A passage to parallel worlds

Now that the Melbourne Fringe Festival is over for another year, why not take an overdue look at the 2016 festival? For something different, I put together an interactive art installation called “A passage to parallel worlds”.

Based on a prototype event in bushland at A Centre for Everything, this version was held at the Abbotsford Convent Industrial School (formerly home of Shadow Electric).

After listening to a recorded introduction on walkmans (yes, walkmans – or is it walkmen?), participants followed a choose-your-own-adventure style story of the life of physicist Craig Lemming, as he encounters various concepts of multiple universes. These included parallel realities in higher dimensions, the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics, and identical copies of Earth repeated in an infinite cosmos.

Although the event was held in an out-of-the-way location far from the rest of the Fringe Festival, on AFL Grand Final Day (a mistake in retrospect), it turned out pretty good.

The highlight was being runner-up in the Best Live Art category at the 2016 Melbourne Fringe Awards. Yes, there were only two nominees, but it still counts.

The story was told through a series of stations representing each alternative event in the life of Craig Lemming, suspended from the roof of the Abbotsford Convent’s old Industrial School.
At each station, a text card explained what was happening at that point in the story, and the choices to get to the next point.
Participants each had their own ball of yarn, to thread through each point so their choices were made visible.
Some stations involved a random element, to represent the unpredictability of quantum mechanics.
Each participant worked through the story on their own, creating a web of intersecting and diverging timelines.
It’s important to choose carefully, as the timelines can get quite tangled.
The friendly guide, Dr Craig Lemming himself, helped people through and explained the real physics behind the parallel worlds.
The result was a delicate and strangely beautiful map of the multiverse. It was fascinating to see which were the popular choices and which were the paths least travelled.

(Photography by Image Workshop)

Friendship, fightin’ and Frosty Fruits

It’s been about five years since the publication of Tango 9: Love and War, the Australian comics anthology edited by the triple-threat Bernard Caleo (actor, comics artist, filmmaker).

So I figure it’s probably safe now to finally post online my 4-page story from that issue—”Love and War and Icypoles”, a little tale of a pre-adolescent love triangle.

Looking back on the piece today I’m still quite proud of it, if only because it means my name is finally mentioned on Wikipedia, on the Tango (comics) page.

Anyhow, you can read my full story for free below, and if you want to buy the entire 352-page Tango 9, you can buy it online.




Lost in cat science


I’m breaking out of this here cave, this “astro” cave. No longer to be restricted to the limited world of the internet, I’m heading out on the electromagnetic spectrum, in a way that can only be described as talking on the radio.

Yes, from 8.30 am this Thursday 27 January I’ll be joining the team on Lost in Science, a weekly program of news, discussion and sciencey explanations on 3CR Community Radio 855 AM. But, if you can’t listen to AM radio at 8.30 on Thursday mornings you get a second chance when it’s repeated at 6 pm on Tuesday nights.

And if you miss that, you get a third chance when it’s podcast on the 3CR website. So take up any of these options and listen to me talking about physics and other not-quite-physics topics.

And if you’re reading this because you heard me mention this blog on the show: Hello! You should probably get yourself over to Lost in Science’s new blog, lostinscience.wordpress.com, to read about the following topic:

Bonus gag: Turning over and over like that, that’s what I like to call a “loll cat”.

Stop that pigeon

This morning, walking to work, I saw a pigeon wandering in and out the door of the local Bakers Delight. It was affecting nonchalance, but the young bloke behind the counter was watching it with an untrusting glare.

Pigeons: the natural predators of bread.

Or at least the crumbs.

Science chic

So, there’s this cycle chic movement, which seems to be about hipsters taking ownership of the roads away from M.A.M.I.L.s (middle-aged men in lycra – I got that from someone at work). Apart from that dubious goal, one of its aims is apparently to make cycling more appealing by getting cool people to ride bikes, rather than just saying that bike riders are cool.

This reminded me of the constant effort that’s made to get The Kids interested in science by convincing them that scientists are cool. Which for some reason never seems to work.

Instead, I’m proposing that we take a cue from cycle chic and enlist as science communicators people who are already cool. And I’m talking really cool. Even cooler than Brian from D:Ream.

Our starting point? Björk.

As she so rightly says, the scientifical truth is much better – you shouldn’t let poets lie to you.

Another year, another doomsday

It’s January, so it must be time to check who’s predicted the world is going to end this year. Let’s see… Ah yes, it’s Mr Harold Camping, who assures that the Rapture will take place on 11 May 2011.

He ought to know, as he’s an old hand at this game, having previously predicted it would happen on 6 September 1994. Admittedly, his book was called 1994?, so it was really more of a tentative prediction. But still, points for experience.

1994? by Harold Camping
The answer is no

Despite the fact that their main source material explicitly states “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (see The Bible), nothing stops these would-be KenKen enthusiasts from crunching any numbers they can find to get the result they want. Yes, I’m looking at you, Sir Isaac Newton.

But, you know, maybe they’re onto something. Back in 1992, a Korean group called Mission for the Coming Days predicted the Rapture on 28 October of that year. One of the students in my Honours class was working at a hotel at the time, and she reported that a bunch of these devotees had booked a room and then proceeded to trash it, assuming they wouldn’t need to pick up the bill in the morning. That’s kind of cool.

Sure, the next day’s going to suck, but imagine the sort of party you’d have if you truly believed the world was going to end tomorrow. Even if you wanted to avoid burning all your heavenly bridges, you could still have a pretty good time. And these guys who predict apocalypse after apocalypse must be constantly planning the next shindig. I can see the appeal, and I also wonder if there are people who are hooked on the whole doomsday thing for the social life alone.

Just don’t pick the castration cult, that’s all I have to add.