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Science, ideas and emerging trends: HP Labs Bristol sponsors the Cheltenham Science Festival


Contributed by Gareth Gale, Dharm Kapletia and Alison Taylor




In June, HP Labs Bristol once again became a principal partner and sponsor of the Cheltenham Science Festival. The event attracts hundreds of celebrated scientists and academics, as well as popular figures from the world of comedy and entertainment to talk about scientific ideas and trends.


As part of its initiative to encourage an interest in science, engineering and math in the local community, HP Labs sponsored three talks during the event: Daredevil MathsHacking: Demonstrations of Cybercrime, and the Science of Cycling, along with hosting some Raspberry Pi workshops for participants.




The future of human enhancement

Cheltenham_5.jpgThe festival offers a variety of talks and demonstrations covering all aspects of science. There was an interesting talk by Robert Winston on the Future of Human Enhancement. As we are getting closer to being able to modify humans genetically, should we continue to do that or not? Robert discussed all aspects on this topic from the benefits to the implications and ethics surrounding it.


Daredevil Maths
Matt Parker, the only stand-up mathematician teamed up with TV presenter and daredevil scientist Greg Foot to present a funny, nerdy and somewhat potentially dangerous yet really entertaining talk on mathematics. They captivated the audience with their wit and knowledge, doing stunts to demonstrate the different aspects of math. Greg proved the theory of gravity by sending a bowling ball from a certain height. The speed it gathered from the force of gravity made it go around a loop without dropping. He was so confident that he sat in the middle of the loop while the ball went round!




Hacking: Demonstrations of Cybercrime

James Lyne, from antivirus company Sophos, presented to jam-packed audience and enthralled them with demonstrations of what it is like to get hacked – through the eyes of the hacker and the victim. A self-confessed computing enthusiast, he kept the audience engaged with his kinetic energy and humour throughout. In his comical style, he pointed out how hacking has become quite lucrative with a variety of business models, typically requiring little investment and high returns. Would-be-criminals can even buy hacking toolkits with aftersales technical support!


He showed simulations of how hackers can capture login credentials and banking details. He also did a live demonstration of how hackers can access a multitude of personal devices in the era of the ‘internet of things’ and easily listen into microphones and video cameras. Worryingly, he illustrated how thousands of devices with dark-age security (CCTV at a petrol station payment desk, school classrooms, etc.) across the globe could be freely accessed online.





The picture is from a talk Gareth attended on Saturday, 7th June entitled “KABOOM! – THE Cheltenham_8.jpgSCIENCE OF EXPLOSIONS”. This was a great talk and showed youngsters the differences between types of explosives (do you know the difference between an explosive and high explosive or why gunpowder is actually not that good?!) and featured making gunpowder and using it to shoot a cannonball across the stage. The highlight of the show was when a drop (ONE DROP) of TNT was set off (how? – by tapping it with a hammer) and the tent shook with the noise and vibration!!


Bone-Shakers and Graphite


This photo below was from “The Science of Cycling” during which the audience was treated to a talk about cycle development through the ages: from Penny Farthing to the latest composite road bikes. One incredible statistic was a team at Cornell University who have spent the last 12 years researching why a modern cycle can be set running for hundreds of metres with no rider without falling over! The live demo showed a bike frame being created with the latest metal jointing technology (see picture below) as well as some stunt cycling through the audience.




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