September 1, 2008
Secret Garden Party 2008
Our second year running featured more than 40 talks, demonstrations, live experiments, films, interactive events, musical performances and artistic installations. Check out the complete sets of photos on our flickr page.
Physicist David McKay, the acclaimed author of a runaway hit book, dispelled the hot air on climate change, astrobiologist Lewis Dartnell brought the search for life on other planets back to earth, Times columnist and author Ed Cooke taught us how to remember everything we thought we never could, Science Punk Frank Swain gave us science tidbits to sprinkle into conversations for years to come with a classic pub quiz, Cambridge astronomer Carolin Crawford showered us with the sounds of the stars, and thousands of revelers discovered that science and music festivals don’t make such a strange mix after all.
Thursday, July 24, 2008: Experimentation
Astrobiology 1500-1600 What exactly is ‘life,’ how did it emerge, and what are the most extreme conditions it can tolerate? Dr Lewis Dartnell of University College London took us on a tour around our solar system to distant stars to ask the question: are we alone?
Science Pub Quiz 1600-1700 You didn’t have to be a science buff to compete, as our host Frank Swain, Science Punk, awarded points for witty answers as well as correct ones. We learned enough odd facts to sparkle into pub conversations for years.
Alien Abductions 1700-1800 Thousands of people claim to have had contact with aliens. Most do not appear to be lying, nor to be psychopaths – but their accounts may simply be false memories. Psychologist Chris French of the University of London showed us how sleep paralysis, fantasy proneness, and unusual activity in the temporal lobes of the brain may be responsbile.
Beat Boxing Workshop 1700-1800 Pro beatboxer yasSon walked us through the art of sound manipulation and taught us that anyone can become a human beatbox. We learned to take everyday — even silly — sounds and formed them into structured rhythms, from standard drum snares and hi hats to auditory miming and vocal scratching.
The Science of Beat Boxing 2200-2230 Dan Stowell is as close as it gets to a Doctor of Beatboxing. He has published academic research papers on the topic, and is teaching computers to analyze the human voice for his PhD thesis. He has stuck cameras down his throat to see his voicebox in action, and he showed us how it works.
Impossible Objects 2230-2330 Artist Bernard Wood brought us animations unlike any other, “multifaceted morphing geometries” and “evolving images of impossible objects,” meshing visuals with electronic soundscapes.
Spoonfight 2400 Spoonfighting is, quite simply, beatboxing with a twist. Blending the human voice (converted into electronic noises) with keyboards, Dan Stowell and Dylan Keeling made it impossible to tell if they were in sync or combat. At least their new “supercollider” software ensured they were at least one thing: funky.
Friday, July 25, 2008: Come The Revolutions
How to Start a Scientific Revolution 1200-1300 Step 1: spot the citizen scientists. Step 2: gather into a collective. Step 3: Join Jack Stilgoe, senior researcher from the “everyday democracy” think tank Demos, for a blue skies approach to changing the world: science, revolution and liberty.
Quantum Mechanics 1300-1400 Quantum mechanics says that when things get small, they get weird. Light switches from a particle to a wave, electrons can exist in two places at once, and things seem to happen at random. Cambridge PhD student and Guerilla Scientist Mark Rosin gave us peek inside the quantum realm and what it means for philosophy and science.
String Theory & Multiverses 1400-1500 How big is the universe, where did it come from, and is it the only one? And what on earth is Stephen Hawking talking about? Kate Marvel spanned the entire history of the known universe in an hour, sampling some relativity and string theory along the way.
Game Theory 1500-1600 The study of games, and the conscious and unconscious motives at play, reveals the evolution of trust, cooperation, and the future evolution of humanity. Freelance mathematician Billy Rood elucidated the paradoxes in rationality and the dichotomy of altruism and self-interest.
Hybrid Lives 1600-1700 Do you ever feel like a technological hybrid? A semi-cyborg intrinsically powered by and embedded with bits of gadgetry? Tobie Kerridge & Susana Soares show how new technologies are already being used to repair and extend our bodies.
Anomalistic Psychology 1700-1800 A substantial percentage of the population has always believed in “paranormal” phenomena. But, asks Professor Chris French of the University of London, does this mean that paranormal forces really do exist? Or can psychologists do better by explaining paranormal phenomena in terms of known psychological and physical factors?
How to Fight Bad Science 1800-1900 Do mobile phones cause brain tumours? Are tomatoes the new superfood? Do herbal remedies work? Every day we are inundated with “science” stories, few of which have any grounding in real science. Science Punk Frank Swain taught us how to sort truth from nonsense, and fight back against idiot science.
The Beauty of Fluid Dynamics 1900-2000 Fluid motion – gases, liquids, anything that flows – is all around you, floating in the silvery lake, swirling through heady fumes. Fluids may seem utterly chaotic, or deceptively simple, but they are always intriguing. Rosie Robison, PhD Student at Campbridge, marveled with her tasty visual presentation.
The Revolution Will Not Be Televised 2000-2100 Former evolutionary biologist and now businessman Lee Bofkin – now of Fishtank fame – examined attitudes in modern Western society, and our high opinions of ourselves. How do our attitudes and habits affect our chances of success and create positive changes in society?
Science Shorts 2200-2300 What happens when you cross biomedical scientists with intrepid documentary film-maker Tom Mustill? A&E sets the scene for real-life hero watching, whilst umbilical cord blood becomes a commodity. These short films show that science makes for good TV.
Saturday 26 July, 2008: Music & Art
Mutable Matter 1200-1300 Somewhere at the nexus between science, art and geography lies Mutable Matter, an interactive project by PhD Student Angela Last that explores our relationship with matter. Mutable Matter takes you to another dimension: the nanoscale.
Rough Science 1300-1400 Dr Mike Bullivant is a chemist and one of the presenters of the popular BBC2 series Rough Science. In this light-hearted talk, he chatted about the series and some of the outreach work that has come out of it.
Hacking the Brain 1400-1500 Our brain works like a computer, performing continual calculations with the raw data from our eyes and ears – we don’t actually “see” or “hear” the world the way it really is. But, explained Dr Lewis Dartnell, we can understand what our brains are doing with optical and auditory illusions, which “hack” the brain’s circuitry, revealing the inner workings of the mind.
Mastering Memory 1500-1600 Science writer, Times columnist and memory magician Ed Cooke, author of Remember, Remember, memorized 40 random digits supplied by the audience in just a few minutes and showed us how he did it along the way.
Music of the Universe 1600-1700 Most of us think the universe is a silent vacuum – but it’s actually full of dust and gas, which make it a noisy place. Cambridge Astronomer Dr Carolin Crawford gave us an unusual tour of the stars, from radio signals transcribed to the audible, to the real sounds of space – and showed how sound itself was crucial in shaping the entire structure of the cosmos.
The Evolution of Music 1700-1800 Why do structured sounds make us feel soooo good? Is it just a coincidence that all cultures make music – or is there a biological reason for it? Science writer and Guerilla Scientist Zoe Cormier explained how songs make our brains tingle, and why it could be that we made music long before we made language. Whatever its origins, music is without a doubt one thing: amazing.
Fractals, Patterns and Art 1800-1900 Fractals are infinitely complex and endlessly beautiful shapes that occur throughout nature and in mathematics. Freelance mathematician Billy Rood took us on a journey into a fractal dimension that goes on forever.
The Science of Zombies 1900-2000 From parasitic worms that take over their host’s mind, to the role of puffer fish in creating Haiti’s voodoo slaves, Science Punk Frank Swain taught that there are ways to hijack the brain, why it is likely that 40% of the audience already harbours a mind-bending parasite, and how to avoid becoming a zombie ourselves.
Songkick 2000-2100 Pete Smith demonstrated how science can transform the way you listen to live music with Songkick.com, dedicated to hassle-free gigs. This software tracks tour dates for bands you like, and figures out what else you might enjoy based on your iPod playlists. Computation never sounded so good.
Science Shorts 2200-2400 What happens when you cross biomedical scientists with intrepid documentary film-maker Tom Mustill? A&E sets the scene for real-life hero watching, whilst umbilical cord blood becomes a commodity. These short films show that science makes for good TV.
Slub 2400-0100 Slub: Alex McLean, Dave Griffiths, Ade Ward. Definition: Live Electronic Music Programming. Each member uses his own handmade livecoding “environment” to create synthesized sounds with layered visual outputs of code. Simply put: “People that do strange things with electricity.”
Tracking Science 0100-0200 DJ Discomal gave us an aural analysis of society’s obsession with science. From She Blinded Me With Science to Science of the Gods, all tracks gave reference (or is that reverence?) to science.
Sunday 27 July, 2008: Consciousness & Climate
Intelligent Computing 1130-1200 Professor David MacKay, Cambridge physicist, says computers are a bit like brains – but a lot dumber. So how might we make them smarter? His new writing program, Dasher, allows you to write hands-free up to 25 words a minute, using technology akin to predictive text. Useful for the disabled, fun (and free) for all.
Sensory Theory of Motor Consciousness 1200-1300 Science writer Ed Cooke challenged us with a perplexing question: How does conscious experience derive from our physical bodies? We explored the continuum of sensation, from hallucinations to the colour red, and learned how this affects how we perceive our abilities and actions.
Neuroscience of Memories 1300-1400 We have strong intuitive feelings about how the brain works, for example the feeling of “free will.” But rest assured, says Dr Guy Billings: there are scientific prospects for understanding them. Things we think we know might be wrong.
Climate Change 1400-1500 Climate change stories are ubiquitous in the media – but the science is often wrong, or simply left out. This can breed confusion as well skepticism. So how and why do we know that humans are causing climate change? And what can the past tell us about the future? Cambridge Atmospheric Physicist Dr Paul Young cleared the air.
Sustainability Without The Hot Air 1500-1600 Cambridge Physicist Dr David MacKay, author of the acclaimed book Sustainability Without The Hot Air, asked a very simple question: assuming we want to stop using fossil fuels, what are our options? Does Britain have “huge” renewable energy resources? How much energy do we need, and how much can we produce?
Busting Climate Myths 1600-1700 We suffer from eco-fatigue, paralyzed by conflicting media messages over who to blame and what to do. BBC Researcher Laura Middleton busted through the myths to help us understand why climate change seems such an unwieldy beast, get over our eco-guilt and take positive steps.
Small is Beautiful 1700-1800 David Howey, PhD Student at Imperial College, introduced us to the small-scale renewable energy technologies that are most useful to local communities, especially in the developing world – such as micro hydropower.
Solar Cell Futures 1800-1900 Toby Ferenczi, PhD Student at Imperial College, changed the way we think about renewable energy. Contrary to popular belief, solar power can compete with fossil fuels both in scale and in cost. He showed us why the UK is so far behind, why solar panels can be compared to newspapers, and how important they may one day become.