The Sydney Science Festival was a smorgasbord of scientific entertainment and education. And as with any buffet there was the serendipitously wonderful dessert and the prawns you wished you hadn’t touched. For us those two things bookended the Festival.
For us the prawns was sadly The Einstein Lecture. While I hate being negative about an enthusiastic volunteer the lecture was pretty awful. A meandering, theme-less wander through a grab-bag of facts drawn from Wikipedia. I could have handled the technical problems and even the lack of a coherent theme – but the welter of factual inaccuracies was sadly embarrassing. For the record Yuri Gagarin did not make the first space walk, Edward Jenner’s ethics are a fascinating and complex topic, Tesla’s first name was ‘Nicola’, and on we went. Enough said.
The other end of the spectrum was the My Research Rules debate. The debate was wonderful in both concept and execution and really showcased the depth of talent amongst some of our scientists. I can’t help thinking Einstein would have enjoyed the debate.
Eight scientists went head-to-head pitching why their branch of science was weirder and more significant than the others. From the supremely articulate Dr Lisa Harvey-Smith explaining that astronomy beat chemistry because it has really big explosions, to the smooth as espresso Professor Darren Curnoe telling us why humans are fundamentally strange, to Dr Matt Baker doing poetry on the fly about why we need to control population, the debaters were all fabulous. Josien de Bie was funny on medicine and hilarious on why beaches are the best place for a conference (no big deal if you lose your trousers) in the face of a spirited defense of ski-fields from Adam Micolich.
The winner of the debate was Dr Alice Williamson with chemistry. But ultimately the debate, organised by The Science Nation, was just a great way to showcase science and science communication, and a perfect end to the brilliant Sydney Science Festival.