Slovenian Science Festival success

Over 3000 students from 62 schools attended this year’s Slovenian Science Festival, to enjoy topics ranging from the frontiers of medicine to the exploration of space.

The Festival – now in its 18th year – is organised by the Slovenian Science Foundation, with whom Orkney Science Festival has a long-established collaboration. The Foundation’s Director, Dr Edvard Kobal, gave a presentation in Orkney this year on the Karst region of Slovenia and its limestone caves.

Topics in medicine covered in the Slovenian Science Festival included the discovery of a gene for obesity, and the investigation of the AIDS virus. There was also an account of the life of the Slovenian scientist Janez Mihael Žagar, born in 1732, who is little known today even in his native country but experimented with vaccination 30 years before Dr Edward Jenner.

Two other scientists with Slovenian origins were highlighted in a day on the theme of flight. One was Herman Potočnik, whose vision of the exploration of space more than 80 years ago set out the design of space stations and other aspects that continue today. A new centre in the village of Vitanje has been opened to highlight Potočnik’s work and bring together art and science to develop a vision for the future.

The Festival also told the story of Anton Kuhelj, a pioneer in light aircraft construction. And on the general theme of space, there were talks from visiting speakers from the International Space University.

The theme of the opening day – The Art of Living – included the story of another great Slovenian, the architect Jože Plečnik, who provided many beautiful and harmonious developments for Ljubljana.

The Festival took place over three event-filled days in the Cankerjev Dom, the big conference and exhibition centre in the country’s capital, Ljubljana. Festival coordinator Miha Pate said that the high level of interest was noticeable and also the readiness of speakers to take part.

‘The purpose of the Festival is to inspire interest in science, to demonstrate the path of research from idea to invention, and the links between science and business,’ he said. ‘The aim is also to provide a platform for young researchers to present their first results.’