Posts Tagged ‘RiAus’

Fringe, Festival and Science in South Australia

// March 4th, 2010 // 2 Comments » // Just for Fun, Science Communication

For all me hometown South Australian readers out there, this be for you. It’s the best time of year to be in the southern state because the Fringe and the Adelaide Festival are both on at the same time and there is SO MUCH AWESOME about that, really, you’re spoilt for choice. Of course for the rest of the year there’s sweet F.A. to do in S.A.

The RiAus are hosting a most excellent event to celebrate. It’s quite bluntly called Pre-Coital, the Science of Dating. It has an even blunter, but very cute, picture. Truly a noble use of photoshop.

Science of Dating

There’ll be music, comedy and science demonstrations. Honestly, what more could you want in a show? I can’t think of a single thing that’s missing, except perhaps a big-ass explosion, some fire and a treasure chest.

It’s on from Thursday 11 to Saturday 13 March. You can buy tix for $15 for adults. If you see it, PLEASE tell me all about it! I’d love to see it, but I’m in the wrong stupid state that weekend.

If you know of any other science events happening for the Fringe and Festival, post a comment.

Captain Skellett takes the Stage

// January 10th, 2010 // 3 Comments » // Science Communication

Exciting news! I’ve been invited to talk about science blogging at the RiAus on the 18th of Jan for the next Australian Science Communicators meeting. If you’d like to come and meet me (and you live in South Australia) you can register here.

It comes at a great time, with Science Online 2010 starting very soon a lot of people are pondering the role of science blogs. What I’ve been thinking about lately is which is better, science in newspapers or science blogging?

The Audience
The point of communication is to speak to an audience in a way they understand. Blogs are free and accessible to anyone who has money for an internet connection. With all the science blogs out there, you WILL be able to find one that writes at your level, about your interests, and in a way you enjoy. Compare that to newspapers, which need to write in a way the majority will be able to understand and will be interested in reading. The benefit is it brings science to the attention of people who don’t usually care, where blogs preach to the choir.

The Information
Science is obsessed with accuracy and proof, it’s a bit of a trademark. Giving a story the badge of SCIENCE can be used for evil, and in trying to catch and keep the attention of the masses newspapers can sexify and simplify a story to the point of complete and utter inaccuracy. Take this heading from the Telegraph that “Women who dress provocatively more likely to be raped, claim scientists” which was ripped to shreds by Bad Science and later deleted. One example of many. Lies make science seem untrustworthy, and because science is often tied to fear-inducing stories about disease and global warming, I have to wonder if people make the connection that science is scary.

Blogs can be inaccurate too, they can jump on the same bandwagons or be lazy in their research, but they have two things in their favour – links and comments. An independent blog can (and should) link back to where got the story from. If they get something wrong, people can post a comment, and the correction will be RIGHT THERE ON THE STORY. If a newspaper posts a correction, it’s usually in a tiny paragraph somewhere in the middle a couple of weeks later.

Newspaper or Blog?
Hell, I’d hate to leave you guys like with a freaking “everybody wins” conclusion. Honestly, who wants to read that? As a blogger my opinion is obviously biased towards blogging, and I try damn hard to write science stories that are accurate, sexy and accessible. If you find a story that isn’t one of those things, comment on it so I can clean up my act. I think a good science journalist is someone who does these things whether they write for newspapers, magazines or blogs. The crap ones really stand out.

I’ll be putting my rambling unshackled thoughts together over the next week, so I’d love to know your thoughts. What do you like reading? What do you think works best? And, most importantly, should I be in my pirate attire for the evening?

Small Wonders: How Microbes Rule Our World

// November 13th, 2009 // 1 Comment » // Science Communication

Did you know that your currently carrying at least a kilo of bacteria around on (and in!) you at the moment? And that without these hitchhikers we’d get very sick, very quickly? The world is a very different place if you are a bacteria or virus, who can happily live in the most extreme environments on earth, from deep-sea volcanoes to boiling hot sulphur ponds.

Thus was Thursday nights entertainment introduced to me. A night with Idan Ben-Barak, author of Small Wonders, at the newly opened RiAus.

Small Wonders

When Idan started the book he had one rule – it must be funny (and he’s a Terry Pratchett fan!) What he was studying at the time was one protein in one species of one microbe – not exactly page-turning stuff. His concept was based on what got him into science in the first place. The wow factor, the same thing that got me into this blog – it’s all the cool stuff about science, in his case microbes, that are fascinating. He would hear about these organisms who do amazing things and he was constantly surprised by them. “Why don’t people know about this?” he wondered. “Because I haven’t written it yet.”

His book is all about mindblowing biology, like bacteria that live at 100 degrees Celsius and freeze at 70 degrees – they have to live way underwater next to thermal vents where the water is under so much pressure that it doesn’t vaporize from the temperature. Those bacteria have made it possible for us to do PCR, because their enzymes stay functional at the high temperatures we use to separate the DNA strands. Or how about cow crap cannons, a fungus that lives in cow dung until it becomes overpopulated, at which point they erect “canons” aiming up high using photoreceptors, which send organisms flying long distances to hopefully land and colonise a new home. Or microbes that switch their appearance to hide themselves from the immune system – “oh, you recognise me like this. Well how about THIS!”

To be honest – I haven’t read the book. I’ve bought novels on microbes before and found them not as interesting as they seem on the blurb, so now I tend to avoid them. But after Thursday I’m definitely planning to buy this book! Actually I have a voucher for Borders I got for my birthday which I haven’t used that – it may have just found it’s calling 🙂

The RiAus have a pretty cool calendar of events coming up, so if you’re in the Adelaide area it’s worth checking out.

Dalek Pictures

// October 18th, 2009 // Comments Off on Dalek Pictures // Just for Fun

As promised, here are pictures from last week (was it really only a week ago?) when I was a Dalek for the RiAus Family Fun Day. So good.

Real Daleks
Daleks running amok in Victoria Square

Andrew Corson
Andrew Corson, the man behind it all

And this pic isn’t a Dalek, it’s a robot called Tubby who strolled around with her baby robot and talked to people in the Square. It was awesomely interactive.

Tubby The Robot

For this dialogue, imagine Tubby as having a very robo voice.
“Hello, my name is Tubby, how are you?”
“I’m good, how are you?”
“Well I’m feeling a little flat, but I’ll be better once I refill my batteries. Which way to the battery recharge?”

Lol, well maybe you had to be there. The full story of my RiAus experiences was blogged about here. It was an awesome weekend, this one has been spent recharging MY batteries. Cooked lots of tasty meals, went to the markets to buy groceries, started getting things ready for my Halloween party, and just watched the 40 Year Old Virgin again. You know the ending when they sing The Age of Aquarius? SexyMan thinks it’s lame but I love it. Who’s with me?

The Launch of RiAus

// October 11th, 2009 // 3 Comments » // Science Communication

‘Tis late at night, the storm has passed, I am exhausted from my weekend and long to crawl into bed to read Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters.

But no… it has been too long and I have been too slack on writing. Don’t let me weasel my way out of this. I am GOING to write a post. Oh yes, though my internet issues are still not completely sorted out and I can’t upload images, no matter. I’m posting.

So much has happened this weekend! RiAus (the Royal Institution of Australia – not the Royal Institute as I was hastily corrected) launched on Thursday with much fancy, and I volunteered for the Open Day on Saturday and the Family Fun Day on Sunday. I’m still trying to process all of what I saw, and wishing I’d seen a mite more. Allow me to paint a picture with my words in lieu of posting pictures, which I will do as soon as pirately possible. They say a picture says a thousand words, so consider this the low res version.

The Science Exchange is a mix of heritage rooms and contemporary spaces, of electronica galore and art exhibitions and people, people people. There were plenty of people filtering throughout the day taking a gander at everything on offer. I was stationed in the basement with the Art – two semi-permanent exhibits which will be stationed there until December. The first was a fascinating but dark display of two huge antenna’s created by looping 8 km of copper wire around and around so that it picked up low frequency electromagnetic radiation, and sent it to speakers and an oscilloscope. The result was a loud electronic hum, much like the hum of a computer or ear-ringing after a concert only louder, and to contrast this industrial soundtrack was a video projected on the wall of lurid green suburbia overgrown with weeds and introduced species. As I explained numerous times over the day to confused people, the artists were taking something usually invisible to us, and making it something we can see and here – contrasting this urban, electrical noise with images of nature but drawing a comparison as well – both electronics and the plants in the video are things we have introduced into our lives which now grow rampant and wild, taking over what was once there and although we may not always be aware of it, it is always under the surface. Makes you think.

The second exhibition was a bit more interactive and also very cool. You lay down on a bed and hold electrodes in your hands which measure your heart beat. You can hear your heart on speakers under your head, and there are coloured spots projected onto the ceiling – the spots go red when your heart beat goes up, and they go blue when your heart beats slowly. Lying there in a darkened room, an intimate setting with a heartbeat sounding around you, controlling the lights in the room by reminiscing on past experiences was a beautiful thing – and people were invited to paint their experiences afterward with paints and paper provided.

On the Family Fun Day I was outside, which was a massive change from the basement with heartbeats and electronic hums. When I heard they needed a volunteer for the Dalek group I stuck up my hand and said “I’ll do it!” faster than you can say “WALK THE PLANK OR FEEL MY STEEL” when in a temper. I’m a big fan of Doctor Who (well, David Tennant to tell the truth. And I love Converses, so what can I say?). The Daleks were human sized and moved and talked just like a Dalek does, with moving periscopes and shooty things and flashing lights and all sorts! They are the brain child of Andrew Corson, and I wish I could post some pictures up right now because I have some great ones! They are controlled by a person INSIDE the Daleks, and it is hot and sweaty work in there. Thus come midday some of the operators wanted a break. Guess who took their place.

Seriously, guess.

I totally took their place! OMG, I was a freaking DALEK today – the grey one – and I was all “Exterminate, Exterminate!” and shooting at people and freaking out kids! Even though it was really hot work and it took a while to get used to the controls, it was totally awesome and seriously – how often can you say you were a Dalek on the weekend? I can’t get over it.

There was a bunch of other stuff on at the Fun Day, but unfortunately I didn’t get to see much of it because of the AWESOME DALEKNESS. It is a shame though, because they had very cool performers on, although most of it was for a younger crowd.

And just to top off my weekend (because I wasn’t busy enough) I dressed up like a pirate and made slime with a bunch of friends. I’ll show you the video if it came out okay – I now have blue goo all over my backyard. Don’t tell my landlord, I mean sealord.

And now adieu – 859 words will have to be enough for this picture. I’m going to lie down now.

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