Sunday, June 11, 2006

Science for the Everyman

So here we are, the final day of the Cheltenham Science Festival. Its been a bit of a departure for me - an interesting one nonetheless. So far I've learnt that the temperature of liquid Nitrogen is -196 degrees C; that stress does not exist, partly because the guy who named it got his words in a muddle when he stole it from the engineering bunch, it should have been strain; that caterers will go to extraordinary lengths to be classified as truly awful; that it is possible to get heat stroke without going anywhere near the sun - cue very bad things happening to me yesterday.

The transfer of my attentions from literature to science got off to a bad start: Zadie Smith winning the Orange Prize (if you still haven't got a copy of Everyman's Rules for Scientific Living, why not?), however, working on the Science Festival has meant that I have been able to ignore that, and one event in particular restored my faith in good literature. A project in New Zealand involving a group of physicists and a group of writers has resulted in a book called Are Angels Ok? I don't know if its available anywhere in the UK yet - except Ottakar's in Cheltenham - but it is well worth buying.

I overheard someone yesterday saying that the festival was more for people already interested in science than for bringing science to those who are not. But for me all the festivals here are about bringing their subject to the everyman; yes we are here for those who already have an interest, but we are also here to provide an interest. Personally my interest in science has decreased over the years and ended in my failing A Level biology: this week I've been reminded that I did once have an interest in a range of scientific subjects and I might even have developed interests in a few more.

No comments: