life-taking. dangerous substances. liven the drugs designed to help us don‘t always get a good press; MMR being a case in point. But there's no denying drugs have changed our lives. Where would we be without aspirin. penicillin or morphine? Professor Leslie Iversen of the l'niversity of Oxford takes a balanced view of the pros and cons of drugs. Here he examines the potential for drug research with the human genome. addiction to recreational drugs and habit treatments. See preview for Prof Leslie lversen.

BBC Blue Planet: Dive To The Abyss George Square Theatre. l'niversity ()f lidinburgh. George Square. 8—9pm. £7 (£5). See photo caption.


Plants Of The Pioneers Royal Botanic Garden. lnverleith Row. 552 7171. l lam & 2pm. £3 (£2.50). See Thu 1 l.

Flowers By Night Royal Botanic Garden. lnverleith Row. 552 7171. 8.30pm. £5 (£4). See Thu l 1.

Other events

Herbarium Open Day - A National Treasure Royal Botanic Garden. lnverleith Row. 248 297‘). l()am. l 1.30am. 2pm 8; 3.30pm. Free. The herbarium is opened to the public for the first time in 25 years. displaying over 2 million dried specimens and material collected by (‘harles Darwin.


People Are The Most Serious Environmental Danger! Royal Museum. 2 (‘hambers Street. .\'oon-—lpm. £6 (£4). Four different viewpoints on the affects of human interference on the environment are offered for consideration.

Built-in ID Royal Museum. 2 (‘hambers Street. 2 -3pm. £6 (£4). Professor Anne (‘ooke of the l'niversity of Cambridge on the peculiarities of the immune system and diabetes. Mistaken Identity Royal Mtiscum. 2 (‘hambers Street. 3.30- 4.30pm. £6 (£4). Research into the immune system and the treatment of diabetes and rheumatoid arthritis is outlined by Dr Neil Williams. Lend Me Your Ears David Hume Tower. George Square. 4 5pm. £6 (£4). A bizarre musical of conventional and unusual instruments with professor Murray (‘ampbcll of the ['niversity of lidinburgh.

The Science Of Marijuana Royal Museum. 2 (‘hambers Street.

5.30 6.30pm. £7 (£5). Leslie lversen argues the case for the medical use of marijuana. The l'niversity of Oxford professor outlines the risks of addiction and lung cancer. before inviting Joe Public tojoin in with the cannabis debate. See preview for Prof Leslie Iversen.

Between Fire And Ice Royal Museum. 2 (‘hambers Street. 8 9pm. £7 (£5). At the heart of our solar system is the sun. at the edges ice. We‘re somewhere in the middle of the fragile duality. Professor Donald Kurt}. takes you on a fascinating virtual tour of the hot and cold spots in our universe from one moon’s ice cliff which is bigger than Mount Iiverest to the colossal asteroids whining around the universe. and the ultimate heat death of planet liarth in a few billion years. See preview for Prof Donald Kurt].


Behind The Scenes At The Museum Of Flight Museum ()I‘ Plight. liast Fortune Airfield. lladdinglon. 01620 880308.

llam- noon 8; 2 3pm. £3 (£1.50). Take a tour of areas normally out of bounds to the public and sec ongoing restoration work on four WWII aircraft.

James Hutton and Salisbury Crags Various Venues. l()am—noon. £5 (£2.50). The Salisbury crags are one of the pilgrimage sites of world geology. and this guided walk lets you see this geological treasure and the Arthur’s Seat volcano through the eyes of the founder of modern geology. James Hutton. Meeting point specified on ticket. Hugh Miller’s Edinburgh Various Venues. l()am. liree. but ticketed. As part of a year of celebrations of the life and work of Hugh Miller. take a look at Auld Reekie through the eyes of the late geologist. lixplore lidinburgh's volcanoes. evidence of glaciers and coal swamps before viewing the geological panorama from the roof of the Museum of Scotland. Meeting point specified on ticket.

Plants Of The Pioneers Royal Botanic Garden. lnverleith Row, 552 717 l. l lam & 2pm. £3 (£2.50). See Thu 1 1.

Other events

Royal Observatory Open Days Royal Observatory Visitor ('entre. Blackford Hill. 668 8405. l lam—5pm. liree. lixplore the skies above in a series of talks. exhibitions and planetarium shows with a special focus on stardust. the building blocks of planets. stars and galaxies.


Cafe Scientific: UFOs - Have They Ever Landed? The Hub. (‘astlehilL Royal Mile. l0.30am—<noon. £6 (£4). A chance for .\'-I-'i/t's fans and conspiracy-theory believers to share their ideas and challenge Professor Donald Kurtz and other scientists on their similarly spooky beliefs. See preview for Prof Donald Kurtz.

Near Death Experiences Royal Museum. 2 (‘hambers Street. 2.30—4pm. £7 (£5 ). The phenomenon of the near death experience (.\'Dli) isn't fully understood. Some scientists have suggested they are the hallucinations of a dying brain. others propose they're another realm of consciousness. A panel of experts from the tnedical and psychological world debate the evidence provided by first hand testimonies.

PCs With Personality David Hume Tower. George Square. 4-»-5pm. £6 (£4). Dr Jon ()berlander on the growing evidence of a need for computer programs with personality.

Science Question Time Royal Museum. 2 (‘hambers Street. 6--7pm. £7 (£5 ). The floor is opened to the audience to quiz. a panel of politicians. researchers and public figures on the scientific. environmental and health issues of the moment.

Human Language - Big Bang Or Slow Burnel’.’ David Hume Tower. George Square. 6--7pm. £6 (£4). The human language has developed in complexity over thousands of years and professor Jim Hurford will explore its evolution over time. l‘rom the pictorial communication of the cavemen. to the intricate and diverse languages found the world over. this talk will examine the history of conversation.

Bright Earth: The Invention Of Colour Royal Museum. 2 (‘hambers Street. 8 9pm. £7 (£5). Art and science are inextricably linked through colour. Pigrnentations are found in unlikely places. such as the purple of Imperial Rome was derived from shellfish. and a medieval red from beetles. Dr Phillip Ball. the consultant editor of Nature. leads a tour of western art to explore the chemistry of colour.


Behind The Scenes At The Museum Of Flight Museum Of lilight. liast l‘ortune Airfield. Haddington. ()l620 880308. I lam noon 6’; 2 3pm. £3 (£1.50). See Sat 13.

Edinburgh life

TALKS LESLIE IVERSEN The Science Of Marijuana, Royal Museum, Sat 13 Apr

Prof lversen takes pot shots at the anti-pot lobby

Here we go again, yet another leftie raving on about why we should all chill man and stop stressing about cannabis. It’s not dangerous, so why make criminals out of the 7 million British people who’ve already tried it? But, when that ‘leftie’ turns out to be a pharmacology professor at the University of Oxford, you might be inclined to take more notice.

According to Professor lversen, cannabis was first wrongly classified in 19305 America when it was associated with Mexican immigration and an upsurge in violent crime. Yes, violent. Other countries followed America’s lead, and cannabis became public enemy number one, or thereabouts. 70 years on and there are distinct rumblings of decriminalisation. The British government has asked its Medical Research Council to investigate the potential of cannabis to be used for pain alleviation in multiple sclerosis and post-operative discomfort, and a private company is commercially testing the medical implications of using a cannabis extract in medicines.

Conclusive medical evidence is on the horizon, and legalisation of cannabis is not too horrific a prospect. ‘We have legal forms of morphine, and even heroin is used as a painkiller,’ states Prof Iversen. ‘They’re strictly regulated, they’re prescription drugs, and we can live with that somehow. I think we could equally well live with having legalised cannabis-based medicines without necessarily legalising the drug for recreational use.’

In the absence of concrete scientific evidence, personal reports have so far formed the burden of proof for the viability of cannabis. As a respected pharmacologist, what can lversen tell us of the objective effects of cannabis on the body? ‘Cannabis acts as a modulator of chemical circuits in the brain and the result is relaxation, eventually intoxication, and a loss of some intellectual functions like short term memory,’ says Iversen. ‘Curious things also occur, like the distortion of sense of time. Some people have visions or hallucinations, and if you take too much, it will put you to sleep.’ Hardly the dangerous, violent drug it was portrayed as in the past.

One slightly more worrying factor in the cannabis debate is the finding that cannabis use declines with age. Is it ultimately just fashionable? ‘lt’s certainly true that most people seem to give up around the age of 30,’ says Iversen. ‘and whether that’s got to do with fashion, or whether that’s got to do with taking on more responsibilities and not wanting to be criminalised, maybe the penalties become more onerous. But it would be interesting to know whether that pattern changes if the laws are relaxed.’ (Maureen Ellis) I Professor Iversen wrl/ give another talk on the value of drugs. A Short Introduction To Drugs. Dav/d Hume Tower, George Square, Fr) 7 2 Apr.

Plants Of The Pioneers Royal Botanic Garden. lnverleith Row, 552 7l7l. l lam & 2pm. £3 (£2.50). See Thu l 1.

Other events

Royal Observatory Open Days Royal Observatory Visitor ('entrc. Blackford Hill. 668 8405. l lam 5pm.

Free. See Sat 13.


Bright Earth: The Invention Of Colour National Gallery of Modern Art. Belford Road. (324 (i307. 12.45pm. Free. See Sun 14.

t‘.-1’:’i Am 9(701.’ THE LIST 109