Light is focus of science festival events

A display of colourful kaleidoscopes is at the heart of the University’s Edinburgh International Science Festival offering.

The exhibition, Symmetries in Light, will pay tribute to former principal Professor Sir David Brewster, who invented the optical curiosities 200 years ago.

Featuring examples of different shapes and styles, including rare and vintage items from overseas, the exhibition at the Playfair Library seeks to illustrate the impact of Brewster’s work in optics on science and society.

Photo of a kaleidoscope

An accompanying kaleidoscope workshop will enable visitors to explore colour, shape and light. Those taking part can find out more about how a kaleidoscope works and build one to take home.

A pop up science roadshow from the University’s SCI-FUN team will feature alongside the Symmetries in Light exhibition.

The roadshow will also visit the National Museum of Scotland, together with other events for families, most of which are free.

Edinburgh International Science Festival

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

Edinburgh International Science Festival

Family workshops

Workshop events at the Museum include the chance for children to learn the basics of computer coding and design and build a computer game.

Other workshops feature the opportunity to create and operate a PC as part of a networked system, or to make, break and learn all about plastic.

Elsewhere, workshop participants will have a chance to find out how the brain works, or take part in an interactive session using 3D puzzles and a ball pool to learn about the immune system.

Workshop visitors can get hands-on to find out what makes Dolly the sheep so special, or see bacteria in action using a microscope and use light to control how bugs move.

Drop-in activities

Drop-in activities for families at the Museum, which are free to attend, include a chance to discover how microscopic animals survive drought and how flies help improve understanding of motor neurone disease.

Other drop-in activities include learning how chemistry is making the world greener by tackling air pollution and recycling, with the chance to carry out chemical reactions.

Researchers will help explain how maths enables architects to create seemingly impossible structures.

In hands-on activities, geoscientists will help visitors discover the role of rainforests in environmental change.

Visitors can learn computing from a toy, make things move just by gesturing, and share their thoughts on the impact of such new technology on children's lives.

Hands-on fun

They can interact with robot footballers or assembly line robots to understand how they work with people and each other.

Participants can enter a cosmic doorway to explore the universe’s building blocks, drive a particle accelerator, and find out what may follow the discovery of the Higgs boson.

Budding engineers can make and decorate their own 3D pop-up model to take home, or get hands-on with the latest imaging tools to look inside things.

Visitors can feel the weight of their brain, explore how their lungs work, or investigate the science behind the sounds of different musical instruments.

Entertaining shows

Ticketed shows include the chance to take an immersive journey through the universe with music, words and 3D graphics that show what it would be like to travel deep into the Milky Way.

Bangs, flames and foam all feature in The Chemistry Show, with fun experiments and songs.

Dr Bunhead returns to the festival with his trademark brand of mayhem, in a show of Easter-themed science, and in mini puppet shows at the Museum.

Brain explorations

Many experts from the University are taking part in festival events for adults.

A pub-quiz style event hosted by Professor Antonella Sorace and Dr Thomas Bak will investigate the links between language learning and brain benefits.

Professor Michèle Belot will contribute to a discussion about psychological nudge techniques, which are used to influence people into making preferred choices.

Also in the realm of psychology, Dr Caroline Watt will host an interactive event looking at the science behind telepathy and psychic readings. Audience members will be asked to consider how intuitive they might be.

The psychological impact of pornography will fall under the spotlight at an event hosted by Professor Polly Arnold. Speakers will ask whether porn constitutes healthy sexual freedom of expression, or is socially and psychologically damaging.

Health in focus

The health impacts of sunshine will be discussed at an event involving Dr Richard Weller, who will look at how sunlight helps us, and how much we need.

How much medicine we need - and how much is wasted - will be considered by Professor Simon Maxwell. He will look at the potential benefits of empowering patients who take a combination of medicines, in a society of ageing and vulnerable patients.

The massive challenge brought by the Ebola outbreak will be examined by Professor Mark Woolhouse.

Along with other experts, he will discuss the disease’s symptoms, how it spreads and how best to stop it, as well as how technology can track epidemics and how new diseases emerge.

Useful records

A long-term view of health - using studies that track individuals over a lifetime - will be discussed by Professor Chris Dibben.

He will reflect how research with long-term birth cohort studies can enable valuable insights into how childhood experiences impact on the course of our lives, and the many factors that influence economic, social and personal development.

A medical legacy of a different sort will be reflected upon by Professor Sir Ian Wilmut, to mark the 20th anniversary of the creation of Dolly the sheep.

A historical perspective on life will be presented by Professors Brian and Deborah Charlesworth in an introduction to evolutionary biology.

They will explain its crucial role in transforming our view of the origin of people in relation to the universe.

Knotty issues

The history of knots from their humble beginnings to their current applications in science will be traced by Professor Davide Marenduzzo.

Knots are useful for understanding the structure of genes, and have many other applications, such as in drug design.

Some mysteries of the wider universe will be laid bare in an event featuring Dr Michal Michalowski, who will share secrets of how stars are formed.

The future of robots in society will be examined by Professor Sethu Vijayakumar in the University’s Tam Dalyell Prize Lecture.

The winner of the 2016 award for public engagement with science will discuss how the next generation of robots will work more closely with humans and each other and interact significantly with their environment.

Green thinking

Society’s relationship with the environment will be central to several events at the festival.

Dr Kate Carter will take part in a discussion on zero carbon buildings, looking at how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our places of life and work, and the environmental cost of creating new buildings.

What we should do with our remaining fossil fuels - they can be burned for energy or used as a raw material in the production of plastics, medicines, chemicals and fertilisers - will be the focus of an event featuring Professor Dave Reay.

Fossil fuel divestment strategies will come under scrutiny in an event featuring Dave Gorman.

A panel will examine whether divestment is a powerful tool to direct the funding of oil companies towards more sustainable means, or a futile gesture.

Energy in focus

Engineers Professor John Thomson and Dr Aristides Kiprakis will talk about smart grid technology, which can help match energy supply with our electricity needs, and how our homes will be powered in the near future.

The Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation, which involves University researchers, will present a pedal-powered screening of the feature film Bikes vs Cars, along with a series of short films - all powered by people. The show will be followed by a panel debate.

The ECCI will also present a weekend Bikes vs Cars Future Vehicle Showcase, giving visitors the chance to explore new low carbon technologies, vehicles and ideas.

Actor, comedian and writer Robert Llewellyn, star of Scrapheap Challenge and Red Dwarf, will drop in for a discussion about low-carbon technologies.