Category Archives: Have Science Will Travel

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

Garbage – Part 1: Pacific Garbage Patch

Two of the most interesting science-related destinations on earth are both garbage-related, so get ready for a garbage-themed two-part post.

Remember the duckies that floated around the oceans for years? Ocean currents brought them all the way across the Arctic. But ocean currents don’t always push garbage to shore. The currents also create large vortexes from which floating plastic can’t escape. Instead, it all stays within the vortex, and creates a patch of floating waste in the convergence zone.

Marine Debris Poster (4) AI9

This is what happened at the Pacific Garbage Patch.

Despite some photos you may have seen, this is not a large patch of floating objects. (In fact, I can’t find ANY reliable and reusable photos of what it ACTUALLY looks like, so you just get a map.)

Unlike the duckies, which retained their duckie shape throughout their oceanic travels, the majority of the plastic in the Pacific Garbage Patch is not shaped like any recognizable objects. It’s mainly plastic pellets, down to microscopic size. The water can look relatively normal on the surface, but water samples consistently show plastic.

As Miriam Goldstein describes in an interview with io9, it’s not entirely clear what the effect is of so much plastic in the ocean, but it’s definitely changing the ecosystem.

It’s also very difficult – logistically – to clean up plastic from such a large and remote area. It’s not close to any particular country, and the garbage comes from everywhere, so whose job is it to clean?

The best solution, of course, is to prevent garbage from ever ending up in the ocean in the first place, and next week I’ll take you on a virtual trip to a place where household waste is being reused in a unique way.

Map from Wikimedia, in the public domain.

Nikko Natural Science Museum

IMG_2558A few years ago I was in Japan for a conference, and tagged on some extra days to explore a bit more of the country together with my sister. We mostly stayed in and around Tokyo, but we took a two-day trip to Nikko, further inland. Nikko is a small town with a beautiful heritage site, with lots of temples, and a famous wood carving of the original “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” monkeys.

Close to Nikko, just a 20-minute bus ride away, is a waterfall that all the guidebooks recommended, so we had to check it out. The waterfall is further uphill, at Lake Chuzenji – a lake formed after a volcanic eruption blocked off the river thousands of years ago.

Before we got on the bus, we became a bit worried by the fog we had seen creeping onto the mountain. Hoping that it would clear eventually, and with no further days left in Nikko, we decided to risk it and journeyed to Lake Chuzenji.

The further we travelled up the mountain, the thicker the fog got.

Once we got out of the bus at the top, we walked toward the waterfall, barely seeing more than about twenty or thirty feet in front of us.

In the distance, we saw what looked like a… bear?

Coming closer, the bear stayed motionless next to a sign. It was a wooden statue.


The sign was for the Nikko Natural Science Museum, but we were aiming for the falls, so we didn’t stop at the museum.

Last week, more than two years after visiting the Lake Chuzenji area, I was looking at my photos again, and decided to look into this Natural Science Museum that the bear was trying to entice us to visit.

Continue reading