Bored of political science? What about all the other sciences? #nisf17

NI Science Festival is in its third year and still has a week to run. While light on political science, the programme is packed full of surprises and treats, even for those who happily gave up science at school and don’t know their quarks from their elbow.

Reassembled, Slightly Askew is a very personal theatre experience – akin to going to see your GP and ending up rushed to hospital – and runs at The MAC until 26 February as part of the festival. The 90 minute performance takes the audience inside the head of a patient with a life-threatening brain injury using binaural sonic technology. You can read my preview of the show and interview with the playwright Shannon Yee (who based the piece on her own acquired brain injury) over on the Culture Northern Ireland website.

Wednesday 22 February

Later this summer, Titanic Quarter will receive the 10 tonne, 7 metre tall, 130 year old Mew Island optic. And at 2pm in W5, Titanic Foundation and Commissioner for Irish Lights this piece of lighthouse technology, illustrating that the Fresnel lens was a major scientific breakthrough, the pinnacle of lighthouse lens size, and the energy sources used to provide the light. See the event listing for details on how to book your free place.

The monthly Tenx9 storytelling event is always a treat. This month it partners with the NI Science Festival for a second year to present an evening of true stories about “The final frontier”. Black Box at 7pm. Free entry; first come first served.

Thursday 23 February

Belfast City Hall will once again host the annual Turing Lecture, this year delivered by IBM Research’s VP & Chief Science Officer of Cognitive Computing, Dr Guruduth S. Banavar. He will explore cognitive computing and the technology breakthroughs that are enabling this trend, practical applications for the real-world, and ethical considerations guiding the development and deployment of the technology for the benefit of humankind. Get ahead of the curve and understand how cognitive systems will create new partnerships between people and machines to augment and scale human expertise in every industry, from healthcare to financial services to education. Free but registration required. From 5.30pm.

Friday 24 February

Dr Andrew Cannavan led the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Food Safety Assessment Team in Fukushima after the nuclear disaster and works closely with the Queen’s University Institute for Global Food Security. He’ll deliver the Jack Pearce Memorial Lecture at 6.30pm in the QUB David Keir building, and will discuss his own experiences, emergency preparedness and responses to nuclear incidents. Free but registration required.

Saturday 25 February

Dr Niamh Shaw is a performer, scientist and engineer who is passionate about awakening people’s curiosity. She attended the International Space University’s annual Space Studies Programme in 2015 in association with NASA and she was selected for the Crew 173 Mars analog mission (earlier this year in the Utah desert!) Niamh will explain about her plan to get into space within the next eight years and what it will take to become the first Irish Astronaut. Armagh Planetarium at 1pm or 3pm. £2. Booking essential – details in the event listing.

Sunday 26 February

St George’s Market will be animated between 11am and 3.30pm with Busking Physicists use everyday objects to open up a new world of curiosity and understanding with their tricks and sights. The team from the Institute of Physics invite market shoppers to step into a realm of invisible forces and remarkable matter and to join in their unstoppably infectious physics fun!

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell will be in conversation with fellow physicist Jim Al-Khalili at 2pm in the Whitla Hall. The inspirational Belfast born giant of astrophysics is best known for her discovery of pulsars (rotating neutron stars that appear to ‘pulse’ since the beam of light they emit can only be seen when it faces the Earth). Her observation, made together with her supervisor Antony Hewish (he got the Nobel Prize, she didn’t) is considered to be one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of the twentieth century. Tickets £6.

And Jim Al-Khalili returns to the Whitla Hall stage at 4pm to deliver a lecture introducing the field of Quantum Biology and examining the impact of recent research and what this means for our understanding of what life really is. John Stewart Bell (a QUB graduate) discovered Bell’s Theorem and his work on non-locality resolved a long standing dispute involving Albert Einstein and showed that Einstein’s views on quantum mechanics were incorrect. This first annual John Bell lecture honouring and recognises Bell’s contribution to the field of quantum physics. Tickets £6.

Go on, let your inner geek lose. And maybe next year we’ll get Slugger to pitch an event on the science of polling …