Astronauts, zombie-ologists, monsters, physicists, artists and comedians from all over the world will descend on these shores next month when the third annual Northern Ireland Science Festival returns.
This year’s annual showcase for the wonders of science, technology, engineering and mathematics will see more than 150 events taking place around the region. Internationally renowned speakers appearing include historian Bettany Hughes, academic and broadcaster Dr Alice Roberts, leading physicists Jocelyn Bell Burnell and Jim Al-Khalili, maths communicator Marcus du Sautoy and Britain’s first astronaut Helen Sharman.
The 2017 Festival represents a tasty postscript to Northern Ireland’s Year of Food. Themed around the science behind Northern Ireland’s world class food and drink, festival attendees have the chance to taste the world’s first beer brewed by artificial intelligence (AI), taste the world’s first flax-fed Wagyu beef at the Bullitt Hotel and discover the science behind making the perfect Irish whiskey.
There’s plenty for child audiences too as they can make their own Marvellous Medicine, crack the code of ‘The Genetics of Superheroes’ or be part of a ‘Teen Hackathon’ where the most innovative projects will receive spot prizes and a share of £1,000. There’s even something for infants – a baby sensory space adventure!
Festival favourites like the ‘Zombie Science’, ‘Late Lab’, ‘Lotions, Potions and Explosions’, ‘Ugly Animals’ and the ‘toxicology of intoxication’ also return by popular demand.
For the first time, the festival will appear in town and cities across Northern Ireland with packed programme of over 45 events planned for the Maiden City and fun-filled road shows planned for Enniskillen, Newry, Coleraine and Dungannon.
Backed by the Department for the Economy, Belfast City Council, Tourism NI, Queen’s University, Ulster University, Department for Communities, The Matrix Panel, the British Council and STEM recruitment specialists MCS Group, the festival offers a range of workshops, talks and interactive activities for young people and parents during the day; then a mix of scientific debate, talks, theatres, comedy, music and film for adults in the evening.
The 11-day extravaganza, beginning on February 16 is open to all and will comprise over 150 entertaining and informative events across venues such as the W5, Titanic Belfast, the Armagh Planetarium, the Black Box, the Nerve Centre and the Ulster Museum.
According to NI Science Festival Director Chris McCreery: “From dinosaurs to deep space, volcanoes to viticulture, comedy to computer-based learning, we’ve worked hard to craft a festival that will appeal to all ages and backgrounds.
“The festival has grown year-on-year and we very pleased to offer an enhanced programme in Derry and also to bring our festival road shows to towns around the country. Last year more than 65,000 people joined us for the festival and we hope that by widening opportunities, more people will have the opportunity to connect to the wonders of science in their lives.”
The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Alderman Brian Kingston said: “I would like to congratulate the organisers of the Northern Ireland Science Festival on producing another exciting, challenging and thought-provoking programme. It is particularly pleasing that, with STEM subjects at the core of the development of our economy and our global positioning, the Festival reaches out to and provides such engaging activities for young people. I hope that it will encourage many of them to develop more than a passing interest in these subjects and to take them up as careers.”
The festival will also feature a lecture in honour of Alan Turing, the man who cracked the Enigma code and who is credited with ‘inventing the computer’. Dr Guruduth S. Banavar, VP & Chief Science Officer, Cognitive Computing, IBM Research will talk about cognitive computing, the technology breakthroughs and how deployment of the technology can benefit of humankind.
For further information about the Northern Ireland Science Festival and ticketing, log on to http://www.nisciencefestival.com, facebook.com/NISCIFEST or @niscifest and a podcast interview with Chris McCreery can be heard here.