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Science Communication

Hammer time on Science Twitter and drummers keeping cool while keeping time

by Sam Lemonick
August 12, 2020 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 98, ISSUE 31

 

Hammer time on Science Twitter

09831-newscripts-slime.jpg
Credit: Twitter
U Can't Touch This: MC Hammer reveals he is a true science fan.

Question: What does slime mold have in common with hip-hop superstar MC Hammer?

Answer: University of California, Berkeley, biologist Michael Eisen is a big fan of both.

Which is why Eisen thought it was so awesome to discover Hammer tweeting a video of slime molds growing on July 14. Known for ’90s hits like “2 Legit 2 Quit,” Hammer turns out to be a bona fide geek. In a subsequent tweet, Hammer told Eisen he had grown up visiting the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the Chabot Space and Science Center. It was the first time Eisen had noticed, but Hammer in fact regularly tweets about science, sometimes using the hashtag #scicomm, alongside tweets about music, racial justice, and his hometown’s baseball team, the Oakland A’s.

What struck Eisen was that once people got past Hammer’s fame, it was clear he was a person who was really interested in science and talking to scientists, like a lot of people on so-called Science Twitter. That community would have welcomed him even “if he had just been Dave Hammer,” Eisen says.

But the thing that most impressed Eisen is what happened next. Days after the slime mold tweet, Hammer was tweeting about science’s racist and sexist legacy. “It felt like he was laying the smackdown on science—in a good way,” Eisen remembers. He says it showed how much Hammer embodies Science Twitter, which moves fluidly from talking about cool new papers to the ways science can be racist.

Eisen says he hopes Hammer stays engaged. He’s invited Hammer to visit his laboratory when it’s safe and says Hammer told him he’d love to come. Eisen is thinking they could catch an A’s game after. He’s a big fan of them, too.

MC Hammer declined Newscripts’ request for an interview. But he does know what C&EN is now.

 

Hot beats and cool butts

Among the tribulations of a professional drummer—late nights, endless tours, calluses from signing autographs—there’s one that isn’t talked about too much outside the music community. “Swamp ass is a funny topic,” says Megan Jane, a drummer who backs up artists like Chrissy Metz.

09831-newscripts-stool.jpg
Credit: Air Throne
Music fans: Forced air cools drummers' derrieres.

Jane says it’s easy to get hot and sweaty behind the drums, especially playing outdoor shows in the summer. Which is why she’s intrigued by a newly patented technology: a drum throne (that’s what they call their stools) with a fan blowing air up through the seat.

The Air Throne was Joe Volk’s idea. Volk grew up playing drums in his dad’s church and now plays and tours with artists signed to the label Bethel Music. Like Jane, he says butt sweat is something drummers joke about. He decided to do something.

Volk worked with music producer Bobby Strand and engineer Eric Pierson to create the air-cooled stool. The first prototype, which Volk used at a show, was hooked up to a car battery. Maybe not the safest idea, he says, but it worked.

The final version has a built-in fan blowing air up through layers of foam and out through a perforated leather seat. Several professionals have been testing these on tour, including Carrie Underwood’s drummer. Pierson tells Newscripts one of the biggest challenges was designing the stack of materials inside the seat to be supportive and comfortable and to let air flow even with a person on it. One original idea was to incorporate air conditioning, but a fan proved to be enough. “When it hits where you’re sitting, it’s cold,” Volk reports.

Please send comments and suggestions to newscripts@acs.org.

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Comments
Chrystal Starbird (August 23, 2020 2:02 PM)
I'm not sure how you can mention MC Hammer's high level of engagement with science Twitter of late without mentioning what he has been primarily engaging with, namely #BlackIn... weeks. Although he has a long history of engaging in science discourse, he clearly started this current round after #BlackInChem week participants asked for his endorsement of #BlackChemistsWeek. Considering you are a chemistry publication, seems like a huge and questionable oversight, as this is not mentioned once in your article.
Sam Lemonick (August 24, 2020 9:19 AM)
Hi Chrystal. Thank you for mentioning this. I saw MC Hammer's enthusiasm for #BlackChemistsWeek, and I think his engagement was emblematic of what Michael Eisen observed, that MC Hammer has his finger on the pulse of Science Twitter. Unfortunately, this article was finalized before #BlackInChem week started, so there wasn't a chance to talk about his engagement with that or his sustained promotion of Black scientists since. I think all of us at C&EN are hoping we can cover that specific aspect of his Twitter use sometime soon.

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