0 comments on “Eruption Ft. Nicky Young”

Eruption Ft. Nicky Young

03/06/15 7.30pm, Bristol Improv Theatre, £3.50 entry

“What was that?” gasped Carol, one of Rising Apeton’s oldest residents. She’d been hearing worryingly strange rumblings for weeks. This was partly down to her astute, matriarchal, cautious nature; but also the amusing fact that ever since she’d sent her hearing aids in for service, they were now so sensitive she could even pick up three channels of Croatian TV. “It’s nothing, you’re hearing things again you old bat,” barked her ogreish neighbor. But Carol wasn’t that old, and if she were a bat she’d have been smart enough to leave this damned place long ago. What Carol had been hearing was the murmuring of Risuvious, the apparently dormant volcano that lay at the centre of the Bristol ‘Bubbling Cider’ fault line. The birds had left weeks before, but in their arrogance the clever humans had stayed far too long. The end drew near for Rising Apeton…

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Rising Ape returns with a real lava palaver! What’s your mission? To work out how to save Rising Apeton. As always, you’ll need your best quiz heads on, and of course the winning team will get a sizzling prize. The night will end with an incandescent talk from bubbling volcanic researcher Nicky Young. So come along, grab a drink, and get planning!

Nicky Young studies volcanoes as a PhD candidate at the University of Bristol. An early love of rock-hounding and geology-based movies such as Dantes Peak, Volcano, and Journey to the Centre of the Earth (factual or not as they may be) led her to beginning a Geology MSci at Bristol 6 years ago. This was followed by a 6 month stint in Hawaii at the Volcano Observatory where Nicky explored the signals Kilaeau volcano emitted to try and discern volcanic movement. Since then studying volcanoes has been her passion, which is why she returned to Bristol for a PhD. She studies the movement of active volcanoes to understand what is happening deep below our feet.

Location: Bristol Improv Theatre, St Pauls Road, Bristol, BS8 1LP

Ticket Price: £3.50 on the door or available online from the Bristol Improv Theatre website

Time: 3rd June 2015. 7:30pm – 10:00pm

0 comments on “Vegetarian aliens could save our bacon”

Vegetarian aliens could save our bacon

stephen hawking right about nasty aliens

By James Riley

Bacon is tasty, very tasty. It’s so tasty that my moral objection to the industrial-scale murder of sentient animals dissipates with each and every ketchup-soaked bite. This is a weakness on my part. I’m theoretically ethical but practically perverse. It’s a great way to be. You get to rest your nose on the edge of the moral high ground, whilst your body swings in the succulent depravity below. But in all sincerity, I would argue that an extension of vegetarian philosophy is the only possible way we could survive an encounter with extra-terrestrial life. Let’s just hope astro-porcine is less alluring.

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They came for a piece? (Image: Bell and Jeff/Flickr)

I’m pretty optimistic about alien life, not only about its existence but also about its intelligence and intentions. As unnerving as it is to disagree with such a great man, I must confess I don’t share Stephen Hawking’s view: “If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.”

stephen hawking right about nasty aliens
(Image: Mike Licht/Flickr)

On earth, species have certain ecological niches, their relational position to other species and their way of life in an ecosystem. Interplanetary, interstellar or even intergalactic life may follow a similar pattern. What niches come down to is competition for resources in a given environment. If one day we do share an interstellar environment with other intelligent species, there will no doubt be different ways of ‘making a living’ between the stars. But as soon as competition for resources enters the equation, we have a problem.

If aliens come here to harvest a resource that we also depend on, then we will undoubtedly lose due to the competitive exclusion principle. According to this principle, also known as Gause’s Law, two species that are competing for the exact same resource cannot stably coexist. Furthermore the species with even the smallest competitive advantage will be successful in the long run. As the aliens will have traversed interstellar space to reach us, our technology and defence capabilities just won’t match up. ET, I’m sad to say, will be holding a horribly beweaponed stick.

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“Hm, maybe we should start building a bigger stick now…” (Image: Lance Cpl. Nathan McCord/Wiki)

But there’s another scenario. In this case the outcome of an extra-terrestrial meeting isn’t solely left to the will and whim of evolutionary forces. Instead, as has happened in our civilisation, rational choices can overcome biological impulses.

Take eating meat for example. It is generally accepted that our ancestors ate meat in their hunter-gatherer existence. But nowadays some people have come to the conclusion, to the upmost resentment of others, that killing animals and eating meat might be a tad wrong. You know, all the confinement, force-feeding, mechanised slaughter, it is a little unsettling (until you taste the bacon). Others argue the opposite, that eating meat is ‘natural’ therefore it must be the ‘right’ thing to do. This line of reasoning commits my favourite logical fallacy (don’t pretend you haven’t got one), the ad Naturam or appeal to nature logical fallacy. If we solely took our morality from nature we would live in a very cruel world indeed. (Watch a video of Mallards being natural here. Note: Morality not included; viewer discretion is advised.)

So what’s all this got to do with aliens and bacon? Well if aliens take the same stance—the choice not to kill sentient beings based on nothing else but the value that sentience confers—then perhaps we do stand a chance of a peaceful coexistence. But if aliens come with predacious intentions, aiming to harvest, experiment, extract, and/or exploit, there really is little we can do to stop them.

So hope and pray that, when our skies are darkened by the spectre of a flying saucer drifting through trembling clouds, you can smell the pungent aromas of Quorn and lentil burger emanating from the ship’s kitchen. Maybe that’s why they were called little green men all along?

0 comments on “Debrief: Enter the Bat Cave”

Debrief: Enter the Bat Cave

rising ape

Rising ape presents enter the bat cave

It’s that time again when we sit back and reflect on last month’s proceedings. As February’s Rising Ape event was bat themed, I’m tempted to say I’m sat in an old, cold and creaky castle, in a deep and dusty chair, scribbling by a candlelight which animates lurking figures on the walls. But after attending Enter the Bat Cave we know this demonic stereotype and the repulsion it spreads is unwarranted.

Barising apets, far from living up to their reputation as the archetypal Halloween animal, are actually quite cute. And thanks to Kiri and Stuart from the Avon Bat Group we all got up close and nocturnal with some pipistrelles – a cute little species found commonly in the UK.

Your quiz team names were, as ever, impeccable. We had the Hand Wings (Google it), Na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na Quiz Team (touché), Bats with Prostates (they do have them), and the Flying Rats (what did we just say about stereotypes, ey?).

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Kiri and Stuart showing off their bats

And in the activity your bat untangling skills shone through. Many of you even became dab hands at bat identification – a skill that can take researchers many years to master.

Enter the bat cave Rising apeRising Ape presents enter the bat cave

Heather Nichol explained how wind turbines can and do affect bats in their environment. This isn’t an argument against renewable energy, far from it; we just have to make sure that in trying to save our world by mitigating climate change, we don’t unwittingly cause damage to local ecosystems.

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Heather imparting her batty knowledge.

The night hopefully did a small part to peel back the bad name of bats – the bloodsucking prejudice which taints the image of these fascinating creatures. Thank you again to everyone who came along and took part. Keep an eye out on Facebook or Twitter for our next event.

0 comments on “Debrief: Life on Mars”

Debrief: Life on Mars

It’s been just over a week since our first event, Life on Mars, and we thought now would be the perfect time to sit back and reflect on it.

Firstly, we’d like to thank everyone for coming along and making it such an enjoyable evening. Your witty quiz names and animalistic competitiveness added so much to the proceedings.

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What would quizzes be without pun names?

For the first group of civilians on Mars, you settled in quickly. Drinking your way through the ethanol rations and indignantly defending your David Bowie album knowledge. In light of certain disagreements over quiz answers, future Rising Ape quizzes will come equipped with an academically formatted Harvard reference list. Still, the legendary Colin Pillinger would be delighted by your flattering biro portraits, and a couple of you were incredibly close to pinning the Curiosity on the Mars-y. Accordingly, inter-planetary points were awarded galore.

Next, we were very proud to see your ambition when taking on your mission to design a Martian rover. We were also slightly astonished with the lack of humanity when teams raided the scrapheap for building resources. We were reminded of a group of starving, rabid squirrels swarming in on a small packet of KP salted peanuts – needless to say, some did not survive.

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Constructing the rover using NASA-certified materials.

Following your vibrant materials raiding, we were surprised by your incredible ingenuity, some of the rovers could actually roll across rocky terrain, and one was built without any tape at all! (We know most Martian rovers are built without sticky tape, be it sello or gaffer, but NASA don’t use straws as axles either – this was seriously impressive!)

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“I tell you, he was small and green and I saw him run into that crater!”

When the sandstorm outside the colony had died down, our speaker Michaela Musilova inspired us with the science of astrobiology. She also shared with us stories from her time on the Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), a Mars colony experiment in the Arizona desert. According to her experiences on the MDRS, before we ship off to Mars, we need to seriously work on the psychological problems which we suffer from when cooped up with people in a small space. The Rising Ape Team thinks the only reason there hasn’t been a murder on Big Brother is probably the voting off process. Needless to say this isn’t an option on Mars.

rising ape presents
Michaela’s captivating presentation.

Following Michaela’s talk we opened up to questions from the floor. The first of these came in at warp speed, with what is probably the hardest scientific or metaphysical question you can ask in three words: What is life? Keep this kind of curiosity coming Rising Apes, it’s what has made humanity special all along.

Here’s the night’s playlist because we know how much you colonists enjoyed doing the Martian Hop.

rising ape presents
Our chemist, David ‘Chem Judge’ Judge, with an assemblage of Martian rovers.
0 comments on “Chaperon and the Substitute For a Mother’s Love”

Chaperon and the Substitute For a Mother’s Love

Professor Nutt and Dr Z aren’t yet a rap duo (unfortunately), but they are working hard developing a new and euphoric drug called ‘chaperon’. Its noble aim? To limit your alcohol cravings. Hooray for science!

In this episode of Rising Ape Speaks, Antony and James discuss humanity’s need for mind-altering substances, what personal vices they would like to replace, and even dabble with the most dangerous drug of all – politics. Here’s the original New Scientist article, and the UK alcohol intake guidelines. Aren’t we helpful?

0 comments on “LIFE ON MARS FT. MICHAELA MUSILOVA”

LIFE ON MARS FT. MICHAELA MUSILOVA

Welcome to a night of knowledge, excitement, exploration and (ethanolic) excess.* (*Please drink reasonably, but feel free to consume knowledge and excitement in rampant abundance.) You are officially invited to join colony #001, the first human settlement on Mars.

The first task our crew will be subjected to is an Earth-style pub quiz on the topic of Mars. Indeed, a strange start to the first day on Mars. Nevertheless, you better wipe the dust off those Mars mission background briefings ESA mailed you a couple of months ago, and get studying. Your quiz team, or Tactical Life on marsTask Force, will be limited to a maximum of 4 colonists. But overall scores will be boosted with the second part of the evening—the activity. The nature of the activity is TOP SECRET, as exposing this information may lead some colonists to practice or buy ergogenic aids. Finally, once the scores have been collated and the prizes distributed to our most knowledgeable and dextrous of colonists, we will receive a 20 minute briefing from our crew’s resident astrobiologist Michaela Musilova. Michaela will talk us through exactly where the current academic thinking is on Martian life. Following this briefing we will have a question and answer session so we can all pick Michaela’s impressive brains some more.

To book tickets for this event follow the Eventbrite button in the sidebar. Alternatively, you can buy tickets at the door, subject to availability. You can even tell us you’re attending, and say hello, through the Book of the Face.

More about Michaela Musilova: Michaela is currently working as a PhD research student at the University of Bristol. Her dream is to be part of future space exploration missions searching for extraterrestrial life. Michaela Musilova’s primary interest is in extremophiles, organisms that live in extreme environments, such as deserts, deep sea vents and glaciers. They are significant to industry and medical research, since their enzymes are stable and functional over a wide range of physical/chemical conditions. Similar life could potentially be found in analogous extreme conditions on other planets and moons. Thus, they are very important to astrobiology – a multidisciplinary science exploring the origin and distribution of life in the Universe. During her studies, Michaela pursued other astrobiology related research, including: working as a research fellow at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL); simulating lunar and planetary surfaces through NASA and the UK Space Agency’s MoonLite project (funded by a Nuffield Foundation grant); searching for exoplanets at the University of London Observatory; and being selected as an analogue astronaut at the Mars Desert Research Station, USA.

0 comments on “Ethical Robots and the Coveting of thy Metal Ass”

Ethical Robots and the Coveting of thy Metal Ass

Recent research by Professor Alan Winfield and co suggests we could build ‘ethical’ robots. How do we even define ethical behaviour? Is your baby paying tax? Will we be able to freestyle Asimov’s laws of robotics? All big questions, but which will actually get answered in this week’s podcast? Stream below, or download from iTunes, to find out.

Real explanation of what’s going on available here from Alan Winfield’s blog.

0 comments on “Xmas Special: Existential Risk and the Molecular Sex Robots”

Xmas Special: Existential Risk and the Molecular Sex Robots

The Centre for the Study of Existential Risk studies existential risk … in a centre. In this bumper Christmas edition, find out what you should be terrified of this festive season (and every other season for that matter). Rising Ape: turning festive cheer into festive fear.