Playing Pac-Man and Other Great Feats at the Edinburgh International Science Festival

04/16/2015 08:15 am ET | Updated Jun 14, 2015

For this year's Edinburgh International Science Festival running until April 20, the theme is Ideas Factory, aptly named because there's a huge range of events for everyone. Hands-on activities for young scientists-in-training, GastroFest for food connoisseurs, big data probing, debates about climate warming and lectures from intellectual superstars are on the agenda.

We meandered over to the National Museum of Scotland, which hosted a Game Masters mecca for gamers. There were nostalgic arcade favorites on the old-school, stand-up joystick-controlled monstrosities, to the latest gaming technology involving an active dance game where you can swipe your arm across the air in front of you to choose the song you want to boogie to. It's the stuff you see in movies that have yet to make it to our living rooms.

My daughters were in awe with my skills on Centipede, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, revealing another hidden mom talent that impressed them immensely. I had to confess the talent came from hours and hours of practice and quarters spent in arcades, which I wasn't sure I wanted them to emulate. There were also interviews with game designers from Japan to the United Kingdom who spoke about their work and what inspired them. In the lobby, my kids also got to learn how you can mix a strawberry with an active ingredient found in hand sanitizer to extract DNA and see what genes can do.

From Nobel Prize winners like Peter Higgs who discovered the namesake particle, to Danny MacAskill, stunt cyclist extraordinaire, the sort of guests who'll be at the oldest science festival in the world is almost like a mini TedX conference. The topics for these talks have extraordinarily enticing titles like "Is it Ever Too Late to Learn a Second Language?" to "DIY Mouse Taxidermy." There's even a Brainwaves Ceilidh with entertainment from fiddler/scientist Lewis Hou, illustrating nerds know how to have fun.

Other venues include the City Art Center, the Royal Botanic Garden, Royal Observatory and Summerhall. The festival also highlights how Alzheimer's affects the brain, the Mars Rover and other space pursuits for the young and the older, and Light Works, an open-air exhibition with gamma rays and an electromagnetic spectrum taking over St. Andrew's Square. The outdoor spectacular is part of 'Light Fantastic' which honors Edinburgh's native son James Clerk Maxwell and marks the United Nations International Year of Light.

The Edinburgh International Science Festival takes over the entire city and events run from morning tot adventures to late-night shenanigans. Not a bad way to learn about science. With fun!

For more information, go to Edinburgh Festival City.