STEAMing Ahead

South Australia is quickly becoming the prime location for those looking for employment in the STEM fields. For those who are uncertain, STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths. These fields currently offer diverse career opportunities, from medical advancements to the Australian Space Agency. However, there is one a vital component to STEM fields: Arts.

Arts and STEM have been inspiring each other for years, from Isaac Asimov’s three laws of robotics to the hard-scientific facts which make Andy Weir’s The Martian more realistic. This combination of STEM and the Arts is better known by professionals as STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). STEAM has already been making itself known in South Australia, appearing at arts festivals and used to show off new locally developed technology.

In the 2017/2018 budget, the state government invested $250 million into Education to deliver more STEM topics to primary and secondary schools. Flinders University’s Tonsley Campus and its Innovation Hub, alongside the Medical Research and Science Centre (the cheese grater on North Terrace) are some STEM-focused buildings which now make up part of the Adelaide skyline.

It is expected STEM funding will increase with the new budget due in September. In 2018 the Adelaide Fringe generated $16.6 million at the box office and added $29.5 million to the state economy, as set out in their annual report. It is also the highest earning arts festival in Australia, generating a total of 39% of all multi-category ticket sales in the country. These figures show there is money in both STEM and the Arts in South Australia. Combined, they will make a far bigger impact on the local culture and economy than they do separately. Including Arts in STEM education will learning more interactive and fun while STEM in festivals like the Fringe more engaging and interactive.

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Beautiful night for the Fringe!

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Modern technology has been heavily influenced by the arts. Many hardware and software engineers/programmers have long been inspired by technology in science fiction. One example of this is the Adelaide based company Voxon Photonics. Their technology, the Voxon VX1, is a 3D volumetric engine that was inspired by science fiction, more specifically Dejarik in Star Wars: A New Hope. For it to work, they required the aid of the STEM fields, especially engineering and mathematics (key components in hardware and software design). They create games to demonstrate their technology’s power. The VX1 was showcased in the Indie Games Room at AVCon 2018, allowing the public to interact with their exciting new technology. While the VX1 can do other things like medical imaging, art shows its power off in a more engaging way. Voxon Photonics has advertised pushing to get more local games developed for the VX1, showing it off at Game Plus (a co-working digital games space on Pirie Street) in June 2018.

Recent advances in science and technology have influenced the Adelaide arts scene. One example is the University of South Australia’s Museum of Discovery (MOD). Opened in 2018, MOD on North Terrace is where visitors can engage with science and technology through art (STEAM). Their current displays are a showcase on the future STEAM can bring. One example being the genetic modification of children, if they’re to survive on Earth from choices made today. This allows visitors to witness these changes first hand. For more on MOD, check out our review here.

In terms of festivals, 2017’s OzAsia Festival saw an international example of STEAM. This was Keiichiro Shibuya’s The End, starring Japanese vocaloid Hatsune Miku. Unlike a traditional opera, The End is entirely virtual, containing only Miku and showcases the relationship between art and technology. This also is a reflection on the term vocaloid itself, as Miku is actually nothing more than computer software herself. Another example of STEAM is coming to 2018’s OzAsia. Called War Sum Up, it is a 21st-century electronic opera that is summed up in three words “Music. Manga. Machines.” This unique blend will be showcasing technology working alongside Japanese Noh theatre.

The South Australian Government should be pushing STEAM rather than just STEM. It is already happening around Adelaide, and if given that extra boost, can help make Adelaide stand out against other Australian cities. STEAM can help bring more young people to Adelaide and benefit other fields like tourism and education. A STEAM revolution has the potential to completely reinvent Adelaide, making it a younger, more vibrant city.

What are your thoughts? Should South Australia be aiming towards a STEAM future rather than a STEM one? Leave your comments below.


Words by Cameron Lowe

Meet-the-Team-Cameron2Cameron Lowe is a horror and sci-fi writer, editor and student. He’s had fiction and articles featured in Speakeasy Zine and Empire Times. He loves to read, play video games, and drink green tea. He’s one of the 2018 editors at Empire Times. He tweets at @cloweshadowking.

Photo by Green Chameleon on Unsplash.

‘Bob’s Truth’ By Emmica Lore

Bob was a goldfish. He lived in a fancy house with all the fancy trimmings – coloured pebbles, a deep-sea diver blowing bubbles and an ocean view. Bob was happy. Until he was not. Staring into the world beyond had Bob thinking about the meaning of life. Enter existential crisis.

He had always admired pelicans – they were imposing yet graceful (well that might be a stretch) and had the freedom to discover new lands and wistfully watch the creatures below.

It was morning, or maybe afternoon (how the hell would Bob know? He’s a goldfish) when an idea arrived. An epiphany. A light-bulb moment. An irrational thought from inhaling too many oxygen filled bubbles. Are bubbles filled with oxygen? Whatever science, who made you the boss of everything?

It was in that moment that Bob hatched a daring plan.

He was quite a fit-fish and it didn’t take long for him to achieve his goal. Plop! Bob had thrust himself out of the tank and was now lying belly-side on the carpet. He flapped about instinctively.

“Hmmm…well this sucks”.

As his last breath was drawn, the flapping stopped.

Bob’s soul rose from his tiny neon body and floated outside above a sandy shore. He could see a sleeping bird, no, a dead bird. Then, Bob had another epiphany. Wiggling his tail and using all of his fit-fish-soul muscles he drove downwards and into the chest of the stiff creature. Opening his eyes, the world seemed sharper and brighter. The smell of salt filled his nostrils and tickled his tongue.

Bob was now a pelican.

He stretched out his wings, pressed his webbed feet into the sand and savoured his breath as he inhaled real air for the very first time.

Bob flew from the beach to the jetty. From the jetty to the river. He discovered new lands and wistfully watched the creatures below. Bob was happy. Until he was not.

You see Bob was now a pelican and what do pelicans eat? He just couldn’t bring himself to dine on his fishy friends and so eventually Bob died of starvation.

And that is why you should never leave your fish bowl.

Or maybe it’s be happy with who you are?? Yeah, let’s go with that.

 


Words by Emmica Lore.

red skirtEmmica Lore is a creative person. She is a writer, poet and avid op-shopper who also makes art from time to time. Emmica is interested in sustainable style, philosophy, politics, art, feminism, whimsy and nature. You can find her on Instagram @emmicalorecreative

‘Bob’s Truth’ has also appeared on Lore’s website https://www.emmicalore.com/ and was previously featured in an exhibition.

 

Photo by Julieann Ragojo on Unsplash.

MOD

Where Art Meets Science and Technology

Have you ever wanted to visit an art gallery that shows the relationship between art, science, and technology? Well, fear no more for MOD is the place for you. Opened in 2018, MOD is an art gallery where you can view art based on subjects like augmented reality, astronomy, and robotics. Being a bit of a science nerd (astronomy in particular), I have been eager to visit MOD. Upon visiting it, I was enthralled and absorbed into its world of interactive wonders.

The first exhibit I visited was Prosthetic Reality (an Augmented Reality exhibition) in the Lecture Gallery on the ground floor. As you can see in the image below, it appears to a casual observer just an exhibit of pop art. However, if you have the EyeJack app (available on both iOS and Android devices) you can download the exhibition and it will be transformed. Using the AR feature, the artworks come to life with colour, animation, and sound. For example, one of these artworks tells a story of a Japanese town destroyed by a disaster. Its main picture is of the town before the disaster, but through EyeJack, it plays Japanese style music and shows it destroyed through animation. I discovered more of these set up across the museum, which was a surprising addition. It gave me motive to explore the entire gallery to find them all.

 

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Another exhibit within the MOD I found interesting looked into genetically modified babies. Displayed in the Gould Interactive Gallery, this demonstrated what we may have to do to survive on Earth if we keep going the way we are. All these babies are displayed in wheel-around newborn beds from hospitals. One baby that really stood out to me had a head with strange gill-like curves on its sides. To me, it appeared as if a Ferengi and a Klingon from the Star Trek universe had a child. There was explanation on a nearby wall, this modification would be necessary to survive higher temperatures on Earth. It is a frightening possibility and seeing it in model form really got my creative mind running.

 

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There was a small part of artificial intelligence and robotics near the genetic modification exhibit. You could stand in the middle of a room and an AI would supposedly learn and copy your movement. I tried this out, but could not comprehend how it worked, which was unfortunate. The idea behind it is really cool and I do recommend you to give it a go. Perhaps you will figure out how it works. Also, part of that exhibit was a model of a robotic head. Upon first glance, it looks exactly like a human head (with extremely realistic skin), but its eyes move and it speaks. It was like stepping into Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Seeing it alongside the movement exhibit made me realise it was part of the human-like features which AI and robots of the future may soon have.

Perhaps my favourite exhibit in the whole of MOD was the Our Sky exhibit in the Universal Gallery. A Science on a Sphere (currently the only one in Australia) sits in the middle of the room with screens on all the walls. With a computer board, you can cycle through the planets and moons in our Solar System which appear on the Science On a Sphere. As you can see below, Jupiter appears on it, but I could easily change it to Mars or Enceladus (a moon of Saturn). With the screens on the walls, you could surf the Solar System and check out the many different astronomical signs. Perhaps what really made this exhibit fantastic is the inclusion of science and astronomy from the First Australians. This is shown through video and sound, which play above the gallery. This addition gives a fresh, more Australian perspective on astronomy and science and has me eager to learn more about First Australian astronomy.

 

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MOD is a fantastic place to check out the relationship between art, science, and technology. If you are a sci-fi fan or into science and technology I highly recommend you visit this place. You can find it on the western side of the Morphett Street bridge on North Terrace (north side) on UniSA’s City West campus. Entry is free and it is open six days a week (closed Mondays). More information can be found here.

 


Words and photography by Cameron Lowe.

The Art of Taxidermy

The Art of Taxidermy

Sharon Kernot
Text Publishing 2018


Sharon Kernot’s Young Adult verse novel The Art of Taxidermy offers an intimate look at the mechanisms of grief and how it can make you strange. Charlotte is just thirteen, has lost her mother and her younger sister, and is obsessed with making the dead look alive again. Her obsession leads her to collect, and then later taxidermize dead animals she finds in the bush surrounding her Australian home. Her aunt is horrified by this behaviour, but her distant father defends it as the burgeoning habits of a young scientific mind. Kernot makes the collection of the dead feel like a natural extension of Charlotte’s grief and pain; much like the meddling of Charlotte’s aunt and the distance of her father is an extension of theirs. The desire to resurrect the dead with whatever means available is both naively young and incredibly human, and Kernot explores it with a matter-of-fact tenderness.

It is not only their grief that makes Charlotte and her family strange. They are German immigrants and her father and grandfather were interned in the Loveday camp, near Barmera on the Murray River. The verse novel is set in the years after the second World War ended and the family’s German heritage marks them as different, as Other. It’s hard to imagine this family living outside this deep saturation of sadness – their tragedies started before Charlotte was born and it feels as though they will continue long after she’s dead.

Kernot paints a family in freefall after the unthinkable has happened, not once but twice, with a sure and steady brush. The work couples the swift, clipped charm of a verse novel and the unpredictable beauty of the Australian landscape in a captivating manner that showcases an author entirely comfortable with her form. This is a novel easily consumed in an afternoon, but one that lingers in the mind for weeks afterwards.

The Art of Taxidermy is due for release July 2 and can be purchased from Text Publishing here.

The book will be launched July 18 at the Tea Tree Gully Library from 6:30pm click here for more information.

5/5 stars


Words by Riana Kinlough

Dinosaur rEvolution at the SA Museum

Let’s all agree; dinosaurs are cool. Most of us will be familiar with The Land Before Time and Disney’s Dinosaur, or the less kid-friendly Jurassic Park movies. We have stegosauruses on our lunchboxes and t-rex’s on our shirts. Picture your favourite dinosaur. Now, picture it differently. What if it had feathers instead of scales? What if it was pink and blue instead of green and grey?

That’s the premise of Dinosaur rEvolution; a touring exhibition from Gondwana Studios that’s currently housed at the South Australian Museum. The exhibition urges us to challenge the ideas that we currently hold about dinosaurs, just as science has to adapt to the new information found about these creatures and their descendants.

I caught up with Flinders Palaeontology Lab outreach officer, Riley (Carmel) Foley, who has been running workshops at the exhibition for school groups and the general public. She takes me on a tour around the exhibit, activating the animatronic dinosaurs on entry and filling the room with generated – but guttural – roars. There are skeletons to make you feel small, skeletons to make you feel big, and numerous fossils to touch and inspire curiosity. It’s immediately apparent that these dinosaurs aren’t the ones we’re used to. As we walk past a wall of fossils – which you’re encouraged to touch if you see the big green sign – Foley tells me:

‘They were different colours. They were interacting with each other. They had soft tissue features and feathers. They were all designed to do different things in different environments. They’re not just all green and brown and boring.’

Lining the back wall of the exhibition are pictures of various dinosaurs; all reimagined to match new fossil findings or just to show that a triceratops with green armoured spikes was entirely possible. Why are we only finding out about these feathers and variations in colour now? “With ever-advancing technology, Foley explains, we’re able to tell the pigments of feathers that have been fossilised along with skeletons. And they’re not the only dinosaur aspects that have changed as our understanding has changed. The importance of new information and new perspectives cannot be understated.

‘Our interpretation of fossils changes how we interpret the dinosaur and their story,’ she says.

The example she uses is the Oviraptor. Most audiences will be familiar with this dinosaur by the meaning of its scientific name, and stereotypical story role as Egg Thief. This idea sprung from the discovery of an Oviraptor skeleton near a collection of smashed eggs. Scientists assumed that the creature therefore must steal and eat eggs. The truth, Foley explains, is very different:

‘Eventually, somebody found a skeleton that had died on a nest of the eggs. They realised that those eggs weren’t food; they were its own eggs. It was actually a parental dinosaur.’

Coupled with our human tendency to prescribe emotions onto nature (i.e. the Oviraptor was labelled an Egg Thief as opposed to just ‘a dinosaur who ate eggs’), this perspective led to a misunderstanding of the Oviraptor for years. If something as simple as that can change our entire attitude towards one creature, who knows what else may be in store for the rest of these dinosaurs?

It does seem like this might be a hard sell to kids, despite their interest in dinosaurs, but Foley is optimistic. She says it’s not necessarily about the scientific specifics.

‘It’s just letting them know that their dinosaurs are different from my dinosaurs,’ she says. ‘In 20-50 years’ time, they’re going to be even more different because we’ll develop better science.’

So, as strange as these re-imagined dinosaurs may seem, they could very soon be the new default.

When we finish the exhibition, I ask why it’s so important that we study dinosaurs. Sure, they’re interesting, but is there more to it than that?

‘I get this question quite often actually,’ Foley says, ‘and it still surprises me. It’s like asking, “why do we study history?” Because the past matters. It directly effects and informs us about our present and our future. 99% of all life on earth is extinct. We are the 1% that is left. Understanding why some organisms lasted longer than others is literally a life and death issue for us. We are an organism. We can go extinct.’

And how do we rank on the rEvolution scale?

‘The average lifespan of a species is about 10 million years. Some species of dinosaur lasted nearly 160 million. Modern human evolution has only been going on for about 2 million.’

We have 8 million years, Foley explains, to figure out the secrets of survival from the dinosaurs or we may end up in the “average lifespan” column. Don’t panic; we’ve got plenty of time.

So, whether you want to look for those secrets of survival, are looking to challenge the beliefs you have about your favourite dinosaurs, or you just think dinosaurs are cool, the Dinosaur rEvolution exhibition has you covered.

 


Words by Amelia Heffernan.

Dinosaur rEvolution is currently at the SA Museum.

Image Credit: South Australian Museum Dinosaur rEvolution website.