A note from our Guest Director, Benedict Cumberbatch
I’m delighted to be the Guest Director of the 2013 Cambridge Science Festival. My link to a science festival may seem a little tenuous at first glance. And yet as an actor who has researched playing Stephen Hawking, Joseph Hooker, Heisenberg and both Frankenstein and his creation I’ve long had a passion for all fields of science. It really all began at school in the biology lab and keeping mice! But ever since then and partly thanks to my ridiculously privileged existence as an actor, I have been able to keep that amateur interest and investigation of science alive and build a very personal relationship with some of my heroes from that world like Professor Hawking.
I believe science and our engagement with it has reached a crucial crossroads. Whether it’s fighting disease on a cellular scale, tackling climate change, solving food and energy crises, exploring the outer regions of the universe or simply making it easier to shop online – science and technology play an increasingly integral part of our daily lives. And yet to the layperson like me, the intellectual and ethical complexities and technical detail can often seem daunting and distancing. Hence a festival of this range and accessibility is a hugely important bridge between the public and science. While it has been an exciting time for science, with the work at CERN producing incredible results in the search for the Higgs-Boson particle, it’s vital for us to look beyond the headlines. And as while there is much to marvel at, scientific discovery is a step-bystep, day-by-day process that involves incredible hard work and devotion. Those aspects can be related to so many of our lives and other non-scientific pursuits. We hope the programme entertains and inspires you to take a deeper look at our extraordinary world and our existence in it and the universe. With Science on Saturday, the whole family is encouraged to participate in/with hands on scientific exhibits and activities. You can try anything from dissecting owl pellets to extracting and taking home your DNA and finding out what makes you you!
Personally, as someone who has portrayed Sherlock Holmes, I’m of course particularly interested in the talk by Professor Jim Woodhouse on 8 March talking about why the violin is so hard to play, and also on 16 March the mock crime scene at the Central Science Library during Science on Saturday. I’m also a huge fan of last year’s Guest Director Robin Ince; his mixture of humour and insight is as informative as it is entertaining, so watch out for his ‘The Importance of Being Interested’ on Sunday 17 March. Robin will bring science within the reach of all of us and dare us to become engaged. This is surely the ambition of science at school as well as a way to reignite adult interest. Have a wonderful Festival and hopefully I’ll see you there!
Live long and think hard!