Curious Minds – Season 8

Curious Minds is back in the Soutar Theatre for its 8th season of Friday evening lectures around the general theme of “Contemporary Science in Scotland”.

This year we have assembled our usual mix of superb speakers covering a wide range of topics – from the long-ago Neolithic past in Orkney to accents and dialects in contemporary Scotland. Along the way we will touch on a wide range of topics, such as the parallels between theology and physics, marine noise, killer fungi and the secret lives of galaxies.

The talks will be held in the Soutar Theatre, AK Bell Library, Perth starting at 7:30pm.

Tickets for the live talks in the Soutar Theatre are £3.50 for PSNS members and £7 for non members.

PSNS members can purchase a season ticket for all 12 talks at a reduced price. Please note that this offer is only available before the first talk on October 6th.

Tickets for Curious Minds are available via

Perthshire Box Office



6th October 2023. Professor Bill Austin, St Andrews. “Blue Carbon” The oceans absorb 30% of our CO2 emissions and 90% of the heat trapped by greenhouse gases. That is a problem. But some marine habitats can sequester 10 times as much Carbon per acre as a terrestrial forest. Bill will talk about the potential benefits of, so called, Blue Carbon.


3rd November 2023. Dr Anne-Marie Weijmans, St Andrews. “The Secret Lives of Galaxies”. Anne-Marie is an Astrophysicist who studies the structure and evolution of Galaxies. She uses a very special Integral Field Spectroscopy camera where each pixel in the image contains a complete spectrum – allowing her to make chemical maps of an entire galaxy. Cool stuff.

17th November 2023. Dr Robert Armstrong, St Andrews “Next Generation Batteries”.  Batteries are a critical path item on the journey to a low carbon society. Lithium Ion technology has enabled the current generation of electrical devices but huge advances are necessary to achieve the high energy density, fast charging and sustainability required to replace oil. Robert’s team are working on new electrode materials that could lead to those breakthroughs.

1st December 2023. Dr Delma Childers, Aberdeen. “Inside the World of Killer Fungi” Fungal diseases are an under-appreciated global health threat that are responsible for more than a million deaths per year. Delma is keen to raise public awareness about fungal infections and the growing problem of antimicrobial resistance.

8th December 2023. Dr Luke Rendell, St Andrews. “The Impact of Noise on Marine Wildlife”.  Even to a casual observer it seems obvious that the noise generated by ships, boats, drilling rigs and other forms of human activity must be a problem for marine creatures. Luke is an expert on cetacean communication and has studied the effects of marine noise.

12th January 2024. Professor Shaun Killen, Glasgow.  CANCELLED DUE TO ILLNESS. WE WILL RE-SCHEDULE THIS TALK FOR NEXT SEASON. Shaun is an ecophysiologist. His team studies the physiology and social behaviour of group-living fish to try and understand how their environment influences how they find food and avoid predators. Apparently, fish lead much more complex social lives than you may imagine.

26th January 2024. Professor James Curran. “Planet Earth. Who’s got the Maintenance Manual?” James is an environmental scientist who is a former CEO of SEPA, chair of WWF Scotland, chair of the James Hutton Institute and more. He askes the question “Planet Earth: who’s got the maintenance manual?”. Good question.

9th February 2024. Dr Sarah Chan, Edinburgh.  One of the fundamental tenets of medicine, and in medical trials, is to avoid doing harm. But that may exclude certain higher-risk groups from participation – which may, in itself, be harmful. Perhaps the benefits of inclusion outweigh the risks? In? Out? Who should decide?

23rd February 2024. Dr Sadie Ryan, Glasgow. “Pure Dead Brilliant. Language and Identity” Everyone speaks with an accent. The moment we hear someone talk we form a mental image of that person’s national, social, economic and educational background. Is that a good thing – or bad? Sadie is a sociolinguist with a keen interest in the relationships between accents and identity.

8th March 2024. Professor Mark Harris. Edinburgh. “The Intersection of Science and Theology”. Mark is both a highly experienced physicist and an ordained Anglican priest. He is interested in the complex ways that the natural sciences and religious beliefs relate to each other. This should be a fascinating look at the intersection of two areas which many people may think of as separate spheres.

22nd March 2024. Laura Brown, St Andrews. “The University Photographic Collection”. St Andrews University library holds a collection of over 1 Million Photographs dating back to 1844. Many of them document local people, places and events. Laura will tell us about some of the important contents and show us how to access the collection on-line.

Curious Minds Talks

PSNS has been running our Winter Season of talks under the “Curious Minds” banner since 2015. These talks follow in the footsteps of a tradition of Friday evening lectures stretching back to the founding of the Society in 1867!

Our talks normally take place on Friday Evenings, at 7:30pm, in the Soutar Theatre of the AK Bell Library in Perth. 

Here is a short selection of some of our fantastic talks from the last few years. 


Professor Mike Wheeler tackled the most challenging subject – What is Consciousness?
Professor Luke Bisby. International expert on fire engineering. Luke has been involved in the investigations of a number of major fires – including the World Trade Centre and Grenfell Tower.
Professor Wendy Bickmore is introduced by Past President John Lewington
Dr Victoria Martin, CERN, talked about her work on detecting the Higgs Boson. She was surrounded by a group of budding Physicists
Steve Brussatte, the Lady Provost of Perth and an excited dinosaur fan
A busy Soutar Theatre
Professor Naimh nic Daeid talks about Forensic Science
A poster for Professor John Underhill’s talk.