You might, at some point in life, wonder about the social skills of crayfish, lesbianism by association, feline annihilation via buttered toast, or the unique gravitational pull of China—or not. But if you were at last night’s Theory Slam at Bryant-Lake Bowl listening to theories on each, you might start.
The event, produced by the Bell Museum of Natural History as part of its Café Scientifique series, offers a whimsical take on the conventions of scientific thought modeled after the poetry slam format. Anyone can participate. On this occasion, four individuals and two groups made their way to the stage to articulate and elaborate upon theories that challenged physics, biology, and credulity alike. It’s science, very loosely defined, with a sense of humor.
Their motivation? The glamorous prizes, of course—all from the bins of St. Paul’s Ax Man Surplus—and the possibility of winning the evening’s grand prize, what the evening’s emcee, John Erik Troyer, described as an “official Dungeons & Dragons role-playing fabric thingy.”
First up, Lisa and Eric. Their theory of “Murphyons” started from the basic premise that while toast always lands butter-side down, cats always land right-side up. Put them together and, bam!, sudden and irrevocable annihilation of feline and bread alike.
Next up, Zack, a hipster in a T-shirt that read, “Back off, man. I’m a scientist.” His theory revolved around tiny aliens that long ago took the form of molecules, formed into DNA and RNA, and proceeded to try to dominate one another by evolving, respectively, into complex organisms (e.g. animals and plants) and viruses. His proof? They’ve been locked in mortal combat ever since.
Ashley came after Zack, offering a theory of “lesbianism by proxy.” Roger, a fifty-something with a pocket protector, offered his take on the variability of truth as demonstrated by the advertising slogan, “tastes great, less filling,” followed by Steve, with his theory of the variability of zipper fortitude. Luke, outfitted in tie-dye, retorted with a theory of the existence of social crayfish (in the Philippines) in ecological peril.
Points given by audience members were averaged; the panel of scientific experts weighed in. Zack and Ashley tied in round one. But by the end of round two, Steve had pulled a stunning upset with a theory that posited a unique gravitational pull of all usable equipment, capital and manpower toward China. Trust me, it was brilliant.
Though Steve was the big winner, no one went home a loser. Troyer’s refrain that no one loses at Theory Slam proved true as prizes were handed out to first, second, third, and “not last.”