Science Festival Blows Up Good

A bigger and better 2nd annual Philadelphia Science Festival will be exploding all over town next month, with more than 75 events planned over a 10-day period to spark inquiring (and newsy) minds. 

New and nifty for this year's (April 20-29) fest:

* To avoid over-crowding and disappointment, tickets (free or with a charge) will be required for most events. The most notable exception is the  big (80 exhibitor strong) April 21  outdoor Science Carnival on Logan Circle. You can find out all the who, what, where and whens starting today at the Philly-based TicketLeap site -  An updated smartphone app for the iPhone - developed by Festival sponsors Drexel University -  is available for download at

  * A Science Film Festival boasting nearly a dozen science and tech themed movies will be introduced. Among them are many East Coast premieres and award winners from other fests such as SWSW.

 * You'll be able to wear your love of science and technology on your back, with a line of  collectible  t-shirts (and more)  to be introduced at the April 21 outdoor carnival. And did we mention, the Parkway event is also expanding this year with a second stage hosted by Kids' Corner's Kathy O'Connell?

Organized by the Franklin Institute, with backing by an National Science Foundation grant (as are similar though university-backed events in  Cambridge, Mass, San Diego and San Francisco), this year's festival boasts participation from more than 100 local partner organizations, many of which have not worked together before. And while what they do in their day jobs is certainly serious work, the emphasis at the festival is on fun and practical stuff that's meant to spark an interest in science, but  doesn't require an advanced degree in physics to appreciate, noted organizers at a festival preview event last night.

 The Philadelphia Zoo will bring out its cutest animals. Lead sponsor Dow Chemical will show off its coolest tech for empowering your mobile phone and solar powering your house. The Monell Chemical Senses Center will tout natural remedies like olive oil to cure everything from aches and pains to Alzheimer's (so be sure to get a free gulp.) Drexel will share its dancing robots, which really groove and shake  to R&B.

"One of the most popular things we did last year" (and sure to be revived this year) "was setting  up tables in restaurants and bars, where scientists were available to chat and answer  questions," noted Steve Snyder, the Franklin Institute's vp of exhibits.

Pop-up science exhibits  and wizards also will materialize all over town in libraries and community centers on the afternoons of April 25 and 26, and with the second annual  Science Night at the Ballpark on Saturday, April 28.