By | creative, news

The SCQ is finally pleased to announce a print version of its innards, which will henceforth be referred to as the Annals of Praetachoral Mechanics. The name, of course, is a playful attempt at latinizing the inherent goal of the SCQ – which is to say that it provides science writing and reading options for audiences outside of the conventional science consuming circles. Or put another way, individuals who are praeta (outside) the choral (choir).

The hope is that we will be able to published this tome or work once a year, usually around the fall, and in a revenue neutral manner (i.e. one only pays for the printing and the shipping entailed).

Furthermore, we have been having much joy over the different ways we can format this endeavour, all with the intention that folks will summarily impressed and confused when the book is in their hands.

And so, we propose the following: let us organized the writing in such a way as to highlight a collection of our favourite SCQ pieces published in the last year (or longer as this first volume may be),.. but then invite the reader to flip the book upside down, and then turn it around, so that viola! It becomes a formal scientific publication showcasing our ongoing fantastical but seriously technical journal articles. These, our most loyal readers will know, are usually thematic in nature. For instance, in the case of our first volume, they happen to all pertain to Wookiee related science.

In any event, this is the plan. To whet your appetite, we are happy to present (below) a few renditions of possible covers – the beauty of which, we admit, was made possible by the marvellous work of Fortis Varthis:


Note that if you would like to entertain the idea of having your work included in this illustrious first volume, do please browse through our submission’s guidelines, and then submit your good work to db at mail dot ubc dot ca (subject heading: SCQ submission). All pieces published before September 15th will be deemed eligible for inclusion, whilst those thereafter will be considered for volume 2.

About The Science Creative Quarterly

Castigat ridendo mores.


By | archive, news

The Phylo project is hard at work on preparing the next high quality Phylomon* deck, and this one will revolve around Charles Darwin and his wonderful 5 year voyage on the H.M.S. Beagle.  

At this point in time, we’ve enlisted the help of noted Darwinian aficionado, Karen James, who has nicely narrowed down the list of cards that are needed for this endeavour (see original google doc here). In turn, I have a group of folks in the backend of the phylo website, who have produced a number of nice looking “beta” cards that can be used to test things out (they used images from vintage natural history prints, many of which were actually produced by folks on the voyage itself – i.e. John Gould for example).

These “beta” cards can be found on the phylogame website, but we’ve also produced a handy dandy 10 page pdf of the putative deck for easy printing and cutting (click on the image below to download – 11.5Mb pdf). Note, the rules for the game can be downloaded here.


Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)

That being said, because this is a crowdsourced project, we would love to hear comments from anyone interested, and with that community incentive in mind, here is a list of things to consider:

1. The next two weeks, I’m hoping that some folks out there in the world wide web will print out this “beta” Darwin card set and give it a try: this way, we can finalize what the deck list needs to be. The reason why there is a time crunch on this, is that this finalized list will allow us to start the process of seeking out and commissioning artists for the production of lovely card art.


Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)

2. The species used are all species observed and noted during that fateful voyage. For now, they’ve been grouped according to certain legs of the trip (kind of by geography if you will). This was mainly because the actual sea voyage had a lot of going back and forth, so Karen thought that going with a temporal theme would be too tricky. Here you’ll note that the geography categorization is mentioned in the card text (i.e. “Galapagos to Auckland), but we’ve also coordinated the background colours of the cards themselves, to make this easier to see (some cards have a reddish background, some brownish, etc).


Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)

3. With the geographical mode of categorization, and because the H.M.S. Beagle itself traversed a significant part of the globe, it turns out that when one plays this game, there will often be cases where an organism can be played adjacent to another where the compatibility rules work, but that they would never actually be in the same part of the world (i.e. technically, some connections would not be grounded in reality, as usually decks are organized around locality unlike this one). Here, players will need to make a judgement call on how important this is. In other words, I’d like to hear people’s opinions on what they think about this. We think the cards can still be played in a scientifically literate manner (i.e. using the background card colour to help guide these more “real” connections), but that being overly strict will likely make the game much more finicky. Perhaps there are options out there where the scientifically literate connections (i.e. via background card colours) are worth more points, or are immune from event cards, etc. We’d love to hear your thoughts.

4. The current list of “Event Cards” were pretty hastily made and largely influenced by availability of cool vintage paintings. Since the final deck will involve art commissions, we’re actually a lot more free to come up with much more clever event cards. Would love to hear more ideas here.


Click on the cards to download the beta deck pdf (11.5Mb)

5. And since we’re asking for help generally, there is also a much bigger challenge at stake. Karen and I are very intrigued by the idea of tweaks to the current rules that allow folks to follow the voyage in a “temporal” manner. i.e. the possibility of “history cards.” Mostly, event cards change the food chain connections, or alter the game play where someone has a logistical advantage or disadvantage (i.e. The pdf you’ve been provided with is pretty much the usual ecosystem type building game, which we know works pretty well). With the possibility of “history cards” we want to see if there are elements to the game that can illustrate things in a time dependant (i.e. historical) manner. This is actually why the pdf has a number of blank cards. These have been included in case anyone out there has a cool idea they want to test out, since we currently have no idea what this might look like, or know how doable it is. Furthermore, we’re not even sure if it’s something we want to try to sort out now, or perhaps later with the release of Darwin themed expansion packs (i.e. no rush to do this, but super mega bonus points if someone does have a go).

Anyway, for folks who do help out, please leave commentary somewhere for us to find (if not in comments sections, then maybe at the forum, or via email – db at mail dot ubc dot ca). Anybody who comes up with some excellent suggestions/commentary will be eligible to receive the Darwin deck when all is said and done (and also the Beaty Deck as well). Note if the contribution is outstanding, we’ll also make sure you’ll be properly attributed in the final version of the deck itself.

Game on!

About David Ng

David (@ng_dave) is Faculty at the Michael Smith Labs. His writing has appeared in places such as McSweeney's, The Walrus, and also as an occasional blogger at If you're looking for a graphic for your next science talk, he encourages you to check out his blog,


By | archive, humour, news

(Well, actually 6 since the first ad is not real…)

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This is a call for outstanding candidates to apply for a tenure track assistant professor position within the context of the Michael Smith Laboratories at the University of British Columbia. The successful applicant is expected to work in areas of interest to current faculty members, to interact with related groups within our network and to have demonstrated ability in producing research material of excellent quality and interest.

Due to the competitive nature of this process, we ask that all candidates at the very least meet the following criteria:

The candidate’s current area of specialty must contain at least fourteen syllables.

The candidate’s expertise must speak naturally to collaborations with the disciplines of science history, Jungian philosophy, international peacekeeping, French Canadian politics, molecular genetics, early 80s pop music criticism, and West African cuisine.

The candidate must be able to “flex arm hang” for a minimum of twelve minutes.

The candidate must exhibit no more than two degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.

The candidate must be able to rub their tummy and pat their head at the same time.

The candidate must be, in no uncertain terms, hot.

In addition, short listed candidates will be subjected to a rigorous interview process that will likely involve puppetry, ultimate fighting, and some interpretative dance techniques. This, of course, might be televised nationally on CBS, so it is advisable that all applicants prepare in advance for these skill sets.

The successful applicant will covet a salary that will commensurate with experience and research record, but realistically is dependant on an obligation to play as the principle string in the University’s Chinese Orchestra during the first three years of his/her track.

We will also endeavor to provide the applicant with reasonable research space, and note that we have one of the country’s best supply of camping gear, should this be an issue. We do however ask that successful candidates will themselves provide start up funds to the sum of $1000, which must be used within 48 hours. During that period, you will, of course, be wearing brightly covered overalls and have access to a skilled carpenter who will almost certainly be just as hot as you.

The University of British Columbia is one of the leaders in North America with strong connections with many well regarded institutes, and we look forward to continuing this tradition with this placement. We hire on the basis of merit and are committed to employment equity. We encourage all qualified persons to apply; however citizens and permanent residents will be given priority. No losers please.

(…and now the real ones)

- – -


(Job posting link | pdf)

The Michael Smith Laboratories (MSL) and the Centre for High-throughput Biology (CHiBi) at the University of British Columbia are jointly launching a major recruiting initiative and invite applications for six new faculty positions. These full-time tenure-track positions will be filled primarily at the Assistant Professor level but exceptional candidates at a higher rank may be considered. The six new faculty will be located in exceptional research space at the centre of campus within a highly interdisciplinary and collaborative environment that includes biological and physical scientists and engineers, as well as proteomics and bioinformatics experts.


Approaches using molecular genetics, chemical, computational or molecular biology or bioengineering to probe animals, plants and unicellular organisms, and models of disease therein, will be considered.


All facets of metabolic engineering and synthetic biology, from technology development and computational approaches to innovative applications, will be considered. Applicants with an interest in bioenergy and biorefining are particularly encouraged to apply.


The development of innovative technologies, devices, computational approaches or chemical and biophysical techniques is welcomed, with particular emphasis on genome-wide and high-throughput approaches.

Successful applicants for these positions must have a Ph.D., will have demonstrated outstanding research strength and creativity, have several years of productive experience, will be expected to contribute to high quality undergraduate/graduate teaching and to effectively supervise graduate students, and be prepared to integrate their expertise with innovative researchers at the University. Academic appointments could be within or between departments in the Faculties of Applied Science, Forestry, Medicine and/or Science, evidence of teaching effectiveness would be an asset.

The Michael Smith Laboratories and the Centre for High-throughput Biology comprise a diverse group of 22 research and teaching faculty and over 150 graduate students, post-doctoral fellows and research associates. Research strengths include medical and animal molecular genetics/biology, plant and forest molecular genetics/biology, bioprocess engineering, chemical biology, proteomics, micro-fluidics bioinformatics and statistical genomics. Importantly the group is also providing leadership for the Bio-energy and Refining Innovation (BERI) network as part of a university-wide initiative in sustainability. Applicants are strongly encouraged to visit and to learn more about the unique technological and research opportunities available to new faculty members. Substantial start-up funds and exceptional mentoring will be provided.

UBC with over 12,000 faculty and staff plus 8,000 graduate students, has deep research strength across the Applied Sciences, the Life Sciences, the Physical Sciences and Computation, and has formal associations with research hospitals, the British Columbia Cancer Agency, Genome British Columbia, the Genome Sciences Centre, the Centre for Drug Research and Development and the Institute for Systems Biology in Seattle. Researchers thus enjoy numerous opportunities for stimulating and productive collaborations. Opportunities exist to attract substantial research funding from government (e.g. Canadian Institutes for Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Canadian Foundation for Innovation), foundations (e.g. Michael Smith Foundation, Genome Canada) and industry.

Applications should include a letter of application indicating the appropriate competition number, a detailed curriculum vitae, a list of publications, a statement of research and teaching interests, and the name, address, e-mail address and phone number of at least three referees. All positions are subject to final budgetary approval. The closing date for all applications is September 14, 2010.

UBC hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment equity. All qualified persons are encouraged to apply. UBC is strongly committed to diversity within its community and especially welcomes applications from visible minority group members, women, Aboriginal persons, persons with disabilities, persons of any sexual orientation or gender identity, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas. Canadians and permanent residents of Canada will be given priority.

About The Science Creative Quarterly

Castigat ridendo mores.


By | archive, news

We did this a few years back, then got busy, then got very very busy, then got not so busy (but decided to enjoy that), and are now the busiest we’ve ever been, but thought (for a variety of reasons) to put this out there again…

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We don’t want to actually make money out of this, because when you do, things get significantly more complicated. They become high maintenance so to speak – with taxation, copyright and distribution logistics to worry about. Although some view us as a literary endeavour, we are in truth a covert educational project designed primarily to get non-scientists to immerse themselves a little more into this science thing. This, we think is working, at least if you use our contributor lists as a gauge.

With the “not worrying about money” baseline in mind, we seem to be left with two options. They are: (1) get a bonafide publisher to worry about such matters for us, and distribute the journal via the standard publishing routes, or (2) rely on third party online self printing/publishing services (like Lulu or Cafepress), which allow you to send in the “finished” product in electronic form and then sit back whilst computer fairies and gnomes produce physical books based on online requests to purchase. To avoid the money stuff, we simply add zero dollars on top of the base fee charged by said service.

To be honest, we’re not sure which is best.

(1) seems to gain us more clout and a wider distribution, and may be doable, because in a surreal but fortuitous twist of fate, we have been proposition by a variety of agents and publishers over the last 3 years. The problem here is that we do lose a fair bit of control (for instance, said publishers tend to be only interested in the humour pieces – maybe that’s o.k, although it does sort of defeat the intent of the SCQ?). Anyway, as always a chance to discuss this with others is key – maybe even a small press or two can be led our way.

(2) seems to be more fun and likely much quicker, primarily because we, ourselves, get to design things like this:

(Click here for hi-res pdf of potential cover)

As well, we can ask our readers to participate by choosing their favourites from the past year. For example, we can also ask our readers for suggestions on two quotes to grace the cover of the book – one profound, one not so much – to be sent to, subject heading: quote.

Anyway, like a lot of things in the sciences, it’s all about the data you get back and the sample size recieved, so send us a few quotes, tell us your favourite pieces from the past year, and let us know what you think in general about this book business.

Dave Ng

P.S. If you are confused about the duck, it’s because of this.
P.P.S. The awesome painting of the duck is by our very own Arthur Kwan – rocks eh?

About The Science Creative Quarterly

Castigat ridendo mores.


By | archive, news

(a message from our sister site)


Egad! Is it already that close to October 6th! This is our deadline for applying to be one of the inaugural speakers of the Terry talks student conference. Well, the short answer is yes – in fact there is just under a week or so left.

And in case this is brand new news to you – the Terry talks can be encapsulated in the following manner:

“Imagine UBC’s most fascinating and engaging students coming together for a day, giving ‘the talk of their lives,’ sharing their ideas and discussing their visions for UBC and the world. Now imagine being there, with students, alumni, faculty, administration, and members of the general public watching this unfold and partaking in the various discussions, and think of all the possibilities that this idea-share holds.”

Anyway – think TED conference, but here at home, at UBC, with your UBC peers. Click here for more information.

About terry

What is Terry? Terry is a website that aims to collect prevalent (as in academic, educational, or critical) as well as esoteric (as in creative, humourous, or surreal) pieces that look at pertinent global issues. Plus, it has a kick ass speaker series.