Talks

Fire on the Amazon, fire in the Arctic. Orkney’s rocks forming in an ancient lake. Dinosaurs with wings. The origins of the potato, and the origins of Orkney’s own grain.

The days of early radio. The Caithness genius who invented the fax machine, and the electric clock as well. The men and women who tended a seed bank through famine and war to ensure its survival.

How do the fires of the sun blaze and send us the aurora on the wings of the solar wind? How do birds navigate and how do pigeons home? What are key genes for Orkney? How can we regenerate the landscape for wildlife and people?

And can artificial intelligence do everything that we can, or are there areas in which the human brain is unrivalled?

You can hear about these and much more in a rich and varied talks programme.

TUNE THE CAT’S WHISKER TO 2LO

September 5 → 5:15 pm6:15 pm

It’s 100 years since public service broadcasting got under way with the BBC’s transmissions from 2LO in London. Prof. Tom Stevenson tells the story of early radio with its powerful transmitters sending signals for reception on crystal sets with cat’s whiskers and early thermionic valve wireless sets, and shows some of them in action.

A DIFFERENT KIND OF GARDEN

September 5 → 7:30 pm8:30 pm

Ecological gardener Elizabeth Woodcock describes how we can help our garden soil restore a healthy microbiome. Ethnobotanical researcher Anna Canning outlines some of the linkages between soil, plants and human health, and simple steps we can all take to sustain them.

SMALL SCHOOLS, SEAS AND FAR HORIZONS

September 6 → 11:30 am12:30 pm

Youngeens fae the primary schools in North Ronaldsay and Papay have been working together to explore and celebrate their island culture. Exploring both land and sea, on foot and tall ship (the Swan), the pupils have worked with local musicians (Jen Austin and Eric Linklater).

MORE TREES INDEED, BUT WHERE AND HOW?

September 6 → 2:00 pm3:00 pm

We’re told that a big planting of trees is needed in the Highlands and Islands to combat climate change. But which trees, and where? The decisions, says Prof. Roger Crofts, have to be thought through very carefully to avoid problems from the past with poor soil management and the use of the wrong species of trees.

NEW LIFE FOR THE LAND AND WILDLIFE AND PEOPLE

September 6 → 5:15 pm6:15 pm

Compartmentalisation and institutional thinking is blocking fresh land use solutions, say two Scottish biologists. They build instead on ideas of earlier Scottish ecologists and from the Nordic countries. One of them, Derek Pretswell, describes their approach to regenerating the whole ecosystem of land and wildlife and people.

OUR CHANGING CLIMATE: REPORTS FROM THE FRONT LINE

September 7 → 11:30 am12:30 pm

Fire on the Amazon, fire in the Arctic, heatwaves in India, drought in California – around the world reports are coming in of weather extremes and changing climate patterns. What's it like for people directly involved? Prof. Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University brings accounts and impacts from varied places.

TUNE IN AND UNDERSTAND

September 7 → 2:00 pm3:00 pm

It happens so often in social work and in mental health and many other areas. The professionals say the people don’t understand, and the people say they’re not being understood. A new strategy seeks to bring everyone together to tackle problems. It's described by Prof. Carole Norris-Shortle and Susan Affleck.

FOLDING THE PROTEINS

September 7 → 5:15 pm6:15 pm

They’re everywhere in our bodies, like thousands of little molecular machines, folded into complex three-dimensional shapes, which have a critical impact on the way in which each protein operates. How to predict the shapes has till now seemed an impossible challenge – but as Prof. David Shortle of John Hopkins University explains, recent advances in artificial intelligence have made a breakthrough.

SHACKLETON’S DRAM

September 7 → 7:30 pm8:30 pm

Three cases of Highland malt whisky were discovered, frozen into the ice beneath Shackleton's base camp. Through careful analysis, its exact constituents were worked out, and the whisky recreated. Master brewer Ken Duncan tells the story, with polar historian Dr Maria Pia Casarini setting the scene.

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