Brains, skeletons, birds and fish and chips: A Manchester Science Festival 2013 top ten

By Ben Miller | 29 October 2013

A huge human spine moving on a warehouse and an enormous graphene sheet are a couple of high-profile highlights at the Manchester Science Festival. We’ve delved through the packed programme to find ten more to look forward to...

A photo of a young girl looking up into a sky lit by scientific rays
© Chris Foster / MOSI
Synthesis, Victoria Warehouse Hotel, Manchester, until November 10

The largest ever science art exhibition outside of a gallery setting abounds with futurism. Look out for the “headliners” – Gina Czarnecki’s image of a human spine and Luke Jerram’s glass microbes (projected onto MOSI) are the most immediately arresting of works by 16 artists.

To Breed or Not to Breed: The Mystery of the Elusive baby Pandas, The Manchester Museum, Manchester, October 30

The hype surrounding panda breeding hasn’t given scientists, who spend huge amounts attempting to encourage the 300 captured ones around the world to procreate, much comfort. From artificial insemination and “adult” panda videos to the inclinations of the docile pandas to fake pregnancies and self-abort in the absence of certain conditions, panda conservation expert James E Ayala visits the issues in a live discussion from the Chengdu Panda Research Base in China.

Bird sense: What it's like to be a Bird, Blackwell’s Bookshop, Manchester, October 30

Named after the book which won author Tim Birkhead a slew of awards – it was pronounced last year’s best nature book by the Guardian and The Independent – this chat with the author is an assured flight of fancy into the lives and multiple senses of swifts, nightingales and friends, drawing comparisons which might explain why humans have such an affinity with them.

Science of fish and Chips, Spinningfields, Manchester, October 31

Batter up: the University of Salford take a fishy approach to the north’s traditional dinner of choice, explaining elements of biodiversity, the ecology of the seas and the future of the chippy.

Skeletons in the Library's Closet, The John Rylands Library, Manchester, October 31

The John Rylands has a number of “charm bones”, used in rituals and fortune telling, and a “horn book”, used to teach kids to read during Tudor times. Experts will also detail the growth and elongation of bones in humans and animals, as well as their uses across different cultures.

Rocket cars at Fab Lab, Chips, Manchester, October 31 and November 1

Build a vehicle for a drag race, daubed with your own designs and measured through a laser timing system. The science of rockets and aerodynamics powers the chase.

Brains: The Mind as Matter Curator-led Tour, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, November 1

Grey matter has rarely been explored as colourfully or thoroughly as it is in the Wellcome’s current exhibition at MOSI. Find out the background story behind the show in the company of some of those who created it.

Punk Science, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, November 2

Can two strangers fall in love live on stage? There’s only one way to find out. The resident comedy team also excel at producing puerile humour and, more melancholically, insights into our feelings of pleasure and pain.

Food adulteration and the Co-operative, People's History Museum, Manchester, November 3

No amount of natty wrappers could prevent certain foods from causing harm during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Gillian Lonergan, from the National Co-operative Archive, explains how lab work combatted the contamination.

Future humans: Controlling Brains from the Outside, Museum of Science and Industry, Manchester, November 3

Scientists’ newfound ability to stimulate the brain through implanted electrodes, magnetic stimulation and other tricks seems all well and good, but Vincent Walsh – a Royal Society Industry Fellow – is more interested in how these techniques can be put to effective use. Find out some of the methods behind the magic and the potential it provides here.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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