Orkney Science Festival

OSF Line Up

Orkney International Science Festival

This Year’s Orkney International Science Festival Line-Up Is Literally Stellar

Somewhere out in space, two black holes collide.

Scientists are sure that this event will have created ripples across the universe- but how to detect them?

They took on this massive challenge- and cracked it.

You can find out how they did it at this year’s Orkney International Science Festival (OISF) running in venues throughout Kirkwall from September 1-7.

Dr Martin Hendry of Glasgow University was a leading member on one of the teams involved, and he will explain the development of the amazing technology that detected ripples across the universe from the collision of the two black holes.

That’s not the only stellar part of OISF’s 2016 line-up.

There will also be a talk on the hunt for dark matter (Prof Alex Murphy Edinburgh University) and for fundamental particles  (Dr Victoria Martin Edinburgh University).

And still in the cosmos but winding back a mere 20,000 years, what about a new hypothesis on the alignment of ancient standing stones and circles to the sun, moon, and stars?

Prof Mark Bailey, the former director of Armagh Observatory will put forward a new explanation for these mysteries, connecting them in particular with a giant comet which is now known to have appeared in the sky some twenty millennia ago.


Back Down To Earth


OISF 2016 has a series of fascinating talks on human pre-history.

Dr Richard Bates of St Andrews University will tell the story of the ancient footprints found at Happisburgh, Norfolk. More than 800,000 years old, they are the oldest human footprints outside Africa.

And with archaeologist Caroline Wickham-Jones of the University of Aberdeen he will look at new clues to the arrival of the first Orcadians, more than 10,000 years ago.
Dr Ingrid Mainland of Orkney College UHI will describe how the analysis of teeth from neolithic sites in Orkney is giving insight into early farming.
One of the world’s leading geneticists, Sir Walter Bodmer, will be reporting on the results of the People of the British Isles project. With data from several thousand blood samples, the project has started to provide answers to questions about the mixture of Celts, Romans, Normans, Vikings, and other groups across Britain, including Orkney.

And There’s Much, Much More…


The Festival will include talks on the progress of tidal power in Orkney, and new underwater photographs of the wreck of HMS Hampshire, sunk 100 years ago. Prof. Vincent Janik from the University of St Andrews will outline the latest research in dolphin communication, and how each dolphin has a characteristic whistle – which acts as its name.

A world expert on ice will give the latest information on the melting of the Arctic ice. Prof. Peter Wadhams of the University of Cambridge has made more than fifty polar expeditions, some of them by submarine under the ice, using sonar to measure the ice thickness.

Also back from the Arctic is plasma physicist Dr Melanie Windridge, who travelled in high latitudes to study the aurora, the Northern Lights. A keen mountaineer who has climbed peaks in the Himalayas and South America, she has brought back stunning photographs from Canada, Iceland and Svalbard, where she camped out in temperatures approaching −40 °C in order to see the aurora at its best.

Further night sky photographs will be shown by a group of photographers from Caithness and the Highlands, among them Stewart Watt, originally from Stromness, Orkney.

OISF Is Famous For Its Food And Drink Programme…. Scroll Down for full mouth-watering details


Ready For The Off?

The Festival will be opened on Thursday September 1 by The One Show’s resident scientist Marty Jopson. He’ll introduce with talks and lunch on the theme of the North Isles. Speakers will be writer Amy Liptrot, winner of this year’s Wainwright Prize for nature writing, and Heather and Gavin Woodbridge from North Ronaldsay Bird Observatory.


Full details of the programme, along with tickets, are available online from the Science Festival website www.oisf.org

OISF Food and Drink Programme

Orkney food drink

Beetroot pancakes with sweet cured herring and horseradish, Orkney carrot terrine, hand-prepared Westray crab, cured meats and beremeal bannocks are all on the menu of this year’s OISF’s Food and Drink programme.

The Festival takes place during Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight and will open with a lunch of food from Orkney’s North Isles, accompanying talks on a North isles theme. There will be mutton from North Ronaldsay; crab, fish, chutney, cheese and bread from Westray; salads and vegetables from Papa Westray; cured meats from Rousay; vegetables and honey from Sanday, and preserves from Shapinsay.

Norwegian Twist At Skaill House

At the 17th-century Skaill House, a talk in the drawing-room on Samuel Laing, the 19th-century Orcadian pioneer of the herring fishing industry, will be followed by a visit to the dining-room for a themed afternoon tea.

In recognition of Samuel Laing’s pioneering translation of the old Norse sagas, the menu will have a Norwegian twist to it. Items will include beetroot pancakes with sweet cured herring and horseradish, cured Orkney ham with Westray onion marmalade, and scrambled egg with smoked Orkney cheddar cheese.

Lunches In The Peedie Kirk

Daily lunches of Orkney fare will be served in the Peedie Kirk, which features each day a One O’Clock Toast to someone well known in Orkney. Subjects this year will include Orkney filmmaker and poet Dr Margaret Tait, and the actor and author Robert Shaw, who spent several childhood years in Stromness.

The afternoon break between talks will be an opportunity to sample home bakes produced by bakers from various Orkney parishes.

Porridge And Pulsars

The programme will also include a workshop by the World Porridge Making Champion, Simon Rookyard – who is a radio astronomer with a PhD. His porridge-making demonstration will include an explanation of his area of research – into pulsars, the distant stars which flash regularly like cosmic lighthouses.

Honey and Herbs

orkney honeyThe food programme is coordinated by food writer and food product developer Liz Ashworth, whose new book, The Chainbridge Honey Bible, has just been published. There will be an opportunity to sample some of the recipes from the book and to taste various honeys. A honey and herb workshop by ethno botanical researcher Anna Canning will highlight honey’s antibacterial properties.

The problems of food intolerance, with underlying causes and practical guidance, will be highlighted in talks by Prof. Jun Wei of UHI’s Centre for Health Science and Michelle Berriedale-Johnson, the editor of the FoodsMatter website.

Brewing, Bere and Biowaste
The drink programme has been brought together by the Institute of Brewing and Distilling through Dr Tim Dolan, recognised by the industry for his lifelong work in teaching and promoting knowledge of it

A Mini Whisky School will look at the science of malt, with a tour of the Highland Park and Scapa distilleries to follow later in the day. There will be a presentation of on-the-farm distilling of gin and vodka and an outline of a new vision for waste from distilling.

Dr Alan Wolstenholme will show how bio waste can be the basis for new industries, using micro algae which capture carbon dioxide and produce pharmaceuticals and foodstuffs. The energy to maintain an optimum temperature can, he says, be taken from Orkney’s surplus peaks of wind-power production.

A new pocket guide to the traditional Orkney cereal of bere, with its history and nutritional properties, will be launched at the Festival.

Scotland Food & Drink Project Manager Fiona Richmond said: “Scottish Food & Drink Fortnight is a fantastic celebration of our country’s larder and Orkney International Science Festival is a great addition to the 200 plus events taking place around the country September 3-18. Scotland’s food hero farmers and fishermen are a key focus and it is fascinating to see the OISF boasting such a significant food offering with food heritage throughout.”