World Science Festival Brisbane 2016: Questions abound in learning extravaganza

Street Science! encourages the public to get hands on with science. Photo: World Science Festival New York Brian Greene’s theatrical work ‘Light Falls’ explores the highs and lows of Albert Einstein.World Science Festival (supplied by Queensland Museum) Photo: World Science Festival New York
Nanjing Night Net

A scene from one of the World Science Festival events in New York. Photo: World Science Festival New York

Science is all about questions.

Are humans on the verge of destroying our planet? Is creativity linked to insanity? And just when are we finally going to be whizzing around space like The Jetsons?

These are just a smattering of the riddles some of the world’s greatest scientific minds will be attempting to answer in Brisbane this week.

How is it that two co-existing theories that perfectly describe the way our universe works are completely incompatible with each other? Can we save the Great Barrier Reef from a devastating death?

Are robots inevitably going to kill us all? That’s another conundrum experts will be tackling before the World Science Festival’s inaugural visit to the Queensland capital wraps on Sunday.

Did Matt Damon really “science the shit out of this” in The Martian or was it all Hollywood hocus pocus? The festival has an actual astronaut and a NASA scientist on hand waiting to answer just that query.

A little more than 100 years since Albert Einstein revolutionised our view of the world with his general theory of relativity and just a month after the discovery of gravitational waves finally proved the existence of the final piece of his puzzle, the German physicist’s towering mind dominates proceedings.

But as always in science, the biggest question of them all is still unanswered.

How do we unite our understanding of the very big (general relativity) with the very small (quantum physics), the two widely accepted, individually accurate but completely incompatible explanations of how the universe works?

“Although relativity and quantum physics aren’t compatible, the data we’re seeing is proving that both theories are spot on,” prize-winning astrophysicist Professor Tamara Davis said, in the lead-up to Saturday’s discussion of Einstein’s legacy.

“It’s difficult to work out what we do know, versus what we just assume we know because we haven’t found evidence to the contrary.”

On Wednesday night, the festival opened with Light Falls: Space, Time and an Obsession of Einstein, a theatrical production bringing the science to life.

That spirit, a push to make science interesting again and open the mind of even the most jaded student, envelops the whole festival.

At the weekend, Street Science! will take over South Brisbane as kids learn about cool jobs such as palaeontology, zookeeping and forensic science, create mini explosions in their quest to discover atomic theory and try to solve ocean pollution.

“The ability to make science real for students at a really young age is so important, especially really young kids – they’re sponges,” Professor Miller said.

“We want people thinking about science, talking about science and getting inspired by science.”

Renowned science communicator and festival co-founder Brian Greene brought the festival to Brisbane from its home in New York for the first time this year. In return, we named a spider after him.

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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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