Biodiversity Week 2024

Biodiversity Week falls in the latter half of May each year, organised by the Irish Environmental Network. The objectives of the week are to communicate “the importance of biodiversity” and motivate people to engage in protecting it.


This year, Midlands Science were delighted to facilitate schools on guided, educational walks through a bog in Co. Laois. The aim here is that the students would leave the experience with a new or refreshed desire to care for their local biodiversity and have their natural curiosity further inspired. Schools who had responded to our Outreach Callout from 2023 were delighted to partake in this 90-minute outdoor celebration of all the wonderful biodiversity that their peatlands have to offer. Each school was provided with their own walk, to minimise footfall and potential damage to the peatland.Prior to the walk beginning, students and teachers were provided with a booklet, which detailed some of the local flora and fauna we may come across on our walk. This included pictures and information on daisies, nettles, hawthorn, silver birch, holly, and scot’s pine, as well as hares, field mice, chaffinches and more.

As students were led on their way, our Science Outreach Executive Criodán Ó Murchú expanded on the information already presented, stopping along the route to call attention to other flora such as dog-violet, rowan, oak and willow trees, and bog cotton. The role and use of bug hotels were also discussed, as well as how technology can aide biodiversity monitoring. Swatches from the National Biodiversity Data Centre were also demonstrated, and students were provided with booklets on trees, butterflies, and bumblebees to try their hand at identifying any we came across.

“As the biodiversity and climate crises continue to threaten our collective futures, every generation must become engaged in ways they can understand what is happening and what better way to engage than through science,” explained Criodán. “Our objective with our biodiversity week activities  is to spark an interest in science and the world around us and understanding our localities, through such understanding, we can all work to protect nature and help it flourish for years to come.”

Once students reached the bog, they discussed the formation of peatlands, their rate of formation, their importance as carbon stores, and as biodiversity hubs. Once all questions had been looked after, we took a drone photo and video for the groups to have to show to their friends and family. This also provided an opportunity to expand on the role of modern technology in biodiversity monitoring.. 

A number of people in the region also participated in hands-on workshops in sustainability with environmental educator Aoife Munn. Participants learnt how to make soaps and understand that making small choices with how we live and shop can make a big difference. Soap-making is a fascinating scientific topic. Soap is a mixture of oil or fat with water and an alkali or basic salt, the process of making soap is called saponification [there’s a great Scrabble word for you !]. We think that the ancient Babylonians were the first people to make soap as archaeologists found their soap recipes carved in to clay containers dating back to 2800 BC. Their soap recipes included animal fats, wood ash and water and their soap was probably for washing wool and cotton for weaving.  

If people are interested in learning more about Biodiversity in Ireland, the following resources are a fantastic place to start.

National Biodiversity Data Centre


The National Biodiversity Data Centre is tasked with collating, managing, verifying, and publishing data related to Ireland’s biodiversity.

There are a huge range of citizen science opportunities available, regarding pollinator monitoring, dragon and damselfly occurrence, and more.
https://biodiversityireland.ie/monitoring/

This list is a great way to start helping your local biodiversity.
https://biodiversityireland.ie/top10/10-ways-to-help-biodiversity/

You can also purchase various Swatches to aide learning or teaching about Tree and Shrub species, Bumblebees, Butterflies, and more.
https://shop.biodiversityireland.ie/

Leave No Trace Ireland

Leave No Trace is Ireland’s only Outdoor Ethics Education Programme designed to promote and inspire responsible outdoor recreation whilst demonstrating and teaching Techniques designed to minimise the environmental and social impacts of enjoying nature.

They have a number of free resources on flora, fauna, mountain plant species, sustainable outdoor exploration, checklists and more.
https://www.leavenotraceireland.org/resources/educational-resources/

Irish Wildlife Trust

The Irish Wildlife Trust aims to conserve wildlife and the habitats it depends on throughout Ireland while encouraging a greater understanding and appreciation of the natural world and the need to protect it.

They regularly publish opportunities to engage in Citizen Science in Ireland.
https://iwt.ie/what-we-do/citizen-science/

Irish Peatland Conservation Council

The Irish Peatland Conservation Council run a number of peatland conservation projects across Ireland. Their website is a plethora of information on peatlands in Ireland and resources for teachers and other educators.
https://www.ipcc.ie/

Bird Watch Ireland

Bird Watch Ireland is focused on the conservation of birds and biodiversity in Ireland.
They are involved in a multitude of monitoring and surveying projects throughout Ireland, detailing bird populations and local biodiversity. They regularly request citizen science support for monitoring garden birds and more.
https://birdwatchireland.ie/

Midlands Science wishes to thank Gas Networks Ireland and Laois Offaly Education and Training Board for supporting our Biodiversity Week initiatives.

The Maths of Voting

Ireland uses proportional representation (PR) for voting in elections, with each voter having a single transferable vote (STV). PR-STV is a candidate-based system. This means voters can choose to vote for as many, or as few candidates as they like, in order of their preference. The voter’s first preference vote – the candidate they give their number 1 vote to – is most important and is always counted. A voter’s second (and further preferences) may be counted if their preferred candidate is eliminated at the end of a round of counting, or is elected with a surplus. These are known as transfers. The system has an interesting history and some interesting maths !!

In Britain, the  first meetings of the Proportional Representation Society quickly attracted many leading lights of the Victorian age – including Lewis Carroll, CP Scott (editor of what is now The Guardian) and Thomas Hare (the inventor of the STV). The group quickly settled on Hare’s system as the best option.

A matter of upmost importance is the quota. To work out who gets elected, you need to work out the quota to be elected. Candidates that exceed the quota are elected, with any surplus votes (total votes minus the quota) transferred to each voter’s next choice as indicated on the ballot paper. Once any candidates who beat the quota are elected, there is another round of counting to see if any other candidates have reached the quota, now the surplus votes have been transferred. If no candidate meets the quota in a particular round of counting, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes are redistributed to their voters’ next preference. This continues until all the seats have been filled. We can all remember some marathon counts in the midlands!!

But how do you work out what the quota is? This is one of the things that has been tweaked since Hare’s original designs for STV were laid out.

Hare vs Droop – Electoral Quotas

The two main quota calculations are Thomas Hare’s original quota – which is “total votes / total seats” and Henry Droop’s quota – which is “(total votes / (total seats + 1)) + 1”.

In a constituency electing three TD’s where 960 votes have been cast, the Hare quota would be 320 and the Droop quota would be 241. While nearly all STV elections today use the Droop quota, some still advocate for Hare-STV – pointing to it typically producing slightly more proportional results and it being more favourable to smaller parties. But Hare-STV does have a number of things to consider.

There is an issue of inequality. Under Droop-STV, all elected candidates beat the quota and are thus elected on the same terms. But under Hare-STV it is practically impossible for all candidates to meet the quota. As such, the fight for the final seat is awarded to the candidate with the most remaining votes, regardless of how short they have fallen of the quota. Then there is the majority rule problem. In certain circumstances under the Hare quota, it is possible for a party to win slightly more than half of votes cast but to win less than half of seats in a constituency.

Suppose that an STV election takes place between the Offaly Party and the Laois Party, with each running two candidates for three seats and 960 voters.

  • 510 voters give their first preference to an Offaly Party candidate – 340 for the first candidate and 170 for the second candidate.
  • 450 voters choose the Laois Party, but with their voters more evenly splitting between the two candidates – 226 for the first and 224 for the second.

All voters rate both candidates from their preferred party ahead of the candidates for the opposing party, with only half of voters afterwards ranking an opposing candidate.

Under a Hare-STV election, where the quota would be set at 320 (960 voters / 3 seats), the first Offaly candidate would be instantly elected, and their 20 surplus votes transferred to the other Offaly candidate – who now has 190 votes. As this is fewer than the two Laois candidates, the remaining Offaly candidate is eliminated and any votes that can be transferred are redistributed. But, with only two candidates left for two vacant seats, the two Laois Party candidates are elected by default.

Table: Hare-STV Election

Count 1Count 2Count 3
Offaly A340 (elected)20
Laois A226226226283 (elected)
Laois B224224224262 (elected)
Offaly B170170190
Quota320

Not only are the two Laois Party candidates elected despite falling far short of the quota, but the Laois Party has also managed to take a majority of seats even though the majority of voters prefer the Offaly Party to the Laois Party. Such a result would not be possible under Droop-STV, where a party that is preferred by at least half of voters will always take at least half of seats.

Indeed, if we repeat the election under Droop-STV, where the quota would be 241 (960 voters / (3 seats + 1)+1), the larger surplus of the first Offaly candidate would, when transferred, elect the second Offaly candidate in the second count. The final seat would go to the Laois Party.

Table: Droop-STV Election

Count 1Count 2Count 3Count 4
Offaly A340 (elected)99
Laois A226226226226234464 (elected)
Laois B224224224224230
Offaly B170170269 (elected)28
Quota241

No matter how you vote, remember to vote. Your vote is your voice and make sure it’s counted!!

Exploring Engineering With Midlands Science

Engineers Week took place all over Ireland last week and it included a number of activities in the midlands with Midlands Science.

One of the week’s highlights was an Exploring Engineering Day which took place  in the Athlone Education Centre in partnership with the Medtronic Foundation. This day brought together a number of student groups from secondary schools and primary schools from across the midlands, where they learnt about what it is like to work as an engineer and undertook a number of hands on engineering activities with local Medtronic employee volunteers. They also enjoyed the engineering movie “Dream Big”, narrated by the aptly named Jeff Bridges !

The Medtronic Foundation partners to improve lives for underserved and underrepresented populations worldwide, and support communities where Medtronic employees live and give. They partner with leading equity-focused STEM organizations to address the root cause of persistent inequities by creating opportunity for economic advancement and improving lives through STEM education.  The Medtronic Foundation brings Medtronic employee volunteers, nonprofits, and communities together to remove barriers to achieving health, wellbeing and prosperity.  

“Our partnership with Midlands Science is about more than education—it’s about creating pathways for future STEM leaders, especially for students who wouldn’t typically have the opportunity,” said Heidi Jedlicka Halvarson, senior program manager, Medtronic Foundation. 

Jackie Gorman of Midlands Science commented “we are very pleased again this year through support from the Medtronic Foundation to run this event during Engineers Week, groups of students at primary and secondary level  were afforded the opportunity to explore the creative world of engineering and the limitless opportunities a career in the sector can offer. They also got to meet with local Medtronic employee volunteers and through hands on activities, they could see that engineers are very creative problem solvers.  The more we can encourage people to see the problem-solving and creativity at the heart of engineering, the more impact we can have in creating the amazing engineers of the future.”

Engineering is involved in so many everyday things and Midlands Science has encouraged teaches and parents to find creative ways to explore engineering – everything from building marble runs with cereal boxes and marbles to building a tower with matchsticks and marshmallows can be a great way to start working with very young budding engineers. It doesn’t have to be very complicated to start with and it’s always lots of fun. There are lots of online resources to help with activities including on Midlands Science’s social media channels. More information on www.midlandsscience.ie

Thoughts on World Book Day

World Book Day is today. Over the years, World Book Day has become firmly established as Ireland’s biggest annual event promoting the enjoyment of books and reading. I caught up with Midlands Science CEO, Jackie Gorman who is a published poet and avid reader (as can be seen from one of her many shelves in the image) to hear her views on the importance of reading and what we can do to encourage it from an early age…

Creating a love of reading for pleasure in children is so important. It encourages a love of learning, provides fuel for their imaginations and provides escapism. What are some of the other scientifically proven benefits to reading and starting at an early age? 

Many studies show that toddlers and young children who are read to every day have a larger vocabulary than those who aren’t read to. Reading enhances a child’s vocabulary and it can help them understand how to read and write, but reading aloud to children also helps them to understand different topics about the world and everyday life. As we grow up, reading can become part of our toolkit to deal with stress. In 2009, scientists at the University of Sussex studied how different activities lowered stress by measuring heart rate and muscle tension. Reading a book for just six minutes lowered people’s stress levels by 68 percent—a stronger effect than going for a walk, drinking a cup of tea or coffee or listening to music.

Today’s reality includes a lot more technology than when this important day was first launched. Some children now often prefer to play on an iPad than get lost in a good book. What can we do to encourage a love of reading?

Encouraging reading is important and there are lots of things to consider. Ensure that your children see you reading is the first thing. It doesn’t matter if it’s the newspaper, a cookery book, a computer manual, magazine – anything is good. Lead by example. Encourage children to join in – ask a child to read out a recipe for you as you cook, or the TV listings when you are turning on the  TV. Give books or book tokens as presents and visit the local library together on a regular basis, and enjoy spending time choosing new books. Keep reading together. There are lots of books that both adults and young people can enjoy – The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, the Harry Potter series, or The Life of Pi by Yann Martel. Read books you can all talk about. There are also great Irish language books now for children such as Harry Potter – Harry Potter agus an Órchloch ! I’m resding  An Leon, An Bandraoi agus An Prios Éadaigh myself at the moment, an Irish translation of CS Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.

Aside from escaping the pressures of the modern day are there other proven benefits to reading for adults?

Reading can change us a person. A University of Toronto research team asked 166 people to fill out questionnaires regarding their emotions and key personality traits, based on the widely used inventory which measures extraversion, conscientiousness, agreeableness, emotional stability/neuroticism, and openness. Half of the group read Anton Chekhov’s short story The Lady with the Toy Dog, about a man who travels to a resort and has an affair with a married woman. The other half of the group read a similar nonfiction version presented as a report from divorce proceedings. After, everyone answered the same personality questions they’d answered before—and many of the fiction readers’ responses had significantly changed. They saw themselves differently after reading about others’ fictional experience. The nonfiction readers didn’t undergo this change in self-reflection.

The aim of World Book Day is to celebrate authors, books, illustra tors and of course reading! What are some of the books on your current ‘ to-be-read’ list?

I have a pile in my living room which are to be tackled over the next few months ! Things in Jars by Jess Kidd, Last Witnesses by Svetlana Alexievich, The Sixteen Trees of the Somme by Lars Mytting, Mama’s Last Hug by Frans De Waal and Elmet by Fiona Mozley are my immediate priorities. I also use Audible a lot when I walk every day and I’m listening to The Secret History read by the author Donna Tartt at the moment.

 Can you tell us about your favourite science book(s)?

The Flamingo’s Smile by Stephen Jay Gould, The Man Who Mis took His Wife For A Hat by Oliver Sacks, The Emperor Of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.

Making Science Outreach Accessible

Levina Reeves of Leadwell speaking at the Making Science Outreach Accessible event in UCD, supported by the Medtronic Foundation.

Best Practice Event Explores Making Science Outreach More Accessible

Many people find science interesting and engaging and others find it difficult to engage with topics which involve science. This reluctance comes from a variety of different reasons, ranging from the language used to the style of communication used by people who talk about science.

In addition to providing science outreach, Midlands Science has been working over the past year with a range of stakeholders to find ways to make science more accessible for everyone. This work involved producing a guide addressing issues such as Plain English Use and Storytelling and a range of other topics. 2,000 copies of the guide have been distributed to date and it has been the focus of a presentation at EUSEA, the European Association for Public Engagement with Science and at the Oireachtas Science and Technology Group.

“Our partnership with Midlands Science is about more than education—it’s about creating pathways for future STEM leaders, especially for students who wouldn’t typically have the opportunity,” said Heidi Jedlicka Halvarson, senior program manager, Medtronic Foundation. 

According to CEO of Midlands Science Jackie Gorman, it’s all about making it easier for everyone to engage with science. She commented “we developed this guide to make it easier for those who communicate science to make their outreach more engaging and accessible, suggesting small tweaks in practice that can make  a huge difference for the audiences.”

Today, a best practice event exploring the guide and its impact was held in the Conway Institute, UCD in association with University College Dublin and a wide range of people from industry, research and education attended this event and learnt more about ways to make their outreach more impactful in terms of reaching those least likely to engage with science. This work is supported by the Medtronic Foundation. The Medtronic Foundation partners to improve lives for underserved and underrepresented populations worldwide, and support communities where Medtronic employees live and give. They partner with leading equity-focused STEM organizations to address the root cause of persistent inequities by creating opportunity for economic advancement and improving lives through STEM education.

The Medtronic Foundation brings Medtronic employee volunteers, nonprofits, and communities together to remove barriers to achieving health, wellbeing and prosperity.  

Further information and copies of the guide are available by contacting Midlands Science on www.midlandsscience.ie

Exploring Engineering

Midlands Science promotes Engineers Week every year in the midlands through a range of school outreach activities for primary and secondary school students. This year we have our ongoing school outreach next week with a focus on engineering activities and also a special day in Athlone with primary and secondary schools in the Athlone Education centre.

This booked out day is being delivered in partnership with the Medtronic Foundation. This day brings together a number of students from secondary schools and primary schools, where they will learn about what it is like to work as an engineer and will undertake a number of hands on engineering activities with local Medtronic employee volunteers. They will also enjoy the engineering movie “Dream Big”, narrated by the aptly named Jeff Bridges!

Jackie Gorman of Midlands Science commented “the more we can encourage people to see the problem-solving and creativity at the heart of engineering, the more impact we can have in creating the amazing engineers of the future.”

Engineering is involved in so many everyday things and Midlands Science encourages teaches and parents to find creative ways to explore engineering at home with ordinary materials – everything from building marble runs with cereal boxes and marbles to building a tower with matchsticks and marshmallows can be a great way to start working with very young budding engineers. It doesn’t have to be very complicated to start with and it’s always lots of fun. There are lots of online resources to help with activities including on Midlands Science’s social media channels. More information on www.midlandsscience.ie

Drug Abuse – Science, Society and Solutions Event in Tullamore

Dr Richie Maguire, Sean Kinsella, Dr Craig Slattery and Jackie Gorman at the Drugs of Abuse, Science, Society and Solutions event in Tullamore as part of the Midlands Science Festival.

A range of Science Week activities has been running in the midlands for the past week through the Midlands Science Festival. A topical, engaging and inspirational event took place in Tullamore last night [Thursday] exploring the science of drug abuse with a  focus on the linked topics of science, solution and solutions. With the Citizens Assembly on Drug Use currently underway in Ireland, this event was  a timely opportunity to learn more about the scientific and societal issues that drugs use raises.

The panel of speakers included Dr Richard Maguire, Principal Analyst, Medical Bureau of Road Safety and formerly of the National Drug Treatment Centre and Sean Kinsella, Health & Wellness Coach. Sean is an expert by experience and you can read more about his journey from addiction to a life of helping others through similar issues in various news articles online. The event was hosted by leading science communicator Dr Craig Slattery of UCD’s Conway Institute on behalf of Midlands Science.

The Midlands Science Festival is an initiative of Midlands Science and it is supported by Science Foundation Ireland and is a regional festival as part of national Science Week. Taking place from 12th-19th November, the theme for Science Week 2023 is ‘Human?’, which asks people to consider what it means to be human in today’s world, and how the decisions we make today will impact the people and world of the future.

There was a very engaged discussion with the audience at this event and people who attended were profoundly moved by the way in which Sean Kinsella shared his story of moving from homelessness and heroin addiction to a life now focussed on helping others with similar issues. It was clear that Sean believes that recovery is possible and that the narrative about drugs use needs to have more lived experience at the centre of discussions so as to have a real impact in making things better for everyone.  Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science commented ; “this event on drug abuse was a very engaged event with so many questions, comments and indeed experiences shared from the audience. I would like to thank all of our speakers Dr Richie Maguire, Dr Craig Slattery and Sean Kinsella who shared his expertise through experience to great effect. The discussions to be had in society about drug use need to be informed by science and also involved lived experience and we are delighted to have hosted this event in Tullamore as part of the Midlands Science Festival.” More information on Midlands Science is available on www.midlandsscience.ie

Seachtain náisiúnta na hEolaíochta i mBaile Átha Luain

Cillian Butler ag baint taitnimh as imeachtaí na Seachtaine Eolaíochta as Gaeilge i mBaile Átha Luain mar chuid den Midlands Science Festival.

Bhí ceardlann faoin eolaíocht ag Midlands Science i mBaile Átha Luain an tseachtain seo chaite. I nGaeilge a bhí an cheardlann agus bhí grúpa mór páistí i láthair.Is í Seachtain náisiúnta na hEolaíochta í – 12 go 19 Samhain 2023. Seachtain í seo chun an eolaíocht a cheiliúradh agus i mbliana is é an téama an duine. Tá claochlú déanta ar chruthaitheacht an duine, ar fhiosracht agus ar choincheapa an chaoi a mairimid, an chaoi a n-idirghníomhaíonn muid lena chéile, agus an caidreamh atá againn lenár bplainéad. Mhúnlaigh forbairtí dochreidte ár dtuiscint orainn féin agus ar ár ndomhan. Uaireanta mothaíonn sé go bhfuil athruithe as ár smacht, ó éigeandáil timpeallachta go dtí go mbíonn an teicneolaíocht ag dul i ngleic leo. Cad atá amach romhainn, agus cén ról a bheidh ag an eolaíocht chuige seo? Conas a mhúnlóidh na gníomhartha a ghlacfaimid anois ár n-eispéireas daonna comhchoiteann san fhadtéarma? I ndomhan éiginnte, tá cinnteacht amháin ann ó thalmhaíocht go AI, nach é an chaoi a mairimid inniu ná an chaoi a mairimid amach anseo.

Rinne na páistí roinnt turgnaimh, seo ceann le triail a bhaint as.

Lampaí  Laibhe – Tóg do lampa laibhe féin abhaile leat i ndiaidh na ceardlainne seo!

Am ag teastáil: 20 nóiméad.

Trealamh ag teastáil:

Próca gloine (le clúdach)

Uisce

Ola

Dathúchán bia

Treoracha:

Líon an próca gloine ¾ le huisce.

Cuir isteach 3-4 braoiníní dathúchán bia

Líon an chuid eile den phróca le hola

Cuir an clúdach ar an bpróca

Croith an lampa laibhe agus féach!

Conas a oibríonn sé?

Ar an gcéad dul síos fanann an ola ag barr an phróca toisc go bhfuil sé níos éadroime ná an t-uisce. Is féidir linn a rá freisin go bhfuil an t-uisce níos dlúithe ná an ola. Ní mheascann na leachtanna seo. Ní mhaith leis an ola an t-uisce. Níl na móilíní in ann meascadh lena chéile.

Dúirt Jackie Gorman “Bhí sé iontach an oiread sin páistí a fheiceáil ag glacadh páirte sa cheardlann seo. Is  seachtain iontach í Seachtain na hEolaíochta agus is iontach an rud é páistí a fheiceáil ag déanamh gníomhaíochtaí trí Ghaeilge.”

Tá tuilleadh eolais ar fáil ar www.midlandsscience.ie

Exploring the Science of Swimming in Lough Ree

Swimmers including 10 year old Amy Walsh from Athlone, enjoying a swim in Lough Ree as part of the Midlands Science Festival event Splash which explored the science of cold water swimming.

Exploring the Science of Swimming in Lough Ree

Almost 100 brave swimmers dived into a cold Lough Ree on Sunday morning with the water temperature registering a chilly 8 degrees and it was all in the name of Science Week !! The swim and talk that followed was all part of an event called “Splash – Dive Into the Science of Wellness”, as part of the Midlands Science Festival.

The Festival is supported by Science Foundation Ireland as part of national Science Week. Taking place from 12th-19th November, the theme for Science Week 2023 is ‘Human?’, which asks people to consider what it means to be human in today’s world, and how the decisions we make today will impact the people and world of the future.

The swimmers returned to the Hudson Bay Hotel for hot food and refreshments and then took part in a discussion with Nuala Moore. She is the holder of two Guinness World Records for Extreme Cold Water Swimming and she took participants through her journey of swimming which took her from swims in Dingle to swimming in the Bering Strait and around Cape Horn. Following her presentation, there was a discussion on cold water swimming, the science of this activity and the health benefits it can promote. As Westmeath now has a large open water swimming community, participants included members of local open water swimming groups such as the Westmeath Noels and Nualas and the Westmeath Orcas. Nuala has swum in some of the most dangerous, remote and coldest waters in the world including Drake’s Passage. Her biography “Limitless” was recently published by Gill Books.

Jackie Gorman, CEO of Midlands Science commented ; “open water and cold water swimming has become extremely popular in Ireland over the past number of years and science helps to understand both how to care for ourselves in this activity and also the health benefits that the activity can provide. It was an honour to welcome a swimmer such as Nuala Moore to the midlands, she has achieved so much and is an inspiration to us all. She inspires us to think outside of the limitations we may set for ourselves.”

The event was part of the Midlands Science Festival and a range of activities are running across the midlands region until November 20th. More details can be found on www.midlandsscience.ie

Sing Up for Science in Tullamore

Tullamore Library was alive with sound of music last night as it hosted a special concert for the Midlands Science Festival. Sing Up For Science was a unique concert with Bohemian Strings and Dr Claire O’Connell. The concert took the audience through a variety of classical and pop favourites and also included a rapid name that tune game with a few seconds of a tune played for the audience. Many people won a prize for guessing tunes in a matter of seconds, including a young five year old participant who identified The Cure’s “Friday I’m in Love.” !!

The Midlands Science Festival is supported by Science Foundation Ireland as part of national Science Week. Taking place from 12th-19th November, the theme for Science Week 2023 is ‘Human?’, which asks people to consider what it means to be human in today’s world, and how the decisions we make today will impact the people and world of the future.

What could be more human than playing music and enjoying it ? After a lovely opening with “Spring” by Vivaldi, the music took a turn to the world of heavy metal with the string quartet playing AC/DC’s well known tune “You Shook Me All Night Long.” Lots of humming, singing and foot tapping ensued to the Aussie rocker’s well-known anthem. MC for the night Dr Claire O’Connell shared some interesting research on classical and heavy metal. In 2008 psychological data was collected globally from classical music fans and fans of heavy metal. It turns out there are some similarities between the two groups. They are both highly creative, extremely gentle, and confidently self-assured.

The quartet also played Eleanor Rigby by the Beatles and Dr O’Connell reminded the audience that this well-loved tuned was all about human loneliness. From a scientific perspective, we now know that social isolation in older age is not good for a person’s health and wellbeing, and a 2019 study by The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) found that almost one third of adults aged 50+ in Ireland experienced emotional loneliness at least some of the time and 7.0% often felt lonely. And that was before the pandemic. So as the audience listened to this beautiful song about all the lonely people, the audience was encouraged to build compassionate connections with people as it could be good for everyone’s health.

The event was booked out and there was a full house of music lovers on the night who learned a lot about science along the way. Bohemian Strings are a quartet who have played with the Beach Boys, Richard Clayderman and Mick Flannery among many others. The event was part of the Midlands Science Festival which runs until November 20th and more events can be found on www.midlandsscience.ie