CURIOUS minds across the city are being invited to learn more about the world around them at a science festival featuring more than 100 events, which begins today.
IF Oxford this month celebrates its 30th year with a bumper programme of events about the world, the universe and the people who explore them, with both in-person and digital events and activities for adults, children and teenagers.
The science and ideas festival covers such diverse topics as the chemistry of a lemon-meringue cake, how to make clouds – and colour them, and exploring the humour in heartbreak.
Guests are invited to delve inside their own bodies and minds and discover how diseases are diagnosed and treated, to find out how scientists and engineers are solving the world’s biggest challenges facing the world today, and to question issues of science, culture, medicine, philosophy and democracy in times of pandemic.
Visitors of all ages can investigate the county’s landscape through the eyes of Oxfordshire animals, head to the Arctic with an 18th century African-American explorer or fly through the universe in an imaginative new Alice in Wonderland adventure, written by Oxford playwright JC Niala.
In the new adaptation, Alice uncovers curious science which festival visitors are invited to explore too, at a digital event involving researchers from across the globe. She heads into space, travels among bats and dives deep below the sea.
Festival Director Dane Comerford said: “It’s been a long time coming, and we’re so happy to return to Oxford venues for dozens of in-real-life events, and also to build on last year’s season in cyberspace, to share Oxford’s best ideas with anyone, anywhere. The festival experiments with dance, comedy, film and music to stretch science both inside and outside the digital box.
“There’s a vast range of topics, uncovering hidden stories of marginalised communities – whether in human or animal societies – to questioning the ways technologies are changing all of our futures, or simply showing how a bit of chemistry can help you make a great cake!
“We try to make the programme really varied and have developed projects over the past 12 months with scientists, public groups and artists, to take science out of the lab and into curious hearts and minds. Oxford is known as a powerhouse of innovation, and IF Oxford is a great chance to meet hundreds of researchers each on an exciting journey of intrigue and discovery.”
Families can enjoy free interactive activities for all ages at Oxford Town Hall this weekend, and at Templar’s Square Shopping Centre in Cowley from October 23-24. The Town Hall also features an ocean lab featuring a life-sized inflatable orca and marine experts who will guide visitors through experiments highlighting the links between chemistry and the oceans. Budding researchers can also marvel at deep-sea bioluminescence, extract dinosaur breath from ocean rocks and build a saltwater battery.
There’s even a chance to feel, hear, touch and even taste a cloud at a Cloud Factory event today, with a short interactive performance for families presented by award-winning science writer Sarah Bearchell who explores how to create, contain and even colour a cloud.
“Is it possible to make a cloud the colour of candy floss?” she asks.