Get Enlightened: Edinburgh International Science Festival 2015

We look ahead to this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival, featuring biking superstars, cutting-edge climate science, drug discussions and a whole lot more.

Feature by John Donaghy | 20 Mar 2015
  • Edinburgh International Science Festival

In just a few weeks time, Edinburgh will host the annual International Science Festival (4-17 Apr). Whether you’re actively involved in the science community, studying a science-related discipline, or simply interested in this year’s many events, there’s something on offer for everyone. However you approach it, you’ll engage with some of the pertinent issues, ideas, and current advancements within the science world.

Amanda Tyndall, Deputy Director of the Festival said recently: “This year’s Science Festival will celebrate enlightened thinking and doing by drawing together shining lights from the fields of science, technology, engineering, philosophy, the arts and beyond, to mull over some of the big ideas, issues and challenges of our time. But it’s not all serious stuff – there are plenty of sociable science opportunities, with events on everything from gaming to gin, and beauty to beer”.

Among the many scientists and celebrities who’ll be appearing throughout the festival, Nobel Prize winner Prof Peter Higgs will be discussing the idea of bringing science to the masses, and the masses to science (8 Apr). Terry Waite – held hostage in Lebanon between 1987 and 1991 – will be talking about his experiences of captivity within the context of mental resilience (9 Apr), while Scottish street trials rider and Youtube phenomenon Danny MacAskill will discuss the nature of focus, and what drives him to achieve extraordinary physical feats at the Tunnel Vision event (12 Apr). BBC broadcaster Prof Jim Al-Khalili will also be taking a look at the origins of life, asking Did Life Originate in the Quantum Multiverse? (13 Apr).


Danny MacAskill, talking Tunnel Vision at the Science Festival

One of the overarching issues at this year’s festival is climate change. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will meet in December to address the issue of climate change in Paris – an event billed as a make or break international effort to curb global warming. The festival’s Energy & Environment theme will use the landmark event as the backdrop for its events. Be sure to check Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Rajendra Pachauri in discussion with experts and policy makers in The Road to Paris (16 April).

As part of the Brainwaves strand, Prof David Nutt of Imperial College London will reflect on alcohol policy and the regulation of drugs in Scotland – whilst calling for a reappraisal of societal attitudes to harmful drugs. You may remember him from headlines surrounding his controversial sacking as the government’s drugs advisor. Recently he’s been involved with Channel 4’s controversial but enlightening Drugs Live programmes. Why Scotland should Lead The Neuroscientific Enlightenment takes place on 12 April and promises to be a fascinating discussion. Also part of the Brainwaves series – Gender & The Brain will explore whether there is such a thing as a ‘male’ or ‘female’ brain (10 April).

Another of the festival themes is Light and Enlightenment, and already acting as an illuminating prelude, the Light Works exhibition opened in St Andrew Square recently. It showcases 50 large-scale photographs from contributors such as NASA and the European Space Agency. These photographs reveal how different kinds of light are used in science, technology, and medicine. Light Works is open daily (8am-6pm) until Friday 17 April and is free of charge.

Facebook and Twitter users, pay attention! Social Media: Spying? Sentiment? Source of Data? examines who really owns our data in the context of social media (9 Apr).

The science of food and drink will be celebrated through GastroFest. On Easter Sunday the SciMart event will feature a science-inspired farmers market - bringing together food producers, researchers and chefs. Culinary curveballs will be thrown at diner’s taste buds via the Sensory Experimentation event on the 9th, and for those partial to a G&T, Gin-omics for Generation Gin (12 Apr) explores the distillation secrets behind the rediscovered classic.

Looking for a little nocturnal inspiration? The Lates events focus on where science, music and art collide. Latelab events take in subjects as diverse as the Tron movie series, with a special Atmosphere screening on 4 April. For Game of Thrones fans, the Science of Game of Thrones event on the 10th takes a look at whether the phenomena in George R.R. Martin’s epic tales could perhaps be plausible. Those looking for cosmic fun, The Big Bang Bash event on the 10th will throw an out-of-this-world party to celebrate the wonders of space. The festival will also put on its very first club night experience – Full Spectrum on 17 April features next-level audio visual trickery courtesy of Astrojazz and Adventures in Light.


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The Edinburgh International Science Festival runs from 4-17 April. A full programme is available to download from the website. http://sciencefestival.co.uk/