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Space travel to be explored in science festival

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Space travel to be explored in science festival


NEXT month sees the staging of the first Highland Science Festival, with topics ranging from space travel to poetry.

Science is one of the six strands of Highland 2007, Scotland's Year of Highland Culture, and the festival is bringing together a rich mix of events for the two weeks of November 3-17.

It opens on Saturday with the story of the journey into space recently of a piece of North of Scotland rock. Astronomy is to the fore in several other events, including a talk about the early universe.

Space travel is also a strong theme, with the latest information from the landing on Titan by the Huygens probe in 2005, and a look at the opportunities for space tourism that may bring a spaceport to Scotland.

The festival will look afresh at the first moon landing and at the impact of the original Sputnik 50 years on.

Medical research will also be featured, including new insights on the causes of diabetes.

Science and religion is the theme of a talk in Dingwall which will look at the events of the Book of Job in terms of a picture of cosmic disorder. A link between physics and poetry is brought out in a lecture in Skye, which takes as its theme an image from a poem.

And sea monsters will be the subject of a talk whose venue is on Loch Ness itself. Geneticist Dr Yvonne Simpson will tell passengers aboard the Jacobite Queen of a remarkable story of a sea monster which was seen in the waters off Orkney 50 years ago.

Meanwhile, the spread of the fulmar is the subject of a film made by photographer Raymond Besant, with scenes from St Kilda and Orkney as well as the Netherlands and Aberdeenshire.

Overseas speakers will come from Italy, Slovenia and Ukraine, and a Ukrainian evening will be held for people and businesses seeking to establish contacts.

The festival is being organised by the Going Nova group which was set up some years ago to develop science and society activities in the North.

Orkney scientist, writer and broadcaster Howie Firth, one of the members of the group, explained that the aim of the first festival was to lay the foundations and show what could be done in the future.

Mr Firth said: "We've tried to keep it light and lively, building in a real festival spirit and a varied mix of people and themes. We go in time from the origin of the universe 14 billion years ago to the latest research results from this autumn.

"We go deep into some of the most puzzling philosophical aspects of physics and also look at practical development opportunities. We really hope that there's something for everyone in the programme."

Fiona Hampton, director of Highland 2007, said: "We are delighted with the diversity of the programme of cultural celebrations that has been brought together this year and are especially pleased that science features so strongly within the Highland 2007 programme."

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