Science fest whips out all the bells and whistles

Science educator Ken Farquhar defies any stereotype of science - or scientists - being dull and difficult to understand.

The 45-year-old soap bubble chemist juggles apples to demonstrate how gravity works. He swings yo-yos while explaining how friction helps him work the tricks.

Dr Farquhar will perform a series of circus acts while unravelling the science behind them, at the Singapore Science Festival 2013, which opens at the Central Atrium of Marina Square today.

"Science communication often takes place between scientists, but there are so many interesting things the world could know," said the Briton, who learnt to juggle in his youth, and got his doctorate at the University of East Anglia.

Now, he has found a way to meld his two loves as he teaches children about science through his performances.

"I wanted to make science accessible. I wanted my mum to understand my PhD thesis on soap bubbles too," he joked.

Dr Farquhar is the embodiment of the festival's message this year that science is fun. Organised by A*Star and the Science Centre, it is Singapore's largest science festival by far, with more than 50 public- and private-sector partners.

This year, it will feature over 70 hands-on activities, exhibitions and workshops island-wide, aimed at getting people of all ages, but especially the young, interested in science.

"We want to get young people interested in science," said the Science Centre's chief executive, Associate Professor Lim Tit Meng. "Hopefully, some will pursue a career in it."

Besides wealth managers, the economy also needs wealth creators like scientists, he said.

He declined to reveal the budget for the festival, but said it was in the millions, paid for through A*Star and Science Centre funding and sponsorships-in-kind.

Organisers have lined up an extensive series of activities, including talks about the physics behind Universal Studios' theme park rides.

X-periment!, the opening carnival, is on from today until Sunday. On showcase are printable solar cell batteries and giant robotic snakes that mimic the movement of real ones. Admission is free.

Another highlight is the Mini Maker Faire next weekend, at *Scape, during which local and overseas innovators will showcase DIY projects ranging from eco-friendly jewellery to home appliances automated by smartphones.

Most of the 150 makers are local. "People say Singapore is a desert, but it has a pool of talent waiting to be discovered," said Prof Lim, citing a DIY haze detector as one of the local inventions featured.

There is a Science Buskers Fest as well, during which participants will engage in a show-and-tell on a science topic. Visitors can vote for their favourite buskers.

The festival runs from today to Aug 4, followed by a joint Science Street Fair in November. Visit for more information.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.