Heriot-Watt academics to educate and entertain at the Fringe



Heriot-Watt academics will take to the stage at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in August.

A group of Heriot-Watt academics will perform six different shows in this year's Fringe Festival – the most shows Heriot-Watt has had in the programme yet – as part of the Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas.

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas is a unique programme of events that offers the public an opportunity to engage with world-class researchers in an educational yet entertaining environment.

Ross Donaldson will kick-start Heriot-Watt's performances with the Dark Side of Data Security. Should unbreakable data security be made widely available? If so, can it be used for malicious purposes, as well as keeping us secure? Today, we use encryption online, but these codes can be broken with effort. Ross is developing technology to enable unbreakable communications. However, that would mean both "good" and "bad" people getting access. Is our data security desirable? And is it worth it?

Also making the grade this year is Dr Alan Gow's This Show Will Make You Sharper. Staying sharp as you age is easy… just eat this super berry, do five simple things or play this game to beat dementia! But what if it's not as simple as the hype suggests? Alan Gow's show will explore what we know about how our thinking skills change as we age, and what we might do to stay sharp.

Dr Anna Sedda will be appearing in Disgust for Dummies. The feeling of disgust evolved to protect us from contamination and harm, be it physical or moral. However, stigma is the price we pay for this protection. Are these feelings of disgust an immovable reality or can we control them and fight stigma? Can Anna Sedda persuade you to accept what previously repulsed you?

Meanwhile, Psychologist Thusha Rajendran will tackle controversies around new technologies in his show OK Computer or Paranoid Android?. Do our digital lives allow us to be true to ourselves or are we suffering an identity crisis? Can iPads damage your children's brains? Will robots take our jobs? Can you fall in love with your operating system? What do these technologies mean for our evolution and what do our techno-fears reveal about us?

Paola Ruffo's show Can Google Really Translate? will explore how the boundaries between humans, words and machines are being redrawn. What does it mean to be a human in the era of Google Translate? Is it really taking over human translation? Can machines replicate human feelings and language nuances? Join Paola Ruffo at the edges of the magic world of translation to discover what happens when humans and machines meet new languages.

Finally, Ross Alexander will entertain with his show Let's Kill Half the World. The world's population continues to grow at an alarming rate, putting an enormous strain on food systems and production. Ross Alexander argues that killing half of us would quickly solve the problem. But how would this even work in practice? What other ways are there for plant scientists to engineer crop growth to meet the increasing food demand? Can we stave off hunger across the world without resorting to mass murder?

The full programme and booking details can be found on the Caberet of Dangerous Ideas website.