MYSTERIES such as what makes men and women disagree and why people believe in ghosts are set to be explained at the Capital's annual science festival.

Top minds will also be exploring what makes cigarettes so addictive while children will have the chance to take part in robotic chariot races.

On a more serious note, the programme for the two-week Edinburgh International Science Festival, revealed today, focuses heavily on climate change and the impact of global warming.

Leading environmental researchers, writers and broadcasters will be discussing how to dispel the myths over climate change, how Scotland's landscape is likely to be affected in future and how the world has changed in the last five years.

Experts signed up to take part in the festival include climate scientist Dr Dave Reay and the environmentalist and journalist Fred Pearce, author of When The Rivers Run Dry.

Former Concorde pilot Tony Yule and broadcaster Kirsty Wark will also take part in events.

The year's festival - which runs from April 2-15 - will feature plenty to keep children amused. Key events for youngsters include the chariot race devised by the science and engineering firm Selex, who will be creating a special obstacle course for the event, and a live satellite link-up with a jaguar expert in Maya Rainforest in Belize, one of the last refuges of the species.

Other special children's activities include the chance to unravel the mysteries of Egyptian mummies, explore a recreation of an Amazonian jungle, find out what is involved in the work of an ER surgeon, and have a go at creating a custom-made toy.

Councillor Donald Wilson, head of the festival's board, said: "As the world's most amazing, imaginative and extraordinary science festival, we have hundreds of science students, graduates, scientists and technologists taking science out of the lab and sharing it with the wider public.

"Our aims are to give the children of Edinburgh and Scotland experiences of science that are inspiring and confidence-building and to engage all of society in the wonder and value of science." As well as talks on why cigarettes are so addictive, what makes people believe in ghosts and the supernatural and what makes men and women disagree, scientists will also explore the use of the first vaccines against cancer, new research on how to recognise the first signs of a heart attack, and how the misuse of biomedicine can threaten whole countries.

Events are being held at venues across the city, including Edinburgh Zoo, the Royal Botanic Garden, Our Dynamic Earth, the National Museum of Scotland, the Royal Observatory, the Royal College of Surgeons and the Royal College of Physicians.

Children's events will mainly be based at the Assembly Rooms, on George Street, which plays host to the Wonderama exhibition, suitable for youngsters aged three-12 years. Further details of all events, including how to get tickets, are available at or by ringing 0131-524 9830.