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University makes Science Festival connections

The University is making a key contribution to this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival.

Staff and students are involved in more than 50 drop-in activities, talks, debates and workshops, in keeping with this year’s Festival theme of connections.

Drop-in activities

Visitors have the chance to discover how maths connects the world – such as helping computers talk to each other – at the University’s free drop-in activities for families at the National Museum of Scotland.

Participants will have the opportunity to explore the world from the visible to the nanoscale, by taking a virtual journey with chemists.

Families can also find out what supercomputers do, and have expert help to design a wing, a model, or a cloud.

Those taking part can also find out how to test whether an online conversation is with a human or a computer.

Fun for families

Edinburgh International Science Festival - children

Free activities also include the chance to learn about psychology by using tablet games and an eye-tracking machine to discover what people are thinking.

Families can get hands-on with biology and make discoveries under the microscope.

Medical scientists are on hand to show the connection between DNA and finding the best medicines.

Visitors can also discover how engineers are working towards treating cancer with tiny technological implants, or learn how pollution can affect our health.

Families can also try creating 3D pop-ups from cardboard, or learn how research is helping develop robots that can behave like people.

More than 40 interactive science exhibits from the University’s mobile science centre, SCI-FUN, are free to try at the Museum drop-in events.

Workshops and shows

Robots feature in bookable workshops for families at the National Museum. Participants can use coding to design a computer game, or to teach a robot how to interact with the world.

Other workshops feature the chance to work with smart, squishy materials that respond to changes in their surroundings, or the opportunity to discover the secrets of the immune system.

The popular Chemistry Show returns to the Museum, featuring bangs, flames, foam and experiments.

Stunt scientist Dr Bunhead will perform two shows – his Easter-themed Eggcellent Eggsplosions, featuring flying bunnies, booms and bangs; and the Rubbish Pop-Up Puppet Show, featuring science tales with puppets made from the things we throw away.

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Browse the full list of events and book tickets on the Edinburgh International Science Festival website.

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Animal activity

Visitors to Edinburgh Zoo can take part in a drop-in event using games and demos to show how children learn to speak.

The world of bees – and how much honey one can make in a lifetime – can be discovered at Summerhall.

Exploring worlds

University drop-in events at Our Dynamic Earth (ODE) include the chance to learn how scientists use drones in their research, or discover the search for alien worlds.

Extraterrestrial life also features in an ODE ticketed talk and screening of the 360 degree movie We Are Alien.

Polar scientists from the University will share details of how they live and work, and how polar research is helping us understand and manage scientific challenges, at a drop-in event.

Edinburgh geologists will take visitors on a 145-million-year journey to discover the rocks that could help beat climate change, as part of a day-long free programme of activities at ODE.

Healthcare challenges

Adult events at the Festival include a look at the role we all play in influencing which medicines are publicly funded, in a discussion featuring Professor David Webb.

Dementia research will inform an event featuring Professor Craig Ritchie and Dr Tara Spires-Jones, who will talk about how the brain works and what goes wrong in dementia, before hosting a tour of their laboratory.

Mental wellbeing

The processing power of the brain is examined by Professor Ian Deary, who explores how and why people may differ in this regard.

Professor Caroline Watt, Dr Thomas Bak and Dr Stuart Ritchie debate the biggest influences behind the creation of psychology as a science.

An interactive event examines findings from the longest running study on the ageing brain.

Professor Peter Sandercock will lead an event detailing the outcomes of three creative research artist residences at the University’s Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

Researchers will take part in an interactive discussion on how our surroundings can affect our mental health and wellbeing.

Understanding disease

Heart experts Professor Nick Mills and Dr Anoop Shah will join a panel talk on the diagnosis of heart disease in women.

Understanding the origin and evolution of bacteria and managing antibiotic resistance will be discussed by Professor Sebastian Amyes.

Professor Dorothy Crawford will explore the history of viruses and whether people may come to live in harmony with them.

Techniques behind forensic investigation using DNA, fingerprints, and other biometrics to identify individuals will be unpacked with help from Dr Tim Squires.

Advances in data

How health data leads to discoveries, and how it should be owned and used, will be examined by experts from ADRC-Scotland, the Farr Institute Scotland, and the Usher Institute.

Wearable devices that track our activity, and maintaining privacy while using them, will be discussed by Dr Paul Patras in the BCS Sidney Michaelson Memorial Lecture.

A discussion exploring the people, programs and psychology behind social media feeds will be joined by Dr Walid Magdy.

Technology enabling secure, encrypted internet transactions – known as blockchain – will be explored in a talk by Professor Aggelos Kiayias.

Society and technology

Dr Taylor Spears will take part in an event looking at how financial markets legislate for sincerity and how ideas relevant to this can be overlooked in modern finance.

Digital technology’s influence on music and its performance will be discussed by Dr Martin Parker and guests.

A panel including Professor Ewan Klein will examine what it might be like to live without technology, the digital traces we leave, and how to live off-grid, in an event chaired by Professor Polly Arnold.

Professor Arnold will also chair an event which investigates the research and ideas behind the effects of technology and nature on our health.

Clean vehicles

Low carbon vehicles and technologies will be on show at the Edinburgh Carbon Centre for Innovation (ECCI). Visitors are invited to test-ride an ebike and explore the concurrent Art, Space, Nature exhibition.

The ECCI will also host a Bike Powered Cinema evening, with a screening of Just Eat It, exploring issues of food waste, followed by a panel discussion.

Future climate

A glimpse of the future following decades of climate change will be given by Professor Murray Roberts, while comedians, academics and activists give their visions of the future based on the impact of climate change, in a Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas event.

How best to conserve savannas, and their significance for global biodiversity, will be discussed by Professor Peter Furley.

Professor Polly Arnold will chair an interactive discussion with experts in policy and food sustainability, on how to provide the resources the World needs.

Professor Paul Palmer outlines the scientific challenges presented by studying the atmosphere, and how it interacts with ice, land and ocean.

Physical realms

Sending robots to Mars, and the challenges in developing such machines, come under the spotlight in a talk by Professor Sethu Vijayakumar.

Physicists’ quest to find so-called super symmetrical particles forms the topic of a talk by Professor Michaela Massimi.

Artistic focus

Physicist Isaac Newton’s early life is the focus of a contemporary play presented by Bedlam Theatre and the Edinburgh University Theatre Company. Playwright Lucas Hnath blends fact and fiction in Isaac’s Eye to explore what drove Newton to become a great thinker.

A series of history of science tours from the Mound is being organised by Bill Jenkins as part of Moments in Time drop-in events.

Data’s potential to convey scientific and artistic meaning is at the heart of Exploring the Art in Data, an interactive discussion involving scientists from the University, as part of the Contemporary Connections exhibition. It features digital visualisations of data collected from the Canadian Arctic.

The event also incorporates CO2_Live, in which University scientists are involved in relaying real-time data from a CO2 sensor on the street to a colourful outdoors display.

Research from GeoSciences is also highlighted in Tundra shrubs – Arctic time machines, in which visitors can mount, examine and photograph thin sections of tundra shrubs under the microscope.

Cultural highlights

Professor Jonathan Silvertown will chair Stranger than Fiction – the panel game in which a team of writers try to sneak facts among surprising fact and science myths.

Science, geometry and traditional Islamic art are brought together in A Hidden Order, an interactive exhibition supported by the Alwaleed Centre.

An interactive sculpture of robots, created by Dave Murray-Rust and Rocio von Jungefeld, offers visitors to Summerhall the chance to influence their movement using torchlight.

In the University’s Tam Dalyell Prize Lecture, Professor Jon Oberlander pays tribute to the late science communicator and politician, and will receive the University prize for public engagement with science.

The University is delighted to be partnering once more with the Edinburgh International Science Festival, to deliver what we hope will be a memorable series of events. From family days out to talks by world-leading researchers, the festival offers something for everyone. In these fast-moving and very uncertain times, universities are important symbols of continuity and enlightenment. Whether it be the challenges presented by automation, food security or even sleep deprivation, experts matter! Come along to the Science Festival and find out why.

Professor Lesley McAraAssistant Principal Community Relations

Related links

Edinburgh International Science Festival

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The University of Edinburgh at the EISF