Reflections on #EMFcamp - a Science-Fact Convention


At a science-fiction convention, you queue for hours to hear a bit-part actor describe what it was like on the set of a forgotten sci-fi show. At a science-fact convention, you have a beer with a person who is literally changing the world with a laser cutter, some diodes, and a smattering of Python.

Welcome to ElectroMagnetic Field!

(I've stolen the subtitle from Ken MacLeod's description of Charles Stross's story Dechlorinating the Moderator.)

I'm not one for camping. Or doing anything in a field. So I was quite nervous about attending the festival. But everyone was lovely, the talks were amazing, and the food was good.

At every turn I bumped into people doing amazing things. Robots! LIDAR! Science! It was blissful. And the cider was pretty cheap.

I've never been to a laser powered rave watched over by a robot cat, while people covered in LEDs danced under posters promoting genetic modification on the BlockChain. I've never sat in a tent while watching a material scientist demonstrate her craft - and then later gone back to the same tent to watch a Chap Hop singer strut his stuff.

Terence and Liz in front of Lasers at emfcamp.

EMF is weird!

Bug Reports

These are all P3 or lower.

  • As a sleeper, I don't want to be woken up in the middle of the night by air-horns. I'm quite happy for "bangin' chooons" to pump out - but my ear-plugs are not designed to cope with klaxons being fired off.
  • As an audience member, I don't want to watch 20 minutes of a presenter figuring out how to connect a laptop to a projector. All presenters should have to use the pre-configured stage laptop. I only saw one talk which needed a specialist laptop - to show the audience a view from a USB camera.
  • As someone who eats food, I don't want to queue for 30 minutes only to be told the advertised vegetarian breakfast isn't available. This is a problem unique to UK food-trucks. They seem taken by surprise that customers want to give them money. A few of the trucks were excellent, and knew how to serve food quickly. Still, an excellent range of veggie food.
  • As someone who wants to ask a question at a talk, I don't want to be stuck behind someone saying "Less of a question, more of a comment." These people need to learn some manners!
  • As a wishy-washy-bleeding-heart-politically-correct-do-gooder, I'd like to have seen more diversity. There was no lack of age or gender diversity, but it all felt a bit white.

Highlights

We accidentally hired a very silly campervan. Which lead to...

I did my talk about The (Connected) House of Horrors and loads of people came!

My brilliant wife did a talk about our OpenBenches project.

I met so many new people, reconnected with old friends, and put faces to Twitter avatars. I had my mind expanded about LGBTQ+ behaviour in animals, saw people hacking their way through insurmountable technical obstacles, and was inspired by all the beauty and creativity on show.

Roll on EMF 2020!

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