Bulgaria’s Sofia Science Festival 2023: Events in English

From the secrets of the brain and longevity, Copernicus, Dugie the Dinosaur, sharks, the James Webb Space Telescope to science as a profession for women – among other events – the programme for the 2023 Sofia Science Festival promises fascinating, accessible lectures.

On from May 11 to 14, the Sofia Science Festival is organised by the Beautiful Science Foundation.

Extracts from the programme:

May 11, 8.30pm: The Fight Against Truth Decay

Director of the Vienna City Library and philosopher Anita Eichinger will share the basics of Digital Humanism.

The Manifesto for Digital Humanism, which was adopted at TU Wien in 2019, aims to put people in the centre of digital transformation and ensure that technology is used in accordance with ethical and moral principles.

One of the biggest challenges in this context is the loss of trust in facts and truths. In this context, libraries play an important role, serving as guardians of knowledge and truth. Libraries can help facilitate access to information and ensure that facts and truths are accessible to all. In addition, libraries can act as key players in promoting media literacy and critical thinking.

This event will be in English, simultaneous translation will be available.
In partnership with the Austrian Embassy.

May 11, 8.30pm: Nicolaus Copernicus: Half a Millennium of Inspiration

This year we celebrate 550 years since the birth of the Polish polymath Nicolaus Copernicus.

Join Robert Nowakowski and Michal Blaszkiewicz as they walk us through the life of Copernicus, his most important scientific achievements and the progress of astronomy and astronautics after the Copernican revolution. Explore Copernicus as an inspiration for present and future scientists, find out about several projects named after him or honoring his achievements – the ESA mission “Copernicus”,  the citizen science project “Gaia Vari” and the Project “CREDO”.

This event will be in English, simultaneous translation into Bulgarian will be available.
In partnership with the Polish Institute. 

May 13, 11.30am: Dugie the Dinosaur

Millions of years ago, dinosaurs lived all across Europe. Some of the most exciting new discoveries are coming from countries like Bulgaria and Scotland, where dinosaur fossils were unknown until very recently.

In this event for children and families, teacher and writer Anne Brusatte introduces the dinosaurs that once lived in Scotland during the Jurassic Period, 170 million years ago. Meet long-necked plant-eating sauropods, stegosaurs with plates on their backs, and ferocious meat-eating raptors. Anne will read her new children’s story book Dugie the Dinosaur, and then lead children in creative activities in which they draw and design their own dinosaurs—with feathers!

She will be joined by Steve Brusatte, her husband and writing partner, who is a palaeontologist who has discovered many of the new dinosaur fossils in Scotland, and is currently working with Bulgarian colleagues to find new dinosaurs in Bulgaria. They will together answer any questions you have about dinosaurs!

In English, translation into Bulgarian will be available.

May 13, 11.30am: With eyes wide open

Unable to bring stars to the laboratory, astronomers study them simply by watching them. Through the light that reaches us, we understand that in some way we are very much like the stars – we are born, we live, and we die.

However, are they all the same? Are they of the same age, do they have the same companions, the same signature? These are some of the questions raised by astrophysics. Explore their possible answers with Portuguese astrophysicist Alexandre Aibéo as they force us to reflect on our place in the universe, which is a fundamental process for developing a critical spirit and an educated choice that are the basis of citizenship.

This event is in English, simultaneous translation into Bulgarian is available.
In partnership with the Instituto Camões Sófia.

May 13, 1pm: What are earthquakes telling us

Researchers from several countries, including Bulgaria and the Czech Republic have launched a massive European project to study the seismic activity of the continent, and the Balkans.

A number of seismic stations were installed last summer across Bulgaria to collect data. Find out more about what earthquakes are telling us from Czech seismologist Petr Kolínský is a seismologist interested in propagation of seismic waves from earthquakes.

He uses these waves to study the parts of the Earth down to several hundreds of kilometers. To reach better resolution of the Earth structure and to understand the wave propagation better, he uses data from dense seismic networks.

He is affiliated with the Institute of Geophysics, Prague, the Czech Republic. Before, he was working at the University of Vienna, Austria.

This event is in English, simultaneous translation is available.
In partnership with the Czech Centre.

May 13, 2.30pm: Ageless: the new science of getting older without getting old

Ageing seems inevitable, but can we slow the process down, or even reverse it?

A single change to the DNA of a nematode worm can double its lifespan; mice fed less than normal can live 50 per cent longer; and some creatures never seem to age at all. Are these hints that this seemingly fundamental process could be flexible? And could this one day lead to real anti-ageing medicine?

Explore with Andrew Steele, the British physicist who switched fields to computational biology to seek for answers to the greatest challenges of human life.

Andrew’s book is published by Ciela just in time for the festival so do grab your copy from the Festival bookstore and join us after the talk to get Andrew to sign it for you.

This event is in English, simultaneous translation into Bulgarian will be available.
In partnership with Ciela Publishing House and The Sofia Globe.

May 13, 4.30pm: The Rise and Reign of the Mammals

Humans are mammals, as are more than 6000 other animals, ranging from mice and bats to elephants and whales.

In this talk, palaeontologist Steve Brusatte tells the story of mammal evolution, a 325-million-year journey that saw our ancestors persevere in the shadow of the dinosaurs, survive the worst day in the history of Earth, and then rapidly diversity and claim the world as their own.

In telling this story, Brusatte — a professor at the University of Edinburgh and the palaeontology consultant for the film Jurassic World: Dominion–reveals the new fossil finds and technologies that are allowing us to understand the evolution of mammals in unprecedented detail.

As part of this talk, Brusatte will unveil the new Bulgarian translation of his popular science book “The Rise and Reign of the Mammals”, which follows on from his earlier book “The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs”, which he presented to the Sofia Science Festival to great fanfare in 2019.

And thanks to the efforts of Ciela Publishing House, “The Rise and Reign of the Mammals” will be available in Bulgarian at the Festival bookshop. After the talk join us there, grab your copy and get in line for Steve’s personal dedication to you.

This event is in English, simultaneous translation into Bulgarian will be available.
In partnership with Ciela Publishing House and the British Council. 

May 13, 6pm: Transforming Astronomy with New Infrared Eyes: The James Webb Space Telescope

Since the release of the first images obtained with the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) almost a year ago (July 2022), this observatory is pushing the current state of knowledge from the farthest reaches of the Universe to some of the closest objects we can observe in the Solar System.

The detection of the first galaxies beyond the Big Bang was the driver for the massive space telescope, but new discoveries are being made routinely now for extrasolar planets (planets around other stars beyond our solar system), star formation and evolution, and new glimpses and findings closer to home.

We are seeing the Universe, Galaxy, and Solar System now with a whole new light. This presentation will highlight some of the new discoveries already being made with Webb its first year of science. Let Dr. Stefanie Milam deputy project scientist for planetary science at JWST guide you through the new data we are seeing.

This event will be in English, simultaneous translation into Bulgarian will be available.
In partnership with the Embassy of the United States.

May 13, 9pm: The beauty and mystery of our brain

Perhaps there is nothing more mysterious in the human body than the brain. What does modern science know about the brain? How comprehensive is this knowledge? How does the brain work when we are awake and asleep? What is optogenetics and is it possible to control the brain and behavior with the help of light? All these questions will be answered by Ukrainian neuroscientists Pavel Belan and Nana Voitenko.

This event is in English, simultaneous translation into Bulgarian will be available.
In partnership with the Embassy of Ukraine and the STEM IS FEM project https://stemisfem.org

May 14, 11.30am: Sharks and Genetics

What stories are hidden in the DNA of sharks? Did you know that shark DNA is 1.5 times bigger than human DNA? Scientists say that this means there are things coded into sharks that humans can’t do.

Ongoing research into shark DNA may help solve the mystery but also perhaps tell us something about ourselves. Perhaps we could learn from sharks?

Come and ask Gibbs Kuguru, a 2022 National Geographic Explorer from Kenya and shark scientist who studies the DNA of sharks. He developed his field skills with Great White Sharks at a cage diving company in South Africa and is now a Ph.D candidate at Wageningen University. He hopes to use filmmaking as a vector to change social attitudes around sharks to keep their populations safe.

This event is in English, simultaneous translation will be available.
In partnership with National Geographic.

May 14, 7pm: The sound of a 3000 year-old Mummy

Our voices are basic to our normal existence and human speech has evolved to be robust for being understood by the listener and as a means for transmitting inner feelings even when presenting to large audiences (without amplification) for proclamation, when in the presence of competing loud sounds locally and when singing with large orchestral accompaniment.

Human vocal tissue also withstands mummification and that has enabled the creation of a vowel sound from the 3000 year old Mummy, Nesyamun.

This talk by Prof. David Howard, the researcher behind the remarkable achievement, will review human voice production and its use for communication of words in both speech and singing. It will describe the practical side of how a vowel sound was created from Nesyamun and it will offer tips for keeping our voices healthy.

In English, interpretation into Bulgarian available.
In partnership with the Science & Innovation Network and the British Embassy.

May 14, 7pm: Science and innovation: a profession for women with a future

Maths and science are everywhere. Innovation is the key to the competitiveness of companies to succeed in their necessary transformations.

Encouraging young girls and young women to embark on scientific studies to meet the challenges of digital, industrial and ecological transitions in the service of a responsible, resilient and inclusive society, this is the main focus of the conversation between two outstanding women in science – French engineer and mathematician Françoise Prêteux and Bulgarian molecular biologist and geneticist Milena Georgieva.

Join them to be inspired and explore how science, mathematics and innovation contribute across areas such as health, telecoms, energy or even the industrial metaverse.

For full details of the programme and other events, tickets and venues for the presentations at Sofia Tech Park, please visit the website of the Beautiful Science Foundation. The Sofia Globe is a media partner of the Sofia Science Festival.

The Sofia Globe staff

The Sofia Globe - the Sofia-based fully independent English-language news and features website, covering Bulgaria, the Balkans and the EU. Sign up to subscribe to sofiaglobe.com's daily bulletin through the form on our homepage. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=32709292