Tag Archives: Manchester Science Fesitval

Wikipedia Editing Day #msf13

29 Oct

Wikipedia-logoWhen I think of Wikipedia I think of my go to place for information. Sure, if I want in depth data on cell biology matters I’ll go to a journal, but if I want to know what years Elizabeth I reigned or who Vanilla Ice is, I go to Wikipedia.

What I don’t ever think about doing is editing Wikipedia. Why would I? Wikipedia is just a place I go to find stuff out.  But on Friday I got chatting to one of the organisers of the Manchester Girl Geeks Wikipedia editing day, which was part of the Manchester Science Festival. As we chatted I realised there were loads of pages on Wikipedia relating to aspects of my PhD that were sadly lacking. It suddenly occurred to me that if they needed changing I should do it myself, instead of waiting for someone else to come along and do it for me. So, I paid the bargainous  £3 and rocked up to Mad Lab to learn all about how to edit Wikipedia. Here’s what I learned:

  1. BE BOLD – one of the main reasons I never thought to edit Wikipedia is because I don’t feel qualified to. I’m not sure why this is – I can fact check as well as the next person and  there are areas that I am, dare I say it, an expert in (mainly pugs in clothes..but still). Despite this I was still I worried I might write something that wasn’t good enough.  It turns out, that’s not worth worrying about because if that does happen, someone will correct it, which brings  us back to the Wikipedia mantra: be bold. Add to the knowledge, if it needs refining someone will do that, leading us perfectly onto the next point…
  2. Wikipedia is a collaboration – I’m used to academia, where nearly everything you write is read, criticised, reread, re-criticised and ultimately improved. Adding info onto everyone’s favourite encyclopaedia seems very final. But it’s not. Wikipedia is a collaboration and actually incorporates the same reviewing tactics of academia but on a much wider scale. Anyone can contribute, edit and add to an article. All you need to do is share knowledge and it will be reviewed by others. You don’t own the article you have written, people will change it. It’s very egalitarian and a very good thing.
  3. Editing Wikipedia is really easy – there is mark up for Wikipedia but it’s extremely simple and makes HTML look like the enigma code. There are loads of features in the editing interface that makes things easy too.  I found the referencing tool really useful.
  4. Not many women edit Wikipedia – I think it was around 10%. This gives Wikipedia a slight gender bias in its tone. This isn’t because all the men got together and thought ‘Let’s all be dead misogynistic in a bid to insidiously undermine women by being in-perceivably macho in our writing style.’ I mean… I presume that didn’t happen, but if you’re a man and that memo did go round do let me know. What it does mean is that over the billions of contributions that make up Wikipedia, around 90% are written by men, so there could be a very slight gender bias, especially in areas relating to men or women specifically. For instance very few female scientists or technologist throughout history have decent pages. So there are two options: either 89% of the male Wikipedia editors stop editing to balance it out or women take to the keyboards and start contributing. I wonder which makes more sense….
  5. There can be beef* on Wikipedia – sometimes people on Wikipedia disagree about stuff. This can lead to editing wars. The constant changing of an article is a really bad thing and compromises the integrity of the encyclopaedia as a whole. To get round this every entry has a ‘Talk’ page, where editors can discuss issues surrounding the article and come to a mutually agreeable edit.  So that’s nice.
  6. You need to be impartial on Wikipedia – it’s not really a place for personal opinions. I guess this is pretty obvious, but I didn’t really think about referencing before. If you create a page, or edit a page, you have to make sure what you write is neutral but also try to incorporate references that are neutral. I created a page for the Manchester Science Festival (which will hopefully be added to) and I realised (i.e. someone explained to me) I couldn’t just use the MSF website for references as it’s not neutral. Instead I used press coverage of previous festivals and websites that weren’t linked to the festival in any way. The one caveat to the ‘no opinions’ rule is that you can state the opinions of others on a matter if it’s referenced to a reliable source.
  7. You need to use common sense when referencing – it’s pretty straight forward if you’re referencing an article about something academic, just use a peer reviewed paper or review. If however, you’re going to write about something that might involve referencing websites and blogs as a source, you need to use your common sense. It’s probably OK to reference the BBC or a blog from a distinguished expert in a given field, but probably not the best idea to reference the gossip column from a red top or some nutter’s personal blog who thinks there’s an overlord race of reptilians controlling us.  So, like I say – it’s just common sense.

Overall I would say the take home message is just get stuck in. Most of us rely on Wikipedia for knowledge, but how many people think about contributing? Why shouldn’t it be you that helps out and contributes? Be bold!

Also there was cake.

Best quote of the day: 'Unlike Wikipedia editing, cutting the cake cannot be undone'

Best quote of the day: ‘Unlike Wikipedia editing, cutting the cake cannot be undone’

*Arguments not meat.


Chroma: Art Meets Science

28 Oct

This weekend was the first of the Science Festival and it didn’t disappoint.  I performed in Science Showoff at MOSI on Friday night, which was an awesome night with a huge turnout. It was really fun, the Science Showoff people were ace and I thought all the other performers were amazing. If you’re ever in a town where there’s a showoff happening I would highly recommend attending or getting involved. On Saturday I went to see science meets art lecture, Chroma, which was a nice way to spend a Saturday afternoon and on Sunday I attended the Manchester Girl Geek Wikipedia editing day. I learned a lot in the latter, so much so I’m going to put it in a separate post (coming soon).

Chroma, the arts meets science lecture was a brilliant show. It explored some of the themes in the late Derek Jarman’s book, which he wrote as a homage to colour. The tragic twist in this narrative is that Derek wrote the book as he was going blind due to AIDs related complications. Jenna Ashton discussed the book and talked about the evocative and emotive effects of colour as well as their intrinsic meaning to us. She took us through black into white via each colour in the spectrum.

2013_10_27_22_32_17 (1)Dr. Frank Mair explained the science of colour, from the light spectrum to the production of pigment. For each colour Jenna discussed, Frank had a very cool flash bang-esque demonstration to show how we perceive colour. This was aided by a machine that split the different wavelengths of light like a prism. The resulting different colours were captured using a webcam and fed into a computer with some specialised software that showed the light spectrum being captured. Frank explained that our eyes can detect light with certain wavelengths and when all these wavelengths reach our eyes together they appear white. WP_001652

Different molecules absorb certain wavelengths and reflect others. For instance, chlorophyll is the molecule in plants that is responsible for photosynthesis. It harnesses the energy from most light wavelengths during photosynthesis, but not green light. The wavelengths of green light are therefore reflected and leaves look green to us. The demonstrations for each colour really were something else, here’s an example (please excuse my poor camera skills):

I really liked it when Frank discussed the use of white pigment to depict light in some of his favourite paintings and would have liked to have heard more about that. The show has definitely made me want to read Derek’s book and I feel like I have a better understanding of 2013_10_27_22_34_57the science of colour and light now. This is the second time (possibly even third….I’m not sure!) this show has been run so if it is put on again next year I would definitely recommend going along. Whether art, science or both are of interest to you, I think you’ll enjoy the show. Just be prepared to jump out of your seat when the flash and bangs come into play.

For a sneak peak behind the scenes check out MelancholyScientist‘s post here.

Manchester Science Festival 2013 Launch #msf13

24 Oct

Normally I use this blog to share outreach activities but for the next 10 days I’m going to write about the amazing things going on during the Manchester Science Festival.

Photo by @McrSciFest

A rather lovely binary bracelet.
Photo by @McrSciFest

Last night was the launch of the festival and I went along to help out on a Manchester Girl Geek activity and also donned a rather snazzy badge saying ‘I’m a scientist, chat to me!’

There were a lot of people at the launch and it was a great atmosphere. The Manchester Girl Geek activity was really fun and involved writing a message, converting it to binary and then making a bracelet using beads with either two colours or ‘0’s and ‘1’s. A lot of people left the event sporting new, very stylish, bracelets.

The speeches at the event were great and I particularly enjoyed the speech from the festival partner, Siemens, who stressed the importance of encouraging young people to think about STEM careers and apprenticeships.

A few of us enjoying the event. Photo by @lisamarieke

A few of us enjoying the event.
Photo by @lisamarieke

The highlight of the evening for me was the preview of ‘The Ood Cast: The complete works of Dr. Who’. The actual event is sold out so I was really lucky to get to see it. The show was really good and all the cast were hilarious. Laura was particularly fab – she had an amazing singing voice, was really funny AND did a bongo solo. What more do you want?

I’ll be posting more about the festival over the next week, so let me know about things you’re involved with or really enjoyed in the comments below or tweet me (@bio_fluff) and I’ll give them a mention in my posts. I’m particularly excited about tomorrow, as Science ShowOff is taking place in MOSI. It’s £5 on the door (which goes to charity) and should be an ace night. I’ll be talking about the science of a hangover and you can see the full fabulous line up here. Come along, it should be a great night!

The brilliant Ood Cast Photo by @McrSciFest

The brilliant Ood Cast
Photo by @McrSciFest