Engineers and Illiterates team up for SCIENCE!

“When I get down [inside my head]… The marbles start turning and I start seeing shapes and getting a rhythm of things. That’s science to me.” – Steven Tyler

Imagine a science experiment where you get to take a bunch of monkeys who do sign language, give them marijuana and ask them to explain science.

It’s a pretty amazing scientific experiment. And is doing it, but for ethical reasons, he had to replace sign language monkeys with musicians. And he had to increase the amount of weed dispensed to each participant by at least 10 fold… to help ease the pain.

I assume his hypothesis was that this project would prove that Bono and Justin Bieber are intellecutally inspiring. And since is a brilliant researcher, he understands that any result is a result… even if that result is “train wreck horrifying”, and even if you couldn’t have predicted that Miley Cyrus and SnoopDogg are not great scientific thought leaders, even during the part of the experiment where you edited the film down to make it as inspiring (and coherent) as possible.

The Black Eyed Peas front man/ entrepreneur/ tech wizard, pairs up with inventor/ FIRST® founder Dean Kamen for “ FIRST — Science is Rock and Roll,” a groundbreaking, one-hour special promoting education, science and technology. The first of its kind, the special takes an inside, up close look at the 20th Annual FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship, a worldwide science and robotics K-12 competition that celebrates technology and features live performances by The Black Eyed Peas and Willow Smith, as well as special appearances from a host of high profile celebrities speaking out to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education. “ FIRST — Science is Rock and Roll” airs SUNDAY, AUGUST 14 (7:00-8:00 p.m., ET) on The ABC Television Network.

“ FIRST – Science is Rock and Roll” is an electric hour of highlights from the 20th Annual FIRST® Robotics Championship. At the FIRST event,, Aneesh Chopra, Assistant to the President and Chief Technology Officer of the U.S., along with 30,000 students, fans, families, educators and industry leaders came together at the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, MO to celebrate the engineering prowess of talented students from around the world. Featuring live musical performances by The Black Eyed Peas and Willow Smith before an enthusiastic crowd of 30,000, and special appearances by such celebrities as Justin Bieber, Jack Black, Bono, Miranda Cosgrove, Miley Cyrus, Josh Duhamel, Willow Smith, Britney Spears, Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Steven Tyler and Executive Producer, the program documents the challenges that the country?s best and brightest students faced in the FIRST Regional Competitions leading up to and culminating in the international Championship.

“As families across America are preparing to send their kids back to school, “ FIRST – Science is Rock and Roll? will entertain as well as get viewers excited about robots. Find out just how cool technology can be as the top robot teams face off in competition,” said Executive Producer/star and FIRST founder Dean Kamen.


And that’s pretty awesome… But I’m a little concerned about the PR for this event. Because, thus far, the most science can take from this is that scientists everywhere… everywhere at US First Robotics, anyway… received an affirmation from Justin Bieber that what they do is just as cool as what he does. We will call that Bieber’s Law of Thermodybigwords.

SnoopDogg wants you to know that “Science is a class that’s definitely needed to go back in the school system. Because it’ll, you know, give you a different subject and a different view on life. When you get out of school you’ll try to better understand what life is about.”

Science will give you a different subject. That was deep, Snoop.

So… it’s nice that and friends are trying to show how important science is. But I’m skeptical of the “we’re pretty much idiots and science gave us the technology to talk about how much we don’t know about science using nothing but the internet so you should totally teach science because, as Mylie said, you know, aliens and shit” approach. Hopefully they’ll brush up on things like “What is science” and “not sounding so fucking high.” Because really, it’s a kind of cool concept… as long as this doesn’t backfire and Britney Spears ends up ruining robots for everyone.

I guess we’ll find out Sunday.


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. Does anyone else want to play ‘make up a caption’ for the image of the robot and featured above? I’d do it, but I fear I’d be banned from Skepchick for the amount of obscenity I’d use.

  2. Some of the most inspiring high school physics teachers from my day couldn’t remember the 60’s… maybe this isn’t entirely doomed a la Insane Clown Posers.

    1. Were they inspiring because you were really, really high? Or were they inspired because they were really, really high?

      1. Neither… but there was certainly better tunes to go along with the labs, and a propensity to encourage a general violation of rules and boundaries in coming up with labs and demonstrations. Fortunately none of the explosions, projectiles, or the lost boa constrictor hurt anybody in the classroom or (too our knowledge) general public within range.

        1. Though given that last post, perhaps I should have focused a bit more on English class. Wait, did I just start a sentence with a preposition? @#$*!

          1. The sort-of rule is that you shouldn’t END your sentences with prepositions.

            So… yeah. To paraphrase a wise man:

            English is a class that’s definitely needed to go back in the school system. Because it’ll, you know, give you a different subject and a different view on life. When you get out of school you’ll try to better understand what life is about.

        2. Hmm, well, one of the founders of string theory and I used to hang out on the back steps of the observatory, indulging in reefer, as he called it… Hey wait, maybe that explains string theory…

  3. Maybe it won’t suck too badly. One can only hope. Snarkiness aside, I give the guy credit for trying. Do you think it could do more harm than good? The traditional skeptical community has not been very successful in reaching’s target audience.

  4. was actually very well spoken on NPR this evening. Beiber and Snoop-dog aside, seems pretty legitimately excited to be supporting science.

    1. I really hope that this whole thing kicks ass. Like I said, I think it’s a great concept. And is not a dumb man. But if we’re keeping score, in this inning, science PR, which prior to was bad ass fucking robots, is losing thanks to these clips.

      And in fairness,’s personal contributions to this video project were fantastic. I think he chose enthusiastic celebrity A-list over having to possibly settle for enthusiastic knowledgeable A-minus-list… but there’s still time to fix any missteps.

      Fingers crossed?

  5. Hmmm…. I would like to be optimistic about this, and it’s pretty awesome that some big names are fronting it, and will reach audiences that maybe wouldn’t normally be reached, but… Ugh.

  6. Justin Bieber explains science? Will we get to hear Katie Price explain philosophy next week?

  7. Hey how about a Britney Spears/Justin Bieber destroying robot? That way Science and Music can both win.

    I found it sad that no one actually mentioned the scientific method. That is what makes it all work, why you can reliably build an iphone. The path to an iphone is:

    Scientific method (philosophy) -> Equations describing nature (Theory) -> Robots, iphones (Engineering).

    Far better to promote the philosophy, and no one really mentions that in the talks. Just oh atoms are cool, and yeah iphones rock, uh?

  8. Well I think this more says something about our society. That a lot of people blindly consume the crappy media entertainment companies are pushing and it takes pushing more of that crappy media to get people to actually pay attention.


  9. They should get me on there! I am a production chemist and I play the drums in like three bands a few HUNDRED people have heard of. I’m pretty much a famous, successful rock and roll scientist. /sarcasm *sadness*

  10. I’d rather see them excited about science and clueless than apathetic about science and clueless. This movement is a good thing and I think we should try to use it, not mock it.

  11. I highly doubt Dean Kamen would allow this to go on if he didn’t think it was for the best. I’ve seen the guy at First events before and at times it seems like he detests anyone with a high profile career that isn’t academic.

  12. This reminds me of Drunk History (, which is great for entertainment value, but probably not the best way to learn about history. The biggest difference is that they just got musicians to talk about science instead of actual experts. I would love to see somebody do “High Science” right with real experts, as I think that would be entertaining, and the people could talk about something they know.

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