Friday, 30 October 2009

On the shoulders of giants

"On the shoulders of giants". The phrase Teresa Anderson used to describe our Bright Idea's speakers' inspiration for their work talking on Thursday evening an the University of Manchester, reflecting Issac Newton's famous words.

Tomorrow the people of Manchester have the opportunity to find out more about the great works of scientists from Manchester and this amazing, innovate and inspirational city of firsts.

Chris Norwood from Manchester Tourguides will lead an interactive walk around the city, complete with actors! To find out more, check out his blog ttp://

Get yourselves along on Sunday 1 November at 11am. The tour starts at Manchester Museum. £5 adults, £2 child.

End of the Line

Imagine an ocean without fish.
Imagine your meals without seafood.
Imagine the global consequences.

This is the future if we do not stop, think and act.

The British Science Association are working with the Marine Conservation Society to offer you a showing of the film 'End of the Line'. The film premiered at the Sundance Festival earlier this year. Filmed over two years, The End of the Line follows the investigative reporter Charles Clover as he confronts politicians and celebrity restaurateurs, who exhibit little regard for the damage they are doing to the oceans. One of his allies is the former tuna farmer turned whistleblower Roberto Mielgo – on the trail of those destroying the world's magnificent bluefin tuna population. Filmed across the world – from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market – featuring top scientists, indigenous fishermen and fisheries enforcement officials, The End of the Line is a wake-up call to the world.

Following the film there will be a Q & A session with Sam Wilding a Fisheries Officer for the Marine Conservation Society.

View the trailer for the film here -

When: Sunday 1st November, 13.30 – 15.30
Where: The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, Manchester, M13 9PL
Who: Free. Open to everyone. The film is certified as PG and some scenes may by unsuitable for young children. Book a seat on 0161 275 2648.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Primate Communication

Human language is one of our most remarkable capacities. Trying to discover how this ability evolved is an extremely difficult challenge as spoken language has left no fossil remains. One way to approach this problem is to compare human communication to non-human primate communication. This allows us to identify elements of language that evolved a long time ago and are shared with other primates and those which are novel inventions that are unique to humans.

Katie Slocombe has undertaken a great deal of research into primate communication. This has involved some quite unusual fieldwork and lends itself wonderfully into a talk packed with entertaining tales from the jungle and a number of quite strange noises (some of which are made by Katie herself!). Katie has also put together an interactive game that you will be invited to play to see how well you would survive as a chimpanzee.

At the British Science Festival this year Katie was awarded the Charles Darwin Prize. This was particularly fitting as we are celebrating Darwin200 this year. It is 200 years since Darwin was born and 150 years since the groundbreaking publication of Darwin’s ‘On the origin of species’. Charles Darwin gathered the evidence that living things change over time - they evolve. Since his time, this idea has formed the basis for the science of biology. Darwin also suggested how evolution happens; his discovery of evolution by natural selection has been called "the single best idea anyone has ever had".
As part of the festivities marking these anniversaries The Manchester Museum are holding a Darwin Extravaganza all the way through to August 2010.

Audience: Families (11+)
Venue: The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, M13 9PL
Date: Saturday 31st October
Time: 2 – 3 pm

Bright ideas - event this evening

To launch the Royal Society 350th Anniversary ‘Local Heroes’ events programme in the North West, some of Manchester’s Royal Society Fellows and Research Fellows will discuss their work and share their thoughts for the future. Four professors – Dame Nancy Rothwell, Stephen Furber, Robin Marshall and Andre Geim – will join us to focus on the latest developments in neuroscience, computer technology, particle physics and nanotechnology. Expect an inspiring and thought-provoking evening, as we reflect on this key Festival theme.

This event will be held this evening, at 7pm at University Place at the University of Manchester.

Please book online if you would like to attend, but spaces will also be available on the night.

Please note the line up alteration from advertised.

Drunk in Time

On Friday evening, you are invited to broaden your cultural horizons with a trip to the pub. Start the weekend with historian James Sumner on a light-headed stagger through scientific understandings of alcohol since 1600, as Isaac Newton, Humphry Davy and others ponder the great questions: Is wine alcoholic? Does rotting fish belong in beer? And what’s more harmful – microbes, or thunder?

James is a lecturer in the History of Technology at the Centre for the history of Science, Technology and Medicine. He had a most enjoyable time as a PhD student researching beer-brewing in the 1800s. He has gone on to consider the role and image of the computer in everyday British life.

The Lass O’Gowrie is a pub well-worth a trip – James says so and he is a man who knows his beer!

Audience: Adults

Venue: The Lass O’Gowrie, 36 Charles Street, Manchester

Date: Friday 30th October

Time: 6 – 7 pm

Cost: Free!

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Working Memory - The new IQ

Would you like to learn how to make your brain grow?
Dr Tracy Alloway is currently researching working memory (our ability to remember and manipulate information) and playing a major part in increasing our understanding of how the brain works. Tomorrow she is going to be telling us, at the Manchester Museum, how the brain responds to training and what the best training tools are. Join us for an opportunity to try a sampler of a working memory brain trainer.

Dr Alloway, of Stirling University, won the Joseph Lister Award for this lecture at the British Science Festival in September this year. She is quoted as saying: ‘Working memory impacts on every aspect of how our brain works and, as a consequence, every aspect of our lives: from securing our survival, to making savvy business decisions, and controlling our emotions.’

Alloway developed the world’s first standardized working memory tests for educators – the Automated Working Memory Assessment (AWMA) and the Working Memory Rating Scale. The AWMA is the first tool for educators to screen individuals for memory impairments and to date has been used to screen over 4000 children in the UK.

Audience: Adults
Venue: The Manchester Museum, Oxford Road, M13 9PL
Date: Thursday 29th October
Time: 12.30 – 13.30
Cost and Booking Info: Free. To guarantee a seat please reserve your place by calling the museum on 0161 275 2648

Didsbury SciBar

Thank you to everyone who joined us in Didsbury last night to hear Fred Loebinger tell us nothing at all about the sex lives of quarks and leptons and lots about the other properties of these sub-atomic paticles. Fred did a fantastic job at highlighting the work Manchester researchers have done over (many) years in pushing the boundaries of particle physics. Those of us who were there will, I am sure, eagerly await news from CERN later on this year (before Christmas we were promised!). Will they find evidence of squarks or winos (yes, really)?

Thank you Fred and thanks to all of you who came along, carried chairs, asked questions and took lead roles as colourful quarks in the bear pit.

Monday, 26 October 2009

How, where, who, when, what?

Do you think you know your neutrons from your electrons? Fancy a trip to the pub after a long day at work?
Test your knowledge at the science-themed pub quiz brought to you by the the British Science Association. Make the most of all the information your have absorbed throughout Manchester Science Festival and you could win some fabulous prizes. If you discover you aren't going to be the next Einstein, we will still be on hand to dazzle you with table-top experiments, free goodies, and of course there will be plenty of beer to help you drown your sorrows or celebrate your swattiness.
The quiz is taking place on Tuesday 27th October, from 8 pm, upstairs at Kro Bar on Oxford Road (opposite the students union). Entry is free!

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Pandemic event - Monday 26 October

The recent outbreak of swine flu (H1N1) means news stories are in the papers and on our TVs every day. The number of new cases doubled last week to 53,000 and the NSH has been told to “brace itself” and prepare for increased pressure to cope. The first vaccination programme begins this week, where the first 14 million people seen as a priority, receive the new vaccine. Manchester Science Festival is holding an event, Pandemic, tomorrow at 6.30pm at the Museum of Science and Industry giving you the chance to find out more about swine flu, strategy in the North West and an opportunity to ask your questions.

Professor Joanna Verran, a microbiologist from Manchester Metropolitan University and Dr David Baxter, Lecturer in public health from the University of Manchester, will join us. This event will be chaired by Professor Michael Warbouys, from the Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine.

This is your chance to find out all you want to know about pandemics and ask the experts your questions.

Monday 25 October, 6.30pm – 8.00pm
Museum of Science and Industry
Booking advised, but seats available on the evening

Tick, tock, the clocks have changed.

Quick note to say the clocks have changed now winter is setting in... they've gone back an hour, so make sure you turn up to any events at the right time!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Baba Brinkman's on his way.

Here at Manchester Museum, we’re eagerly awaiting the arrival of pop rapper Baba Brinkman. Who? Come and see. He’s the only guy we know who can rap his way through thousands of years of evolution in a matter of minutes.

His movements are being tracked as we speak. He’s currently high above the sky speeding his way to the Museum and should be with us by 6pm tonight. Drinks will be available while you wait and the best bit is, it’s free.

Why not prepare yourselves for this entertaining evening and gen up on all that evolution stuff in our exhibition Charles Darwin: evolution of a scientist.

See you later in the Museum foyer at 6pm. Baba will be waiting to greet you.

Busk a Move

Warning, warning, the Manchester Science Festival Buskers have broken free and are out and about around the city spreading their fun, and a little magical brand of science.

First sightings seem to have placed the purple t-shirted ones in Piccadilly station, please feel free to approach them - they don't bite, although they may hand you a program for events occurring during the festival. So if you hear their call of straw oboes or see some balancing tricks, just head over and see if they're simple yet spectacular science can brighten your day.

Remember to keep up to date by checking our website and hearing us tweet

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Planets, Stars and Space Rocks

Is there anything that you want to know about space but haven’t got anyone to ask? Come along to the Manchester Museum and ‘Ask an Astronomer’. We are going to be spending the day trawling through the universe looking at all sorts of exciting things from constellations of stars, special bits of equipment that are used by real astronauts, and rocks which have fallen to the Earth from outer space. There are going to be a number of different things happening for people of all ages including listening to sounds from space and creating your own starry myth.

Where: The Manchester Museum

When: Wednesday 28th October, 11.00 – 4.00

Who: suitable for all ages

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

MSF schools programme over for another year!

We've been a bit quiet on the old blog this week as we've been at the MSF School's programme. For the last two days year 8 students have been making the loudest of noises, the grossest of slimes and the biggest of bangs at Pure nightclub and Odeon cinema at the Printworks in Manchester. It was so much fun, the kids were enthusiastic and the activities on offer were fantastic.

We had loads of hands-on fun in Speedy Science, making crafty creatures,
science busking, exploring the deep sea, racing the world's first computer, Baby, and getting on the BBC green screen. Workshops ranged from CSI to Egg crash madness. And then Steve Rossington's explosive (literally!) chemistry show, really packed a punch.

A massive thank you to those involved, especially the students for
making it such an enjoyable two days.

We'll be back with more for schools next year, but in the meantime, check out some pics on flickr and get along to the main festival programme starting on Saturday.

Friday, 16 October 2009

Does it rain more at the weekend? Help us find out!

We want you to help us investigate! Make your own rain gauge and measure rainfall in your garden during Manchester Science Festival. We need your results to find out if it really does rain more at the weekend rather than during the week.

Find out more and check out our online pack for you to measure rainfall at home and take part in our rain experiment:

Andy Russell who is running the experiment will then run an event at MOSI for those who want to come along to find out the results or get advice from the expert!

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Manchester, the gateway to the North and beyond!

Manchester has often been considered the gateway to the North of England, but it is much more than that. It has a vast array of strong heritages, one of the first things that springs to mind is that of the Music, the city has spawned bands such as Oasis, The Stone Roses and Jay Kay of Jamiroquai, but there is more to this city than music; today marks the opening of Media City in Salford and thus brings about the future of the city as a media haven. However throughout it's history Manchester has been a world leader - whether it was in particle physics or in music, and it is this fact that the 2009 Manchester Science festival hopes to celebrate with it's events revolving around Manchesticity.

Manchester’s history though is not simply built on the back of celebrities or academics but it is steeped in the swat of it's workers; the industrial revolution shaped Manchester and it was Manchester that was at the forefront of transportation developments from railways to canals. All this history is evident today at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry.

It was with all this in mind that the 2009 Manchester Science Festival decided to make Manchesticity one of it's themes.

(image from

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Quiz time!

Does your local pub run a quiz? If so, we would like to make their planning easier and give them a free pack of questions.

There are a range of question rounds to allow everyone to flex their brain muscles and show off the facts that they have stored away for a rainy day. The rounds include 'All about Manchester', 'A Pub-lovers Round' and an 'Astronomical Music Round'.

If you would like to get a copy of the quiz please get in touch with Natalie Lane of the British Science Association (

Friday, 9 October 2009

Darwinism vs. Creationism?

Thomas Dixon will argue on Monday at the Manchester Museum, that we've become accustomed to seeing Darwinism as being fundamentally in conflict with faith. In this trailblazer for the Manchester Science Festival he will explore how conflict can arise, by unpicking the cultural, legal and political factors which have fuelled the confrontation between evolution and Christian creationism in America over the last fifty years.

This is just one of many trailblazing activities that are going on in the build up to the 2009 Manchester Science Festival; and one of a number of talks and presentations revolving around Darwin and his life and work, so check out website for more information.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Thunderbirds are....GO, well maybe but only if the science works

On Monday 26th October 2009, we discover if the vehicles of the fictional and futuristic (it was set in 2065) International Rescue would work in reality. Could Thunderbird 1 actually fly at 15000 mph, could Thunderbird 3 actually fly into space and back successfully. The only problem we have to contend with is making sure these secrets aren't exposed to the villainous Hood, but we're pretty sure our Festival Assistants could handle him if he showed up.

As well as Thunderbirds Dr Phil Atcliffe of the University of Salford,will explore the practicality, space, and air worthiness of vehicles from a number of other Sci-Fi TV series.

This event will be taking place at Deans Activity Center in Swinton from 18:00 till 20:00, and although free you'll need to book here. Don't forget this is just one of a number of events happening in Salford for the 2009 Manchester festival of Science.

Image courtesy of

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Microbe knitting patterns live!

Science and knitting?

That's right... we have a knitting event at this year's Festival. We'll be knitting microorganisms and learning about the science of swine flu, the common cold and more. If you can't make it or want to help though, we need a selection of finished products before the event for photos and as examples on the day:

Download our amazing microbe knitting patterns (PDF 2MB)

Please send your finished products to: Knitted Microbes, Manchester Science Festival, Museum of Science and Industry, Liverpool Road, Castlefield, Manchester, M3 4FP or drop them at reception with "Knitted Microbes, Manchester Science Festival" labelled on them. Be sure to include your details so we know who's helped! You can also upload your own pics to our flickr group!