Year of Light to shine in Orkney Science Festival

The International Year of Light will provide one of the themes of this year’s Orkney International Science Festival – and the centenary of Einstein’s theory of general relativity will be another. There will be light shows to see and black holes to hear about, stories of great discoveries and a look to the future possibilities of interstellar travel.

This year is the 150th anniversary of the historic paper on the nature of light by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, and so the world will one of the greatest scientists of all time, and look at the consequences of his ideas – including radio waves, and there will be a Festival presentation of early radio techniques. There will also be a tribute to two Orcadians who built of the first mechanical television receivers.

There will be reports of planetary exploration, and a model of a Mars Rover in action, and for this 25th Festival, a group of dazzling science shows whose places of origin range from Canberra to Cambridge.

Other topics will include the theory of knots in mathematics and in physics, the story of the early telescope pioneers, the making of the Faroe Islands, the life of ‘the enchantress of numbers’ – Ada Lovelace, born 200 years ago, who set down the principles governing the computers of today.

This is also the centenary of the birth of the Orkney scholar and writer Ernest Marwick, who will be commemorated by events in Kirkwall and his native parish of Evie.

The story will also be told of the remarkable Paul Dirac and his quest for mathematical beauty, and of Fanny Copeland, daughter of the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, and the quest that took her first to Orkney’s islands and then to the mountains of Slovenia.

Other topics will include the latest research into multiple sclerosis and into the nature of cellular processes, the health benefits of Orkney’s traditional beremeal, the lives of Isaac Newton and Charles Darwin, and a look at some of the vistas of science fiction, from the US to the Middle East.

The Festival runs for seven days, from Thursday 3 September, with over 60 events, from talks and outings to exhibitions, food and drink, and with music including a concert in St Magnus Cathedral. An early outline programme will be available for sending to long-distance visitors in early February and will appear on this site towards the end of the month.