The Musings has indeed been unusually quiet of late and my normal daily post rate has fallen away considerably. This is due to a number of factors, though I’d have to admit that the main one is simply not having much to write about. A contributory factor has certainly been that I’ve also been penning a couple of pieces for the Guardian website (here and here) and the fact that I had to prepare for, and then go to, the Cheltenham Science Festival.
Those outside the UK might well not have heard of this, but as things go it’s a fairly prestigious event and I was delighted that my application to do some kind of event through Ask A Biologist. So this morning, four AABers assembled in Cheltenham. Here was me, Paolo Viscardi (of Zygoma), Alice Roberts (you know, her off the telly) and David Wynick (or, err, AAB really). In front of a panel of about 150 kids we attempted to tackle everything that they could throw at us.
Overall, this worked really well and I was delighted with the result. We all managed to get a good bit of ‘air time’, each had questions that spoke directly to our specialities, and we managed to get through quite a few questions, but gave each the time it needed to provide some long and occasionally complex answers. Speaking personally, despite the large number of dinosaur talks and Q&As I’ve done recently I still managed to get two questions I hadn’t had before which at least made for some novelty.
One aspect of it at least was simultaneously great and terrible. It was terrible that there were a couple of rather leading / insinuating questions that basically started from the premise that evolution wasn’t true. However, it was great that they were prepared to ask a team of biologists this and that we could speak to them about this and correct their misunderstandings and try to present the evidence.
So all in all we had the chance to reach a wide audience and hopefully both answer some nagging questions, provide a little inspiration and show them a bit of the scientific method as well as the breadth of biology as a field and the people who work in it. We’ve already had some very positive feedback, so I’m comfortable we did a good job. It is nice to get out and do something beyond the web and reach out a little further and this was a fun event. I hope it’s the first of many.