Sofia Science Festival 2016: Richard III, Rosetta and the stars

The Sofia Science Festival is on from May 12 to 15 2016, this year boasting 69 events on a wide range of topics, the largest number since the festival was founded six years ago.

The venue is again Zaimov Park, also known as Oborishte Park, in the Bulgarian capital city. Presentations will be at Theatre Sofia, with exhibitions, experiments and interesting items on display at the Exploratorium and Zone 42 spaces next to the theatre.

As is customary, there are numerous leading foreign presenters at the festival, joining their Bulgarian scientific colleagues.

There are eight events in English, one with English subtitles, one in Polish and two in Spanish.

The first English-language event is on May 12 at 3.30pm, when Dr Hazel Barton, University of Akron Professor of Biology and Geosciences, speaks on “Living in the Dark – From Caves to Stars”. A famous scientist caver and extreme athlete, Barton will explain microbial communities living in caves, and how such sub-surface adaptations could mean survival on extra-planetary bodies in the solar system is possible.

Fergus McAuliffe, a PhD researcher at the University of Cork, winner of the 2013 FameLab International competition, will share his experience in winning the big award in Cheltenham as a means of delving into the topic of science communication, in a presentation on May 12 at 5pm.

This Earth was captivated by the European Space Agency’s Rosetta space mission, and the mission’s chief scientist, Dr Matt Taylor, will be at the Sofia Science Festival to tell the story of the November 2014 historic comet landing – and a clue or two of what to expect from it in 2016. His presentation is on May 12 at 8.30pm.

Before the startling achievement of the football team, the University of Leicester thrilled the world with a project that brought together archaeologists, historians and DNA experts to reveal the remains of King Richard III. Dr Turi King, this year’s special guest at the festival, professor at the University of Leicester, prominent expert in genetics and archaeology and head of the international research team on the DNA identification of Richard III, will tell all about the work done in solving a 500-year-old cold case, at a presentation on May 13 at 8.30pm.

On May 14, Javier Alonso Lopez of the Spanish Antarctic vessel Hesperides will describe all that is involved in international co-operation in research on Antarctica, the ongoing research itself, and what it is like on work in a place with some of the severest living conditions on Earth. His presentation, made possible in partnership with the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists, and entitled “Together on Antarctica – Bulgarian-Spanish Cooperation” begins at 10.30am.

“Can Shakespeare make you a better liar?” And other questions…Join British physicist, presenter, stand-up comedian and musician Helen Arney and a very special line-up of Bulgarian presenters to discover more about Shakespeare’s insights into human nature that still ring true 400 years on, investigate where modern science matches up with the ideas of Elizabethan “natural philosophy,” hear Shakespeare’s text in dramatic readings by an actor and get involved in live experiments and science demonstrations. May 14, at 11.30am.

The same day, at 7.30pm, Dr. Sossio Cimmino, industrial chemist and director of research at the Institute of Polymers, Biomaterials and Composites at the NRC of Italy, will explain why “You are what you are packaged in”. As the programme puts it: “How often do we think about the packaging our food comes in and whether it is harmless, or indeed dangerous? And how could we know either way? Do we even imagine how much science there is in a single polyethylene bag?” Cimmino has the answers, all wrapped up.

Professor Frank Burnet spins his tale (quite possibly, along with a roulette wheel) in his “Chaos Casino” presentation. Something of a Sofia Science Festival veteran, having taken part in 2011 (Science Bar) and 2014 (Meet Your Brain), Professor Burnet will be explaining the chaos that stands behind market fluctuations, inaccurate long-term weather forecasts, traffic jams and – odds-bodkins – gambling. May 14, at 8.30pm.

This is just a sample of the many events. For the full programme in English, please click here, and for information on tickets and access to the festival, please click here.

The Sofia Science Festival is organised by the British Council Bulgaria and is under the patronage of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science. The Sofia Globe is a media partner of The Sofia Science Festival 2016.



The Sofia Globe staff

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