Cheltenham Science Festival: Events for Geeks

Aren’t all science festivals for geeks? I would think so! After all, aren’t we all frustrated scientists at heart? This year’s Cheltenham Science Festival runs from 2 to 7 June and there are some cracking events to check out. Bring out your inner science geek.

“Over the course of six days, the Festival hopes to inspire, challenge, surprise and entertain visitors in equal measure. It delivers a mix of cutting-edge research, serious debate, live experiments, surprising discoveries and entertaining events, all in the heart of Cheltenham in a tented Science Village.

Let’s look at the science fiction related attractions first. Dare I mention “a Back to the Future reconnaissance”? Can I speculate that robots really make better drivers? I wonder if anyone will talk about the AI concepts from Ex Machina? Fancy some futurology from one of the greatest modern science fiction authors?

Stephen Baxter (The Time Ships, the Xeelee Sequence), literary historian Farah Mendlesohn (The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction (ed)) and computer scientist Seth Bullock talk about the effect of culture on sci-fi (and vice versa), and how some futuristic visions have come true while others are far off the mark. Their exploration will consider the classics of Jules Verne and H. G. Wells to modern day shows like Firefly, Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who, and how they are a social commentary.

Adam RutherfoEx Machina (1)rd, Gia Milinovich and Stewart Boogert look at Back to the Future II which was set in 2015 and ask the question, why don’t we see hover boards and self-tying shoelaces. Adam Rutherford, Gia Milinovich are also joined by Murray Shanahan to discuss the recent Ex Machina and the moral implications of AI: how can we prove consciousness? Meanwhile, ergonomist Mark Young and robotics scientist Paul Newman discuss how machines and people drive differently and what that means for the future of driverless cars.

Everyone has heard of the Internet of Things, but what does that really mean? Will your fridge be open to cyber-attacks? Adrian McEwen with cybersecurity experts Sadie Creese and Martyn Ruks explore what you need to know. In another talk, engineer Ian Craddock and social scientist Madeleine Murtagh look at the ethics of technology, especially when considering the supposed medical benefits of fitness wristbands and smart watches. Can your games console monitor your health? Should it?

Who else might you find? Robin Ince presents his Reality Tunnel. Brian Cox is in conversation. Alice Roberts talks about the results of her own anatomy via an MRI. Fans of Jurassic Park might be interested in Dinosaurs: What Did They Really Look Like? Or meet the Dinosaur Hunters. Meanwhile Pete Larson talks T. Rex appeal. Finally, look for aliens at Searching For Alien Intelligence with Jodrell Bank’s Tim O’Brien.

In total, there are about 300 of the world’s leading scientists and thinkers at this year’s Festival.  There is also a free interactive Discover Zone and plenty of other free events and exhibitions.

The full Festival programme is available at

CSF14 cr Wed 4 June (311)

Keep informed: #cheltscifest   @cheltfestivals

GS Blogger: Ian J Simpson

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