2010 Events

2010 Events

Reports from many events prior to 2010 are available on our Scribd and YouTube pages

January / February / March / April / May / June / July / August / September / October / November / December

The Edinburgh Lectures - Wednesday 15 December 2010. The Next Economy

Professor Bruce J. Katz, Vice-President and Founding Director of the Metropolitan Policy Program, The Brookings Institution, Washington, DC

The Great Recession has been a wakeup call. It unveiled an economy dangerously out of whack: frenzied with consumption, wasteful in its use of energy, more adept at increasing inequity than sharing prosperity, more successful at exacerbating rather than easing divisions between Wall Street and Main Street. Bruce Katz will outline a vision of a rebalanced next economy in the United States - one that is increasingly orientated towards exports, lower carbon, fuelled by innovation, opportunity-rich, and led by metropolitan areas - and explore its implications for the UK and Scotland.

Bruce Katz gives a talk in Chicago on which this lecture was based

Summary report

RSE Annual Christmas Lecture, Friday 10 December 2010, Stranraer Academy. Reporting the World in an Age of Conflict

Allan Little, BBC World Affairs Correspondent

How is power distributed in our world today? What are the principal challenges to the liberal democratic, market economy models that have shaped our own societies, in the modern era? How has the rise of anti-western sentiment in volatile parts of the world compromised our ability to report that world?

From the collapse of European Communism, to the deserts of Afghanistan and Iraq, Allan Little has been reporting the changing shape of our world for the last two decades and more, from "a seat in the front row of history."

Part financed by The Scottish Government and the European Community, Dumfries & Galloway LEADER 2007?2013; The Buccleuch Charitable Foundation; The Holywood Trust; Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland; and The James Weir Foundation

Summary Report

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Monuments in Motion - Professor Rosemary Cramp FBA in conversation with Dr Barbara Crawford FRSE.  Monday 15 November 2010

The linking of history and archaeology - or in this instance, monuments and artefacts - is explored in this special 'in conversation' talk. Approaches to understanding the beliefs and attitudes of medieval man and woman have broadened and we are no longer restricted to the description and classification of the objects of devotion which they left behind. "Purpose" and "function" are usually difficult to interpret: what,for instance,is the significance of the muzzled bears carved at each end of the house-shaped so-called "hogback" tomb covers which the Viking settlers of North England and South Scotland chose to use as grave covers? Are the elaborately carved high crosses specific to the British Isles and Ireland?

Rosemary Cramp FBA is Emeritus Professor of Archaeology at Durham University.She is the co-ordinator of Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture,(published by the British Academy)and author of 3 volumes in the series. Her publications concern Early Medieval ecclesiastical settlements, sculpture and window glass.

Barbara Crawford FRSE is Honorary Reader in History at the University of St Andrews.Her research interests encompass the medieval Norse earldom of Orkney and the Viking settlement archaeology of Scotland, with a recent diversion into the cult of St Clement of Rome in England and Scandinavia.

The 2010 British Academy Raleigh Lecture on History. Monday 15 November 2010. Portable Christianity: Relics in the Medieval West (c700-1200)

Professor Julia Smith

Medieval Christians treasured tiny objects culled from biblical holy places and saints? shrines.Using previously neglected evidence of the contents of medieval reliquaries and ecclesiastical treasure collections from western Christendom, the first part of this lecture will bring
historical specificity to the generic terms "relics" by exploring what they actually comprised and how they were conceptualised by those who garnered and collected them. This will open up for inspection the jewelled reliquaries, silk purses and ivory caskets in which relics were stored and will reveal relics? material characteristics as minuscule objects of no intrinsic material value.

The second part of the lecture will then ask how these paltry items came to be highly valued for both social and religious reasons. By mapping the networks through which relics circulated, it will identify the multiplicity of contexts which gave relics social meaning and enabled them to be widely collected: as heirlooms, tokens of political affiliation, gifts, personal mementos, and much  more.Juxtaposing these social meanings with their religious meanings,it will propose a new approach to the social practices of medieval Christianity in Western Europe.

About the Speaker
Julia Smith holds the Edwards Chair of Medieval History at the University of Glasgow.She has wide ranging research interests in late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages, c400-1100CE and is especially interested in gender orders and the cultural history of religion in this period.

British Academy Raleigh Lecture on History 2010 In October 1918 Sir Charles Wakefield, offered the Academy the sum of £500 a year to commemorate the tercentenary of Sir Walter Raleigh. From this fund, the annual history lecture was founded. Since 1974 the subject has been drawn on a regular rotating basis from the medieval,early modern and modern fields.

He That All Our Comford Was. Robert The Bruce in Scottish sources before Barbour's Bruce - Professor Alexander Broadie FRSE in conversation with Dr Dauvit Broun. Tuesday 16 November 2010

The image of Robert the Bruce as hero king, and the Battle of Bannockburn (1314) as the most glorious feat of the Wars of Independence, can be traced back to Barbour's Bruce (John Barbour, The Brus, 1375/6). This fascinating 'in conversation' talk will examine Scottish sources prior to Barbour, to see what Bruce?s reputation was in Scotland before the poet represented him definitively as the heroic liberator.It will reveal that the early Scottish sources were significantly ambivalent about Bruce,and even about the importance of Bannockburn as late as the 1360s.

Dauvit Broun has taught medieval Scottish History at the University of Glasgow since 1990, and succeeded Ted Cowan in the chair of Scottish History in 2009. His most recent book is ?Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain from the Picts to Alexander III? (EUP, 2007). His most recent book is Scottish Independence and the Idea of Britain from the Picts to Alexander III (University Press, 2007).

Alexander BroadieFRSE is Honorary Professorial Research Fellow at Glasgow University. He is the author of fifteen books, the majority on Scottish intellectual history. His most recent book, A History of Scottish Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press: revised edition 2010), was the Saltire Society Scottish History Book of the Year, 2009

The 2010 British Academy Sir John Rhys Memorial Lecture. 16 November 2010. More than "Skimble-Skamble" Stuff :The Medieval Welsh Poetry Associated

with Owain Glyndyr -Professor Gruffydd Aled Williams

In Shakespeare?s Henry IV, Part 1, Hotspur is made to refer to the partiality of Owain Glynd?r (Glendower) for prophecies, which he characterises dismissively as ?skimble-skamble stuff?.This lecture will explore the authentic medieval Welsh literary corpus associated with Glynd?r, consisting in the main of bardic eulogies rather than prophecies and mostly composed before the outbreak of the 1400 revolt.The poems will be examined in historical context including some of Scottish interest (alluding to Glynd?r?s participation in the English invasion of Scotland in 1385).Themes to be considered will include their possible utility, both before and during the revolt, as political propaganda designed to further Owain?s cause.

About the Speaker
Gruffydd Aled Williams is Emeritus Professor of Welsh at Aberystwyth University.He was the Editor of Liên Cymru over many years and Chairman of the Association for the Study of Welsh Language and Literature in 2004. His principal publications include Ymryson Edmwnd Prys a Wiliam Cynwal (1986), The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Vol 2: The Middle Ages (contrib, 2005); and author of numerous articles on medieval and renaissance Welsh literature.

Sir John Rhys Memorial Lecture 2010
In May 1924 a memorial fund was offered to the British Academy 'for the promotion of Welsh and other studies' to commemorate the services of Sir John Rhys,Professor of Celtic, Principal of Jesus College, Oxford, and a Fellow of the British Academy. Sir John himself was the subject of the inaugural lecture in this biennial series, given by J Morris-Jones in 1925.

Wednesday 17 November 2010. The Middle Ages - A Distant Mirror' Medieval Life and Death and Medievalism through the Centuries - Professor Graham Caie FRSE in conversation with Dr Chris Jones

Far from being the Dark or Middle Ages,the Medieval Period (c.500-1400 AD) was a vibrant and culturally exciting time that changed dramatically from its Germanic origins in Anglo-Saxon times to the later romance culture in the Norman period. It was an age in which the majority of people were illiterate and so learned aurally and visually. For that reason,it is important to consider the paintings, frescoes, sculpture, drama and music in addition to the written legacy of the period. In this distinctive ?in conversation? event, Dr Chris Jones and Professor Graham Caie will discuss some major issues of the period, as well as the attraction of medievalism in later periods, concluding with attitudes to mortality and death.

Graham Caie FRSE is Vice Principal, Clerk of Senate and Professor of English Language at the University of Glasgow. He specialises in Old and Middle English language and literature, has edited medieval texts and written extensively on topics such as Old English eschatology, Beowulf,
medieval drama, Chaucer, manuscript studies and electronic editing. 

Chris Jones received his BA from King's College London and an MA in Old English and Old Norse from Queen's University, Belfast. At St Andrews University he researched his PhD on the role and influence of Old English in nineteenth- and twentieth-century poetry. He was awarded a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship from 2007 to 2010 to write a History of Lineation in English Verse

Wednesday 17 November 2010. The 2010 British Academy Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture.
Personifications of Old Age in Medieval Poetry

Dr Ad Putter

Medieval poets were fond of personification allegory for reasons that modern readers do not always find easy to appreciate. This lecture explores some of the advantages of the allegorical mode by focusing on personifications of Old Age in some of the finest medieval English and French poets: John Gower, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Langland and Charles d'Orléans.

Each poet in his own way shows why Old Age is suited to personification. Growing old may be a gradual process objectively, but writers from all periods confirm the subjective experience that medieval allegories bring to life, i.e. psychologically, the awareness that we have aged takes us by surprise. These personifications of Old Age are also sensitive to the social dimension of ageing, to its indignities and humiliations. By imagining Old Age as a person with whom we have to interact socially, medieval poets were able to capture the bewilderments and embarrassments of the ageing process.

About the Speaker
Ad Putter is Professor of Medieval English Literature at the University of Bristol. His areas of research expertise include metre and Middle English Language, medieval romance, the Gawain poet, and Arthurian literature.

Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture 2010
In 1924 a Biennial Lecture on English Studies was endowed by Mrs Frida Mond. The series deals with 'Old English or Early English Language and Literature, or a philological subject connected with the history of English, more particularly during the early periods of the language, or cognate subjects, or some textual study and interpretation'.

This lecture is not available in an audio format.

Thursday 18 November 2010.  The Past as Propaganda in The Declaration of Arbroath

Professor Alexander Brodie FRSE

The Declaration of Arbroath (1320), the most famous document in Scottish history, is a letter to Pope John XXII that maps out Scotland's history, and uses that history as propaganda on behalf of a request about the Scottish throne. The largely fanciful history presents the Scots as a
chosen people, protected, at Jesus? behest, by St Andrew, and it compares Robert the Bruce to Joshua and Judas Maccabeus. It will be argued that, aside from the fantasy, there is also a powerful and persuasive intellectual underpinning to the Declaration, one closely associated with Scotland's greatest medieval thinker, John Duns Scotus.

Alexander Broadie FRSE is Honorary Professorial Research Fellow at Glasgow University. He is the author of fifteen books, the majority on Scottish intellectual history. His most recent book A History of Scottish Philosophy (Edinburgh University Press: revised edition 2010) was the Saltire Society Scottish History Book of the Year, 2009.

Thursday 18 November 2010. THE 2010 BRITISH ACADEMY ASPECTS OF ART LECTURE. 

The Past as Propaganda: The Mongol "World History"

Professor Robert Hillenbrand FBA FRSE

The fragmentary copy of Rashid al-Din's World History held in the University of Edinburgh?s Library is of extreme rarity, huge size, lavish illustration and very early date (1314). It is perhaps the world's most valuable illustrated Islamic manuscript. This lecture will explore its art-historical significance, highlighting its multi-racial and multi-confessional flavour, with Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist and shamanistic elements that aptly reflect the largest continuous land empire in world history. The manuscript's pictorial and textual cycles of Biblical figures, the Prophet Muhammad and the mythical past of Greece, Arabia and Iran break new ground, while its propagandist intent finds expression in courtly and battle scenes galore.

About the speaker
Robert Hillenbrand FBA FRSE is Emeritus Professor History of Art at the University of Edinburgh.His scholarly interests focus on Islamic architecture, painting and iconography with particular reference to Iran and to Umayyad, Syria.

Aspects of Art Lecture 2010
Lectures in this series are on the relation of art in any of its manifestations, including poetry and music as well as sculpture and painting, to human culture

11 November 2010. Aberdeen. Adapting UK Institutions to Climate Change

Professor Sir John Lawton CBE FRS

The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution?s recent report explores the challenges facing UK institutions as they respond to climate change. Adaptation is not an alternative to mitigation; even if CO2 emissions were to stop tomorrow, significant climate change is inevitable, and the less successful we are at mitigation, the bigger the challenges of adaption. These challenges include considerable uncertainty about the magnitude and rates of climate change in different parts of the UK; recognising that adaptation will need to be an ongoing process, not a single action; and a willingness to incorporate an adaptation test into all major decisions. The lecture will explore these and other issues that surround the adaption challenge.

Supported by Aberdeen City Council

Click here to read a summary report of Sir John's talk

MacCormick European Lecture.10 November 2010. European Foreign Policy - is it Desirable and Possible

The Rt Hon Lord (Chris) Patten of Barnes CH

This year's MacCormick European Lecture, named in honour of the late Professor Sir Neil MacCormick FBA FRSE in recognition of his contribution to Scottish and European politics and his international work for the RSE, was delivered by the Rt Hon Lord Patten of Barnes CH. During his career Lord Patten has been an MP; Governor of Hong Kong, overseeing the return of Hong Kong to China; Chairman of the Independent Commission on Policing for Northern Ireland; and European Commissioner for External Relations. Lord Patten is Chancellor of Oxford University and a Life Peer in the House of Lords. Read Summary of Lord Patten's report.

Tuesday 9 November 2010. Lockerbie. Wind, Water and Waves

Professor Geoffrey Boulton OBE FRS FRSE,Grant Institute of Geology, Edinburgh University

Dumfries and Galloway has such a rich natural heritage. The waterways and climatic conditions have long played a key part in the economy, culture, history, landscape and the regeneration of the region.As part of the RSE @ Dumfries and Galloway project, this lecture explored the importance of wind, water and waves to Scotland. How will recent developments in renewable energy technology help us achieve carbon reduction targets? Professor Boulton said "Dumfries and Galloway's landscape and natural heritage is an important resource in the drive to increase renewable energy production and lower Scotland's carbon footprint. It is important that its development is managed properly, recognising and harnessing the contribution it can make in a way that benefits local communities and is sustainable for the future".

Read summary of Wind, Water and Waves

01-02 November 2010. 2nd Norway-Scotland Internal Waves Symposium.

The 2nd Norway-Scotland Internal Waves Symposium took place on 1-2 November, 2010, in the premises of The Royal Society of Edinburgh in George Street, Edinburgh. As with the 1st meeting, held in Oslo in October 2008, it was organised under the auspices of the agreement signed in 2005 between the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters (DNVA) and The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) to promote increased collaboration between the national academies of Norway and Scotland.

The Symposium was supported by funds provided by The Royal Society of Edinburgh, The Norwegian Academy of Science & Letters, The National Telford Institute and The Marine Alliance for Science & Technology for Scotland (MASTS).

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  13 October 2010. Langholm. Thomas Telford "Colossus of Roads" 1757 - 1834 and Engineering a Sustainable Scotland

Professor Roland Paxton FRSE, Department of the Built Environment, Heriot-Watt University/ Brian Veitch, Director, Arup
Telford’s achievements in early 19th century engineering earned him the accolades from Robert Southey, the Poet Laureate at the time, of 'Colossus of Roads' and 'Pontifex Maximus'. In addition to his engineering accomplishments Telford was renowned for his outstanding promotion of the importance of knowledge and education.
This presentationdetailed Telford’s life from his humble origins in Eskdale to becoming the greatest civil engineer of his era, with an emphasis placed on the Scottish context where Telford directed the creation of more than 1000 bridges, 1200 miles of road, many harbours and the Caledonian Canal.

Scotland faces a challenging future. Economic, climatic and social issues, coupled with depletion of resources, will drive change. How will Scotland respond and adapt? Brian Veitch, from the global consultancy practice Arup, discussed how we can move to a sustainable future by employing our strengths in engineering, science and technology to harness and benefit from these drivers of change – and by building on the legacy of Telford and his contemporaries.

Read a summary report of Professor Paxton's talk

Read a summary report of Brian Veitch's talk

7 October 2010. Franco-Scottish Science Seminar Series: Seven Keys to the Digital Future.

Professor Chris Bishop FRSE, Microsoft Research LTD and Professor Gérard Berry, Collège de France.

The RSE and the French Embassy in London are collaborating in a three-year programme of science events designed to explore and publicly present areas of science where both Scotland and France have a powerful presence. This symposium, in partnership with the University of Edinburgh, was the first in this series, intended to stimulate Franco-Scottish collaboration in science, to present new scientific ideas and their social and commercial implications to the public, and to increase awareness of French and Scottish science in each other's country.

The exponential growth in our ability to collect and store data has profound implications for many areas of science and technology. Extraction of useful information from this data must, however, address the challenges of complexity, ambiguity, and computational cost. Part of the answer to these challenges lies in mathematical concepts the origins of which date back 250 years, and which provide us with a framework for quantifying uncertainty. When combined with recently developed algorithms for computationally efficient inference, they offer a new paradigm for machine learning having broad applicability. The talk was illustrated with tutorial examples, demonstrations, and real-world case studies.

Chris Bishop FREng, FRSE is a Distinguished Scientist at Microsoft Research, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Edinburgh, and a Fellow of Darwin College Cambridge. Chris is the author of the leading textbook Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning. In 2008 he presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures, Hi-tech Trek: the Quest for the Ultimate Computer.

Read summary of Seven Keys to the Digital Future.

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Lecture, 21 September 2010. Facing up to Climate Change

The Lord Krebs, FRS, FMedSci, Principal, Jesus College, University of Oxford

The third in the Facing up to Climate Change series of high-profile lectures. The reality of climate change and the near certainty that it is man-induced is now accepted by most decision makers in the UK and elsewhere. There is less agreement on what should be done about it. In the UK, budgets for greenhouse gas emissions reductions, and an assessment of our preparedness for climate change, are developed by the Climate Change Committee. Will current policies meet our legally binding targets? If not, what will have to change to put us on track? How serious are we in preparing for the climate change to which we are already committed?

Professor The Lord Krebs of Wytham, Kt is an ecologist by background. He has been Principal of Jesus College, Oxford since 2005. He served as the first Chairman of the Food Standards Agency (2000-2005), and as Chief Executive of the Natural Environment Research Council (1994-1999). He has held academic posts at the University of British Columbia, Bangor University and Oxford University, where he was a Royal Society Research Professor from 1988-2005. He has received many awards and prizes for his scientific research. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1984 and a Foreign Member of the US National Academy in 2004. Lord Krebs is a cross-bencher in the House of Lords, where he sits on the Science and Technology Select Committee. He is a member of the UK Climate Change Committee and chairs its Adaptation Sub Committee.

Click here to read a summary report

Spitalfields Day : Geometry and Algebra. September 17, 2010.

This Spitalfields Day is organised in connection with the election in May 2010 of Professor Hirzebruch to an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Society of Edinburgh. These lectures were aimed at a general mathematical audience.  Talks were given by Sir Michael Atiyah, Friedrich Hirzebruch and Andrew Ranicki.

Orkney International Science Festival, Lecture,  7th September 2010, Kirkwall. Probing the Dark Side of Einstein's Universe

Dr Martin Hendry, Senior Lecturer, Department of Physics and Astronomy, University of Glasgow

Gravitational waves, the ripples in spacetime predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity, are produced by some of the most violent and energetic phenomena in the universe, including black holes, neutron stars and supernovae. Dr Martin Hendry of Glasgow University introduced the new field of gravitational astronomy and explained what discovery of gravitational waves could mean for attempts to understand the mysteries of dark matter and dark energy.

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The Royal Society of Edinburgh Event at The Edinburgh International Book Festival. 28 August 2010. The Future of Islam for Muslims in the West

Tariq Ramadan

The Times has described Tariq Ramadan as one of the most important innovators of the 21st century, but the Swiss-born academic's writings on Islamic theology have made him a lightning rod for controversy. He has been accused of defending the stoning of adulterers, while others have attacked his “fascism”, and “anti-semitism”. Ramadan passionately denies these charges and has written a book, What I Believe, in which he sets the record straight.

Click here to read a summary of The Future of Islam for Muslims in the West

Lecture, 24 August 2010. Glasgow. Global Action on Climate Change: the Road to Cancun

Nicholas Stern, Lord Stern of Brentford Kt FBA

Managing climate change effectively is a fundamental challenge of our century, requiring global action. A shared understanding across three issues is required: the magnitude of the risks; the options for action; and how nations of the world might work together. Whilst COP15 was in many ways disappointing, it did provide a platform for going forward. In particular, it led to the Copenhagen Accord, in which China and USA played a leading role. There must be mutual understanding of the ambitions, economics, politics and decision-making mechanisms of other countries. This understanding and careful analysis of emissions targets, finance, deforestation, technology, and transparency means that we should make strong progress in COP16 in Mexico.

Read a summary report of Lord Stern's lecture

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Discussion Forum. 14 July 2010. Climate Change During the Last 10,000 Years: Reconstructions and Uncertainties

Professor Heinz Wanner, University of Bonn; Professor John Haslett, Trinity College, Dublin; Professor Gabriele Hegerl, Chair of Climate System Science,School of GeoSciences, University of Edinburgh
Climate has changed substantially since the last Ice Age. Heinz Wanner presented the changes that have been deduced, and how these changes can be inferred from natural archives of past climate change. This indirect evidence records climate changes and other influences, and hence estimates of past climate change are uncertain. John Haslett explained how this uncertainty can be explored and quantified. Followed by a panel discussion, including Gabriele Hegerl, and audience questions.

This event was organised by ICMS in association with the RSE and further supported by NCAS,SAGES and the Centre for earth System Dynamics, Edinburgh University

Read summary report of climate change during the last 10,000 years.

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Lecture, 18 June 2010. SFTA, Port Arthur, Scalloway, Shetland. Black Holes, Black Magic and Interstellar Travel

Professor John Brown FRSE, Regius Professor of Astronomy, University of Glasgow, 10th Astronomer Royal for Scotland

What are gravitation and relativity? What are black holes; how do they form; and what do they do to space and time? What do all these have to do with our existence and the possibilities of interstellar travel? These near magical cosmic questions discussed using demonstrations from the speaker's repertoire as a semi-pro magician.

Lecture. 15 June 2010. An epidemiological perspective on the causes and prevention of breast cancer

Professor Valerie Beral, Head of Cancer Epidemiology Unit, University of Oxford
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide. Incidence rates are much higher in developed than in developing countries. This is mainly because women in developed countries tend to have few children and to breastfeed only briefly. Hormonal changes during pregnancy are
believed to underlie the lifelong protection that childbearing confers against breast cancer, but we do not know exactly which changes are relevant. We need to know, since if we could mimic pregnancy by relatively short-term exposures to the appropriate hormones during early adult life, this should lead to lifelong protection against breast cancer.

Read summary report of An epidemiological perspective on the causes and prevention of breast cancer

Supported by the Cruden Foundation and Scottish Cancer Foundation

BP Prize Lecture. 7 June 2010. The Art of (Women) Walking: An Embodied Practice

Dr Deirdre Heddon

In Autobiography and Performance (2008), I wrote about the intersection of place and autobiography in contemporary performance. I admitted that though I could name numerous male artists who used walking in their performance practice, I struggled to name more than a few women. This puzzled and perplexed me. Startled into action by my own gauntlet, in 2009 I started seeking out, walking with and talking to women artist walkers, finding out who they were, where they walked, why they walked, how they walked, their history of walking? Join me for a brisk (metaphorical) stroll through this diverse and rich landscape of perambulatory, pedestrian aesthetics.

Click here to read a summary report of the Art of Women Walking

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CRF Conference 2010. 26 May 2010. The Royal College of Physicians. Diabetes & Obesity: getting to the heart of the matter

This high-level interdisciplinary meeting will review contemporary findings in the obesity-diabetes ?epidemic? and discuss the implications for future developments. The symposium will cover topics including epidemiology and genetics, disease mechanisms, novel imaging approaches, and new therapies, with the intention of horizon-scanning rather than reiterating what is already well known.
With support from the RSE Scotland Foundation, the symposium will bring together leading UK and international speakers and participants from academia, industry, the health services and research funders.

Read report on Diabetes and Obesity

Joint conference : The Academy of Medical Sciences and The Royal Society of Edinburgh Supported by The Caledonian Research Fund of the RSE Scotland Foundation Information about the Venue - The Royal College of Physicians

Lecture - 12 May 2010. China's Environment and the Future

Professor Peter Raven, Hon FRSE, FAAAS

China, with 1.33 billion people, is about the same size as Europe, with 738 million people, but has a much higher rate of economic growth, about 10% per year for the past 15 years. China's per capita GDP is about £4,000, Europe's about £17,000, but the gap is closing rapidly. Environmental damage in China is estimated at about 8-13% per year, about equal to economic growth. Strenuous efforts are being made to curtail this damage, which increasing levels of consumption are driving, but it is a very difficult job. International cooperation can help greatly, and avert the extinction of a large proportion of China’s biota, which represents 8-9% of the world's total, over the coming decades. The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh is linked with the Missouri Botanical Garden in producing a 50-volume revision of The Flora of China that will be completed within three years. It will constitute an improved basis for conserving the plants of China.

Click here to read a summary report of China's environment and the future

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Lecture. Monday 26 April 2010. Thomas Reid and the Art of Philosophy

John Haldane, Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Centre for Ethics, Philosophy and Public Affairs in the University of St Andrews.
Thomas Reid is one of the greatest minds Scotland has produced: a clergyman, an educator, a philosopher, a natural scientist, and a mathematician, Reid wrote in a clear, unaffected and precise style that anticipates modern prose. Noted in his own time as an important critic of the scepticism of David Hume, Reid proved to be one of the most influential figures in the shaping of philosophy and education in North America in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. After a period of some neglect he is again the subject of much interest among philosophers and historians of ideas. In this lecture Professor John Haldane gives an account of Reid's life and thought, celebrating and recommending for our times his approach to understanding human beings and their place in nature.

In association with the International Association for Scottish Philosophy

Click here to read a summary report of Thomas Reid and the Art of Philosophy

Discussion Forum. Monday 19 April 2010. A Question of Chemistry? The role of the composer and librettist in the creation of opera

Andrew Clark, Critic and Music Journalist; Stuart MacRae, Composer; Louise Welsh, Librettist; and Alex Reedijk, Director, Scottish Opera

What is the role of a 21st Century opera company? To present tried and tested classics or to nurture homegrown talent and explore the evolution of the artform through the creation of new opera? Scottish Opera had the latter as its goal in bringing together new teams of writers and composers as part of Five:15 Operas Made in Scotland. Composer Stuart MacRae and author Louise Welsh are joined by music journalist Andrew Clark in an examination of the characteristics of a successful opera partnership.

Joint event with Scottish Opera

Read summary report of a question of chemistry

Lecture. Friday 16 April 2010. In central Africa ..on the track of a new cradle of mankind.
Cancelled due to volcanic ash activity affecting speaker’s flight to the UK.

Professor Michel Brunet, Chair of Human Palaeontology, Collège de France, Paris; International Institute of Palaeoprimatology and Human Palaeontology, Poitiers University.

The idea of an ascendance for our species is quite recent (having been first discussed about 150 years ago). But which was our ancestral group, and when and where did it arise?  The first African early hominid was recovered in southern Africa in 1925, and subsequent discoveries were made in south and east Africa. These species dated from 4.1 Ma (million years ago) and were living in wooded savannah environments. The fact that the oldest hominid was east African, led some to suggest an eastern-African-savannah hominid origin. But since 1994, much older hominids, associated with wooded environment faunas, have been discovered elsewhere in Africa. In 2002 the oldest of these species, and the earliest yet found (dated ca. 7 Ma), was discovered in Chad (2,500 km west of the Rift Valley) by Professor Brunet and his team.

Nicknamed Toumaï, this species displays a unique combination of primitive and derived characters that clearly show it to be a new genus and species of hominid. It suggests that it had a close relationship to the last common ancestor between humans and chimpanzees and it was a likely ancestor of all later hominids. The geographic location of Toumaï, and his great antiquity, suggest an early pan-African distribution of hominids (at least 6 million years ago) and an earlier chimpanzee?human divergence (at least 7 million years ago) than previously indicated by most of the studies.

Our conceptions about the earliest steps in human evolutionary history have been shaken, and Charles Darwin's prediction in his masterly book The Descent of Man (1871) has been enlightened, but will all of the pieces of the jigsaw ever be uncovered? Can we expect more surprises?

In cooperation with the Consulate General of France and the Institut Français d'Ecosse

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RAE/RSE Joint Lecture. Tuesday 16 March 2010. The simplicity and complexity of wind: an engineer's tale

Ian Irvine, Technical Director, SgurrEnergy

The energy in the wind is generated by the sun heating the earth’s atmosphere which then cools as the earth rotates on its axis, forcing movements of large volumes of air across the globe; a simple behaviour that will persist for as long as conditions on earth allow. Humans have been utilising this energy for thousands of years and used increasingly technical developments to efficiently extract its power. However, despite the general development of engineering capability, there is still some way to go towards fully optimising the potential of wind energy conversion devices. Ian Irvine, co-founder and Technical Director of SgurrEnergy, will explain why he believes the origin of this issue is the character of wind and a general lack of understanding of the complexity of this renewable energy resource. Ian will also explain his belief that remote sensing will enable wind energy technology to increase its contribution to carbon emission reduction.

In the final part of his presentation Ian will talk about more generally about how developments in renewable energy technology can be used to generate sustainable energy at the levels needed to maintain the simple, relatively well understood cycle of the wind.

Read report : The simplicity and complexity of wind: an engineer's tale

Joint lecture with the Royal Academy of Engineering. Part of National Science and Engineering Week (12-21 March 2010)

David Anderson Berry Medal Lecture. Monday 1 March 2010. The Importance of Being Red

Professor Jonathan Rees, Grant Chair of Dermatology, University of Edinburgh

Imagine, at some far distant time, on some strange planet, you bumped into a stranger who, like you, was heavily freckled and had red hair. What would you talk about first? Why is it that how your skin reacts to ultra-violet radiation reveals so much about your genetic ancestry? And what has hair got to do with it anyway? Does it still really matter how your skin reacts to sunshine? Over the last twenty years, building on work in mouse genetics and experimental dermatology, we have a broad outline of the physiology of human pigmentation and how it relates to ultraviolet radiation. Is it still important to be red, or should we avoid it at all costs?

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ECRR Peter Wilson Lecture. Tuesday 16 February 2010.

Professor Jim McDonald FREng FRSE, Principal, University of Strathclyde

The lecture will consider and quantify the opportunity to realise Scotland's renewable energy potential (approximately 40% of the European total) and will examine the more general theme of low carbon technologies and energy infrastructure, looking at specific wind and marine technologies, and other key areas such as electricity grid systems, carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, biomass and energy demand reduction. Strategic links between research, knowledge exchange and economic development will offer Scotland the opportunity to participate in the development of an energy industry for the 21st Century. To this end, the production of high quality graduates and technologists and the need for partnership between government, industry and academia is essential. Key outcomes from the UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen and their impact on Scottish opportunity,as well as the role of cities and citizens will be considered in terms of the sustainability agenda. Throughout the lecture, case studies will be presented on exciting Scottish-based energy technology projects, ranging from rural deployment and community initiatives through to major infrastructure projects.

Joint lecture with the Edinburgh Consortium for Rural Research (ECRR) and the Society of Biology

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Lecture. Wednesday 3 February 2010. Oban High School. Why bilingualism boosts your mind at all ages

Professor Antonella Sorace FRSE, Professor of Developmental Linguistics, Univesity of Edinburgh and Dr Thomas Bak, Human Cognitive Neuroscience Team, University of Edinburgh

The number of bilingual families is rising but there are still many misconceptions about early child bilingualism. Recent research shows that growing up with two languages can enhance specific cognitive skills and bring advantages that may last throughout the lifespan. A panel of cognitive scientists will present these findings and discuss their implications for parents, teachers, and policy makers.

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Science and Society Book Discussion. Tuesday 26 January 2010. The Invisible Enemy: A Natural History of Viruses

Professor Dorothy Crawford FRSE OBE, Professor of Medical Microbiology, Basic and Clinical Virology Laboratory, University of Edinburgh

The Invisible Enemy provides a compelling scientific account of microbes, their history, and the dangers they pose ? now and in the future. Microbes are disarmingly small and simple. Nevertheless, the smallpox virus killed over 300 million people in the 20th century alone before it was eradicated in 1980. The AIDS virus, HIV, is now the world’s biggest killer infection and the single most common cause of death in Africa. In recent years, the outbreaks of several lethal viruses such as Ebola and Hantavirus have caused great public concern - yet most people remain woefully ill-informed. Professor Crawford illustrates her arguments with vivid and wide-ranging examples.

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