The British Science Festival is on in Bradford this week – lectures during the day and other events in the evenings. Fun!
1. Frustratingly, we can’t find anywhere to park (there are buildings on our usual car parking spot now – which shows it’s a while since we were last in that part of town) and by the time we remember the place behind the library and cut back over to the university we’re too late for the first talk. Instead, we retrace our steps and go to the National Media Museum – it’s a while since we’ve had a look around. We nearly shrug off the “Life Online” section (since we know how the old interweb works) but then we see all sorts of relics from our own computering pasts. Upstairs, we learn about cameras and projectors – from the oldest to the new and experimental – and get a headache from the room illustrating colours in light. Back downstairs, we enjoy the fantastic cake selection in the cafe.
2. The first talk we get to is about Neanderthals. The speaker takes a while to get to the meat of the matter but once he gets there, it’s fascinating. My favourite things: how we can tell (or suspect) where they had bedding areas in camps and imagining the landscape (which is now) under the Channel near Jersey.
2b. After lunch, we learn about Turkey Red cloth dye – how the method has been lost to time but how it’s being rediscovered using cutting edge chemistry – then I go to a talk on doggy DNA. I enjoy that dogs’ eyebrows/mustaches/beards etc are collectively known as “furnishings” and am fascinated by some animations showing how much dog breeds skull shapes have changed in the last 150 years only. (John learns about the creation of blue (and thus white) LEDs instead and it blows our little lay minds about people working with individual atoms.)
2c. We finish up with a talk on information that can be gathered from medieval manuscripts – not from what is written on them, but what they’re made from (animal skin parchment) and what lives on them (giving every document a microbial signature). It absolutely captures our attention from the beginning to the end – not just ours either, everyone in the room seems electrified by it: a perfect blend of history and science. I love that they came up with a simple, effective and non-destructive method for collecting the proteins – a Staedtler eraser.
3. I sit on the rug and hug my lovely soft dog.