Edinburgh International Science Festival 2009

Getcha artificial intelligence here...

Preview by Katy Hutcheson | 24 Mar 2009
  • Stelarc

It’s time to unleash your inner scientist and get cultured: the Edinburgh International Science Festival is here to expand our minds and teach us about wonders we never even knew existed. There's a strong - and applaudable - bent towards children's events, but with 170 events in 26 venues, there are more than a few opportunities for the more mature of us to participate.

ASIMO - Advanced Step In Innovative Mobility - is the result of 22 years of persistent research by those clever chaps at Honda and will be appearing at the McEwan Hall for a series of events on 4 and 5 April (tickets are a measly £2.50). Apparently the world’s most advanced humanoid robot, he can recognise people, shake hands and even dance, which puts him ahead of a significant chunk of humanity already.

Rather uniquely for a science festival, there's also a large supernatural event: all Derek Acorah fans will have a chance to participate in a special experiment conducted by psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman. ‘Hauntings’ is a unique one-day public event, taking place 4 April at the University of Edinburgh’s Anatomy Lecture theatre, where one can witness a genuine Victorian phantasmagoria, discuss the possibility of the afterlife and meet the gent who creates the ghostly going-ons in the Harry Potter movies. Be warned, though, you'll need to be pretty keen on the subject as it costs a whopping £30 for a full day.

It’s also worth strolling down to the Botanic Gardens where the emphasis is on celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth; there's a couple of exhibitions on the man himself and another exploring how we can help slow down the effects of climate change. Meanwhile the National Museum of Scotland will be showcasing their world-class collections that will go on to form part of the new Royal Museum Project in 2011; basically a Greatest Hits from their massive stock. They're also offering a chance to boost your Scottish pride with Scotland: A Changing Nation, a valiant attempt to remind the world we invented more than just Irn Bru!

The Edinburgh Filmhouse is getting involved in all things science too, screening a few films including The Oxford Murders and 21, starring Kevin Spacey; whereas the main festival venue, the City Art Centre, offers, um, 'X-Rated stories in the Stars'. Taking place in the Starlab planetarium - complimentary glass of wine included - we're not entirely sure what this involves, but it is tagged 'Adults Only'...There's also a couple of interesting exhibitions inspired by science at the same venue; Lucinda Douglas-Menzie’s 38 black and white photographic portraits of leading UK astronomers, including Bernard Lovell, Martin Rees and Stephen Hawking provides a remarkable insight into their lives.

The one-not-to-miss however, is the appearance by Australian performance artist Stelarc. Interested in how our bodies interact with technology, he's grafted an extra ear onto his left arm; when electronically augmented, the ear will become internet enabled, allowing people in other places to listen to what his ear is, er, listening to.

And then of course, there are the masses of lectures - Richard Dawkins, Pixar Animation - workshops, tours, heaps of kids' stuff that you wish was for adults, a sleepover at the zoo, oh and the History of the Vibrator. Science has never been so sexy.