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Wednesday, 2 September 2009

COLUMN: Out and about

An incomplete and rather random guide to forthcoming events.

The first and foremost upcoming event for any self-respecting science writer is the ABSW's annual party at the BA (now British Science Association) Science Festival. This year's shenanigans are in sunny Guildford (a mere hour from London on the train) and the party starts at 6.30pm at Wates House, open only to bona fide journalists and ABSW members. Press Registration for the British Science Festival 2009 is now open if you'd like to sign up.

If you're in Guildford for the week, there's another interesting-looking event to schlep along to. As science writers we could be said to inhabit the gulf between the "two cultures" highlighted by C P Snow, with one foot in the literary camp and the other in the world of science and technology. A meeting at the British Science Festival will be seeking to resolve the rift by discussing "Culture Clash: The Two Cultures 50 years on". Chaired by Jon Turney and featuring our esteemed former Chair Ted Nield (among others), it promises to be a feisty discussion. At the University of Surrey, 8th September, from 4-6pm. More info can be found on the British Science Association's website.

Members with particularly literary leanings may be interested in getting involved in FictionLab - the monthly science book club at the Royal Institution, hosted by Jennifer Rohn of LabLit.com and dedicated to discussing great fiction with science at its core. The next meeting is Monday 7th September, and the book under the microscope is Turbulence by Giles Foden.

In case you're looking for some fodder for stories, or just to get out of the house for the evening, the Science Museum is putting on a series of Centenary Talks over the next few months, looking at scientific advances over the years. Head to South Ken on the 14th September to hear from Tim Berners-Lee, the daddy of the internet, on the 5th October for a jet-setting celebration of Concorde, or on 2nd November for the Age of Wonder (science and society at the end of the 18th century).

If looking back over a couple of centuries isn't enough for you, then how about the history of human evolution? The Royal Society is hosting a two day meeting covering the first 4 million years of human evolution (quickly, one hopes...) on the 19th and 20th October, culminating in a public lecture on the last 2 million years of our evolution on the evening of the 20th. Also on an evolutionary branch, the Royal Institution plays host to author Christopher Lloyd on 8th October, speaking about his new book "What on earth evolved?" and looking at 100 species that changed the world, from smallpox to slime.

You may find that contemplating 6 million years of humanity is too much to cope with without turning to mind-enhancing drugs - the topic for discussion at the Royal Society on 13th October. Popping a few pills to boost brainpower sounds like fun, but how do they work? Are they safe? And should they even be legal?

Finally, members interested in physics may fancy heading down to the Institute of Physics on the 9th September for the inaugural meeting of a group dedicated to communicating about the subject. Discussing topics ranging from "Beyond the Lecture - Where Next?" to "What makes good communicators?", it will be an opportunity to network and improve skills. More information is available from the IoP's website.

If you know of any upcoming events that might be of interest to members - especially outside London - then please drop me a line.

Kat Arney
ABSW Deputy Chair