The Siren Song of Science: Laborastory Melbourne

on Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Back in my university days, I was forced to be a guinea pig in some weird science experiments. It was a prerequisite to passing first year psychology. Although I don't think that they had any seriously deleterious effects, I do still cringe anytime someone says the word "science" within a three metre radius of wherever I'm standing. So it was with a certain degree of healthy scepticism that I ventured out last night to partake in a peculiar scientific endeavour that was not quite lecture, not quite story slam and not quite cocktail evening. Heck, I'm still not quite sure what it was.

To be fair, I was lured out under false pretences. I was told it would be an evening of storytelling. By scientists. Intriguing. I, of course, assumed that meant fictional tales. Nope. Melbourne's very first Laborastory was a gathering of off-the-scale brainiacs who had come together to watch five of their own rattle off sycophantic tributes to their scientific heroes. Just as I look to Kafka, Coetzee and Capek, these people of the petri dish worshipped at the shrines of Alan Turing, Marie Curie, George Papanicolaou, Bud Craig and Evariste Galois. On paper, kind of boring. However, Laborastory was a raging success, in as much as serious scientists can rage or, for that matter, have success without a controlled experiment from which to gauge it. To be fair, I was slightly won over by the halo of glitz brought to the event by the nerd world celebrity status of a couple of the presenters. One young woman had won a Fringe Festival award for reducing a Shakespeare play (I think it was Hamlet) to fifteen freeze frame moments. Then there was the guy who won Letters and Numbers. The queue for autographs was out the door (by which I mean if there was a queue, it wasn't inside*)! As for the storytelling itself, for the most part it was roll-on-the-floor funny. These guys and gals were naturals. Or, perhaps, they have inhaled, imbibed or injected so many weird chemicals that they are actually cracked. Either way, it was a great night.

I'm told the organisers intend Laborastory to become a regular event. The next one is planned for June 3 at The Uptown Jazz Cafe in Brunswick St, Fitzroy. Get there if you can. It will make you see serious scientists in a whole new light. Come to think of it, it is probably the only time you'll ever see them in anything other than cold, stark fluoresent light. You'll also get bragging rights. Some time in the future, you'll be able to say, "I knew them before they won a Nobel".

* Okay, so I was very tempted to get his autograph, but you'll never get me to admit it, let alone commit it to writing


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