It’s fitting that, on the 40th anniversary of Douglas Adams’ The HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the theme of the 2018 Edinburgh International Science Festival (31 March to 15 April) is “Life, the Universe and Everything”.


It’s also a significant year for festival itself; its 30th “edition”. Yes, Edinburgh in August may be home to the largest Arts Festivals in the world, but the Scottish capital also pioneered the idea of a science festival back in 1989.

Similar events now take place round the planet. Still, it’s a good bet that this year’s programme (consisting of some 270 events for families and adults) means Edinburgh’s remains among the biggest—and the best!

"This year’s Festival is a celebration of life, our existence and of the potential that science offers us as individuals as well as for the planet,” according to Creative Director Amanda Tyndall.

“As always, we deliver this through an incredible programme of hands-on experiments, thought-provoking discussions, dynamic performances, events and exhibitions; all designed to show how important and central science is to shaping and living our lives and inspiring the problem solvers of tomorrow.”

Quite naturally, space and astronomy feature prominently: for example, in A Snapshot of the Stars (10 April), photographer Stuart Dreghorn will offer top tips on how to take better photos of the night sky, while Generation Webb (10 April) brings together top astronomers to discuss how the likes of the James Webb Space Telescope will extend our vision into space even further.

Cosmologist Professor John Peacock and astrophysicist Professor Kathy Romer will join an illustrious panel teaching us about what we can’t see, in Searching for Dark Matter and Dark Energy (4 April).

Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell Burnell, meantime, will focus on breakthroughs made by pioneering women, in her Celebration of Women in Astronomy (11 April).

Fancy becoming an astronaut? Spaceflight on a Shoestring (2 April) and Dallas Campbell’s Leaving Planet Earth (13 April) will cover the basics, while Get Your Hands off Me You Damned Dirty Alien! (5 April) and Space Outlaw (13 April) will consider who/what you might meet on the way and what laws you’ll still have to live by.

If any individual events can encapsulate what the Edinburgh International Science Festival “is”, though, it’s two shows in the festival’s award-winning “Science in the Spotlight” theatre strand.

Valentina’s Galaxy (4-8 April), by Scottish theatre company Frozen Charlotte, is aimed at “starry-eyed” 2-5 year olds. Inspired by Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in space, it aim is to challenge gender stereotypes stopping girls going into science and technology.

Meanwhile, acclaimed storyteller Andy Cannon is back with a brand-new work aimed at everyone aged 7 and over. Space Ape (7 April), produced with Glasgow-based Red Bridge Arts, will take us on a journey through art, science, and philosophy.

Interweaving true stories of animal space-travel and a wealth of scientific facts, Andy will share his passion for space travel playfully using everyday objects and animation.

Edinburgh International Science Festival.

31 March - 15 April 2018


Tickets: 0844 557 2686


Paul Cockburn is a science journalist and writer.