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Scientific Dadaism Wins: Sebastian Bathiany at the Bremerhaven Science Slam

10.05.2011

It will take him almost three years to write his dissertation, but he has minutes to convince the audience at the Science Slam of the quality of his scientific topic. Sebastian Bathiany from the Hamburg KlimaCampus at the Max-Planck Institute for Meteorology (MPI) is the winner of the second Science Slam put on by the Bremerhaven University last weekend. With his performance, he bested established professors from the Bremen colleges and the Fachhochschule Hannover.

With the help of a linen towel, a cooking pot and "climate model ingredients" such as salt, earth, water and plants, Bathiany explained how a climate model is built and what influence trees have. Or, to put it in more technical language, the biogeophysical and biogeochemical effects of deforestation and reforestation.

"It is especially difficult to portray science as simply as possible, but at the same time accurately" said the happy winner. "The most important thing here is telling a coherent story. You also can´t be shy about doing anything – I stood inside the pot I brought with, for example, to illustrate how a plant takes in water and sweats it out again."

Bathiany, who in ´real´ life is completing his doctoral work at the MPI on the topic of the "Stability of the Atmosphere-Biosphere System,“ self-ironically described his performance as "dadaist." This particularly because in trying to depict the rotation of the earth, he swung his ingredients around wildly, to the great satisfaction of the kids in the audience.

"With the Science Slam, we want to show that science can be both easy to understand and interesting for anyone" explained Cornelia Driesen, the organizer of the event. Unlike a poetry slam, there is much more that is possible at a science slam, including experiments, artworks, theater, films, objects or costumes. The important thing is only that the research area be portrayed in an informative and amusing manner.

For Sebastian Bathiany, this process began in January 2011, when he took part in Famelab, a similar event. You can see his offering at that event here.