Skeptics on the Fringe

I’m back up in Edinburgh looking for a flat, and that means it’s Fringe time! If you don’t know what that is, it’s nothing to do with my hair. The Edinburgh Fringe Festival is actually a group of festivals under the same name. It’s a lot of arty-farty dancing and music which I don’t really go for, loads of comedy, some jazz, a book festival, and some bits and bobs alongside it. It attracts gazillions of tourists every year, and it pretty much funds my student union so I like it. There are a number of shows of a skeptical/sciencey/humanist/atheist bent which I would wholeheartedly recommend, and that’s more or less what this post is for.

First of all, and the title role of this post, is the Skeptics on the Fringe. The Edinburgh Skeptics in the Pub are putting on this astonishing ambitious array of events made up of 3 parts. Each day at 1.15pm in Cabaret Voltaire, they’re hosting a comedy panel show with a science and skepticism angle, featuring a different panel of comedians each day, called Devil’s Advocate. Later in the afternoon at 6pm at the Banshee Labyrinth they have a Skeptics in the Pub-style lecture called At the Fringe of Reason featuring such speakers as Richard Wiseman (tonight!), Simon Singh, Chris French, Matt Parker (see below), Caroline Watt, Tracy King, and me (this week, so you missed that)! As if that wasn’t enough, on the weekends they’re leading a Skeptical ghost tour called Ghosts Busted, starting at 9pm at the statue of David Hume on the Royal Mile. I’ve been to most of these events and they’re all well worth seeing.

The aforementioned Matt Parker is both a qualified maths teacher and a standup comedian. Put those two together, add some morbidity and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect at Your Days Are Numbered: The Maths of Death. That’s on at Assembly on George Street at 11.25am, and I can’t think of a better way to start your day. Matt and his partner in stats Timandra Harkness have been kind enough to appear on Devil’s Advocate a few times, and he’s also done a slot in At The Fringe of Reason. They’ve both had us all in stitches all week so get on up and go see their show.

If sciencey comedy is what makes you tick, you won’t want to miss Robin Ince. Robin has apparently lost his mind this year and he’s doing at least 3 shows. The first called Carl Sagan is My God, Oh, and Richard Feynmann Too, is at 12.10pm in the Canon’s Gait on the Royal Mile. It features different acts each day on various different sciencey subjects, interjected with comedy bits from Robin Ince and readings from Carl Sagan and Richard Feynmann (that’s Robin that’ll be reading, he hasn’t perfected his necromancy skills). I went to see it this morning and it featured a rap about the effect of ovulation on human mating practices, a demolition of Einstein’s theory of relativity, a song about chemistry and a rant about Joe Power. Win! I haven’t seen his other shows but I think there’s another one in the Canon’s Gait around 7pm and that’s bound to be awesome. Go to the afternoon show and ask him what else he’s doing.

Helen Keen is performing a show called It’s Rocket Science at the Gilded Balloon, at 1.15pm. I haven’t seen it yet but she’s said to be a great entertainer and she’s got some great reviews so far. Once I’ve seen it I’ll let you know.

Baba Brinkman is performing The Rap Guide to Human Nature at the Gilded Balloon, at 3.45pm. This is the guy doing the rap about ovulation and human mating practices at Robin Ince’s show, and he’s also appeared on Devil’s Advocate. He’s a really witty guy so he’s definitely recommended.

Evolutionary psychologist Carole Jahme of Guardian fame is presenting a show called Carole Jahme is Bio-Diverse! which is at the Zoo Southside Cabaret Bar on Nicolson Street at 7.45pm. It seems to be aimed at a fairly young audience (apparently she dresses herself up as a human-chimp hybrid), but it’s all about evolution and biodiversity and how to protect the environment.

If I think of any more I’ll add them in here.

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