Smiles, Sparks and Secrets of the Universe: Eight Brisbane Events That No Science Fan Should Miss

From insightful panels of industry experts to after-dark parties, it's all happening for World Science Festival Brisbane 2024.
Alec Jones
February 16, 2024

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Praise be to science, the invisible threads that make sense of our nonsensical existence. From the cosmic majesty of astronomy to the life-saving arts of medicine, we owe a great deal to science. And, while we all spend our lives surrounded by it, let's not take it for granted. Science and the experts who champion it deserve to be celebrated — and that's exactly what happens at events like the World Science Festival Brisbane.

This annual event series, taking place between Friday, March 15 and Sunday, March 24, puts the top experts from every field front and centre to talk about the wonders and mysteries of science, both the fun and important kinds. With the 2024 iteration of the World Science Festival just around the corner, here are eight events we are not going to miss.

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'An Afternoon of Science' with Leigh Sales, Annabel Crabb and guests — Saturday, March 23

If there are two hosts suited to lead a discussion about the all-encompassing joys and wonders of all things scientific, it's these two entertaining, intelligent women. Leigh Sales needs no introduction; anyone who has paid attention to the news in Australia in the past ten years will recognise her and that oh-so-familiar ABC anchor voice.

Joining her is an equally influential name in media, commentary and creativity: Annabel Crabb. Together, the two of them host a much-loved podcast and have recently co-authored a book, but for WSFB they'll lead a conversation with some yet-to-be-announced special guests about everything exciting happening in science.

Buy tickets now.

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'ADA' by Karina Smigla-Bobinski — Friday, March 15 to Sunday, March 24

For something interactive, it's worth considering Curiocity Brisbane and its range of artworks running alongside WSFB 2024. Chief among them is an interactive piece titled ADA at the Cultural Forecourt in South Bank. On the surface, it's a white room containing a floating plastic orb, an orb that bears several charcoal sticks and an open encouragement for visitors to push it around as they please.

The idea of the piece is more nuanced. In giving it a nudge, you contribute to the growing web of markings on the walls, ceiling and floor as the orb moves around the room. It's a lovely callback to the earliest form of human communication: drawing on the walls. It's also a tribute by German artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski to Ada Lovelace, a visionary figure in early computing.

Buy tickets now.

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'Cultivating the Future of Food' with Rhianna Patrick and guests — Thursday, March 22

As entertaining as a floating orb of charcoal pencils is, it's not exactly something that the future of humanity depends on. A much more significant subject in that realm of interest is the issue of food; rather, the increasing risk of food shortages in a future shaped by climate change. That's the issue on hand for this panel of experts, led by Torres Strait Islander journalist and broadcaster Rhianna Patrick.

The First Nations people of Australia (and the world) have championed sustainable food practices since the dawn of civilisation so what can we take from that knowledge and apply to the future? Patrick and her guests, Suzanne Thompson and Madonna Thompson, will lead an insightful discussion to address that question.

Buy tickets now.

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'The Earth Above: A Deep Time View of Australia's History' — March 15 to March 24

One of the most popular destinations during WSFB is the Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium, famous for its immersive dome cinema. This year, the starring show is a movie-length visual presentation on the huge dome screen, one that charts 140,000 years of Australian natural and cultural history.

To explore that history, audiences will be transported to four locations across the country: Girraween Lagoon on Larrakia and Wulna Country near Darwin; Cloggs Cave on GunaiKurnai Country in Victoria's Gippsland region; Lake Mungo in NSW on the land of the Barkandji/Paakantyi, Ngiyampaa and Mutthi Mutthi people; and Jiigurru (Lizard Island) on the Great Barrier Reef, which is sacred to many, including the Dingaal people.

Buy tickets now.

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'Night of the Nerds' — Saturday, March 23

'Night of the Nerds' is a WSFB tradition, regularly adding a splash of hilarity to the festival program. In essence, it's a quiz show starring Aussie comedians and scientists putting their combined knowledge to the test. Hosted by whip-smart comedian Mark Humphries, two teams will enter but only one can be crowned nerds supreme.

The games will star Chaser comedian Craig Reucassel, broadcaster Nate Byrne and astrophysicist Kirsten Banks, Professor Paul Young, Dr Naomi Koh Belic and more. The night will also feature a band comprised of Brisbane music luminaries like The Grates' Patience Hodgson, Velociraptor's Georgie Browning, Ball Park Music's Jen Boyce and Paul Furness, and Simi Lacroix.

Buy tickets now.

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'Social Science' — Friday, March 22

Another WSFB favourite, 'Social Science', is an after-dark transformation of the Queensland Museum into a space of celebration where art and science become one. Grab a science-themed cocktail from the bar and explore the museum to find one of the many free workshops and activities scattered across level two of the museum.

Explore and you'll find a fashion show, live podcast recording, a drag show, live painting, an insect-pinning workshop, multiple dancefloors and after-dark entry to two of the museum's most popular exhibits: The Hatchery and Jurassic World by Brickman®.

Buy tickets now.

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'Life on Mars' with Graham Phillips and guests — Friday, March 22

For as long as humans have existed, we've been fascinated by the night sky. How could we not be? That beautiful mosaic has enchanted and inspired us, and as technology has taken us higher, we've started to explore it more and more. In this expert-led panel, astrophysicist and science journalist Graham Phillips will lead a conversation about the mysteries of the universe as we know them in 2024.

Joining him will be Professor Tamara Davis, an accomplished astrophysicist who will share her knowledge on dark energy and the continuing expansion of the universe; Professor Kathleen Campbell, a leading expert on astrobiology who can offer insights on the ongoing search for alien life — and finally Professor Martin Van Kranendonk, an expert in early Earth research and how that can help us explore our solar system.

Buy tickets now.

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'Space Rocks to Moon Rocks: Paths to Life in the Solar System' — Saturday, March 23

If the solar system and the mysteries of the universe is exactly your kind of jam, then this is the unmissable event for you. Over the past few years, NASA has been set on answering fundamental questions like how our solar system came to be, how life on earth was sparked, and more. To do so, three famous missions were launched: Osiris Rex, Artemis and Perseverance Rover.

What samples of the universe have these expeditions sent home? What can we learn? Discussing these questions and what this means for our many questions will be a panel made up of Professor Brian Greene, astrobiologist David Flannery and planetary researcher Phil Bland, three experts who together will do their best to chart the story of our planetary neighbourhood.

Buy tickets now.

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World Science Festival Brisbane runs from Friday, March 15 to Sunday, March 24. For more information or to book tickets to one of the events, visit the website

Published on February 16, 2024 by Alec Jones
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