Take a hands-on voyage into science

Hundreds of scientists and researchers are about to descend on Norwich – not to mention interested visitors from around the world. On the eve of the BA Festival of Science, TARA GREAVES takes a look at what it hopes to achieve and highlights just a handful of the top events.

The wait is almost over. This Saturday, September 2, sees the start of a bumper week of exciting events in Norwich which form this year's prestigious BA Festival of Science.

People from all walks of life are expected to gather, not just at the UEA and Norwich Research Park, but also in various venues throughout the city.

It is especially hoped that young people and their families will take an interest, particularly as there is a special youth programme.

Visitors are already making their way to the city before the official start at the cathedral, including 400 of the best scientists and science communicators from both home and abroad.

Frances Cairncross, this year's BA president, said: “The festival is the largest one of its kind in Europe. It brings together people from many walks of life to discuss and find out about science and its applications.

I am particularly keen, as president this year, that we should focus on the social sciences - such as economics, sociology and political science - and consider their relevance to the main scientific of our time.

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“One of the BA's main aims is to encourage scientific debate at a level that will encourage and inspire people, especially young people.

“I was delighted at last year's festival in Dublin to see throngs of students asking difficult questions and making useful suggestions at the sessions they attended.

“I hope the fresh minds of the young will once again help to stimulate thinking here in Norwich. But I also hope that, for many young people, the festival will be the clearest possible demonstration of how important but also enjoyable the understanding of science can be.”

The festival, which runs until Saturday September 8 returns to Norwich for the first time since the 1980s. As official media partner, the EDP is publishing a list of highlights today and will have extended coverage of the proceedings during the week.

t To find out more visit www.the-ba.net/the-ba/Events/FestivalofScience


Here is what some of Norfolk's notables are looking forward to:

t Ian Monson, Norfolk County Council cabinet member for waste management and the environment, said: “Norwich and Norfolk have a long standing history of science and research and the BA Festival is a wonderful way of promoting and showing off the work done at the John Innes Centre and UEA. I really hope it is a success and people of all ages go along, particularly young people who have a special programme just for them.”

t BBC Look East anchorwoman Susie Fowler-Watt said: “I'm very lucky to be getting the chance to interview Prof Lord Robert Winston - the fertility expert and TV presenter - for an event at the festival. When I was asked, I jumped at the chance as he's such an interesting and accomplished man. I can't think of many people I'd like to talk to more.”

t Felicity Hartley, the Lord Mayor of Norwich, said: “The festival has so much to offer but I am mostly looking forward to the Royal Philharmonic Concert on Tuesday as it looks like a fantastic program. I'm also really excited about the Soroptimists Women in Science discussion.”

t Anglia Tonight anchorwoman Clare Weller said: “There is a real buzz in the city at the moment. I am hoping to get along to the festival, if not in my free time, then to cover it for the programme. There are so many interesting things but being a girly girl I am particularly looking forward to the cosmetics event which has displays of herbal makeup.”

t Weather forecaster Jim Bacon, from WeatherQuest at UEA, said: “BBC East's Naked Scientist radio team will be broadcasting from our office each weekday evening during the festival on local radio from 7.30pm to 8pm so we will be busy helping with that. We are also doing the forecast for the festival each day. I think it is fantastic that the BA is coming back to Norwich, it's great for the city.”

t The Rev Graham Smith, Dean of Norwich, said: “The cathedral is delighted to be involved in the BA Festival of Science. We're hosting an exhibition and holding a debate on Changing the Climate, Changing Ourselves, which we hope will offer us all the challenge of finding just one or two ways of adjusting our lifestyles to help preserve our beautiful planet for our grandchildren and their grandchildren.”

t Prof Trevor Davies, UEA pro-vice chancellor, said: “After two years of planning the BA Festival my main feeling is one of excitement that the event has finally arrived. My colleagues at the Norwich Research Park and those at the BA have put in a tremendous amount of hard professional work, and we couldn't have asked the city to be more supportive.”


There are many more events taking place throughout the week, to find out more visit www.the-ba.net/the-ba/Events/FestivalofScience


TRY Science. 10am-6pm Saturday, 11.30am-5.30pm Sunday. Norwich Cathedral. Free.

The festival will be launched by the TRY Science weekend at Norwich Cathedral and around the city. There will be more than 30 interactive workshops and exhibitions at this event to let you TRY Science.

Opportunities include the chance to become a virtual surgeon by using a force feedback joystick, look at minerals under microscopes, find out the science of beer, make noise with sound waves, have a go on an electric bicycle, get sticky with slime and lots more. The event is designed to amuse all the family.

Highlights include:

t CHaOS science roadshow: Get sticky with slime, extract DNA and build bridges.

t Space exhibition: Take a look at planet Earth from its place in the Solar System, unveiling some of the mysteries found right here on Earth.

t The science of beer: What has beer ever done for us apart from make us happy? Find out more about the science of brewing and learn the facts and fiction about hangover cures.

t Sound waves to get your attention: Create sounds with tuned 'junk instruments'.


Beautiful Brains. 10am-1pm and 2pm-4.30pm. Elizabeth Fry Building, Room 01.05, UEA. £5.

Our brains are truly amazing. This 1.5kg organ that looks like a cauliflower not only gets us through daily life, but makes each of us unique, shapes our skills and is the foundation of creativity and genius.

Finding out how it works has been the Holy Grail for scientists for thousands of years, and this event explores what they have found out so far in an event that promises laughter and discovery, arts and magic.

Game On for Computing Showcase. 6pm-9pm. UEA Sportspark. Free.

When your children are glued to the television screen immersed in the latest Tomb Raider or Pro-Evolution soccer game, or when advertising campaigns for the latest games consoles are driving you mad, did you know that beneath the blinding graphics is the basis of a technology that can be used in vital, potentially life-saving surgeries?

The innovations of Augmented Reality (AR), a field of computer research which deals with the combination of real world and computer-generated data, will be presented as part of the Game On showcase.

There is the chance to see demonstrations of virtual surgery, rapid urban modelling, crowd and character animation, walking robots and virtual guides for cultural heritage.

To book a place visit www.i10.org.uk/view.asp?event-212850.

The Mysteries of DNA Testing. 6pm-7.30pm. Norwich City Hall council chamber. Free.

Uncover the depths of DNA testing and its applications in paternity tests, forensic tests, acestry and genealogy studies.


Reproductive Technologies and Designer Babies. 4pm-6pm. Arts Building, Room 01.02, UEA. £5.

Developments in reproductive techno-logies present to us the prospect of 'designer babies'. In the advent of such technology, this event explores which of us would be prepared to 'design' our future off-spring, what character-istics we might choose, how far we would go to secure them and how technological interventions differ from traditional methods of 'good parenting'.

Professor Robert Winston : the man, the media and making babies. 6pm-7pm The Assembly House, Noverre Suite.£5 (£2.50 concessions, available from Norwich Tourist Information Centre, The Forum).

Robert Winston talks about his life and works as one of the UK's top fertility experts. This popular science presenter will tell all to Susie Fowler-Watt of BBC Look East.


Secrets of the Universe. 11am-13pm and 2pm-3.30pm. Elizabeth Fry Building, Room 01.05, UEA. £5.

There is a lot we know about our universe. There is even more that we do not. The Secrets of our Universe can be found deep inside the atom and at the furthest reaches of space. How did the universe begin? Is there life out there? Astronomers and particle physicists debate the big questions and announce the latest research findings.

Is My GP Turning Me into a Guinea Pig? 9.30am-1pm. St Andrew's Hall, Norwich. £3 (£1 concessions available from Norwich Tourist Information Centre, The Forum).

Medical research does not just happen in labs. All sorts of health studies and clinical trials are taking place in the community right now. But why are they important? Should we believe what researchers tell us? And what's all this got to do with my GP? Come and hear what's going on, throw questions at the panel and take part in an instant mock trial.


The Day After Tomorrow: A Hollywood Fantasy or Wake up Call? 9am-12.40pm. ZICER seminar room, UEA. £5.

After the theme of Hollywood blockbuster The Day After Tomorrow, this event will take a real look at the impact of global warming on our world today. Scientists will take you on a journey exploring how ancient civilisations responded to climate change, when we discovered humans cause global warming and how we can minimise the consequences.

What Has Brewing Ever Done For Us? 7pm - 9.30pm. Norwich Playhouse. £3 (Concessions £1 available from Norwich Tourist Information Centre, The Forum).

An opportunity to see what benefits for today have come from the brewing industry over the centuries, at this illustrated talk. But what are the problems of alcohol in society today? Join in this topical debate.


It's Bad to Talk. 9am - 11am. Arts Building, Room 3.02, UEA. £5.

Phone tapping, secret filming, dawn raids, huge fines and imprisonment for businessmen. These are all part of the new regime which the authorities hope will stop companies colluding to fix prices. This is done in the name of protecting consumers. But do consumers need this 'protection' and could this new regime actually harm consumers by discouraging firms from conducting joint research and sharing legitimate information?

Friday Night Science. 6pm - 7pm. Norwich Playhouse. £3 (£1 concessions available from Norwich Tourist Information Centre, The Forum).

Can reaction dynamics explain the boy meets girl moment? Can studying spectroscopy turn you into a John Travolta on the dance floor? Can chemistry help you pull? Go along to this scientific guide to a night out on the town and find out where you have been going wrong. Warning - Suitable for 15 yrs and over, contains sexually explicit material.


Something for the weekend - Family Day. Bring the whole family along to experience the stimulation of science during a day packed full of hands-on fun, stunning science shows and fascinating workshops.

Highlights include:

t Cartoon science - Does everything fall faster than an anvil? Compare the laws of cartoon science with the real world.

t Science magic - Marvel at magic, learn how to do tricks and discover the science that makes the magic happen.

t Wax - Make multi-coloured candles to take home and learn about colour-mixing, transparency and how materials change state from liquid to solid.

t Bandrollers - Make yourself a wind-up toy to take away and learn a way to make things move.

t The Bubble Show - Discover the science of bubbles and be amazed at the huge, smoke-filled and cubic bubbles floating above your head.

t Eagle Heights - A thrilling insight into the amazing world of birds of prey. Watch them as they soar above you - an experience not to be missed

t Bending it like Beckham - Calling all budding footballers. Find out how Beckham scores his amazing free kicks.

And don't forget to explore the hands-on exhibition where you will find a wide variety of activities for all.