For the past year and some change, it was my honor to work with the BMGF Discovery Center and South Seattle Emerald to develop an exhibition about the COVID-19 pandemic during the COVID-19 pandemic. If that sounds surreal and incredibly challenging––emotionally, professionally, scientifically, the whole bit––it was! But if it weren’t hard, how would we know it was a COVID exhibition?
Even as the pandemic marches on, I feel proud of where this project landed, and if you’re in Seattle, you should check it out. Huge thanks to the BMGF Discovery Center team for trusting me with this work, for the beautiful oral history project that started it all, and for their expertise, empathy, and willingness to embrace the many moving parts of this deeply complex undertaking. Community is the key to survival, after all. More photos and reflections here.
One more dispatch from my adventures with Melbourne’s Wheeler Centre & their Interrobang Festival of Questions. Click the below links for some primo procrastination-aiding video content!
A discussion of ocean vs. space travel & the public’s expectations of science*, among molecular biologist/science communicator Upulie Divisekera, sci-fi author & BoingBoing editor Cory Doctorow, & some “comedy science” lady (me)
And What Future Do We Want and Deserve? With radical chef Adam Liaw, futurist Kristin Alford, author/editor Cory Doctorow, & that “comedy science” lady again, moderated by Wheeler Centre Director Michael Williams
*Stay tuned for the above-referenced COMPETITIVE Q&A, plus my speech on what science & art tell us about the importance of words vs. actions.
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.
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…?
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!
Somehow, I ended up in a situation where I am to compete for the title
ULTIMATE MASTER OF WORDS
against some of the greatest writers and thinkers and talkers in town.
As a poet once said: I intend to something something or die trying.
So this is a website. Of my very own. It’s cold in here. Someone open a window.