11th edition

Science Festival sees crowds brave the rain

Science and circus combined
Science and circus combined
Photo: Sarita Rao

Experiment, discuss, discover or just be amazed – that was the slogan of Luxembourg’s 11th Science Festival at the Neumünster Abbey and the Natural History Museum in Grund on November 11-12.

Inviting young and old alike, families, couples or singles, the Festival includes 56 workshops, eight interactive shows and two special exhibitions, representing the multiple disciplines of science.

The first two days of the Festival, on November 9 and 10, were dedicated to schools, with children aged 9-15 years from 267 schools invited to take part in a half day session involving 30-minute workshops in biology, chemistry and physics, and a visit to the main exhibition.

Superheros use cheese as glue
Superheros use cheese as glue
Photo: Sarita Rao

This weekend, workshops were available to the public on a variety of subjects including electricity, plastics, robotics, and forensic sciences such as DNA testing and fingerprinting. 

Children were invited to take part in experiments to see how milk turned into cheese could act as glue for a superhero, or to find out how Parkinson’s disease might affect your ability to write, lift or even see and smell.

Since 2003 the Science Festival, held every other year, has been organised by the Museum of Natural History in partnership with the Luxembourg’s National Foundation for Research, to help spread interest and understanding about the many facets of science to new generations in Luxembourg. The very first Festival was held in 1995 when Luxembourg City was Europe’s cultural capital.

Some 12,000 people attended the festival in 2016 and more were expected this weekend despite the rainy weather.  

An opportunity to showcase research

“We wanted to get people from laboratories and research institutes in Luxembourg to show the public what they are doing,” said Michelle Schaltz from the Natural History Museum, whose role is to manage the children and youth programmes at the organisation. The museum put together a special exhibition for the Festival on the cat family with workshops on cat DNA and how a cat uses its five senses.

In addition to interactive stands and workshops from the University of Luxembourg, including its Scienteens Lab, designed to bridge the gap between school and university, the Tudor Museum, the Luxembourg Institute of Health, the European School and the Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology were all represented. For the first time, the Science Centre in Differdange and the City of Luxembourg were also partners of the event.

Tyre rubber tested at sub zero temperatures
Tyre rubber tested at sub zero temperatures
Photo: Sarita Rao

Private companies were invited to demonstrate how scientific research is an important part of their product development. The Goodyear exhibition and workshop showed the similarities between baking a cake and “baking a tyre” with samples of the different ingredients found in tyres beyond rubber, including wax and sulphur. 

Visitors were shown how winter and summer tyres faired at minus 70 degree temperatures, and invited to play a game using their iPhone as a remote control to move a ball into a garage.

“People always wait until there is snow to get their winter tyres, but they should have them when the temperatures drop to 7 degrees or so. Winter tyres are softer with more treads that work much better on the road in cold temperatures,” said Laurent Poorters, an engineer at Goodyear.

Forensics for children

Elsewhere, the University of Luxembourg called upon kids to become a detective like Sherlock Holmes. The cordoned-off site of a dead body provided blood, hair and finger print samples, and children could look at these under microscopes and test the DNA of the blood.

“It illustrates how science has aided the catching of criminals and enabled convictions based on indisputable evidence. Our fingerprints and DNA are unique,” said Laura, from the Scienteens Lab team.

The Science Festival is open to the public on Sunday, November 12, from 10am to 6pm. If you miss the chance to attend, both the Luxembourg Science Centre and the Natural History Museum offer workshops and activities for children and young adults throughout the year. 

(Sarita Rao, wort-en@wort.lu, +352 49 93 459)  

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