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A Decadent Festival

By Ann Fenech, on 15 June 2010

Cheltenham Science Festival 2010 is over. I am back in London and back to my research. However, I will definitely not forget the brilliant time I had there. So thanks to the UCL graduate school for that (and UCL communications for allowing me to write about it).

The festival was great on so many levels!

There was a real buzz in the place. There was something for everyone, be it entertaining science or intellectually stimulating activities for those wanting a bit more.

As I have mentioned a couple of times before, I was also surprised by how interactive the whole experience was. There was no intimidation for participating in anything, be it having a go at a demonstration, or asking questions during events.

A few events will definitely remain with me. First of all are the ‘demonstration-based’ shows, The Bigger Bang, Science vs Magic, but particularly Chemistry: A Volatile History. I don’t think any kid could have watched those and not themselves becoming excited at the prospect of becoming a scientist. Also, Heston Blumenthal in Conversation with Harold McGee: the questions asked were really all over the place, but both of them answered them in a brief but definitely entertaining way. The last show I wanted to flag up was The School for Gifted Children. It was hilarious, it was entertaining…and it was scientific. What shouldn’t you love about that?

I have returned with an enthusiasm for research, an enthusiasm for science…but most of all I have become infected with an enthusiasm for getting science out there to the public.

As the festival’s theme was ‘Decadence‘, I thought I would leave you with some of the festival’s decadent highlights. Expect lights, bangs…and science!

Liar Liar Pants on Fire

By Ann Fenech, on 14 June 2010

What is this that I am hearing? Two teams, Decay and Dense (decay-dense…decaydense…decadence?…A laugh? Anyone?) battling it out against each other…to declare a winner the best liar of them all?

Call my scientific bluff was the name of one of the last events I watched at the festival. The team Decay was led by Timandra Harkness, while Dense was led by the festival director, and UCL’s own Mark Lythgoe. Decay was completed by Robin Ince and Robert Winston while Mark Lythgoe was joined by Sarah J. Arney, and one of my favourite entertainers from this festival, Quentin Cooper.

For all of you out there who do not know the concept of the show, it involves one scientific term, three definitions, but who’s bluffing and who’s telling the truth?

The terms ran the whole gamut from ekistics to pledget, linkboys to climactery. I didn’t know what any of them meant…and it seemed like neither did any of the contestants.

Winning was just plain guesswork, but one team did come out victorious. Guessing pledget, espyne, and parison, and bluffing on tegestologist and ekistics, Dense proved their name wrong, and decimated what was left of Decay.

An entertaining show hosted by Marcus Moore. Whoever said scientists don’t lie?