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More International, More POP, More (Radio)active – ŚFN is the Same, Yet a Bit Different

The Silesian Science Festival KATOWICE has already become part of the calendar of wintertime events in the capital of the Silesian Voivodeship. The fourth edition of ŚFN takes place on 25–27 January 2020 – two weeks later than one year ago. The University of Silesia in Katowice has been the author and leader of the project since the very beginning.

The third edition of ŚFN gathered 35,000 people in the International Congress Centre in Katowice. Further several thousand viewers watched the event online. These data confirm the huge demand for such form of presenting and bringing science closer in our region.

Such an impressive number of visitors to 3. ŚFN is our undeniable success. We are already the largest single-location indoor popular science event in one location in Poland, and our ambitions are even bigger’, says Prof. Ryszard Koziołek, Vice-Rector for Education and Student Affairs, General Director of ŚFN. ‘However, we all know that we need at least three things for the Festival to develop: hard work, humbleness and ongoing analysis of what could be made more interesting and functional’, he admits.

The Festival organisers decided to use again the model that proved itself so well last January. Therefore, ŚFN will begin once more with the official inauguration in the Stanisław Wyspiański Silesian Theatre in Katowice, while on Sunday and Monday almost the whole huge area of ICC will be utilised for the purpose of the Festival.

Another thing that remains the same is that Sunday (26 January) is mainly for families with children, groups of friends and individuals, while the programme on Monday (27 January), the first school day after winter holiday, is arranged for organised groups from schools. However, there will be some significant changes and novelties in the Festival schedule’, assures Justyna Szostek-Aksamit, Executive Director of ŚFN.

For example, the inauguration programme includes the performance of Radiance: The Passion of Marie Curie. The play about the life and work of Marie-Skłodowska-Curie was written by the American actor Alan Alda.

In Poland we know him mainly for his role as Hawkeye Pierce in M*A*S*H* comedy TV series, which was very popular in 1990s’, smiles Prof. Koziołek. ‘We shouldn’t forget, though, that he’s an Emmy and Golden Globe award winner, and a science communicator, which may be a bit surprising. I’m very curious to see Alda’s play about our famous compatriot in Polish translation’, wonders the Vice-Rector of the University of Silesia.

4. ŚFN will definitely be much more international due to numerous foreign guests, including four special guests (in alphabetical order): Austrian science fiction writer Marc Elsberg (whose latest novel entitled Greed came out this year), American astronomer and science communicator Seth Shostak (former Director of SETI Institute searching for extraterrestrial intelligence), Daniel Tammet from Great Britain (savant with above-average arithmetic and linguistic skills, current European record-holder in reciting pi number digits from memory) and writer Robert Zubrin (promoter of the idea of Mars colonisation and exploration). There will also be representatives of partner science festivals from Great Britain.

The Festival organisers also decided to increase the number of ŚFN ambassadors – from four in 2019 (Wiktor Niedzicki, Piotr Baron, Tomasz Rożek and Łukasz Lamża) to eleven in the fourth edition.

Our offer to become ambassadors was accepted by three ladies: Prof. Katarzyna Kłosińska, President of the Council for the Polish Language, Dr. Agata Kołodziejczyk, who works for Analog Astronaut Training Center, and NASA astronaut Nicole Stott, who was the main foreign special guest during the 3rd edition. The new ambassadors of the Festival also include Jarosław Juszkiewicz, Journalist of Polish Radio Katowice, Dr. Arkadiusz Gorzawski – Polish physicist from the European Organization for Nuclear Research, as well as Marek Hucz and Jan Jurkowski – members of Darwin Film Group’, says Justyna Szostek-Aksamit.

All these people were involved in the previous editions of ŚFN, so it’s possible that there will be more ambassadors in the following year. The 4th ŚFN will be attended by Prof. Jerzy Bralczyk, Zbigniew Libera (artist, photographer and performer), Edwin Bendyk (journalist dealing with the impact of technology on social life) and Marcin Popkiewicz (physicist, climatologist and megatrend analyst).

4. ŚFN KATOWICE will also return to outstanding science shows in six fields of knowledge (natural sciences, exact sciences, technology, humanities and social sciences, medical and health sciences, the arts) which take place in the multipurpose hall of ICC (over 8,000 m²). It is here that you can meet the scientists and admire the results of their work. Last year it was the universe that was given a distinguished position among the special zones, which was marked by the presence of astronaut Nicole Stott and Mirosław Hermaszewski – the first and still only Pole in the outer space. This time, the organisers of ŚFN want to pay particular attention to the problem of electromobility, which will be given a dedicated zone in the multipurpose hall of ICC.

It is an extremely important subject that cannot be escaped when the debate about the condition of our planet is becoming increasingly intense. Electromobility is not only about Elon Musk’s multimedia concepts  - it is also about hundreds of smaller and less publicised initiatives that should be shared with a wider audience. We’d like to present at least a couple of them during ŚFN’, claims Prof. Ryszard Koziołek.

The OFF Science zone with the Review of Garage Inventions that took place there proved themselves perfect during the Festival. Therefore, the organisers decided to propose another new element – POP science competition is intended to honour science communicators.

We will run the contest in five categories: video blog, blog or website, radio broadcast or podcast, scientists from a university in the Silesian Voivodeship and resident of the Silesian Voivodeship. In this way, we want to appreciate people who actually support the Festival idea, which is to awaken cognitive curiosity in people at every age’, says Radosław Aksamit, Festival Ombudsperson.

There will be several important changes in the organisation of the Festival space. For example, multi-storey structures in the multipurpose hall will be used better, the kids zone will be combined with the sports zone and planned according to an entirely new concept, there will also be a scientific bookshop with a café.

We are currently working intensively on the overall Festival programme, because we want to announce it as soon as possible. In the next few weeks we will definitely put a lot of effort into informing the local community about our guests, because we are sure that a chance to meet for example Seth Shostak is absolutely unique. Please search for our media presence and stay tuned, because we’re going to tell about the  Festival all the time until the end of January. Let me invite you to the 4th Silesian Science Festival KATOWICE. I’d like to remind you that the participation is completely free’, concludes Prof. Ryszard Koziołek, General Director of ŚFN and Vice-Rector of the University of Silesia. Registration for schools has already been launched – school groups have to report their presence in ICC (importantly, the individual visitors do not have to do it). Once the programme has been announced, registration for selected programme items (e.g. workshops and some lectures) will also be launched.

The 4th Silesian Science Festival is organised by: University of Silesia in Katowice (leader and author of the project), City of Katowice (host city), as well as Metropolis GZM and Marshall Office of the Silesian Voivodeship (co-hosts). The event is co-organised by: Silesian University of Technology, Medical University of Silesia, Jan Długosz University in Częstochowa Academy of Physical Education in Katowice, University of Bielsko-Biała (for the first time) and Academy of Fine Arts in Katowice.

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