Ditch the leather jacket and slip on a lab-coat. As the EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL SCIENCE FESTIVAL blasts off, boffins are replacing rock stars as the cool icons of pop culture.

‘.‘.’G'ds: Peter Ross

cookery. comedy and poetry. science is the new rock ‘n' roll. It delivers everything that our contemporary pop stars can only promise: danger. intelligence. moral outrage. loud noise. weird sex. bizarre death. obsessive creative experimentalism and potentially lobe-melting drugs.

While the most dangerous figures in our polite pop landscape are five mono-browed oiks from Burnage. scientists daily make tabloid headlines. We've cloned a sheep! We've landed on Mars! We're all gonna die when the asteroid hits! Science rocks and Liam (iallagher might as well put down that tamlmurine and pick up the periodic table of the elements. Put it another way: Stephen Hawking is lilvis without the pelvis.

While Blighty's most popular rock acts tedioust retread ground covered 30 years ago by The Beatles and The Stones. boffms are relentlessly forward—looking. Life on other planets‘.’ They're checking it out. Perfecting the Information Stiperhighway'.’ It‘s almost in the bag. The meaning of life'.’ Some wise guy in a white coat is on the case.

Make no mistake. science is an increasingly influential force on popular culture. From the daily sensationalism of the

inkies to the technology—inspired novels of

William Gibson. Neal Stephenson and Iain Banks. science affects what we read. In film too. it shapes visions. Andrew .\'iccol's recent genetic engineering movie (iulmt'u takes on extra resonance in a world where Dolly the Sheep graves and the eugenics debate rages. Meanwhile. Stephen Hawking as iconic a figure as Sid Vicious is created in effigy by controversial artists Jake and Dinos (‘hapman in a work only slightly ironically titled (Ibernn’nst'li.

Little wonder that. in a media-saturated society where we are constantly bombarded by such images. the public has a growing appetite for scientific information. The

8 THE lIST 2 16 Apr 1998

Liam Gallagher might as well put down that tambourine and pick up the periodic table of the elements.

the earth-shattering antics of

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now in its tenth vear. has satisfied the ' Chapman

cravings of over one million enlightenment- hungry punters since its inception. This year's diet of sex. drugs and exploding custard should have them packed in tighter than a chain of molecules.

Meanwhile. newsagents' shelves are

groaning under the weight of learning in new trendy—looking science mags like l’mnlivrx. which seeks to distance itself ‘from the men in white lab coats and reach a much wider audience'. and has more in common with Peter And The Test Tube Babies than Albert liinstein.

Ironically. it seems that bands are wising tip to science's new hip status and seeking to avoid the dumper by jumping on the jet- powered bandwagon. Radiohead‘s futurist ()lv’ ('umpuler with its llawking- mocking ‘l‘itter Happier" is an obviotts example. but smaller bands like 'l‘ol'lnisc. Stereolab. :\dd X To X and Mount Vernon .-\t'ts l.ab have picked tip on sciencc‘s love of experimentation and exactitude. and are becoming bigger by the nanosecond.

Who knows. in a strange twist of fate. maybe rock 'n' roll is about to become the new science'.’ Now. that would be a breakthrough.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival, various venues, Saturday 4— Sunday 19 April. Call 0131 473 2070 for details.