Science Festival Kicks Off Nine-Day Run with Carnival

Science Festival Kicks Off Nine-Day Run with Carnival

By Karen Klinger

When it started two years ago as the first event of its kind in the United States, not even its creators could have foreseen the mushrooming popularity of the Cambridge Science Festival, which kicked off its third year April 25 with an activity-packed “carnival” at MIT.

The event was a family-friendly affair aimed especially at capturing the imaginations of young would-be scientists with dances about astronomy, a demonstration of the “magic” of science, and a performance by the North Cambridge Family Opera linked to the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth. There also were opportunities for wide-eyed youngsters to peer through microscopes and perform their own science experiments.

The carnival offered just a taste of the 200-plus events scheduled to take place through May 3 involving the city’s universities, schools and government agencies and some of its many science- and technology-based companies and research institutes.

In its first year in 2007, the festival drew about 15,000 people and last year nearly doubled that number, according to festival founder John Durant, the director of the MIT Museum. This year, organizers are predicting another jump in attendance, even as they note that other cities, including New York, San Diego and St. Louis have followed Cambridge’s lead and started their own science festivals.

Among the festival's highlights:

  • Each weekday at noon, participants are invited to bring their lunch to the MIT Museum at 265 Massachusetts Ave. in Central Square and chat with a science luminary, starting on April 27 with Nobel Prize winner and MIT Physicist Frank Wilczek.
  • Students in the 7th and 8th grades in Cambridge public schools will show off the results of their year-long science investigations at a Science EXPO at MIT’s Johnson Athletic Center on April 28 from 3 to 6 p.m.
  • The “Third Annual Science Trivia Challenge!” featuring high school and adult teams competing to answer science trivia questions will happen at MIT’s Stata Center on April 29 from 6 to 9 p.m. To register, visit
  • A forum titled “Meltdown: What Everyone Needs to Know and Do About Energy,” will take place on April 30 at 7 p.m. in Cambridge City Hall. The discussion, featuring national energy experts, will be led by Eric Lander, MIT and Broad Institute biologist who is co-chair of President Obama’s council of science advisors.
  • In a program called “Stepping into Virtual Worlds,” the creators of Second Life and researchers from MIT’s Sociable Media Group will discuss their work on May 1 at the MIT Museum from 6 to 7:30 p.m.
  • The first American woman in space, Sally Ride, will lead a science workshop for middle-school students on May 2 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Johnson Athletic Center at MIT.
  • Sports fans, including Red Sox backers, are invited to attend an interactive lecture and demonstration on the “Science of Baseball” at noon on May 3 at the Broad Institute, 415 Main St. in Kendall Square

Among the many other festival activities, various Cambridge public schools will invite people in to have coffee and look over student science displays on weekday mornings, while visitors to the Museum of Science can use a solar telescope to observe the sun and sunspots every day from noon to 1 p.m.

For those who enjoy the confluence of art and science, the North Cambridge Family Opera ( will present free performances of a science oratorio on May 2 at 2:30 p.m. at the Broad Institute and May 3 at 3 p.m. at the Peabody School, 70 Rindge Ave.

In addition, the Central Square Theater will present performances of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Life of Galileo” on April 29 through May 3 during the science festival’s run. The production features Richard McElvain in the title role. For more information, go to

For a complete listing of events and other information about the science festival, visit Festival brochures also are available at the MIT Museum.