Higgs to appear at 2014 Edinburgh science festival

This year's festival has 'science at the heart of everything' as its theme. Picture: Colin Hattersley
This year's festival has 'science at the heart of everything' as its theme. Picture: Colin Hattersley
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You can travel through a giant intestinal tract, discover the hi-tech fashion of the future and take an expedition through the Columbian jungle as part of this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival.

With ‘science at the heart of everything’ as its theme, the 2014 festival is being billed as the biggest yet, offering more attractions and a major new hub for many of the interactive events.

An expanded programme of family-friendly events will take place at the arts and technology base Summerhall, which will form a focus for some of the more ‘sociable’ elements of the two-week festival.

There will be talks and workshops by leading scientists and broadcasters including Nobel laureate Professor Peter Higgs, in one of his first public appearances since winning the prestigious international physics prize. Also appearing will be Coast’s Hermione Cockburn, author and magician Professor Richard Wiseman, Simon Watt of Nature’s Giants and Jim Al Khalili of Light and Dark.

Political commentators Lesley Riddoch and Tiffany Jenkins will join experts and politicians in a series of events to examine the psychology of voting ahead of the referendum and address the scientific questions facing an independent Scotland.

A returning highlight is a large-scale outdoor photography exhibition, which this year will be staged at the Mound Precinct. Named Living Lights, it will celebrate how some plants and animals have the ability to glow.

A new mini festival, GastroFest, will run for the first time this year, showcasing through interactive events and tasting sessions how science is central to daily life in the food and drink we consume. Diners will be able to discover some of the secrets behind Heston Blumenthal-style molecular gastronomy can affect perception and the eating experience. There will also be demonstrations from the likes of TV chef Mark Geenaway and a chance to sample experimental tipples from festival brewer Barney’s Beer.

Launching the programme at the National Museum of Scotland, deputy director of the festival Amanda Tyndall said: “This year’s Science Festival will see around 200 of the best and brightest minds in science and technology gather in Edinburgh to dissect, debate and celebrate some of the biggest and sometimes controversial, ideas in science – ideas which are fundamental to the lives of each and every one of us.

“For two weeks the city will become the perfect melting pot for discussion as we explore and highlight the centrality of science to all aspects of our lives.”

The popularity of last year’s celebration of maker culture has seen the event grow for 2014. The new Making It programme includes a host of workshops and events exploring innovative homemade technology and the exchange of ideas between amateurs and experts.

The festival is funded by a range of sponsors, with £100,000 of support from the government’s Edinburgh Festivals Expo Fund going directly to the Making It events.

“The Edinburgh International Science Festival does a fantastic job of highlighting the important link between science and culture in an imaginative and engaging manner - and this year’s Making It programme epitomises this approach,” said Scottish culture minister Fiona Hyslop.

“Through workshops, interactive exhibits and demonstrations, Making It will open up the world of science to young people and inspire them about the possibilities of of a career in science and the arts. It will also help people of all ages understand more about the world around them.

“This government is committed to supporting and enhancing involvement in science, and I am proud that the 2014 festival will continue to benefit from Scottish government support via the Expo Fund.”

It was also announced that Prof Mary Abuktsa-Onyango has been awarded this year’s Edinburgh Medal, won last year by the city’s own ‘god particle’ theorist Prof Higgs. The Kenyan scientist has received the accolade in recognition of more than two decades of teaching and research on conserving native food crops and her works as a mentor for a new generation of women scientists in Africa.