2010 Cambridge Science Festival (April 24-May 2): The Highlights

Don your protective eyewear -- it's time, once again, for the third annual Cambridge Science Festival: nine straight days of geek wizardry atom-smashed together into one single brain-bending event. Attendees can enjoy (mostly free) demos, interactive experiments, theater productions, art exhibits, and workshops that span the scientific spectrum. The fest doesn't start until tomorrow, but they're pre-gaming tonight at the The Laboratory at Harvard with 10-scientist-megamix talk "Big Ideas for Busy People" -- and if you're too busy to be there in the flesh, they're streaming the whole thing live.

The message of Cambridge Science Festival is clear: whether you hold a PhD in nuclear chemistry or you barely passed 8th-grade bio, this fest promises a little something for everyone. Plus, there are robots.



We've got one word for all you sci-hards out there: lasers. Day 1 of the fest commences with a "a fantastic laser show celebrating the 50th anniversary of the laser!" There will also be 89 booths featuring a variety of workshops, experiments and demos to sate even the geekiest of inquiring minds. | Cambridge Public Library, Cambridge | April 24: noon-4 pm | free |



Heard of the Human Genome Project? Well, this has nothing to do with that. But it should be a nifty little experiment nonetheless. (Especially for those of us whose most impressive forays into the wide world of science involve baking-soda-fueled volcanoes.) The folks over at the Boston Open Source Science Lab have set up a workshop where you can examine and sequence a fragment of one of your own genes. | Boston Open Source Science Lab, Somerville | April 24-25: noon-4 pm | $40 |



This production by local playwright Melinda Lopez is pegged to the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species. It probably won't be an acid-laced, trip-fest akin to Tomorrow, In a Year, the Knife's operatic shout-out to Chuck D, but it will offer up a little something for patrons of both the arts and the sciences. | Central Square Theater, Cambridge | April 24-25; April 29-May 2 | $15-$35 |



Hippies have made many, many contributions to society. Patchouli, VW buses, Phish, the unwashed/unshaved side of sexy: all made viable by the American Hippie. But who knew our peace-loving jam-banders also had a hand in the advanced sciences? MIT professor David Kaiser lectures about the cutting-edge discoveries made during the "anything-goes counterculture frenzy" of the '60s. | MIT Museum, Cambridge | April 28 @ 6 pm | free |



This one's pretty self-explanatory: gaze up into the space through a series of telescopes that will be made available to the public, right in front of Cambridge City Hall. First one to spot a UFO wins. Cambridge City Hall, Cambridge | April 29: 8-10 pm | free |



If the hand-wrought stop-motion art of the Brothers Quay got it on with the chain-reaction contraptions of Rube Goldberg, their delicate, maddeningly complex love child would look a fair bit like the Arthur Ganson sculptures on perennial display at the MIT Museum. This weekend, Ganson himself will be on hand to talk about his inspiration and meet-and-greet with fans. Don't forget to pre-register. April 30: 3-4pm | free |


"The Science of Cheese"

Mmm...cheese. Roquefort, Gouda, Muenster, Brie; we love em' all. But when you break it down -- to a steamy mix of spoiled animal milk, bacteria, mold, and gastric enzymes -- you might find you've suddenly lost your appetite. This "Festival at Night" lecture for the 21+ set (talking about cheese can get pretty racy, after all) by a Harvard Medical School prof explores the scientific basis for the human love of cheese. Be sure to register with April 30: 6:30-9:30pm | free |



Robots! We told you there would be robots. Any Laser Orgy frequenter knows about our serious (slightly creepy?) obsession with locally spawned automata. If androids dream of electric sheep, Phoenix staffers dream of electric sheepdogs. So we're all kinds of psyched to learn that this year's festival is winding down with a demonstration featuring philanthropic robots developed by Bedford-based iRobot Corporation. If you're as robo-happy as we, are be sure to stop by the MIT Museum for the big demo. | MIT Museum, Cambridge | May 1: 1-4 pm | Free with museum admission | |

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