The 2021 Worm Show

The 2021 Worm Show premiered on June 23, 2021.

This was the eighth Worm Show to take place at an International Meeting, but because the meeting was fully online, is was prepared completely in advance. Links to all the shows can be found here. Below are other comments and trivia on the 2021 show.

  • The overdubbed Talking Shark bit was made as a clever way to reuse old footage, mention things we didn't want to devote time to, plus remind people of some of the experiences of the in-person meetings.
  • MM's favorite bit was 'Airport or Neuron'. The video of the contestants came from snippets of separate Zoom interviews where people were asked to say 'neuron', 'airport', 'worm gene', etc. We did not arrange a virtual meeting of 12 busy people. You can tell the nonspeaking clips are just looped videos. The whole premise is absurd, and especially when someone gets a wrong answer, the right answer should be immediately apparent. For everyone to have 1 point at the end, a wrong guess does not count against a person. A dichroic beamsplitter is a piece of coated glass that would be in a filter cube for a fluorescence microscope. Some of the contestants were not so happy to hear they would be receiving this as a prize!
  • In 'Airport or Neuron' Marie-Anne Felix would of course know the Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) because she works in Paris. Susan Mango would know PHA from pha-4. During the live stream some people suggested CAN should have been a choice, but CAN is both the Canal-Associated Neuron and the Guangzhou Baiyun International Airport, a major airport in China.
  • Thinking about how to do something that has only ever been done in a live setting was tough. This 'virtual' show also had to be different in format and flavor, so we decided early to have it be a Zoom conversation about the show. Talking about the shared experiences of continuing research and teaching during the pandemic was a must, and it provided a lot of source material. We tried to ridicule the way things changed over the past 15 months while leaving hope that the worst is well behind us. Much of the really bad things that happened were acknowledged in the dedication at the front of the show because we felt it just about impossible to even mention some of it in the show.
  • The Zoom interviews with worm PIs was an important element. Since 2011 we have been interviewing people at the meeting, and we think it greatly contributes to a community feel. MM reached out to several people and a dozen were able to meet via Zoom. An additional five junior PIs responded to a plea for a self-recorded video guided by questions in an email. (These were not asked to do the 'game show' parts as by this time we already had 12 such videos.) Judith Yanowitz was in the middle of a days-long hiking trip and we did the Zoom on her phone, which is awesome. It takes a community!
  • A lot of the fun for the audience likely comes from viewing as a group, and at least one PI told me that their on-campus mask restriction had just ended so they were able to gather as a lab to watch.
  • This is the first worm show that is closed captioned from start to finish. They were not generated automatically: MM typed them all into the Vegas Pro 18 editor and exported an .srt file that gets uploaded to YouTube.
  • The live chat showed that people were watching the premiere from all around the world, which was kind of cool! People posted that they were watching from Montreal, India, Dallas, Ireland, Korea, Miami, Oregon, Boston, San Francisco, Manchester, New York, London, Wyoming, Calgary, Spain...!
  • One of the goals was for viewers to feel an emotional response, particularly at the end when we show a couple of clips of the 2019 meeting.
  • The CL-MM Zoom bits were recorded over two Zoom sessions a week before the meeting. It should be apparent that most of the time were reading.
  • For the Zoom segments CL was in his actual faculty office, while MM used a green screen with a Zoom background image of his office.
  • The masks in the beginning were the Zoom mask video filter. The masks (and later the many filters on CL's video) were added afterwards by playing the videos through an ATEM video switcher that Zoom then thinks is a live camera, and applying the filters at that time. As far as we know it is not possible to apply Zoom video filters to other peoples' live video.
  • In the live stream chat someone suggested that it should be 'transposonons' which would have been better, darn it.
  • The audio from MM's interview with Ahna Skop was distorted so he had to re-record his parts.
  • When Talking Shark says 'Have fun storming the Capitol!' it is a reference to Billy Crystal's character in The Princess Bride (1987) who says 'Have fun storming the castle!'
  • The music played when the image of Bernie Sanders is shown is "Hail to the Chief" by James Sanderson from the actual Biden inauguration.
  • The "Why, Corona" song is a parody of "My Sharona" (1979) by The Knack. At least one other person on YouTube posted a similar parody about the Coronavirus called 'My Corona'. MM recorded the vocals using a karaoke backing track. The original has a long instrumental part that was removed here. No pitch correction was used. MM is lip-synching in the video which was recorded by standing in front of a green screen and using chroma-key to replace the background with a moving graphic video found on YouTube. The clip of Anthony Fauci was from very early in the pandemic.
  • Posting false answers to test questions as a way of catching Chegg cheaters is not a new idea. The real answers to the four C-bot questions are AB, ab, aB and Ab; the lagging strand has Okazaki fragments, not the leading strand; both plants and animals have cellular respiration; insulin is a peptide hormone, not an enzyme.
  • Covido ergo Zoom is a play on Cogito ergo sum which means 'I think, therefore I am.'
  • The 'data science' section with the moving dots was made by writing a Python script to take a source image, plot random points as circles to a new blank image, and then move the dots by a random amount repeatedly in successive images. The resulting images were assembled in reverse order to make an AVI movie that looks like the dots move progressively toward a coherent picture.
  • Anne Marie Mahoney's name is misspelled 'Mohoney' in the credits. Doh.

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last updated 6-24-2021