Philadelphia’s ten day Science Festival

Philadelphia Science Festival, photo by NSL Photography

It’s no accident that Philadelphia is one of the major science centers of the United States. With such great institutions as the University City Science Center, the Wistar Institute, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, Drexel University, Thomas Jefferson University, and the University of Pennsylvania, international leaders in health and science research in the world, Philadelphia continues the heritage of America’s first great scientist, Benjamin Franklin, in his hometown.

It’s also no accident that the Philadelphia Science Festival, kicked off this past weekend at the foot of the Franklin Institute, home of the Benjamin Franklin National Memorial, and one of America’s great science museums.

Philadelphia is already one of America’s top tourist destinations with its historic sites, museums, culture, and fantastic restaurants; but this week, it’s even more special. If a budding young scientist is with you or within you, this is the week to drop in for a very special educational and entertaining visit in Philadelphia.

The Philadelphia Science Festival is a ten day celebration of science, featuring lectures, debates, hands-on activities, special exhibitions and a variety of informal science education experiences for Philadelphians and its visitors, of all ages.

This past weekend, the Festival kicked off with the “Science Carnival on the Parkway,” featuring more than 150 exhibitors with great family-friendly experiments, interactive activities, games and lots of live entertainment. While enjoying liquid nitrogen ice cream, kids could make gak, meet live zoo animals, check out the inner-workings of robots, tour a helicopter, extract strawberry DNA and test a “crime scene” for forensic evidence.

Adults enjoyed a presentation by the world famous “Amazing Randi,” who continues to offer his “$1,000,000 paranormal challenge.”

These are among some of the terrific opportunities for residents and travelers alike in the coming days.

• The University of Pennsylvania will open many of its physics and even its world famous David Rittenhouse Laboratories at work.

• Philadelphia area beekeepers will show off some of their bees and the delicious honey they produce. Visitors will be able to experience honey’s complex flavor varieties and check out live hives to see these insects in action, which are so important to America’s food industry.

• Philadelphia’s Han Dynasty restaurant is renowned for serving some of the spiciest food in Philadelphia. Scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center will explore with visitors what gives Han’s cuisine its signature kick and test different remedies to combat the burn, if any. What a potentially tasty science experiment.

• At the Franklin Institute, Wistar Institute researchers and pharmaceutical experts will explore with visitors “What’s happening in our bodies when we get sick?” How medicines work and what the do in our bodies will be explained. They’ll show how we get sick, how treatments are discovered, and how medicines help us feel better.

• At Drexel University, a concert audience will learn about the “Science of Jazz.” All will experience the science behind the music via stunning large-screen visuals and an interactive iPhone app. The performance will feature an award-winning ensemble of musicians, including The Marc Cary Focus Trio and Will Calhoun (Grammy award-winning percussionist of Living Colour).

• At the Penn Museum, visitors will meet some of the world’s leading conservators and researchers to learn how museums preserve their most precious artifacts, including mummies,
paintings, photographs, films and animal specimens. Students will learn how to preserve their
own personal treasures.

• At the Philadelphia Phillies‘ ballpark, Citizens Bank Park, visitors will have a chance to see a Major League baseball game and explore the science of sports. Baseball fans will be able to explore how physics affects a pitch and what type of throw is scientifically the hardest to hit. There will be a dozen hands-on stations at the ballpark before and during the game.

• The Science Festival will let visitors explore the heavens during Astronomy Night. Perhaps the best of the more than 20 viewing locations will be at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge. There, professional astronomers will set up a telescope to allow visitors to directly explore the wonders of the night sky, in one of the most protected areas from Philadelphia’s urban night light pollution. Youngsters also will be able to enjoy frog walks there.

• Visitors will be able to enjoy a special Victorian-style theater production of Arthur Conan Doyle’s, “The Adventure of the Speckled Band.” After the performance, Mutter Museum experts will explore the science behind Holmes’ deductions by showing genuine artifacts from Holmes’ time. (The museum houses America’s finest collection of medical oddities, anatomical and pathological specimens, and antique medical equipment.)

These and many other Philadelphia Science Festival events will amaze, astound, educate and entertain everyone. If you ever thought you needed an excuse for your family to visit America’s birthplace, this is it.

If you find yourself at Astronomy Night at the Heinz Refuge, please introduce yourself to me. I’ll be helping guests in the visitor center or at the nearby telescope.