IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival

A festival of over 100 science-based events.
The Iguanodon Restaurant, one of the many hands-on installations the festival has to offer
Various locations around Oxford, Fri 18th - Mon 28th October 2019
See full details and book through the IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival website

If you've ever thought 'science isn't for me', let IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival prove you wrong. With over one hundred events, they aim to enable thousands of conversations and connections between the public, researchers and innovators so that you can find the next idea or invention to inspire you.

A far cry from fusty ivory towers, concepts and findings will be communicated in a variety of exciting, memorable ways. From kids learning about cell biology while playing in a giant inflatable cell structure, to health issues explored through gravity-defying dance, almost every event will offer something unique in the way it’s presented. There will be a number of hands-on workshops, allowing participants to learn a range of unusual skills like forensics, carpentry and comic book making.

For those who would rather sit back and listen, though, there is also the option of attending some fascinating talks, on subjects like conservation, the ethics of AI, and why everything you thought you knew about dinosaurs is probably wrong.

Designed to be as engaging as possible for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, the festival is highly accessible; many events take place in convenient locations like the Westgate and Templars Square shopping centres, so you can pop in to try something new while at the shops, and most are also Pay What You Decide, meaning there’s lots of fun to be had even if you’re on a tight budget.

We can only really scratch the surface of what’s on offer, so visit the IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival website to see all the events, venues and times, or check out our latest blog for more recommendations


IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival

Over 100 events, many of them family friendly, with the aim for the complexity, wonder and opportunities of scientific research to be explored, challenged and enjoyed across society.
Oxford City Centre (various venues)
Various venues around the City Centre - see individual events for details.
Next: Sat 19th October

The Breakup Monologues with Rosie Wilby

Award-winning comedian and Radio 4 regular hosts a chat show and podcast recording unpicking the neuroscientific and cultural implications of heartbreak, divorce and ghosting
The Bullingdon
162 Cowley Road Oxford
Wed 23rd October, 7pm
Pay what you decide

October 19, 2018
An undeniably good idea.

Festival Dinner, Hertford College, Thu 18th Oct 2018.

The invitation to the first ever IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival dinner didn't give much away, only that there would be a short talk from a philosophy professor at the end, so I arrived not really knowing what to expect. The concepts of 'science and ideas' covers an area too broad to count as a theme in itself, so the subject of the talk had endless possibilities. Champagne was served on arrival in a classy, cosy drawing room, glitteringly typical for an Oxford college celebration. Guests were left to their own devices, and as I was a lone attendee, I set about finding someone to talk to.

I ended up discussing the many useful applications of virtual reality with two charming representatives of an engineering company, before considering the complexities of language and translation with a delegation from Grenoble, France. Grenoble is one of Oxford's 'twin towns', and our French visitors were on a mission to discover new ways to make the most of this pairing. The variety of interests, expertise and backgrounds ensured that the discussions were far removed from what you would normally expect from a networking event, and the reception was so much the better for it.

Dr Dane Comerford, the festival's director, told me that the choice to have a fully vegetarian menu was a deliberate one, in keeping with the scientific theme, given the overwhelming body of research suggesting that meat consumption is terrible for the planet. The intention was to demonstrate that a meat-free three-course meal can be just as luxurious as its carnivorous equivalent, and it certainly succeeded. The starter was a blue cheese soufflé, twice-baked for extra crispiness, accompanied by a poached pear with a pickled walnut dressing. These looked very pretty on the plate and were even more delightful to eat, with the strong saltiness of the blue cheese softened by the sweetness of the pear so that the balance of flavour was just right.

The wild mushroom roulade was also fantastic, proving just as hearty as a pie or roast, without the guilt. I couldn't quite taste the shallot in the dressing as much as I would have liked, but this is a minor quibble: the overall effect was impressive and filling. The chefs clearly saved the best for last, however, with a dessert that was simply stunning: a delicious medley of different appley elements all combining magnificently. The apple sorbet was particularly interesting - you could almost pick out the variety of apple just from the taste - as was the almost toffee-like seed florentine (about which I had been a bit perturbed when I saw it on the menu!). Based on this experience of vegetarian fine dining, I would console meat-eaters that giving up their carbon heavy steaks will open a world of culinary possibilities.

Professor Peter Millican in something of a legend amongst Oxford's philosophy undergraduates, renowned for his lively and engaging lectures, so I was looking forward to hearing him speak, even though I didn't know what the topic would be. He did not disappoint, covering in an astonishingly brief (yet somehow detailed) manner a few hundred years of scientific revolutions dramatically changing how humans understood the world, different philosophical arguments about identity, and whether artificial intelligence can be considered conscious. In case that last one alarms the reader, don't worry! Prof Millican reiterated that it can't.

The post dinner discussion provided an inspiring and enlivening aspect to a truly special occasion, and if this event can be seen as a microcosm of the festival itself then I would urge you not to miss it: it runs until this 22nd October and intends to return next year.

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