Tag Archives: Baba Brinkman

Science and the arts: a science rap promotes civil discussion about science and religion; a science movie and a play; and a chemistry article about authenticating a Lawren Harris painting

Canadian-born rapper of science and many other topics, Baba Brinkman sent me an update about his current doings (first mentioned in an Aug. 1, 2014 posting featuring his appearances at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, his Rap Guide to Religion being debuted at the Fringe, and his Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the creation of an animated rap album of his news Rap Guide to Religion), Note: Links have been removed,

Greetings from Edinburgh! In the past two and half weeks I’ve done fifteen performances of The Rap Guide to Religion for a steadily building audience here at the Fringe, and we recently had a whole pile of awesome reviews published, which I will excerpt below, but first a funny story.

Yesterday [August 14, 2014] BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] Sunday Morning TV was in to film my performance. They had a scheme to send a right wing conservative Christian to the show and then film us having an argument afterwards. The man they sent certainly has the credentials. Reverend George Hargreaves is a Pentecostal Minister and former leader of the UK Christian Party, as well as a young earth creationist and strong opponent of abortion and homosexuality. He led the protests that got “Jerry Springer the Opera” shut down in London a few years back, and is on record as saying that religion is not an appropriate subject for comedy. Before he converted to Christianity, the man was also a DJ and producer of pop music for the London gay scene, interesting background.

So after an hour of cracking jokes at religion’s expense, declaring myself an unapologetic atheist, and explaining why evolutionary science gives a perfectly satisfying naturalistic account of where religion comes from, I sat down with Reverend George and was gobsmacked when he started the interview with: “I don’t know if we’re going to have anything to debate about… I LOVED your show!” We talked for half an hour with the cameras rolling and at one point George said “I don’t know what we disagree about,” so I asked him: “Do you think one of your ancestors was a fish?” He declared that statement a fishy story and denied it, and then we found much to disagree about.

I honestly thought I had written a hard-hitting, provocative and controversial show, but it turns out the religious are loving it as much as the nonbelievers – and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I asked Reverend George why he wasn’t offended, even though he’s officially against comedy that targets religion, and he told me it’s because I take the religious worldview seriously, instead of lazily dismissing it as delusional. The key word here is “lazily” rather than “delusional” because I don’t pull punches about religion being a series of delusions, but I don’t think those delusions are pointless. I think they have evolved (culturally and genetically) to solve adaptive problems in the past, and for religious people accustomed to atheists being derisive and dismissive that’s a (semi) validating perspective.

To listen to songs from The Rap Guide to Religion, you need to back my Kickstarter campaign so I can raise the money to produce a proper record. To check out what the critics here in Edinburgh have to say about my take on religion, read on. And if you want to help organize a gig somewhere, just let me know. The show is open for bookings.

On Sunday Morning [August 17, 2014 GMT] my segment with Reverend George will air on BBC One, so we’ll see what a million British people think of the debate.

All the best from the religious fringe,

Baba

Here’s a link to the BBC One Sunday Morning Live show, where hopefully you’ll be able to catch the segment featuring Baba and Reverend George Hargreaves either livestreamed or shortly thereafter.

A science movie and a science play

Onto the science movie and the play: David Bruggeman on his Pasco Phronesis blog writes about two upcoming movie biopics featuring Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking respectively, in an Aug. 8, 2014 posting. Having covered the Turing movie here (at length) in a July 22, 2014 posting here’s the new information about the Hawking movie from David’s Aug, 8, 2014 posting,

Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking are noted British scientists, well recognized for their work and for having faced significant challenges in their lives.  While they were in different fields and productive in different parts of the 20th century (Hawking is still with us), their stories will compete in movieplexes (at least in the U.S.) this November.

The Theory of Everything is scheduled for release on November 7 and focuses on the early career and life of Hawking.  He’s portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, and the film is directed by James Marsh.  Marsh has several documentaries to his credit, including the Oscar-winning Man on Wire.  Theory is the third film project on Hawking since 2004, but the first to get much attention outside of the United Kingdom (this might explain why it won’t debut in the U.K. until New Year’s Day).  It premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival next month [Sept. 2014].

David features some trailers for both movies and additional information.

Interestingly the science play focuses on the friendship between a female UK scientist and her former student, Margaret Thatcher (a UK Prime Minister). From an Aug. 13, 2014 Alice Bell posting on the Guardian science blog network (Note: Links have been removed),

Adam Ganz’s new play – The Chemistry Between Them, to be broadcast on Radio 4 this month – explores one of the most intriguing friendships in the history of science and politics: Margaret Thatcher and Dorothy Hodgkin.

As well as winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her pioneering scientific work on the structures of proteins, Hodgkin was a left-wing peace campaigner who was awarded the Soviet equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Order of Lenin. Hardly Thatcher’s type, you might think. But Hodgkin was Thatcher’s tutor at university, and the relationships between science, politics and women in high office are anything but straightforward.

I spoke to Ganz about his interest in the subject, and started by asking him to tell us more about the play.

… they stayed friends throughout Dorothy’s life. Margaret Thatcher apparently had a photo of Dorothy Hodgkin in Downing Street, and they maintained a kind of warm relationship. The play happens in two timescales – one is a meeting in 1983 in Chequers where Dorothy came to plead with Margaret to take nuclear disarmament more seriously at a time when Cruise missiles and SS20s were being stationed in Europe. In fact I’ve set it – I’m not sure of the exact date – shortly after the Korean airliner was shot down, when the Russians feared Nato were possibly planning a first strike. And that is intercut with the time when Margaret is studying chemistry and looking at her journey; what she learned at Somerville, but especially what she learned from Dorothy.

Here’s a link to the BBC 4 webpage for The Chemistry Between Them. I gather the broadcast will be Weds., Aug. 20, 2014 at 1415 hours GMT.

Chemistry and authentication of a Lawren Harris painting

The final item for this posting concerns Canadian art, chemistry, and the quest to prove the authenticity of a painting. Roberta Staley, editor of Canadian Chemical News (ACCN), has written a concise technical story about David Robertson’s quest to authenticate a painting he purchased some years ago,

Fourteen years ago, David Robertson of Delta, British Columbia was holidaying in Ontario when he stopped at a small antique shop in the community of Bala, two hours north of Toronto in cottage country. An unsigned 1912 oil painting caught his attention. Thinking it evocative of a Group of Seven painting, Robertson paid the asking price of $280 and took it home to hang above his fireplace.

Roberta has very kindly made it available as a PDF: ChemistryNews_Art.Mystery.Group.7. It will also be available online at the Canadian Chemical News website soon. (It’s not in the July/August 2014 issue.)

For anyone who might recognize the topic, I wrote a sprawling five-part series (over 5000 words) on the story starting with part one. Roberta’s piece is 800 words and offers her  account of the tests for both Autumn Harbour and the authentic Harris painting, Hurdy Gurdy. I was able to attend only one of them (Autumn Harbour).

David William Robertson, Autumn Harbour’s owner has recently (I received a notice on Aug. 13, 2014) updated his website with all of the scientific material and points of authentication that he feels prove his case.

Have a very nice weekend!

British Columbia Day (in Canada) kickoff with Baba Brinkman’s Kickstarter campaign and a science rap

This year’s BC (British Columbia) Day is today, Aug. 4, 2014*. In celebration I am posting a number of fun items, all to do with science and none with nanotechnology, although one item does feature ‘nano’ in the title.

First off, BC-born, Baba Brinkman reports back from the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival where he is previewing his new ‘science’ rap,

Greetings from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Today I performed my second Rap Guide to Religion preview at the Gilded Balloon, and this afternoon I launched my Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of an animated rap album by the same name. I already have eight songs written and recorded, and I want to create another 6-8 for the full album, and then commission animators to produce a series of animated shorts to bring the story to life. The campaign will run for precisely 40 days and 40 nights, and I’m excited to see that we’re over $1K already, just 12 hours in!

The Rap Guide to Religion is my latest “peer reviewed rap” album and show, detailing the story of how religion and human evolution coincide. I’m summarizing work from the field of “evolutionary religious studies” in rap form both because I find it fascinating and also because I think an appreciation of how and why religion evolves can help to rebuild some burnt bridges between religious groups and between believers and nonbelievers.

You can stream three of the first eight songs from my site at music.bababrinkman.com, and all eight comprise a short “album preview” EP I put together for the fringe, which will be exclusively available to Kickstarter backers. The opening track “Religion Evolves” offers a pretty good overview of my personal perspective as well as the questions I want to explore with the record. …

Before moving on to the Kickstarter information, here’s what David Bruggeman had to say about the new work and about supporting Baba’s projects in a July 31, 2014 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog,

… You can also listen to two tracks from the album (if you contribute, you will receive downloads of all eight tracks).  My favorite of the two is “Religion Evolves”.

The usual assortment of rewards (copies of the album, t-shirts, custom raps) is available for whatever you’d be willing to contribute.  My past experience with supporting his projects allows me to say that he will deliver.  If you want proof, look for me at 2:53 in his video for “Artificial Selection”

Baba’s Kickstarter campaign titled: The Rap Guide to Religion (Animated Rap Album) has a goal of $20,000,

An animated rap album about the evolutionary origins of religion. It’s time to eff with the ineffable!

Have you ever helped to crowdfund a rap album? How about a rap album that communicates SCIENCE? Or an ANIMATED rap album about the scientific study of RELIGION? Well, that’s what I’m working on right now, with the help of some friends.

Theologians and philosophers have sought the meaning and purpose of life for thousands of years, often finding it in religion. Then Darwin’s theory of evolution turned the world upside down. The supernatural was discarded as the source of answers to the natural world and replaced by the blind force of evolution. And now, with decades of scientific research on hand, we can finally make sense of religion using the tools of evolutionary thinking.

The field is called “Evolutionary Religious Studies” and I’m using my talent and love of rap and science to share this research with a wide audience by recording a rap album on the subject. I’m also teaming up with an amazing group of animators and illustrators led by Dave Anderson from http://bloodsausage.co.uk to create a series of animated shorts (approximately 20 minutes long in total) based on the album, so we can make the songs maximally entertaining and accessible.

There is a nine second sample of an animated music rap from the Rap Guide to Religion Album on the campaign page. Surprisngly, Baba and his colleague have not made the sample available for embedding elsewhere so you’ll have to go there to see it.

* I failed to properly schedule publication (I forgot to change the date) of this post and so it bears an Aug. 1, 2014 publication date. Today is Aug. 15, 2014.

Baba Brinkman’s ‘off the top’ neuroscience improv and other raps

Provided you live in New York City or are visiting at the right time, there’s a free Baba Brinkman and others performance (from the Off The Top: The Neuroscience of Improv Eventbrite registration page),

Off The Top: The Neuroscience of Improv
The Rockefeller University Science Outreach Program
Wednesday, July 23, 2014 from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM (EDT)
New York, NY [emphasis mine]

Here’s a description of the performance and performers (Note: Berlin and Brinkman are a married to each other),

Neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin teams up with science rapper and freestyle fanatic Baba Brinkman to explore the brain basis of spontaneous creativity. Brought to you by the prefrontal cortex, and featuring special guest performers, this is a celebration of the science and stagecraft behind life’s unforgettable moments of unscripted gold.

Held in The Rockefeller University’s iconic Caspary Auditorium, this event will expertly mash up pop culture, hip hop, and neuroscience. Guests will experience an accessible conversation while being entertained by some of NYC’s own hip hop performers.

About the Performers:

Heather Berlin, PhD is an American neuroscientist focusing on brain-behavior relationships affecting the prevention and treatment of psychiatric disorders. She is also interested in the neural basis of consciousness and dynamic unconscious processes.

Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rapper, poet and playwright best known for recordings and performances that combine hip hop music with literature, theatre, and science.

More special guests to be named!

For anyone unfamiliar with Rockefeller University (this list includes me) there’s this from their About The Rockefeller University webpage (Note: A link has been removed),

The Rockefeller University is a world-renowned center for research and graduate education in the biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics. The university’s 75 laboratories conduct both clinical and basic research and study a diverse range of biological and biomedical problems with the mission of improving the understanding of life for the benefit of humanity.

Founded in 1901 by John D. Rockefeller, the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research was the country’s first institution devoted exclusively to biomedical research. The Rockefeller University Hospital was founded in 1910 as the first hospital devoted exclusively to clinical research. In the 1950s, the institute expanded its mission to include graduate education and began training new generations of scientists to become research leaders around the world. In 1965, it was renamed The Rockefeller University.

The university does have a ‘science’ Outreach webpage which features a number of initiatives for summer 2014,

Getting back to Baba Brinkman, he’s quite busy preparing a new show and getting ready to present it and two others* at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival as per his July 11, 2014 announcement,

Theatre making is quite the trial-by-fire! I’ve spent the past ten 18-hour days writing and rehearsing and recording and rewriting the script for The Rap Guide to Religion, which is set to premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival starting July 30th, and I need your help to spread the word! Below you will find links to the three different shows I’m performing in at the Fringe, and I encourage (aka beg) you to click on each one and hit the link to “like” them on facebook. Or, if you know anyone coming to the Fringe, please send them a recommendation.

The Rap Guide to Religion explores the evolutionary origins of religiosity.

The Canterbury Tales Remixed, adapts Chaucer’s Tales for the modern ear and era. 

Off The Top adventures in the neuroscience of creativity and improvisation.

Also, calling all New Yorkers! There will be two preview performances of Rap Guide to Religion next week, July 15/16 [2014], at the East to Edinburgh festival, details here. This will be the first-ever staging of a brand new production, which is still very much a work in progress, so come if you want to catch a glimpse of the process rather than the product.

So to sum this up, there’s one free neuroscience rap show at Rockfeller University and  previews (cheaper tickets) of the new ‘religious rap’.  Then, Brinkman will be taking three shows (Rap Guide to Religion, The Canterbury Tales Remixed, and Off The Top) to Scotland’s  Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

* ‘shows’ removed from sentence to ensure better grammar on July 14, 2014 at 12:25 pm PDT.

Interview with Baba Brinkman on the occasion of his Rap Guide to Evolution performance in Vancouver, November 2013 edition

Baba Brinkman is in the words of his eponymous website’s homepage,

Baba Brinkman is a Canadian rap artist, writer, actor, and tree planter. He is best known for his award-winning hip-hop theatre shows, including The Rap Guide to Evolution and The Canterbury Tales Remixed, which interpret the works of Darwin and Chaucer for a modern audience.

Originally from British Columbia and now living in New York City, he has brought his Rap Guide to Evolution which has been an off-Broadway show, a festival performance, and a DVD project to Vancouver. The last time he performed this show, which morphs as new information is received and as it is adapted for different media and performance types, to Vancouver was in 2011 (my Feb. 17, 2011 posting features a pre-show interview he gave),. This time he’s at Vancouver’s East Cultural Centre, (The Cultch) from Oct. 29, – November 10, 2013 (tickets here).

Baba has very kindly (especially since the show just opened a few days ago) given me a second interview. Without more ado, here’s the interview,

  • Could you describe the full theatrical version of the Rap Guide to Evolution that played in New York? And is this what you’ve brought to Vancouver or has it been adapted either due to cost and/or venue and/or geographic location?

The show running in Vancouver is the full off-Broadway production, which includes music and live turntablism by Jamie Simmonds, visual projections by Wendall Harrington and lighting design by Jason Boyd. All of these production elements were added in 2011 specifically for the New York run, and they create a full immersion experience with lights and sounds and visuals and words all weaving together to tell the story of Darwin’s intellectual impact on the modern world.

  • In Adrian Mack’s Oct. 23, 2013 piece in the Georgia Straight) newspaper, you talked about karma, Vancouverites’ belief in it, and the science of it. How did you come to a scientific understanding of karma and could you explain what you mean by ‘cheater detection’ and ‘evolved deterrents to free-riding behaviour’?

Karma is *often summarized as “what goes around comes around” and for most people it’s a belief that the universe is somehow keeping score, rewarding goodness and punishing badness. The dark side of the widespread belief in karma, in Vancouver and elsewhere, is that it could just as accurately be summarized as “whatever happens to you, good or bad, you deserve it” which doesn’t sit right with most people when they think it through. We constantly see people around us being unjustly rewarded for bad behaviour and punished for good behaviour, and we see a lot of randomness too. Not many of us would tell a pedestrian who was hit by a drunk driver: “that’s karma”, but if you give a homeless person a dollar and later find out that you’ve won a big prize in a raffle draw *you might think it’s karma. Hence, we usually only invoke the concept of karma when we encounter seemingly random events that appear to repay like with like.

The scientific view is that our minds misattribute causality to these kinds of random events, but we do it for a good reason. Humans are social primates, and social groups share the mutual benefits of cooperative efforts, but those benefits are constantly undermined by individuals who claim the rewards without paying the cooperative costs, ie cheaters and free-riders. Evolution will favour free-riding behaviour unless there are mechanisms to punish or suppress it, but punishment itself is costly, so there are a whole series of obstacles to evolving cooperation. One way to overcome these obstacles is with psychological mechanisms for “cheater detection” (seeking and identifying non-cooperators) and “altruistic punishment” (enforcing costs on them through reputation-damage, ostracism, loss of liberty, etc), both of which humans have been experimentally shown to have in spades. We care about who’s a fraud, a thief, and a cheater, and we want to see them pay for it. Denouncing and locking up Bernie Madoff feels good.

Hence, the concept of karma can be redeemed as a social as opposed to metaphysical phenomenon. The reason we feel like the universe adheres to the principle of “what goes around comes around” is because we are evolved to pursue that model through our social interactions, so we project it onto the physical world. The universe doesn’t enforce good behaviour, but your peers certainly do. If you doubt it, try ripping them off and see what happens.

  • I see you were an artist-in-residence at the US National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS) which is located at the University of Tennessee. Could you describe the experience especially in light of the fact that Tennessee is the state where the Scopes trial took place? (The trial is famous for bringing two of the US’s best known lawyers of the 1920s [William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow] to argue whether or not evolution was scientific and should be taught in schools.)

I was expecting the Tennessee residency to be a lot more controversial, but in fact most of it was spent interacting with post-docs and grad students, learning about their research, going to lectures, and going to live music events at local bars. Major evolution vs creationism showdowns reminiscent of Scopes did not feature prominently in my time there, but in retrospect that isn’t surprising since I was a guest of a national scientific research centre and was situated on a university campus. The one exception to this general tranquility was my performance at Union County High School, which generated some controversy, summarized in my “Tennessee Monkey Trials” blog. I thought I was there to fight a culture war, but mostly I just drank local craft beer (and moonshine) and listened to live bluegrass music. *The end result was The Infomatic EP  produced by Jamie Simmonds, who was in Tennessee with me for most of the residency.”*

  • How have you and/or your work changed since you embarked on rapping science?

The biggest change is that I have come to identify as a skeptic, atheist, and philosophical naturalist, whereas before I would have called myself agnostic or spiritual. I was never religious before, but I was sympathetic to the idea of a nebulous spiritual “force” at work in the world. However, the more I read about evolution and psychology and the scientific method, the less seriously I was able to take supernatural or miraculous explanations for anything at all. Now I write rationalist anthems like “Naturalizm” and “Off That“, which are very different in tone than the music I was making six years ago.

  • Where are you off to after this?

My next tour is the Norway Hip-hop Festival in February, and then a big tour of Australia in May/June, including the Sydney Opera House. In the meantime, my wife is pregnant with our first baby, due in late November, so I’m going to spend the winter learning to be a father, which is pretty exciting. Darwin would be proud.

  • Is there anything you’d like to add?

I hope your readers will come to the show, if they are able. It runs until November 10th in Vancouver. Or, if they can’t make it, download the album and bump it in your headphones. Scientific literacy never sounded so good!

Baba, I very much appreciate the interview and the gift of your precious time writing this up just after you’ve opened your show here in Vancouver. As well, congratulations to you and your wife!

Also, thank you for that explanation of karma and science and, especially, for this bit, “The dark side of the widespread belief in karma, in Vancouver and elsewhere, is that it could just as accurately be summarized as “whatever happens to you, good or bad, you deserve it” which doesn’t sit right with most people when they think it through. We constantly see people around us being unjustly rewarded for bad behaviour and punished for good behaviour, and we see a lot of randomness too. …” Many times I’ve lovely well-meaning individuals do damage with advice that includes blame via ‘karma’. Thank you for being much more articulate about it than I’ve been.

As for anyone who likes to see reviews, the only one I could find is from Colin Thomas who in an Oct. 30, 2013 review for the Georgia Straight which was further elucidated in a Nov. 1, 2013 posting on his eponymous blog, had issues not with the performance (“Smart writer. Handsome production. But no. Just no. ” [from the Oct. 30, 2012 review]) but the content and the politics regarding rap and gender, in particular. I gather Thomas found the show thought-provoking.

* Two corrections made: ‘ofter’ to ‘often’ and ‘raffle and you might’ to ‘raffle you might’ in the response to the Karma question and one sentence added to the end of the Tennessee question on Nov.4, 2013.

Hip hop infused science rap theatrical experience travels from off Broadway (New York) to Vancouver (Canada)

Baba Brinkman is now back in town to perform the latest version of his Rap Guide to Evolution at Vancouver’s East Cultural Centre, (The Cultch) from Oct. 29, – November 10, 2013, There’s a special deal from now (Oct. 14, 2013 to midnight Oct. 18, 2013) where The Cultch is offering a 50% discount off tickets for the first five days of performances,

OFFER BEGINS: October 11 at 10 am
OFFER ENDS: October 18 at midnight

Canadian actor and rapper Baba Brinkman returns to his home town of Vancouver, BC to perform his unabridged production of The Rap Guide to Evolution from October 29 to November 10! A smash hit at the Edinburgh Fringe, in New York, and around the world, The Rap Guide is at once provocative, hilarious, intelligent, and scientifically accurate. Get a sneak-peek of the production and find out more here.

The Rap Guide to Evolution has earned Baba accolades from The New York Times and landed him spots on Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC show  and TEDxEast. Don’t miss out on the production everyone is talking about!

SAVE 50% with promo code EVO50 online or by phone through The Cultch Box Office at 604-251-1363. Valid for performances Oct 29-31 and Nov 1, 2. Valid for A+B seating only. Act now – offer expires Oct 18!

PLUS! Join us for Halloween fun! Come dressed up on Oct 29, 30, 31 and you’ll receive candy and the chance to win prizes for best costume!!

When purchasing online simply enter the code into the “Discount Coupon” field at the checkout page. Cannot be combined with any other offer. No cash value. Offer may not be applied on past purchases.

Tickets are priced at $17.14, $29.52 and $38.10, respectively.. As best I can tell, the prices don’t include tax, are the same for both evening and matinee shows, as for the cheap seats I can’t tell if they are available for all performances (I found the online ticketing function a little confusing).

The show does ‘evolve’ so I’m not positive (although I’m pretty sure) this particular piece will be performed. Here it is anyway, just because I find it provocative and because it gives you some idea of his approach and music,,

I’ve mentioned Baba and his Rap Guide to Evolution several times including this Feb. 17, 2011 posting which featured an interview with him prior to a Vancouver performance of his Rap Guide and I then offered a commentary on  that performance in a Feb. 21, 2011 posting. I hope to see what he’s done with the Rap Guide since adding a DJ and redeveloping the piece for theatrical purposes although I have to admit to a certain fondness for the ambience of that 2011 performance at Vancouver’s Railway Club.

ETA Oct. 14, 2013 4 pm PDT: You can find Baba Brinkman’s website here.

Baba Brinkman’s Don’t Sleep With Mean People’ crowdfunding campaign and first two videos from Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science available

I have two music and science-related items, the first concerning Baba Brinkiman, a Canadian rapper who’s been mentioned here many times, and the second concerns Tom McFadden who raps science and creates rapping programs where children rap science.

Brinkman is coming to the end of a crowdfunding campaign, which hasn’t been mentioned here before, Don’t Sleep With Mean People on the RocketHub platform. Baba is trying to raise $15,000 to do this,

The goal of this crowdfunding campaign is to make “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” a globally recognizable meme, a scientifically-informed peace movement driven by one of the most powerful forces nature has ever invented: sexual selection. The slogan already has a theme song, which is part of the off-Broadway theatre production The Rap Guide to Evolution. With the money from this campaign we will produce both a short documentary film and a professional-quality music video (complete with goofy, easily-imitated dance routine) and hire a publicity company to promote the work across multiple media platforms. In the end, we hope “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” will be bigger than Gangnam Style, and a hell of a lot more useful.

The beauty of “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” is that it works on multiple levels. At the deepest level, it has the potential to transform our species by reducing the frequency of “mean genes” in the human gene pool. But even in the short term, once people learn that bad behaviour is a one way ticket to celibacy, the world will very rapidly become a more peaceful and cooperative place.

Currently the slogan “Mean People Suck” bears the weight of the world’s anti-mean sentiments, but unfortunately it isn’t an actionable statement. We aim to replace it with something people can put into daily practice. At present, “Mean People Suck” is mentioned on 196,000 unique websites, while “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” is only mentioned on 5,670. By spreading the slogan on T-Shirts, billboards, bumper stickers, and viral YouTube videos (…), we aim to reverse this trend.

Previously successful applications of “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” include the play Lysistrata by Aristophanes (c. 411 BC), and the Liberian “sex strike activism” of Leymah Gbowee. In both cases the courageous actions of women were the key to punishing bad behaviour in men, and our campaign takes the same approach. Darwin’s theory of evolution predicts the lower-investing sex (usually males) will tend towards fiercer competition for mates, while the higher-investing sex (usually females) will be relatively choosier and will thus wield more “selective” power.

By encouraging everyone – and especially women – to choose less-mean sex partners, we hope to evolve the world into a better place.

As of today, Aug. 19, 2013, there are 11 more days left to the campaign. From the campaign FAQs,

What will you spend the money on?
Film production costs for the music video and short documentary, promotion, and fulfillment of our obligations to deliver the Goods you’ve earned.

What happens if you don’t hit your $15,000 target?
We’ll make a lower-budget short film and music video and promote them without professional help.

Now on to Tom McFadden and his successful crowdfunding campaign Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe’s Battles); which was featured  in my Mar. 28, 2013 posting. Now, David Bruggeman provides an update in his Aug. 16, 2013 posting on the Pasco Phronesis blog,

Tom McFadden’s Brahe’s B.A.T.T.L.E.S. project has dropped two nuggets of video goodness of late, one of which is racing through the interwebs.  A conceptual cousin of the New York City-based Science Genius project, McFadden’s project centers around scientific matters of debate, if not controversy. First one out of the chute involves the matter of Rosalind Franklin and her under-credited role in developing the model of DNA.

Here’s the Rosalind Franklin rap (David has included both this rap and the project’s more recently released rap [Pluto] in his posting),

I love it. I’ve written about Franklin before, both in a Jan. 16, 2012 posting which mentions a proposed movie about her and in a Jan. 28, 2010 posting which features a ‘Rosalind’ scarf’ in the context of science knitting.

You can comment and participate in McFadden’s project on this YouTube channel or on McFadden’s Science with Tom blog.

Baba Brinkman’s hip-hop theatre cycle features Chaucer & a live onstage science peer-review in New York City

I’m happy to see that Baba Brinkman’s IndieGogo crowdfunding campaign was successful (my Jan. 25, 2013 posting), so he can introduce the first hip-hop theatre cycle (Evolutionary Tales) to the world. He will be performing three of his shows, Ingenious Nature, Rap Guide to Evolution, and Canterbury Tales Remixed in repertory off Broadway in New York City on weekends (Fri. – Sun.) starting Friday, May 31, 2013 and then, throughout most of the month of June. Here’s more from Baba’s May 29, 2013 announcement,

Greetings from the Player’s Theatre! We’ve spent the past two days setting up not one but three shows here, preparing for the world’s first-ever hip-hop theatre cycle: Evolutionary Tales.

We launch on Friday with a performance of Ingenious Nature, which was recently nominated for an Off-Broadway Alliance Award in the category of “Best Unique Theatrical Experience” (which we didn’t win, but it was a nice acknowledgement). Use the code “Genious” to get $29 advance tickets.

Then on Saturday we’re taking the “peer-reviewed rap” theme to the next level, with a World Science Festival presentation of the Rap Guide to Evolution featuring Dr. Helen Fisher, Dr. Stuart Firestein, and Dr. Heather Berlin providing a live post-show peer-review talkback. Use the code “Darwin” for discount tickets.

Finally, on Sunday the Canterbury Tales Remixed will have its first off-Broadway performance since early 2012, tracing the evolution of storytelling from Gilgamesh to Slick Rick via Chaucer’s masterpiece. Use the code “Tales” for discount tickets.

We run until June 23rd, Fri/Sat/Sun. …

The Evolutionary Tales website offers a bit more information about each show,

 INGENIOUS NATURE
Evolutionary psychology, sex differences in behavior, and the modern dating scene. Can science serve as a road map to romance? It turns out, ovulation studies make for awkward first-date conversation.
Fridays 8pm, May 31 – June 21
RAP GUIDE TO EVOLUTION
Rap Guide to Evolution interprets Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution for the hip-hop age, exploring the links between bling and peacocks’ tails, gangster rap music and elephant seals, and the species-wide appeal of Afro-centricity.
Saturdays 8pm, June 1 – 22
CANTERBURY TALES REMIXED
Canterbury Tales Remixed brings you a collection of the world’s best-loved stories, supplementing Chaucer’s masterful character-driven Tales with artful re-tellings of the epics of Beowulf and Gilgamesh. The evolution of storytelling!
Sundays 5pm, June 2 – 23
115 Macdougal Street, NYC
Ticket Info (866) 811-4111

This link will take you to the calendar where you select the show(s) you’d like to attend and click through to purchase one or more tickets.

I’m fascinated by the idea of live science peer-review onstage. I imagine that too is a world first, along with the hip-hop theatre cycle. I wish Baba and all his collaborators the best of luck.

Expert panel to assess the state of Canada’s science culture—not exactly whelming

I was very excited when the forthcoming assessment The State of Canada’s Science Culture was announced in early 2012 (or was it late 2011?). At any rate, much has happened since then including what appears to be some political shenanigans. The assessment was originally requested by the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. After many, many months the chair of the panel was announced, Arthur Carty, and mentioned here in my Dec. 19, 2012 posting.

I was somewhat surprised to note (although I didn’t say much about it in December) that the science culture in Canada assessment webpage now included two new government agencies as requestors, Industry Canada and Natural Resources Canada. Where are Environment Canada, Transport Canada, Heritage Canada (we have an exciting science history which is part of our Canadian heritage), Health Canada, and Statistics Canada? For that matter, why not the entire civil service structure, as arguably every single government department has a vested interest in and commitment to science culture in Canada?

It took an extraordinarily long period of time before the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) announced its chair and expert panel and presumably the addition of two random government departments in the request was a factor. One would hope that the CCA’s desire to find the most exciting and diverse group of ‘experts’ would be another factor in the delay.  To be clear my greatest concern is not about the individuals. It is the totality of the panel that concerns me most deeply. Here’s the list from The Expert Panel on the State of Canada’s Science Culture webpage,

The Expert Panel on the State of Canada’s Science Culture is comprised of the following members:

Arthur Carty,  O.C., FRSC, FCAE  (Chair) Executive Director, Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology (Waterloo, ON)

Adam Bly, Founder and Chairman, Seed (New York, NY)

Karen A. Burke, Director, Regulatory Affairs, Drug Safety and Quality Assurance,  Amgen Canada Inc. (Mississauga, ON)

Edna F. Einsiedel, Professor, Department of Communication and Culture,  University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)

Tamara A. Franz-Odendaal, NSERC Chair for Women in Science and Engineering (Atlantic Canada) and Associate Professor of  Biology, Mount Saint Vincent University (Halifax, NS)

Ian Hacking, C.C., FRSC University Professor Emeritus, Philosophy, University of Toronto (Toronto, ON)

Jay Ingram, C.M. Chair, Science Communications Program, Banff Centre; Former Co-Host, Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet” (Calgary, AB)

Sidney Katz, C.M. Professor of Pharmacology and Toxicology,  Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of British Columbia (Vancouver, BC)

Marc LePage, President and CEO, Génome Québec (Montréal, QC)

James Marchbank, Former CEO, Science North (Sudbury, ON)

Timothy I. Meyer, Head, Strategic Planning and Communications, TRIUMF (Vancouver, BC)

Jon Miller, Research Scientist, Center for Political Studies, University of Michigan (Ann Arbor, MI)

Bernard Schiele, Professor of Communications, Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM) and Researcher, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche sur la science et la technologie (CIRST) (Montréal, QC)

Dawn Sutherland, Canada Research Chair in Science Education in Cultural Contexts, University of Winnipeg (Winnipeg, MB)

James Wilsdon, Professor of Science and Democracy, University of Sussex (Brighton, United Kingdom)

Given the CCA’s most recent assessment, Strengthening Canada’s Research Capacity: The Gender Dimension, it’s striking that the number of women on this panel of 15 individuals is four. This suggests that while the CCA is happy to analyze information and advise about gender and science, it is not able to incorporate its own advice when assembling an expert panel, especially one concerning science culture.

There is only one person in the group who has built a business and that’s Adam Bly. Ordinarily I’d be happy to see this inclusion but Bly and/or his company (Seed Media Group) are making an attempt to trademark the term ‘scientific thinking’. (I’ve objected to attempts to trademark parts of commonly used language many, many times in the past.) In addition to that, there’s another activity I questioned in my Feb. 11, 2013 posting about visualizing nanotechnology data.

(For those who are interested in some of the discussion around attempts to trademark phrases that are in common usage, there’s a Feb. 18, 2013 posting by Mike Masnick on Techdirt about a bank which is attempting to trademark the term ‘virtual wallet’.)

It’s a shame the members of the panel did not (or were not encouraged) to write a biography that showed their interest in science culture, however the member imagines it to be. Following the links from the ‘expert panel’ page leads only to information that has been reused countless times and has absolutely no hint of personality or passion. Even a single sentence would have been welcome. Whatever makes these individuals ‘experts on science culture in Canada’ has to be inferred. As it is, this looks like a list of policy and academic wonks with a few media types (Bly and Ingram) and business types (Bly, again, and Burke) thrown in for good measure.

I half jokingly applied to be on the panel in my Dec. 19, 2012 posting so (excluding me) here’s a list of people I’d suggest would make for a more interesting panel,

  • Margaret Atwood (writes speculative/science fiction)
  • Baba Brinkman (rapper, MFA from the University of Victoria, BC, known internationally for his Rap Guide to Evolution, the world’s peer-reviewed science rap)
  • Claire Eamer, founder of the Sci/Why blog about Canadian science writing for kids, science writer located in Yukon
  • Mary Filer (internationally known artist in glass who worked in the Montreal Neuro Centre and was a member of one of the most storied surgical teams in Canadian history)
  • Pascal Lapointe, founder of Agence Science Presse agency and Je vote pour la science project
  • Robert Lepage (theatre director known internationally for his groundbreaking use of technology)
  • Robert J. Sawyer (internationally know Canadian science fiction writer)

Could they not have found one visual or performing artist or writer or culture maker to add to this expert panel? One of them might have added a hint of creativity or imagination to this assessment.  Ironically, the visual and performing arts were included in the CCA’s asssesment The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012 released in Sept. 2012.

As for incorporating other marginalized, be it by race, ethnicity, social class, ability, etc., groups the panel members’ biography pages do not give any hint of whether or not any attempt was made. I hope attempts will be made during the information gathering process and that those attempts will be documented, however briefly, in the forthcoming assessment.

In any event, I’ve been hearing a few whispers about the panel and its doings. Apparently, the first meeting was held recently and predictably (from my Dec. 19, 2012 posting),

Hopefully, the expert panel will have a definition of some kind for “science culture.”

the expert panel discussed a definition for science culture. I hear from another source the panel may even consider science blogging in their assessment. It seems amusing that this possibility was mentioned in hushed tones suggesting there was no certainty science blogging would be included in the assessment since Bly and his company established the Science Blogs network. Of course, there was the ‘Pepsigate’ situation a few years ago. (This Wikipedia essay offers the least heated description I’ve seen of the Science Blogs/Pepsi contretemps.)

I have a prediction about this forthcoming assessment, it will be hugely focused on getting more children to study STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) subjects. I have no formal objection to the notion but it does seem like a huge opportunity lost to focus primarily on children when it’s the parents who so often influence their children’s eventual choices.  Here’s an excerpt from my Jan. 31, 2012 post illustrating my point about children, their parents, and attitudes towards science,

One of the research efforts in the UK is the ASPIRES research project at King’s College London (KCL), which is examining children’s attitudes to science and future careers. Their latest report, Ten Science Facts and Fictions: the case for early education about STEM careers (PDF), is profiled in a Jan. 11, 2012 news item on physorg.com (from the news item),

Professor Archer [Louise Archer, Professor of Sociology of Education at King’s] said: “Children and their parents hold quite complex views of science and scientists and at age 10 or 11 these views are largely positive. The vast majority of children at this age enjoy science at school, have parents who are supportive of them studying science and even undertake science-related activities in their spare time. They associate scientists with important work, such as finding medical cures, and with work that is well paid.

“Nevertheless, less than 17 per cent aspire to a career in science. These positive impressions seem to lead to the perception that science offers only a very limited range of careers, for example doctor, scientist or science teacher. It appears that this positive stereotype is also problematic in that it can lead people to view science as out of reach for many, only for exceptional or clever people, and ‘not for me’.

Professor Archer says the findings indicate that engaging young people in science is not therefore simply a case of making it more interesting or more fun. She said: “There is a disconnect between interest and aspirations. Our research shows that young people’s ambitions are strongly influenced by their social backgrounds – ethnicity, social class and gender – and by family contexts. [emphases mine]

I purposefully used the term STEM as I suspect this expert panel will not have knowledge of the HSE (humanities, social sciences, and education), LS (life sciences), and PCEM (physical sciences, computer science, engineering, and mathematics) categories as defined by the recent assessment “(Strengthening Canada’s Research Capacity: The Gender Dimension; The Expert Panel on Women in University Research.” Those categories were defined as an attempt to reflect the disposition of the major science funding organizations in Canada ((SSHRC [Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council], CIHR [Canadian Institutes of Health Research], and NSERC [Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council]) and, arguably, they are a big—if not the biggest—influence on Canadian science culture.

I do have a question I hope will be answered in the assessment. If we motivate more children to study science type topics, where will the jobs be? David Kent on University Affairs’ The Black Hole blog has written about science trainees and their future for years. In fact, his Feb. 19, 2013 posting is titled, Planning Ahead: How many of you are there and who will pay you?

Interestingly, there was an announcement this morning of another assessment which could be described as related to science culture, from the Feb. 22, 2013 CCA news release,

Doug Owram to Serve as Expert Panel Chair on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution

The Council is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Doug Owram, FRSC, as Chair of the Expert Panel on Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution. Library and Archives Canada has asked the Council to assess how memory institutions, including archives, libraries, museums, and other cultural institutions, can embrace the opportunities and challenges in which Canadians are communicating and working in the digital age.

While the expert panel has yet to be announced, it is comforting to note that Owram is an historian and the link between memory and history seems unimpeachable. Oddly, the page listing ‘in progress assessments’ has the Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution assessment listed as being On Hold (more political shenanigans?). Regardless, you can find out more about the assessment and its questions on the Memory Institutions and the Digital Revolution assessment page.

I wonder what impact, if any, these assessments will have on each other. In the meantime, I have one more prediction, the word innovation will be used with gay abandon throughout the science culture assessment.

Darwin meets Chaucer off Broadway, Baba Brinkman’s latest off Broadway show is looking for impresarios (financially speaking)

Mentioned here several times for his various ventures into hip hop, rap and science (my Nov. 23, 2012 posting  for his Ingenious Nature show in New York City; my May 24, 2011 posting about his Rap Guide to Evolution show at the Prince Charles Cinema in London, England; and my April 25, 2011 posting about the première of his Chaucer/Gilgamesh/Beowulf mashup rap in Vancouver, Canada; amongst many others) Baba Brinkman strikes again.  From Brinkman’s Jan. 24, 2013 newsletter,

Darwin Meets Chaucer Off-Broadway

Crowdfunding An Extension, and A Unique Experiment

Two weeks ago we finished up the initial run of Ingenious Nature, and immediately an offer came up to extend not just that show but all three of my shows, at a better-located theatre right on NYU’s main campus in the heart of Greenwich Village. The producers of Rap Guide to Evolution, Canterbury Tales Remixed, and Ingenious Nature would have to combine forces to make this happen, and they are now ready to partner on the project, but we have to raise the funds first. That’s where you come in.

I’m starting a crowdfunder drive with IndieGogo to get this never-before-tried theatre experiment launched. You can watch the pitch video here. If successful, we’ll run all three productions in rotation for one month off-Broadway, with two performances of The Rap Guide to Evolution and one each of the other two shows every week. And if that month goes well, we can extend this run indefinitely.

Here’s more from Brinkman’s indiegogo project page,

Help produce the first-ever hip-hop theatre cycle in New York!

Baba Brinkman and Jamie Simmonds have co-written (lyrics and music) and performed three critically-acclaimed hip-hop plays off-Broadway over the past two years. This crowdfunding drive will launch a never-before-tried concept, presenting all three plays in rotating rep for a one-month initial run right in the heart of New York’s Greenwich Village, with the possibility of extending indefinitely.

Located amidst the NYU downtown campus, the Player’s Theater offers a rare opportunity to showcase these original and groundbreaking works, each of which transforms a traditionally academic subject into a thrilling entertainment event. The 200-seat Player’s Theater is available for us to rent beginning in March, four shows per week for an initial four weeks, at $1,000 per show. To cover this $16,000 rental cost, plus the overhead for (your!) funder perks and Indiegogo’s 4% fee, we need to raise $20,000.

With turntablism by DJ Jamie Simmonds setting the mood, Baba’s skillful wordplay uniquely interprets the writing of scientists, literary scholars, the classics, and modern psychology, smoothly merging today’s most important ideas and stories with comedy, theatre, and hip-hop: cutting-edge intellectual entertainment at its best!

First and formost, [sic] contribute whatever you can! Even the lowest funding amount gets you an amazing (and hilarious) live album, recorded off-Broadway in January 2013. Above that the perks just get more and more interesting.

Second, please help us to spread the word! Use the share tools and post the YouTube video to your Facebook and Twitter sites. The more this crowdfunding drive goes viral, the more chance we have of sharing these performances with the widest possible audience, including future tours of your area.

At this point (Jan. 25, 2013), they have raised $1,215 and have 31 days left to reach their $US20,000 goal.  Here’s a sampling of incentives, from the project’s indiegogo page,

$10+

Digital Download

Exclusive digital download of Baba Brinkman & Mr. Simmonds brand new live album, Ingenious Nature, delivered in a personal Thank You email.

Estimated delivery date: February 2013

$50+

VIP Tickets & CD

Two tickets to one of the shows (same parameters as above). Includes a signed Baba Brinkman CD of your choice and a digital download of the new album.

Estimated delivery date: March 2013

$2,000+

Full Performance With DJ

…Full performance from Baba and DJ Jamie Simmonds at any venue of your choice (up to one hour in length, subject to both of their availability, travel and other applicable expenses not included). Includes ten tickets to any of the shows and a t-shirt, signed CD, and digital download.

Estimated delivery date: December 2013

Good luck Baba and company!

ScienceOnline2013 conference preview

Before describing the upcoming ScienceOnline2013 conference, I should mention it is fully registered and there’s a waitlist for attendees. Here’s more from the ScienceOnline2013 Conference Info page,

ScienceOnline2013, the seventh annual conference exploring science on the Web, will take place Jan. 30-Feb. 2, 2013.

N.C. [North Carolina] State University will once again be our hosts, letting us use the spacious McKimmon Conference Center for our event.

Registration spaces are now full. Yes, we know that there are more people who want to come than we have room for. But the reason that we keep the size limited (450 people) [emphasis mine] is so that the conversation, camaraderie, and collaborations are maximized. We have some other ideas brewing for how more of you can benefit from the programming. Stay tuned.

The cost to registration [sic] for ScienceOnline2013 is $200 (NOTE: the actual cost to cover all the conference expenses is much more than your registration and we rely on our generous sponsors and supporters to make the conference affordable for you! You can help by connecting the organizers to potential sponsors, donors, and corporate partners). Registration includes the conference venue, all regular sessions (Wednesday workshops are extra), many of your meals, and more! We will have breakfast on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Lunch is provided on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and evening food is covered for Thursday at a special yet-to-be announced event. We are still planning the details of the Wednesday night opening, but we will surely have adult beverages and hors d’oeuvres. You will be covering your own costs for dinner on Friday. And of course, coffee, other beverages, and snacks will be available throughout the three days.

As to why you might want to place yourself on the waitlist,

 Thursday, January 31

9:00am CONVERGE: Social Media is Out of This World; CONVERGE: Welcome & instructions for the day

10:00am Break (snacks in Figshare Café) 10:30am

Alternative Careers ARE the Mainstream!

Taking Your Degree to a New Level

Impressions Matter: Embracing art & design in research and science communication

Leading scientists towards openness

Narrative: What is it? How science writers use it?

Never Tell Me the Odds! (Part Deux, Asteroid Field Edition)

Science and medical blogging at institutions: How to avoid being that kind of corporate blog

Why should scientists ‘do’ outreach? (part I)

11:30am

Break (snacks in Figshare Café)

12:00pm

Changing The Public Face of Science

Helping Scientists ‘Do’ Outreach (part II)

Inject some STEAM below the STEM – get in at the roots!

Open access or vanity press?

Public Statistics

Scientific Storytelling: Using Personal Narrative to Communicate Science

Summing it Up: The Data on the Cutting Room Floor

1:00pm Lunch: Neomonde

2:30pm

#Hashtags in the Academy: Engaging Students with Social Media

Broadening the Participation of Diverse Populations in Online Science

Hands-on math

Into the Unknown: What we don’t know, and how to talk about it

Science Art as Science Outreach

The Impact of Electronic and Open Notebooks on Science

Why Won’t the Science Deficit Model Die?

3:30pm Break (snacks in Figshare Café)

4:00pm

Accessibility for All Audiences

Blogging for the long haul

Lightwaves and Brainbows: Seductive Visual Metaphors at the Intersection of Science, Language and Art

Open Session

Science online and rethinking peer review

Tackling science denialism with a systematic game plan

“They said what?!”: Fighting bullshit in the scicomm ecosystem

7:00pm

Evening Social Event

I gather CONVERGE is the new word for Keynote and as it turns out, the speaker for the Friday, Feb. 1, 2013 9 am CONVERGE session is Baba Brinkman, a Canadian-born rapper, who has toured extensively with his Rap Guide to Evolution (the world’s only peer-reviewed science rap) and mounted it as one of his off Broadway shows in New York City. Brinkman also raps about some of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Gilgamesh, and dating, not necessarily together, in various shows he has mounted. There’s more in my Nov. 23, 2012 posting about his then opening Ingenious Nature show, a rap performance about dating and evolutionary psychology.