Sofia Science Festival 2024: Programme of events in English

The 2024 Sofia Science Festival, on from May 9 to 12, features – as is traditional – several presentations in English by leading international science communicators from a range of countries, including from the United States to Ukraine to China.

The venue for the festival is Sofia Tech Park.

May 9:

6.30pm to 7.30pm: How Likely is an Asteroid to Ruin Your Day?

As individuals we should not worry about a large asteroid impact because chances are so low in our lifetimes. However, as a civilization we MUST do something. Devastating impacts have happened (e.g., dinosaur extinction) and will happen again if we do nothing.

Fortunately, there is considerable international collaboration on defending Earth against asteroid impacts. Explore the answers to these and many other questions with Dr. Humberto Campins, an international expert on asteroids, especially those that can threaten Earth with an impact, and NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission member.

In partnership with the embassy of the United States.

8pm to 9pm: Understanding the wild boar paradox

The Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 had a major impact on the forest ecosystem in Central Europe. After the accident, the consumption of mushrooms was discouraged because of the high radioactive contamination, and the meat of wild animals was also severely affected for several years.

While the contamination of deer and roe deer decreased over time as expected, the measured levels of radioactivity in the meat of wild boar remained surprisingly high. Find out more about this paradox from Austrian professor of applied radiochemistry Georg Steinhauser.

This event is presented in partnership with the Austrian Embassy and is dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the American theoretical physicist Robert Oppenheimer.

May 11:

2.30pm to 3.30pm: Do-It-Yourself Archaeology and the Preservation of the Legacy of Work

Have you always wanted to be an archaeologist? Do you enjoy learning about the past and exploring material culture? Then join us in this “Do-It-Yourself Archaeology” challenge.

By highlighting the importance of public participation and community involvement, we discuss how DIY archaeology initiatives can play a crucial role in documenting and understanding our past, through ethical practices and scientific rigor, and its potential for democratizing access to archaeological knowledge and fostering a broader, more inclusive understanding of our shared heritage.

By digitally and physically preserving discoveries made through DIY Archaeology, we can even ensure that the legacy of labour is documented and shared in an accessible manner for future generations, honoring the hard work and contributions of our ancestors and ensuring that the lessons of the past are learned and appreciated by all.

In partnership with Instituto Camões Bulgaria.

3pm to 4pm: Enriching STEAM Education Approaches with Augmented/Virtual Reality and 3D Printing

The swift evolution of 3D technologies has opened up diverse opportunities for 3D modelling to be utilised in education both in digital and physical formats.

As industries like medicine, construction, and technology design increasingly rely on 3D modelling, its potential applications in education are increasingly gaining traction.

This talk by Univ-Prof. Dr. Zsolt Lavicza, PhD., based on studies conducted by the STEAM education research group at the Linz School of Education, Johannes Kepler University, Austria, delves into introducing Augmented/Virtual Reality and 3D printing in teacher education across various countries.

We explored teachers’ perceptions, established the requisite educational ecosystem for 3D technologies, evaluated pedagogical approaches for integrating 3D modelling into classrooms, and emphasised the incorporation of arts and culture to inspire students. Our initiatives extend to creating 3D resources for students with disabilities and those from disadvantaged communities, as well as fostering girls’ engagement in STEM studies through 3D modelling.

The core objective of our studies is to empower teachers and students as innovators in utilizing these novel technologies. Additionally, we addressed the demand for new theoretical and methodological approaches by expanding our work from mathematics to STEAM, introducing a STEAM+X approach, and supplementing Design Based Research (DBR) with User Experience (UX) research methodologies to adapt to rapid technological changes.

In this talk, exemplary practices will be described showcasing secondary and primary education in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

In association with Overgas

4pm to 5pm: Exploring the Universe in the Era of Space Survey Telescopes

Over the past century, humanity has made quantum leaps in understanding the universe. Our entire knowledge of the cosmos originates from a colossal explosion 13.7 billion years ago, a monumental event that gave birth to the resplendent galaxy-filled universe we observe today.

We have also known from observation that far from being static, the universe is currently undergoing accelerated expansion.

Yet, significant mysteries remain unsolved, including the nature of the dark energy driving this acceleration and the essence of dark matter that dominates the cosmic structure’s evolution. The next generation of space cosmology survey telescopes, represented by Euclid, the Roman Space Telescope, and the Chinese Space Station Telescope, may hold the key to unlocking these pivotal questions.

In this report, Ran Li from the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences will provide an overview of our current understanding of the universe and introduce the critical roles that space survey telescopes will play in furthering our exploration of these profound mysteries.

In partnership with the Embassy of China and in association with A1.

4.30pm to 5.30pm: Were they like us? Using archaeological science to discover the people of the past

Finding out about life in the past is a challenge. We know little about what people were doing and thinking, and how they related to one another. Archaeologists use the things that have survived until today, like houses, tools, food remains and art, to find out about what happened in prehistoric periods, before writing was invented.

One of the best ways to get close to those who lived before us is to look at the things that were closest to them, their clothing and jewellery. This talk explores the ways that archaeologists find out previously unknown details of prehistoric life using the tiny details of artefacts that often get missed. This research helps us to understand technology, society and individual identities in a world far removed from ours, and helps us understand whether they thought and felt the same things that we do today.

Emma L Baysal is an archaeologist and educator specialising in the prehistoric archaeology of southwest Asia. As an Associate Professor of Prehistory at Ankara University, Türkiye, she researches the ornaments that ancient groups used on their bodies – bracelets, necklaces, labrets and earrings – to explore how they viewed themselves and related to others around them. She believes that the need to define our identity is universal, and we have much to learn from the stories of those who first experimented with different materials and techniques to express themselves to others.

In partnership with National Geographic and in association with Overgas

8.30pm to 9.30pm: On the Origin of Time: My journey with Stephen Hawking into the Big Bang

Perhaps the biggest question Stephen Hawking tried to answer in his extraordinary career was how the universe could have created conditions so perfectly hospitable to life. Pondering this mystery led him to study the big bang origin, but his early work ran into a crisis when the math predicted many big bangs producing lifeless universes.

Holed up in the theoretical physics department at Cambridge, Hawking and Thomas Hertog worked shoulder to shoulder for twenty years, to develop a new theory of the cosmos that could account for the emergence of life. Venturing far back in time, they were startled to find a deeper level of evolution in which physical laws transform and simplify until particles, forces, and even time itself fades away. This led to a revolutionary idea: The laws of physics are not set in stone but are born and co-evolve as the universe they govern takes shape.

On the Origins of Time takes you on a quest to understand questions bigger than our universe. It offers a radical new Darwinian perspective on the birth of the universe that can profoundly transform the way we think about our place in the order of the cosmos.

Don’t forget to get a copy of Thomas Hertog’s book from the Festival bookstore and have it signed personally by the author after the talk.

In partnership with Ciela and in association with A1.

May 12:

4pm to 5pm: How do we track dinosaurs?

Dinosaurs are often hailed as the most successful species to have roamed the Earth. Spanning a remarkable 160 million years, these ancient creatures of various sizes and shapes dominated our planet.

They exhibited a diverse array of morphological and habitual characteristics, from towering heights to bird-like smallness, from ferocious aggression to gentle demeanor, and from sluggishness to agility.

The legacy of these dinosaurs, spanning hundreds of millions of years, has given rise to a fascinating field known as “ichnology.” The footprints, left behind by fortunate prehistoric creatures, have become the subject of intense study among paleontologists in recent years. Unlike fossilized bones, which offer only fragmented information about dinosaurs posthumously, footprints provide a glimpse into the everyday lives of these interesting creatures.

Chinese paleontologist Lida Xing will delve into how paleontologists employ various technical methods—from mythology and scientific history to ichnology, ecology, and geology—to track dinosaurs and reconstruct their world. Prepare to have your perceptions of dinosaurs challenged as we embark on a journey to hunt for these ancient giants together!

4.30pm to 5.30pm: Antarctic clouds and precipitation researches from Ukrainian Akademik Vernadsky station

Polar atmospheric processes are an essential component of global circulation, significantly sensitive to climate change, and directly affect the formation of the weather regime in lower latitudes. However, the properties of clouds and precipitation in polar regions remain to be understudied due to the lack of field, aerological and satellite measurement data.

It is also why the parameterization of clouds and precipitation in climate and forecast models remains a source of errors, making it impossible to obtain reliable information about the state of the polar ecosystem in general and the atmosphere in particular.

Therefore, a thorough study of cloud and precipitation formation processes by the high spatial and temporal resolution regional simulations and their verification with the measurement data, as well as assessing their climate projections, can improve the understanding of atmospheric processes in the polar regions and the quality of numerical modelling, including climate modelling, in the future.

Join Ukrainian polar researcher Anastasiia Chyhareva to find out meteorological studies of the mesoscale and microphysical features of cloud and precipitation processes on the Ukrainian Antarctic Research station “Akademik Vernadsky” help solve these issues.

In partnership with the Ukrainian embassy in Sofia

For further details about the festival, including tickets and other events, please visit the Beautiful Science Foundation’s website. The Sofia Globe is a media partner of the Sofia Science Festival.

The Sofia Globe staff

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