I took the day to visit the Summer Science Exhibition – and loved it. I spent 5 hours there, exploring the different stands and chatting to the exhibitors. And, chatting to the exhibitors was the best part. It must be hard for them – having up come stand near them and having to explain about their topic without having a clue if the visitor is someone with interest but no previous knowledge or if it is someone who is actually an expert in the field. But the ones I talked to did a great job!
I particularly enjoyed chatting with the folks at the Richard III and the “Real Beef about Meat” exhibits – not only because they were in topics I am not too familiar with but also the sheer enthusiasm and friendliness, and also the lovely displays. The young exhibitor at the Monopole quest was delightful, and it is great to see school students getting into science with such enthusiasm. The Origins of Life exhibit was amazing, and I would have liked to have talked to more of the people there, but they seemed very busy. I missed Prof Sella though I tried to catch his eye, but on the other hand had a long chat with a nice PhD student. And the talks gave a good opportunity to rest my legs, and were both extremely interesting – a more academic-style talk about viruses and a cool, outreach-style talk about crystals.
These are just some of the highlights, but that doesn’t mean that the other ones weren’t notable too. I must say I usually avoid these kind of fairs as I have a pre-conceived notion that they will be too simplistic, but my experience trumped my prejudice. Of course, it was also good to see that the `public’ was equally impressive – the questions I could hear were very good, and there seemed to be a genuine wish to learn more about the matters.
I will certainly try to make the Festival part of my annual calendar! And you should too – a great way to spend a day in London.
If you can’t… here is a lovely video from Babraham Institute explaining the immune system.