Archive for the 'friday fun' category

Friday Fun: Scooby Doo Team Expose Climate Change Tricksters

Somehow this post from News Biscuit seems even more relevant now than when it was intially published back in August. Of course, we all shudder to think who will be under that ghostly costume, orange hair, Alaska plaid, Brietbart ball cap and all.

Scooby Doo Team Expose Climate Change Tricksters

A two-man, two-woman, one-Great Dane team of young Americans has exposed the belief that the Earth is heading towards widespread famine and ecological disaster, as the work of a scheming fraudster. Team leader Fred explained that they were passing through Central London in their VW camper van when a recent copy of the Daily Express alerted them to a mystery.

Despite increasing talk about global warming, recent winters have often been quite cold. ‘We suspected there might be something odd going on, so we split into two teams,’ Fred told reporters. ‘Me, Daphne and Velma looked in the basement at the Met Office, while Shaggy and Scooby were sent to explore the newsroom of a little-known newspaper called The Guardian which had been publishing some of these made-up stories.’

Read this whole thing and shudder.

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Interview with Guerilla Science on Revolutionising how audiences experience science

Sep 12 2016 Published by under culture of science, friday fun, interview

I wish I knew how many times per week I get pitched opportunities to "interview" brave, unconventional, innovative "scientists" on my blog. Too many to count, most weeks. The pseudoscience PR whirlpool is vast and slippery. But there's also the legitimate "Hey, somebody at my university just published this thing, maybe you want to talk to them" pitch. While often interesting, that's not really what I do on this blog. I don't really do science explainers.

But once in a while, a pitch resonates. And such is the case with the pitch I got from Guerilla Science a few weeks ago. I'd heard of them but didn't really have a clear idea of who or what they were. So I poked around their website. And was seriously impressed.

Who and what are they, you ask? I'll let them explain for themselves.

Guerilla Science create events and installations for festivals, museums, galleries, and other cultural partners. We are committed to connecting people with science in new ways, and producing live experiences that entertain, inspire, challenge and amaze.

Based in London and New York, we work with a diverse set of clients, from Glastonbury Festival and the Barbican to Kensington Palace and the Wellcome Collection. All of our projects involve collaborations with practising scientists, who we work with to develop everything from games and workshops to dining events and theatre.

So, I thought to myself, why not. Resurrect my long-dormant interview series and send off a bunch of questions and see what the Gueurills Scientists have to say for themselves.

The interview questions below were actually answered by KyleMarian Viterbo of Guerilla Science. Enjoy!



1. Tell us a little about the Guerilla Science team and how you all got started on this adventure.

The Guerilla Science team is a diverse group of people with a passion for creating unconventional science-inspired events for adults. Our team members have experience working across a wide range of science disciplines and creative fields -- from researching, to teaching, to producing events and even performing shows. Our team is split between the US and the UK, and we produce events at music festivals and in cities throughout the year.

Guerilla Science originated in a UK music festival called Secret Garden Party (SGP) way back in 2008. It started out, in its beta-format, as a TED-like science tent that offered talks, workshops, and activities at SGP. It happened because 5 science graduates -- who had a deep love for the playfulness and culture-focus of music festivals -- decided to pitch it as an "Action Camp" idea (areas of fun activities for SGP festival goers). If the organizers liked the idea, they gave you a platform to explore and deliver it further. Lucky for us, they did, and it turned out to be wildly successful. It seemed that people at a music festival were not expecting to stumble across a tent discussing things like String Theory and Black Holes, or smelting metals or handling small animals. Eight years ago, what we brought to the music festival scene was totally unexpected and we’ve continued to grow ever since.


2. Why "guerilla?" An interesting choice of metaphor, to be sure, but it also conjures a bit of spy novel and a bit of Rambo.

The "Guerilla" in our name was both a product of necessity (we wanted to make "Science Tent" a bit sexier), but also an integral aspect of our team’s approach to how we create events and who we bring them to. Why infiltrate a music festival scene when you can get science at science festivals and science museums? Spaces for fun, informal science events already existed with audience members who seek it out and know exactly what they’re going to get, so why bother? -- but it’s not quite the same as creating spaces for science and play specifically for adults.

When we were starting out, there weren’t really the same kinds of informal science and play spaces specifically for adults. They often targeted families and children and the ethos was that what works for them should work fine for adults, too. We hooked on to the "guerilla" ideology of subversiveness, disguise, and revolution because we’re infiltrating cultural spaces and challenging people’s expectations of where science events are found and who they’re for. "Guerilla" was just a great fit for us.


3. When reading all the science-themed graphic novels around, the thing that always pops up in my mind is that so many of them are trying to use a spoonful of sugar to make the medicine go down. Sometimes it works brilliantly, sometimes in just the same old dry and boring text but with a few funny pictures. What’s been the most successful campaign you’ve done so far? What’s fallen a bit short.

We don’t really do campaigns, but our most successful projects are ones where the science is an integral part of the story and the audience experience -- where we don’t feel like we’re "Sci-Splaining" nature and the universe. Just like any outstanding science-themed work and storytelling, the best ones are when you feel there’s a purpose to all of its components and they’ve been used properly, not just dressing it up. Part of our mission is to facilitate moments where the audience enjoys themselves while also connecting with the science embedded in the experience because we don’t just want to dress up a lecture.

For us, the audience and their perspective is at the heart of our events and we’ve figured out exactly how the science narrative matches up with the creative component. In the UK, for example, we created a "Decontamination Chamber" in the middle of a very wet Glastonbury Festival where festival goers walked into a beaming, white tent in a sea of mud, then proceeded through a physical and psychological decontamination. It pushed our limits in terms of what we could pull off creatively and experientially, but also in terms of bringing lab-based scientists to spaces they rarely find themselves in with their work. We felt it was a huge success because the science we highlighted fit so well with the environment, the event’s narrative, and the mentality of our audience participants. (Check out the video here.)

Where we feel we have fallen short are in managing participant’s expectations. In pushing boundaries and doing undermining the norm, there’s bound to be disappointment. For example, Sensory Speed Date (where audience members get sensual with strangers while blindfolded in order to explore the science behind attraction) works incredibly well within the playful spaces of music festivals, but we’re still working on the best way to both market and reformat SSD as a stand-alone city-event where the words "Speed-Dating" carry a specific meaning. Some people coming to the event have been disappointed it wasn’t a more traditional speed dating event they’re used to attending. People still walk away enjoying the night, but we’re continuing to explore how best to merge the science with the creative experience.


4. Music, theatre, comedy, party planning, installations, and more. Definitely not your mother/father’s journal article. What are the challenges is conceptualizing scientific ideas in these non-scientific article formats.

We work closely with scientists, artists, freelancers, designers of all sorts. To make any creative collaboration successful, participants need to understand each other and each others’ goals very well. The challenge for us isn’t necessarily the conceptualizing part. Sometimes it’s facilitating idea exchange so it’s fruitful and efficient.

Managing collaborator expectations can also be a challenge. There’s the normal hurdles of collaborating with a bunch of people who have very different expertise, but sometimes it’s also helping researchers understand the difference between "dumbing down" information and providing access to it. It’s essential when you’re working within the time limits of a given event or show. Like I said before, at the core of the Guerilla Science event is our audience experience, so that can be a bigger conceptual challenge for collaborators than translating scientific ideas from article to stage.


5. Stephon Alexander’s new book The Jazz of Physics draws a parallel between the kind of improvisation that jazz musicians do with the kind of mathematical and physical creative imagination that theoretical physicists need in their research. Is that something you’re aiming at?

There’s a lot to be said about the art of improvisation as both performance and communication. I’m guessing though that what you’re actually pertaining to is an aspect of Alexander’s writing where he discusses how both musician and theoretical physicist know the end note/hypothesis, but can have a million ways to get there?

On a philosophical end, I guess you can say it’s somewhat similar. Much like any other informal science organization out there, we want to show everyone a different way of appreciating science and research -- far beyond what you normally get in textbooks, classrooms, lecture halls, or even science shows. But our mission and vision for creating the kinds of events we make and bringing it to the kinds of audiences we seek out go beyond that.

We don’t just want to be another "science-is-cool-so-go-home-and-spread-the-good-word" organization. Our focus is less on the performer interpreting what’s in their minds -- for the jazz musician, it’s music; for scientists, it’s their body of knowledge. Our purpose is to create environments where our audience can experience those moments and realizations for themselves. Then they can walk away thinking, "Man, that was fun!" and that’s that. Or maybe they walk away having connected with the scientific content on a deeper level. It’s what some of the best pieces of art do, and we take a lot of inspiration from that.


6. Where to from here? What are the next steps in your campaign of world science promotion supremacy?

We don’t see ourselves as a science PR organization at all, but we do want people to experience science as a cultural phenomenon. In an ideal world we want get to a point where the Sciences are fully integrated in our culture, just as much as the Arts are -- so in fulfilling our vision, we’re going to continue creating events that empower other people to mix science with their favorite creative discipline, be it art, music, or performance. To do that, we’re looking forward to bringing our experiences to the Symbiosis Gathering at the end of September, but also to more and more spaces and communities elsewhere. And later this year we’re hoping to launch an open residency to get more of the community involved in the act.

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Friday Fun: Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To New Ideas

Sep 09 2016 Published by under friday fun

Yep, Facebook, love it or hate it, it's hard to ignore that life just hasn't been the same these past 10 years or so.

Horrible Facebook Algorithm Accident Results In Exposure To New Ideas

“To those who were forced to read a headline they did not agree with when they visited Facebook yesterday, we are deeply sorry. It’s an inexcusable failing on our part if your viewpoints were not reinforced by what you saw onscreen. I want all Facebook users to know that you’ll never again encounter any ideas on our site that are in any way novel or ideologically challenging to you—that’s my personal promise.”

Some recent news coverage about what a wonderful world it could be.

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Friday Fun: To Life, Death and Beyond: The Music of Magma -- Crowdfunding the Strangest Band of All Time

Apr 15 2016 Published by under friday fun, music mondays, Uncategorized

Magma, the strangest rock band of all time, needs you to help finance a documentary film about their life and work.

So here goes. Up until a year or so ago I'd never heard of the French prog rock band Magma, or at least their music had never penetrated my consciousness. But last year while spending the month of May in Paris, I visited a bunch or record stores (and book stores and comic stores...) and noticed records and CDs by this band Magma prominently displayed, like I should know who they are or something. It took me a while to notice enough that I forced myself to dig a bit deeper and read up about them online and maybe listen to a bit of their music. I liked it, for sure, but didn't really get all that excited. Prog rock isn't really my thing. But earlier this year I discovered their off-shoot band One Shot -- who have a much more jazz rock/fusion sound -- gave Magma another listen. But again, not too much of an impact yet.

And then I attended Magma's concert here in Toronto as part of their Endless Tour....the only other musical experience I can recall that was even stranger and more compelling was a Sun Ra concert I attended way back in the late 1980's in Montreal. I was blown away, which was not bad for -- at the very last minute -- deciding to attend a concert by a band I really didn't know all that much about.

Sinuous and pulsating, their music is a kind of hybrid of the intense, ecstatic jazz of John Coltrane or Pharoah Sanders and the over-the-top operatic bombast of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana. You know, the music that always plays in horror movies as the gates of hell open and a monster emerges to devour all mankind.

Of course, Magma's lyrics are sung/chanted in the the language created by founder Christian Vander: Kobaïan. With a cosmic storyline about refugees fleeing a environmentally devastated Earth to settle on the planet Kobaïa. Created by Vander in the late 1960s, Magma is truly as unique as unique gets. Other bands say they are unique, Magma lives it.

Fast forward to 2-16. Some dedicated fans from Vancouver want to make a documentary film about Magma and they've setup a Kickstarter (running until April 27th) to raise a bit of the money they need to finance the project. That Kickstarter is here. Let's support a film about a truly unique artist with a vision like none other.

As a bit of supplemental reading, here are a few cool bits I've found explaining the Magma phenomenon.

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My new project launching today: The Quisling Qourner: A group blog on the library/publisher relationship

Reader Beware: Please note the date of publication of this post.

It's been really gratifying over the last year to see how my DSCaM scholarly communications empire has grown. From it's small beginnings, Dupuis Science Computing & Medicine has craved out a small but important niche in the discount APC publishing community.

And I really appreciate how the scholarly communications community has encouraged my career progression from publisher of a journal at Elsevier to Chief Advisor on Science Libraries for the Government of Canada to last year's huge launch of DSCaM.

And the DSCaM empire grows.

This year I would like to announce the launch of a major new initiative: The Quisling Qorner: A Group Blog on the Library/Publisher Relationsship.

I like to think of this new blogging community as being a fellow traveller with the longstanding Scholarly Kitchen blog. As well, we'd like to welcome the brand new In the Open: Libraries, Scholarship, and Publishing blog to the scholarly communications group blog family. While the Scholarly Kitchen tends to take the publisher's side of things and IO seems headed more towards a bias in the library direction, I think the QQ has it's own important niche.

And that niche would be the firm belief that the library side and the publisher side of the story are really the same tale, that libraries and publishers should be friends and colleagues of the highest order, that we are essentially on the same side of all the important issues in scholarly communication, that our interests are so intrinsically and explicitly tied together that they are essentially the same.

Publishers are librarians' best friends, they know what's good for us and we should just follow their lead in important matters.

Heaven knows, as librarians we've enjoyed so much publisher hospitality at conferences -- the wine! the cheese! the free pens! -- that it's really time for us to give back. There have been too many years of tragic misunderstanding and animosity between the two communities.

And repairing that damaged relationship will be the role of The Quisling Qorner. I've invited a plethora of the brightest lights in librarianship, some well known, some up-and-comers, to contribute their thoughts about how we can bring librarians and publishers closer together. I've also invited friends and colleagues in the scientific and publishing communities to weight in on some of those same issues as well a provide of broader perspective of how libraries and librarians can serve their interests exclusively.


Finally, I'd like to announce the first set up amazing posts that I'm publishing today. I'm a firm believer that any new blogging project needs to launch with enough initial content to draw people in and keep them reading.

So here goes -- the first set of posts, all by shining lights in the library/publisher interface universe!

And here's a few titles for forthcoming posts, all either written and in the pipeline or under development by the authors!

  • Paywalled Journals Are the Best, Only the Best, They Are HUUUUUUGE, I'll Build a Wall Around Them So Only the Good Scientists Can Read My Articles and Make Science Great Again by Donald Trump
  • PLoS Should Buy a Majority Stock in Elsevier: Here's Why by Roberta Eksevierian
  • Why APCs Are the One True Way Forward for Publisher Business Models by Cameron Neylon
  • Fire all Older Librarians and Give Their Salaries to Elsevier by Phillipa Springster
  • Thomson Reuter's ISI Makes all Citation Data Open Access in Bid to Thwart Allegations of Impact Factor Manipulations by Sharma Singh
  • Non-Disclosure Agreements as a Preferred Library Bargaining Tactic by Frances Taylor


And please consider this an open call. Everyone should go right ahead and pitch post ideas in the comments!

And the first authors' meeting will be in Stockholm in 2017! Paid for by all those fantastic publishers!

Update 2016.04.04. Laura Crossett's just published post was added to the list.

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Friday Fun: Why Professor Indiana Jones Was Hated By His Colleagues

Feb 26 2016 Published by under friday fun, scholarly publishing

Yeah, you have to figure good old Indy wasn't much of an academic colleague. Too flashy, never around to sit on a search committee, never willing to take his turn as chair, always blowing up the wrong building or disrupting the wrong classroom. And then there's the ghosts and arcs and demons and what not. And not even a book chapter or high-impact-factor publication to show for it! What, Science or Nature should have been beating down his door!

Well, let's see what his colleagues had to say about all this!

Why Professor Indiana Jones Was Hated By His Colleagues

Aug. 27, 1936

Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones
Marshall College School of Archaeology
1271 Slocombe Rd., Bedford, CT 10508

Dear Dr. Jones,

We are proud to say that the editorial board of the Marshall College Archaeological Review has accepted your submission for publication in our fall issue. However, we do have a few notes for your draft before we move forward.

The Title

Though your findings are certainly incredible and we understand your enthusiasm, we must say that the title "God Melted Some Nazi Faces In Front Of Me" simply doesn't fit our journal's aesthetic. I am only more distressed by the title when I read the first sentence of your abstract, which states "At least I think that's what happened. Really, I just closed my eyes for a while, and when I opened them, all the Nazis had melted." As men of science, it is our academic duty to at least entertain the notion that there was a corrosive substance inside the Ark of the Covenant that killed them. Or perhaps there was some sort of violent squabble that erupted while you and Miss Ravenwood had your eyes shut. Or anything, really. Any explanation beyond "God did it" should, at the very least, be mentioned. This segues nicely into my next concern.


Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones
Marshall College School of Archaeology
1271 Slocombe Rd., Bedford, CT 10508

Dr. Indiana Jones,

We regret to inform you that your article, titled "Magic Exists And Also I Saved A Bunch Of Child Slaves" has not been accepted for publication in the summer issue of the Marshall College Archaeological Review. We do, however, have some notes regarding the use of your travel stipend, your continued irreverence for the methodology of our profession, and your previous as yet unpublished article still titled "God Melted Some Nazi Faces In Front Of Me."


July 19, 1939

Dr. Henry Walton "Indiana" Jones
Marshall College School of Archaeology
1271 Slocombe Rd., Bedford, CT 10508

Dr. Jones,

Are you taunting me with these submission? I can't help but feel that every single piece of feedback I've given you is being thrown in my face in your latest submission, titled "I Met A Thousand-Year-Old Knight And Drank From Jesus' Wine Glass And Fucked A Hot Nazi Spy."

You get the idea. To get the full flavour of his journal correspondence, read the full exposé with the full text of the shocking letters!

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Friday Fun: The Onion on How To File A Patent (and a few more serious readings)

Feb 05 2016 Published by under culture of science, engineering, friday fun

Oh, The Onion. You are so wonderful and your take on the world of patents is so spot on that it hurts.

What are patents for, anyways?

Here's a bit of an excerpt from their 11 Step Program. Drop by the site to see the rest. Brilliant.

Step 1: First, come up with something really cool, like a cheese grater that works in both directions. Oh shit, don’t steal that one! That’s mine!

Step 2: Research the marketplace to find out if your idea is original or if some asshole has already stolen it from you
Step 11:
Spend remainder of bitter, unnaturally truncated life filing lawsuits to protect patent

For your edification, here are a couple of readings on the state of the patent world.

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Friday Fun: "Seek Funding" Step Added To Scientific Method

Nov 20 2015 Published by under friday fun

From the "so funny it hurts" file....

‘Seek Funding’ Step Added To Scientific Method

PARIS—In an effort to modernize the principles and empirical procedures of examining phenomena and advancing humanity’s collective knowledge, the International Council for Science announced Thursday the addition of a “Seek Funding” step to the scientific method. .... “Next, scientists simply modify their study’s goals to align with the vision of potential funders and wait for several months to hear back. At this point—should this step be successful, of course—they can move on to the experimental stage, and then to analysis.”

It's very the whole thing over at the Onion site.

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Friday Fun: Using my librarian superpowers for good rather than evil

As you can all imagine, I'm quite pleased to see the backside of the Harper government on their way out the door. Of course, the Liberals have promised a lot but only time will tell how serious they are about fixing the science-related stuff that they've promised to fix. I'll definitely be watching that and keeping track here on the blog somehow somewhere.

That being said, I was quite gratified that my various pro-science advocacy efforts in general and my war on science chronology post in particular were quite popular and widely used during the election campaign.

Obviously all the things that I've done advocating for science- and evidence-based decision-making in Canada, I did them because I thought they were important and useful things to do, not because I wanted to be congratulated or celebrated for them. That doesn't make me any less happy and proud to be congratulated and celebrated for these things, of course.

So in the spirit of Friday Fun, I though I'd share some of the congratulation and celebrations with you, my readers.

Starting with this astoundingly wonderful linking to my post from this article in the Guardian: How science helped to swing the Canadian election. Yes, the Guardian.

Things got so bad that scientists and their supporters took to the streets. They demonstrated in Ottawa. They formed an organization, Evidence for Democracy, to bring push back on political interference in science. Awareness-raising forums were held at campuses throughout Canada. And the onslaught on science was painstakingly documented, which tends to happen when you go after librarians.

How cool is that!

And there was a fair bit of very kind reaction on Twitter too, a bit of which I'm including below.

And continuing with the article I did just before the election in Metro News, Canadian government approach to science reads like satire, which was also very well received on Twitter, a sampling of which is below.

With this tweet in particular being one of my favourite in the post-election period:

Apologies for all the self-back-patting, but sometimes a guy just can't resist.

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The Canadian War on Friday Fun: Government of Canada pledges $30 million to ignoring science

In the Late Harper period of Canadian politics it's getting harder and harder to tell the difference between satire and legitimate news stories.

Here's a couple of examples of satire followed by one that's even scarier and more disturbing because it's an actual news story. We live in interesting times. Fortunately there's a election coming up...

Honestly, few of the serious critiques of the Harper government's war on science, evidence and civil society ring as true as these two satirical takes. This is definitely in the Stewart/Colbert mode of so funny it hurts.

Government of Canada pledges $30 million to ignoring science

OTTAWA (The News Desk) — In what observers are calling a cynical attempt to score political points with the Conservative base, the Harper government announced an infusion of more than $30 million into its efforts to ignore science on Monday.

“This is clearly pandering to critics of the scientific method,” said NDP science critic Rene Prefontaine, referring to the title of the press release circulated by the office of the prime minister earlier today, “The Scientific Method: In Over Its Head.”

In the press release, the government promises new funding to purpose-built departments devoted to misunderstanding, misrepresenting or altogether lying about science to the public.

And on a related satirical note...

Feeling dead on the inside now a requirement for federal government jobs

Feeling dead on the inside will be added into the the standard public servant tests, reflected in questions like: ‘On a scale of 1-5, one being the least and five being the greatest, how worthless do you feel?’ and 'how frequently do wish you had another career?'

According to sources, Clement decreed that all public servants must now wear ball gags 24 hours a day to prevent any information leaks or expressions of creativity.

And to prove that truth still has something to teach satire in terms of jaw-dropping disgusted absurdity, here's a recent real news story.

At one federal department, office pals are risky business: Natural Resources Canada’s new code-of-conduct rules assign staff a colour-coded ‘risk’ level. And if you have work pals, or are a professor, watch out.

Last month, employees of Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) were asked to fill out and sign a confidential conflict-of-interest document, part of a new code-of-conduct protocol that includes a mandatory training session and meeting with a manager. In itself, this is not unusual. Employers routinely require staff to disclose potential conflicts—financial or personal—that could compromise their ability to do their jobs.

What makes the 17-page “Employee Confidentiality Report” obtained by Maclean’s unique is that it classifies the civil servants’ behaviours—both on and off the job—by “categories of risk”: Red signals “high risk” of conflict of interest, yellow “moderate risk” and green “low or no risk.” The colour-coded model mirrors the terrorism threat-advisory scale created by U.S. Homeland Security after 9/11—except that the threat levels here apply to civil servants, many of them scientists, working for a federal department that oversees Canada’s earth sciences, minerals and metals, forests and energy, and identifies its vision as: “Improving the quality of life of Canadians by creating a sustainable resource advantage.”


The Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC), the union that represents professionals in the Canadian public service, including research scientists at NRCan, has seen conflict-of-interest forms implemented everywhere, but never in such detail, says Laurie Wichers-Schreur, manager of classification and research at PIPSC. “You generally sign off on a general conflict-of-interest statement; if it appeared you were involved in anything that could be construed as conflict of interest, they submitted you to a second form similar to this one,” she says. “In years gone by, it was more focused on sideline businesses; now it’s more focused on political activity.”

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