Psychologist to investigate if firewalking is ‘mind over matter’


THE Edinburgh International Science Festival today called for people to walk over hot coals in the name of science.

Documented throughout history as a rite of passage, a test of strength or a testament to the power of religious beliefs, firewalking has been practised by many cultures around the world for over 3000 years.

It experienced a resurgence of popularity in the 1980s when the ability to walk barefoot over red hot coals was presented as a confidence building, self-empowering exercise.

The art of firewalking had a popularity surge in the 80s

A lucrative industry was born with practitioners persuading the public that, for a fee, they could be taught ‘mind over matter’ and achieve the seemingly impossible.

While there is undoubtedly some truth to this – taking that first step onto a pit of burning coals certainly requires willpower – The Edinburgh International Science Festival aims to prove that science, and in particular physics, is the key to success.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire, and Dr Simon Gage, Director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival will be examining the facts behind the fiction of ‘mind over matter’ as they take to the hot coals in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens on Saturday 7 and Sunday 8 April.

Dr Gage said “Muttering a mantra might make you feel better, but it certainly isn’t the reason why you can walk over a bed of hot coals without burning your feet.

“I will be putting my money where my mouth is and will be walking on fire – and we want lots of people to come and join us to prove that physics is the science behind the spin.”


The Firewalking event will take place in West Princes Street Gardens on Saturday 7 April and Sunday 8 April at 3.00pm. 

Participants must be over 18, and ID must be provided.  Tickets are £20 and the event will last 90 minutes with every ticketholder offered the chance to walk over the hot coals.  For further details, and to purchase tickets, please visit