A shiny new Facebook page for my science/comedy/magic shenanigans.
Update: My animal won! The night was a sell-out and fantastic fun, thanks to all who came along! It was great to catch up with friends I hadn’t seen in a while and to make some new ones. The other acts were hilarious (and hideous), and Simon was a fantastic compere! My animal was Promachoteuthis sulcus, which isn’t very well known so doesn’t even have a common name. At the event, I proposed the “human-gobbed squid” or “gob-faced squid” to a large crowd. It was agreed at this event and at the Festival of the Spoken Nerd event on Friday that the animal should be known as the gob-faced squid. With several hundred people from these events now referring to it as the gob-faced squid, it’s the most common name it has as a relatively unknown creature! I’m happy and strangely proud that my animal won the evening. Here is the new mascot for the Scottish branch of the Ugly Animal Preservation Society:
This is a message for all the amazing people who have come to the brilliant Edinburgh International Science Festival. If you’re up for some shenanigans, and don’t have a weak stomach, come along to see us at the Ugly Animal Preservation Society! If comedy and nasty ugly are your things, you’ll be in a disgusting heaven!
As well as myself, you’ll see performers including Helen Arney (Uncaged Monkeys, Festival of the Spoken Nerd), Simon Watt (Inside Nature’s Giants), Steve Cross (Science Showoff), the guys from Punk Science, and more! It will be funny, interesting, and horrific in equal measure.
It’s on Wednesday night, 9pm-11pm. You can get all the details here!
Italian courts have sentenced several scientists and a government official to prison for six years over the L’Aquila earthquake. I don’t intend to dwell on the story, because it has already been covered very well by others. People are discussing what happened, whether these scientists should be jailed or not, and even what they’re actually being accused of. Are they being punished for failing to predict an earthquake, or not communicating the risks accurately? These are all important questions. But I want to ask a different question. If scientists fail to predict an event, or make a prediction that fails to come true, they can apparently be held accountable. Why is this not the case for charlatans and bullshit-merchants throughout the world selling bogus “cures” or predicting natural disasters? This blog entry is a trip down memory lane to 2009 for a story about superstition, censorship, psychics, and earthquakes. Read the rest of this entry
For the third year running, Edinburgh Skeptics will be organising Skeptics On The Fringe. If you somehow haven’t heard of the world’s longest skepticism festival, then allow me to explain. Taking place throughout the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August, Skeptics On The Fringe consists of free lectures and performances from skeptics and scientists for a whole month!
This year will be my second appearance for Skeptics On The Fringe, and I’ll be debuting a never-before-seen talk about creationism. For almost a year I’ve been working with (that’s right, with) some of the world’s biggest creationist organisations in an attempt to collate the strongest arguments possible in support of creationism. We can laugh away so many absurdly hilarious creationist claims as we come across them on blogs and YouTube comments, but what about the big guns? Given one chance to prove their point, what evidence do the world’s most powerful creationist groups cite? I’ve been collating a list.
I’m talking on Thursday the 9th of August. The venue is the Banshee Labyrinth and the show starts at 8:30pm. It’s free, though I do encourage you to make a small donation if possible. The lovely folks at Edinburgh Skeptics volunteer their free time in order to run a month of daily events for us lucky buggers.
You can find out more about Skeptics On The Fringe here.
I’ve been asked to speak about the science of lucid dreaming tomorrow (30/7/2012) at Hackney Skeptics in the Pub. It’s been a very popular talk that’s went down well at Skeptics on the Fringe, Winchester Science Festival, and other Skeptics in the Pub groups including Birmingham, Reading, Nottingham, Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen. If you’re in the area, come along and say hi!
Update: Thanks to everyone who came along! I really enjoyed this one, especially the Q&A. Some really thought-provoking stuff! The audience were great, the venue is brilliant, and the organisers were awesome.
I also got Ned Evett to sign his album, Treehouse. All in all a great night. Cheers!
At the end of the week, Winchester Science Festival is taking place from Friday through to Sunday. I can’t wait to see the talks and performances, and I’m fortunate enough to be taking the stage on Saturday morning at 9am to talk about the actual science behind our understanding of lucid dreaming. Do come along if you can pull yourself away from your own dreams that early! All three days are filled with fantastic speakers. It should be a great weekend.
You can find out more at the website: www.winchesterscifest.org
Or follow on Twitter: @WinSciFest
Update: The first Winchester Science Festival was amazing! Well done to James Thomas for organising the entire event! I saw some incredible talks and performances, I thoroughly enjoyed speaking to an awesome audience, and along with Simon Watt I got an extra set as Lewis Dartnell was unfortunately ill on the day of his talk (it’s all good, he’s fine now). I hope to come along for a second one next year!
On my personal blog I’ve written a short anniversary piece for a conservation tragedy that occurred on this date four years ago. I know many readers arrive here due to an interest in reptiles, so I thought I’d link to it.
Homeopathy bugs me more than most alternative medicines because it’s at one extreme. It’s a “treatment” with no active ingredients. Proponents may claim there are still active ingredients, but any are removed during the process of creating the homeopathic remedies. At the opposite extreme we have TCM (traditional Chinese medicine). What are the ingredients in that? Who knows. One serious problem with TCM is that many of the ingredients that go into these “medicines” remain a mystery, and you have no idea what you are consuming. The other problem is that the nonsense, superstitious, and pseudoscientific thinking behind the “special properties” of the specific ingredients mean we have people killing rhinos for their horns, tigers for their penis (actually many species for their penis), bears for their bile (which is extracted through a permanent hole in a living bear’s abdomen), and all sorts of other charming ingredients with no medicinal value (snake oil, sea horses, turtle’s plastrons etc). While TCM carries the same risks as alternative medicines like homeopathy in that they are an alternative to real medicine (great if you want an alternative to health), they also may contain unknown ingredients that could damage your body, and they can do damage to ecosystems and biodiversity.
So, how exactly do you find find out what’s in TCM? Science!
The family Delphinidae, known commonly as the oceanic dolphins, are a clade of toothed whales (Odontoceti) within the order Cetacea. Most people have a decent understanding of what dolphins are, being smaller than most whales, and entirely carnivorous. Like all Cetacea, the dolphins are marine mammals with terrestrial ancestors. DNA sequence data and fossil evidence indicate that millions of years ago, these ancestors (Artiodactyl – even-toed ungulates) made the transition from a land-dwelling to aquatic lifestyle. The extreme change of environment resulted in selection pressures forming a diverse range of adaptations that allow the Delphinidae and close relatives to survive in the oceans. Some of these adaptations are quite well understood, while others are currently the subject of intense research and debate among scientists. Read the rest of this entry
This video was created by Japanese artist Isao Hashimoto.
Kind of terrifying? Kind of eerily beautiful? A time lapse of every nuclear explosion from 1945-1998. It starts fairly slowly, but picks up at a truly alarming rate.
“Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”
Update: Thanks to everyone who came along, and to the organisers for creating such an enjoyable and unique night! I thoroughly enjoyed the dancing, the drinks, and the company. I hope this “experiment” of mixing science and a ceilidh will happen again.
As we approach the end of British Science and Engineering Week, what better way to celebrate than with an event all about dancing, stovies, and science? This Saturday 17th, the Chaos Ceilidh will be taking place at Elphinstone Hall. The event is from 7pm until 11pm and involves food (included in the ticket price), ceilidh dancing, a quiz with great prizes, and science/comedy sets from the likes of myself and St Andrews lecturer Dr Alun Hughes. Should be a brilliant night!
Tickets are £6 (£4 concession) and booking is recommended. For a ticket, call TechFest on 01224 274348.
Event details here: Chaos Ceilidh
In 1969, Presidential speech writer William Safire wrote the following memo as a suggested speech to be given by President Richard Nixon in the event that the Apollo 11 astronauts became stranded on the moon. I’ve always found this eerily haunting, like a glimpse into an alternate reality. Read the rest of this entry
March is an exciting time! Not only do we have QEDcon in Manchester, but British Science and Engineering Week takes place between the 9th and 18th of March. I’ll be performing/speaking at a few events during this time, including a Science Ceilidh in Aberdeen on the 17th of March.
In conjunction with British Science and Engineering Week, March will also bring us the 2012 Ig Nobel Tour of the UK, visiting Edinburgh on the 16th of March. I’ll be providing a reading alongside other science/comedy types about previous Ig Nobel prize winners, strange and improbable research “that first makes people laugh, and then makes them think”.