Bar-stool science: the public bite back!

25 September 2013

Soapbox scientists play devil's advocate at Science Uncovered this Friday, offering up sticky scientific questions to get us talking. The good news is, together with Science Fess Up and the Science Bar, everyone gets their say.

Next door to the Museum, Imperial College scientists are right now gearing up to provoke us.

During Science Uncovered, students of subjects including virology, hypersonic aerodynamics and geoengineering will pitch deliberately controversial ideas from their soapboxes to launch what should be fascinating discussions.  

Subjects will include whether science should be censored, if exploring Mars really is a forward leap and whether we should manipulate the weather.

Essential, or just curious?

The Curiosity rover landed on Mars last summer and so far has cost $2.5 billion (£1.6 billion). Leon Vanstone, a rocket aerodynamics student, will question whether the money invested in space exploration would be better spent tackling world poverty or climate change. 

'In a world in which we increasingly demand answers to everything, the debate is, how do you decide which research is essential? 

'You could say that the technology developed during the Moon landings led to the creation of the internet and now helps us predict the weather, which saves lives. We didn't know at the time this would be a result of exploring space.

'The difficulty is in prioritising. Everything scientists are doing today is someone's future tomorrow,' Vanstone said.

Ben Bleasdale, a student of virology, will ask from his soapbox whether science publication should be censored by governments, the military, or even the public.

With more scientific information accessible online, sophisticated bio-hackers can now access information from laboratories previously only available to scientists. 


Get if off your chest: the Science Bar, Science Fess Up and Soapbox Scientists.

Home-made science

'The old barriers are disappearing, which means it's feasible that someone could soon be creating a virus in their garage. 

'We need to decide now what structures we want in place to deal with that,' Bleasdale said. 

'The best thing about Science Uncovered is that you work away all day in your lab and you sometimes forget that science affects people.

'Scientists have a big responsibility to the public. It's good to be reminded of that,' he said.

Soapbox Scientists will be scattered around the Museum throughout the evening.

There is also the chance to discuss burning topics in the Science Bar and at Science Fess Up

The Science Bar will have a menu of questions to kick start discussions, such as what people would  bring back from extinction, and whether scientists are responsible for the impact of their discoveries.

Science Fess Up offers the chance to delve into our secret science prejudices.

Other highlights at Science Uncovered include a seismometer that can replicate a small volcano and a breakdown of the plant components in gin.

Find details of the evening's activities on the Science Uncovered website. Science Uncovered 2013