Edinburgh Science Festival

With one Artellus author now permanently based in the Scottish capital, and another starring in the Edinburgh Science Festival, Artellus Director Leslie Gardner took a trip north of the wall border.

For this month's Artellus blog Leslie reflects on a fun trip to see Andrew Elliott and his lecture on big numbers, and a rendezvous with Elmet's creator. Leslie writes...

“Edinburgh was glamorous even in the misty fog and rain they specialise in. Dodging the Brexit protesters in front of the registry office in Princes Street, I turned into the Old Town over Northbridge to find the arts centre housed in the Pleasance Theatre where the Edinburgh Science Festival is being held these days. The whole show was very professionally conducted by staff who I reckon will soon be holding theatre and comedy shows for the upcoming Edinburgh Fringe and International Performance Festivals. But today Science was the order of the day.

The children’s events that populated the daytime schedule were really quite sophisticated! They in turn were balanced by adult conversations in the evening. Enter our man Andrew Elliott whose popular blog Is That A Big Number? puts numbers and stats into fun and relatable perspective. Last year we sold Elliott’s concept for a book based on his blog to Oxford University Press. Today OUP had helped set up Andrew Elliott’s talk about his book ‘Is that a big number?’ at the Edinburgh Science Festival – he told a sold out room that a billion ants could line up the length of NYC’s Central Park – can you just see that? Well, that’s just about what he asked – with dollops of ancient history starting in early Greek times when mathematicians and geographers were the same people, who knew?

It was a fascinating lecture, followed by unusually good questions and talk (no ‘more of a comment than a question’ here!). Numbers and stats in the public mind are a political issue too – if you did not realise – when Boris Johnson talks about millions of pounds not only does he probably not know what he means, but we don’t either. But it sounds big. By all accounts a very successful and witty talk, afterwards everyone filed upstairs to buy a copy of the book, complete with signature of the night’s mathematical entertainer.

Again through Edinburgh’s darkened cobbled streets and to the pub, there to meet with Fiona Mozley. Having moved from her hometown of York, I find her fully ensconced in town with her spouse Megan, now  entirely occupied teaching literature at the historic university. Meanwhile Fiona works on edits for her exciting new novel…”