2018 Sofia Science Festival programme highlights: From the Antarctic to an astronaut and AI

These are some of the highlights of the programme of the 2018 Sofia Science Festival, being held at Sofia Tech Park from May 10 to 13. The events listed below are in English, with translation into Bulgarian.

For further details about tickets and venues for the events, please visit the Festival’s website.

May 10, 6pm: The southernmost world: Snow, folk, science and dogs. From running Husky teams to medical evacuations, from simple skidoo units to major overland traverses, from radio communications to satellite wi-fi, from wooden huts to complex sci-fi stations, from sledge hammers to glider and drone technology. Despite the major leaps forward in activity and technologies, the Antarctic continues to captivate, impress and inspire those who have had the privilege to live and work in the realm of the Great White Mistress.

Peter Marquis’s exciting potted summary of experiences. Peter has been working as Medical Unit Administrator with the British Antarctic Survey for the past 20 years and his rich biography in the icy continent also includes a Field Guide, Leader of Rothera Research Station and Operations Manager of the British Antarctic Institute.

May 10, 7pm: To be popular or to be humble – is this the question? Welcome to an inspiring talk by Prof. Ferdinand Waldenberger about the meaning of medicine and his brave path as one of Europe’s leading cardiac surgeons.

Prof. Waldenberger was part of the team that carried out the world’s first successful heart transplantation in a newborn baby. He also performed the first bypass surgery on a beating heart in the German-speaking countries. Today he continues to work actively in Austria, to implant artificial hearts in children and adults, to teach and carry out free heart operations in Sudan and Yemen.

May 10, 8.30pm: 30 years in the Antarctic: How does “the cold south” turn into a starting point for partnership, research in the Antarctic and environmental protection? To mark the 30th anniversary of the Bulgarian polar base, the Sofia Science Festival 2018 brings together three of the big names of the South Pole – Prof. Hristo Pimpirev, Director of the Bulgarian Antarctic Institute, Peter Marquis, Operations Manager of the Medical Department of the British Antarctic Institute, and Prof. Antonio Quesada, Scientific Researcher of the Spanish Polar Programme. The talk will be moderated by Quentin Cooper, journalist and one of the most familiar and popular voices of science in the UK.

May 11, 6pm: Paediatric surgery and inspiration: British paediatric surgeon Ross Fisher has developed strong interest in children’s cancer surgery and trauma management during his specialisation. As well as operating on young patients, Dr Fisher spends time discussing complex issues with his patients and their families. He has learned to recognise the need for clarity, simplicity and compassion in such encounters.

Dr Ross Fisher genuinely believes that a good surgeon must also be a good communicator. While he appreciates the role of orthodox medical education, he has largely broken with traditional teaching methods and his approach to educating and motivating young doctors has made him a popular speaker around the world.

Join the Consultant in children’s surgery at the Children’s Hospital in Sheffield, England, for an uplifting talk on medicine and the role of inspiration in his work and our lives.

May 11, 7.30pm: Science will save the world: We hear prophecies of doom and devastation every day now: hunger and poverty, the end of all resources on Earth, and the collapse of human civilization. Many prophecies like that have been uttered and published over the last few centuries, but they have been proven wrong time after time. Why? Because we have one infinite and eternal resource: human innovation that enables us to improve our technology by the year.

Roey Tzezana, futurist and nanotechnologist from the Centre for Technology, Analysis and Forecasts at Tel-Aviv University and Israeli FameLab finalist, explains how things are getting better, why they are expected to keep on improving and also to deal with the dangers that remain.

In the spirit of the futuristic topic, Roey’s robotic body steps on the stage in Sofia, which he will control live from the USA. Welcome to a talk about the future from a researcher with a body of a robot and brain of a futurist. (The Sofia Globe’s interview with Roey Tzezana can be found here.)

May 11, 8.30pm: Who said nerd? Although almost all of us realise how much science has changed our world in the last 50 years, surprisingly few of us have changed our view of scientists themselves. Ask a child, or even adults, to draw a scientist, and what they come up with is likely to bear a striking resemblance to what someone would have depicting half a century ago. Why is that? One of the most popular British science journalists and BBC presenter Dr Quentin Cooper has long been fascinated with the image of scientists, and in this entertaining talk he draws on films, TV and other popular representations of scientists to explore where these stereotypes come from and how they can be changed.

Quentin Cooper is described by The Times as both “the world’s most enthusiastic man” and “an expert on everything from pop music to astrophysics”. He hosts a huge range of events in the UK and beyond, and he has been a regular contributor to countless programmes across BBC radio and television, Channel 4, the Discovery Channel, ITV and other channels. Quentin is also the regular host for the FameLab International Finals

May 12, 5.30pm: The Astronaut: the Sofia Science Festival gives you the chance to meet NASA astronaut Dr. Richard Linnehan. A veterinarian by profession and explorer by heart, Dr. Linnehan was selected by NASA in 1992 and has taken part in four space missions. He is currently assigned to the Johnson Space Center (also known as “Mission Control”) in Houston, Texas.

May 12, 7pm: From theorems to serums, from cryptology to cosmology… and The Simpsons: Join Simon Singh, one of the world’s most popular science and maths writers, on a whistle-stop tour through the bestselling books that he has written over the last two decades. Fermat’s Last Theorem looks at one of the biggest mathematical puzzles of the millennium; The Code Book shares the secrets of cryptology; Big Bang explores the history of cosmology; Trick or Treatment asks some hard questions about alternative medicine; and Simon’s latest book (The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets) enters the world of the world’s most popular TV show.

After completing a PhD in particle physics, Simon Singh joined the BBC and worked as a director and producer on programmes such as Tomorrow’s World and Horizon. He has also presented programmes on Radio 4, BBC4 and Channel 4. (The Sofia Globe’s interview with Simon Singh can be found here).

May 12, 8.30pm: AI through the looking glass: Prof. Wendy Hall is known internationally as a leading light in the development of Web Science and is recognized over the world for her pioneering role as one of the first computer scientists to embark on serious research into multi- and hyper-media technologies. Her early ideas which developed in parallel with development of the Internet are now forming key elements of subsequent development into the Semantic Web. Her most recent work focuses on understanding and exploring the various influences of science, commerce, public and politics on the evolution of the World Wide Web. Through her leadership roles on national and international bodies, she has shattered many glass ceilings, readily deploying her position to promote the role of women in science and technology.

May 13, noon: How does the brain work? How did a picture change an entire airport’s cleaning bill? What one word can double the number of people willing to be organ donors? Behavioural scientists study the way our brains process information and use this knowledge to solve real-life problems.

Dr. Deirdre Robertson from the Behavioural Research Unit of the Economic and Social Research Institute in Ireland and winner of the FameLab competition in Ireland will explore these questions and others in her talk on behavioural science research. Using examples from countries across the globe she will show how behavioural science is being used to save our money, our health and the environment.

May 13, 4.30pm: Dangerous attraction: The science of love: Kissing. Flirting. Love. Some important moments in human life, don’t they? But what separates the Romeos from the Tinder turn offs? Are humans programmed for monogamy? And are looks really that important?

Society tells us romance is responsible for relationships. The truth is, it’s all down to science; a captivating cocktail of chemistry, genetics, biology and evolution.

Join Emer Maguire, an international award winning science communicator and BBC radio presenter, as she guides us through the science of love. Emer was crowned the UK’s best science communicator by international competition FameLab and in her talks she often uses comedy to inspire curiosity and learning about science.

May 13, 6pm: Why do clever people believe in nonsense? Why do intelligent people embrace unfounded ideas? Why do smart people believe in absurd things? The reasons are so many that one can assume that foolishness is a normal human behaviour. How rational are we? How many strange ideas do we believe in? By looking at the causes for this phenomenon, we will understand better ourselves and humanity.

We will explore the absurd beliefs with the Greek chemist Dr. Spiros Kitsinelis, an experienced science communicator on TV, radio, seminars and science festivals. He is also the first Greek winner of the FameLab science communication competition.

Created in 2011 by the British Council and the Forum Democrit, and under the patronage of the Bulgarian Ministry of Education and Science, from its very first year the Sofia Science Festival has attracted a large number of supporters. The Sofia Globe is a media partner of the Sofia Science Festival.



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