Systema Pokémonum: Assessing Pokémon’s Place in the History of Science

well, it was only a matter of time before I found an excuse to talk about Pokémon for an academic conference

Trinity History Con is an annual conference on intersections of science and pop culture, run out of Trinity College Dublin. It’s been in-person previously, but is all online this year, for… obvious reasons… so the presentations are all on YouTube. And I submitted one! My co-writer and presenter here is Elena Romero Passerin, who’s doing a PhD at St. Andrews (where Jim the Editor did his PhD) on the history of biology in early modern Europe, specifically botanical gardens in the 17th and 18th centuries. We talk in this video about the “collector” mindset of enlightenment naturalists, the involvement of non-professionals in scientific research, the utopian ideals of western science, and Pokémon’s place as a cheerleader for environmentalism and life sciences. We put a lot of work into it, so I hope you enjoy it!

also, if you’ve watched any of Jim’s Final Fantasy streams you will have heard my voice by now, but for most readers this will be the first time you’ve seen my face (albeit in a tiny corner thumbnail), so get ready to be blown away by my sheer on-screen charisma

A Pokémon Trainer Is You! II: For Real This Time, ‘Cause You’re Getting A Pokémon!

Last time, on A Pokémon Trainer Is You:

Are you a boy or a girl?
– Yes

What are your special skills?
– Compassion: You are less of a $#!tbag than most kids your age, allowing you to empathise with people and Pokémon, and intuit their desires or concerns.
– Science: You hang around Professor Oak’s lab a lot, and have picked up a lot of debatably useful trivia about everything from astronomy to marine biology.
– Tactics: You watch televised Pokémon battles obsessively.  You know Pokémon type advantages by heart, and know how certain moves can be used in creative ways.

What is your rival’s name?
– I think it’s like a colour or something

Okay, let’s get on with it!

You’re at Professor Oak’s lab, ready for the beginning of the rest of your life!  The floor is tiled in pristine white – or at least, it used to be; they do a lot of experiments here and the cleaners can’t keep up.  You can still pick out most of the stains that are your fault.  Thick textbooks on Pokémon behaviour and anatomy line every wall and are scattered over most of the tables, complex machines with lots of enticing buttons litter the main room, and the lab assistants are that particular kind of dishevelled that says “we barely know how to feed and clothe ourselves, but give us grant money and we’ll work 36 hours a day!”  You nod cheerily to each of them as you pass.  You have a lot of fun memories in this place – culturing bacteria in Petri dishes, mixing chemicals to create violent colours and beautiful explosions, learning to predict the weather from air pressure measurements, helping the Professor’s assistants to draw up charts of Kantonian habitats and biomes.  It’s almost a shame to be leaving, but there’s so much to do out in the world: people and Pokémon to meet, natural phenomena to explore, battles to win!  Professor Oak is standing, magisterial and dignified, but with a kindly smile on his face, just next to a high bench with three glittering round objects.

Continue reading “A Pokémon Trainer Is You! II: For Real This Time, ‘Cause You’re Getting A Pokémon!”

Anonymous asks:

If you’re a Classical archeologist, how come you’re so knowledgable about evolutionary biology? And is Jim as smart as you are? Curious because I admire your wide-ranging intellect!

Flattery will get you everywhere, anonymous grey sphere.

So, for my undergrad I did what in New Zealand we call a conjoint degree.  You have a higher course load, and it takes four years (instead of three, which is the standard for a bachelor’s degree in New Zealand), but you come out of it with two degrees.  As a result, although I’m an archaeologist, I actually also hold a BSc in chemistry, which is fundamental to a lot of my work, because I’m interested in analytical techniques for investigating the chemical composition of artefacts and archaeological materials (for my PhD, I want to conduct analyses of that kind on samples of Roman window glass).  I also have a better-than-layman’s knowledge of biology and statistics, but they’re definitely not specialist subjects of mine.

Jim the Editor is about half as clever as he thinks he is, but that’s still enough to make him as smart as me. 😉 He probably has broader knowledge of a lot of subjects where I tend to dive down obscure rabbit holes… which helps in keeping me honest.

Rivals, part 6: Colress

Colress, in all his scientific glory.
Colress, in all his scientific glory.

Okay, I realise that we’re pushing it by including Colress in this series; it’s easy to come up with reasons to lump in N with the list of ‘rival’ characters, even though he behaves very differently to the rest of them, but Colress is very clearly not the same thing.  However, I don’t care and I want to talk about Colress, because shut up.

Nice reasoned argument there.

Thank you.

So, Colress.  Crazy mad scientist character.  I was underwhelmed by him, to be honest.  I mean, what does he even do?

I actually liked him!  I enjoyed the fact that he was working pretty much at right angles to what literally everyone else in the story was trying to do.

Continue reading “Rivals, part 6: Colress”