There was another day of the festival on Friday, but in the end I couldn’t make it, except for one final talk on brain stimulation. In the tradition of my other blogs here is a little summary of some of the interesting points:
Brain Stimulation: Perils and Promises
The first speaker talked about working with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation which seems to be as simple as slapping and anode and a cathode on the head, the anode on the bit of brain you want to increase activity in and the cathode on another bit to reduce activity.
This is a cheap, non-invasive and portable method that simply raises or lowers the threshold for activity that the neuron needs to fire, kind of like how a catalyst can lower the energy needed for a reaction to start.
Today was my last full day at the festival, which is sad, but to be honest I probably have more than enough things that I need to do more research into by this stage.
One thing I’ve noticed this week is that so many speakers still apologise for putting maths and science into their talks… This is surely nonsense. There is no need to say ‘there will be no more maths, I promise! ‘or ‘this is the last sciency looking graph you will have to deal with’ or ‘I’m sorry this is a log scale.’ For goodness sake. If people don’t know what a log scale is they aren’t going to burst into tears or run out of the talk.
All of the talks I’ve been to have left time at the end for questions and discussion with the speaker. I started the week thinking this would add a lot of value to the lectures but I’m not so sure anymore.
That is because most of the questions run like this:
‘Hello! I am someone who came to this talk because I have my own strong, slightly (through to ludicriously) batty opinion on this topic which I will now use this opportunity to hold forth about, even though it bares little resemblance to anything you actually mentioned in your talk and makes everyone else feel uncomfortable.’
Hello 🙂 here goes another late night blog writing session from me. To avoid the whole tedious: ‘first I did this and then I did this’ approach, I am going to put subheadings about each of the talks I went to (because they are genuinely all too interesting to miss out).
This talk was on how smartphones, smartwatches, Google Glass etc. could be used to monitor people’s movements, speech patterns and all sorts of other things like text message content, to give doctors objective information on their symptoms over time.
I’ve read about this topic before, but hadn’t thought about how some of this information is already being measured by our phones and being thrown away, for example in the technology that flips the screen when your orientation changes– this measures the direction of gravity acting on your device (something I am completely in awe of the accuracy of, having tried a similar thing in the lab).
Today was a little bit more relaxed– I only went to three talks, but it was family day at the university so there was face painting, a carousel, circus people jumping around, giant inflatable lungs etc etc. I got a subtle rocket painted onto my face, whereas Galina, another student from the bursary scheme, got her whole face done as a parrot which made her a feature of a lot of people’s pictures in the lectures, many of whom seemed to think it was her actual make-up…(?)
The first event was about how computing was communicated in schools– it was more of a reflection on the past methods than I thought, which was actually really interesting, as I’d never heard of any of the programs or computers they were talking about (as well as some of them being hilarious– you should take a look at a great YouTube clip from tomorrow’s world about ‘Nellie, the school computer’).
So, my first day at the British Science Festival is done 🙂 I’ve been to five events today as well as investigate the university and spent am embarrassing ten seconds in the Lapworth Museum…
I’ve met so many more people today including ones I literally met five seconds ago in my flat! I’m sure you will all be pleased to know that I ditched them early to write this blog 😛
Our food is from a little set-up cafe called the Flask and Bunsen with beakers for flowerpots (surely a great idea for a science themed party if any of you are cool enough), but is mostly sandwiches, so we might be forced to foray into Birmingham city centre one evening to supplement this diet.
It has been an absolute mission trying to get a house to live in for this year. Our journey started Christmas 2013 when the 5 of us decided that we would be living together for second year. Little did we know how difficult this whole process is.
Here is a little insight into what happened so hopefully future students don’t make the same mistakes.
Easter 2014 we decided we needed to start looking. We really had no clue about what we were doing. All we knew is that we needed a house and wanted to complete our search before exams started.
Hey 🙂 As I’ve mentioned before Imperial are very kindly sponsoring me to go to the Science Festival in Birmingham!
It looks like it is going to be amazing- so many great speakers and interesting talks (far too many to attend) as well as free food and accommodation… It’s one all inclusive science holiday!
I just arrived this evening and haven’t done anything so far except meet some of the other lovely bursary students (I seem to have somehow mostly selected people from Durham University to talk to) and been shown my room (back into halls!)
I’m here all week now until Thursday with loads of events everyday so I am going to try and blog every evening with an update of what I’ve been doing 🙂
That’s all for now- tomorrow morning starts with a talk on Virtual Palaeontology…
I was going to make good on my promise to give some Python tips for this blog, but after reading through all my lab python notes I realised that there are better links from the lab website (and now even pre-course material to complete before the start of labs.) Damn it. Oh well—I think that is a good idea and am glad Imperial have beat me to it 😛
You probably know this already but you can find all this lovely information on the first year laboratory and computing website and the whole of the course is actually on Blackboard, including a load of links on where to download python and places to get tutorials and everything.