Event of the Week
Battle of Ideas at the Royal College of Art, all weekend
The Battle of Ideas is, according to their website, 'an annual festival of social, political, scientific, academic and cultural discussion'. In other, more juvenile words, it's a mass debate. And it's probably going to get quite messy. The panel-led discussions, organised by the Institute of Ideas, are designed to cut through the crap and get down to some genuine free thinking. All the big issues of our time are represented, from climate change to the emerging cons of human rights legislation. The weekend is sponsored up to the hairline by everyone from Pfizer to CheapFlights.co.uk; the latter seemingly just to stoke the fire for the environmental debates. Although this is a multidisciplinary set of discussions, there is a strong concentration of science in there. Highlights include debates on whether we need a new space age, whether today's education will produce tomorrow's Einsteins and Brunels, and how best to cope with natural disasters. The debates are backed up online by Spiked, who provide recommended reading for each item. So, an exhausting, but worthy way to spend your weekend. But at £75 a head, despite the heavy sponsorship, never has free thinking seemed such a misnomer.
Where to start...um. The Dana's always a good place. They have a couple more fairground rides for you to try out over the next week: a ghost train (tonight) and a 'booster', which apparently takes 'the g-forces close to the body ‘shut-down’ criteria. Awesome. This being the Dana, all the fun of the fair will be measured and quantified giving scientific insights into the feelings of thrill and fear. One other Dana event (tomorrow) looks at the issue of race in medicine. The long road to personalised medicine recently threw up the controversial case of BiDil - a drug for heart failure, which turns out to be much more effective in certain black populations than other groups. Marek Kohn has literally written the book on the implications of this, and discusses the subject of race and science with a panel of experts.
Plucky little Gresham College gets all keen this week, hosting two sciencey events. Mathematics in the modern age (this lunch time) actually focuses on 19th century equation bashing, but might be worth a look. Then there's 'Did Einstein get it Right?' (tomorrow). Yes, for general relativity; no for hair styling.
The Royal Institution dabbles in zoology tonight, when they host a lecture on Walter Rothschild at the Royal College of Surgeons. This was a man whose family were so rich, they gave him a museum for his 21st birthday. It's still there, in Tring, and houses an astonishing collection of wildlife specimens. Find out more at this event chaired by Lisa Jardine, and then book on a trip to Tring to see the museum first hand. The Royal Society, meanwhile, puts on a free public lecture in which Cambridge's Andrea Brand gives us the latest in neuron repair.
Finally to the Natural History Museum. As well as their fine selection of daytime mini-lectures (now so numerous, we can't list them all here), they have a special evening event in which they describe 'the worst journey ever endured for the sake of Museum specimens', which they claim is doing natural history in Antarctica. (We'd like to venture a two hour bus ride through heavy south London traffic, in search of the Horniman Museum.) We should also highlight the just-opened Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition, which is always worth a visit, so long as you catch it when the crowds do not.
When and Where
Walter Rothschild, zoological collector extraordinaire, Tonight, 7pm, Royal College of Surgeons, £8
Fairground: Thrill Laboratory—Frisson, Tonight, 6.30, Dana Centre, £10
Mathematics in the modern age, Today, 1pm, 6pm, Gresham College, FREE
Science of Race, Thursday, 7pm, Dana Centre, FREE
Did Einstein get it right?, Thursday, 1pm, Gresham College, FREE
Conserving Antarctica’s Past, Present and Future, Thursday, 7pm, NHM, FREE
Battle of Ideas, Sat, Sun, all day, Royal College of Art, £75
Constructing a nervous system, Monday, 6.30, Royal Society, FREE
Fairground: Thrill Laboratory—Excitement, Tuesday, 6.30, Dana Centre, £10