A word about the various bands listed here: The Free Radicals, The Cosmonauts (also known occasionally as The Beakerhead House Band). They are all actually the same band, pictured here:

The Beakerhead House Band

The idea of giving talks with a band originated at Mt. Royal University in Calgary in 2009. Dr. Trevor Day wanted me to speak on Darwin’s birthday; I told him I’d always wanted to give a talk with a band; he found the musicians and here we are.

Working with the band is just one of the things I’m doing to make live science presentations (talks, panel discussions, interviews) more interesting. Not to diminish content, but the redress the imbalance between content and entertainment.

The Rock’n’Roll History of Space Exploration

What is it about the idea of journeying to other planets that is so compelling – so addictive? And why has Mars always been the centerpiece?

Go to NASA’s website today. It will direct you to a graphic of how they’re going to get people to Mars. But the image doesn’t fire the imagination. However, there was a golden era: a time when the human mind ran wild and Mars became an obsession with scientists, writers, film makers, even radio hosts. It was a fantastic time; it laid the foundation for the mega-examples, like Star Wars, Star Trek and Cosmos. But it had a quality all of its own, a crazy variety of styles and ideas.

This show is a celebration of our obsession with the planet Mars. There is imagery from a century ago; radio from the 1930s; art and science from the 1950s. And such characters: Percival Lowell, the man who popularized the idea that there were canals on Mars built by a dwindling Martian civilization, Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose fame owed more to his Barsoom series than to Tarzan, and H.G. and Orson (Wells and Welles). Of course there is also great music by my band, The Cosmonauts: the perfect accompaniment to an underappreciated era.

Workshopped at the Jasper Dark Sky Festival in October, 2014, presented at Beakerhead 2015 and 2016 and booked for the Telus World of Science in January 2017.

Rock'n'Roll History of Space - Jay Ingram

Picture by Michael Chong

The Giant Walkthrough Brain

The Giant Brain

In 1972, neurosurgeon Joseph Bogen argued that a giant walkthrough brain should be constructed. He envisioned a 60 storey high building, a science museum of the human brain, built to educate large numbers of people by taking them on guided tours inside.

A giant walkthrough brain, as charming and audacious as it was, was never built. The cost makes it unlikely that a physical version will ever be erected, but modern computer technology and advances in computational human anatomy models provide another way: the exploration of a three-dimensional virtual human brain.

“The Giant Walkthrough Brain” is an innovative, engaging, public science communication project aimed at taking a live audience on a musically driven, larger-than-life virtual tour of the human brain. It is both a live theatrical performance and a multimedia project, including dramatic, 3-D computer animations and live, original music.

It’s an hour-long tour of the brain; it’s an introduction to a serious of famous personalities, all of whom taught us something crucial about the brain and it is a musical production with songs written and performed by The Free Radicals. All the while, a vivid, anatomically correct and detailed model of the brain appears on a huge screen behind the band. And the audience travels through it.


This project has a staff: I work with Trevor Day of MRU and all the Free Radicals, Dr. Christian Jacob and his team in computing science at the U. of Calgary, and Tatiana Karaman, a member of that team but also the ‘driver of the bus’.

July, 2014; first presentation, The Banff Centre

September 2014: World Premiere at Beakerhead. Two sold-out nights at Telus Spark.

April 2015: Two sold-out nights at the Timms Centre in Edmonton.

January 2016: two sold-out nights at the Kelowna Community Theatre.

Winner of the 2015 Canadian Science Writers’ Award for Science Communication.

1 Bogen, J.E.: “A Giant Walk-through Brain”. Bull. LA. Neurol. Soc. 37:131 1972

The End of Memory

End of Memory - by Jay IngramEnd of Memory - by Jay Ingram Alzheimer’s, called ‘the plague of the 21st century’ for its dramatic increase in numbers and the challenge it poses to health care. There are no effective treatments, merely a handful of drugs that promise only short-lived alleviation of symptoms.

But as familiar as we are with Alzheimer’s disease among friends and family, there are so many questions: where did it come from? Why weren’t we talking about it even fifty years ago? Do we understand what really is going on in the disease? A hundred years ago Alzheimer identified the key markers of the disease, and we still rely on them today. Maybe it’s time for a rethink. And where will we find treatments – and when?

Watson and Crick; Lennon and McCartney

Watson and Crick  - Jay Ingram PresentationWatson and Crick; Lennon and McCartney is a presentation on the importance of collaboration for creativity. I compare Watson and Crick’s legendary discovery of the structure of DNA to Lennon and McCartney’s (though mostly Lennon’s) “Strawberry Fields Forever”.  The collaboration piece begins with the fact that they are pairs, but extends to include even rivals across the Atlantic Ocean from England. Both the similarities and differences between the achievements and these unique partnerships contribute to a picture of how creativity works.

Fatal Flaws

Fatal Flaws illustration - Vikram MulliganAlthough prions are still much less well-known as agents of disease than viruses or bacteria, they are fascinating in so many ways: they have revolutionized our understanding of infection, they have exposed science  - once again - as a body contact sport and most important, they are beginning to shed crucial light on the most serious neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. 


Theatre of the Mind

Based on my book of the same name, this talk explores how the scientific approach to consciousness has, if not revolutionized, at the very least reoriented the search for understanding of human consciousness. The science reveals that the idea that consciousness is pre-eminent among all the things our brains do is a myth, probably promulgated by …. consciousness itself.


Can Animals Think?

Can Animals Think?

Do animals share at least some of the features of our own mentality, like thinking ahead, understanding what others have in mind or even reflecting on their own thoughts? Research over the last decade or so has changed our view of animals’ intelligence dramatically.