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Science goes to Splendour in the Grass

20 July 2017
Something’s afoot at Splendour and our science gurus are involved

Headed to Splendour in the Grass this weekend? An unexpected new act has been added to the lineup– science. Just like arts and crafts marquees, science now has a new home at Splendour in the form of its very own tent. 

Visit one of four Sydney Uni academics at the Science Tent along with a bunch of other science hosts talking weird and wonderful topics from zombie outbreaks to the science of music and the role of chemistry in rock ‘n’ roll. Now you’ll return muddy and full of fun facts, for example; did you know Brian May the guitarist from the band Queen has a doctorate degree in astrophysics? Neat huh?

Before the big event we chatted with resident science experts Karl Kruszelnicki and Alice Williamson along with other science buffs Tom Gordon and Kelly Simpson. They spoke about their music preferences (yes, they have street cred) and why you should round out your Splendour experience with some science on the side. 

Dr Karl Kruszelnicki

Dr Karl will host a Q&A session at 12pm on Sunday 23 July from the Science Tent at Splendour in the Grass. Come along and ask weird and wacky questions to get some seriously psychedelic answers in return.

How would you describe your music taste and which acts are you most excited to see while you’re away?

Random noise is just noise and music is structured noise that sounds good to humans. But then cultural differences cut in, and so different cultures like different music. At Splendour, I am looking forward to finding music that I know nothing about - and falling in love with it.

Have you been to Splendour before – what’s your fondest memory if so?

I enjoyed the friendliness of all the folk – and seeing Wil Anderson trying (and partly succeeding) in drinking a slab on stage, live.

Why should someone ditch an act to learn a little bit about science?

At a deep level music and science are the same. At a superficial level, one needs proof, while the other needs feeling. You need both to be a complete and rounded person.

What’s your favourite song to reference science?

A) She blinded me with science

B) Space Oddity

C) Dark side of the Moon

D) Public Service Broadcasting and their album, “Race to Space”.

Best piece of science trivia?

All the gold you will ever touch was made inside an exploding star, as it died.

Dr Alice Williamson

Join Alice as she talks about the chemistry behind sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll at her talk ‘Better living through chemistry’ at the Science Tent at 5pm on Friday 21 July and 11:30am on Saturday 22 July.

How would you describe your music taste and which acts are you most excited to see while you’re away?

I love lots of different types of music and I’m a big fan of FBi Radio’s playlist. In particular, I love indie bands, Northern Soul and good electronic music. For me, the chance to see LCD Soundsystem is definitely what I’m most looking forward to - I thought I’d missed the boat as they played a farewell concert back in 2011. I also love Future Islands and Julia Jacklin and many more bands on the lineup. 

Have you been to Splendour before – what’s your fondest memory if so?

I haven’t been to Splendour before. I’ve been to a fair few camping festivals in the UK but have only been to one day-ers in Australia. I gave a science talk up at The Planting Festival earlier in the year and I hope to bring some science to a few more festivals next year.

Why should someone ditch an act to learn a little bit about science?

There’s so much going on in the Science Tent that everyone should come down and check it out. Even if you love music, there’s bound to be a science shaped gap in your itinerary and there’s also going to be quite a few musical acts in the Science Tent so you can get a double fix. It’s also good to remember that Splendour (or any event) wouldn’t be possible without science - the sound systems, amplifiers, stages, food trucks (everything basically) are all possible because of human understanding of science and technology. 

What’s your favourite song to reference science?

I should probably pick “Better Living Through Chemistry” by Queens of the Stone Age as that’s the title of my talk but it’s probably “Race For The Prize” by The Flaming Lips (although Diana Ross’ “Chain Reaction” is a guilty pleasure for a chemist).

Best piece of science trivia?

In 2010, Sir Andre Geim became the first person to win both a Nobel Prize and an Ignoble prize. The Noble Prize was for his work with graphene, while the Ignoble prize (that he won ten years earlier) was for the magnetic levitation of a live frog.

Tom Gordon

Catch Tom answering hard-hitting questions about the science in music at his talks at 3:30pm on Friday 21 July and 1pm on Sunday 23 July at the Science Tent. 

How would you describe your music taste and which acts are you most excited to see while you’re away?

My music tastes are pretty varied, but I guess that's what everyone says. My formative years were spent listening to Triple J. That might be the best indication. Of course now I annoy my kids with music from "the olden days"!

Have you been to Splendour before – what’s your fondest memory if so?

No, I haven’t been to Splendour but I have been to a couple of music festivals. I remember seeing acts like Soundgarden, Superjesus and Red Hot Chili Peppers (amongst others) at Big Day out and recently I spent the summer holidaying with my family at Woodford Folk festival. That was amazing fun! Good times, good weather, good music, good vibes, good friends.

Why should someone ditch an act to learn a little bit about science?

I wouldn't say 'ditch,' I'd say experience all that Splendour has to offer!

One thing I really like about festivals is those really unexpected discoveries. Each time I go to a festival there's always a new band or group that I discover, just from wondering around or being in the right place at the right time. I hope that the Science Tent will be able to replicate that. There is so much to discover in the world, I hope that my fellow scientists and I can inspire people to think about things from a different angle.

What’s your favourite song to reference science?

At the moment I like a whole lot of the songs from Muse (there's a lot of science in what they sing about, plus they use their instruments in very cool and innovative ways. Matt Bellamy's guitar is essentially a mad scientists experiment!). The track “The 2nd law: Unsustainable” is a favourite. While not everyone’s cup of tea, it's really cool to see a song that quotes directly and accurately one of nature's most fundamental laws. I never would've expected to see a definition that normally turns up in dry physics textbooks to be the lyrics in a rock/dubstep fusion! Coldplay have a really nice song too called "The Scientist." Very cool and mellow.

Best piece of science trivia?
I run science trivia nights so I have a lot if useless trivia! Here is a couple:

1. David Uniapon was a prolific Aboriginal inventor with over 19 provisional patents (He's the person on the $50 note). Amongst some of his inventions were the mechanical shear for sheep shearing, a perpetual motion machine and a helicopter design based on the boomerang.

2. The word android refers to a male robot. A female robot is called a gynoid.

3. Isaac Newton published the very famous Principia Mathematica over 300 years ago that established the foundations of classical mechanics, and it had a maths error in it!

Kelly Simpson

Kelly will be talking zombie outbreaks at her Splendour in the Grass talks. In particular she’ll address how bacterial and viral infections spread throughout society with a novel simulation at the festival. Join her at 1pm on Friday 21 July or 2pm on Saturday 22 July at the one and only Science Tent.

How would you describe your music taste and which acts are you most excited to see while you’re away?

I have quite a broad taste in music (very broad)! I like everything from opera to hip-hop, electronic and whatever is in between, which is one of the reasons I’m so excited about Splendour because it caters to a lot of different music tastes. In particular I’m looking forward to dancing along to Cosmo’s Midnight and doing a bit of a sing-a-long with Meg Mac.

Have you been to Splendour before – what’s your fondest memory if so?

No I haven’t been before so I’m extra excited to be going this year especially with the addition of the Science Tent. 

Why should someone ditch an act to learn a little bit about science?

Being on your feet all day can be exhausting and what better way to recuperate than to let your curiosity run wild with science? There are loads of great topics and everyone is guaranteed to walk away with a new nugget of knowledge which is a pretty valuable thing. 

What’s your favourite song to reference science?

“Scientist” by The Dandy Warhols, it's a lot of fun with a great groove. 

Best piece of science trivia?

Male rats don’t have nipples! More specific to my research – you can catch Salmonella from the environment, not just food! 

Check out the whole Splendour Science Tent lineup here. 

 

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