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Science Communication


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

by Sam Lemonick
August 12, 2020 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 98, Issue 31


Hammer time on Science Twitter

Screenshot of MC Hammer's tweet containing a video about slime molds. The picture shows yellow slime mold growing on a stack of Petri dishes.
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.

Photograph of a cutaway of the Air Throne drummer's stool showing layers of foam and plenum.
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.

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