I Don’t Think The #HeLa Movie Has A Soundtrack Album Yet

Earlier this week Tom McFadden released the latest effort in his Science with Tom project.  This song features students from the KIPP Bridge school in Oakland, California, and chronicles the story of Henrietta Lacks and her family.

As noted at the end, Rebecca Skloot, the author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks features in the video.  No word yet on who else from the forthcoming film project has heard the song.  Could a version of this song end up on the movie soundtrack, a #HeLa mixtape?  It’s a nice thought experiment to conduct before the movie comes out next year.


You’re Never Too Young For A Math Book

Actress Danica McKellar, perhaps still best known for playing Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years, is also a mathematician.  She has written four math books for young people (primarily young girls) over the last several years and recently announced her fifth will come out next year.

While her books to date have focused on math subjects for middle and high school kids, the newest book goes younger.  Way younger.  Goodnight Numbers, illustrated by Alicia Padrón, will be published by Penguin Random House in March and is for young readers from 2-5 (hey, I could read during part of that range).  As with most good literature, the story allows some learning to sneak in about numbers.

Goodnight Numbers will be available through the usual outlets, though personally I doubt it will be quite as nice to look at in electronic versions.  Of course, you’re mileage may vary.

Another Marvel Movie, Another STEM Contest

Marvel recently announced another contest for young girls engaged with science, technology, engineering and/or mathematics (STEM).  Continuing a trend of movie tie-in STEM contests that goes back to at least the 2013 film Iron Man 3, the latest contest is called The Magic of STEM Challenge and is tied to the November release of the film Doctor Strange.

The name highlights part of the dramatic arc of the film – a neurosurgeon engaging with magic as he seeks to recover from an accident.  I have not seen the film, but it may bear some resemblance to how the Thor films have tried to explain the fantastical actions of those characters with some basis in science.  But don’t look too close (as you shouldn’t in any superhero film) or the gloss of scientific realism will disappear.

But I’m writing about the contest.  There’s a short window for entries, because the contest is open until October 5th.  Entrants are girls in the U.S. from 15-18 years old (grades 10-12), and must submit a video blog (vlog) on a scientific or technological questions.  The vlog can be no longer than 5 minutes, and are encouraged to find a mentor to help answer the question.  Rachel McAdams, who plays Doctor Christine Palmer in the film, explains the contest in this video with the help of the contest winner from the Captain America: Civil War STEM contest:

(I’ll note here that there is a pattern to these Marvel movie tie-in contests.  A video is typically involved, most of the competitions are geared toward young women and usually promoted by an actress playing a significant role in the film.  And you have to act fast once you hear about them.)

The five finalists will travel to the world premiere of the film in Los Angeles in late October, receive a $1,000 deposit in a savings account, and a tour of Disney Studios.  The grand prize winner will produce a science vlog under the mentorship of the Walt Disney Digital team, and it will be shown on one of the many different Disney media platforms.   Good luck to all the entrants.

StarTalk Season 3 Begins September 19

I noted yesterday in the listings that Neil deGrasse Tyson is making the talk show rounds.  Today he was on the ESPN program SportsNation to promote the upcoming third season of the StarTalk television show.  Still on the National Geographic Channel in the U.S., the program will now premiere new episodes on Monday nights at 11.  This puts the program in direct competition with a few of the traditional late night programs for the first time.  In its previous timeslot on Sundays, StarTalk‘s major late night competition was Last Week Tonight on premium channel HBO.

(The StarTalk Radio program has expanded of late, with several of the program’s frequent guests and/or guest hosts now hosting episodes of Star Talk AllStars.  If past practice holds, episodes of the television show eventually end up on the podcast, which may also be available in your local radio market and/or Sirius XM satellite radio.)

Right now the only guests linked to a specific date are Whoopi Goldberg (September 19) and Mayim Bialik (September 26).  According to this publicity release from July, other guests for Season 3 will include:

Buzz Aldrin (astronaut)
Mayim Bialik (actor, “Big Bang Theory” and neuroscientist)
Ash Carter (U.S. Secretary of Defense)
Terry Crews (actor and former football player)
Brian Greene (theoretical physicist)
Herbie Hancock (musician) and Wayne Shorter (musician)
Simon Helberg (actor, “Big Bang Theory”)
Jeremy Irons (actor) and Matthew Brown (director)
Robert Kirkman (comic book writer and executive producer, “The Walking Dead”)
Jay Leno (comedian and talk show host)
Christopher Lloyd (actor) and Michelle Gomez (actor)
Bill Maher (comedian and talk show host)
Philippe Petit (tightrope walker)
Hope Solo (U.S. Soccer Team goalie)
Ben Stiller (actor and director)
Kathy Sullivan (astronaut and head of NOAA)
Jill Tarter (SETI astrophysicist)
Andy Weir (author, “The Martian”)

(Since the date of this press release, Hope Solo has been suspended from the U.S. Women’s National Team and may not return.  It’s not clear to me when the interview was recorded, so there may or may not be a proverbial elephant in the room.)

While I can’t guess why every single guest was booked, I can shed some light on a few.  Matthew Brown directed The Man Who Knew Infinity and Jeremy Irons starred in the film, which chronicles the life of mathematician Ramanujan (played by Dev Patel).  Both Christopher Lloyd and Michelle Gomez have played characters who do a lot of time travel (in Back to the Future and Doctor Who, respectively).  StarTalk has had talk show hosts and musicians as guests before, and we’ll see what links to science or technology might exist with either Ben Stiller or Terry Crews.

With 18 listed shows, this season of Star Talk will certainly run into 2017, possibly extended by no new episodes during the Thanksgiving and/or Christmas holidays.

You might find out more if you catch Tyson’s appearances on The Late Late Show (Wednesday night) or on Chelsea (released Wednesday on Netflix).  Or just wait for Monday’s new episode.

Blow Your Kazoo For A New Kids Magazine

The first issue of Kazoo premiered last month (H/T Mic.com).  Aimed for girls between 5 and 10, the magazine is chock-a-block full of activities and interesting articles, with lots of science and adventure thrown in.  The quarterly was founded by Erin Bried and funded in large part through a Kickstarter campaign.  Based on this interview at Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, she intends Kazoo to be vast and contain multitudes of things young girls can’t find in other magazines.  Bried has more than 16 years experience as a magazine writer and editor, and has also written three books full of how-to goodness.  Clearly some amount of that will seep into Kazoo if it hasn’t already.

Take a (quick) look inside the first issue.

By all means, check and see if it’s at your local bookstore (and ask them to carry it if they don’t).  Subscriptions and individual issues are also available online (along with some swag).  (For those who might balk at the price, think about how much time young readers will spend immersed in the pages.  It’ll be worth it.)

The Science Guy Will Be A Talk Show Guy

Apparently writing kids books and being CEO of The Planetary Society isn’t enough work for Science Guy Bill Nye.  Today it was announced that Netflix will start airing a talk show hosted by Nye in spring 2017.  While arguably Nye never really left, this will be his first regular television gig since Bill Nye the Science Guy ended in 1998.

(I do not yet know whether the program will be available through Netflix (or other sources) outside the U.S.)

Netflix (at least in the U.S.) recently started airing talk shows with Chelsea, which premieres new episodes three times a week.  Bill Nye Saves the World will focus each episode (no word yet on how often they will premiere) on a topic, examining it from a scientific point of view.  It will tackle any myths or claims on the topic that can be scientifically disproven.

Befitting Nye’s own start on Almost Live!, the two head writers of the show will bring comedy and science experience to the show.  Mike Drucker is leaving The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon to join the show.  He has also written for Saturday Night Live.  Joining Drucker is Phil Plait, also known as The Bad Astronomer, is an astronomer and frequent talking head on science documentaries.

As I mentioned, Nye is no stranger to television, having guested regularly on talk shows and news programs over the last two decades.  Esquire has a few clips from his more recent appearances.

Needless to say, every episode will be mentioned in my late night listings posts on Mondays.  As it happens, former Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson showrunner Michael Naidus will serve in the same capacity on Bill Nye Saves the World, and be one of the executive producers.  Add to that the fact that Phil Plait appeared on The Late Late Show, and now I have a feeble excuse to embed one of Nye’s appearances with Ferguson.

Calling All Rhyming Maxs

Tom McFadden, fresh off of his featured appearance as Joseph-Louis Lagrange in William Rowan Hamilton, has a rhyming quiz going on at his YouTube channel.  That’s right, a rhyming quiz, and it’s called Fill in the Planck.

There are two quizzes so far, one on the JUNO spacecraft and the most recent on water.  The idea is to complete each rhyme in the verse.  Tom has also set up a verse in the comments that you can complete (as opposed to filling in a blank).  Make sure to read the comments and full video description to get all the necessary information.

No word on how long the series will be, but Tom is teasing some new longer content in the near future.  For this academic year Tom has been able to commit half of his time to Science With Tom, so more video goodness is on they way.