Glasgow Science Festival 2015 programme launched
In its ninth year and bigger than ever, the festival celebrates and investigates food, drink and light
This article is from 2015.
If clocks mostly agree on the correct time, it's because the train companies back in the Victorian era synchronised them, so that train timetables would make sense; and the reason we have train timetables at all is because James Watt's invention of the steam condenser 250 years ago made it possible for steam engines to power rotary motion. This is the kind of connection you could make at the Glasgow Science Festival, which features nearly 75 events in venues all over Glasgow this June.
With topics as diverse as dinosaurs, teeth, the science of gin and the legacy of Watt's invention, the Festival covers a lot of ground, but it has two major themes. 2015 is the year of Food & Drink, with such events as From Creel to Meal tracing how seafood gets from the sea to your plate – in the case of langoustines, not without violence, as they're very nippy – while The Perfect Meal uses psychology to look at the complex factors, not all of them to do with food, which influence the ways in which we regard some meals as better than others.
2015 is also the International Year of Light. In the Footsteps of Eddington attempts to recreate astronomer Arthur Eddington's celebrated verification of Einstein's theory of General Relativity. One of the theory's more mind-twisting predictions was that the gravitational field of a star would actually bend around itself light emitted by objects on the other side of the star from an observer, making the objects themselves look like they'd shifted position in the sky. It wasn't until the long solar eclipse of May 1919 that Eddington was able to demonstrate that 'gravitational lensing' was a real thing, thereby providing the first solid evidence that Einstein was right. In March 2015, Richard Middlemiss travelled to the Faroe Islands and tried to repeat the result; hear and see how he got on. There are also celebrations of the extraordinary, multi-faceted genius of Scotland's own James Clerk Maxwell, whose work was described by Einstein as the 'most important and the most fruitful' effort in physics since Newton's.
There are loads of events for kids, including 3D chocolate printing; an afternoon learning survival skills, and a chance to meet a real dinosaur hunter. There are also screenings of sci-films such as Moon, The Matrix and District 9; and an investigation into whether a chimpanzee can be a murderer. The full Glasgow Science Festival programme is available on the festival website.
There will always be people who shy away from science, feeling that to explain something is to 'explain it away', but festival director Dr Debbie McNeill is in no doubt that science helps us to appreciate things in a deeper way, citing as an example our enjoyment of stars in the night sky: 'I find it much more fascinating to also know that they are exploding balls of gas, that they may have life sustaining planets orbiting them, that the light I am seeing may be hundreds of thousands of years old, that stories and legends are built round them and how people navigate by them.'
Glasgow Science Festival is at various venues in Glasgow from Thu 4–Sun 14 June.