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Science Week 2019: How to have fun while saving the planet

This year’s festival aims to show the many ways we can tackle climate change

If you want to learn how to save the planet in 45 minutes, why you can’t bake in space, or how tree-planting can tackle climate change, you need look no further than Science Week 2019, which takes place from November 10th to 17th.

Co-ordinated by Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), Science week will feature over 1,000 projects and events and 13 different festivals aimed at improving public understanding of science and technology.

"Science Week is an exciting opportunity for people in all kinds of communities in Ireland to connect with science and to consider its value and relevance in their everyday lives," says Dr Ruth Freeman, SFI's director of science for society.

“It broadens our horizons and gives everyone the opportunity to get involved in conversations about the critical role of science, especially when it comes to important global issues like climate change. Science Week provides essential support to many fantastic events across the country that will inspire the next generation of scientists.”


The overarching theme of this year’s Science Week is climate action.

“We are seeking to help people understand it, how science and technology can help us create a positive climate future, and the impact we as individuals can have on climate change,” says Dr Freeman. “We will have a range of climate-themed events which will give people a chance to meet scientists and ask questions about it.”

Among the climate-themed events will be Alchemy and Innovation at the Cool Planet Experience in Wicklow. It will look at the potential for molecular "mocktails" to offer sustainable solutions to climate change. This is a chemistry workshop where adults look at alternatives to plastic, using materials such as mushroom mycelium, alginate and graphene nanotubes to make drink containers. Cool Planet will also run family tours, climate workshops and a schools programme around transport decarbonisation.

Inventing toys

There will also be climate-themed shows and workshops for both adults and children taking place across the country. Among these will be Dr Ken Farquhar’s How to Save the Planet in 45 Minutes, which explores the what, why and how we reduce, reuse and recycle, Dr Naomi Lavelle’s Eccentric Energy show, and 60-Minute Science – Carbon Hoofprint, a workshop which helps children invent solar-powered toys.

Kerry Science Festival will be taking a strong climate focus and will offer tours of facilities related to the theme.

"There will be visits to wind farms, wastewater treatment facilities, and an exhibition on how Met Éireann uses science and technology in forecasting weather and studying climate," says Dr Freeman.

“We want to give people an opportunity to learn more about climate change because it is so important to all of us. Everyone has a right to get involved in decisions about how science is affecting us. There will be lots of other great Science Week events as well, of course.”

These will include the Curiosity Accelerator project by the organisers of Festival of Curiosity, which will have Curious Ariel dancing using sensor technology to pique curiosity in the human body; exploring modern technologies and basic engineering to design future fashion; and A Menu of Mixology which involves adult workshops to explore fermentation, fluid seasoning and gut-friendly bacteria.

Space bake off

The hugely popular Baking in Space will take place again this year in Dublin, Galway and Cork. It will explain how astronauts return safely to Earth, the connection between molten sugar and micro-meteorite protection, and why you can’t bake bread in space. It turns out that heat doesn’t rise in the weightless environment of a spacecraft, and this prevents normal baking. The heat-resistant materials used in the craft also pose problems.

In the capital, Dublinia will have an event on Medieval Maladies and Medicine, which will involve re-enactments of barber surgeons and healers in medieval society alongside an osteo-archaeologist and medical historian from the Royal College of Surgeons to help understand the science available to treat illnesses in medieval times while looking at how it has changed in 500 years.

And there is a climate call to action as well. Dr Freeman refers to a study published earlier this year by the Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich which argued that the planting of one trillion trees on about 0.9 billion hectares of land worldwide could ultimately capture two-thirds of human-made carbon emissions and would be the most effective method to combat climate change.

“It’s about planting the right trees in the right place, and we are lucky that Ireland is a really good place to plant trees,” she says. “We will talk about the science behind tree planting and what trees can and can’t do. Our aim is to get thousands of trees planted during Science Week.”