brands: Land Rover, the world’s leading manufacturer of premium all-wheel-drive vehicles; and Jaguar, one of the world’s premier luxury sports saloon and sports car marques. The Lubrizol Corporation A Berkshire Hathaway company, is a market-driven global company that combines complex, specialty chemicals to optimize the quality, performance and value of customers’ products while reducing their environmental impact. Major Partner Coventry & Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership Festival Partners Greater Birmingham & Solihill Enterprise Partnership CityFibre Vodafone Yakult Venue Partners The Botanist FarGo Village Albany Theatre Coventry Cathedral Did you attend this year's Festival? Let us know what you thought on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook using the hashtag #BSF19 Bring on the British Science Festival 2020 in Chelmsford!