Robert Gooding-Townsend and Nathaniel Barr

Knowledge Integration Seminar

A brief tour of science comedy

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka' but 'That's funny...'" -- Isaac Asimov

This seminar will take that quote, and many other things, entirely out of context. Science is a rich source of ideas that are usually very serious. Using it for comedic inspiration is not only tremendously fun, but a great source of creative new ideas. 

This talk will feature presentations from an IgNobel Prize winner (Nathaniel) and a winner of the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses (Robert). What psychological factors are associated with receptivity to pseudo-profound B.S.? How might alcohol metabolism, if you squint and sweep a lot of things under the rug, explain the evolution of human intelligence?

We will also talk about the process behind our work, including how you can do it too, and where it has taken us. Finally, we will conclude with some lessons for creativity, science, and interdisciplinarity.

Robert Gooding-TownsendRobert Gooding-Townsend graduated from Knowledge Integration in 2015, and is now back at Waterloo working on a master's in Applied Mathematics. His research is in modeling forest population dynamics and interactions within scientific communities. He applied to the Festival of Bad Ad Hoc Hypotheses when he realized that the idea in his head was a terrible theory but a good joke. After his unexpected win, he brought his comedy to lighten up the Canadian Science Policy Conference and regular life as a grad student.

Nathaniel BarrNathaniel Barr is a Professor of Creativity and Creative Thinking at Sheridan College. He earned his BA, MA and PhD, and held a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Waterloo, specializing in cognitive psychology. His papers, including "The brain in your pocket:  Evidence that Smartphones are used to supplant thinking" and "On the Reception and Detection of Pseudo-Profound Bullsh*t" have attracted considerable attention, including the 2016 Ig Nobel Peace Prize for the latter.

Read the article reporting on the seminar in the imprint, Waterloo's student newspaper.

Friday, January 20, 2017
Environment 3 (EV3), room 1408

Knowledge Integration seminar series winter 2017