Pint of Science is going down nicely
Access Science: Themes for this year’s fesival, which moves science to the pub, include sports, obesity and smart devices
Rick O’Shea introduces a talk by Dr David Mc Keown at last year’s Pint of Science
How do our brains work? How do we make our water safer and our cities smarter? Can we thwart diseases with devices, food and even maths? These are among the dozens of questions that will fuel the Pint of Science Ireland festival in Dublin, Galway and Limerick later this month.
The festival will feature talks and discussions with more than 80 researchers and the idea is to provide a social setting where the public can engage with research and ask questions, according to Pint of Science Ireland director Dr Seán Mac Fhearraigh. “If we did this in a lecture hall it would remain as a formal setting,” he says. “Instead, the pub provides a place for the public to chat away with researchers during and after talks without the intimidation of asking questions in a large lecture theatre.”
Themes during the three-evening festival will include sports, obesity and nutrition, how smart devices and cities are emerging, the complexities of the human mind and even “The Universe and Hollywood” for the cinematically inclined.
In Galway, Edel Browne will be taking the floor with Free Feet, a laser light device that attaches to the shoe and is designed to treat “gait freezing”, which can be an issue for people with Parkinson’s disease.
Free Feet won the best individual award at the BT Young Scientist and Technology Exhibition in 2013 and Browne has developed it from project to product. “I will be speaking about the inspiration behind the product and how it works, including very promising trial results and plans for the future,” she says.
Browne, a first-year biotechnology student at NUI Galway, hopes the audience will get a sense of how you can innovate outside the lab – she built her first prototype on the kitchen table – and she is keen on the idea of talking about science in a relaxed and sociable setting.
Meanwhile in Limerick, Prof James Gleeson will be looking at the science of contagion as it spreads through a network of connections.
“Infectious disease spreads from an infected person to others that they meet, banks default on their debts and causes other banks to become insolvent, news stories and rumours ‘go viral’ on Twitter and Facebook – all these are examples of contagion,” says Gleeson, who is professor of industrial and applied mathematics at the University of Limerick and co-director of the Mathematics Applications Consortium for Science and Industry.
“The mathematics that describes all these contagion events is very similar, so what we learn about understanding and controlling one type of contagion can be transferred, using the language of mathematics, to the other types too.”
He sees the festival as an opportunity to entertain and inspire people about science, and he hopes to offer the perspective that maths isn’t just about proving theorems: “It is a language for describing all sorts of challenges in the real world, and knowing the language can sometimes give insights that wouldn’t otherwise be discovered.”
Last year’s Pint of Science Ireland festival proved a hit with both researchers and attendees, says Mac Fhearraigh, and this year tickets are being snapped up again. “We will try to provide three days of engaging talks about the science that shapes the world we live in,” he says.
- Pint of Science Ireland runs May 18th-20th at venues in Dublin, Galway and Limerick. pintofscience.ie