The best Edinburgh Science Festival arts and culture events

The best Edinburgh Science Festival arts and culture events

Born to Dance

From drone orchestras to geek songs, we’ve picked our top tips for this year's science fest

Street Science
The white coats are let out for the day to hop on their bikes as part of Edinburgh International Science Festival’s Street Science team. Engaging with audiences across the city, the aim is to shake up science, blow off the cobwebs and prove that it’s more than just stuffy old lab coats, bringing it all to life with inclusive talks, demonstrations and events. EISF’s group of busking bikers will be here and there throughout Edinburgh, peddling their special blend of experiments and performance art. Suitable for kids and adults alike, the street team promise weird goings-on, quite a bit of mess and plenty of explosions. (Kirstyn Smith)
Various venues, Edinburgh and Livingston, until Sun 19 Apr

How the Light Gets In
The scientific and metaphorical possibilities of light are explored in this group exhibition, which shows what happens when the two often disparate disciplines of art and science collide. The results range from time-based art works, hybrids of computer animation and organic matter to artistic experiments creating artificial organisms. ASCUS, an Edinburgh-based organisation committed to bridging the gap between art and science, will exhibit their recent research projects in Summerhall’s sprawling Lower Church galleries. Each artwork is the result of long-term collaborations and residencies organised for artists within institutions, including the University of Strathclyde's Chamberlain Lab and the University of Edinburgh's Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution. (Rachael Cloughton)
Summerhall, Sat 4 Apr–Fri 22 May

Synaesthetic Drone Orchestra
Fans of Brian Eno’s iPhone apps might find their ears pricking up at this one. Sound artist Ed Devane has written a 20-minute ambient work which aims to ‘match pitch to coloured light and allow for the playing of continuous tones and textures’. It’ll be performed in Summerhall’s basement gallery, and will explore how sounds, spaces, colours and textures blend together. Expect an aural and visual treat, with instruments designed by Devane, a Dublin-based composer who began modifying electric guitars as a teenager, and has now built his own full drone orchestra. (Claire Sawers)
Summerhall, Thu 9 Apr

The Science of Game of Thrones
George RR Martin has created a wonderfully immersive fictional world in Game of Thrones. His bestselling series of novels are the most popular fantasy show on TV but is there any scientific credibility in the idea of fire-belching monsters? Comedian and self-confessed GoT obsessive Helen Keen, and science communicator Ian Simmons are on hand to fact-check Martin's imagination. Expect an explosive hour of demos and discussions that answer any burning questions about the dangers of inbreeding (we're looking at you, Joffrey), the science of dragons, the chemical components of wildfire and, most importantly, whether you can 'really crush someone's skull with your bare hands'. Costumes and fancy dress welcome. (Henry Northmore)
Summerhall, Fri 10 Apr

Lab Notes
The notion that science and comedy are not natural bedfellows has been blown well out of the cosmos in recent years. At the forefront of this pioneering development in the field of entertainment is ‘geek songstress’ Helen Arney. With a degree in physics and having attained grade eight in both piano and oboe, Arney has clearly forged a career combining two of her passions. For this show, she’ll be joined by fellow Infinite Monkey Cage Radio 4 types Jonny Berliner and Andrew Pontzen. They make but one promise: Lab Notes will provide an hour of scientifically accurate songs. (Brian Donaldson)
Summerhall, Sun 12 Apr

The Science of Storytelling
From science fiction to speculative worlds, science has been the catalyst for great stories for centuries. In this event, three local writers – all recipients of the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award – talk about how science has sparked their imagination. Poet Bridget Khursheed is a software engineer and the founder of website; Martin MacInnes is a fiction, travel and science writer, and the winner of the 2014 Manchester Fiction Prize; and Lucy Ribchester’s first novel – the Edwardian-set, suffragette thriller / romp The Hourglass Factory (Simon & Schuster) – was released to critical acclaim in January. (Yasmin Sulaiman)
Summerhall, Wed 15 Apr

Born to Dance
We’ve known for years that dancing is good for us, both physically and mentally, but it’s nice to have validation from a medic. Dr Peter Lovatt, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, may look like a dry academic touting a PowerPoint presentation, yet his appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe and now the Science Festival prove otherwise. Prepare to move your body and feel helplessly joyous as Lovatt and former-dancer-now-neuroscientist Dr Emily Cross explore and explain why dancing is a natural human expression, how it impacts the brain, improves memory and generally makes us feel good. (Kelly Apter)
Summerhall, Thu 16 Apr

Full Spectrum
For the first time, the Science Festival adds a club night to its programme. Presented with the help of Edinburgh DJ and promoter Chris Knight aka Astrojazz (Departure Lounge) and Adventures in Light team of VJs and projected animation specialists, Full Spectrum outs an emphasis on SciFest 2015’s Light and Enlightenment strand. Summerhall’s Dissection Room bar will be turned into a feast for the eyes as well as the ears, with late-night action from the soundsystem branch of Nottingham funk outfit Crazy P, a DJ set by David Miller of recently revived Edinburgh electronicists Finitribe and a live set from the sublimely named Yoko Pwno. (David Pollock)
Summerhall, Fri 17 Apr

Something Fishy: scientists versus surströmming

Edinburgh Science Festival

Hands-on science for families in venues across the city with a programme ranging from the entertaining to the controversial and, of course, the icky. The theme for 2020 is Elementary with events focusing on earth, air, fire and water, plus fifth element 'aether'.

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