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Arts Fringes

COMEDY

Edinburgh Fringe 2017: Are Aliens Coming to Eat Your Face? @ New Town Theatre

What the Outstanding Tickets website says:

From the science of sterilising spacecraft to the evolution of big flappy mouths, University of Edinburgh astrobiologist Dr Adam Stevens will lead you on a tour of what we know about life in the universe. By examining life on Earth, we can start to answer a myriad of questions: Is there life elsewhere? What does it look like? If it exists, is it coming to try and eat our faces off? And what if human beings are more dangerous to the rest of the universe than the universe is to us?

Watch a video:

Aliens… controversial?

Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas is a show which started at the 2013 Fringe, with a view to giving academics a platform to discuss ideas which are controversial within the scientific community. This particular talk, presented by Adam Stevens, a researcher at the School of Physics and Astronomy at the University of Edinburgh, takes a look at the of-posed question: “is there life out there in the Universe?” Moreover, it asks whether humanity is likely to be threatened by such a species.

I’ve never thought the idea of there being life elsewhere in what is an incredibly vast universe as being something particularly controversial; surely the probability is that the conditions exist somewhere. However, scientific arguments do range across the whole spectrum from “there probably is” to “there probably isn’t”.

Citing a formula called The Drake Equation (which examines the likelihood that alien civilisations exist), Adam breaks the question down by examining various pieces of scientific research and attempting to piece together the puzzle. As you might expect (since there has been no reliable evidence of discoveries to date) much of it remains open-ended.

Tardigrade

His discussions on a fascinating microscopic creature called the Tardigrade (which is able to survive extreme conditions including doses of radiation far above what human beings could handle), and the hypothetical possibility that alien micro-organisms could out-compete us within our ecosystem - in the manner of algae eradicating all other life in a lake - are well worth hearing.

Alien fans may be a little disappointed in his revelations that they are unlikely to take the form of anything larger than one-celled life, thus ruling out Facehugger-style creatures as something we are likely to encounter. Acidic blood is also revealed to be a fundamentally impractical idea.

Should it be categorised as comedy?

The Cabaret of Dangerous Ideas events are run by The Stand Comedy Club, although whether they can be categorised as comedy is debatable. However, “Are Aliens Coming to Eat Your Face?” did manage to pack in a few humorous elements, such as Adam introducing some cuddly microscopic creatures - amongst them the fluffy, blue Trevor the Tardigrade. Comedienne Susan Morrison also hosts the shows.

The mixture of humour with serious subject matter could have been jarring, but it does work pretty well. What could have been dry and inaccessible does have an element of fun, while not losing sight of the academic and informative aspects. On the other hand, the presentational aspects were a little underwhelming and could have been enhanced with more in the way of Powerpoint slides and other visual aids.

Still, it was a much more worthwhile way to spend an hour than seeing some mediocre stand-up try-hard.

Rating: ☆☆☆1/2

Tickets are available from the following link:

Edinburgh Fringe 2017 logo


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