265 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02139 csf@cambridgesciencefestival.org

Curiosity Challenge: How Did Intelligence Evolve Over Time?

By Paola Salazar How intelligence evolved over time is not a simple question to answer, even with dozens of researchers spending lifetimes looking into it. Generally, intelligence across species is considered to be a result of how an animal responds and manipulates its environment. Our level of intelligence tends to be attributed to several different theories and has been a process of development for around 10 million years. There’s much debate around the different ideas about how we evolved into intelligent beings, but we’ll do our best to highlight the general idea behind a few of the standing theories! One theory is that the evolution of our intelligence is a result of our use of communication. The idea is that since we started walking upright and had our opposable (moveable) thumbs, we gradually began having more activities and capabilities that we wanted to pass on to younger generations, like how… Read More

Curiosity Challenge: Astronaut Training & Space

by Ben Tolkin How can floating underwater mimic the zero gravity condition of outer space? – Samantha Zhang, age 10 Going into space is hard. Really, really hard. Astronauts work with some of the most complicated and expensive technology ever made, in an environment that’s both highly dangerous and completely unlike anything they’re used to. If you make a mistake on a space station hundreds of miles above the Earth, you might not get a second chance to make things right. Before going into space, you have to make sure you can do every part of your mission perfectly, 100% of the time, and that means practice, practice, practice. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to train for space travel; outer space is (literally!) like nothing on Earth. One of the hardest things to train for is weightlessness. Although there is gravity in outer space, astronauts in orbit don’t feel it… Read More

Don’t Forget to Pre-Register for Science Festival Programs!

We have more than 170 events lined up for April 15 – 24 this year!  Many of these events need notice that you’re going to attend. Take a look at the list below for all the festival programs that require pre-registration, tickets, or request an RSVP. Don’t miss the School Vacation Programs category as well! (Please note: MIT Museum workshops open registration on March 28.) Programs with pre-registration or tickets Science Trivia: Einstein, Acronyms, Astronomy Free. Ages 21+. Please register at: http://bit.ly/1miO0JC Big Ideas for Busy People $10. Purchase tickets at bigideascsf2016.eventbrite.com Mycology in the Forest: All the Fungi You’ve Never Seen Free. Ages 10+. Pre-registration required at mycology.eventbrite.com Science Club for Girls Media Team Film Screening Free. RSVP at http://bit.ly/SCFGMedia417 Science Writing Workshop: Stealing from Fiction’s Toolkit $10. Ages 18+. Pre-registration required at web.mit.edu/museum/programs/festival.html Art + Science of Beer Free. Ages 21+. Please RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/CSFbeer16 Land of the Giants… Read More

Artists, Scientists, and Both: Creative Thinking on BOTH Sides of the Brain

By E. Rosser “The greatest scientists are artists as well.”  –Albert Einstein, 1923 Science is often thought of as a purely left-brain venture…but who says the creative thinking that leads to great discoveries can’t also produce some great art?  The Cambridge Science Festival aims to show off the “A” part of “STEAM” by urging Festival-goers let their inner DaVinci out at our various art events–from crafting kinetic sculptures to learning about baby birds through drawing.  It turns out that innovation and passion are important ingredients for art as well as science, technology, math, and engineering.   Some of the greatest minds that science has seen have also been known to stretch their artistic muscles.  Here are some famous scientists who have put down the lab notebook and picked up the sketchpad over the years–and artists who have taken up science! Drawing and Illustrating: Leonardo Da Vinci – Inventor and Illustrator… Read More

TENacious Engineering at the MIT Museum: Collaboration, Learning, and Innovation in Chain Reactions

by Marybeth Martello, Ph.D. This post is one in a series of posts about the Cambridge Science Festival’s TENacious Engineering Project (see blog entry from February 17, 2016).  To celebrate the Festival’s TENth Anniversary, TEN teams across the state are building TEN chain reaction machines.  These machines are reminiscent of the contraption that kicked off the very first Festival.  On the evening of April 15, at the Big Ideas for Busy People Event, Governor Charlie Baker will open the Festival with a short film that links all of these machines together.   Why chain reactions, you might ask?  With so many worldly problems begging for our attention, why spend precious time and brain power figuring out ways to make objects (often discarded and unwieldy items) perform tasks for which they were not designed?  The talented team of artists, scientists, and students, who recently constructed a TENacious Engineering chain reaction in the… Read More

Curiosity Challenge: Weather and Animals in Antarctica

“What’s the weather like in Antarctica?” — Aaliyah Bester, 7 “How do animals survive in the Antarctic?” — Josephine Sawyer, 8 My friend Rachel stands on the bottom of the world with the Geographic South Pole marker! Courtesy of Rachel Bowens-Rubin. The Antarctic is a really “cool” place–both because of how neat it is, and because it’s so cold!  In fact, the coldest temperature ever recorded on Earth was −89.4 °C (−128.9 °F), at the Vostok Station in Antarctica.  I’ve been hearing a lot about Antarctica lately because my friend Rachel has just returned from a trip to the South Pole, which is right in the middle of the continent.  Rachel is an astrophysicist, which means that she studies the physics of stars and planets by looking at them through a telescope.  She was using a telescope at the South Pole to search for special waves in space that might… Read More

Choose YOUR Pi Ice Cream on Pi Day!

Loading… “Where will we see this festival ice cream anyway?” Come to Big Ideas for Busy People or the Science Carnival & Robot Zoo to check out this new flavor in person! See you at the Festival! April 15 – 24, 2016cambridgesciencefestival.org

Curiosity Challenge: “What is Global Warming?”

“What is Global Warming?”  — Madi Corvi, Age 12   You’ve asked a very important question, Madi, and one of my favorite topics to talk about!  Lots of scientists have been wondering what has been causing the hottest years on record (most of which have been happening in the past decade), and if humans are part of the cause.  They agree that the earth has been heating up and cooling because of natural reasons (like volcanic eruptions, or changes on the sun) for thousands of years…but the recent temperature increase has been sharper than ever before.  Since that temperature spike has occurred during the time when humans have been on the planet, most scientists agree that humans are probably the cause.  When talking about global warming, it’s important to make it clear whether we’re talking about natural climate cycles or anthropogenic–a word that means “caused by people”–climate change.   There… Read More

How big were T. Rex’s feet?

In our Curiosity Challenge Series… How big were T. Rex’s feet? Question submitted by Aidan Barry, Age 5 Great question, Aidan! While not the biggest carnivorous dinosaur (that distinction belongs to the Spinosaurus), Tyrannosaurus Rex (T. Rex) is arguably the most popular. It is estimated that an adult T. Rex was roughly twelve feet tall – more than double the height of the average American male adult – and weighed about seven tons (about the weight of an African elephant). We often think about – and mock! – the puny size of T. Rex’s arms, but its feet were decidedly more impressive. Foot size can be estimated by looking at a T. Rex skeleton and by measuring T. Rex footprints. No complete T. Rex skeleton has ever been found (the closest we’ve gotten is Sue, the resident T. Rex at the Fields Museum in Chicago, who is about 90% real… Read More

MIT’s 2016 Celebrations: a Century of Calling Cambridge “Home”!

by E. Rosser Killian Court, courtesy of web.mit.edu. (Can you see why it’s the Institvte?) For a century’s worth of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Instivte (as they like to call their school–take a look at the famous inscription in Killian Court, and you’ll see why!) has considered Cambridge “home.”  It’s hard to imagine that one hundred years ago, MIT went by the nickname “Boston Tech,” rubbing elbows with Trinity Church and Boston’s Copley Square.  When the promising technical school started to outgrow its city dwellings, however, then-President Richard Cockburn MacLaurin, the MIT Corporation, and their few but fervent supporters began looking for a fresh start, finally deciding to erect their new campus on the open plots of Cambridge. A Souvenir Program from the 1916 dedication, courtesy of the MIT Archives After an impressive architectural race to erect the “New Tech,” the heart of the new campus was ready… Read More