British Science Festival 2012

British Science Festival 2012

British Science Festival TeamThis year the University of Aberdeen was proud to host the British Science Festival 2012. The British Science Festival is the largest science festival in Europe and hasn't been to Aberdeen since 1963. The festival was a great success, featuring leading academics, award-winning commentators, science communicators, authors and performers set against the backdrop of an international media presence. An exciting schools programme also complemented the main festival, offering young people of all ages the chance to get involved in science, technology, engineering and maths.


The British Science Festival is one of Europe's largest celebrations of science, engineering and technology, with over 250 events, activities, exhibitions and trips taking place over a week in September. 

The Festival is unique among those in the UK as it moves to a different location around the UK every year. The programme of events offers something for everyone with activity for families and schools groups, adults looking for entertainment and stimulating debate or professionals interested in the latest research.


2012 Organisers

The 2012 British Science Festival in Aberdeen is organised by the British Science Association, the University of Aberdeen and TechFest-SetPoint .

The Festival will bring together leading academics, award-winning commentators, science communicators, authors and performers set against the backdrop of an international media presence.

An exciting schools programme will complement the main festival, offering young people of all ages the chance to get involved in science, technology, engineering and maths.

The British Science Association (formerly known as the BA) envisages a society in which people from all walks of life are able to access science, engage with it and feel a sense of ownership about its direction.

The Association seeks to achieve that by connecting science with people: promoting openness about science in society and affirming science as a prime cultural force through engaging and inspiring adults and young people directly with science and technology, and their implications.
Established in 1831, the British Science Association organises major initiatives across the UK, including the annual British Science Festival, National Science and Engineering Week, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges.

Founded in 1495 by William Elphinstone, Bishop of Aberdeen and Chancellor of Scotland, the University of Aberdeen is Scotland's third oldest university, and the fifth most ancient in the whole United Kingdom.

Much of the original King's College still stands today, a famous historic landmark beloved of generations of students, academics, and local people.

Over the centuries our graduates and scholars have changed the world in many fields of human endeavour and among the many pioneers who have been associated with the University are five Nobel Laureates.

TechFest-SetPoint is a charitable organisation based in Aberdeen which aims to inspire young people about Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

TechFest-SetPoint champions the promotion of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) activities that engage, challenge, inform and inspire the young people of Scotland it will contribute to the nation having a STEM rich knowledge economy and being recognised as a STEM literate society.

Public Engagement
The University of Aberdeen co-ordinates a rich annual calendar of public engagement events. Our programme of community Cafés is the largest of its kind in the UK and now includes series dedicated to topics ranging from science and medicine to the cosmos. In addition to events in Aberdeen city, the programme has been extended to include events in Banchory, Fraserburgh and Inverurie. Other highlights in the annual calendar include National Science and Engineering Week (March) and TechFest in September.
Sponsors and Supporters

Major energy sector multinationals and north-east business organisations have thrown their weight behind Europe’s largest celebration of science when it comes to Aberdeen in September 2012.

Organised by the British Science Association, the University of Aberdeen and Techfest-Setpoint, the British Science Festival brings more than 350 of the UK’s top scientists, engineers and commentators together to discuss the latest developments in science and technology with the public.

The Principal Sponsors of the event are BP and Shell U.K. Limited, Lead Sponsors and Supporters are Aberdeen City Council, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, the Society of Petroleum Engineers, The University of Aberdeen and the Scottish Government.
Marathon Oil is the Major Sponsor or the festival and ACSEF (Aberdeen City and Shire Economic Future) is the Core Supporter.

Other Festival Sponsors and Supporters include Saudi Aramco, Centrica Energy, Event Scotland, Chevron, Balmoral and Robert Gordon University while the media partner is the Press and Journal.

Glen Cayley, Vice President – Technical, Shell U.K. Limited, said: “Shell are very excited that the British Science Festival is coming to Aberdeen and proud to have been able to play a part in bringing it here.  We are sure that it will give a huge boost to science, technology, engineering and maths - subjects that are vital, not just to our industry, but to the whole country.  Aberdeen is a centre of science excellence, so it is wonderful that the Festival will be here.”

Tim Smith, Vice President, Communications & External Affairs, BP North Sea, said: “The British Science Festival offers an unrivalled opportunity to showcase some of the scientific talent and ingenuity that we have both in Aberdeen and throughout Scotland. I am delighted that BP are supporting the return of this major festival to Aberdeen, after an absence of nearly 50 years, putting Scotland once again at the heart of scientific activity and debate.”


Tuesday - 4 September 2012

Making sense: speckled computing
10.00-11.30 - Meston Building, University of Aberdeen
Imagine a world in which tiny devices (specks) on your person can sense conditions such as abnormal breathing, and share this information wirelessly with doctors and carers who can offer timely help and support. Join D K Arvind to explore the innovations making this possible.

The future of our polar regions
15.30-17.30 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 2, University of Aberdeen
Join leading UK polar scientists in an interactive debate about whether future research should be directed towards the north (the Arctic) or the south (the Antarctic). Help shape opinion on priorities by asking questions and voting on the major issues raised.

Café controversial: Never work with children or animals?
18.00-19.00 - Spiegeltent, King’s Lawn, University of Aberdeen
Few issues fire up public opinion more than medical research involving humans or animals does. Join Dianne Stillwell, Laura Waters and Pamela Dicks to share your views and explore two interactive stories around animal testing and research involving children. 

Running free from locked-in syndrome
19.00-21.45 - Belmont Cinema
In 2010 Kate Allatt experienced the terrifying reality of locked-in syndrome - left completely paralysed by a severe brain stem stroke. Two years on, Kate has written two books and is a campaigner for stroke awareness, join her for a screening of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly followed by a discussion of coma and consciousness.

Smarter phones enabling a smarter countryside?
19.00-21.00 - Woodend Barn, Banchory, Aberdeenshire
The current generation of smartphones combine incredible computing power with sophisticated sensors in a lightweight package. What does this mean for rural communities? See demonstrations of how these technologies can deliver innovative new services. 

Festival of the spoken nerd
20.00-22.30 - Spiegeltent, King’s Lawn, University of Aberdeen
Join stand-up mathematician Matt Parker, geek songstress Helen Arney and experiments guy Steve Mould for a variety hour for the fearlessly inquisitive. A celebration of comedy, science, music, maths, interactive experiments and maybe some things that go bang.

Wednesday - 5 September 2012

Food addiction: Fact or fiction?
10.00-12.00 - Meston Building, Lecture Theatre 1, University of Aberdeen
Join our international panel of psychiatrists and scientists to explore whether eating food can be so rewarding that it leads to a state of addiction similar to that with alcohol and drugs.

Your life story in our hands
10.00-12.00 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 2
From conception to death, each encounter with healthcare generates information which is held to manage your care but, in the background, it plays a crucial role in improving the understanding of health and disease. Join Scotland's Chief Scientist, Andrew Morris plus experts for a lively discussion.

From quantum gravity in the early universe to quantum engineering deep subsea

15.30-16.30 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 3
General relativity and quantum mechanics are the two pillars of modern physics. They were in joint action at the spectacular start of the Universe. This talk explores how today's new quantum technology of gravity sensing is being applied to increase our horizon and make new discoveries deep subsea.

Performance science in Olympic and Paralympic sports
19.00-21.00 - Seminar Room, Aberdeen Sports Village
Join Scott Drawer, Head of Research and Innovation at UK Sport, to explore the approach, process and type of projects that have capitalised on British excellence in academia and industry to support performance; learn how these concepts apply and cross into numerous other industries and applications.

Café Sci: Are we alone and when will we know?
19.00-21.00 - Waterstones Book Store, Union Street, Aberdeen
Space science is helping us discover more and more about the amazing Universe we live in. But as we search for life in the Universe how will the latest technology help us answer the ultimate question sooner rather than later? Join space scientist and BBC presenter Maggie Aderin-Pocock for our café-sci special.

Murder, Mystery and Microscopes
19.30-21.30 - King’s College Conference Centre Auditorium
Can local crime writer Stuart MacBride get his scientific facts right in this specially written short story? Forensic experts Lorna Dawson and Dave Barclay, and pathologist James Grieve test Stuart's forensic science in this lively event hosted by presenter of BBC's Material World, Quentin Cooper. Join us to put crime fiction under the microscope.

Thursday - 6 September 2012

The holy grail of dieting: Can we eat less and not feel hungry?
10.00-12.00 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 3
This will be an interactive lecture which will involve a discussion with scientists and food industry colleagues involved in the EU grant SATIN, Satiety Innovation.

The next war will be fought over water
13.00-15.00 - Meston Building, Lecture Theatre 1, University of Aberdeen
The rapidly increasing world population and improved living standards in developing countries are placing increased demand on an already scarce resource. The possibility of a war over water somewhere in the world seems increasingly likely. Join Chris Spray and an illustrious panel of speakers from academia, government and industry to debate the fight over water.

Uncovering the secrets of the LHC
13.00-15.00 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 1
The LHC, the world's largest particle accelerator, is designed to help answer fundamental questions about the sub-atomic world and the fundamental building blocks of our universe. Join physicists Jon Butterworth and Tara Shears who will bring you tantalising hints about whether the Higgs boson exists, how anti-matter works, and even some tales of the unexpected!

Titanic Engineering
15.30-16.30 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 3, University of Aberdeen
Building Titanic and her sister ship Olympic was an incredible undertaking. But where does history end and myth begin? Find out about techniques used to build Titanic from two people who recreated them as part of Channel 4's series 'We Built the Titanic'.

Superhero Science
18.00-19.00 - Aberdeen Arts Centre, 33 King’s Street
Can you wrestle tigers, read minds, see through walls and burn people with your laser eyes? That's the twisted (and somewhat unrealistic) dream of presenter Matt Pritchard. Family-friendly comedy and magic show exploring the sneaky science behind superhero powers.

Blowing the mind in the media
19.00-22.30 - Belmont Cinema, Aberdeen
A Beautiful Mind is an Oscar winning film which tackles 'the last taboo in mental health'. Based on the life of John Nash, a Nobel prize winner, it explores his struggles with paranoid schizophrenia. Following a film screening a panel of medical professionals will discuss the often difficult relationship between mental health and the media.

Friday - 7 September 2012

Life down below: The search for a deep biosphere on Earth and beyond
10.00-12.00 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 2, University of Aberdeen
Much of the simple life on Earth lives in the subsurface. Indeed some scientists believe that the majority of life is below ground. In a series of talks find out about investigations of the deep biosphere today, and in the geological record, and how this is reshaping our thoughts on the limits of life on Earth, and elsewhere in the Universe.

Myth Busters: What’s up with your gut?
10.00-12.00 - Meston Building, Lecture Theatre 1, University of Aberdeen
Microorganisms play an important role in maintaining a healthy gastrointestinal system but, in certain circumstances, can also cause illness and disease. Diseases involving microorganisms include gastric cancer, inflammatory bowel disease and also colorectal cancer. Hear talks by experts to give you an overview before we open it up to your questions.

Cannabis: Weeding out the highs and lows
13.00-15.00 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 3, University of Aberdeen
A panel of experts including Roger Pertwee and Ruth Ross from the University of Aberdeen will present interactive talks describing the history of cannabis use, the body's own cannabinoid system and recent research on how cannabis affects this system and the body. 

Future of food
18.30-21.30 - Baxters of Fochabers, IV32 7LD
Join nutritionist Alexandra Johnstone and head chef John McInnes for an entertaining evening of eating and conversation on the future of food. Find out what makes a sustainable diet, where our food comes from and how we can use novel ingredients to produce healthy and tasty meals. Following a cookery demo, a three-course dinner gives you the chance to exchange ideas and have lively discussion.

Secret life of the skeleton
19.00-20.00 - Acorn Centre,West High Street, Inverurie, AB51 3SA
The skeleton is a remarkable structure, extremely light yet able to support our weight and continuously repair itself. With your help, we'll reveal its secrets in this family show brought to you by scientists from the University of Aberdeen.

An audience with Bill Bryson
20.00-21.00 - Music Hall, Union Street, Aberdeen
Bill Bryson is the UK's biggest-selling non-fiction author since official records began. Millions have enjoyed his hilarious travel books and joined him on a journey through the History of Nearly Everything, the international bestseller which won him the Aventis Prize for Science Books. Join him as he talks to presenter Quentin Cooper about his life, his passions and his adventures along the way.

Saturday - 8 September 2012

Sharking around at MacDuff
10.00-12.00 - MacDuff Aquarium, Aberdeenshire
Visit Macduff Marine Aquarium to get up close to some fishy friends from the Moray Firth. A fish feeding show will be followed by a guest talk from Dr Les Noble from the University of Aberdeen. Learn all about white sharks in the Mediterranean, where they come from, how they got there, and how endangered they are.

How to solve crimes with mathematics
10.00-12.00 - Linklater Rooms, University of Aberdeen
The modern Sherlock Holmes is a mathematician. From election fraud and internet crime to murder and terrorism, mathematics has become the most acute weapon in our fight to bring criminals to justice. Learn how to use maths to solve crimes, find out how powerful computer programs uncover terrorist networks, and how mathematics can be used to predict a crime even before it's happened!

Feeding the nine billion
13.00-14.00 - Meston Building, Lecture Theatre 1, University of Aberdeen
Explore the complex topic of food security in the company of high-profile life scientists and economists and Chair, James Withers, CEO of Scotland Food and Drink. Hear the views of local children and adults in a short film and join the discussion on the future of food supply.

Why don't we eat as we intend? The psychology of dietary control
13.00-14.00 - Linklater Rooms, University of Aberdeen
We all know what we should and shouldn't eat. However, tasty high calorie foods surround us 24/7 and, as a result, most of us struggle to stick to our dietary intentions. Join chartered psychologist Julia Allan to discuss the psychology of dietary control and take part in a range of psychological tests designed to illustrate why resisting temptation is so hard.

No Head, No Problem: Can we grow missing body parts?
15.30-17.30 - Linklater Rooms, University of Aberdeen
Planarian flatworms can re-grow a missing tail (or head) and newts can re-grow limbs, so why can't humans re-grow lost body parts? In this interactive drop-in event, scientist Ann Rajnicek uses models, movies and worms undergoing spontaneous tissue re-growth to show you this fascinating process. Find out how worms could aid future therapies to stimulate limb or tissue re-growth in humans.

Can you be religious and scientific (without going crazy)?
15.30-17.30 - Fraser Noble Building, Lecture Theatre 2, University of Aberdeen
The argument about the compatibility of myth (or religion) with science is not new, it goes back to ancient Greece. The rise of science as the modern way of explaining events in the world has simply raised the issue even more intensely. Our panel of speakers will debate their views on the issue.

Sunday - 9 September 2012

Rising Tide: the submerged archaeology of Orkney
10.00-12.00 - Linklater Rooms, University of Aberdeen
The seas around Orkney have risen some 30 metres since people first inhabited the islands some 10,000 years ago. This workshop will present the first results of work to examine the seabed. Meet the team and experience some of the methods used to study and recreate the submerged landscape of Orkney.

Taxing people for unhealthy behaviours or rewarding healthy behaviours?
13.00-14.00 - Meston Building, Lecture Theatre 1, University of Aberdeen
What should governments do to reduce obesity, smoking and drinking to excess? Increase tax on unhealthy goods or reward healthy behaviours? Join Anne Ludbrook, Marjon van der Pol, and Mandy Ryan to hear recent research on taxing and paying in health promotion.

The war within us: Fighting infection
13.00-15.00 - Linklater Rooms, University of Aberdeen
Our bodies are under constant attack from gazillions of minute bugs. Have a microscopic view at the frontline; team up with biologists and mathematicians to see how cutting-edge experiments, supercomputers and exciting ideas help to win the war raging inside each of us.

Showing mercy or a licence to kill? Assisted suicide
15.30-17.30 - Robertson Trust Lecture Theatre, Suttie Centre for Teaching and Learning in Healthcare, AB23 2ZD
Get involved in a spirited discussion about this controversial topic. We will begin by asking you to vote and share your opinion, then you'll hear from the speakers for both sides. You'll then vote again and see if hearing the arguments has caused you to change your views.

Speed science
18.00-20.00 - Spiegeltent, King’s Lawn, University of Aberdeen
What happens when you take the quickfire speed dating format and invite scientists to present their cutting-edge research in an exciting and innovative way? Can they beat the clock and impress you, to be voted the winner? Come along to this unique event to hear about exciting digital innovations, before voting for your favourite researcher.

Maths and computing magic show
18.00-19.30 - Aberdeen Arts Centre, 33 King’s Street
Witness some amazing magic tricks and sneak behind the scenes to explore the maths and computing secrets behind them. Mathematics and computer science are behind today's technological wizardry, and help us understand our own brains! Peter McOwan and Matt Parker are both scientists and magicians, and they will be your guides to the secret world where science and conjuring meet.

Programmes, Magazines and Blogs

Festival Programmes
Aberdeen Magazines
Scientia Magazie coverScientia

The University of Aberdeen has added Scientia to its collection of in-house magazines to coincide with the launch of the British Science Festival.

Scientia introduces readers to the range of scientific research underway at the University of Aberdeen, and highlights the institution's key research themes. Groundbreaking research featured ranges from global food security to maintaining our health from cradle to grave.

Read Blog
Follow our British Science Festival blog