Bristol March for Science

On the 22nd April (Earth Day) thousands of Bristol supporters of science – from students, to famous names from science and television – will take to the streets to add their voices to a worldwide movement of marches in celebration of the vital role scientific evidence plays in our everyday lives.

Scientific study underpins the foundations of the world, yet, it is under attack across the globe, especially by those who have the power to change its influence. In a time when experts and evidence are being pushed aside, we must stand in solidarity to protect the use of scientific evidence in areas such as climate change and medical and environmental policy, and defend those working or studying in scientific fields such as research, medicine, engineering or technology. Budget cuts, censorship of researchers, disappearing datasets and threats to dismantle government agencies harm us all, putting our health, food, air, water, climate and jobs at risk. It is time for people who support science to take a public stand and be counted.

Bristol is a long-established centre of scientific excellence, home to major universities, industry and the biggest hub for wildlife filmmaking in the world. On the 22nd April, Bristolians will march in recognition of both the community’s commitment to protecting these credentials and the important role the city has carved in the scientific arena. Renowned for its creativity, Bristol is a truly special place where the arts and sciences meet and the rare joining of scientific and artistic minds seems to be more commonplace in our city that most. However, it is this synergy of disciplines that has real potential to impact UK science. Speaking of this, Anna Starkey, Creative Director of At-Bristol, says “Good science needs what Bristol offers as a city – connected people asking questions, sharing ideas, who are not afraid to be playful and experiment in the unknown.”

All students should have the opportunity for a quality science education and the march is a great opportunity to communicate a positive message to the public and public officials about the value and power of science, engineering and technology. The March for Science gives students the opportunity to step outside our universities and help inform all citizens about the value and importance of science and science education. The event has been designed to bring people of all ages in Bristol together to stand up for science. There will be stands and activities for children and adults alike in the Millennium Square, alongside prizes for the best banners – making it a fun but impactful day for families and for the future of their children.

We ask you to join us – it is time to stand up for and support the proper funding of scientific research, and demand the use of evidence to make informed decisions and policies. Prizes for best banners – science puns encouraged!

For more information, visit the Facebook event: http://bit.ly/ScienceMarchBRS
Twitter: @ScienceMarchBRS

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Festival Showcase: can music change our immune system?

Research into the health benefits of music has rapidly expanded over the last decade, with studies as diverse as the playing of war songs to improve walking in Parkinson’s patients, to the use of pop music to increase speed and accuracy in operating theatres. But how much do we actually know about how music affects the inner workings of the body? With the help of the Tenovus Cancer Care choir, Daisy Fancourt will explore how music can impact on the mind and body and consider its potential bio-evolutionary origins in this talk on the last day of the Festival.

A study published in April of this year has shown attending live music performances can reduce a person’s levels of the stress hormones, cortisol and cortisone.

Cortisol is produced by the body in response to physiological or psychological stress. In small doses, it can have positive effects by improving alertness – however, chronically elevated stress hormone levels can worsen existing medical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.

Researchers studied 117 volunteers attending two concerts of music by composer Eric Whitacre; they provided saliva samples before the performances and then again during an interval, an hour later. When samples were tested, they showed across-the-board reductions in stress hormones present in the saliva samples after the interval.

These results are in line with previous studies that showed listening to music in a controlled setting such as a hospital can reduce these stress hormone levels. The study focused solely on the effects of relatively calm, classical music, so more research will be needed to ascertain whether other genres of music elicit different effects on the endocrine system.

Nevertheless, the study opens the question of how engaging with music and the arts in cultural settings can influence biological and psychological states to enhance people’s broader health and well-being.

If you’d like to find out more about the effects of music on our health and immune systems, Daisy Fancourt’s talk will be taking place on the last day of the Festival at 11:30pm, with a choral performance. More information can be found here.