It’s that time again! From August 15 to 23, it’s Science Week here in Australia, our yearly celebration of all things scientific. Among the major events are the light pollution survey and “Hello from Earth“, a project where you can send brief Twitter-style messages into outer space, courtesy of NASA. I have to say that, cool though the latter is, some of the press coverage has erroneously claimed that this is something that’s never been done before. I have already signed up for more or less the same thing as part of a promotion for And Another Thing…, Eoin Coifer’s forthcoming sequel to Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. But there are differences, and no doubt the Science Week effort will be a little less tongue in cheek…
While I will be out and about, enjoying the activities on offer, sadly I won’t be performing or speaking at any events this year. I do have a few projects on the boil, though, and I promise to update here more often; I have six unfinished draft articles lying around, all of which are now badly dated! Watch out for something new appearing here before too long…
Despite my lack of Science Week involvement, I am putting in a public appearance this weekend. This year Freeplay, Melbourne’s computer games festival, returns, and tomorrow at the Victorian State Library I will be moderating two of the panels: Games and Screen Culture at 10:30, and The Black Sheep at 3:30. Both aim to offer different perspectives on how games function in the larger and more traditional culture of film and television. Freeplay continues on Saturday, and if you have any interest in computer games beyond just playing them, I encourage you to check it out!
Well, Science Week is officially over, and thanks to all of you who came along to see A Brief History of A Brief History of Time. It was a brief season, and there’s always a chance I’ll bring the show back in future.
While the week may be over (and it’s a decimal week – 10 days long!), though, there are still events to come! Tomorrow night Simon Pampena brings the Maths Olympics back home to Melbourne for the end of his triumphant national tour, 7:30 at Eurotrash Bar in the city. I’ll be there, and I’d advise you not to miss it either!
Oh, and I should also assure all my readers that I weathered Daffodil Day without incident.
Well…almost. I did have a bit of a freak out when I suddenly noticed this…
Last night at the official launch of National Science Week 2008 I was excited to speak to some fascinating people: Dr Luke Hunter, big cat conservationist; Shane Gould, Olympic swimming medallist and expert in new swimming techniques; and the likely lads of the Great Big Science Gig, comedy rock science cabaret artists. (Those boys rock, don’t miss ’em if you can make it to their show.)
But perhaps the two most exciting people I talked to were Simon Pampena, of The Angry Mathematician and the Maths Olympics fame, and Rob Morrison, one of the two presenters of Australia’s best-loved science show, The Curiosity Show. Here’s a photo of the three of us:
Rob has so many fascinating things to say that I hope I can bring you the full interview, but a couple of his ideas really struck home with me. He believes that we don’t have to get children interested in science; rather all children are interested in science, but are turned off it by bad teaching, a lack of exposure, or peer pressure. He pointed to popular media as the prime example: every newspaper has a devoted Sports section, a devoted Arts section, and is full of news on politics; a person’s interests in such things are constantly reinforced, and on television too. But someone interested in science is lucky if their newspaper has a devoted science journalist, let alone a separate science section. Even if there is – and most are weekly, if they exist at all – it’s generally lumped in with and dominated by Technology, which is not the same thing at all. So his role was to be some guy on television saying “hey, it’s cool to be into science, I’m into it too”. Read more
Yes, National Science Week 2008 officially launches tonight at the MCG right here in Melbourne, and of course your intrepid Planet Nerd science reporter and all-round science fan, Ben McKenzie, will be right there in the thick of it. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have some photos and stories to share with you, and in the near future even some video of interviews with the stars of Australian science.
Of course I have a few events of my own during Science Week; here’s a quick reminder:
- – my new comedy science lecture at the Royal Society of Victoria, celebrating the twentieth anniversary of that great unread classic of popular science literature: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. It’s on the last few days of Science Week – Friday, August 22 is a special matinee, free for schools, and there are two evening performances on the 23rd and 24th. The Historic Theatre is a beautiful venue, but not very big, so be sure to book! Details are .
- Not the Nobel Prize – Melbourne Museum’s comedy panel show returns for a third year! See me and three other comedians – Courteney Hocking, Sam Simmons and Charlie Pickering – try and sort fact from fiction in the stories presented by four actual, qualified scientists! This usually sells out, so make sure you book your tickets! Details are here.
Also during Science Week, but not part of it, are a few other projects of mine:
- The Anarchist Guild Social Committee meeting #3 – Melbourne’s newest comedy sensation, a live sketch comedy show at the Bella Union, Trades Hall, on the third Sunday of every month. It features yours truly as a writer and performer, and always fills to capacity. Details here.
- Set List preview season – an all-new improvised music comedy show premiering at Fringe, but you can catch an early preview at The Butterfly Club from August 21 to 24. I’ll be performing in the first show on Thursday, August 21. Details here.
- Impro Sundae – top-notch improvised comedy with The Crew, second and fourth Sunday every month, also at the Bella Union. Details here.
I first heard about Braid last year when I attended Free Play 2007, the independent games expo here in Melbourne, in my capacity as Planet Nerd‘s roving reporter. Braid creator Jonathan Blow was the keynote speaker, though I missed his address and only caught him on an excellent panel about game design. The key thing that piqued my interest was repeated mentions of its “rewind” feature; this isn’t really a new idea – it’s been used in Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, for example – but for it to be included in a game by an independent developer of Blow’s calibre certainly piqued my interest. Having been thinking about recently, I was doubly interested in the game when it was released this week for Xbox LIVE Arcade.
Once you get past the lovely prose and gorgeous painted visuals (by David Hellman of one of my favourite web comics, A Lesson Is Learned But The Damage Is Irreversible) you quickly discover that this game is like an art-rock version of Super Mario Bros. You jump from platform to platform in a series of “Worlds”, jumping on the heads of diminutive enemies (who resemble Grug more than anything else), and trying to collect the pieces of puzzles which illustrate the game’s backstory. Read more