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Cambridge Science Festival kicks off Friday with carnival and more

Posted by Brock Parker  April 19, 2012 02:02 PM

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The Cambridge Science Festival, which drew 50,000 people last year, will kick off again Friday, offering everything from a robot shooting basketball to stand-up comedians pondering what would have happened if Charles Darwin hadn’t traveled to the Galapagos Islands.

The 6th annual Festival will start with events Friday morning and a science carnival outside the Cambridge Public Library from noon to 4 p.m. that will give attendees the chance to inflate real lungs, learn about the science of juggling and explore chemistry with a hands-on experience.

Chemistry at Cambridge Science Festival.jpgP.A. d’Arbeloff, the festival director, said the mantra for the 10-day event is interaction between festival goers and science.

“You have to be ready to roll up your sleeves and be active,” d’Arbeloff said.

Founded by MIT Museum Director John Durant, the Cambridge Science Festival has been growing in popularity every year. The first Festival in 2007 attracted 15,000 people, and by last year the number of people attending various Festival events had grown to 50,000, d’Arbeloff said.

On the Festival’s first night Friday, a new event called “What if…?” will premiere with three historians and three stand-up comedians discussing what might have happened over the course of history if Charles Darwin hadn’t been invited to go on the voyage of the Beagle, or if phrenology—the 19th century study of mind by measuring bumps on people’s heads—had turned out to be true. The discussion will be held in the Harvard Museum of Natural History at 7 p.m.

One of the most popular events over the last couple of years has been the festival’s “Big Ideas for Busy People” in which local scientists and scholars present a nutshell account of their cutting-edge research and answer a lightning round of questions from the audience.

In the past two years, the number of people who attended the quick lectures on the Harvard campus has doubled to about 800, so d’Arbeloff said that this year it will be held Friday, April 27, at 7:30 p.m. in the First Parish church at 1446 Massachusetts Avenue in Harvard Square to accommodate the big crowd.

Cambridge will not host all of the festival events, however.

Sunday, April 22, at 1 p.m., the Madison Park High School and John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematices and Science in Roxbury will host the Festival’s “Science of Sports,” where a robot will be shooting basketball, and the science of baseball curveballs and knuckleballs will be explained. MIT’s sky-diving club will also join in the events, and d’Arbeloff said Children’s Hospital representatives will be on hand for a concussion clinic to tell parents and children what to watch for with the sports injuries.

Another returning event this year is the "National Astronomy Day Celebration", which includes a number of events, including activities at the Clay Center Observatory at 20 Newton St. in Brookline from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday, April 28. Telescopes will be set up for star-gazers and other activities will include making and launching bottle rockets to flying kites inside in a hockey rink.

A complete listing of the Festival’s events can be found at http://web.mit.edu/museum/programs/festival.html.

--brock.globe@gmail.com

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