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Pint of Science Festival 2016

Posted on 20/06/2016


The Battersea Barge

Pint of Science is a non-profit organisation run by volunteers that brings leading scientists to your local pub to discuss their latest research findings with you. It is the world’s largest festival of public science talks, started in the UK in 2013, and now running in over 100 different cities worldwide.

The King’s Geography Department has now been involved with the Pint of Science festival for three consecutive years, representing the 'Earth' theme. This year we stood on the pub stage alongside our colleagues from the King's Environmental Research Group to share the department’s research with the curious public. With more than180 people gathered over 3 days in the unique setting of the Battersea Barge, the festival went down a blast!

Day 1 – Dam(n) problems!

The first day of our festival opened with a startling, yet seldom considered question: "What should we do with fish, people and the environment when you build a dam?" Dr Emma Tebbs started the night off by explaining how satellite imagery can provide us with a unique opportunity for monitoring changes in a lake’s water quality. Using Lake Turkana in Kenya as an example, satellite observations have shown that the lake is at its most productive following the annual flooding of the Omo River. The Gibe III dam will dampen these flood events and therefore poses a great risk to Lake Turkana’s productive fisheries on which local communities depend.

Emma Tebbs


Dr Naho Mirumachi then followed on to discuss the bigger picture of dam development. Naho made us think about dams not just in terms of  'winners' and 'losers', but also about the socio-economic and political implications of dam building, placing the local impacts in a global and regional context of agricultural development, energy trade and economic growth. The audience were clearly intrigued by the topic, ending the night with a variety of thought provoking questions for our speakers!

Day 2 – Dirty air: the silent killer

Full house on day two, with black bogeys, Kellog’s Cornflakes and tropical peat forests on the menu!

Dr Thomas Smith had the audience hooked with his dramatic jungle trekking and fire-chasing videos, along with engaging discussions about how your breakfast cereal might lead to deadly haze and an 'eco-apocalypse' in Southeast Asia!


Dr David Green and Dr Ben Barratt from the King's Environmental Research Group then gave us a run-down on the current state of London's air quality, nicely illustrated with some hands-on audience participation experiments using a combination of face masks, Brut deodorant, magnet toys and hand-collected tube dust!

Audience participation-during talk of David Green and Ben Barratt

Ben_Barrattand David_Green

Day 3 ­­– Enter at your own risk

The River Thames was somewhat agitated at the start of the evening, but hosting Pint of Science on a boat was a risk worth taking – even if one of the speakers was nearly sea-sick! Maria Vinogradova’s talk cleverly used the works of George R.R. Martin to explain how the nature of the risks posed by extreme weather in the UK can be very different from what we may expect, while also highlighting some of the striking similarities between the extreme landscapes of the UK and 'A Game of Thrones's Westeros!

Then to end the night, Dominic Way took the audience on an interactive quest through the works of Nobel Prize-winning Daniel Kahneman, to find out exactly why we think 'fast' and 'slow' and how it affects our judgement of risk relating to the environment, technology, food, medicine and beyond. If nothing else, our audience should now know how to drive a harder bargain when haggling for souvenirs on their holidays!



Overall, this year's Pint of Science festival was a real success, with very positive feedback from both the public and the speakers. We thoroughly enjoyed organising the festival, and are looking forward to representing the 'Earth' theme once again at next year's event!


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