UK: Edinburgh

Filmhouse Café bar,
88 Lothian Road,
Edinburgh EH3 9BZ
Generally the 2nd Monday of every month


Cafe Sci Edinburgh
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Natural justice: using soil science to help solve crimes


Speaker: Professor Lorna Dawson CBE, The James Hutton Institute


Date: Monday, 11th of March 2019, 8.30pm


Venue: The Filmhouse Café Bar (88 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ)


Lorna will discuss the history and development of forensic geoscience, it’s general principles of use and will present case examples from Scotland, the UK, Brazil and Australia. She will discuss its role in both search and in case evidence provision, including experiences from presentation in court. She will also discuss science communication and discuss her many and varied interactions with the world of crime fiction.


Short biography:
Professor Dawson pioneered the discipline of forensic soil science globally. She is head of Forensic Soil Science, James Hutton Institute, Professor at RGU, Chartered Scientist, Fellow of the Institute of British Soil Scientists, FRSA and is Advisor to the Scottish Government SEFARI Strategic Research Programme. She is a registered expert with the National Crime Agency and works with police forces, lawyers and agencies in soil trace evidence provision and regularly attends court as an expert witness. Lorna is passionate about the effective communication of science, is on the BSA General Committee and her opinion is widely sought on aspects of soil science and forensic science in various media, including news, education and drama. In 2017 she was awarded the Pride of Britain Special Recognition award and in 2018 she was awarded a CBE in the Queens Birthday Honours list for services to soil and forensic science.





Recent speakers   

Physical activity: Is it the key to health, wealth and happiness?



Speaker: Dr Josie N Booth, University of Edinburgh


 Date: Monday, 12th of November 2018, 8.30pm


 Venue: The Filmhouse Café Bar (88 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ)


 We are suffering from a worldwide pandemic of physical inactivity and obesity with recent figures suggesting that approximately 20% of five years old are overweight in the UK. The physical benefits of a balanced diet and regular physical activity are commonly reported however more recent work suggests that there are wide ranging psychological benefits from adopting a healthy lifestyle, evident at all ages across the lifespan. For example benefits are seen for academic attainment, mental health, and social skills, to name but a few. This talk will discuss contemporary research on the psychological benefits of physical activity and highlight the importance for both adults and children. The role of physical activity in reducing inequalities and recent school based work will also be discussed.



Short Biography

Dr Josie Booth is a Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University of Edinburgh. Josie was awarded her PhD in Psychology from the University of Strathclyde and following this, was employed as a postdoctoral researcher within the Physical Activity for Health group. Subsequently, Josie held an academic position at the University of Dundee before moving to Edinburgh in 2015. Josie’s research focuses on child development, with an emphasis on cognition and educational attainment and the role of physical activity and health. Physical activity interventions are a focus of Josie’s work and the role that physical activity can have in addressing inequalities in society.


Don’t be afraid of the dark: Particle Astrophysics at Hallowe'en

Alex Murphy

Monday, 30th of October 2017, 8.30pm


Hallowe'en is the time when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld weakens, allowing dark presences to come forth and be seen. From a solidly scientific perspective, this talk will reveal the invisible presences in the Universe, describe what researchers around the world are doing to illuminate them, and what future discoveries will mean for our deepest understanding of Nature.  



The rise and fall of the dinosaurs

 Stephen Brusatte, The University of Edinburgh


Friday, 29th of September 2017, 7.30pm


Venue: Levels Café and Lounge, 9C Holyrood Rd, Edinburgh EH8 8FQ




Short description of talk: Dinosaurs are icons of prehistory. But how did they get their evolutionary start? How did they grow to such huge sizes and become so dominant? Why did they eventually go extinct? How was one peculiar type of dinosaur--birds--able to survive while all of the others died? And what do new discoveries from Scotland reveal about the lifestyles of 170-million-year-old dinosaurs? These questions will be addressed in this lighthearted talk by University of Edinburgh palaeontologist and dinosaur specialist Steve Brusatte.



Short biography:

Steve is interested in the anatomy, genealogy, and evolution of fossil vertebrates. Particular research interests are the origin and early evolution of dinosaurs in the Triassic, the anatomy and genealogy of carnivorous theropod dinosaurs (T. rex and kin), the evolution of birds from theropods, the end-Cretaceous mass extinction, the recovery and radiation of mammals after the end-Cretaceous extinction, and the evolution of marine crocodylomorphs during the Mesozoic. He currently does fieldwork in the Triassic of Portugal and Poland, the Cretaceous of Romania, and the Cretaceous-Paleogene of New Mexico (USA), aimed at understanding major evolutionary radiations and extinctions. His work has appeared in journals such as Science, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Nature Communications, as well as more specialist journals. He is the author of the textbook Dinosaur Paleobiology (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).


Botanical Arks

Speaker: Martin Gardner, MBE, Royal Botanical Garden

Date: Monday, 11th of September 2017, 7.00pm

Venue: Terrace Café, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (Arboretum Place, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ)


Protecting the world’s plants in living collections like botanic gardens is increasingly becoming the motivation behind contemporary plant collecting. At a local, national and international level, the protection of native plants and the ethics surrounding their collection from natural environments is now scrutinised in an effort to conserve biological diversity, while contributing to educational and scientific advancement.

During the heyday of the Botanist Explorer, the drive to collect, study, name and understand exotic and beautiful plants was key in establishing Britain’s self-perception as a major civilising power in the world. Unsustainable commercial exploitation sometimes resulted as exotic plants were of great interest in an age when scientific discovery began to reach a wider audience outside of academia.

Today we are in a very different world and collecting specimens is regulated by agreements and international convention. New technologies, such as digital photography and analysis at a molecular level, have increased the data value of collections, and scientists aim to follow best practice.

An estimated 1 in 5 plants is threatened with extinction due to human impacts such as habitat loss and climate change. Yet new plants continue to be discovered when botanists visit less studied regions. Around 2,000 plant species new to science are described each year, some of which are classified as threatened from the moment we know of their existence.

Martin Gardner, botanist and plant conservationist at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), will address the practice of contemporary collecting for conservation as well as the benefit of future generations.

A private view of the exhibition Plant Scenery of the World will take place from 8-9pm after the Café.

Please sign up for Café Scientifique at The Botanics via this link:

(Tickets for this event cost £3, which includes a drink. )


Short biography:

For over 25 years Martin Gardner has worked at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh on many aspects of conifer conservation and is currently Chair of the IUCN Conifer Specialist Group. Gardner co-ordinates the International Conifer Conservation Programme, which together with members of the Conifer Specialist Group, has played a major role in the completion of the Red List and first global reassessment for conifers. Part of his work has been to establish one of the world's most comprehensive networks for the ex situ conservation of threatened conifers. Gardner’s conifer interests have taken him to over 30 countries in order to study and collect research materials of threatened conifers and their associated species. Particular geographical areas of interest include New Caledonia and Latin America.

This event is running alongside Plant Scenery of the World, an exhibition at RBGE celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Botanics' iconic modernist glasshouses, the 'Front Range', opened in 1967 to house plants collected in tropical regions by British explorers. The exhibition presents new, commissioned and existing work by Laura Aldridge, Charlie Billingham, Bobby Niven, Oliver Osborne and Ben Rivers alongside rare and unseen archival material, botanical paintings by Isik Güner, Jacqui Pestell and Sharon Tingey and historical paintings by R.K. Greville from the Garden’s own collection.



Monday 5th of December @ 7pm at Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh EH12 6TS

Cafe Scientifique at Edinburgh Zoo - RZSS Cat conservation


Speaker: David Barclay, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland



Date: Monday, 5th of December 2016, 19:00 - 21:00


Venue:  Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh EH12 6TS


As usual the Café is FREE to attend but due to space limitations I would be grateful if you could sign up via the following link


Monday 14th of November @ 8.30pm at The Flmhouse 

 Gravitational wave astronomy: a new window on the Universe

Speaker: Dr Jonathan Gair, School of Mathematics, University of Edinburgh

Date: Monday, 14th of November 2016, 8.30pm

Venue: The Filmhouse Café Bar (88 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ)

In February 2016, the international LIGO collaboration announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves by a manmade detector. The source was the final few orbits and merger of a system containing two black holes, each of which had mass thirty times the mass of our Sun. At its peak, the source was emitting energy into gravitational waves at a rate that exceeded the rate of energy emission of all the stars in the Universe combined. This detection came one hundred years after Einstein predicted the existence of gravitational waves and after forty years of experimental effort and instrument development, but marks the beginning of a new type of astronomy. Using gravitational waves we will be able to probe systems that we cannot observe in any other way, so the scientific potential is immense. In this talk Dr Jonathan Gair will describe how we detect gravitational waves, what we have learnt so far and what we stand to learn in the future and discuss some of the experimental and theoretical challenges to realizing this science.

Short biography:

After completing an undergraduate degree in Mathematics, Dr Jonathan Gair began a PhD at the Institute of Astronomy in the University of Cambridge, which he completed in 2002. He then moved to the Theoretical Astrophysics group at California Institute of Technology as a postdoc, where he began to work on gravitational wave detection. In 2004, he returned to Cambridge, first as a Research Fellow at St Catharine’s College and then as a Royal Society University Research Fellow in the Institute of Astronomy. He moved to the University of Edinburgh in 2015, to take up a position as a Reader in the School of Mathematics. Dr Gair’s research interests are in mathematical modelling and statistical analysis, with a particular focus on applications to general relativity and the quest to deter and exploit gravitational waves. He is a member of the LIGO collaboration as well as the eLISA consortium that is building a space-based gravitational wave detector, and the European Pulsar Timing Array, which searches for gravitational waves through the accurate timing of millisecond pulsars.  

Monday 5th of December @ 7pm at Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh EH12 6TS

 Cafe Scientifique at Edinburgh Zoo - RZSS Cat conservation

Speaker: David Barclay, Royal Zoological Society of Scotland

Date: Monday, 5th of December 2016, 19:00 - 21:00

Venue:  Edinburgh Zoo, Edinburgh EH12 6TS

As usual the Café is FREE to attend but due to space limitations I would be grateful if you could sign up via the following link


Monday 10th of October@ 7pm at The Botanical Gardens, Edinburgh EH3 5NZ
Cafe Scientifique at The Botanics - The Real Price of Food

Speaker: Toby Pennington, Royal Botanical Garden Edinburgh, Tropical Diversity Section


Date: Monday, 10th of October 2016, 7.00pm



Venue: Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, John Hope Gateway (Edinburgh EH3 5NZ)

As usual the Café is FREE to attend but due to space limitations I would be grateful if you could sign up via the following link


As part of the Edinburgh Café Scientifique programme Toby Pennington will open a discussion about the causes of deforestation in the world's most biodiverse forests in Latin America. These include increased demand for meat and the cultivation of soy bean, much of which is exported and used in animal feed. Come and find out what the solutions could be and how we as consumers can improve the situation.
Short biography:
Toby is head of RBGE’s Tropical Diversity Section, currently comprising more than 30 staff, post-docs and PhD students, and which aims to document and conserve poorly known and threatened tropical floras around the world. His own research focuses on Latin American tropical forests and is distinctive by not just concentrating on the Amazon rain forest, but also on its lesser-known and more threatened cousins, dry forests and savannas. He has done research and botanical exploration in 11 Latin American countries and has published more than 100 scientific papers and 10 books. Above all, he is deeply committed to environmental education and outreach, having supervised 50 PhD and MSc research students in Edinburgh and across the world.




 Friday 30th of September @ 8pm at The Golf Tavern, 30 Wright's Houses, Edinburgh EH10 4HR

High-Intensity Interval Training:  A Fast-Track to Better Health?

Speaker: Shaun Phillips, Lecturer in Sports Physiology, University of Edinburgh


Many people do not achieve the weekly levels of physical activity recommended for improving health, with one of the most common reasons being lack of time. High intensity interval training (HIIT – short bouts of high-intensity exercise interspersed with recovery periods) has received a lot of research attention over the last decade, and is also garnering increasing media exposure.  This research suggests that HIIT can stimulate many of the fitness and health gains associated with more traditional long duration training, but with a fraction of the time commitment.  Despite the positive outcomes of HIIT that are being documented in individuals at different stages of life and with a variety of health conditions, there is debate among researchers as to whether HIIT has a role to play in improving the health of the general public.  This talk aims to clarify and summarise our knowledge of HIIT and physical health and fitness by addressing the following questions: 1. What is HIIT?  2.  What physical improvements can be gained from HIIT?  3.  Who can do HIIT?  4.  Why is the appropriateness of HIIT still debated?  5.  What would employing HIIT into a daily routine look like?


Short biography:

Dr Shaun Phillips completed his PhD in Exercise Physiology at the University of Edinburgh in 2011.  He was a lecturer and researcher at Abertay University for a total of six years, and since January 2015 has been a lecturer and researcher in Sport and Exercise Physiology in the Institute for Sport, Physical Education and Health Sciences at the University of Edinburgh.  Shaun has provided sport and exercise physiology support to a variety of athletes and organisations, including high performance triathletes and orienteers, Hibernian and Heart of Midlothian FC, the FIA Young Driver Excellence Academy, and the Scottish Institute of Sport.  He is also the exercise and health physiology advisor for the Professional Network of Physiotherapists in Eating Disorders.  Shaun has published numerous research papers, books, and conference presentations.  One of his research interests is peoples’ perceptions of HIIT, and how best to utilise HIIT in improving physical and mental health.

University of Edinburgh Profile:

Twitter:  @DrShaunPhillips


Monday 13th of June @ 8.30pm at The Filmhouse Cafe Bar, 88 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ
Can science save us from bad drugs?
Speaker: Pete Kingsley, Centre for African studies, University of Edinburgh




Poor quality or fake medicines pose a major threat to human and animal health.  They can be unknowingly bought over the counter (particularly in the developing world, where regulations are often weak), or sold via dubious online retailers.  Fake drugs can cause death or illness from treatment failure, and equally alarmingly, under-strength drugs can worsen the spread of drug-resistant diseases.

A range of new technologies are emerging to help tackle this problem - electronic means of tracking drugs, forms of packaging that verify batches, and ultimately, cheap, simple means of testing drug quality as they are sold or used.  Can these new technologies help us tackle bad drugs?  Or do they distract us from tackling the underlying social and political causes of the problem?


Short biography:


Dr Pete Kingsley is a social scientist, and works as a Research Fellow in the Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh.  He is interested in medicine, development, and policy in Africa, especially Nigeria.  Previously working primarily on HIV/AIDS, Pete now studies historical and present-day attempts to control trypanosomiasis ('sleeping sickness’) as part of a project called ‘Investigating Networks of Zoonosis Innovation’.


Monday 8th of May @ 8.30pm at The Filmhouse Cafe Bar, 88 Lothian Rd, Edinburgh EH3 9BZ
Are we more microbe or human?
Speaker: Luke McNally, Centre for Immunity, Infection and Evolution, University of Edinburgh




Our bodies are home to an amazing number of microbes, with likely as many bacterial as human cells present in the average person. We are continually discovering new ways in which these microbes affect our lives, from changing our chances of developing conditions like diabetes to being linked to psychological conditions such as depression. In this talk Luke will discuss the ways in which the bacteria within us interact with our bodies to affect our health and behaviour. Luke will also discuss how these communities of microbes within us are formed, exploring the weird and wonderful world of warfare and cooperation between the bacteria within us.


Short biography:


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