A Virus to End Humanity?

Join Liam Brierley at 8.20pm, Thursday 24th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe venue 7) to discuss the likelihood of a viral pandemic wiping out the human race. 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

I’m an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, and I’m interested in using statistics to tackle real world problems in health and biology

What can people expect from your show?

I’m going to be taking the audience right into the middle of an outbreak situation, and together we’ll investigate whether we have a potential pandemic on our hands! So I’d say expect tension, excitement and maybe a few hazard suits.

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

A lot of my previous research, including my PhD research at the University of Edinburgh, was focused on asking very similar questions to those I’ll investigate within the outbreak scenario of my CoDI show. In my research, I’ve taken what we know already about all the viruses we’ve discovered to infect humans, then used statistics and models to try and learn new things about their evolution or natural history. Ultimately, we’re hoping to predict the next pandemics before they occur.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

In recent years we’ve seen serious outbreaks of new diseases that have affected thousands and in some cases even millions of people. But it’s argued that we could have had it much worse – although 2009’s H1N1 influenza (or ‘swine flu’) pandemic spread very quickly, the disease wasn’t very much more severe than seasonal flu. In contrast, H5N1 influenza (or ‘bird flu’) often causes severe disease, but it’s rare because it doesn’t transmit very well between humans. The danger that scientists are preparing for is the possible appearance of a new virus, flu or otherwise, that is both potentially deadly and spreads efficiently.

What surprises you about your CODI show?

The sheer diversity of viruses in nature. We know of many viruses that only seem to be found in humans. If we assume every animal species on the planet has their own ‘specialist’ viruses just like us, that’s an astronomical number already, without considering the more ‘generalist’ viruses. And we’ve identified so little of what’s out there so far.

Do you have a favourite virus?

My favourite viruses are known as the Ampullaviridae – this a very unusual family of viruses, because they’re shaped exactly like tiny wine bottles! Thankfully, they only infect bacteria and not humans.

What is the biggest misconception about your CoDI show?

I think one big misconception is that there’s nothing we can do. There’s been a real shift in research focus over the last 15 years or so from control to prevention, and we’re now using genetics, epidemiology, and statistics to make smarter decisions and attempts to prevent outbreaks happening in the first place.

Why should people care about your CoDI show?

Outbreaks of new diseases aren’t just something that happens to other places – they’re everyone’s problem. Even though in the UK we’re lucky to have resources for healthcare and biosecurity, future pandemics could potentially affect all of us.

 

Get your tickets here!:

The Stand

Ed Fringe

Doing Drugs (Policy)

Join Anna Ross at 8.20pm, Saturday 12th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe venue 7) to discuss the politics of doing drugs.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

I am a PhD Candidate in my 3rd year and have spent the last 10 years studying and working in areas that cover drug policy issues, and having babies.

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

My research is looking at narratives (stories) and what impact the stories we tell ourselves from experience and other people has on how we view drug policy and drug use. Importantly I am exploring the overarching narratives in drug policy communities, and trying to understand why there is resistance to moving from a criminal justice response to drug use, to a health based response.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

Drug use has long been labelled a ‘deviant’ activity, with people who develop dependency on drugs often stigmatised and demonised. Drugs are bad, dangerous and a corruption of youth. They are so bad that we have had a ‘War on Drugs’ since the early 1970’s, and imprison millions of people around the world for possession and use of these illegal drugs.

Yet despite this drug use is a normal activity amongst many social groups, and it is estimated that approximately 90% of people who use drugs do so without developing any long terms problems. Indeed, cannabis is one of the most widely used illegal drugs, to the extent that it is increasingly becoming legalised in the US and in other nation states such as Uruguay and Canada.

The justification for criminal sanctions is based on harm to the individual and society, yet independent indexes of the harm caused by drugs shows that the current classification of drugs does not reflect the actual harms caused.  Psychedelics, for example, are evaluated to be the least harmful drug of most illegal and legal drugs; neurologically, physically and socially. Yet psychedelics sit in the highest category of harm; Class A with up to life imprisonment for supply, and Schedule 1, no therapeutic benefits. So the question is, what is it about drugs that makes them dangerous, is it the drug, or is the people who use them?

Why is the topic important to you?

As a lifelong recreational drug user, and someone who has worked, studied and socialised in the drugs community I am deeply passionate about addressing the fundamental problems that have resulted from the prohibition of drugs. I view drug use as a personal choice and one that becomes problematic due to a number of factors. In many cases the harm that results from criminal sanctions far outweighs the potential harms of the drugs. The criminal sanctions for drug use serve to mask the real reasons for the harms, and this may be why the laws are not so easy to challenge. However, using stories which explore drug use the structures which maintain this framework can be challenged and explored.

Describe your show in 3 words

Drugs, stories and an accordion.

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

You will learn about some of the common myths associated with drug related harm, and get an opportunity to discuss and share your own experiences with drug use (either personal or from family and friends). You will also hear stories from the Scottish drug policy community and sing along to a few tunes on drug use.

 

Get your tickets here!:

The Stand

Ed Fringe 

Can Recipes Help Gender Equality?

Join Daphne Loads at 8.20pm, Tuesday 15th August at the New Town Theatre to discuss whether a traditional symbol of domesticity can really help women advance down the road to equality. 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

University of Edinburgh Academic Developer

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

My main research interest is in professional development for academics who teach. This links with my work as co-editor of Equal Bite – a book about gender equality. What links both topics is the power of language.

I want to get people to think about how language shapes our thinking, our attitudes and our behaviour, and how we can use language in liberating and powerful ways. The recipe book “Equal Bite” is an example of just that.

 Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

It can feel threatening to those who benefit from unfairness and privilege, and those who are scared of upsetting the status quo.

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?

Yes. Gender equality doesn’t have to be a zero sum game. We can all gain from a fairer world.

Why is the topic important to you?

Because I’m interested in language and how it works and I want to do more about fairness.

Describe your show in 3 words

Interactive/empowering/delightful

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

It’s unlikely that they are unenlightened. Probably just haven’t noticed some of the things I point out in the show. I hope they’ll learn about the power of language, and how to take hold of some of that power. And how funny and fascinating words can be. Oh and how to avoid a Handmaid’s Tale situation.

 

Get your tickets here!

The Stand

Ed Fringe 

What Keeps You Sharp?

Join Alan Gow at 1.50pm, Tuesday 15th August and at 8.20pm, Saturday 19th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe Venue 7) to discuss what can be done to preserve thinking skills as we age.

Tell us a bit about yourself

Associate Professor in Psychology at Heriot-Watt University, and member of the Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology (University of Edinburgh)

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

In my research, I examine how our thinking skills change as we age, and importantly, what lifestyle factors might affect those changes. If we can identify protective (or harmful) factors, then we can hopefully provide clearer information or develop better interventions to ensure more people retain their thinking skills with age. For example, we’re currently in the early stages of a new project in my research group (The Ageing Lab: www.healthyageing.hw.ac.uk) where we’re asking if taking up a new activity might have benefits for people’s thinking skills. Those are exactly the issues we’ll be exploring in What Keeps You Sharp?, starting by finding out what people believe about the kinds of changes they might expect in their thinking skills with age.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’? If so, does it rightly have this label?

I don’t think the things we’ll be discussing are dangerous as such, however, information about what might protect or harm our thinking skills might not be as clear as we’d like it to be. People can sometimes find it hard to know what they should or shouldn’t do, though there are generally headlines about new research each week. It is important to discuss these issues though, including where we don’t yet have all the answers, as surveys regularly show that the loss of thinking skills is one of the greatest fears that people have about getting older.

Why is the topic important to you?

As we age, some people retain their thinking skills well into later life, while others can experience changes that might limit their ability to live independently or continue doing the things they enjoy. If we more fully understand the factors that influence what changes we might experience, then hopefully we can better support everyone to retain their thinking skills for as long as possible. Ultimately, it’s all about trying to ensure the best quality of life for everyone.

Describe your show in 3 words

Exploring grey matter(s).

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

Hopefully everyone who comes along will take something away, though it might be different for each person. Some people might want to explore the kinds of changes we experience in our thinking skills as we age; some might want to see how closely their own beliefs about those changes match those of others and what current research suggests; while others might have specific questions about the kinds of lifestyles or behaviours that might protect or harm our thinking skills. There’s only one way to find out of course, and that’s to come along.

 

Get your tickets here!:

15th:

The Stand

Ed Fringe

19th:

The Stand

Ed Fringe

Are Aliens Coming to Eat Your Face?

Join Adam Stevens at 8.20pm, Sunday 13th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe Venue 7) to discuss the likelihood of an alien invasion.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

Postdoctoral Researcher, UK Centre for Astrobiology

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

My research looks at habitability, mostly of Mars, but I will be talking about life in the universe in a broader sense and including some of the “big” questions in astrobiology.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

I feel like having your face eaten off by an alien could accurately be described as ‘dangerous’.

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?

There is lots of controversy around the existence of aliens, some of it justified, because there are a lot of unknowns, but most of it manufactured. There are a lot of weird people in astrobiology.

Why is the topic important to you?

The question of life in the universe is one of the most fundamental ones we can ask, and whatever the answer it has profound implications for our existence. It’s an important one to ask as we begin exploring the universe, since we’re such genuinely dirty, filthy things and leave our rubbish everywhere.

Describe your show in 3 words

Filthy microbes everywhere

Go team tardigrade

Humans are horrible

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

They’ll learn how possible it is that aliens exist, what we can predict about alien life from what we know about life on Earth, how likely it is that aliens will be dangerous to us, and what we can do to protect the universe from dirty, filthy human beings.

 

Get your tickets here!:

The Stand

Ed Fringe

 

 

 

You Don’t Matter

Join Catherine Heymans and Joe Zuntz at 1.50pm, Thursday 10th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe Venue 7) to discuss how insignificant we are in the grand scheme of the universe. 

Some footage of Catherine in action!

Get your tickets here!:

The Stand

Ed Fringe

Fifty Shades of Green

Join Terry Huang at 1.50pm, Sunday 13th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe Venue 7) as he delves into the secret sex lives of plants.

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

MSc Biodiversity and Taxonomy of Plants student at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the University of Edinburgh. Botanist and Horticulturist.

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

For my MSc project I am looking at the Phenology of Podocarpus, so the timing of sexual reproduction in a particular genus gymnosperm. Sex is difficult when you can’t move like animals, so I am fascinated by the adaptions and relationships plants have evolved and forged to reproduce.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

“Plant Blindness” is dangerous. If we cannot see or know a plant, we cannot understand the vastly important roles they play in our lives and histories.

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?

Plants are not thought of as conscious beings – or even living by some – so talking about them in a way that animates them and anthropomorphizes their life histories makes most scientists and non-scientists uncomfortable. Let’s see where the audience discussion leads…

Why is the topic important to you?

Plant sex is what feeds the world and keeps it going. Understanding how plants reproduce will open the window into the world of animals (and elements) that play a part in these relationships. This view can teach us how much it all connects back to us: the human race.

Describe your show in 3 words

Sexy plant stories.

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

Some of the amazing ways plants have evolved to take care of one of life’s important needs. Hopefully through these stories they will learn that plants are not that different from us. They have the same needs that need to be dealt with, but they just go about in a different, but ingenious ways.

 

Get your tickets here!

The Stand

Ed Fringe

Is Your Online Reputation Hurting You?

Join Nicola Osborne at 8.20pm, Friday 11th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe venue 7) to discuss the impact of your digital footprint. 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

I work as Digital Education Manager at EDINA, University of Edinburgh. I work on lots of different digital projects, apps, and web tools for education and research. I am also part of the Managing Your Digital Footprint research team (led by Louise Connelly at the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Medicine) and undertake training and consultancy projects on digital footprints, online presence, and social media. I used to work as Social Media Officer so have a real interest in all things new media. I’ve also worked in libraries, computer labs, and a very long time back I was part of an early web start up so I’ve been sharing my life online – and thinking about what that means – for a long time now…

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

My show looks at how the tracks and traces we leave behind online contribute to our online presence – and how that can be a real liability if you aren’t thoughtful about what you share and how that information can be used. It builds on research surveys we’ve run during 2014, 2015, and 2016 at the University of Edinburgh, where we’ve seen some interesting shifts in how our student participants think about their own digital footprint. The show also draws on some of the strange new opportunities for oversharing whether poorly considered late night tweets into the void, livestreaming your day to the world or the alarming new trend towards welcoming an open mic into your home to capture everything you say and do…

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

It’s a topic that challenges us to think about who we want to present ourselves as and really “who do you want to be today” is a very dangerous and provocative question because we have so many versions of our self, and ways we want to be seen. And it’s about how our personal data is used and could be used in the future – that can feel dangerous to us as consumers; but if we start asking the right kinds questions it is also dangerous and challenging to the business models of internet and social media businesses.

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?

I actually think this whole area of online reputation, digital identity and privacy online is really pretty dangerous. Areas like children’s online safety, sexting, and trolling do get a lot of coverage as important and controversial… But how we are choosing to shape, present and share our lives as adults can get overlooked a bit, particularly how we imagine our identity and reputation and how we assess risk and consequence. And it’s not like we always make better choices over what and when we share things than the average teenager does!

Why is the topic important to you?

I was lucky to grow up as the internet was appearing so got to experiment, make mistakes and all sorts of poor judgements online as an older teenager and student which, fortunately, haven’t stuck around. No-one going online today gets that kind of opportunity to mess around without it having an impact on their reputation, often negative. I’m a keen social media user (my first blog post was 17 years ago, and I was on Twitter before Stephen Fry!) but I’m passionate about helping others to be thoughtful about what they do online rather than having to learn from embarrassing and potentially very harmful mistakes that linger in their online reputation.

There are all kinds of wonderful opportunities created by sharing our lives online, but the more we share the more we need to think about what that reveals, and if the benefits outweigh the risks. My show is a chance to step back and think “what’s actually going on here?”. And for the audience to raise questions and share concerns and cunning tactics for maintaining a brilliant online reputation. I hope to scare people a little but also inspire them to be trickier customers, to feel confident about understanding the issues and to be deliberate in the decisions they make about their digital footprint (even if that’s to radically overshare everything!), and also have some fun. Because although some of the ways we reveal ourselves online, and that data is collected and used is the stuff of science fiction dystopias, some of it is unexpected and awesome and silly and fun and wonderful.

Describe your show in 3 words

Scary, Funny, Chewy*

*In a good way… !

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

They will, hopefully, learn a lot more about the kinds of tracks and trails we leave behind online, why they matter, why we should care, and (spoiler) some of the ways to make them a wee bit less harmful to our reputations.

 

Get your tickets here!:

The Stand

Ed Fringe

Eyewitnesses are Futile

Join Stephen Darling at 8.20pm, Thursday 10th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe venue 7) to discuss the inaccuracy of human memory and the impact this has on the judicial system. 

 

Tell us a bit about yourself

Senior lecturer at Queen Margaret University, researcher in memory, amateur stand-up comedian

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

My research focuses on human memory and how it operates, so my research is in the area of the CODI show – I have research on eyewitnessing and currently work on face memory and similar in our Memory Research Group at QMU.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

People are very attached to the idea that their memory is accurate, and our justice system is designed around the idea that people can act as reliable eyewitnesses. Maybe this is a mistake… In this event I’ll take a kind of ‘devil’s advocate’ position and suggest that we might do better to disengage with the idea of basing judicial decisions on human memory. (This is not my actual position, but that will become clear in discussion).

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?

It would be appropriate to call this a controversial idea.

Why is the topic important to you?

I am passionately committed to the idea that understanding how our memory works will help us change the way we design things in our society to make them better.

Describe your show in 3 words

Forgetting is life!

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

They will learn all manner of things about how their memory may deceive them – and some of the consequences of this on the justice system.

 

Get your tickets here!:

The Stand

Ed Fringe

Is Pee a Feminist Issue?

Join Elaine Miller at 8.20pm, Wednesday 9th August at the New Town Theatre (Fringe venue 7) to discuss whether medical care for women’s pelvic health is misogynistic.

Tell us a bit about yourself

I have a post grad in physiotherapy for sports, but, abandoned a career tending to young fit men after having three babies in four years and ruining my undercarriage.  Incontinence is a massive public health issue which is under diagnosed, under managed and often, curable.  Women are simply not educated about what they can reasonably expect from their genitals during the course of their lifetime, and the fact that 1:3 women’s lives are ruled by their bladder makes me cross.  Very cross.

How does your CoDI show fit in with your research?

I’m looking at whether humour is an effective health promotion tool.  Taboos make it so difficult to talk about their bladder, bowel or sexual function that only 30% of women ever seek help for problems.

Why is the topic ‘dangerous’?

I think the approach to pelvic health is misogynistic.  Stating that upsets people who work in the field.

Does it rightly have this label? Is the topic unjustly controversial?

Depends on who you talk to.  A woman who was surgically injured by mesh might agree, a woman who was born with few risk factors for undercarriage issues might not.  From a science perspective, the research is fundamentally flawed.  It’s conducted on participants gained from clinic – these are the unusual people because more than 70% of women just put up with symptoms.  We know very little about the fannies of the majority of women, which strikes me as odd.  Further to that, the clitoris was first recorded in anatomical terms in the 1500s (by a man), and the next bit of work on this remarkably unique organ was done in 1996 (by a woman).

Why is the topic important to you?

Because the idea that a third of women are quietly disempowered because their bladder interferes with every single thing they want to do annoys me.

Describe your show in 3 words

Laugh, don’t leak.

Why should the unenlightened Fringe-goer attend your show? What will they learn?

Interesting facts about a bit of their body they’ve never really thought about.  Everyone has a pelvic floor, and the evidence is that if it works well, orgasms improve.  Worth doing your own wee N=1 study on that nugget.

Anything else?

Think that’s it, I could go on about the cost to the public purse ($43bn AU, we don’t keep stats in UK, which is odd), how obesity management is linked to leaking – if you wet yourself in the front row of zumba you don’t go back to zumba and diseases of inactivity are responsible for the same number of premature deaths as smoking is.  And, if you want to talk about poo, well, I could go on about that for aaaaaaages.

 

Get your tickets here!:

The Stand 

Ed Fringe