Next week sees the start of the Cheltenham Science Festival of which I am on the Advisory Board.
This year I’m involved in five events – which is rather less than the last two years when it was more like seven. And none of them are solo. So there’s a hell of a lot less stuff to schlep up there (and back). Unfortunately because I’m running an Advanced Lab Course back at the ranch I’m going up on Tuesday morning and coming back the same day (or actually Wednesday morning) to be able to be in the lab on Wednesday morning. Then it’s back up again on Friday. Anyway the events are:
- Chemistry and Architecture – From the Pantheon in Rome, via the ceilings of Cordoba, to the dymaxion domes of Buckminster Fuller, architects have always looked to the patterns of geometry for inspiration. For chemists, the geometries of platonic solids and of connected nets inspire the synthesis of cathedrals at a different scale: the molecular. Zeolite chemist Dewi Lewis and sand dune architect Magnus Larsson talk to Andrea Sella about how they are learning from and working with each other.
- Endangered Elements – From iPods to wind turbines, much of modern day technology contains components made from rare earth elements, many of which are becoming increasingly difficult to source. Chemist Andrea Sella, mineral economist Malin Stein and geologist Frances Wall ask whether we should be mining these precious resources to extinction to keep up with the latest technology, or whether the laws of supply and demand will push the prices up so high that we will be forced to find alternatives.
- The Science of Cannabis – Once associated with flower power, Woodstock and the hippie movement, the psychoactive plant cannabis is now being increasingly recognised for its medicinal qualities. Chemicals from cannabis can alleviate a wide range of conditions such as glaucoma, pain and multiple sclerosis. Come and join Mark Miodownik, Andrea Sella, Clive Page and David Potter to explore cannabis – from its history to what makes it work and how modern medicine puts it to good use. We’ve got various neat demos including trying to extract cannabinoids using liquid CO2
- The Library of Secrets – In the Library of Secrets, a dusty old book tells the tale of scientific pioneers making discoveries in the Dark Ages. Jim Al-Khalili and Andrea Sella reproduce some of the earliest and most mysterious of these chemical experiments, bringing them BANG up to date! Let them take you on a journey back in time, and crack open the shadowy story of a man who took chemistry to the next level. This event will contain a showing of the short film ‘The Library of Secrets’ starring Sir Ben Kingsley.
- The Overambitious Demo Challenge – The competition is on again in the annual Cheltenham Science Festival Demo Challenge. This year I’m in the chair while my friend Steve Mould takes on stand up mathematician Matt Parker, Famelab winning physicist Nic Harrigan and science translator Fran Bate as they all attempt to show the most spectacular, impressive and show-stopping science demo. Two rounds. One long. One short. And a couple of surprises included. Should be a huge laugh.
And of course there is plenty more thought-provoking events and discussion during the week. BBC World Service are going to feature Timandra Harkness (who’s doing the Your Days are Numbered) with the amazing medical possibilist Hans Rosling . There are also events at the BBC Tent……..
I’m back up on Friday with a small crowd of Year 4 children from the primary school, where I’m a governor, for some inspiration.
It’s going to be quite a week and I hope to see lots of friends there – maybe even some of you.