2012-2013 Freaky Fridays

Freaky Fridays: McGill scientists confront myths, debunk popular misconceptions, and clarify science. Each Freaky Friday lecture allows for audience interaction and is followed by a popular film.

Freaky Fridays takes place in the Auditorium of the Redpath Museum, 859 Sherbrooke Street West, Metro McGill or Peel. Seating is limited, but reservations are not necessary.

For the current season, please visit the main Freaky Friday page.

For the 2012-2013 season, please see below.

Most of the Freaky Friday lectures are available on iTunes U and on McGill podcasts

Monster ants and genetic engineering

Ehab Abouheif. Image from Huffington Post.October 26, 2012. By Ehab Abouheif (Department of Biology).

How can you genetically engineer "supersoldier" ants from ordinary worker ants and why is this important for evolutionary biology? Read more on Newsmax.com: Canadian Scientists Create Monster Ants. Check out these interviews in Nature News.

This Freaky Friday presentation will be followed by the Steven Spielberg film Super 8, a 2011 American science fiction film about the scariest thing you ever saw.


Supervolcanoes and the future

The volcano in southern Iceland's Eyjafjallajokull glacier spewing ash and grit November 16, 2012. By John Stix (Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences).

Why and how do ordinary eruptions turn into global climatic disasters? This Freaky Friday presentation will be followed by the film 2012, an American science fiction disaster film about cataclysmic events unfolding in the year 2012, including a dramatization of what would happen if the Yellowstone Caldera actually erupted. Read more about Dr. Stix's experiments in ScienceDaily, in a McGill news release, and in Nature Geoscience; or read the Globe & Mail article about what Iceland's volcano in 2010 meant to the world.


Sasquatch and the unknown — wildmen as physical and cultural phenomena

John Lithgow and Harry in Harry and the Hendersons.January 11, 2013. By André Costopoulos (Department of Anthopology).

Wildmen are known by many names around the world: Sasquatch, Orang Pendek, Bigfoot, Yeti, Yowie, Mistabau, and many others. Whether or not they represent a real physical phenomenon, one thing is certain: they are a real and important cultural phenomenon. We will explore what they mean to us and what their presence in our culture says about us as humans. We will also examine some of the reported evidence of their physical existence. This Freaky Friday will be followed by the 1987 film Harry and the Hendersons, a dramatic comedy about a family's encounter with the cryptozoological creature Bigfoot.


Conversations with rats

Actor Cliff Robertson as Charly interacting with the laboratory rat Algernon.February 1, 2013. By Paul Clarke (Department of Pharmacology and Therapeutics).

Laboratory rats appear largely silent to us, but they are in fact surprisingly vocal - in a high frequency range which we cannot hear. Rats make many different kinds of ultrasonic calls, and although we are far from "cracking the code", we think that eavesdropping on rat conversations will provide insights into the emotional life of these creatures. Followed by the 1968 film Charly based on the novel Flowers for Algernon.


Spring is not what it used to be: climate change and flowering times

February 22, 2013. By Jonathan Davies (Department of Biology). 

Evidence suggests that human activities are altering the world climate and that, on average, global temperatures are rising by approximately 0.13°C per decade. Whilst there continues to be debate about the underlying causes, plants and animal have been responding dramatically to these changes. With shifting climate, species are faced with three stark options: migrate, adapt or perish. In plants, where dispersal is limited, species have been flowering earlier, fruiting later and, unfortunately, going extinct. These responses provide a biotic index by which to quantify climate change, and a pertinent reminder of the consequence of climate change on the world around us. This presentation about climate change will be followed by a screening of the PBS documentary film Global Warming: The Signs and the Science, narrated by singer Alanis Morissette.


Bugs, Drugs and the Amazing Race

March 8, 2013. By Richard Silverman and Erin Lafferty (Faculty of Medicine).

Wonder why you keep hearing about so many new infectious diseases? How do we manage them? Come explore the perpetual arms race between humans and microbes as we both battle for survival in our modern world.  This talk will be followed by a screening of the movie Contagion.