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Cambridge Science Festival prepares for another busy weekend

Is the Milky Way special? Can smartphone apps help change people’s behaviour? What’s in our genes and what isn’t?

These questions and more are set to be debated at the Cambridge Science Festival this weekend. Over 130 free demonstrations, exhibits and talks about science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine take place across a variety of venues, including University of Cambridge Departments and Colleges in the city centre and the West Cambridge site, Anglia Ruskin University and Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology.

Three of the talks tipped to be the most fascinating, include Is the Milky Way Special? on Friday evening. Dr Chris Lintott, University of Oxford, draws on cutting-edge research and results from his own Galaxy Zoo project to compare the Milky Way to the other galaxies that surround us. He explores whether we’re living in a special time in its history. A further talk on Sunday, asks Can smartphone apps help change people’s behaviour? Stephen Sutton, Professor of Behavioural Science at the University of Cambridge, describes novel ways of using smartphone apps to help people make positive lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and eating a healthier diet. Also, on Sunday, Professor Ashok Venkitaraman from the MRC Cancer Unit discusses mounting evidence that cancer risk is not only affected by our genes but in fact it can also be affected by non-genetic factors, such as our diet and environment in The origins of cancer: what's in our genes and what isn't? How genetic and non-genetic factors act together to influence a person’s risk of developing cancer is not well understood. Professor Venkitaraman reveals how recent research is providing new insights into this important problem, and how this new knowledge might be used to detect or even prevent cancer.  

Other top talks across the weekend include:

  • Transformation and conservation: how behaviour shapes evolution (22 March) Organisms show remarkable adaptations. Often, these adaptations are responses that enable organisms to cope with the harshness of the environment. Professor Rebecca Kilner tells us about how behaviour itself can shape the course of evolutionary change.
  • Burgers, bacteria and heart disease: making sense of the processed food debate (23 March) Dr Clett Erridge, Anglia Ruskin University, explores some of the latest scientific discoveries that are making unexpected connections between the bacteria that grow on our foods and our risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
  • Sugar and spice and all things nice: a journey into taste sensors in the body (23 March) Dr Havovi Chichger, Anglia Ruskin University, delves into the weird and wonderful locations in the body that can taste, and considers how and why tissues and organs, such as our kidneys and lungs, can sense sweet and bitter substances. She discusses what this means in relation to our diet and health.
  • Cosmic quest: from Babylon to the Big Bang (23 March) Spanning over 40,000 years of astronomy, this lavish presentation features the personalities – including poet Omar Khayyam and golden-nosed nobleman Tycho Brahe – who have laid bare the mysteries of the Universe. With Professors Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest, Fellows of the Royal Astronomical Society.
  • Molecular mix and match: designing and making new medicines (24 March) Through a series of short, interactive presentations, Astex Pharmaceuticals scientists take you on a journey into their ‘molecular mix and match’ approach to the discovery of new medicines.
  • The cell: a living computer in a droplet of water (24 March). At any moment, each of the three trillion cells making up our bodies make decisions, and our lives depend on every cell making the right decision at the right time. Dr Alessandro Esposito explores how the cell makes decisions.
  • Artificial Intelligence assisted discovery in the battle against cancer and other diseases (24 March). Rapid advances in 21st century biomedicine are generating vast amounts of data that can help us better understand and discover treatments for complex diseases like cancer. Dr Shamith Samarajiwa focuses on how the necessity to interpret these biomedical big data has led to the development of data science and artificial intelligence technologies.

Saturday also sees a huge range of science exhibitions and demonstrations at many University of Cambridge Departments at the West Cambridge Site off Madingley Road – events starts at 10am. Anglia Ruskin University also opens its doors to the public for a whole day of science discovery and exploration from 2pm until 6.30pm. On Sunday, which is the final day of the Festival, events take place at the Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology from 11am until 4pm.

Speaking ahead of the weekend, Dr Lucinda Spokes, Cambridge Science Festival Manager said: “The final weekend of the Festival is always a busy one. Apart from the talks that need to be booked, there are a range of science exhibits and demos which people of all ages can just turn up to see or take part in. My advice is to pop along to the various sites and have a wander. There’s just so much to see and do!  

“As we approach the end of this year’s Festival, I have been amazed and delighted by the curiosity and sheer delight shown by thousands of people for science – everything from zoology and astronomy, to maths and medicine. It’s remarkable how each year our audience grows, showing how switched on people are to what science offers at both a very personal level and at a global level. We would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who visited a museum, listened to a talk, or enjoyed getting hands-on at one of the many hundreds of exhibits. We truly hope everyone enjoys the final weekend.”

Download the full Cambridge Science Festival programme here

Bookings can be made here or by calling the Festival on 01223 766 766 between 11am and 3pm.

Keep up to date with the Festival on social media via Facebook and Twitter #CamSciFest.

Cambridge Science Festival brings science, technology, engineering, maths and medicine to an audience of all ages through demonstrations, talks, performances and debates. Run by the University of Cambridge, the Festival draws together independent organisations in addition to many University Departments, Centres and Museums. Most events are free.

The 2019 Festival sponsors and partners are Cambridge University Press, AstraZeneca, MedImmune, Illumina, TTP Group, Science AAAS, Anglia Ruskin University, Astex Pharmaceuticals, Cambridge Science Centre, Cambridge Junction, IET, Hills Road 6th Form College, British Science Week, Cambridge University Health Partners, Cambridge Academy for Science and Technology, and Walters Kundert Charitable Trust. Media Partners: BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Cambridge Independent.