March 2015

March 2015

30 March 2015: Talk Science @ Irvine Bay 2014-15 - The Evolution of Cultures in Apes and Other Animals

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

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

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.

This event formed a part of the Talk Science @ Irvine Bay 2014-15 public programme.

26 March 2015: From Banditry to Books: Enlightening the Scottish Borders

Speaker: Professor Ted Cowan FRSE, Emeritus Professor of Scottish History, University of Glasgow

Read the summary report of Professor Cowan's lecture on From Banditry to Books: Enlightening the Scottish Borders

This lecture sought to explore and assess enlightenment influence upon the inhabitants of the Borders. There is a substantial and ever-increasing literature about the subject for Scotland as a whole, though until recently there was almost nothing about this aspect of the region's history. That has now changed during the last few years with the appearance of several studies which are of great assistance in our quest. The Scottish enlightenment remains a controversial, if highly stimulating subject. At its core was an enquiry and debate about human nature and everything which impacts upon humankind from the cradle to the grave.  Another mission was the pursuit of useful knowledge particularly in such fields as the sciences, medicine, geography, natural history, geology, the classification of new species of flora and fauna, and antiquities. Indeed, just about anything could be deemed ‘useful knowledge’. The philosophers of the day also speculated about the possibility of perfecting the human race, while pondering such topics as improvement and progress. Did the Borders even experience Enlightenment? Were men like David Hume and Walter Scott somehow aberrations?

This event formed a part of the RSE@TheScottishBorders programme.

23 March 2015: Public Lecture and Debate with European Commissioner for Research, Science and Innovation

Speaker: Commissioner Carlos Moedas.

Read the note of the lecture by Commissioner Moedas Science without borders.

At his first public talk in the UK since taking up office in November 2014, Commissioner Moedas outlined his vision for research. A lively debate followed, chaired by RSE President, Jocelyn Bell Burnell DBE, in which many Fellows from all the national academies involved, participated. The lecture was jointly arranged by the Academy of Medical Sciences, British Academy, Royal Academy of Engineering, Royal Society and the RSE.

Watch the full video here.

17 March 2015: RSE/RAEng Lecture 2015 - Light, Energy and the Internet

Speaker: Professor David A B Miller FRS CorrFRSE, W. M. Keck Foundation Professor of Electrical Engineering and Professor by Courtesy of Applied Physics Stanford University

Read the summary report of Professor Miller's lecture on Light, Energy and the Internet

Optics now carries nearly all our information over nearly all the distance it travels. The exponential growth of data on the Internet relies on optical fibre and photonic technology. But handling that data requires power, in environmentally significant amounts, with most of the energy dissipated for communicating inside machines and data centres. New generations of integrated photonic technology may solve that problem too, sustaining society’s insatiable demand for data.

This was a joint event with the Royal Academy of Engineering and formed a part of the International Year of Light event series 2015.

3 March 2015: Enlightening the Constitutional Debate: Further Powers for Scotland - what does the draft legislation mean in practice? 

Read the summary report of the discussions on Further Powers for Scotland - what does the draft legislation mean in practice?


  • Tax Powers: Jo Armstrong, Co-Director & Founder, Fiscal Affairs Scotland
  • Tax and Welfare Powers: Professor John Kay CBE, FBA, FRSE, Visiting Professor, London School of Economics
  • Welfare Issues: Professor Nicola McEwen, Professor of Territorial Politics; Associate Director, ESRC Centre on Constitutional Change, University of Edinburgh
  • Chair: Professor Gavin McCrone CB FRSE, Former Chief Economic Adviser, Scottish Office, 1970-92

In January 2015, the UK Government published draft legislation in response to the recommendations of Lord Smith’s Commission on further devolved powers for Scotland. This public discussion, involving experts from relevant fields, explored the practical impacts, as well as the policy and constitutional consequences, of the proposed legislation.  

This was a joint event with the British Academy.


Follow Us: