The Sonic Tour of the Brain
This weekend I held events at The Barbican for their Brain Waves weekender, an intense cornucopia of cultural offerings exploring neuroscience and art at one of London’s biggest and most adventurous cultural institutions. Chuffed? You bet. I created an audio tour exploring the question: what does the brain sound like? You can listen to the Sonic Tour of the Brain on the Guerilla Science website.
My good friends over at The Monitors (whom you should already be following, if you care at all about good music and good writing) asked me to join them for their monthly podcast, theming it around science.
“Sure we could do a science podcast – or you guys could just make dick jokes for an hour, as per usual,” I said. “Let me know.”
I have a new piece in Nature today, this time, weighing in on the government’s plans to deal with ash dieback. Incidentally, Cormier is the French name for the mountain ash tree, also called a rowan. This tree however, will not be affected by the fungus – it’s actually a member of the rose family, I’ve discovered.
The emotional colour of art
My business partner Jen Wong and I are quoted in The Guardian – featured on page five of the G2, a snazzy spot normally inhabited by Charlie Brooker and other purveyors of wit – in a piece by Alok Jha about how “geeks, comedians and academics are putting the fun back into science”. He writes: “The goal of Guerilla Science, say its founders, is to move people using scientific ideas, with the same emotional colour they might get from theatre or art.” Glad he used that bit. Though if I had been him, I would have quoted me saying “I f’ing hate The Big Bang Theory.”
I will be speaking tonight about The Evolution of Music, a topic very close to my heart. Studies have revealed
that music affects the brain like nothing else: it releases a cascade of sumptuous chemicals, stimulates more parts of the brain than any other activity, and makes all our neurons all tingle in synchrony. Join me at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club tonight with the Women’s Institute to explore how music might even be integral to what makes us human in the very first place.
July Is The Maddest Month
Last week I managed a hat trick of mentions in the world’s top science publications – a pretty big accomplishment, considering I’d just wrapped up five days of sleep deprivation and frantic production at the Secret Garden Party. First, quoted in New Scientist‘s feature about the Guerilla Science events at the Secret Garden Party, then I penned a new piece for Nature about exploding termites, and on Friday I published a new blog for The Guardian about the Particle Zoo Safari which I hosted with my side project Guerilla Science – complete with video.
Look ma – street cred! I’ve started writing for the science and tech magazine BBC Focus – my first piece is about the green fluorescent protein, extracted from jellyfish for the first time 50 years ago and which gleaned its researchers the Nobel Prize in 2008. You won’t find my pieces online – they can only be found on the printed pages of the magazine, baby, old school style. Long live bona fide publication.
Man Vs. Winter
I just spent a week in Vermont – where we normally ski in a winter wonderland covered in four feet of fluffy powder. This year, it was 24c, cloudless and sunny, and we went for a nature walk. I simultaneously love and loathe when environmental specialists (like myself) are proven correct in our assertion that climate change will progress more dramatically than anyone ever thought possible.
If a tree falls
I have a new position as a part-time staff writer for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) blogging about deforestation, climate change, mining and other tree-related issues.
I have a new piece in the news section of the world’s most reputed science journal, Nature – this time on a subject of environmental importance: biofuels made from seaweed.
BBC Radio 4
I was interviewed by Quentin Cooper for BBC Radio 4′s programme Material World, which aired today – you can hear me wax somewhat lyrical about Guerilla Science, smell and attraction on their website here.
Guerilla Science hosted our first event at a London art gallery last night – a new habitat for science by stealth. See a roundup of what we created, from an immortality tour to a gender workshop, here.
The Board Room
Burning Man was epic – I won’t bother writing about the transformative experiences I had there. There is no shortage of tales about the life-changing nature of the festival. Rather, I’ll tell you about the art car I was involved with: The Board Room. The only antidote to a heaving mass of 50,000 glittered unicorns riding pink fluffy starfish disco cars? A mobile corporate meeting. Enough fun, hippies – get back to work.
I have made music festivals a cornerstone of every summer for a decade – the first July I spent in England, I went to Glastonbury – but I have never been to Burning Man. Until now. Come find me at the Outer Perimeter Collective, and marvel at the rashes, swellings and blisters I will no doubt suffer as a result of sun poisoning.
Bypassing the Riots
I arrived in New York on August 3, for Guerilla Science antics at Escape2NY, and am now in Toronto – so I haven’t seen any of the London riots myself. But I did see my old neighbourhood splashed on the front page of the New York Times in full broken, burnt glory. Surreal.
I have finally recovered from Glastonbury. Yes, it took this long. But it was worth the extreme fatigue and maddening logistical nightmares to see Guerilla Science grace the pages of the G2, Q Magazine and The Times. Even Getty Images stopped by – see the pics here and here.
I am preparing myself (with both trepidation and complete excitement) for Glastonbury next weekend, where I will host a Decontamination Unit with my side project, Guerilla Science. Full details here. In short: dirty and addled revelers will be cleansed physically, with a shower, or psychologically – by actual psychiatrists – all in the name of science. Unlike anything we (or anyone else) have ever done before. Am forced to wonder what I’m getting myself into – they say it will be a muddy year…
So proud to have been part of the Guerilla Science Dirt Banquet this weekend, in partnership with Bompas & Parr, hosted at the spectacular Crossness Pumping Station. Read my Guardian post here, and check out the full set of images by Mike Massaro here. As the Brits say: chuffed.
A slice of the rainforest
I am staying in Itacare, Brazil, until March 23 enjoying the company of brilliant friends, beautiful beaches, and the last remaining tenth of the primary Atlantic rainforest that remains. It is stunning – I swam in the sea yesterday in the shadow of towering canopies.
“Beglittered Eyes Aglitter”
Nice to see myself described in the New Scientist as I had always wanted: “a bubbly woman decked out in a sharp hat, beglittered eyes aglitter with excitement.” Score.
Battersea Power Station
I used to live near it, and gaze at it weekly in wonder. Now I will get to host an event right inside of it: next weekend Guerilla Science will take part in the Lost Lovers Ball with the Secret Garden Party inside the heart of Battersea Power Station.
Surgery of the soul
I have finished a two week stint performing lobotomies for the Secret Cinema. I could do them in my sleep now.
The Guerilla Science summer season has come to a close with an unprecedented bang. At the Green Man festival Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips – an unparalleled rock star – tweeted a photo of us standing around our giant brain in a wheelbarrow in the middle of a muddy field in Wales. I’ve always been slow to warm to Twitter. I have sharply reconsidered my position. Musings here.
Guerilla Science in The Guardian
It is, at times, what saves me from the despair that can be brought on by environmental journalism.
I’m still amazed it worked. I spent all of Tuesday with Steve Mould, physics presenter, as he built a Reuben’s Tube, just days before he was to perform with it at the Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club. And it went off without a hitch – check out the photos. Amazing.
Guerilla Science – Back For 2010
A sublime staycation
I needed a vacation, and I got one: the great British seaside holiday. Such words conjure images of Mr Gumby sitting on a sorry-looking beach of horridly uncomfortable pebbles, his feet pathetically lapped by slate-grey, frigid water. But you’d be surprised how beautiful, colourful and spectacular this strange, wet little island can be.
Axis of Eco
I have launched an independent environmental news website, www.axisofeco.com. Have a look at the ‘About’ for a sense of the mandate. Almost all of my work will now be published there first, so please consider that my home base from now on.
I will be embarking from London this Friday, December 11, and arriving in Copenhagen on the evening of the 12th, after more than 24 hours of trains, ferries, and reading. The decision to go was fairly last minute.