Project Description

Talks

There is superconductivity to whalesong, Arctic seaweed and Galapagos seabirds, Svalbard’s seas and Colombia’s mountains. There is papermaking, orca sighting, beachcombing, the story of women in shipbuilding, and the boats of Hudson’s Bay … and much, much more in a very full programme of events with what we hope will be something for everyone.

AS FAR AS THOUGHT CAN REACH

September 3, 2020 → 11:00 am11:45 am

In an unstable world, a week has become a long time to look ahead. But when Prof. Tom Stevenson spoke in the first Orkney Science Festival in 1991, he was right on target in introducing a new invention with huge long-term significance – a video camera on a chip, a key part of so much of our lives and links today.

SEAWEED FROM THE ARCTIC CIRCLE

September 4, 2020 → 11:30 am12:15 pm

Off Norway’s coast, right on the Arctic Circle, the cold clean waters around the little island of Træna produce fine seaweed, which the Northern Company harvests and sells. The company’s founder, Zoe Christiansen, describes its sea and laboratory work, in a small fishing community of less than 500 people, amidst spectacular scenery and northern light.

THE SHIP THAT SANK – AND ROSE AGAIN

September 4, 2020 → 2:00 pm2:45 pm

She was one of the most powerfully-armed ships in the world, built for the Swedish king Gustav Adolf’s wars in Europe, but on her maiden voyage in 1628 she capsized and sank. But after more than 300 years underwater she was located, and raised in 1961, and put on display. Her timbers had been wonderfully well preserved through the heavily polluted Stockholm harbour water, and she is the subject of much study – as the Vasa Museum’s research director, Dr Fred Hocker, explains.

MERCURY RISING: MEASURING TEMPERATURE THROUGH TIME

September 4, 2020 → 3:30 pm4:15 pm

It’s an art and a science, say Prof. Graham Machin of the National Physical Laboratory. It started in the 17th century with Galileo’s thermometer and the work of the Florentine Academy of Science. By the 19th century, there were three separate temperature scales. Then with Lord Kelvin came a deeper understanding of temperature and further scales and the concept of absolute zero. What might this century bring?

THE SEAS AROUND SVALBARD

September 4, 2020 → 5:00 pm5:45 pm

Svalbard, far to Norway’s Arctic north, is an island group with glaciers, fjords, reindeer, seabirds and also scientific research. Dr Alison McLure, back from her second expedition, shows images of landscape and wildlife in a sometimes bleak yet breathtakingly beautiful setting.

A HOY AND RACKWICK EVENING

September 4, 2020 → 7:00 pm7:30 pm

Take the ferry from Stromness to Moaness pier, and walk up the brae to the Hoy Kirk for seaweed soup for supper, with a recipe here for you to prepare at home in advance. Then sit back and enjoy some music, with the story of Jimmy o’ the Bu’s Polka, with memories from his grand-daughter Jean Thomson and his tune played by six of his great-great-grandchildren, including the fiddle that he played on. Then we hear the story of settlement in Rackwick from archaeologist Dan Lee.

FINDING PLANETS AROUND OTHER STARS

September 4, 2020 → 7:30 pm8:30 pm

Moray’s astronomy club SIGMA host a visit from Prof. Ken Rice of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh and welcome you to join them and hear about the remarkable speed of discovery of extrasolar planets, or exoplanets.

THE ORKNEY NIGHT SKY FOR BEGINNERS

September 4, 2020 → 10:00 pm10:45 pm

Join Eric Walker to find out what to look for tonight, weather permitting. “It’s for absolute beginners,” he says, “It’s for naked eye viewing and commonly available binoculars – no telescopes required.” Eric, who’s chair of the Highlands Astronomical Society, will present the sky view each day as it would be seen from North Ronaldsay. He says that he’d be interested to hear from everyone, wherever they are, about what they’re looking out for in the night sky tonight.

LOOKING OUT TO SEA

September 5, 2020 → 10:00 am11:00 am

Research students at Heriot-Watt University’s International Centre for Island Technology give short talks on their work in topics like marine resources – and an opportunity to enjoy the view over Stromness harbour!

ALONG THE TIDE-MARK GATHERING DRIFT

September 5, 2020 → 3:30 pm4:15 pm

A beaver-chewed timber from North America, a sea heart from the rainforests of the southern Caribbean. A skate’s egg case, a lump of paraffin wax, and a lobster creel tag from Newfoundland. Martin Gray, who runs the Orkney Beachcombing page, describes the wealth of treasures that wash up on an Orkney shore and the searching and foraging quest that has taken Orcadians to the shore since Neolithic times and before.

BEYOND THE WORLD’S MEANING

September 5, 2020 → 5:00 pm5:45 pm

Are science and theology opposites? Not so, said the Orkney-born theologian John Oman: they face the same world, but in different ways. His theology puts in a radically new foundation for its relation to science, subordinating authority and tradition to personal experience. His great-great-niece Patricia Long tells the story of his life, and Howie Firth outlines his ideas, to argue that John Oman is one of the most important thinkers of the 20th century.

ANEW THE VINES HAVE FRUITED

September 5, 2020 → 8:00 pm8:45 pm

We go live to Ljubljana where Dr Edward Kobal of the Slovenian Science Foundation takes a look at the science of wine, and how land and soil and air all play a part, from the high plateau of the Karst to the shores of the Adriatic Sea.

SCIENCE FESTIVAL SERVICE

September 6, 2020 → 10:00 am10:30 am

Words, music and images from St Magnus Cathedral for a Sunday morning, with Rev. Fraser Macnaughton and the Cathedral Choir and organ.

SIGHTING CETACEANS

September 6, 2020 → 11:45 am12:30 pm

Orkney’s waters can provide spectacular sightings of marine mammals, but research so far has been limited. Orkney Marine Mammal Research Initiative was launched this summer to undertake long-term studies of cetaceans in Orkney waters and gather information from public sightings. It plans to work alongside other UK organisations such as Seawatch Foundation. Emma Neave-Webb, with a wealth of experience in surveying marine mammals in Sanday and elsewhere, describes the life of cetaceans – whales, dolphins and porpoises – whales, dolphins and porpoises. She is joined for questions by Karen Hetherington and Imogen Sawyer.

SANDAY, SCAPA, AND SHORES AROUND THE ISLES

September 6, 2020 → 2:00 pm2:45 pm

Dr Tom Rendall takes a journey from his native Sanday, where the shore sweeps out in great sandy bays like Otterswick and Backaskaill, to the coast at Scapa and its views across the Flow, with Birsay and parts of the East Mainland as well. He looks at the impacts of the sea upon island communities, with readings from Orkney writers and a song from Dr Sarah Jane Gibbon.

STORIES IN STONES

September 6, 2020 → 3:30 pm4:15 pm

It starts with a handful of stone artefacts from the Ness of Brodgar, in the heart of Neolithic Orkney … and Prof. Mark Edmonds of York University and UHI goes in search of their origins. Some are striking, others seem simple by comparison; all of them have stories to tell about how stone was caught up in people's lives over 5000 years ago.

THE SCIENCE OF THE NESS

September 6, 2020 → 5:15 pm6:15 pm

The archaeological work at the Ness of Brodgar is being followed worldwide. Although excavations couldn’t proceed this summer, the study of the vast amount of data and finds from previous years has been continuing, as director Nick Card explains. Two other members of the UHI Archaeology Institute team at Orkney College describe ongoing scientific analysis of the finds. Dr Ingrid Mainland speaks on the animal teeth found over time and the clues to a possible marine diet, and Dr Scott Timpany describes plants, pollen and Brodgar’s Neolithic landscape. All the speakers are Fellows of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland who’re hosting and highlighting the session.

SAILING ON STONES

September 7, 2020 → 10:00 am10:45 am

Neolithic mariners in north-west Europe may have employed a fundamental nautical engineering principle, says Dr Mark Cooper of the University of Washington, Seattle – sailing with ballast. Using a long, knife-shaped megalith as the central hull of a trimaran would have increased stability, as well as speed and cargo-carrying capacity.

WOMEN IN SHIPBUILDING

September 7, 2020 → 11:30 am12:15 pm

From one of the industries traditionally most dominated by men come stories of an 18th-century shipwright, a 19th-century propeller designer, a pioneer marine engineer and a WW2 shipyard electrician – and all of them women. Their newly-discovered histories are revealed by engineering historian Dr Nina Baker, who was herself a Merchant Navy deck officer, and highlights the role of women in engineering today.

A SPACEPORT FOR SCOTLAND

September 7, 2020 → 2:00 pm2:45 pm

Will it be in Sutherland or Shetland, or both? Dr Matjaž Vidmar of the Royal Observatory Edinburgh speaks to some of those involved in the plans for Tongue and for Unst.

THE BOATS FOR THE BAY

September 7, 2020 → 3:30 pm4:15 pm

Orcadians working for the Hudson’s Bay Company over its three and a half centuries have had to use a wide range of vessels – York boats and canoes, ocean-going ships and paddle-steamers on lakes and rivers. Naval architect Dennis Davidson and former boatbuilder Len Wilson tell the story of the boats and the design principles behind their success.

A POLLUTANT’S TALE

September 7, 2020 → 5:15 pm6:15 pm

The story of the gases in the atmosphere, their interactions with each other and with us, and the way they affect life on the planet, with colourful practical illustrations. This lecture/demonstration by Tim Harrison and Prof. Dudley Shallcross of the University of Bristol has been given in 31 countries, from the US and China to Australia and New Zealand, to over 2500 audiences. Supported by the Atmospheric Chemistry Research Group at the University of Bristol

OTTERS AND ORCAS, PUFFINS AND SKUAS

September 7, 2020 → 7:30 pm8:15 pm

Award-winning wildlife cameraman and photographer Raymond Besant takes us on a tour of Orkney's coast, from cliffs and geos to sandy beaches, and the varied birds and mammals who live and feed there in a world of wild weather, orcas, otters, seabirds and seaweed.

THE NEWS FROM THE HEART OF THE WORLD

September 7, 2020 → 9:00 pm9:45 pm

High on a mountain in Colombia’s Sierra Nevada, the Kogi are among the very few indigenous people to survive contact with the western world. Despite their isolation, they have a deep concern with what we are doing to the Earth. In a film made by Alan Ereira, From the Heart of the World (1990), they warned of the danger. With growing concern, the initiated a second film with him, Aluna the Movie (2012), in which they sought to share some of their ways of thinking with western scientists, to find a solution to the deeper causes of the problem. What response have they had? Can indigenous and modern knowledge be brought together to repair damaged landscapes? Alan Ereira in conversation brings the latest news and answers questions, along with zoologist Prof. Alex Rogers of REV Ocean and Oxford University.

SUPERCONDUCTIVITY – A QUANTUM TRIP THROUGH TIME

September 8, 2020 → 10:00 am10:45 am

At temperatures near absolute zero, some metals lose their electrical resistance and become superconductors of electricity. Prof. Lesley Cohen of Imperial College London describes how superconductivity was discovered, and its underlying quantum nature with electric current carried by particles behaving coherently. She describes the longstanding search for superconductivity at room temperature; and how low-temperature superconducting qubits are leading the race to build a quantum computer.

THE AMAZING MASER

September 8, 2020 → 11:30 am12:15 pm

The familiar laser uses coherent light. The maser uses coherent microwaves, and can detect tiny signals from distant space probes, but needs high magnetic fields and difficult cooling schemes. Prof. Neil Alford and his team at Imperial College London have developed the first solid state maser operating at room temperature in the earth’s magnetic field – with, as he explains, potential applications from radio astronomy to cancer scanning.

IN OUR GENES, OR FROM OUR LIVES?

September 8, 2020 → 2:00 pm2:45 pm

What predominantly influences our overall health and our chances of falling ill – the genes we were born with, or how – and where – we live? Edinburgh University researcher Dr Carmen Amador looks at obesity, and the relative contributions from our genes and our lifestyle – and how we might disentangle the two.

VIKING GENES

September 8, 2020 → 3:30 pm4:15 pm

The target – to seek out 4,000 people worldwide with at least 2 grandparents from Orkney or Shetland. The purpose – to look at the genetics and health of the volunteers, to better understand what might cause diseases such as heart and eye problems, stroke, diabetes, cancer and others. The methods and project updates – come along and hear more from Dr Shona Kerr of Edinburgh University’s VIKING II research team.

SCIENCE UNDER SAIL

September 8, 2020 → 5:00 pm5:45 pm

The tall ship Pelican of London is in Orkney, carrying out research to tackle marine challenges, in the tradition of HMS Beagle, launched 200 years ago. With other stops including St Kilda and Shetland, it’s setting the scene for the visionary Darwin200 project that hopes in 2021 to take scientists and conservationists on the route of Darwin and the Beagle. Five young scientists aboard the Pelican – Joe Ellison, Shaolin Casey, Penelope Martinez-Halmen, Aoibhinn Lynch and Abigail Cundell –join us with news of their research amid life under sail.

SONGS OF THE WHALES

September 8, 2020 → 6:30 pm7:15 pm

Why do they sing? How do they learn their songs? Is there a connection to music more generally? Dr Luke Rendell and Dr Ellen Garland of St Andrews University’s Sea Mammal Research Unit describe the latest insights and explore their implications with composers Emily Doolittle and Alex South. This is followed by a performance by the Kapten Trio of Emily Doolittle’s piece Bowheads, based on the songs of the bowhead whale.

THE THREE LARGEST TELESCOPES

September 8, 2020 → 7:00 pm8:00 pm

Aberdeen Astronomical Society welcomes you to join them for Neville Brown’s account of the building of the three great observatories of Yerkes, Mount Wilson and Palomar and the driving force behind them – the American astronomer George Ellery Hale. At Mount Wilson he hired and encouraged Edwin Hubble, and he himself discovered magnetic fields in sunspots.

THE WAY BACK HOME

September 8, 2020 → 8:00 pm8:45 pm

Could life after lockdown provide an opportunity for reflection, and a return to a healthier relationship with the natural world? We are an intrinsic part of it, says Elizabeth Woodcock, walk leader, horticulturist and writer. She interweaves the work of writers, poets and scientists with images of the surrounding landscape of the Cumbrian Fells, to explore gardens, brains, lanes and life.

THE BOTANY OF BEER

September 8, 2020 → 9:15 pm10:00 pm

In the days before hops, flavour was balanced in beer by foraged plants like angelica and meadowsweet, and by spices brought from the East on new sailing routes. Master brewer Ken Duncan tells the story.

TALK ON AN OCEANOGRAPHIC TOPIC

September 9, 2020 → 10:00 am10:45 pm

As the tall ship Pelican of London hoists her sails for Shetland, oceanographer Dr Charlotte Braungardt of the University of Plymouth joins us from aboard to tell us about … Details to come.

WHALES IN THE CHANGING ARCTIC – postponed

September 9, 2020 → 10:00 am10:45 pm

This event has been postponed due to unavoidable circumstances band and we look forward to an opportunity to reschedule.

ENCHANTED ISLANDS

September 9, 2020 → 11:30 am12:15 pm

The little-known Galapagos Islands came to the fore when Charles Darwin’s discoveries there completely changed our views of the living world. Author and photographer Dr Michael Leach has visited many times, and shows pictures of their extraordinary wildlife – giant tortoises and marine iguanas, green turtles and Sally Lightfoot crabs, penguins, sea lions, finches and frigate birds – and tells their story.

THE TREE OF LIFE UPROOTED – postponed

September 9, 2020 → 2:00 pm2:45 pm

This event has been postponed due to unavoidable circumstances band and we look forward to an opportunity to reschedule.

THE MASON, THE TSAR, AND THE DRY DOCKS OF SEVASTOPOL

September 9, 2020 → 3:30 pm4:15 pm

A newspaper obituary for a 19th-century stone mason led Neil Price on a trail of investigation: from Bristol to Tsarist Russia and a massive harbour development destroyed in the Crimean War. Andrea Price joins as reader for a story that starts with Catherine the Great and features Charles Gordon (later of Khartoum) and the first war to be recorded through the techniques of photography.

75 YEARS OF THE CHURCHILL BARRIERS

September 9, 2020 → 5:00 pm6:00 pm

It was one of the most significant and complex civil engineering achievements of the 20th century, closing off four fast-flowing tidal channels to form causeways that sealed off the eastern side of the anchorage of Scapa Flow and link today the island communities of Burray and South Ronaldsay with the Orkney mainland. The challenge was taken on by the construction company Balfour Beatty. Civil engineer John Andrew tells the story of how they solved it, and the massive scale of the operation with its quarries and rockworks, cableways and railways.

SHINING TO THE FUTURE

September 9, 2020 → 7:00 pm8:30 pm

Islands are in the frontline for challenges of environment and resources – and for finding solutions. The Virtual Island Summit (7-13 September) is this week bringing together islands worldwide to share their experiences and stories of island innovation. We join them live with stories of development projects in several Orkney islands showing how communities can shape energy developments to solve problems.