The Science of Survival

Do you have what it takes to survive in the wild? How do animals forage for food and keep safe? At this year’s Glasgow Science Festival, we’re exploring the science of survival with the RSPB.  We spoke to Learning Officer Hannah Grist about what’s in store.

HGrist

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Hannah, and I’m a Learning Officer for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, based in Glasgow. I am part of a team called the Giving Nature a Home in Glasgow Project, which involves working alongside schools, community groups and the public to celebrate and improve all the amazing green spaces across the city.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

We are an enthusiastic bunch, and spend a lot of time thinking up new and exciting ways to get everyone outside and interacting with nature. Our event this year is called the Science of Survival, but could generally be described as giving not-so-grown-ups a chance to play in the mud, build dens, make fire and toast marshmallows: who wouldn’t be excited about that?!

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

I recently watched Alien for the first time (I know, I don’t know how I missed this classic either). It’s a brilliantly eerie film with a female scientist and hero, which is always great to see.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

I previously worked tracking rhinos in the Namib desert, and we ended up eating something like corned beef hash every night, with anything else we could find during the day added in: I haven’t been able to look at a tin of corned beef since.

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

That’s a really difficult one! I’m currently being excited about swifts. Did you know they eat, sleep and mate whilst flying, catch raindrops in the air to drink, and make nests out of spit?

Look out for Hannah and the RSPB team on Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th June from 1-3.30pm in Kelvingrove Park. Learn survival tips, build a den, cook outdoors and more! These events coincide with our weekend of science activities at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. For details visit our website.

Seeing Speech

At Glasgow Science Festival we aim to showcase the incredible research carried out in and around the city. Science Sunday is the University of Glasgow’s flagship family festival event and this year it’s bigger than ever! We chatted to Fabienne Westerberg to find out what she’s up to this time.

fabiennew_headsetWho are you and what do you do?

My name is Fabienne, I’m a linguistics research student at Glasgow University. My research looks at the way the tongue moves when we produce certain speech sounds, and I use ultrasound to see what the tongue is doing inside the mouth.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

Last year’s event in GULP (Glasgow University Laboratory of Phonetics) was really popular, and I missed it! We  want to give people a chance to see language in a different way, and see how complex it is, from the way we physically produce sound to the way we use language to show our identity.

GULPlogo
The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a clear favourite – the idea of the Babelfish is fascinating. Imagine being able to understand all languages, even if it meant having to put a fish in your ear…

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

I’m Swedish, and we eat a lot of weird stuff. Smörgåstårta (“sandwich cake”) is one of them, it’s a savoury cake normally made up of layers of bread, mayo, salad, meatballs, shrimps and grapes. Delicious!

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Pigeons can read! They recognise letters of the alphabet, and remember the written names of the shops where they live. Impressive but also slightly terrifying.

Join Fabienne and friends as part of Science Sunday on the 14th of June in the GULP lab at 13 University Gardens, where researchers from the phonetics lab will shed some light on the visual techniques used in speech research (and help you image your tongue!).The event is free, but please book online to guarantee a space! 

Reclaiming the Human Future

This year marks the 250th anniversary of James Watt’s invention of the separate steam condenser and Glasgow Science Festival is celebrating with a series of events. We chatted to Professor Colin McInnes from the University of Glasgow.  

unnamedWho are you and what do you do?

I’m Colin McInnes, James Watt Chair, Professor of Engineering Science at the University of Glasgow. Much of my research has centred on space engineering but I also dabble in a wide range of other areas including climate engineering and energy policy. I’m also interested in the long-term societal impacts of Engineering Science and often write on Energy, Innovation and Environment issues for the print and on-line media, reflecting my firm belief in the socially and environmentally progressive nature of Engineering Science.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year?

I’m giving a talk on ‘Reclaiming the Human Future’ which will help mark the 250th anniversary of James Watt’s invention of the separate steam condenser which falls this year. The talk will make the case that we need to rediscover both the unconstrained free-thinking of James Watt and enlightenment-era ideas of progress to deliver an innovation-driven, human-centred future. The talk will also cover some off-the-wall ideas for the deep future on so-called terraforming and Dyson spheres, both of which are actually connected to James Watt’s heat engine in unsuspected ways.

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

Oh, easy. It would need to be Dark Star, John Carpenter’s quirky low budget film, which also had a leading role for Dan O’Bannon who went on to write the screenplay for Alien.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

As an academic I travel frequently and have had to sample some real gems, such as raw horse meat, but also delights such as roast duck in the fantastic Quanjude Qianmen Restaurant in Beijing.

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Nuclear energy, which is still Scotland’s largest generator of electricity, comes to us from the final instant of the collapse of ancient stars before they exploded as supernovae; lighter elements were fused into Uranium and then scattered through space. Your smart phone or tablet is at least partly working off those ancient cataclysmic events.

Join Colin for Reclaiming the Human Future on Thursday 4th June at the University of Glasgow. The event is free, but please book online to guarantee a place!

Outdoor Cinema

This year Glasgow Science Festival have teamed up with Grosvenor Cinema and the University of Glasgow to bring you outdoor screenings of sci-fi classics the Matrix and District 9 in the University’s beautiful West Quadrangle. We chatted to organizer Sarah O’Shaughnessy, an Alumni Assistant at the University.

outdoorcinema

Who are you and what do you do?

Sarah (O’Shaughnessy). I’m the Alumni Assistant at the University of Glasgow’s Development and Alumni Office.

What brings you to Glasgow Science Festival this year? 

The GSF always has exciting events going on so it’s great to be involved with a part of that.

The Matrix, District 9, Moon… what sci-fi classic floats your… uhh… spaceship?

 I love Blade Runner and really like the original Star Wars  films.

2015 is Scotland’s Year of Food and Drink and among other things, we’re exploring how eating insects might be the future. What’s the weirdest thing that you’ve eaten?

I ate a deep-fried cricket once. It was pretty tasty . I’ve also had sweet potato ice cream which was surprisingly nice, and purple.

Impress us with your favourite science fact or joke.

Liquid tungsten is so hot, if you dropped it into a lava flow, the lava would freeze the tungsten. That’s pretty cool. (Courtesy of XKCD)

Book online to join Sarah and friends at the West Quadrangle for the Matrix at 9.45 PM on Thursday 4th of June and District 9 at 9.45 PM on Friday the 5th of June. BYOC – bring your own chair! All proceeds going to the Paul O’Gorman Leukaemia Research Centre in Glasgow.