Mingling in the Speakers’ Lounge

Iain Stewart gives his talk on The Story of the Continents

When first accepted as a speakers’ lounge assistant for this year’s Festival I was excited at the prospect of a glamorous setting; a place where the speakers and I would relax, exchange anecdotes and generally have the time of our lives. And this is exactly what I got. But what I didn’t expect was everything that came with it. Continue reading


A Who’s Hugh of Aberdonian science

Hugh Falconer (seated) with a very dapper William Pengelly in front of Kents Cavern in Torquay (an important fossil mammal locality), April 1858. Copyright: Forres Museum, reproduced with permission by Moray County Council.

What do you get if you put Aberdeen, the British Science Festival, and dwarf elephants together? Isn’t it obvious? Hugh Falconer, of course.

What do you mean you’ve never heard of Hugh Falconer? The man who was instrumental in introducing tea plantations to India? The man who, in 1842, brought back five tons of fossil bones to the UK from Pakistan and India, fossils which would eventually form a core part of the Natural History Museum’s collections? The man who Stephen J. Gould claimed was the first scientist to anticipate the evolutionary theory of punctuated equilibrium? Not ringing any bells? Poor Hugh Falconer – one of the most respected scientists of his day, but now he is largely forgotten. Continue reading

The next war will be fought over water

Did you brush your teeth this morning? Did you flush the loo? Did you have breakfast? I’m going to assume you did all these things and a lot more. If not, then I hope for your sake and those around you, that you’re still in bed. But did you think about the water you used when doing them?

What role will science and technology have in the distribution of water?

What role will science and technology have in the distribution of water?

If you’ve got an old loo, one without a dual flush, you could be using 13 litres of water with every flush. That’s a lot of water. We’re lucky in the UK to have an almost continuous supply every day of our lives. In some developing countries, the average water supply per person is less than 20 litres, and you just flushed half that amount down the toilet. Continue reading