Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Harry Potter professor tackles vampires with chemistry - in Nebraska


Two years ago, the University of Nebraska's amazingly bright chemistry professor Dr. Rebecca Lai concocted a fun Harry Potter-themed chemistry class which aimed to bring the joys of science to a broader audience.

The class in question, "A Muggle's Guide to Harry Potter's Chemistry (Chem 192H)" was what you might call necessary, since chemistry is rarely a subject that most people - Muggle or otherwise - readily associate with fun.

It was also a complete and utter smash hit with students, and Lai's hoping to offer it again in the future. Yet the future is nothing if not uncertain, and who knows how relevant Harry Potter will be in a semester or two's time (pretty relevant, I hope!)

But you know what's relevant now?  Vampires. And Lai's looking to bring them into her next big lecture.


Just in time for Halloween, the University of Nebraska is pitting vampires, zombies, and hashtags against one another in a #TeamZomB v. #TeamVamp throwdown.

Dr. Lai's taking the side of the fanged crusaders, 'natch, with a reprisal of a talk she gave back in April called Interview with a Vampire - Decoded by Scientists which examined the scientific basis for vampire mythos.

Lai will be the first to admit that there's no scientific evidence for vampires (sorry, Team Edward!) but she'll also admit that there's plenty of  compelling scientific evidence for the fabled aversion to sunlight and craving for blood that many of us associate with the urbane undead.

If you happen to be on the University of Nebraska campus this fall, you can catch Dr. Lai square off against Doctor Raychelle Burks on October 29 to see which scientist presents the most compelling case for the supernatural. If you, like me, don't live anywhere near Nebraska, you can either follow the debate on Twitter or wait for the video to be posted after editing.