Summary of a Spring of Sensational Science
A mass participation experiment launched at the Edinburgh International Science Festival last week has reached a worldwide audience with coverage as far afield as Australia, Brazil, China, Japan, Ukraine and the United States. The University of Hertfordshire psychologist, Professor Richard Wiseman, launched Dream:On – an experimental app which aims to find out if it is possible to give users more pleasant dreams – in an event at the Science Festival and in the first week the free app was downloaded over 300,000 times. 200,000 dreams have been reported back to the team since the launch on Tuesday, creating the largest dream database in history.
Professor Wiseman said “We were expecting about 10,000 downloads in the first week and have been overwhelmed by the response from around the world. It shows us that people are obviously searching for a better night’s sleep with more pleasant dreams. Now the hard work of analysing the data begins.”
The Edinburgh International Science Festival broke new ground this year, coaxing science and scientists out of the lab and mixing them with everyone from authors to artists and philosophers to politicians and offered over 200 events in venues across the City. Visitors to the flagship venue for the family programme, the City Art Centre, exceeded 12,000 for the first time, and overall over 80,000 visitors enjoyed events and activities taking place everywhere from Ocean Terminal to The Jam House, Ghillie Dhu, National Museum of Scotland, Botanic Gardens, Inspace and The Filmhouse. With Science Busking bikes out on the streets of the City, the BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory Roadshow on the Mound Precinct and worldwide press coverage for the 2012 Edinburgh Medallist Dr James Hansen, the Ardbeg Distillery collaboration with NASA and the Dream:On experiment, the Science Festival was hard to miss.
Dr Simon Gage, Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival said, “This year we examined everything from the science behind firewalking to clothing that cleans the air around us. We’ve explored Time, Taste, the funny side to Maths, the Future of Food and the Future Human and have had great fun along the way. It has been an exciting fortnight and a pleasure to have mixed so many people with interesting ideas with thousands of curious Science Festival goers. It is great to see new ideas springing up, such as Richard Wiseman’s App based dream experiment which has reached a global audience.
“The Edinburgh International Science Festival was the first in the world and we are set to remain a science festival that leads. We celebrate our 25th Birthday in 2013 so watch out for some particularly exciting plans for this special year.“
Dr Alasdair Allan, Minister for Learning, Science and Scotland's Languages, said, “Having seen at first hand some of the inspiring hands-on activities at this year’s Festival I’m delighted to see that this highlight of the Scottish science calendar has again been a success, attracting many thousands of visitors over the Easter break. From dancing robots at the National Museum to the range of events pitched at children, young people and adults, the festival has had something for everyone.
“Edinburgh’s rich history of research means it can truly call itself a home of science but the ongoing work of the Festival organisers plays a large part in helping to inspire our next generation of scientists.”
Science Festival innovations for 2012 included LateLab, a series of evening events in the University of Edinburgh’s Inspace Gallery where visitors enjoyed talks, performances and table-top science in a social, creative and participatory environment. The Edinburgh Enlightenment Exchange (Edinburgh E2) launched the Festival with a series of short, sharp presentations bringing together some of the country’s most creative individuals and the public for a day of shared inspiration, innovation and passion.
The family programme in the City Art Centre, Botanic Gardens and National Museum of Scotland proved extremely popular with the City Art Centre reaching capacity every day of the Festival, while In Motion, the flagship activity at the National Museum of Scotland, welcomed thousands of visitors including broadcaster Richard Bacon who presented his BBC Radio 5 Live programme from there. Bacon interviewed a range of Science Festival guests including physicist Jim Al-Khalili, Australia’s Numeracy Ambassador Simon Pampena and two of the three presenters of Festival of the Spoken Nerd – Steve Mould and Helen Arney.
The prestigious Edinburgh Medal was awarded to the American Climate Scientist, Dr James Hansen, for his commitment to helping people understand the issues surrounding climate change. Hansen presented two further sold-out events on climate change and renewable energy.
Although the Science Festival has officially ended, one special event will take place next weekend when psychological illusionist Derren Brown will be in conversation with Professor Richard Wiseman.
The Edinburgh International Science Festival will celebrate 25 years in 2013 and will run from Saturday 23 March to Sunday 7 April 2013. The full programme will be announced on the 31st January 2013. Full details, images and information about this year’s Science Festival can be found at www.sciencefestival.co.uk.