Science is an integral part of culture, with a historical significance in both the UK and Qatar. It helps us not only understand the world around us, but also to develop solutions for some of the pressing challenges addressing society today, such as energy, food and water security, improving human health, and combating climate change.
Café Scientifique: Stars under the stars
Astronomy began by looking out at the stars, and this event combined the pleasure of simple stargazing with some cutting edge astrophysics.
Navigating the night sky led to a discussion of our place in the universe as a not-so-special planet orbiting a normal star in just one of hundreds of billions of galaxies.
There was also a focus on the discovery of exoplanets - worlds orbiting stars other than our own sun. Nearly a thousand such planets are now known, many of them stranger than even science fiction writers imagined, a fact which is changing our ideas of our own solar system's past, present and future.
Café Scientifique: Can we reach the stars?
As a child, Dr. Maggie Aderin–Pocock dreamed of travelling to the stars and meeting strange creatures, but current manned space missions are focused on the International Space Station (ISS), a mere 300 miles above the Earth’s Surface.
Dr. Aderin-Pocock looked at what has driven us through the space era to date; confrontation, collaboration and commercialisation, and sought to answer questions on the future of space exploration:
- What are the likely motivations for the future?
- In terms of us getting out there, what are the chances of making it to space in our lifetimes?
- what if one wanted to travel further than the ISS, to the very stars themselves?
- Is this possible with current technology and if not what is in the pipeline now that would enable such a journey in the future?
- Can such travel ever be worth the expense and risk and what will we find out there?
Café Scientifique: A passion for observation - the natural world and science
Curiosity is a universal human instinct. What does each of us see? A diversity of particular birds, animals, rocks and plants; or a confusing mixture of unknown things? How is curiosity transformed into a passion to observe, make sense and understand the natural world? How does innate curiosity become part of a shared participation in science, part of our culture? How do we develop observation as a skill, and what is the value of observation to individuals, to communities and to science?
John Jackson, of the Natural History Museum in London, is interested in how we see the natural world, how we make sense of what we see, and how we work together to develop skills, communication and science. From individual fascination, to education, museums and citizen science, John discussed examples and ideas, focusing on birds and insects, exploring how this enriches our culture and strengthens public interest in and understanding of science.