A shot glass full of algae (complete with floating crickets), ‘no waste cooking’ workshops and a range of lectures. This year’s Rotterdam Science Festival was held at the Markthal and the Binnenrotte. An obvious choice of location, since the theme was ‘Food’. On Friday, the regular market stalls made way for stands where you could savour a seaweed burger or sample some insects.

Meanwhile leading scientists from Erasmus and representatives of the Netherlands Nutrition Centre held lectures in the Mart Café and the Library. The latest research results raised all sorts of questions from the audience. After a lecture about food addiction, for example, one visitor wondered whether you’d find a higher percentage of compulsive overeaters among the Markthal crowd than in the general Rotterdam population. “Quite likely,” replied psychologist Ingmar Franken. Another visitor expressed surprise about a tray of small plaice that had nevertheless been certified as sustainable. Other subjects ranged from the actual benefits of taking vitamins to consumer behaviour and food allergies. Visitors could also try ‘no waste cooking’ for themselves or calculate their ‘food footprint’, which indicates the environmental impact of your dietary choices.

The purpose of the festival was to bring science and the general public closer together. The event was organised in the context of the European Researchers’ Night, which is organised in over 300 cities. This was a unique encounter for scientists and visitors alike. How can researchers spend years studying one specific subject – the role of iodine in the development of an unborn child’s brain, for example? Wouldn’t you want to study something else at some point? This was one of the questions coming from the audience. At the end of the lecture, Tim Korevaar (27), a scientist who is conducting precisely this study, countered: “Why wouldn’t you want to know everything there is to know about one subject?”