Boston Blog

Why a Cambridge (Mass.) Science Festival?

Starting tomorrow and carrying on for ten days, the Cambridge Science Festival offers over 170 events. But don’t dawdle. There’s a preview talk tonight at the ultra-hip Lab @ Harvard and tomorrow’s events dovetail with MIT’s campus wide open house.

sci fest John Durant, the director of the MIT Museum, a key event sponsor, said he noticed the need for a festival here as soon as he arrived from England in 2006. Science festivals are common in Europe and it was clear that Cambridge had all the raw materials for one.

“But, I could also see that it wasn’t obvious to someone who wasn’t plugged in,” he said in an NNB interview. The city’s scientific community needed more visibility. “Instead of facing inward to itself, it could face outward.”

Since then, Philadelphia, San Diego, New York and other cities have launched science festivals.

“It’s clearly an idea that is resonating across the country,” Durant said. The Cambridge event is modeled more on an arts festival like Boston’s First Night, than your high school science fair.

“Sometimes, people forced into formal science education can have “the natural curiosity beaten out of them… But, I think it is easily recovered,” Durant said. That’s what the fair is about, he said.

Many of the events will be taking place in venues not usually associated with science, like the new public library, along the banks of the Charles or at the Hooper-Lee-Nichols House, a home built in 1685 that houses the city’s historical society.

“There is a kind of playfulness about what you do with science in public places,” Durant said.

So, come play. And while there are a ton of family events, those who would rather not swarm with squealing tykes can find plenty to do. In fact, one event comes with this WARNING: Do not come to this event if you are easily offended by anything

“Improbable Research After Dark” SATURDAY NIGHT, May 7, 11:00 pm. Central Square Theater, Cambridge, MA.

TICKETS are on sale at the Central Square Theater and online. This will be a benefit for the Catalyst Collaborative@MIT Science Theater Project and Improbable Research.

improb coverDramatic, two-minute-long readings from studies and patents that have won Ig Nobel Prizes, performed by some of the Boston area’s leading scientists, actors, and journalists. These are studies that make people laugh, then think. WARNING: Do not come to this event if you are easily offended by anything. Studies include The Effect of Coca-Cola as a Spermicide; The Collapse of Toilets in Glasgow; The First Case of Homosexual Necrophilia in the Mallard Duck; and many more. Featuring:

BONUS: Make a full science/theatre night of it! Earlier that evening, at 8:00 pm on the same stage, see a magnificent new production of the play Breaking the Code, about Alan Turing.

NOTE: For details on our other—very different (it’s ”http://improbable.com/2011/04/25/scientists-et-al-sing-improbable-science-songs/”>scientists and friends singing funny songs about science, on Monday night, May 2— event at the Cambridge Science Festival, see the Improbable events listing page.</em

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