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Most people hold a very naive idea of what the history of science looks like. We think that scientists ‘discover‘ laws and theories at a precise time and at a precise place. We tend to say and believe things like ‘Archimedes discovered his principle of displaced fluids while he was enjoying a pleasant bath at the public pools in Siracuse’ or ‘Newton discovered Gravity when he was peacefully relaxing under one of the apple-trees in his garden‘ or ‘Oxygen was discovered by Lavoisier in 1775’.

Dr Stephen Pumfrey will try to show that it is possibly mistaken to think that the history of science is straightforward and simple. In his lecture ‘Did Lavoisier Discover Oxygen?’ (9 April, see listings), he will be using the historical example of the discovery of oxygen to show that it doesn‘t make sense to ask questions like who discovered oxygen or at what time of what day was it discovered.

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Similar points of view will be maintained during the lecture that Dr Christopher Cullen will be giving: ‘Chinese Alchemists and the Invention of Gunpowder‘ (10 April, see listings). Gunpowder has had incalculable social and historical effects; alter its invention in the 13th century no war would ever be the same. Dr Cullen thinks that ‘it is ironical that such a marvelloust efficient means of killing should have been presented to us by alchemists searching for a means of enabling mankind to enjoy eternal lile.’ And he goes on: ‘The alchemist’s work was seen as a contribution to universal salvation', he says. ‘The guest for perfection led to attempts to arrest the decay of the human body through the pursuit of drugs of immortality.’

Dr Cullen will include. during his lecture a demonstration of the power of a selection of some ‘hopelully non-lethal’, proto-gunpowder mixtures on stage. (Mauricio Suarez)

I Why Do We Need Computers to Forecast the Weather? Mountbatten Building. Grassmarket. 7.30pm. Prof Pearce describes some of the methods used to predict the weather and gives examplesof spectacular successes and failures.

I Ecology. Economics and Ethics Royal Overseas League. 1le Princes Street. 10.30am. Does the global eco-crisis represent a failure of our social and economic systems? Anthony ( ‘layton raises some sociological issues with regard to the environment.

I Did Lavoisier Discover Oxygen? Royal Overseas League. 100 Princes Street. 12.30pm. Dr Stephen Pumfrey on the work of Antoine Lavoisier as he attempts to answer ‘Who discovered oxygen?‘.

I Seeing Machines Mountbatten Building. Grassmarket. 2.30pm. What is going on in our brains when we see something? Prof Richard Gregory promises to ‘open our eyes’ to the situation.


I Creating a New Blend Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre. Royal Mile. lpm.£3 (£2). Arthur Bell Distillers‘ Master Blender. Ian Grieve. will describe how he created Bell‘s Islander from over 40 Highland and Island malts.

I Dragons And Drains Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre. Royal Mile. 4pm.£l (Slip). Bob Pass takes a light-heartedlook at the Greenhouse Iiffect.

I Old From the Hills Royal College of Physicians. 9 Queen Street. 7.30pm. John I lumc explains why Scotland excels in the

making ofthe ‘Water of Life.‘

I New Biotechnology and Food Production Queen Margaret College. 36 Clerwood Terrace. 2pm. ProfJohn Smith will talk about some of the new technological aspects of food production including fermentations used in pre-cooked dinners and new aspects of genetic engineering.

I Food For the 21st Century Mountbatten Building. Grassmarket. 2.30pm. What will we be eating in the let century? Pills? Irradiated food? Eurofood? ProfGeoffrcy Campbell-Plait provides an insight.

I Radioactivity, Food and Physics (Marie Curie lecture) Royal Society. 22—24 George Street. 7.30pm. Dr Steve Jones describes the origins and properties ofradioactive substances. demonstrates methods of detecting radioactivity. and evaluates its significance for health.

I Oceanography: A walk through Inner Space Royal Museum ofScotIand. Chambers Street. 12.30pm. Dr David Pugh explains how the oceans play a vital role in making the earth comfortable for human and other life.

I Chinese Alchemists and the History at Gunpowder Royal Museum of Scotland. Chambers Street. 10.30am. Dr Christopher Cullen shows how the invention ofgunpowder changed the face of warfare.

I A Policy for Science - Invest in Success Mountbatten Building. Grassmarket. 12.30pm. How can we best maintain Britain‘s unequalled record for brilliant science? Dr John Mulvcy explains why we must invest in success and encourage industry to follow suit.

I Sound as a Bell Geography Department.

Drummond Street. 2pm. lree. Prof Robson looks at change ringing ofbells where science meets art to produce music. Age I I and upwards.

I Responsible Science Royal Museum of Scotland. Chambers Street. 2.30pm. Scientifically objective advice is largely a myth. Prof Ivan Tolstoy reflectson science. method. chaos. complexity and science advisers.

I Neglecting the Seed-Corn: Where are our Future Scientists Coming From? Mountbatten Building. Grassmarket. 2.30pm. Is scientific research losing its attractions as a career for the best and brightest ofour graduates? Dr Margaret Sharp suggests that it is as we face a future increasingly dependent on our success in living off our ‘hi-tech' wits.

I Science and the Public: The Caselor Action Mountbatten Building.

,. Grassmarket. 5.30pm. The history of science is peppered with arguments over

whether the public should. be ‘Iet into‘ the secrets of science. Alan McGowan explains the media‘s role in informing the public.

I Science Sources tor the Media Mountbatten Building. Grassmarket. 7.30pm. Dr Chris Langley talks about the Media Resource Service. which provides the media with background information on aspects of science.

I Does it Matter What We Eat? Hugh Robertson Building. George Square. 2pm-5.3l)pm. free. Six brief talks in this event discuss the role ofdiet in health followed by a question and answer session by nutrition experts from the University's Faculty of Medicine.

I Exploring Whole Systems Centre for Human Ecology. 15 Buccleuch Place. 10am—4pm. enquiries: Susan FowlerlBI 667 101 I ext 6696. The widerimplications of organic farming for health. land and people are explored during a day of discussions between prestigious speakers from the fields ofagriculture. environment. health and education.

I The Science of Art: A Lost Community of Ideas Royal Museum ofScotIand. Chambers Street. 7.30pm. Prof Martin Kemp asks whether the mutual incomprehensibilily of science and art is necessary or inevitable.

I Alcohol. Our Favourite Drug Royal Overseas League. 100 Princes Street. 3pm. Dr Bruce Ritson ponders the costs and benefits of alcohol. consumption of which has doubled in the last twenty years. I The Art of Blending Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre. Royal Mile. 3pm. A talk by Richard Paterson. master blenderof Whyte & Mackay Distillers. followed by an audience participation competition.

I The Ancient Craft of Coopering Seoteh Whisky Heritage Centre. Royal Mile. 5.30pm. £1 (50p). What does the future hold in the technological age for the craftsman whose skills have changed little over the centuries? Alexander'l'aylor highlights the coopering trade.

I Port- Old Dogs and New Tricks French Institute. 5.30pm. Derek Homertalks about the production of port and the its 21st century future.

I Eat. Drink. and be Worried Royal ()verseas League. Hit) Princes Street. 10.30am. The food industry claims that we are eating better today titan ever before. Its critics say that we are not eating as well as many of our continental partners. Derek Millstone asks who is right.

I Consuming Passions Royal ()vcrseas League. lllll Princes Street. 2pm. Drl’cter Wright asks how we acquire our liking for different foods.

I Nutrition Training in Italian Universities Queen Margaret College. 36 Clerwood Terrace. 2pm. free. Massimo Cresta explains the role of the universities in food and nutrition training.

I We’ll Meet Again Grosvcnor Hotel. Roseberry Suite. 4pm. Marguerite Patten will talk about her work on the kitchen

Amongst the myriad of speakers discussing the world of food, Dr Tom Coultate from London’s South Bank Polytechic. will be discussing additives and our attitudes to food in his talk ‘E for Essential‘ (11 April, see listings).

Accompanying the fitness lad, natural nosh also gets a lot of hype. The suggestion being that natural foods, free from technology’s tainting marks. are the best thing for us. But what is ‘natural food’? Is it an elusive Holy Grail some of us seek, neverto lind? And would this natural diet be any good if we could lay our hand on it?

Cast your mind back to the days when cooking meant hand crafting a sumptuous least over a sooty range, apples from the orchard, dew glistening on the garden herbs. . . Or did I forget to mention that was only for the rich? Even within the last hundred years more people ate llke Oliver Twist than like the Beadle. who probably had gout anyway.

Perhaps our diets are better, but is all this fast food, micro-meals and use of Es really what we want. The sweeping generalisation usually made is that all additives are bad. What about the ones we need? Is there a trade-off between how harmful something might be and it's necessity? What is a chemical? When is a food additive an additive and notjust a food? After all, ifwe didn’t eat chemicals there probably wouldn’t be anything to eat except air (and they've even managed to sell that in chocolate bars).

With a sumptuous display of such delights as orange squash, red jam, white bread and brown pickle, Dr Coultate will be discussing this and there will be an opportunity to ask questions. Be there and have a taste of his food for thought. (Nick Woodward)

front during World War II as a home economist for the Ministry of Food. She will also present some wartime dishes.

I Sex. Rabbits and Cannibals: Meat Eating- Past, Present and Future Royal ()verseas League. 1le Princes Street. 4. 15pm. Nick I’iddes explains why animal flesh has traditionally been such an important food in British society.

I ‘E' For Essential Queen Margaret College. 36 Clerwood Terrace. 5. 15pm. Are additives unnatural? What actually is a chemical? What are food additives for? I The Sword and the Plough G rosvenor Ilolel. Roseberry Suite. 7pm. The two world wars brought great changes in food production. Dr Gavin Sprott explains that the current agricultural cutback is the final ‘demobbing' of the wartime economy.

I Leo: From Cakes to Computers Mountbatten Building. Grassmarket.

72'i‘hc List 6 19 April 1990