Science has been gaining prominence at music festivals in Britain if nowhere else. I wrote about the Glastonbury Festival’s foray into science in a July 12, 2011 posting which featured the Guerilla Science group tent and mentioned other of the festival’s science and technology efforts over the years. More recently, I noticed that Stephen Hawking was scheduled for the 2015 Glastonbury Festival (he had to cancel due to personal reasons).
The 2015 Latitude Festival seems to have more luck with its science-themed events. according to a July 22, 2015 posting by Suzi Gage for the Guardian’s science blogs,
Why do people go to music festivals? When I was 18 years old and heading to Reading festival the answer was very much ‘to listen to Pulp and Beck in a field while drinking overpriced beer and definitely not trying to sneak a hip flask on to the site’. But I’ve grown up since then, and so, it seems, have festivals.
At Latitude this weekend, I probably only watched a handful of bands. Not to say that the musical lineup wasn’t great, but there was so much more on offer that caught my attention. The Wellcome Trust funded a large number of talks, interactive sessions and demos that appeared both in their ‘hub’, a tiny tent on the outskirts of the festival, but also in the Literary Tent at the heart of the festival and at other locations across the site.
The programming of the science content was imaginative, often pairing a scientist with an author who had written on a similar topic. This was effective in that it allowed a discussion, but kept it from becoming too technical or full of jargon.
Dr Robin Carhart-Harris, an expert in psychedelics, was paired with Zoe Cormier, author of ‘Sex Drugs and Rock and Roll’ in the Literary Tent, to discuss the use of psychedelics as ‘medicine for the soul’. [emphasis mine] Robin was very measured in his description of the trials he has been involved with at Imperial College London, being clear that while preliminary findings about psilocybin in treatment-resistant depression might be exciting, there’s a long way to go in such research. Talking about drugs at a festival is always going to be a crowd pleaser, but both Robin and Zoe never sensationalized.
A highlight for me was a session organised by The Psychologist magazine, featuring Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Fiona Neil, author of The Good Girl. Entitled ‘Being Young Never Gets Old’, it claimed to ‘debunk’ teenagers. …
Gage’s piece is a good read and I find it interesting she makes no comment about a literary tent at a music festival. I don’t know of a music festival in Canada that would feature literature or literature and science together.
I highlighted Zoe Cormier’s name as a participant (born in Canada and living in London, England) as she is a founder of Guerilla Science, the group I mentioned earlier with regard to the Glastonbury Festival. A science communicator with some fairly outrageous events under her belt, her and her co-founder’s ‘guerilla’ approach to science is exciting. I mentioned their annual Secret Garden event in a Aug. 1, 2012 posting where they sang and danced the Higgs Boson and otherwise celebrated elementary particles. The 2015 Secret Garden Party featured rest, noise, and neuroscience. (Perhaps it’s not too early to plan attendance at the 2016 Secret Garden Party?) Here’s an excerpt from this year’s lineup found in Louis’ July 15, 2015 posting on the Guerilla Science website,
Friday [July 24, 2015]
12:00 – Rest & Noise Shorts
Crash, bang, shush, zzz… four short talks about rest and noise from artist Zach Walker, psychologist Will Lawn and neuroscientists Ed Bracey and Melissa Ellamil.
13.00 Speed, Synapse… Go!
Two teams go head-to-head in a competition to see whose neurotransmitters can move the fastest. What happens when cocaine, marijuana and ketamine are introduced? Join us for some fast and furious neuroscientific gameplay.
15.00 Craft a Connectome
Help us transform the Guerilla Science tent into a giant model brain with a tangle of woolen connections. Neuroscientists Julia Huntenburg and Melissa Ellamil will be on hand to conduct our connectome and coax it into a resting state.
16.00 Sound, Fire and Water
We test out our new toy: a fire organ that visualises sound in flames! Join engineers from Buro Happold and artist Zach Walker as we make fire, water and cornstarch dance and jump to the beat.
Saturday [July 25, 2015]
11.00 Hearing the Voice
Philosopher Sam Wilkinson explores the idea of the brain as a hypothesis testing machine. He asks whether thinking about the mind in this way can help explain mental illness, hallucinations and the voices in our heads.
15.00 – The Unquiet Mind
Hallucinations are our contact with the unreal but are also a window into human nature. Neuroscientist and clinical psychologist Vaughan Bell reveals what they tell us about brain function and the limits of human experience.
Sunday [July 26, 2015]
12.00 Phantom Terrains
Frank Swain and Daniel Jones present their project to listen in to wireless networks. By streaming wi-fi signals to a pair of hearing aids, Frank can hear the changing landscapes of data that silently surround us.
13.00 Rest and Nose
Join chemists Rose Gray and Alex Bour and neuroscientist Ed Bracey to explore the links between relaxation, rest and sense of smell. Create a perfume to lull yourself to sleep, help you unwind and evoke a peaceful place or time.
For anyone interested in Guerilla Science, this is their website. They do organize events year round.