Free science expo at library this week

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St. Albert residents will get to program robots, extract DNA and generally blow stuff up next week as part of a national effort to promote scientific literacy.

Thousands of Canadians will try out some hands-on experiments next week as part of Canada’s Science Literacy Week, which runs from Sept. 18 to 24.

Over 660 events are planned throughout Canada, including a nation-wide webinar where people can learn to extract DNA using household chemicals, said Toronto’s Jesse Hildebrand, founder of Science Literacy Week.

“There’s a lot of bar science nights this year,” he said, as well as computer programming events, as this year’s week coincides with National Learn to Code Day on Sept. 23.

In Toronto, residents will get to craft slime, build bridges, and hear palaeontologist Victoria Arbour talk about the dinosaur named “Zuul, Destroyer of Shins.”

You can even hang around with real human corpses at Humber College’s Human Body Lab, Hildebrand said – he got to hold a human heart there a couple of years ago.

The St. Albert Public Library is hosting its first ever Science Literacy Week Expo next Saturday, said adult programs librarian Michelle Steinhusen.

The University of Alberta’s Let’s Talk Science team will be there to show patrons how to test for acidity using red cabbage and talk about simple machines, while librarians will teach kids young and old how to program the Code-A-Pillar and Dash & Dot robots.

“It’s going to be a really neat afternoon,” Steinhusen said.

Paul Kane chemistry wizard Michael Ng will discuss the science of superheroes and stage spectacular science demos at the Edmonton Comic & Entertainment Expo on Sept. 22 and 23 as part of Science Literacy Week.

“We’re going to mix chemicals and blow up stuff,” he said, and show people how to make stomp rockets (air-powered missiles) out of paper.

“We did it last year, it was really fun,” he said

“It actually reaches to the top of the ceiling of the hall.”

Telus World of Science Edmonton visitors will get to make stop-motion videos and shadow puppets next Saturday as part of Science Literacy Week, said science director Jennifer Bawden. She also hoped to have guest speakers to talk about coding and computer animation.

Science literacy

Science literacy is more than just reading science, Bawden said – it’s also about understanding it in your daily life. We hear conflicting stories about science all the time, especially when it comes to nutrition, and it’s important for people to know how to evaluate them with a critical eye.

But a 2016 survey by the Ontario Science Centre found signs of scientific illiteracy among Canadians. The survey was considered accurate to within 2.5 per cent 19 times out of 20, and was set to be updated next week as part of Science Literacy Week.

About 40 per cent of the 1,578 Canadians surveyed believed that climate change science was still uncertain or unsettled, for example (multiple studies show that about 95 per cent of active climate researchers agree that humans are causing global warming, reports skepticalscience.com). Another 19 per cent believed there was a link between vaccines and autism (there isn’t, reports the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and many other groups).

Science is everywhere, whether it be in the form of the recent total eclipse, climate change, hurricanes or Canada’s next governor general (who is an astronaut), Hildebrand said.

“It’s more important than ever that people have an understanding of that science and value it and want to support it.”

The St. Albert Public Library science expo runs from 1 to 4 p.m. on Sept. 23. Visit scienceliteracy.ca for a full list of Science Literacy Week events.

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Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.