Category Archives: Have Science Will Travel

Science, Gaudí, Barcelona

In the basement of the Sagrada Família is a model of a church that Gaudí designed – upside down! The model of the unfinished church at Colonia Güell is made out of strings and little weights. The weights pull the string into the shape of the final building.

Model of Church at Colonia Guell

Gaudí designed the Sagrada Família by similar gravitational principles, although he didn’t build the entire cathedral upside down out of string. The exhibit in the basement shows a bit more of the math and science behind that construction. Continue reading


When I want to go to GMail, I usually type in “gm” in the browser address bar, and it autofills to GMail. Sometimes this doesn’t work, and I end up looking at the Google page with stock info for General Motors.

Through a similar mishap, I recently learned about the Ethiopian town of Fincha when I tried to go to The Finch And Pea site. Fincha’s economy is largely supported by the local sugar industry, which in turn depends on the Fincha Hydroelectric Power Station, which generates electricity for over 60 thousand homes as well as the sugar factory.

Here’s a video about the sugar factory, which also touches on the production process and related research into biofuels. I learned that the sugar factory also generates electricity itself, and can be self-sufficient.

The things you learn when you clumsily try to type shortcuts in your browser!

The African Science Truck Experience

The African Science Truck Experience (TASTE) is an amazing charity I first found our about when founder Amy Buchanan-Hughes spoke at a science unconference I co-organised a few years ago.

TASTE is a project to provide school kids in Uganda with appropriate science lab tools that they need to study science in middle and high school. It’s difficult and expensive to set up science labs in individual schools in Uganda, but TASTE solves the problem with wheels: They have a mobile lab (the “science truck”) which can travel from school to school. Kids use the equipment when the truck is in town, and then it leaves after their labs are done, onto the next location!


In 2013, they reached 1400 students this way, and now TASTE are planning their next trip to Uganda. They are raising money throughout 2015 to be able to return in 2016 with the mobile lab and teacher training.

They’ve just started their fundraising, which involves a weekly focus on a specific item that they need sponsors for. This week’s item is…. a box of cockroaches, to help students learn anatomical drawing, which is a part of their curriculum.


You can follow TASTE on Facebook and Twitter to keep track of the weekly items, or their fundraising page to donate. (Note that the donation amounts listed are in British pounds. £10 is approximately $15 US)

Images from TASTE site and Facebook page.

2015 science festivals around the world

Want to travel the world visiting science festivals? You could, if you wanted to.

The first major science festival of the year is already over. Techfest (Asia’s largest science/tech festival) ran from January 2 to 5 in Bombay, India. It’s an annual event, so consider this a heads-up for 2016.

Below is a list of science festivals for the rest of 2015. It doesn’t include all science festivals – there are way too many. Instead, it lists some throughout the year, across the world, including some of the biggest ones. For a more complete list see this 2011 post on Schemes and Memes.








  • 2015 date tba – Geek Picnic – St Petersburg, Russia





I challenge you to visit all of them! (Good luck on May 9…)

Garbage – Part 2: Earthships

Part two of my garbage-themed science travel series. This week, a place I visited after seeing it on a documentary.

4937828296_f9f887c202_zIn 2007, I saw the documentary Garbage Warrior at its premier at the Hot Docs film festival, and three years later it inspired a detour to Taos on my way to a conference in Albuquerque.

Garbage Warrior tells the story of Michael Reynolds, a renegade architect who developed a way to build sustainable homes out of garbage. It sounds crazy, it sounds disgusting, but the homes are beautiful and the way they are designed, built, and developed is experimental in not just the architectural sense, but also scientifically experimental: They try things, and if it doesn’t work, they change parts until it does work. Reynolds’ early customers didn’t always understand that aspect of “experimental” and complained when things didn’t work, but over time the buildings have become better and better.

The houses are called Earthships, and this is what they look like:

I stayed in this particular Earthship for one night in 2010, in between two conferences. I wrote up my experiences for WorldChanging Canada at the time, so you can read a bit more there as well. Continue reading