London open mics spreadsheet

Having been to quite a lot of London open mics recently and been asked which I recommend, I thought I would answer this question in the most poetic way possible: with a spreadsheet. All entries are what I vaguely recall at the time of writing. Feel free to rehost, and contact me for the power to edit it if you want to add events or change anything in it.



Who knew that infinity could evaporate?

That those bright-clouded darknesses

May one day spin everything into light?

That Beginning and perhaps End are words we

Must teach the universe,

While it in turn thrums out the mystery

Of inward-turned space

And the dreams inside its scars.



Notes:  Hawking radiation refers to the loss of mass of a black hole via a quantum effect, predicted to eventually empty black holes, which radiate more as they deplete themselves. Eventually these holes are predicted to predominate in the universe, then gradually lose mass to this radiation.
Hawking was also involved in the Hartle-Hawking hypothesis, a proposed explanation for the Big Bang, which denies the meaningfulness of the question ‘what came before the Big Bang.’ If the universe ends with a Big Crunch, a similar answer is possible, though we currently think there will be black holes and heat death, as above. Even so, it’s not clear what would constitute the ‘end’ of such a universe, as it gradually empties of all matter (with the remainder possibly decaying spontaneously).
He was responsible for a partial proof of the ‘no-hair  theorem’, which says that you lose most information about the contents of a black hole and can’t know about what goes on inside. As with all physical proofs, it relies on uncertain assumptions, so can be considered a proof  but isn’t definitely correct, and is still debated today – Hawking changed his opinions on the matter within his lifetime.

He was an inspiration to me and many physicists and a colossal figure in both the discovery and popularisation of science. We will miss him.

Escapism (The Greatest Magic of Harry Potter)


Imagine a world where magic is strong
and hunger is cured with the wave of a wand
where you can just fly
anywhere that you want.
Now imagine there are muggles who can’t.
They don’t have your contactless cards
or quite the right passports to pass border guards
but they’ve heard tales
of a land in the clouds
where the streets are paved
not bombed-open ground
and childrens’ lives are saved
when cash can’t be found
but without the right papers,
all they have to claim a place with is a story
and we rarely listen to oral traditions now
we spend our days playing zero sum games
where for one to gain, person two has to lose
so we choose to keep players few, forgetting
that humans are creative.
However little we take with us,
we carry whole worlds of new opportunity
and I’m tired of living
on a tiny mind’s island overfilled by one
so let’s escape.
Let’s all emigrate
to a kingdom of heaven
that lies inside
whose passport is love and whose boundaries are wide
as the number of people who fit in your head
so stretch out your thoughts with the stories you’ve read
and fly with me into this imagined nation
because the true reason for escapism
isn’t running away
but a way to see how things should be run.


This poem is based on the study ‘The greatest magic of Harry Potter: reducing prejudice’, about the impact of Harry Potter on out-group attitudes towards immigrants,  asylum seekers and gay people, full-text available here (researchgate).


B’s – the flight of the bumblebee poem



Bees bring bounty,
black-barred bodies
blotched blond by
bedecking bouquets
Butterflies belittled by said bumblebees’
Better speed spreading stamen’s sandy seed,
see busy bees bear bristly baskets,
brushes storing blooming banquets
besides bee’s sides
besides, bumblebees’
sound-based strategies stimulate blueberries
shy seed sandstorms sent scuzzing,
simply, solely by such bees buzzing

Some believe bees soaring sends science skiving
shouldn’t be breeze-sailing but skydiving.
Scientists say B.S..
Sure, some solving sums simplified
set bees stationary, such bees subside
but bees buzz: showing super-speed beats
sustaining soaring by spiralling breeze.

Sadly, speaking sustainably
some bee species become seldom-seen, samier.
Several blights strike simultaneously.
Blood-sucking bugs spread by beekeeper saunter
bearing still smaller bugs so swiftening slaughter
because bee-breeding brings samness bottlenecks
shameless siblings should seek balance by better sex
similarly studies see
beetle-slaying sprays bemusing bees

So, solutions?
Some suggest banning sprays, some suggest breeding strays
but silver bullets shan’t shoot straight
since several sources bring such states
so start by saving bees some space
because bees best buds supply bees better buds
banishing starvation, beauty so beloved
supplements stress busting steps,
supporting better species spreads,
so beleaguered bees soon blaze back strong
brazen bullets blasting bassoon-song
because blissful blossoms save bees

GOSH, that’s handy: open-science hardware


Global Open Science Hardware extends the philosophy of open source coding to making real objects. It is rapidly gaining importance as hardware manufacturing becomes more digital and DIY, with advances, such as 3D printing and modular electronic controllers. This brings exciting new opportunities for collaboration, both between academics and with interested citizen scientists.

A few weeks ago, a group of international pioneers compiled a manifesto for the Open Science Hardware movement at the Gathering for Open Science Hardware (GOSH) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. This movement aims to reduce barriers between the various creators and users of scientific tools. The values condensed in the manifesto align well with the wider Open Science movement; they have served the pioneers well while disrupting the “business as usual” community. The truth is, not every development needs exclusive legal protection, either in hardware or software. Sharing can create large and active user communities that add value to the product or publication. What’s more, user-based development can be more suitable, more adaptable and much cheaper.

Consider the story of Arduino, an open source prototyping platform, whose adaptability has captured the imagination of millions over the last years. Technology magazines are full of news about the component that allows users to easily automate and control almost any hardware. While the component has found its way into household appliances, toys and workshops, there has also been an academic motivation for the development of Arduino: Tom Igoe, one of the co-founders and a professor in New York, got involved because it was the tool he needs for teaching interactive systems and arts, “I’m not interested in whether students learn to be good programmers, or good electrical engineers. I just want them to have a platform, with which they can build tools they need. I think there is an attitude in many fields that you should just accept what experts give you. That seems backward to me. Expertise should be used in service to one’s larger community.” Originating from a laboratory in that spirit is the Open Quartz Crystal Microbalance, a sensitive microbalance applied in chemistry, biology and material science when small weight matters. An openQCM team member Marco Mauro, details his experience, “When we tried the approach of open source hardware as a private company, by launching one of the first scientific analytical instruments in the world completely open, we would never have imagined this level of positive reinforcement. The community of users has helped us a lot optimising the device and inspired our next products.”

On the other side of the world, a US company from Ann Arbor, Michigan, with operations in Chile, called Backyard Brains, has made teaching neurophysiology cheap and appealing through demonstration sets combining electronics and cockroaches. They initially chose open hardware because they wanted to put their first dollar to work instead of serving legal fees. To date, they have spread thousands of educational tools around the globe from cyborg insects to microscopes, while maintaining a lean operation. That said, what must be the coolest open source microscope, so far, has been designed by Richard Bowman. It’s so exciting that it deserves its own Lab Times article.

These tools are appropriate for both professional and citizen scientists. Targeting the latter is the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist Open Science Hardware lab in Canada. They create do-it-yourself monitoring devices, or trawls, that target marine plastics, so people most affected by pollution can investigate their environments. The director Max Liboiron is also an advocate for a thorough community engineering approach, “We recently tested our open science hardware trawls against the expensive industry standard, so we can be sure that our DIY versions capture data comparable to other research tools, and it got a lot of media attention.”

Joshua Pearce, author of the book OpenSource Lab has been using open hardware in his lab for several years already. For us, he summarises, “Now that most labs have access to digital fabrication equipment such as 3D printers, it just makes sense for scientific equipment to be open hardware. It provides access to high-end scientific tools at low costs, while enabling reproducibility of experiments by replication of equipment itself. At the same time, the more stringent sharing of source code for the hardware makes customisation of tools easy. Hundreds of tools are already available on the web and more are added or derived from them every day.” Still, much needs to be done to make open sharing of science hardware designs the status quo. Currently, scientists often publish results without providing information about the hardware used to obtain them, particularly if it’s home-made. To change this, a lot of infrastructure has recently been created that addresses some of the open hardware-specific challenges. Two new journals are being created, to provide a platform for academic exchange and to enable further recognition of involved scientists: HardwareX and the Journal of Open Hardware (launching later this year beside the existing Journal of Open Research Software, but submissions are already welcome). Business models based on open source hardware are tested by an increasing number of start-ups and studied by academics. Licences specific to open hardware are created by the likes of CERN OHL, TAPR, and Solderpad. And the open source documentation software DocuBricks is developed by community members, which makes creating good instructions easier for hardware makers. This addresses an important concern of the community about quality management and the interpretation of the open source hardware definition. Many currently released instructions are step-by-step guides that enable users to recreate hardware. But to be called open, they also need to contain modifiable design files with information that gives power to the community to creatively modify. It is worth writing a documentation that communicates the design rationale and allows for modularity. Only when other makers can improve and adapt the design, can we unleash the true power of open sourcing.

If you want to benefit from more handson teaching, improved impact opportunities, better reproducibility and new pathways for collaboration at lowered cost, there are many ways to get involved: (1) Talk about it! (2) Start creating hardware. (3) Remember that documenting and sharing is worthwhile for you and essential for the community. (4) Get your hardware designs published! As early free software pioneer Dennis Allison said, “Let us stand on each other’s shoulders, not each other’s toes.”


Article by Tobias Wenzel and Robin Lamboll, first published in the Lab Times. Original at: