Category Archives: Conventions

We Did Mad Lib Abstracts for Science

As part of our fundraising to hold a DIY Science Zone at GeekGirlCon, we promised to perform acts of whimsy as we hit funding milestones. We’ve passed $3,000, which is amazing and means we’re halfway to our goal. (Feel free to donate money at this link to help us reach it, by the way!)

It also means that we’re starting to perform our Acts of Whimsy. We’d passed $2,000 by Friday, so as promised, we played Mad Libs for science. Twice! We chose to mutilate one of my old abstracts and Torrey Stenmark’s thesis. Nicole “Noisy Astronomer” Gugliucci gathered us all into a Google+ hangout last Friday and we were off to the races.

The event veered quickly in a non-work-safe direction, as you can tell from what happened to my abstract.

We report on the observation of a highly degenerate, strongly smarmy Fermi gas of chairs. Fermionic lithium-6 atoms in a kind trap are evaporatively escaped to degeneracy using a taxidermy to induce strong, resonant pony. Upon lovingly releasing the hair from the trap, the gas is observed to run rapidly in the blue direction while remaining nearly big-assed in the axial direction. We interpret the expansion bronies in terms of tart superfluid and collisional tarts. For the data taken at the longest evaporation penises, we find that wooly hydrodynamics does not provide a smelly explanation, whereas vagina is plausible.

Vagina is plausible indeed. What about Torrey’s? It involved dudebros, palladium-catalyzed douche balloon reactions, and oxygen-containing Corgi. Watch the video for more, or grab the PDF of the results.

Since we’ve broken $3,000 since Friday, we’ll do another Mad Lib abstract. If you want to join in the fun later this week follow @NoisyAstronomer for the details. It also means that I have to re-write Prometheus for sock puppets. On the plus side, Dr. Rubidium has to listen to Nickelback, so there’s a silver lining to the socks.

To sum up: Sockmetheus! Dr. Rubidium suffers through Nickelback! Another chance for someone’s abstract to remain big-assed in the axial direction! Best of all, we’re going to get to spread the joy of science to GeekGirlCon attendees. We’re halfway to our fundraising goal. Care to help us reach it?

Help Us Hold a DIY Science Zone at GeekGirlCon and Make Me Fix Prometheus

DIY Science ZoneOne of the things I love to do is to help people discover how awesome science is. One of the best ways, hands down, is hands on: give people the opportunity to commit science themselves. GeekGirlCon agrees, because they’re letting a team of us hold an all-day-long DIY science zone!

Why am I excited about this? Let me count the ways.

We’re offering a range of science activities. We’re extracting DNA and building neurons. We’re offering genetic taste tests and showing you how to find latent fingerprints. The experiments are for a range of ages and cover a bunch of different areas of science. C’mon, who wouldn’t want to make fossils out of coffee grounds, especially in the heart of Starbucks country?

We’re offering them to an under-served group. Despite the great strides made in the last decades, too many people still view science as being for males. GeekGirlCon celebrates women in geek culture, and that includes the sciences. Here’s our chance to help bust the stereotype of science as being a “guy thing”. Any time I can kick against that stereotype, I will.

The attendees will get to see real-live scientists who aren’t lab-coated stereotypes. I tend to forget that most people don’t know scientists personally or ever meet them. Is it any wonder that, when asked to draw a scientist, many kids draw an older white dude with Doc Brown hair? It’s pervasive enough that characters on The Big Bang Theory were going to be in lab coats before the showrunners met actual science graduate students and realized that t-shirts and jeans were more common. One way to combat that stereotype is to let people meet actual scientists.

Our team is diverse. We’ve got younger and older scientists. Most of our team is female; many are not Caucasian. I want people to realize that science is open to anyone. If we had a team that was all older white guys, then the subtext is, “Science really is just for white dudes with Doc Brown hair.”

We can make Dr. Rubidium suffer by making her listen to Nickelback.

See, to make the DIY Science Zone happen, we’re raising $5,000 to $6,000 for supplies, banners, lodging, and airfare. We’ve all signed up to perform different Acts of Whimsy as we raise more money. Our fearless leader has agreed that, for every $500 we raise, she’ll listen to a different Nickelback album live on a G+ Hangout. And she haaaaaaaates Nickelback. She’s even got a “No Nickelback” sign posted on her lab door.

Dr. Rubidium hates NickelbackBut! She’s trying to weasel out of it! People are now marking their donations as being either pro-Nickelback or anti-Nickelback! Because so many people have marked their donations as anti-Nickelback, she’s not going to have to listen to “Curb”!

This cannot stand. Help the pro-Nickelback forces by donating to our cause. Plus there are a lot of other Acts of Whimsey that’ll happen. Live G+ Hangouts where we take our paper abstracts and make Mad Libs out of them. Seelix’s cat dressed up as Avengers! Heaven help me, I promised that, at $3,000, I’d fix the science and logic errors in Prometheus and re-enact the movie.

With sock puppets.

But if Dr. Rubidium has to listen to multiple Nickelback albums, it’ll all be worth it.

Please. Donate money to make the DIY Science Zone happen. For science. For education.

For Nickelback.

My Dragon Con 2013 Schedule

It’s that time of year again, when I go to Dragon Con and talk science and space and so on and so forth. Do you dare to stalk the wily Granade?

The Dragon Con Late Show. Every morning at 9:00 AM, Hyatt Centennial I-III.
Every morning at 9 I and my co-hosts Brian and Ally will go through the latest news, schedule changes, and what’s hot for the day. And this year: guests! We’re growing up into a real morning chat show.

Your Lying Eyes. Friday, 7:00 PM, Hilton 202.
You think in high resolution, but you don’t see in it. Discover how optical illusions show how much of your sight is really in your mind.

This is a fun one. I show a lot of nifty visual illusions and you get to learn how much your brain lies to you about what you’re really seeing.

DOOM! Evil Geniuses for a Better Tomorrow. Saturday, 2:30 PM, Hilton Crystal Ballroom.
Homebrew nuclear reactors! Liquid nitrogen kitchen recipes! Plus a new Evil Plan will be revealed!

This year we’re taking evil plans from the audience, auditioning for new minions (since the old ones have a bad habit of catching fire), and in general having some fun with science.

What The Cast – Live! Sunday, 10:00 AM, Hilton 203.
We’re doing a live taping of our long-running WhatTheCast podcast. Bring your finest convention stories to amaze and amuse us.

Disasterpiece Theatre Sunday, 11:30 AM, Hilton 203.
Sometimes you gotta kick around ideas to formulate Hollywood movie pitches.

Alex, Brooke, Matt and I will propose the finest movie pitches ever, for certain values of “finest” meaning “most horribly terriblest”, and yes “terriblest” is so a word shut up. We’re planning on a secret guest, and rumor has it we may be pitching a movie based on Welcome to Night Vale.

You Can’t Get There From Here. Sunday, 2:30 PM, Hilton 309-310.
Jump in that rocketship and fly directly wherever you want… never mind about orbital trajectories, velocities, and gravity wells.

I managed to schedule myself for three nearly back-to-back events on Sunday, so it should be fun seeing just how fried I am by this panel. But it’s going to be fun — I’m going to turn everyone into rocket scientists in 55 minutes with only three equations and one graph.

Phew, that seems like enough for one convention.

I’m Forcing Science and Podcasting on Baltimore for Balticon 2013

I’m headed up to Balticon 47 this weekend to talk about science and podcasting and more science and more podcasting. How can you resist?

You cannot, that’s how. Or not how. Or — look, just come see me make a fool of myself at any of these fine panels:

Your Lying Eyes. Saturday, 5:00 PM, Salon A.
You think you see in high resolution, but you don’t: your eyes & brain fill in a lot of gaps. Find out how visual illusions teach us how we see. A talk on how our visual system really works and how visual illusions let researchers learn more about how we see what we see.

I love this talk, as it’s an excuse for me to wave my hands furiously about the brain and show cool visual illusions.

Disasterpiece After Dark. Saturday, 9:00 PM, Derby

Normally we keep our live podcast shows at about a PG or PG-13. This is where we indulge in pitching terrible movies that are for the over-18 set.

Disasterpiece Theatre. Sunday, 12:00 noon, Derby
Disasterpiece Theatre is an exercise in true Hollywood movie magic. Each week, we take a theme and try to come up with the movies the industry would be most likely to make. The magic happens when we create something dark and terrible; a hideous and inexorable vision of the cinematic future, and you know true despair.

The live version of our movie podcast is always fun. Come tell us what terrible movies you’d like to see us suggest, and then see what we come up with!

Talk To Me: How To Conduct Podcast Interviews. Sunday, 1:00 PM, Chesapeake.
The do’s, don’t’s, and how-to’s of conducting a podcast interview. What technologies are available to let you interview people from across the globe?

I have strong opinions about how to do interviews. Will my other panelists agree? Do I care if they do or don’t? Who knows!

Live Interview with James Gates Jr. Sunday, 3:00 PM, Salon A.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen Dr. Gates talking on NOVA about string theory, supersymmetry, and unification theories. As a former experimentalist, I’m way out of my depth on this one, so there’s no telling what I’ll ask.

Dramatic Voice Acting. Sunday, 6:00 PM, Derby.
The popular Dynamic Voice Acting panel returns to talk about how to best show off your vocal talents.

My first podcast voice acting credit was this year, so clearly I’m an expert. Also this is my fourth panel in six hours. What was I thinking?

Multi-Creatives. Monday, 12:00 PM, Chesapeake.
The demands of multiple artistic pursuits. Learning to do it all without losing your mind.

I was on this last year, and my advice this year is the same: you will lose your mind. Embrace it. Recognize that you can’t do everything, but then ignore that realization and try to do it all anyway.

My 2012 Balticon Schedule

Hi! How’ve you been?

It’s been a busy couple of months. I keep meaning to write, honest.

Look, it’s not you, it’s me.

Oh, never mind. Here’s where I’ll be speaking at the Balticon convention this year. If you’re in Baltimore, or near Baltimore, or anywhere on the east coast, swing by!

Multi-Creatives. Saturday, 12:00 noon, Derby.
The demands of multiple artistic pursuits, Learning to do it all without losing your mind.

I’m really only on this one to say, “YOU FOOLS! YOU CANNOT DO IT ALL WITHOUT LOSING YOUR MIND!”

A Conversation with Physicist Bill Phillips. Saturday, 5:00 pm, Garden Room.
Interviewers John Ashmead and Stephen Granade speak with Science Guest of Honor Bill Phillips.

I am going to do my best not to go all fanboy over a man who’s a Nobel Prize winner for work that led directly to my PhD thesis. Come see if I succeed!

Comedy Improv. Saturday, 6:00 pm, Chesapeake.
Watch the nimblest minds of new media compete for glory (because we have no trophy) as they try their hardest to make you laugh.

I have no idea what this panel is really about, but I assume I’ll do my usual thing: turn off my filters, let my brain start spinning freely, and then say whatever random thing I think is funny. If this requires actual improv acting, all the better.

CUT! Perfect! Print it! Saturday, 8:00 pm, Parlor 3041.
For the last ten years, Dragon*ConTV has been filming short comedy skits to entertain SF convention-goers. One of its principals talks about teaching himself filmmaking over a decade, what he learned from his mistakes, the tricks he wishes he’d known at the start, and the challenges of zero-budget filming.

I started out knowing nothing, and now I know more than nothing. In just 50 minutes I’ll teach you how to make videos the ED WOOD WAY!

Disasterpiece Theatre Live. Sunday, 1:00 pm, Chesapeake.
Balticon The Movie. This week, Alex and Stephen tackle the country’s oldest science-fiction and fantasy convention in an effort to turn it into a Hollywood blockbuster. Bring your best pitches and let our producers give you notes!

We’ve not had a chance to record a live Disasterpiece Theatre episode, so this should be fun and possibly train-wrecky. Either way, everyone wins!

Science of the Whedonuniverse. Sunday, 10:00 pm, Salon A.

This is a solo version of the panel I was part of at Dragon*Con back in 2010. I’ll talk brain scanning, personality transfers, terraforming, and more.

Whew. That seems like enough stuff for one convention.

Talking Science at Balticon 2012

This year I decided to focus more on science outreach, especially giving science talks to general audiences. As part of that, I’ll be attending Balticon, the long-standing SFF convention in Baltimore. I’m especially excited because I’m getting to interview Bill Phillips. In 1997 Dr. Phillips won the Nobel Prize in Physics for his work on using lasers to cool and trap neutral atoms. That work was fundamental to my thesis research that led to my paper in Science. Without Dr. Phillips’s work, my professional life wouldn’t be what it is today.

So, yeah, I’m excited.

I’ll also be talking about podcasting and filmmaking along with science. If you’re going to be in Baltimore on Memorial Day weekend, stop by and say hi.

The Only Talk Combining Exoplanet Hunting and My Little Ponies You Will Need Today

At last it can be seen: my hour-long talk about how astronomers find planets outside our solar system, complete with a Goatse joke and pedagogical My Little Ponies.

I gave this talk for the second time at Geek Media Expo in Nashville. I had good panel attendance even though I was talking at 9 AM on Saturday, and the talk went really well, which is nice since I was taping it for posterity. You always hope that footage of you that ends up on YouTube doesn’t make you look silly.

Well, there goes that hope.

If you want to follow along with the presentation at home, feel free to download the PowerPoint presentation and even my script.

Eli, Liza and their cousins

From Kansas City to Geek Media Expo Vol. 3

We’ve been going from pillar to post the last few weeks. The bulk of our time was taken up preparing for and then taking a trip to Kansas City to see my brother and his family. Eli and Liza were very excited to see their cousins. The four of them immediately formed a band and posed for their first album cover.

Eli, Liza and their cousins

This is, of course, not how they normally behaved. This is how they normally behaved.

Eli, Liza and their cousins mug for the camera

You will be surprised to discover that Granade kids can be hams, I’m sure. We also got to hear a great concert of Virgil Thomson’s music. Thomson was a composer and music critic from Kansas City. The concert, which took place in the beautiful Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, was part of a planned PBS special. My brother the musicologist was one of the hosts, which meant he got to go up on stage and educate us about Thomson while also being funny.

Before the concert we went to Oklahoma Joe’s, a barbeque restaurant in a gas station. I didn’t include “housed in a gas station” in my rundown of how to choose a barbeque restaurant, but I should have: two of the best barbeque places I’ve eaten at were in gas stations. We dressed up for our night on the town, went to Oklahoma Joe’s, and then went to the concert smelling faintly of meat and awesome.

When we came back I headed to Geek Media Expo, where I did my usual guest schtick of talking about science, My Little Pony, and more science. Crispy and I taped our 100th episode of WhatTheCast there, complete with new theme music and several defunct Zunes to mark Microsoft’s ignominious withdrawal from the world of mp3 players, and the two of us provided sports commentary for the Race of the Tauntauns, in which our racers leapt around a ballroom in ThinkGeek tauntaun sleeping bags. This was highly entertaining, especially in the final race which involved two tauntaun racers checking each other, shoving each other into the ballroom’s pillars, and trying to step on the other racer’s tauntaun’s tail. I also did an unusual thing for me: I wore a costume for part of the convention. If I can find a picture of me being Jamie Hyneman, I’ll post it here. In the meantime, please enjoy this picture of me in my Super Saiyan form that Thomas Kerns took.

Stephen as a Super Saiyan

I’ve got video of my exoplanet talk which I’ll be posting later as well as the 100th episode of WhatTheCast. With luck, you’ll also get to see me wearing a beret and a scowl.