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Hank talks with University of Montana Professor Rick Hughes about innovating technology and training the SciShow staff. Special guest appearance with Jessi and Veiled Chameleon 'Twirly'.

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(Intro)

HG: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the SciShow Talk Show: the episodes of SciShow where we talk about stuff with super cool people. Now, today we're doing something a little bit different. I don't think that Rick Hughes is technically a scientist, are you?

RH: No.

HG: No. Rick Hughes, however, has trained pretty much a hundred percent of SciShow's staff at the University of Montana, so we are greatly in his debt. He is a Professor of Media Arts at the University of Montana, I think one of the founding members of the media arts program at the university, and uh... And makes it so that, one: uh... there are just high-quality, intelligent, uh... passionate people coming out of the university, in media arts. And two: makes sure that there is, uh, technology being mixed into the curriculum there because, as you know, sometimes universities are a little slow to react to these kinds of changes, and that's very important to me, because what we do here, is, uh, pretty reliant upon technology. So thank you for coming!

RH: You're welcome! This is great.

HG: So what is it like to try and get a, uh... One, a university, and also, your students, to adopt these new technologies as part of what they're doing? Because, I mean, we are now in a world where, basically, there's very little that you are taught at university that you can't find out on your own.

RH: Correct. The information that, that students are dealing with is accessible. I mean, I have a device in my pocket right now that I can get whatever I need, so it's no longer a question of coming into the room and sitting with your notebook because this person at the front of the room has got all the information, and he's a genius and you're a moron. There's not gonna be much that I say that you can't Google or find immediately, literally, right now with your device that you have on you, either your laptop or your phone or whatever it is.

HG: And when you say those things that aren't Google-able, you should just tell those people to put it online, so that someone else can Google it.

RH: Yeah, I might tell an anecdote about my childhood that I might not want up online (Hank laughs), but, but yeah, basically, uh... It's a, it's a, it's a collaborative, communal kind of experience, and it's ironic to me, because so many people think of cyberspace, and the Internet, um, and the Web, as this sort of cold, you know, digital world, and one of the things I'm trying to, um... I don't ... To be honest with you, Hank, I don't have to convince the students of this—

HG: Yeah.

RH: Because these are folks, by and large, who— particularly the freshmen this year who are eighteen years old, seventeen, eighteen years old— they've grown up with it. Um, so it's, it's uh... It's a little more difficult to convince older folks that there is a kind of, um... Personal connection that you can make, um... Over the Internet, or on the Internet, or on the Web, or whatever. I've used anecdotes all the time, we do a lot of video conferencing — each year, we do more and more. One of the faculty members came in at the time I was director of the school and he said, "God, wouldn't it be great if we could get a, you know, like, David Lynch to come here? Cuz he was born in Missoula." Well, you know, we don't have a budget to get David Lynch to fly to Missoula — that's not happening. So, I said, "Well, call him, and see if he would do a -

HG: Yeah

RH: ya know, do a Skype, or, or a Facetime." So he set it up, and David was kind enough to uh, to do it, and we had an iMac that we hooked into our monitor system and David had his Ma-, you know, his PowerBook, and done deal. And, uh...

HG: And it's only become easier since then.

RH: And it's easier now!

HG: Now, everybody knows exactly how it works.

RH: Now, it's— you bet! And now, I think the other thing that's happening now, which is the mobility. So now, we can do it, you can do it anywhere, so wirelessly, you can begin to do it. One of the things that media arts has done, and I think we've done pretty well, is that we have kept our eye on emerging technology, so— and that's part of my job— is to look down the road, so uh... We're the folks that, generally, would be knocking on the provost's door and saying, ya know, "Mobile technology's around the corner." And they listen, and um... But, you know the university system and education in general is, as you know, is, is a big thing, with a lot of— it's like government, there's a lot of people. So, it's, it's not a motorboat— it's more like a battleship. So, you, you have to really plan what you do cuz it affects a lot of people.

HG: Right.

RH: But I think the, the heart, uh... I think everybody's heart is in the right place and people are beginning to discover as I said earlier, um... This communal nature— the personal nature

HG: Right

RH: of the Internet, so that's good news.

HG: You teach, uh... Music, you teach art, you teach video.

RH: I started out as a musician, and I actually was first hired at the university as a, as a teacher in their— as their music technology. But at this stage of my career, you know, closer to the end than the beginning, my job is to design experiences and create environments by which students and— faculty, frankly— can maximize their potential. I don't look at myself as, you know, an editor or, or anything. Because I believe that the twenty-first century is an integrated century— it's not a century of "I do one thing incredibly well."

HG: Yup.

RH: Um... As I say to my students, if you, if you wanna be Yo-Yo Ma, God love ya, and I think that's awesome, but it's gonna require you playing the cello every day for eight hours or nine hours, and if that's what you do, and that's the mindset you have— and I have friends who are unbelievable artists, musicians and, and they focus on that thing, and that's who they are and that's what they do. Um... And that's great. But if you— if that's not what you do, and you're an integrated person, then you need to understand, what does that mean? And how do I integrate all these— not just technologies, but the art forms, and how do we look at emerging technologies?

HG: So if you've been doing that for the last ten years, then you've seen... A pretty dramatic transformation, with regards to, the... Y'know, the number of people who have access to these tools—

RH: Yup.

HG: Software, hardware, um...

RH: Yes.

HG: The limiting factor has very much become talent in the... You know, sort of... Dedication to, to... You know, be able to use the tools...

RH: Right.

HG: Most effectively.

RH: Absolutely.

HG: Um, so... I mean... How has that changed things for you as a professor? How has it changed things for your students?

RH: My, my mantra, or my little phrase is, "Comfortable consumer versus competent creator." So, a lot of these students come in as comfortable consumers, so you look around the room and you got the eighteen-year-old and they can go to Facebook and they can text message and they can do all the stuff. But, basically, a monkey could do that, so what we're saying is— well, maybe not, but... (Hank laughs) what we're saying is—

HG: Very talented monkey.

RH: Well, what we're saying, basically, is, that's, that's an automated way, and that's okay, there's nothing wrong with that, but we're really more interested in you exploring these technologies and how can I use these technologies, to... To be an artist and to create things, and that, by the way, goes for science, or art, or history or anything, really. Um, so we spend a lot of time doing that. That's... That's one of the forces that I spend a lot of time dealing with, which is this magnet of, "Well, this is all easy, I can just take an image into Photoshop..." I've seen it a thousand times, and a student just goes hits that filter, hits that filter, hits that filter, and it's like, "Woah. Look what I made." (Hank laughs) And my reaction usually is, "No, look what you found. You didn't make that, you just pushed some buttons and this thing popped up." And that's okay!

HG: Yeah.

RH: So, the important moment is, after I push a few buttons and I start manipulating this work, what do you do now? So where do you go from there? So we're concerned primarily with that, as you said before, for the talent and the sort of mental process of, of artistic and, and intellectual growth.

HG: So it sounds like you, uh, wear a lotta hats.

RH: Wear a lotta hats. I like wearing a lotta hats. Keeps me young.

HG: So, I— I've— I, I, I think that we've, um... Think, a good animal to, to show you, uh... With Animal Wonders, that will— that also, um... Maybe wears a few different hats. Least some different costumes.

HG: Jessi has appeared, and with Jessi we have a very peculiar creature. But one that, one that I think that people know pretty well. This is a chameleon?

JKC: It's a chameleon.

HG: Is it... Is that it? Is that all it's called?

JKC: No, it's a veiled chameleon

HG: It's a veiled chameleon.

JKC: There's over 100, there's about 160 species of chameleons, so she is a veiled chameleon and it's a female and her name is Twirly.

HG: Twirly!?

JKC: Twirly. [laughs]

HG: Is that because of her tail?

JKC: Not because of her tail, because what happened to her when she was just a little baby. She was dropped, um, not by us [laughs], um, she was dropped and so she has some neurological damage, ah, maybe inner ear issues, um, but it hasn't hindered her ability to survive so we haven't delved deeper.

HG: Right, yeah.

JKC: But, but when she crawls down to the ground she twirls and circles.

HG: Oh

RH: hmm

HG: Well

JKC: Should not do that

HG: [laughs] No.

JKC: [laughs] But, ah, yeah, she's a veiled chameleon, and veiled chameleons have that big crest on the top of their head.

HG: ah

JKC: Let's see, there we go.

HG: Free

JKC: It's like her comfort blanket. [laughs]

HG: [laughs]

JKC: Soooo, what's the most famous thing about chameleons?

HG: They change color.

JKC: They change color! Do you know why?

HG: Ah, well, camouflage?

JKC: Uh huh.

HG: Is my first guess.

JKC: It's not camouflage, it's dependent on several different things: mood, um, social interactions, ah,  temperature, light, health..

HG: Hmm!

JKC:...and also camouflage.

HG: OK.

JKC: um..

HG: So...

JKC: All those together. (Talking over Hank)

HG: So what does this color mean? (Talking over Jessi)

JKC: Right now she's a little cold,

HG: OK.

JKC: So she's going to try to get big and dark so she can absorb...

HG: So she can absorb more heat.

JKC: [nods] more heat, yeah exactly. So do you have any idea how they change color?

HG: No!

JCK: super, super cool. You wanna find out?

HG: yes!

JCK: Super cool. Okay, so they have pores, they have, they have their outer skin, which is actually transparent.

HG: OK.

JCK: Then they have three layers of cells underneath, so each layer has a different color dis-, you know, ascribed to it. So we have one color underneath our skin. Do you know the name of that?

HG: Melanin.

JCK: Mhm, melanin, dark...

HG: Yeah.

JCK:...brown and  black. So they have that, that's their first too, they have melanophores. And then, ah, the layer on top of that is going to be blues and whites...

HG: Hmm.

JCK:...and the layer on top of that is going to be reds and yellows. So they have, ah, they're all called chromatophores and each one of these cells can open and close.

HG: HM.

JCK: So if they open their yellow, and their blue pores at the same time they're going to be green. So then the light reflects off and creates the green color and if they, you know, open all  their pores and get all the way down to the melanin their going to be dark browns and blacks and its going to look very dark like this. Umm, so they can change by opening up, oh, it can happen very fast.

HG: Right

RH: Can they move their eyes independently?

JCK: Yeah!

HG: Yeah!

JCK: Completely independent. So one can..

HG: So one can stay and one can move?

JCK: Yeah!

HG: So only this one animal can do that?

JCK: Yes!

HG: Can say, I'm gonna look and do stereoscopic right now?

JCK: Yes.

HG: Or I'm just gonna go all crazy and keep my eye out for everything?

JCK: Yeah! So, they move completely independently of each other so they have 360 degrees; up, down, around, behind--it's everywhere. And they don't have to have they binocular vision to get their prey; they can use just the one eye.

HG: What a beautiful animal.

RH: Is she full size?

JCK: She's not full size. These guys live about four years, so she can get quite a bit bigger.... And they--different....

RH: Four years? That's not much of a run, is it?

JCK: Noooo...

HG: No, for a lizard?

JCK: It's not very long.

HG: Yeah, they usually live quite a long time.

JCK: Yeah, 20, sometimes 30 years. Nope, these guys are very short-lived.

HG: Man, there are so many amazing animals--just in your house. And also in the whole world.

JCK: In the whole world.

HG: Twirly, thanks for coming to visit us on the SciShow Talk Show. Jessi, thanks for bringing him in. Rick, thank you for being here and also for training my whole staff.

RH: My pleasure.

HG: What would I have done without you? Thank you for watching this episode of the SciShow Talk Show. If you want to keep getting smarter with us here at SciShow, you can go to youtube.com/scishow and subscribe.