Autumn is a wonderful time in Manchester; the leaves on campus turn orange as the students return to their studies, Halloween and Bonfire Night are just around the corner and the air becomes crisper on the walk into uni. Ask any scientist in Manchester though and they’ll tell you that their favourite event in the calendar at this time of year is the Manchester Science Festival.
The Manchester Science Festival (www.manchestersciencefestival.com, @McrSciFest, #msf15) runs over 10 days at the end of October each year which sees the city turn into ‘part laboratory and part playground’ as a whole host of science-themed events for all ages are staged across the city. This year the line-up of events was as wonderful as ever, with everything from forensic experiments, drones, art installations and even a giant adult ball pool. Oh yes! Whether you are a scientist by trade or just have a curious mind there is bound to be something for you and also a lot of opportunities to get involved yourself as well.
This year I attended a number of really great events, many of which were completely free! First up I saw the worlds of art and science come together to debate whether Science ruins poetry and our appreciation of the world or whether it makes our view more spectacular. Peer-reviewed Poetry was held on the Manchester Metropolitan campus on a Friday evening and we were treated to an evening of poetry written by scientists and non-scientists and we, the audience, had to help debate whether science makes the world more beautiful or not. Hint: it does 😉
Next up I was fortunate enough to get tickets to a group who use comedy and science together and perform live experiments on stage. Festival of the Spoken Nerd ‘Just for Graphs’ (www.festivalofthespokennerd.com) was held in an intimate theatre in the Lowry and had everything from musical numbers, pyrotechnic experiments and of course graphs – the kind of graphs that will blow your mind and make you laugh out loud! Even a graph which has the answer to EVERYTHING! The group are currently touring the country and I would definitely recommend getting tickets if you can because it was truly hilarious but of course informative! I will definitely be getting tickets for next year so it’s one to watch out for! (Their Twitter handle is @FOTSN if you want to follow their tour)
One of the main players in the festival is the Museum of Science and Industry here in Manchester. On the Wednesday they held a spectacular event called Cravings Late which answered questions such as ‘do our cravings control us?’ and how our senses other than taste affect how we experience different foods. The venue was packed out and there was a whole host of different stands to visit and try out experiments of our own involving food and a main stage hosting interactive sessions such as a cravings taste quiz and Brewniversity Challenge beer tasting.
My final event of the festival was a talk by Marty Jopson (from the One Show) talking about the science of everyday life. It was a family friendly event which featured live experiments on stage to answer questions such as ‘why does a teapot drip?’, ‘what makes a cake fluffy but a brownie dense?’ and ‘how does GPS work on our phones?’. Although there were younger people present the content was aimed at all ages and many of the questions answered I knew nothing about; you really do learn something new every day, especially at Manchester Science Festival!
There are also plenty of events for you to get involved in if you want such as Pint of Science, where you can explain some interesting science to an audience in a pub, or even university-run events such as Science Spectacular which hosts family-orientated science stands if you prefer something a little less daunting. All of this looks great on a CV in addition to your studies and is a great way to meet people and even learn new things!
Manchester Science Festival 2015 was the launch of Manchester being the European City of Science 2016, so I’m sure we can look forward to many more wonderful science events throughout 2016!