Public Programme

Public Programme

RSE talks by the RSE’s highly distinguished Fellows and other expert speakers commenced in Autumn 2014. Further events followed in 2015 and 2016.

Past Events

April 2016

The Great British Brain Off

Speaker: Dr Alan Gow, Research Leader and Lecturer in Psychology, School of Life Sciences at Heriot Watt University.

Venue: Greenwood Conference Centre, Greenwood Gate, Dreghorn, Irvine

Do you feel as if your brain is half-baked - or that your mental faculties are going off the boil? Attendees joined ‘head’ chef Dr Alan Gow in the Great British Brain Off to consider the recipe for the perfect brain, and what you can do if you feel your own grey matter needs some extra spice.

March 2016

Do Zoos have a place in today's Society?

Professor Mary Bownes OBE FRSE, Senior Vice-Principal External Engagement, University of Edinburgh.

Read the summary report of Professor Bownes' talk on  Do Zoos have a place in today's Society?

When zoos first appeared, they were to show exotic animals to the public in zoological gardens, like plants in botanic gardens.  With the days of international travel and amazing wildlife programmes on TV, people now have a much greater understanding of the welfare needs of wild animals - do zoos still have a place in today’s society and if they do, what is it?

February 2016

Speaker: Professor Iain Stewart, University of Plymouth and BBC Presenter

Read summary report of Iain Stewart's talk - Scotland Rocks - A Tartan Tour of Planet Earth

Many of the fundamental ideas that underpin our current understanding of how planet Earth works come from the work of Scottish scientists. This talk explored and celebrated this tartan contribution to modern Earth Science, and examined how many of the contemporary challenges facing society in the 21st Century also root into Scotland's industrious past.

October 2015

In Conversation – Ian Rankin and Professor Sue Black

Read the summary report of the conversation between Ian Rankin and Professor Sue Black.

Venue: St Matthew’s Academy, Saltcoats

Ian Rankin is one of the world’s greatest crime writers, creator of the hugely popular Inspector Rebus novels, as well as a string of stand-alone thrillers. Rankin’s newest novel Even Dogs in the Wild, the 20th Inspector Rebus novel, will be published in November 2015.

Sue Black is a leading forensic anthropologist and the director of the Centre for Anatomy and Human Identification at Dundee University. Her forensic expertise has been crucial to a number of high-profile criminal cases. She founded the British Association of Human Identification in 2001, the same year in which she received an OBE for her services to forensic anthropology in Kosovo.

June 2015

The Large Hadron Collider - what it might tell us about the Universe

Speaker: Professor Peter Clarke FRSE, Professor of Physics, University of Edinburgh

Read the summary report of Professor Clarke's talk on The Large Hadron Collider - what it might tell us about the Universe

Venue: Greenwood Conference Centre, Greenwood Gate, Dreghorn, Irvine, KA11 4GZ

There are many things we do not know about the Universe, including what the nature of the dark matter is which most of it is made of, why it seems to be accelerating apart, why there is any matter left in it at all anyway, and until recently, what was the origin of mass.

The last question was answered when the Large Hadron Collider finished its first three year running period in 2013 with the discovery of the Higgs Boson. Since then the LHC has undergone a major upgrade and is due to start its second running period early in 2015.

The talk explained the importance of the Higgs boson discovery and then looked at what the LHC will hope to find in the next three years.

The talk also covered some of the wider outstanding unsolved questions, such as dark matter and dark energy and looked at some of the ways we try to understand these phenomena.

April 2015

The Making, Keeping and Losing of Memory

16 April 2015, 7 pm at The Gailes Hotel, Marine Drive, Irvine, KA11 5AE

Speaker: Professor Richard G M Morris CBE FRS FRSE, Professor of Neuroscience, University of Edinburgh

Read the summary report of Professor Morris' talk on The Making, Keeping and Losing of Memory

Memory is fundamental to human life. 2014 has been a special year in which ‘remembrance’ has been on people’s minds as they reflect on the momentous events of 100 years ago. Our everyday use of memory is, of course, very different although it also is changing with so many aspects of human knowledge now available on the internet. Using the themes of the ‘making, keeping and losing’ of memory, this lecture will offer examples of how the brain mediates memory. Professor Morris will try a few experiments with the audience – to see how everyone shapes up – and discuss some of the ongoing research aimed at better understanding how memory works. He will also consider the loss of personal memory, which remains greatly feared. The inability to recollect the events of our life can develop from a minor irritation to a condition that undermines normal existence – notably in Alzheimer’s Disease.

March 2015

The Evolution of Cultures in Apes and Other Animals

30 March 2015, 7pm at St Matthew's Academy, Jack's Road, Saltcoats, KA21 5SH

Speaker: Professor Andrew Whiten FSB FRSE FBA, Professor of Evolutionary and Developmental Psychology and Wardlaw Professor of Psychology, University of St Andrews 

Read the summary report of Professor Whiten's lecture on The Evolution of Cultures in Apes and other Animals

Just 50 years ago we knew next to nothing about our closest animal relatives’ lives in the wild. Now, excitingly, we have the benefit of decades of fascinating discoveries about their behaviour. One surprise was that chimpanzees in different parts of Africa show different customs, like people do: in other words, they have their own cultures. These differ in ways that include tool use, feeding techniques and social interactions. This lecture describes what we have learned about the evolution of these ‘cultures’ in apes, monkeys, and other species of animal, and what these discoveries tell us about the origins of our own special cultural nature.

Professor Whiten is the 2014/15 recipient of the RSE Senior Prize for Public Engagement supported by the James Weir Foundation. He and Dr Kevin O’Dell, winner of the Innovator’s Prize for Public Engagement, were presented with their awards at this event.

February 2015

The Rise and Rise of Video Games in Scotland, 7pm, 11 February 2015

Kilwinning Academy, Dalry Road, Kilwinning, Ayrshire KA13 7HD

Speaker: Dr Chris van der Kuyl FRSE,Chairman, 4J Studios

Read the summary reprot of Dr van der Kuyl's talk on The Rise and Rise of Video Games in Scotland.

Chris is the chairman of 4J Studios, the developer behind Minecraft X360, the fastest selling and most successful Xbox Live game in history. He is a highly successful entrepreneur, whose expertise covers the entertainment, media and technology sectors. Chris is committed to growing the next generation of business people in Scotland by encouraging enterprise education in schools, colleges and universities. During this event, Chris focused on the rise of Scotland’s world-renowned games development sector, and explored how the gaming bug has gripped the global entertainment industry.

December 2014

Does what we eat Matter?

Speaker: Professor Maggie Gill OBE FRSE, Senior Research Fellow, Department for International Development

This talk explored the variety of foods we eat in different parts of the world, and looked at how diets are changing and some of the factors that change diets. It considered what this means in terms of how food is produced and the consequences for the natural environment and also the effects on human health.

November 2014

Brainwaves - An Interview with Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell

Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a world-renowned astrophysicist and President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. She is best known for discovering pulsars, one of the most significant scientific achievements of the twentieth century. In 2013, she was named in the BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour ‘Power List’ of the 100 most influential women in the UK.

The interview will also be broadcast on the BBC in January 2015.

Contact details

If you would like to find out more information on the Irvine Bay initative, please contact Kate Kennedy, Project Officer.


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