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Strange in a good way . . .

Yes, this is candy. . . . perhaps the best of ways. Our experience in Japan continues to both surprise and delight. from the enormous and eclectic array of candy flavours (could Japan have been the inspiration for Bertie Bott's 'Every Flavor Beans'?) to the immaculately kept taxis with their wonderful range of light fittings and of course the people. There is a new surprise around every corner and in every sentence. 

Today we rehearsed the whole performance several times, ironing out the kinks, re-thinking the story and honing the technical procedures. There is something immensely satisfying about meeting a challenge creatively and as a group. This can of course mean hard work, but hard work feels great when you share a goal, when creative solutions come from all directions and when the mood is energised and supportive. It also helps when there is a constant supply of soft drinks and chocolate and cake, and an hilarious blue wig, mainly worn by a tall Australian man playing a Japanese woman. There will be photos - stay tuned.

The Science Agora was officially opened tonight. We have one rehearsal on the stage tomorrow morning and then we're on. A live show developed from scratch with 12 strangers from 2 different countries for one show only. If you happen to be in Tokyo tomorrow, it might be worth coming down to see if we pull it off.

Tokyo Time

We finally have a narrative!I am currently in Toyko at the Japan-Australia Science Perfomers Exchange. To cut a long story short, about a dozen of us (half from Japan and half from Australia) are spending just over a week exchanging ideas about science performance and communication and developing a new show to be performed once only at Miriakan's Science Agora. It is also expected that there will be significant cultural exchange and interface. This has been one of the best parts of the program and less officially, the people involved are fabulous.

There is a significant language barrier to overcome, but we have many helpers and a hard-working interpretter, and it's amazing what one can communicate by wild gesticulation, mime and faux Pictionary. From both Japanese and Australian performers, there are still occasional moments of repeating the same word over and over at a blank face and of 2 people desperately nodding their heads in the mistaken hope that this will somehow make them understand each other. Thankfully these moments are becoming rarer.

It is quite exhilarating seeing different minds linking concepts, discovering scenes and growing characters. I always like working with other creative people, but there is a heightenned awareness of the process in this case. You have to ride  through the frustration of waiting for a translator before letting your latest brilliant idea burst out of you, and I am not the only one who has literally been shaking with excitement, like a child on Christmas morning.

It's also nice to meet other people involved science performance, this strange subset of science communication (itself a pretty odd occupation). It makes you a feel a bit less weird. Now I'm off to try some apple vinegar flavoured chocolate.

RIAus has arrived

The science communication scene in Australia is a pretty active and well-connected place. There are loads of talented people and lots of groups and organisations doing great work. Well now there's one more. RIAus (Royal Institution, Australia) has been officially launched in Adelaide. The launch ran across 4 days and included presentations by neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield, palaeontologist Natalie Schroeder, and Dr Rob and Julia Cleghorn from Scope. There were Daleks, The Bouncers and Le Benz. There was great live music from Great Big Science Gig and families were kept rocking with Rock Chick and Science Geek. The realy good news is that RIAus has big plans for the future, all over Australia, so I'm looking forward to more great science inspiration, excitement and conversation.

Sasquatch Watch

There are some people who really, really want Sasquatch to be real. I suspect they’re not even that fussy –Image by Modulate Sasquatch would be great, but Big Foot, Yeti, Yowie, Yeren, Barmanou, Orang Mawas or Tjutjuna would be fine. Unfortunately there is no credible scientific evidence that any of these creatures exists, although there is fossil evidence for giant primates many thousands of years ago in what is now China, India and Vietnam. Assigned to the genus Gigantopithecus, these primates would have weighed half a tonne and stood up to 3 metres tall (if they stood upright at all, which is in dispute). Anyway, those determined to uncover new evidence might find some hope in recent research reported in the Journal of BiogeographyMore . . .

Floating Mice

In what has to make one’s inner sci-fi nerd stir excitedly, NASA has announced research that involved making mice levitate. In the past researchers in several countries managed to levitate insects, small lumps of solid matter and globs of liquid in ultrasonic fields, but Yuanming Liu and his team at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory used a strong magnetic field.

Under normal conditions we don’t notice any effects of magnets on living tissues.  Of course that doesn’t mean that there are no effects.

More . . .