Things to do this week: Do you have what it takes to be an astronaut?

Looking for the best things to do this week? Don’t waste away being bored on the sofa… here’s our pick of ways to exercise your grey matter and nourish your neurons.

18th August 2017
Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? © BBC/James Cheadle

#BrainFood brings you the best shows on TV and radio, science apps and books to activate your mind, and fun events to visit. This week – astronauts in training, the story of colour, and MakeFest comes to Manchester.


MakeFest 2017 © The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum - Chris Foster
© The Board of Trustees of the Science Museum - Chris Foster

MakeFest 2017

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry, 19-20 August, free entry

Head to Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry this weekend for the North West’s annual festival of coding, crafting and creating. A highlight will be the recycled robots battle ring. Visitors will make their own fighting robots using nothing but rubbish, before pitching them against each other. Meanwhile, there’ll be opportunities to program Minecraft with punchcards, make light-up cuddly toys, and get retro with some Meccano.


Monkman And Seagull's Polymathic Adventure © BBC

Monkman And Seagull's Polymathic Adventure

BBC Radio 4, Mon 21 August, 8:30-9:00pm

Is there any point in knowing a lot? In this one-off programme, team captains (and unlikely cult heroes) from University Challenge, Eric Monkman and Bobby Seagull, ask whether having a broad general knowledge is a useful thing. Along the way they meet fellow polymath Stephen Fry, and find out about 19th Century scientist Thomas Young – the “the last man who knew everything”.


The Story of Colour © Michael O’Mara Books
© Michael O’Mara Books

The Story of Colour

Gavin Evans, Michael O’Mara Books, £20

Colours aren’t just pretty to look at – they’re imbued with meaning and history. Gavin Evans looks into the science and culture of colour, revealing how the meanings we attach to colours vary from place to place. Why are mourning and purity symbolised by black in some parts of the world, but white in others? Why is blue the world’s favourite colour? And why is pink associated with femininity? Click here for a sneak preview.


Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes? © BBC/James Cheadle
© BBC/James Cheadle

Astronauts: Do You Have What It Takes?

BBC Two, Sun 20 August, 9:00-10:00pm

Millions want to be astronauts, but very few get the chance. This new six-part series follows 12 budding spacefarers as they take on the gruelling astronaut training programme, having their physical and mental resilience pushed to the limit. Overseen by former astronaut Chris Hadfield, this episode will see the applicants hovering a helicopter, learning how to take their own blood, and experiencing the claustrophobia of a pitch-black capsule.


Total Solar Eclipse © Exploratorium
© Exploratorium

Total Solar Eclipse

iOS/Android, Exploratorium, free

A total solar eclipse will make its way across the US on 21 August, but those elsewhere shouldn't feel too left out. This free app will offer five livestreams of the eclipse, including coverage hosted by NASA scientists and educators at San Francisco’s Exploratorium, plus two non-narrated views from telescopes in Oregon and Wyoming. And for those who’d like some musical accompaniment, there’s even a video stream with live backing from the acclaimed Kronos Quartet.

For more fabulous apps, check out our list of the top 10 science apps for Android and iOS.


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