Edinburgh Science Festival to probe Donald Trump's sanity - thanks to his tweets

Donald Trump's use of Twitter will be explored at the Edinburgh Science Festival in April.
Donald Trump's use of Twitter will be explored at the Edinburgh Science Festival in April.
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Donald Trump's sanity is to be explored on stage at an Edinburgh festival - using his notorious Twitter feed.


Experts will explore what can be read into the American President’s use of the network at an Edinburgh Science Festival event in April.

Psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud and psychologist Rebecca McGuire Snieckus, who will host the event, will “test how the public make decisions about a politician’s mental health.

Organisers say the talk, On the Frontiers of Sanity, will be a “fun audience experiment” inspired by the questions raised by experts about Mr Trump’s mental health.

The festival will also look at the worldwide rise and impact of “Twitterbots,” fake Twitter accounts controlled by software systems, and examine how Tweets are being used to map public health and monitor responses to natural disasters.

The two-week event will reveal some of the regular phrases used by online predators in an exploration of the dangers of the online world, while also tackling the future risks artificial intelligence could pose.

Meanwhile the festival has announced it will honour one of the world’s leading climate change experts as well as bring together scientists and industry figures to look at the latest plans to battle soaring temperatures around the world.

Christiana Figueres, the United Nations’ former chief climate diplomat who was one of the chief architects of the landmark Paris Agreement in 2015, will follow Sir David Attenborough and Professor Peter Higgs in receiving the prestigious Edinburgh Medal.

The honour is awarded annually to men and women of science and technology who have made “a significant contribution to the understanding and well-being of humanity.”

The festival, which will run from 6-21 April, has lined up an outdoor photography exhibition outside the Scottish Parliament building at Holyrood looking at the impact of human activity on the planet and the “urgency of environmental degradation.

It will also stage events exploring what is needed to halt the prospect of catastrophic climate change, whether overpopulation is the biggest threat to the world’s future and the “silent problem” of air pollution.

The festival, which will have a Frontiers theme to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landings, will showcase some of the firms helping to make Scotland Europe’s “space technology capital.”

It will honour the “Edinburgh Seven,” the young women who made history in the city when they became Britain’s first undergraduate female students in 1869, by celebrating the modern-day women breaking through barriers in the medical profession.

Stand Comedy Club compere and historian Susan Morrison will lead a revival of the Oyster Club for 18th century scientists and philosophers which was formed by Adam Smith, James Hutton and Joseph Black.

Special guests lined up for festival appearances include Benedict Allen, the British explorer who went missing while on an expedition in Papua New Guinea two years ago, sustainable fashion designer Aurelia Fontan, who will be discussing how her work is influenced by science and biodesign.

The festival will explore the science behind fake news and conspiracy theories, the growing trend for cold water swimming in the UK, and what prompts people to have murder fantasies.

The Science of the Sesh, which is billed as an evening of delicious drinks, boozy but responsible experiments and the history of cocktails.

Amanda Tyndall, creative director of the festival, said: “With new venues and partners and a programme packed full of events and ideas our Frontiers theme sees us explore the research horizons of everything from the depths of the oceans to the furthest reaches of space and the intricate pathways of the human brain.

“We celebrate the spirit of adventure and enquiry that drives science and the ideas and individuals that are expanding the Frontiers of our collective knowledge and have aplenty of fun on our journey.

“At the heart of all science lies an unquenchable curiosity; a deep urge to explore and explain the unknown and to push the Frontiers of our knowledge about ourselves, the world around us and our place in the wider universe.

“We know more and more each day, yet the unknown still outweighs the known. It is the desire to redress this balance that sits at the heart of science.”

Festival venues include the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Botanic Garden, Summerhall, the City Art Centre, Dynamic Earth, Jupiter Artland and the new home for the Collective Gallery on Calton Hill, while the Pleasance complex at Edinburgh University will become the festival hub for the first time.

Donald Wilson, culture leader at the city council, one of the festival’s main funders, said: “There is something for everyone in the extensive programme from fascinating talks with Professors and pioneers, to experiments and events to entertain and educate all ages.”

HIGHLIGHTS

On the Frontiers of Sanity: A test of how the public make decisions about a politician’s mental health - using Donald Trump’s tweets.

Accept/Decline:An expert panel discuss the dangers the online world poses and demonstrate new software being developed to identify predators.

The Future of Cyber Security, Data and AI: An exploration of the risks and the new opportunities that the information age is set to brin.

Digital Therapist: Could virtual reality treat depression or could a robot companion make you feel better? Experts look at how technology can be used to help improve mental health.

Fake Moon Landings and Other Persistent Conspiracies: Join conspiracy theory experts Prof Peter Knight and Prof Robbie Sutton at to find out where these intrigues come from, how they take root and what makes people believe them.

Here Comes the Sun: Leading geneticist Professor Steve Jones explores the good, the bad and the possibly deadly results of Scotland’s grey weather and discusses whether we should increase our exposure to sunlight when we can.

Science of the sesh: An adults-only exploration of alcohol, including what factors and senses affect how we taste.

Spice of Life: Sorting the fake claims from the real ones and chewing over the so-called superfoods. Could a turmeric latte be the cure for cancer? Does red wine really prevent dementia?

Are We Too Clean?: A look at the emergence of the compulsion to clean and how obsessive cleanliness might be harmful.

Where the Hell is My Hoverboard?: A panel of experts discuss where technology is at and what hurdles still have to be overcome before we can live out our sci-fi dreams inspired by films like Back to the Future or Blade Runner.