With conspiracies at an all-time high and the world wracked by a global pandemic, it’s important to listen to the scientists. But the internet doesn’t always guarantee that the right people that cut through the noise. So to spark new conversations with a crowd that doesn’t always pay attention to scientific events, 15 of Australia’s youngest and brightest scientists are reaching out via Twitch.
It’s a pretty simple idea, really. With more and more Australians playing video games and getting their entertainment through livestreaming services like Twitch, evolutionary biologist and associate professor Michael Kasumovic figured it’d be a great way to kickstart “low key conversations about science” through a medium where young Aussies are comfortable — video games.
Some of the scientists include astrophysicist Kirsten Banks. There’s Juan Molina, a computational biologist who models gut microbes to find new ways to treat and prevent chronic diseases. Zoe Xirocostas is a plant ecologist measuring European plant species introduced to Australia, and discovering the traits that allowed them to survive. Caitlyn Forster is a PhD student at the University of Sydney, working on the decoy effects that encourage people to impulse buy.
“I’ve found 15 awesome and diverse young scientists that research a whole range of topics from how economic theory can improve honeybee foraging to why it’s difficult to quit smoking, to understanding how our universe is formed,” Kasumovic said in a release. “As a lecturer, I’m always looking for that ‘teachable moment’ – where learning can happen in the most unexpected times and places”, and videogames present such a great opportunity!”
And unsurprisingly, plenty of scientists are familiar with games. “It just seemed like a fun event – I like gaming and I like talking science. Seemed obvious to give it a go,” Forster told Kotaku Australia over email. “I’m very much a single player gamer, so it is going to be interesting to see how I go playing multiplayer games.”
Banks, who’s studying the Milky Way to understand our formation and evolution, added that she thought it would be “really fun to play games with fellow scientists and reach an audience I may not have been able to previously”.
“Any opportunity to show the public (and especially children) that scientists are just normal people sounded good to me, and on top of that it genuinely is looking like it will be a really fun event,” Ashley Stevens, a cognitive psychologist who studies the nature of thinking and how our thought patterns limit our creativity, said over email.
“Hopefully I can get some minds ticking over about how we actually come up with creative ideas and why it’s so hard for us to think truly random thoughts. I’m also really interested to see what kinds of questions I might get asked – it’s always good to get your research in front of different kinds of people who often are able to view it through a different lens.”
All of the scientists will be playing different games in 90-minute blocks from from 11:00am AEST to 6.30pm AEST, August 21. There’s a full schedule available on Arludo, and you can follow the Twitch channel or watch the stream below.