Exhibition unlocks mystery of human movement

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IT’S unlikely to increase sales of Jimmy Choos at Harvey Nichols. But an amazingly colourful X-ray of just how a woman’s foot looks when squeezed into a six-inch stiletto went on display today on the department store’s doorstep in St Andrew Square. And it certainly answers the question of why women can’t wait to kick off their heels after a night out dancing.

Which is rather apt as the photograph is part of an exhibition to launch the programme for this year’s Edinburgh International Science Festival – the theme of which is “InMotion” to celebrate the Olympic year and Creative Scotland 2012 with the science of human movement and performance in relation to sport, technology and dance.

Foot in a stiletto

Foot in a stiletto

Artist Hugh Turvey’s image certainly shows the extremes to which some women put their feet, highlighting in minute detail the pressure placed on them when wearing stilettos and the distortion of the bone structure when the wearer puts all her weight on just the ball and toes of the foot – which can often ultimately lead to skeletal and muscular problems.

Captured by making multiple X-ray exposures of an object which are then digitally combined and colourised – a technique Hugh developed to “demystify” radiography for patients – the photo is one of 52 which will be exhibited in the Invisible Worlds display in the Square in the run-up to the 24th Science Festival this April.

The free exhibition will reveal the world of the macro and the minuscule, from the majesty of nature to the intricacies of the workings of the human body and, hopes Science Festival director Dr Simon Gage, right, will allow us to think about the world in new ways. Images from a close-up of an Adonis Blue butterfly egg to the compound eye of a fruit fly or the head of an ant to the arc of the Milky Way and the last moments of the explosion of a supernova in deep space are all part of a journey which takes in everything from the minuscule to the epically proportioned.

“Using cutting-edge imaging techniques, scientists and artists can reveal some strange and beautiful worlds,” says Simon. “These wonderful images make you think twice about the very big and the incredibly small, the near and the far.

“Look closely and you may never see the world in the same way again,” he laughs. “But the exhibition is one strand of this year’s festival. Laugh about it, dance about it, dream about it or simply talk about it, we’ve never had such a variety of ways of soaking up hundreds of new ideas that spin from the birth of stars via dad dancing to maths comedy. For two weeks in April, Edinburgh becomes one of the world’s greatest playgrounds for the restlessly curious.”

There’s certainly a lot in this year’s programme of more than 200 events to shake the least scientific brain from its stupor.

Sell-out events are bound to include an exclusive “in conversation” with the psychological illusionist Derren Brown, left, and psychologist and author Professor Richard Wiseman, which will cover Brown’s tricks of the trade from mind control to hypnosis, the paranormal and parrots. Then there’s the experiments hosted by the BBC’s Bang Goes the Theory team at the Usher Hall and on The Mound precinct and hands-on workshops where children can dissect eyeballs at the City Art Centre.

However the InMotion event being held in the Grand Gallery of the revamped National Museum of Scotland is the major strand of the Festival which celebrates the science of human movement, exploring everything from fitness and power to the science and aesthetics of movement through workshops, performance and interactive exhibits.

Outside of the Museum the festival involves a host of comedians, dancers, chefs, photographers and, of course, scientists. Adults will be invited to hot-foot it over burning coals with firewalking, discover the science behind “dad dancing” in The Dancing Brain as Peter Lovett introduces the results of a national study into the phenomenon, and challenge their senses in sensory dining with comedian and broadcaster Stephen Mould.

Meanwhile, the facts behind aphrodisiacs will be served up at the Royal Botanic Garden where there will be a feast of hands-on activities for the family, aimed at encouraging people to think more about food, its origins and its controversies.

As the Evening News has already revealed, Mark Douglas-Hill, 34, author of the Aphrodisiac Encyclopedia: A Compendium of Culinary Come-Ons, will cook up several dishes believed to reach the parts of the bodies other foods cannot, before sharing out the carnal canapes with his audience. A qualified psychologist and chef, Mr Douglas-Hill began researching the book while still a student at Edinburgh University.

He said: “I’ve always been interested in the nutritional and psychological side of food but the most interesting aspect of that is the long-held tradition of aphrodisiacs.”

Asked if he expects a romantic response from his audience, Mr Douglas-Hill said: “I think it’s almost inevitable.”

The festival is also investigating the science of energy and the environment with clothing which cleans the air that you breathe to poetic explorations of extinction with some hard-hitting debates on food security and climate change, led by this year’s Edinburgh Medal recipient and acclaimed climate scientist Dr James Hansen.

For families the festival will still be the perfect Easter holiday diversion with the City Art Centre given over to experiments and laboratories on every floor, in fact Simon Gage described it as “a science playground packed with circuits, scary skeletons, racing robots and manic monsters”. New activities this year include Visial-Eyes, where children can peek inside a giant eye, discover how lenses work and even, if they’re not too squeamish, dissect an eyeball. There will also be a series of science stories at the Scottish Storytelling Centre and science trails around the National Museum.

However with the launch today of the photo exhibition, no-one has to wait until April for a science fix.

n Invisible Worlds is free and open daily from 8am to 6pm until April 15. The Edinburgh International Science Festival runs from March 30 to April 15. Details of the full programme and tickets can be found at www.sciencefestival.co.uk and the box office is on 0844 557 2686

FINDING THE RIGHT FORMULA

IT was 23 years ago when Edinburgh first played host to a science festival and while attendances then may have been in the tens of thousands, these days almost 200,000 people turn up to be filled with wonder and delight.

Although the Edinburgh International Science Festival has had its financial ups and downs over the years – it had a £90,000 deficit in 1999 and for a time struggled to find private funding – it is now one of the foremost festivals of its kind, with more than 200 events taking place over 21 days in 38 venues.

It also gives a much-needed economic boost to Edinburgh at an otherwise quiet time of year.

The festival’s fortunes have transformed as the subject matter has become more popular on television, and in recent years it has attracted big names such as Professor Brian Cox and Prof Heinz Wolff.

One of the longest serving scientists to put on a show to the public is Dr Bunhead, aka Tom Pringle, who last year set a world record with 100 children by creating the longest ever glowstick necklace.

So successful has the festival become that its expertise is now being called on by a similar event in Abu Dhabi this November, and its Generation Science education programme now tries to turn on the minds of 55,000 primary children every year to the wonders of science.