Committed nerds, aspiring nerds and casual nerds, here's the perfect way to dedicate your weekend to bettering your brain. The Sydney Science Festival is back for another round, running from August 7–19. And it's going to be bigger (and, we're happy to report, nerdier) than ever, with more than 200 events involving over 80 organisations. Whether you want to consider the ethics of living with — and potentially loving — robots, lose yourself in tactile and visual illusions or hear about what might happen when the Milky Way crashes into the nearest galaxy, you can do it all over a couple of days. While the festival runs for two weekends, we've chosen the first one (August 10–12) to craft an itinerary of shameless nerding out, with some much-needed brain food thrown in for good measure.
6PM: CATCH LISA HARVEY-SMITH'S KEYNOTE SPEECH
To open the festival for 2018, astrophysicist and Stargazing Live presenter Lisa Harvey-Smith will be explaining what might happen were the Milky Way to collide with its nearest galaxy — an event expected to happen in about 3.8 billion years. You'll be hearing all about stars forming in sudden bursts, the fusing of black holes and gas jets travelling at the speed of light. The impending collision is the subject of Harvey-Smith's new book When Galaxies Collide, which English physicist Dr Brian Cox described as a "fascinating and inspiring tour of the galaxies".
When Galaxies Collide is happening at 6pm, Friday, August 10 at the Powerhouse. Book a ticket over here.
8PM: GRAB A POST-TALK DRINK AT THE TERMINUS
If there's one way to get your head around the collision of galaxies, it's a stiff drink. Get just that at the Terminus Hotel, a 177-year-old pub that reopened in March this year after a 30-year hiatus and a multi-million dollar revamp. For a quiet cocktail, head upstairs to Vera's, a light, elegant space named after Vera Dempsey, a local legend among bartenders, who ran the pub back in the 1930s. Otherwise, kick back on a super comfy bar stool in the downstairs Tram Bar, which opens out to an alfresco courtyard. The current cocktail menu includes a blue cheese martini and the FCUK Yoga (bourbon, ginger, honey and house-made apple puree).
The Terminus is open until midnight at 61 Harris Street, Pyrmont.
10AM: EXPLORE WHAT IT IS TO BE HUMAN (OR ROBOT)
This exhibition delves into what it means to be human and the impact of rapidly advancing technology, which is beginning to blur the lines between human and robot. With four aspects of our experience in mind — food, work, sex and belief — a selection of artists have created an array of immersive installations, drawing on architecture, design, biotechnology, botany, chemistry, film and performance. Look out for works by Lindsay Kelley, Liam Young, Maria Fernanda Cardoso, Ken Thaiday and Jason Christopher, and expect to be challenged, surprised, confused, frightened and maybe (just maybe) even a little hopeful. Hold onto your ticket because you'll be heading back here after lunch.
Human non Human is open from 10am–5pm at the Powerhouse. Entry to the museum is $15 for all-day entry.
12PM: REFUEL WITH PIZZA AT FRATELLI FRESH
Just ten-minute stroll from the Powerhouse is the brand new Fratelli Fresh Emporium in Darling Harbour. This 500-seat mega venue, dotted with red-and-white umbrellas, is a wonderland of Neapolitan pizzas, gelati, Sonoma goodies, Italian wines, negronis and Aperol spritzes. If the sun's a-shining, take a seat in the outdoor courtyard to gaze over the water; otherwise, get cosy inside among the pot plants and communal tables. When you've feasted to your heart's content, stretch your legs with a stroll along the waterfront: you'll need a clear and ready mind for the brain-bending sessions coming up.
Fratelli Fresh Emporium is open from 7am till midnight at 14 Darling Drive, Darling Harbour.
2PM: LEARN ABOUT SCIENCE'S RECENT BREAKTHROUGHS
Scientific discoveries might seem complex, but they often begin with simple accidents, experiments and ideas. It was the sight of an apple falling that led Sir Isaac Newton to conceive of gravity, while a chocolate bar melting in a pocket inspired engineer Percy Spencer to invent the microwave. These principles of experimentation and curiosity are at the heart of the Australian Museum's Super Science Saturday, which is set to be an interactive expo-like day of scientific discovery. There'll be 20-plus booths manned by bona-fide experts so you can learn about everything from volcanoes to the science behind Indigenous bush foods and medicine. It's a little nerdy but that's what this weekend is all about — and, if nothing else, you'll be primed for the next pub trivia night.
Super Science Saturday is running from 9.30am–4pm at the Australian Museum, Darlinghurst. Entry is $20 for adults and free for kids.
5PM: GRAB A WELL-EARNED WINE AT RILEY STREET GARAGE
After exploring science's most important breakthroughs of the 21st century, you'll be more than ready for a good glass of red and maybe a snack or two. Cross William Street to reach Riley Street Garage and take a seat up at its impressive centrepiece bar — not only is it a great place to rest your feet, but it also has some sweet happy hour deals. Truffle soy oysters are just $1 each, and glasses of house wine and beer are just $5.
Riley Street Garage is open from midday till midnight at 55 Riley Street, Woolloomooloo.
7PM: A NIGHT OF ILLUSIONS
Leave reality blissfully behind when you step into an arcadia of illusions. Taking over Redfern's 107 Projects, this adventure compels you to question the fine line between what's real and what merely seems. You'll find yourself immersed in the sensory world of animals, experience the sensation of inhabiting an entirely different body and see things that aren't there. Helping you to understand what's going on in your brain along the way will be a bunch of leading scientists, including neuroscientist Dr Deborah Apthorp, behavioural ecologist Matthew Bulbert and vision scientist Erika Contini.
A Night of Illusions Is running for one night only from 7pm at 107 Projects, Redfern. Tickets are $5 and you can book over here.
10AM: DO A MORNING DRAWING WORKSHOP
Science isn't all robots and space stuff — it's about cute animals, too. Which is really a topic everyone can get behind. At this morning workshop in The Addison Road Community Centre, experts will make you a semi-expert on one species that's particularly prevalent in Sydney's skies: microbats. The centre has its own habitat tree on-site, so you might be able to catch a glimpse of them sleeping before you sit down and learn how to properly draw them. Unless you just happen to be a chiropterologist, you'll learn at least a few interesting facts to share with your mates at work on Monday.
The A-Mazeing Acrobats Drawing Workshop will run from 10am–12pm at The Addison Road Community Centre, Marrickville. You can book tickets here.
12PM: GRAB LUNCH AT THE HENSON
When you're done, head around the corner for a pub lunch. If the weather's nice, The Henson's beer garden will be in full swing, so grab any spot you can and don't give it up. The menu is varied, so you can grab anything from tacos to haloumi burgers to half a Balinese-style chicken. So it's good if you've amassed a crew, and it's great if you've got kids in tow.
The Henson is open from 11am at 91 Illawarra Road, Marrickville.
5PM: FIND OUT IF YOU'LL SOON HAVE A ROBOT FRIEND AT THE OPERA HOUSE
After spending a few hours lapping up the Sunday sun in The Henson's courtyard, catch the train to Circular Quay to round out your weekend with a contemplation of the blessings and evils of robots. They're gradually pervading all aspects of our lives, so it's time we gave them some serious thought. Getting you moving will be this panel discussion, featuring Toby Walsh (UNSW Scientia Professor, Artificial Intelligence), Ellen Broad (independent consultant, data sharing, open data and AI ethics) and Hae Won Park (research scientist, Personal Robots Group, MIT Media Lab). Just some of the big questions they'll be tackling include: what will it mean if robots are our toys, our pets, our friends and our partners? If robots can be everything from carers to warriors, what does this mean not just for human lives, but for the way we understand human intelligence, human values and humanity itself? Thought-provoking stuff and a good note to end your weekend on.
Good Robot, Bad Robot will take place at 5pm at the Sydney Opera House's Drama Theatre. Tickets are $49 and can be bought here.
The 2018 Sydney Science Festival will run over two weeks from August 7–19. Take a look at the full program here — there's enough there to extend your weekend to a very nerdy two weeks.