Science and the city


The biggest science show in Europe comes to Dublin next month. So what's in store for the city, asks DICK AHLSTROM

AN IMPORTANT piece of Irish history will be replayed next month, deemed important enough that An Taoiseach Enda Kenny is likely to attend.

It takes place as a key event during the EuroScience Open Forum 2012, Europe’s largest scientific meeting, which opens next month in the Convention Centre, Dublin.

The five-day forum is expected to attract 5,000 delegates from home and abroad who will come to Dublin to hear about the latest discoveries being made in all scientific disciplines. It will offer the public an unprecedented chance to meet the scientists who are changing the world, and it’s an opportunity for Ireland’s scientific community to showcase its accomplishments.

Coupled with the meeting itself is Science in the City, an extensive programme of public events with a scientific twist taking place across the city in the run-up to and during the forum.

The historical element occurs on Thursday, July 12th, when controversial geneticist Craig Venter is invited to deliver a talk entitled, What is Life?. It revisits a similar series of discourses given during February 1943 by Erwin Schrödinger, then of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. In it, he speculated on how human inheritance worked.

Then taoiseach Éamon de Valera had invited Schrödinger to live and work in Dublin in 1940 and demanded that his entire cabinet attend one of the lectures as a group. The talk served to inspire James Watson and Francis Crick, who went on to discover the structure and function of DNA, the means of human inheritance.

The EuroScience Open Forum 2012 takes place next month from July 11th-15th. It includes both scientific and public events. Details of the various ESOF programmes can be found at esof2012.orgor at

Celebrating Dublin's role as Europe's science city

The Dublin City of Science Festival is a year-long celebration of Dublin’s role as European City of Science 2012. A programme of more than 160 science-themed events has been running since February and will reach its peak over the summer months.

The festival will include talks, workshops, theatre productions and art exhibitions.

Hack the City is an upcoming exhibition in the Science Gallery that will explore possible ways of shaping or “hacking” the city to create a better place for us all to live.

Hacklab will run events up to the exhibition that are designed to give people the tools they need to modify the city. These include workshops on spray painting and how to get a look at what CCTV cameras across the city see. The exhibition opens on July 22nd and will feature an assembly line making cola, graffiti workshops and a network of hover drones (right) that can be controlled by the public.

The Ark will be hosting Awakening Curiosity, an interactive exhibition for children and families, from June 23rd to August 6th. Children can explore artwork inspired by the natural world and create their own works of art in the rooftop art garden. A number of special events will also be taking place where children can meet artists, scientists and also encounter and handle marine life.

While Dublin will be the focal point of the festival, a series of events will also be taking place in Cork from July 23rd to July 28th. The Curious City programme will feature a science rap workshop, a pop-up cinema and secret science events that will take place throughout the city.

The full programme of events for Dublin City of Science is available at


From the Boomtown Rats to 'useful useless knowledge'

Bob Geldof and Nobel winner James Watson are just two of the exceptional speakers who will deliver keynote addresses during the five days of ESOF 2012.

Boomtown Rats singer and businessman Bob Geldof will deliver an address on Friday, July 13th titled Making a Difference. Watson will be in conversation with Trinity College Dublin immunologist Luke O’Neill on Thursday, July 12th.

Rolf-Dieter Heuer, the head of Cern, may have important news to share when he talks about the search for the Higgs boson particle on Saturday, July 14th. And Nasa administrator Charles Bolden will describe what to expect as we enter a new era of space exploration, on Thursday, July 12th.

Each day of ESOF 2012 will see a number of keynote speakers who will take us on a journey from the deepest depths of the oceans to the furthest reaches of the universe.

Presenter and author Marcus du Sautoy will bring maths to life when he talks about the Secret Mathematicians. And Nobel winner Peter Doherty will talk about our immune systems and the threat posed by influenza.

Intel director and anthropologist Genevieve Bell found a novel way to use her skills and will talk about our relationships with technology and the future.

The meeting will hear from Ireland’s EU Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn and also from the president of the European Research Council Helga Nowotny, who will talk about the “usefulness of useless knowledge”. The line-up includes another Irish star, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, who discovered pulsars, unusual stellar bodies that pulse out radio waves.


At the fair and on the job

Not all specialist conferences boast a jobs fair, but ESOF 2012 is an exception. Part of the Convention Centre Dublin has been set aside for just such a fair, with hundreds of positions promised to be on offer for graduates looking to keep their research skills at home.

The fair is part of the careers theme at ESOF 2012, one of a number of distinct strands that will be pursued during the meeting, with each strand having its own sub-programme. The careers strand is directed towards young researchers, hence the associated jobs fair.

Another important strand is the Science-2-Business programme, which seeks to help basic researchers with good ideas or novel discoveries to bring them to market. There will be a number of presentations, for example, on how to turn astronomical discoveries into businesses and a masterclass on how to bring research to the market.

This strand also includes the Invention Convention, an opportunity for 15 people (professionals, innovators, entrepreneurs, Master’s degree students, PhD candidates or post docs) to pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges. The real challenge is that pitches may not exceed three minutes.

ESOF 2012 includes an exhibition where the best of European research will be showcased at the convention centre. Ireland will be well represented given the rising reputation enjoyed by scientists working here.

Further information about these events and more is available online at, including details of the full programme of events.


Robot fairs and films festivals

Science and creativity are to be celebrated in a number of special events in Dublin during the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) in July.

The Science in the City programme has been designed to provide an opportunity for the ESOF 2012 delegates and general public to interact.

Icarus at the Edge of Time is a cinematic reworking of the Greek myth of Icarus set in the future at the edge of space. Based on the children’s book by physicist Brian Green, it will be shown in the National Concert Hall on July 14th.

The score for the film, composed by Philip Glass, will be performed live by the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra and the film will be narrated by Irish actor Louis Lovett. Brian Greene will provide an introduction to both the matinee and evening performances.

Robotics enthusiasts, crafters, artists, authors and many others will come together for the Dublin Mini Maker Faire in the Science Gallery on July 14th. There will be stalls, workshops, talks and opportunities to get involved in the “maker” community.

In The Age of Reason, a panel of thinkers, featuring comedian Dara O Briain (right), will explore how logic and scientific thinking have been used to solve problems in the past, and how they might be used to solve the problems we face today. It takes place in the Edmund Burke Theatre in Trinity College on July 12th.

The UCD Imagine Science Film Festival will take place between July 5th and 14th. There will be film screenings and discussions in venues across the city, as well as a mobile cinema. Created in collaboration with the team behind the Imagine Science Film Festival in New York, this will be Ireland’s first science film festival.