3d rendered illustration of an orca

How do you find a fun and easily-accessible way to bring brand new 21st century science, puzzles and ‘riddles’ to Oxford from all around the world and make it accessible to everyone?

How about by exploring frontiers Alice in Wonderland hasn’t previously visited to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Through the Looking Glass via a stellar cast of world-renowned female scientists?

So when Festival Director Dane Comerford commissioned JC Niala to write a new audio play especially for IF Oxford – Science and Ideas Festival she began talking to women in all sorts of fascinating scientific fields to craft Alice’s Adventures Beyond the Canal.

“It was exciting to talk with researchers who all happened to be women and all at the cutting edge of their respective fields”

(Read about IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival here: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/its-back-if-oxford-announces-stunning-line-up-for-2021s-grand-science-and-ideas-festival-extravaganza-with-100-events/)

And now you can join a modern Alice as she embarks on this new journey by listening to Alice’s Adventures Beyond the Canal at https://if-oxford.com/event/alices-adventures-beyond-the-canal-audio-story/, read it for yourself at https://if-oxford.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/08/Alice-Beyond-the-Canal.pdf or sign up to meet the author and the international research teams that inspired this adventure at https://if-oxford.com/event/alices-adventures-beyond-the-canal/.

Alice Beyond the Canal

Alice is now a sassy, 21st century teenager, with a super-cool grandma, who explores brand-new scientific thinking which JC has uncovered by talking to researchers from across the globe.

Alice unearths artificial intelligence for animal conservation in the ocean; heads into the sky to to learn, meets a kingfisher, learns about bats, studies the stars above and ponders curious questions of language and voice recognition to solve a riddle of great importance.

So how did this come about?

JC Niala came across the fascinating story of the Lummi Nation, (the First Nations people from Canada) who were the original inhabitants  of the Pacific Northwest and lived alongside killer whales (otherwise now as orcas) for 1000 years.

Today of course the orcas are in trouble due to noise and fish pollution but because the Lummi Nation can identify individual orcas, and technology can follow their movements and take images, computer scientist Gracie Ermi combined these two sources to understand their population, movements and the issues they face which led to changes in policy around shipping noise. In addition, the Lummi people have also begun feeding the  orcas to help them.

So JC Niala decided to mirror the sea against the sky, to incorporate this into her story. Talking to physicist and innovator Adele Luta, she also discovered that astronauts can actually train underwater in Texas, perfect fodder for Alice’s escapade.

She also spoke to Burçin Mutlu-Pakdil, a Turkish astronomer who found a new galaxy (now known as Burçin’s Galaxy) which threw up all sorts of intriguing questions for astrophysicists.

Alice then moves into A1 voice recognition software, via researcher Abake Adenle, who specialises in bias in the development of language recognition systems and microbiologist Dorothy Tovar who is researching bats to help minimise diseases that could include COVID-19 and Ebola. 

JC Niala

“It was exciting to talk with researchers who all happened to be women and all at the cutting edge of their respective fields,” JC says. “You learn such a lot about how science develops as it bears the imprint of the people working on it,” JC says.

IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival runs from 9 – 26 October 202. Read about it here: https://www.oxinabox.co.uk/its-back-if-oxford-announces-stunning-line-up-for-2021s-grand-science-and-ideas-festival-extravaganza-with-100-events/

Download the festival magazine at https://if-oxford.com/event/festival_magazine_2021/

Or go to the IF Oxford – Science and Ideas Festival homepage at https://if-oxford.com/events/