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National Science Week

Boffins and nerds - expect to hear a lot about them during the upcoming National Science Week (March 16-25). In the annual bid to convince everybody that frizzy hair and a white lab coat, or glasses and intense shyness, are not prerequisites for a career in science or IT, dozens of trendy, interesting and, yes, even female, professionals will be paraded to prove that working in the science and technology industries is as exciting as being in Popstars.

While a few "imagineers" will be expending all their energy on pretending to be something they are not, hundreds of other scientists, engineers and technologists will be standing up loud and proud to show off the relevance of what they do.

Which pop group or film star has created a more intimate relationship with the teenager than the mobile phone? All those phone calls and all those text messages are a must-have part of teenage life. Eminem may get all the headlines, but Nokia shifts more units. And what website with 50-60 million users has created all the online buzz over the last year? Not the celebrity sites but the music-swapping service Napster. Not produced by some music hipster, but dowdy techie Shawn Fanning.

On the medical side, recent headlines inform us that the human genome has been mapped, we'll soon be able to throw away our glasses, and frozen babies can be defrosted.

These few examples suggest that science and technology is far from marginalised, and the battle against the nerd syndrome is being won. So instead ofbeing an apology for not being fly, National Science Week really is a celebration of scientific and technical acheivement.

A plethora of mostly free events, ranging from exhibitions and talks to quizzes and practical challenges,has been organised for the 10-day event.

The Science Internet Quiz, hosted by Strathclyde University, is offering prizes from several attractions, including Satrosphere and Dynamic Earth. Trivia junkies can go online at www.level2phys.strath.ac.uksciencequiz. Secondary schools are also invited to take part in an interactive quiz and web-building contest on Friday March 16 and Friday March 23. Access the event at www.epsrc-sciencerace.net.

Questions of a slightly different nature will be posed by the interactive game of risk at www.riskit.org.uk, where students can try to work out the relative dangers of everyday life.

In Dorset, schools have the chance to participate in the Websites, Robots and Mobile Phones event at Bournemouth University on Wednesday, March 21. If robots and website-building don't appeal, the opportunity to create a personalised mobile phone casing surely will.

The British Association for the Advancement of Science is co-ordinating all the events, and details of times and venues can be found at www.britassoc.org.uk.

You can also go straight to the dedicated website at www.nationalscienceweek. org.uk. But the site wasn't working on the two days I tried to access it.

Yolanda Brooks

yolanda.brooks@tes.co.uk

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