Burgers, bitcoin and the brain

Ella Rhodes previews the psychology on offer at the Edinburgh International Science Festival.

From a sensory history of the humble burger to an exploration of death in the online world, the Edinburgh International Science Festival will feature a whole host of psychological events. Running from Saturday 1 April to Sunday 16 April the festival features fascinating lectures and activities across the city for children and adults alike.

The British Psychological Society’s drop-in event Carnival of the Mind, which runs from day one of the festival until Saturday 15 April (not including Sundays), will feature a fortune teller who will explore the function of your frontal lobe, a high-striker to demonstrate how we process pain, and a coconut shy that will reveal fascinating facts about human vision. There is also a special adults-only evening version of this event on Thursday 30 March.

From Saturday 1 April until Wednesday 5 April, another drop-in event, Look Inside Your Mind, will feature interactive tablet games to measure thinking speed and provide information about the science of thought. There will also be chance to try their eye-tracking machine to discover why eyes are the windows to the soul. At Edinburgh Zoo from Sunday 2 April until Tuesday 4 April, in the event What Makes Us Human?, adults and children will be able to find out about the differences and similarities between human and other primate thinking.

There’s plenty of psychology-themed fun for adults too, on Saturday 1 April, The Conscious Uncoupling, Rosie Wilby’s storytelling comedy, will be followed by a discussion with Qazi Rahman (Kings College London) to discuss whether anti-love drugs are a real prospect and whether serial break ups are affecting modern society. On the following day is The Art of Neuroscience, a presentation of results of three creative research fellowships which explored the activity and research interests of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience in Edinburgh.

On Monday 3 April, psychologist and star of YouTube channel Quirkology Richard Wiseman will speak about sleep, followed by a recording of the world’s most relaxing music, then hopefully the best nap of your life. On the following day learn about the world’s 7,000 plus languages, and whether they reflect a collective wisdom across humanity in Dictionary for a New World. 

Join Barbara Sahakian on Wednesday 5 April for Sex, Lies and Brain Scans, a discussion of fMRI advances and which applications of the technology are possible today and which are pure sci-fi. Have you ever wondered what happens to your online self when you die? On Friday 7 April BBC presenter and psychologist Aleks Krotoski will be joined by Wendy Moncur and Elaine Kasket to discuss the technical, psychological and legal issues we face in death now our lives are increasingly online.

In an event which is sure to tickle the taste buds sensory expert Charles Spence, chef and scientist Charles Michel and Ben Reade will discuss the evolution of the burger and create a variety of flavours to explore the deliciousness of the burger in the name of science on Friday 7 April. On Saturday 8 April Aleks Krotoski will appear in conversation with musician and writer Pat Kane to discuss authenticity versus artifice in an online world.

The following day features a number of great psychology events. Aleks Krotoski and Aggelos Kiayias will discuss blockchain technology used in the purchase of bitcoin, and how it could be used in other capacities. In A Very Short Introduction to Intelligence, Ian Deary will discuss what psychologists have uncovered about how people differ in their thinking powers. Also join researchers from the longest-running study of ageing and the brain, the Lothian Birth Cohort Project, to discover how childhood mental capacity affects health and cognition later in life. In Why Places Matter for Mental Wellbeing, join a panel of experts for an interactive discussion on the ways our surroundings can affect our mental health and wellbeing. 

On Friday 14 April, Richard Wiseman will discuss the secret science of sorcery. Later in the day Stuart Ritchie, Caroline Watt and Thomas Bak will debate who had the biggest role in transforming psychology in From Séance to Science: Who is psychology’s greatest hero. Finally on Sunday 16 April, in Wired Nature, digital wellbeing expert Sue Thomas will discuss the effects of technology and nature on our health. 

For full listings and ticket information see www.sciencefestival.co.uk

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