BAHFest MIT 2019

BAHFest is a celebration of well-argued and thoroughly researched but completely incorrect scientific theory. Our brave speakers present their bad theories in front of a live audience and a panel of judges with real science credentials, who together determine who takes home the coveted BAHFest trophy. And eternal glory, of course.

BAHFest returns to MIT in conjunction with MIT Lecture Series Committee and Cambridge Science Festival on Sunday, March 31st at Kresge Auditorium.

Host and Judges

Ben Lillie

Ben Lillie

Host

Ben Lillie is a high-energy particle physicist who left the ivory tower for the wilds of New York's theater district. He has a B.A. in physics from Reed College, a Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Stanford University, and a Certificate in improv comedy from the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. He is the founder of Caveat, an event space dedicated to intellectual nightlife opening soon. He is also co-founder of The Story Collider, where people are invited to tell stories of their personal experience of science, is a Moth StorySLAM champion, and was a writer and contributing editor for TED.com.

John McWhorter

John McWhorter

Keynote

John McWhorter is Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia University, teaching linguistics, Western Civilization and music history. He has written extensively on issues related to linguistics, race, and other topics for Time, The New York Times, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, the Atlantic, The New Republic and elsewhere, and is a Contributing Editor for The Atlantic. He was Senior Fellow at the Manhattan Institute from 2002 until 2010. He is the author of The Power of Babel, Doing Our Own Thing, Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue, The Language Hoax, Words on the Move, Talking Back, Talking Black, Losing the Race, and twelve other books, including three academic monographs and two academic article anthologies. The Teaching Company has released five of his audiovisual courses. He spoke at the TED conference in 2013 and 2016, hosts the Lexicon Valley language podcast at Slate, and has appeared regularly on Bloggingheads.TV since 2006.

Rosemary Mosco

Rosemary Mosco

Judge

Rosemary is a nature cartoonist and author. Her webcomic Bird And Moon explores the funny and gross attributes of birds and other critters. She co-wrote the New York Times Best Seller The Atlas Obscura Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid and wrote the graphic novel Solar System: Our Place in Space. She writes nature articles and comics for Audubon and other outlets. Her favorite amphibian is the Paradoxical Frog.

Ben Tolkin

Ben Tolkin

Judge

Ben Tolkin is the winner of BAHFest East 2018. Other than that, he doesn't have any particularly interesting degrees, publications, or achievements, but when it comes to fake science, he is exactly as qualified as everyone else.

John Urschel

John Urschel

Judge

John Urschel is a mathematician and retired professional National Football League (NFL) player. Urschel attended Pennsylvania State University where he played football and received his bachelor’s in mathematics. While at Penn State, he was awarded the William V. Campbell Trophy, known as the "academic Heisman." In 2014, Urschel was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens in the fifth round and played three years in the NFL.


Urschel has bachelor's and master's degrees in mathematics from Penn State and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). In his program at MIT, Urschel is focusing on spectral graph theory, numerical linear algebra, and machine learning. Last year, Urschel was named to Forbes' "30 under 30" list of outstanding young scientists. 

Deborah Blum

Deborah Blum

Judge

Deborah Blum, a Pulitzer-prize winning science writer, is director of the Knight Science Journalism Program at MIT. She is the author of six books, including last year's New York Times Notable Book, The Poison Squad, and has written for publications ranging from The New York Times to Wired to TIME to The Boston Globe. She is a past president of the National Association of Science Writers (US), a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and a life-time associate of the National Academy of Sciences.

Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson

Presenter

Michael Anderson got a 5 on his Biology AP exam. After achieving enlightenment, he left the petty details of science to others, and became a First Amendment lawyer.  After work, he talks to spoken-word audiences in ways they don’t allow in federal court. Next to his wife and son, Michael loves George Orwell, the Queen’s Gambit in chess, and the first three Clash albums. 

Anne Madden

Anne Madden

Presenter

Dr. Madden’s mission to reveal the utility of the microorganisms that live in, on, and around us. She does this as a scientist, an inventor, and a science communicator. As a scientist she has characterized the microscopic life in our foods, our dust bunnies, and the insects in our backyards. More than just providing insights into the life that exists around us, Dr. Madden wrangles these life forms to create new technology. In the process she has named a new species, discovered novel antibiotics, and recently invented and commercialized yeasts from wasps that revolutionized how barrel-aged beers are produced. Her research has been covered by media groups such as PBS Newshour, The Atlantic, Scientific American, National Geographic, and Newsweek.

When not investigating the life around us she is revealing the utility of these creatures as a science communicator. Following the release of her viral TED talk, she has been presenting at corporations, universities, and conferences across the globe. She was recently featured in the award-winning science documentary “The Kingdom: How Fungi Made the World.” Beyond her academic research she was a scientist at Novobiotic Pharmaceuticals LLC before becoming the Chief Science Officer at the biotechnology company Lachancea LLC, and head of the Scientific Communications efforts of Indigo Ag, Inc.

Anne holds a B.A. from Wellesley College and a Ph.D. in biology from Tufts University. She received advanced training as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the lab of Noah Fierer at the University of Colorado, Boulder and Rob Dunn at North Carolina State University. She is the recipient of awards from prestigious organizations including the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

She also has some of the most famous hair in science

To find out more visit: AnneAMadden.com or see her on social media at @AnneAMadden

Eli Rose and Lucy Weltner

Eli Rose and Lucy Weltner

Presenters

Eli Rose lives in Cambridge and works as a software engineer in edtech. He thinks of himself as part of the Effective Altruist movement and enjoys literature, math, and music with lyrics that you can yell.

Lucy Weltner is a math tutor, nature educator, and amateur YouTube music reviewer living in Cambridge MA. In her spare time, she enjoys birdwatching, mushroom foraging, reading/writing short stories, and seeking validation from internet strangers.

Sarah Hird

Sarah Hird

Presenter

Sarah M. Hird is an assistant professor in the Molecular and Cell Biology Department at the University of Connecticut. She is an evolutionary biologist and is fascinated by the microorganisms that live on and in macroorganisms. Her greatest accomplishments are her three degrees, two kids and one BAHfest trophy. Her favorite bird is the Yellow-billed Magpie, her favorite food is Tex-Mex and her favorite book is a toss-up between Beloved by Toni Morrison and the Harry Potter heptad by J. K. Rowling. You can find her on twitter at @sarahmhird.

Gretchen McCulloch

Gretchen McCulloch

Presenter

Gretchen McCulloch is an internet linguist and author of the book BECAUSE INTERNET: UNDERSTANDING THE NEW RULES OF LANGUAGE (coming out July 23 from Riverhead). She's also the Resident Linguist at Wired and cohost of Lingthusiasm, a podcast that's enthusiastic about linguistics. She lives in Montreal, but also on the internet. 

Jerry Wang

Jerry Wang

Presenter

Though he has fewer BAHFest wins than Ben Tolkin, fewer NYT best sellers than Rosemary Mosco, fewer Pulitzers than Deborah Blum, and fewer math publications than retired NFL legend John Urschel, Jerry does have something not held by any member of this year’s esteemed judge panel: A master’s thesis autographed by retired NFL legend John Urschel.