SCK•CEN brought a breath of fresh Antarctica air to the Sound of Science festival


Sound of Science gathered more than 3000 spectators in Edegem (Antwerp) for “scienterrific” presentations, lectures and do-it-yourself activities. Lots of them entered the cold room of SCK•CEN and listened - muffled in fleece blankets - to Randy Vermeesen and Bjorn Baselet, radiobiologists of the federal research centre. The key question was: what do Antarctica and space have in common?

It is only four degrees in the cold room of SCK•CEN. “And still, the cold room was packed with scientists every hour”, explains Bjorn Baselet, PhD student at SCK•CEN. Every hour, Bjorn and Randy give details of the recent expedition of Sarah Baatout to Antarctica and explain the conditions that Antarctica and space have in common. “In winter, you can expect temperatures down to -80°C and wind speeds of more than 300 km/h. In summer, the sun never sets and temperatures vary between -20°C and -30°C. Extreme climate, low oxygen content, increased background radiation and the social isolation are some of the common factors with a space trip.”

Young and old were hanging onto the two radiobiologists’ every word. Jef Wouters (8 y.o.) does not yield to the call of the continent but found the expedition very impressive. “I learned a lot. I did not know that Antarctica was the driest continent on earth!”

Paul De Smedt (57 y.o.) started to feel the urge to go on an adventure after the lecture: “We must not underestimate the conditions of such places.” The expedition to Antarctica is out of grasp but I would not hesitate for a second if they asked me to go along...”


Fantastic initiative

Sound of Science is the very first outdoor science festival in Belgium. The festival was filled with music, tents and of course... Lots of science! “The science festival is a fantastic initiative to bring science closer to the public in a fun way”, states Randy.

The TV host Lieven Scheire amazed the audience with insane facts and baffling theories about DNA. It was also possible to follow a live dissection of human brains. Sleeves were rolled up to stick an arm in a “phantom horse” which is used to teach medical students rectal examination. “We were able to inspire the spectators about SCK•CEN’s research: both for our research on earth and in space! This day was a success”, claims Bjorn.