In Australia last month for the Interrobang Festival of Questions, I talked on the radio. It was a lot like talking on the radio here, only, as my dad would say, upside down.
What’s “Informal Science Education (ISE)”? That’s when people learn about science somewhere OTHER than school. And we know that people learn a lot MORE in informal science settings when they feel like the material is RELEVANT to them. So we did an exploratory study to see what it looked like when people found relevance in a museum exhibition––what they talked about, how they talked about it, and what the exhibition did to help all that happen. Here’s a little ditty about what we found:
NISE Net Research on How Visitors Find & Discuss Relevance in the Nano Exhibition (co-author with colleagues at Museum of Science Boston, University of Notre Dame)
What else is new? I’m headed to Melbourne in a few weeks, to join some of the weirdest, coolest, nerdiest folks currently thinking about––urm––all sorts of things. We’re called the “Brains Trust” (shoutout to a cleverly dodged copyright infringement), and we’re scientists, writers, artists, comedians, and “all-of-the-abovers” who will be answering the public’s questions and posing even MORE questions about the future of knowledge. It all goes down at INTERROBANG: A Festival of Questions. Many thanks to the Wheeler Centre for Books, Writers, & Ideas for having us.
Stay tuned, Dolphinteers, as I’ll be back soon to tell you about some more projects lurking just beyond the horizon:
REGRET LABS…? A scientific/comedic look into what folks should have learned in science class but maybe didn’t
GHOSTWRITER…? A multi-media piece in which fact meets fiction meet potentially rude visual art
The Project Formerly Known as MOTHER LOVER….? Because the Earth is your Mom and you luuuuuv her.
As of March, I’m officially a Research and Evaluation Associate at the Science Museum of Minnesota. What does that mean? I’m continuing to use science to study how people learn about science (the research part of my job), and to see if the science museum is effectively teaching people science (the evaluation part of my job), only now I design & head studies myself. It’s an honor and a thrill.
Last week I attended the American Alliance of Museums annual conference and presented a poster about the reflective interview techniques used in my research this past year (spoiler: kids know more about themselves than you think; puppets help).
Conference highlight: After his awesome talk on animal empathy, famed primatologist Frans de Waal and I nerded out together about animal intelligence, anthropomorphism, and the problems with psychology and neuroscience. He rubbed his chin and got thinky about my dolphin book, which is the highest compliment you can receive from a researcher. You know his work on “fairness” in monkeys. Or you should:
May 20th, I’ll be in Washington DC as a scholarship recipient at the National Institutes of Health Science Education conference (NIHSciEd2015). May 28th, I’ll be at our very own Walker Arts Center for the first annual arts journalism conference, SUPERSCRIPT, because I keep insisting art and science belong together. (My SciArt column should ramp up again by then.) By the end of the year, I’ll have attended seven science and arts conferences. No rest for the wearious (weary+curious).
See you at a brown bag soon?
Here’s some stuff I was coyly withholding and/or forgot:
The Tangential has a book out and I have a piece in there! They let me write about Minnesota even though I’m not originally from here. In it, I explain the science behind that thing that happens when it’s so cold that you step outside and start swearing like a sailor. “Minnesota Tourette’s” I call it. See if you can find the super weird typo in the title that no one seemed to notice. Fun with print media.
Tomorrow, I’m honored to be part of the acclaimed international reading series Women of Letters alongside some pretty hardcore badasses. We’ll lay ourselves bare at Joe’s Pub in NYC. Come crush with us.
Meanwhile, things at the Science Museum are chugging along nicely. I’m learning about how kids connect to engineering and how grownups connect to nano (and probably learn better from it). Shhh. More when we publish.
And what ever happened to my Sci+Art column at the Walker Art Center’s MNartists.org? It’ll be back in two weeks. I just had to do some science and write about dolphins in secret for a bit.
- Gosh but you people really love hearing about dolphins and dolphin brains. Thanks to you humans and your weird obsession, I’ve gotten to speak all over town (here, here, and here) about dolphins, dolphin brains, and humans’ weird obsession with dolphins and dolphin brains. Next stop: MPR’s “A Beautiful World”. Subject: Consciousness. You see where this is going.
- My short story, “Lawn”, was selected as the winner of Revolver and Thirty Two magazine’s ANTE-UP contest. I’m honored. Check it out here, and in the new paper issue of Thirty Two.
- New posts on chemistry, David Bowie, and the science of hands in my Science+Art column for the Walker Art Center’s MNartist’s blog. Because, you know, it is a beautiful world.
Whether you like science or not, read on. What I’m up to lately has everything to do with getting people to fall in love with science by realizing they loved science all along. (Is that creepy? Happy Halloween!)
Science+Art Column for the Walker Art Center
It’s just what it sounds like. Click here to read about the science and art of dark matter, cuttlefish, convergent evolution, the human brain, and many more wonders of the known (and unknown) universe…
Research & Evaluation for the Science Museum of Minnesota
I’m proud to announce that I now work as a researcher and museum evaluator in the evaluation department of the Science Museum of Minnesota. What does that mean? I get to prototype, run, and assess educational programs, exhibits, and communication techniques on science education projects funded by places like the National Science Foundation, the National Institute for Health, and NASA. I basically do science about science. It’s just one of many dreams come true, friends. And yes, most of my dreams are science-related.
1. Mediander with me
Over two years ago, I was sworn to secrecy as I started writing for a crazysexycool new website, the likes of which the world had never seen.
This month, it finally launched, and the world got to fall in love with…
MEDIANDER DOT COM (com, com, com…)
I’ve linked you to the place where most of my “Culture Maps” live––nine and counting. What makes Mediander different is that the research connects disparate topics: Charlie Chaplin to The Atomic Cafe to books by dictators, Nabokov to synesthesia and lepidopterology, and much! Much! More!
Got off to a good start when researchers at the International Space Station liked my map on the Space Race:
2. That Smithsonian magazine
A childhood dream came true this month when I had an article published in Smithsonian. The piece allowed me to explore science+art at its best, in the form of Guillermo Bert’s 2D-coded traditional indigenous tapestries––one of the coolest artistic concepts I’ve seen in a long time.
3. WRITE FIGHT
The night before my birthday, I sat down at an old, malfunctioning Olivetti typewriter, on the train tracks.
The purpose? To battle it out in Revolver magazine‘s WRITE FIGHT, a single-elimination showdown with some of my favorite writers in town. It was both humbling and harrowing.
Competitors got the first line of the story, ten minutes to think for the first two rounds, no time to think for the last round, AND there were insane, orchestrated distractions at every turn. First round, I wrote as audience members came up and whispered suggestions in my ear. Second round, I had to put the typewriter on the lap of a stranger, who smack-talked me all the while.
Third round, at the center of a dancing mob, I wrote the story behind what improvisors would call the cruelest possible set-up:
“Even as it happened, I realized this was the most hilarious death ever.”
See what happened in the last three paragraphs of this article! [Spoiler alert, I won.] It was one of the most difficult feats of art I’ve ever undertaken, and my comrades in arms are my heroes more than ever. The… End…?
It’s been awhile. Here’s a the haps:
- Last month, Ken Eklund and I got to share Ed Zed Omega with Tribeca Film Institute Interactive, alongside the other incredible Localore producers. I mean wow. The future was then and there, folks.
- I was honored to have a story in the first “Choose Your Own Adventure” Night at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Many thanks to my illustrious comrades Ed Bok Lee, Katie Heaney, John Jodzio, and to Paper Darts for putting it on. Check out the gorgeous map Meghan Murphy at Paper Darts made special for my story:
- In the same vein, I have two story poems up on the “Poetry Trail” as part of Walker Art Center’s series at Silverwood Park. If you can’t make it to the park, you can listen to them here.
- New science pieces up at Mental_Floss, including my “authoritative” breakdown of what makes a platypus a platypus. More in the coming week(s).
- Revolver lit mag just published my short short story, “The Poke,” which is potentially NSFW.
- Last week at Two Chairs Telling, I swapped stories with Linda Gorham about growing up poor and figuring it out as you go.
- Just this morning I was featured on KFAI’s Story City, telling my totally true tale of vodou overseas. (You may want to turn volume down due to some mic trouble at the start, plus my voice was terrible that day. Here’s me sounding way better on KFAI last year, talking women in comedy.)
- Oh, and I have a very specific tumblr now, called Orphaned Panels. I don’t update it much. It’s a slow-motion tumble.
For my first piece on Slate’s sci/tech blog, Future Tense, I asked scientists what they’d like to see change in science this year. Here’s what they told me.
Got your own Scientific Resolutions? Lay ’em on me!
Alright, enough being coy: Here’s a little piece WIRED magazine ran on EdZedOmega, the interactive multimedia documentary on which I am thrilled to be serving as Writer/Producer. The project was the brainchild of Ken Eklund, the man behind the grand internet experiment World Without Oil, and was made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, with help from Twin Cities Public Television and the Association of Independents in Radio.
Ed Zed Omega is designed to run on audience participation, so let’s get to talking, eh? Did you like high school? Hate it? What’s your story?
[UPDATE: 3/28/2013] The project has run its semester-long course, and we learned so much along the way. Here, the Zed Omega teens explain the project from the other side of the curtain: