Isn’t the expression ‘having a senior moment’ awful? Yet people often think of changes in their mental skills with age in terms of decline. While some people do experience these changes, others do not. So how do thinking skills change through midlife and beyond, and do our lifestyles affect those changes? Join Alan Gow (Heriot-Watt University) to explore results from “What Keeps You Sharp?”, a nationwide survey about attitudes towards the changes people expect in their thinking skills with age. See how your beliefs match the survey, and explore how all that matches current evidence.
Alan Gow, Associate Professor of Psychology, Heriot-Watt University.
Some trauma in life might be inevitable, but not many people would view it as essential. Ian Edwards (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh) is the exception. He reckons that humans have a lot to learn from nature. Major storms, like the cyclone that hit Scotland in 2012, may have devastated the landscape, but they also kick-started the regenerative cycle. Does the same apply to humans? Or is it perverse to claim some traumas could ever be beneficial? In nature, diversity aids resilience and survival. What can we learn from this to help us weather increasingly stormy times?
Ian Edwards, Centre for Middle Eastern Plants, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh.
Anyone can write a romance novel. Or can they? Amy Burge (University of Edinburgh) did a whole PhD on romance novels (yes, you can do that) and reckons there’s more to them than you think. Come along and join Amy in this sixty-minute brainstorming session and decide for yourself if romance novels deserve more esteem. Amy will introduce you to popular motifs and you’ll get a chance to suggest characters, costumes, settings and even the title! Will you leave with a higher opinion of this seemingly frivolous genre?
Amy Burge, Academic Developer at the Institute for Academic Development, the University of Edinburgh.
In elite sport the margin between success and failure can be miniscule. When the smallest gains in performance can be the difference between sporting success and competitive failure, where do we draw the line on what is acceptable? Are some athletes lucky that a drug they require for health reasons is also a potential performance-booster? Should we limit any advantages to pharmaceuticals? What about bionic limbs? Do the rules make a difference, or should we have a free-for-all? Come and join in this unique gameshow with Derek Ball (Heriot-Watt University) on doping in sport.
Derek Ball, Associate Professor at the School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University.
Do you think the criminal justice system is a soft touch? Do you think that life is too easy for criminals? Would you like to bring back hanging? Then this show is for you! During the show, criminologists Lesley McAra and Susan McVie (University of Edinburgh) will bring you the stories of both offenders and victims. You’ll be challenged about which group are more ‘deserving’ of hugs. You’ll also have the opportunity to be stopped and searched live on stage! You’ll leave wanting to hug more thugs, or your money back!
Lesley McAra, Chair of Penology and Susan McVie, Professor of Quantitative Criminology at Edinburgh Law School, University of Edinburgh.
Note this performance will take place on 7th August, 8-9pm AND 22nd August, 1.50-2.50pm
What is the truth? Is it out there? And is it in the archives? After an ‘interesting’ past year of political developments, archivist Rachel Hosker (University of Edinburgh) returns to the Cabaret to investigate the idea of whether archives hold the truth or not. What power do archives have in such political situations? Can archives expose the darker side of power – especially during times of war? Are the historical facts quoted by Trump and about Brexit watertight? How archives perceived, used and created for good and bad.
Rachel Hosker, Archives Manager at the Centre for Research Collections, the University of Edinburgh.
The magical internet-providing properties of fibre optics are well-known. But hardly anyone has heard of fibre optic sensors, and Matthew Partridge (Cranfield University) is not happy about that. These wonderful, cutting-edge devices can do amazing things and fix almost any problem. Don’t believe something so tiny can save the world? Come challenge Matthew with any question and he’ll tell you how fibre optic sensors can fix it! It’s also a chance to discuss why we don’t know more about things that could so radically improve our lives.
Matthew Partridge, Research Fellow at the Centre for Engineering Photonics, Cranfield University.
Originally, our brains were designed to be multilingual, managing two or more languages easily. Neuroscientist Thomas Bak (University of Edinburgh) reckons that, like sedentary lifestyles and an unhealthy diet, the monolingualism that’s come with modern society has its consequences. Research has shown that speaking only one language makes our thinking skills decline faster as we age, and can actually make us more vulnerable to dementia in later life. So why aren’t public health campaigns addressing this? Should Fitbits be monitoring our speech as well as our steps?
Thomas Bak, Reader in the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, the University of Edinburgh.
The cows that made the milk that went into your tea or your cereal this morning might be housed all year round in large sheds. The dairy sector is changing from the image we all hold in our heads of cows in fields munching green grass. Are these changes likely to be controversial? Yes. Is this a bad thing? Orla Shortall (James Hutton Institute) reckons it depends on why we value agriculture. Come along to make sense of how agriculture is changing, and how we can make better decisions about its future.
Orla Shortall, researcher in the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences (SEGS) research group, James Hutton Institute.
We’re constantly threatened by outbreaks of diseases like SARS and Ebola. Can we win the fight against a deadly unidentified infectious disease that has just been discovered at the Edinburgh Fringe? Or is the task of staying one step ahead now too much for scientists? How could this virus arise, where could it come from, and what could it mean for you? How fast will it spread from our very feet to the rest of the world? Join epidemiologist Liam Brierley to see if humans will win the struggle to survive.
Liam Brierley, Biostatistician / Epidemiologist at MRC Institute of Genetics & Molecular Medicine, the University of Edinburgh.
In this ‘post-truth’ era, we desperately need more scientists to critically evaluate evidence for political and corporate claims; we can’t afford to keep losing many of our best women. Clare Taylor (Edinburgh Napier University), Pam Cameron (Novo Science) and Frances M. Lynch (Electric Voice Theatre) discuss what we can do about this loss, bring evidence for five explanations for why highly qualified and ambitious women are deserting science, and sing the praises of some overlooked Scottish Superwomen of Science. One of the Cabaret’s most popular returning acts!
Clare Taylor, Senior Lecturer in Medical Microbiology, Edinburgh Napier University; Pam Cameron, Director, NovoScience and Frances M. Lynch, Artistic Director, Electric Voice Theatre.
This show takes place on the 16th AND 25th August
If mental illness is largely defined by a deviation from a norm, where does that leave us? Psychologist Matthias Schwannauer (University of Edinburgh) has looked at the history of mental disorder and found examples of madness that are genuinely seen as incredulous, shocking and bewildering, but also common instances of labels of mental disorders being used to control what was deemed as unacceptable, dangerous or otherwise challenging. If what is identified, diagnosed and treated as mental illness is based on no more than varying societal and cultural anchor points, is anyone ever truly mentally ‘ill’?
Matthias Schwannauer, Professor of Clinical Psychology – Head of Clinical & Health Psychology, School of Health in Social Science, the University of Edinburgh.
Note this performance will take place on 6th August 8-9pm AND 26th August 1.50-2.50pm
Your supermarket knows when you’re pregnant; Google knows what medical conditions you have; Facebook could help your doctor diagnose you. What if Google sent a record of your search terms to your doctor to notify them of likely health conditions? What if Facebook sent an alert to midwives when pregnant ladies posted photos of them drinking alcohol or smoking? Join Mhairi Aitken (University of Edinburgh) as she discusses how this information could be used, and have your own say on what should remain science fiction and what should become reality.
Mhairi Aitken, Research Fellow, Usher Institute of Population Health Sciences and Informatics, the University of Edinburgh.
Stephen Lawrie (University of Edinburgh) reckons psychiatry – his profession – is underrated. Psychiatry remains rooted in the doctor-patient relationship: psychiatrists still actually speak to patients and carers to find out what the problems are, how they came about and what might be done about them. Psychiatrists keep biological, psychological and social factors in mind. And, believe it or not, psychiatry has amongst the most effective treatments in medicine at its disposal. Most people get better, and combining talking and drug treatments works best of all. So why is psychiatry sometimes looked down upon by other specialties?
Stephen Lawrie, Head of the Division of Psychiatry at the Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, the University of Edinburgh.
Our genes make us who we are. Or do they? The answer is a bit more complicated than that, and we understand far less than you might think. Jonathan Pettitt (University of Aberdeen) will take look into the past, present and future of human genetics, focussing on controversial questions such as: “Is race a scientific concept?”; “Are designer babies something to worry about?”; “Does my earwax smell?”. Genetics is always a popular Cabaret topic and audience participation will be positively encouraged!
Jonathan Pettitt, Reader in the Institute of Medical Sciences, University of Aberdeen.