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Advice Request: Baconmas Website

9 Post author: orthonormal 01 January 2012 07:25PM

The Gist: I started this blog to get people excited about a science-themed holiday. I want your suggestions before I advertise it to everyone I know!

Two years ago, I came up with the idea of celebrating Sir Francis Bacon's birthday (Jan. 22) as a festive science-themed holiday called Baconmas. (The name has the additional bonus that it's easy to convince people to come to a party if there will be bacon there.) I had a good Baconmas party in 2010 and a better one in 2011, and now I want to let other people in on the fun.

So I made a website.

It's currently "in beta"; I wrote a couple of preparatory things, but haven't yet shown it to the vast majority of my friends. I want to maximize the chance that it goes a bit viral when I do, because a science-themed holiday really needs to exist. So I'd like any suggestions you have, before I go "alpha" with it. So as to not cause anchoring, I'll put down in the first comment the things I already plan to do- if you could make all your original suggestions first, then read those plans and others' comments, then add more suggestions, that should maximize the good ideas. Thanks!

(Oh, and it goes without saying that you should celebrate Baconmas if at all possible. It's been a lot of fun for me.)

Comments (31)

Comment author: r_claypool 02 January 2012 03:58:44PM 9 points [-]

Your target audience is probably not Christian, but anything-mas is going to sound like a rip off of Christmas.

I would hesitate saying to my mother "I'm celebrating Baconmas with the kids". I'd rather say "I'm celebrating Francis Bacon Day with the kids". It's more descriptive, does not feel like an attack on Christmas, and has a natural followup question: "Who is Francis Bacon?"

Comment author: Nornagest 02 January 2012 10:26:36PM *  4 points [-]

The -mas suffix indicates Mass in the Christian sense, as you might have expected; so yes, it has definite religious overtones. It's not completely inappropriate if you dig deep enough into the etymology (it suggests a mission; spreading the good news, so to speak), but I'd expect relatively few people to do so.

Comment author: Raemon 02 January 2012 11:24:23PM *  3 points [-]

Part of the advantage of Newtonmass is that it's a sufficiently clever joke (IMO anyway) that it becomes less about sending up Christmas than the double meaning of "mass." Or at least it can, if you explain it right.

Regardless, I don't think either Baconmas or Newtonmas or Newtonmass are actually all that offensive. My suspicion is that the sort of Christian who would get annoyed would also be annoyed at the range of politically correct holiday greetings that explicitly AVOID mentioning Christmas at all, so the reference builds Christmas' importance rather than diminishes, in some ways. Dunno. I don't know if I have a good enough model of the type of people we're concerned about here.

However, an alternative: Baconalia

Comment author: windmil 03 January 2012 01:49:36PM 1 point [-]

Wasn't that an add campaign for Denny's?

Comment author: Xachariah 02 January 2012 10:11:56PM 4 points [-]

By the name, I assumed it was a holiday for the delicious kind of bacon, rather than Sir Francis Bacon.

I can only imagine how it would be for those even less familiar with science than the average Less-Wrongian.

Comment author: Raemon 02 January 2012 11:25:58PM 1 point [-]

Actually, good point. If you actually need to explain the holiday to someone, it won't work as well, but if you just need to say to your mother "I'm going over to Fred's for Baconmas" she'll probably assume you're doing something too silly to be offensive.

Comment author: orthonormal 04 January 2012 12:09:42AM 0 points [-]

Hmm, good point. I haven't yet taken any flak on this, but I'll keep an ear open.

Comment author: Jayson_Virissimo 02 January 2012 07:31:41AM *  6 points [-]

I was surprised that your holiday is for celebrating Francis rather than Roger. Francis was more politician than scientist and, for the most part, didn't recognize good science when he saw it. Also, his scientific methodology is impossible to follow (even in principle), while Roger made genuine progress in logic, science, and methodology. On the other hand, his Idols of the Mind concept in the Novum Organum seems like a primitive attempt at categorizing cognitive bias, which, IMO, is pretty damn cool.

Comment author: orthonormal 04 January 2012 12:06:48AM 0 points [-]

True, but Roger is a more complicated figure, who fewer have heard of and some might hesitate to lionize, compared to Francis. Also, I hadn't yet heard of Roger Bacon in late 2009 when I first had the idea.

On the other hand, his Idols of the Mind concept in the Novum Organum seems like a primitive attempt at categorizing cognitive bias, which, IMO, is pretty damn cool.

Agreed!

Comment author: Douglas_Knight 04 January 2012 06:47:38AM 1 point [-]

Conflate them. (see page 7)

Comment author: orthonormal 05 January 2012 06:18:32PM 0 points [-]

Heh, awesome.

Comment author: jsalvatier 01 January 2012 07:31:27PM 6 points [-]

I think the website should be more ... exciting? I'm not sure that's quite it, but it doesn't currently look like something that would go viral.

I'd guess your best bet for going viral would be a really funny and catchy video. Perhaps you could get the SMBC folks to help you? They seem friendly to this kind of thing.

Comment author: radical_negative_one 01 January 2012 09:56:42PM 4 points [-]

I wouldn't be surprised to see SMBC celebrating Baconmas. Getting a mention on that website would get you a lot more views.

Or XKCD, that's probably the biggest science-themed webcomic. There must be a few people here who frequent the XKCD forum, maybe a mention of Baconmas could be put in over there.

I agree that the website could be more colorful, it could use some strips of bacon lining the margins, or a portrait of Francis Bacon at the top.

Comment author: orthonormal 05 January 2012 06:22:07PM 0 points [-]

Thanks, I added a header that I think works for it. I e-mailed Randall, but yeah, it would be better if a XKCD forum regular said something...

Comment author: ahartell 03 January 2012 12:49:16AM 1 point [-]

I agree with you, but for the record, I really do like the aesthetic of the website.

Comment author: orthonormal 05 January 2012 06:21:08PM 0 points [-]

Thanks- I added a header, put pictures and videos in the next posts, and mentioned it to Zach Weiner (and humbly noted that it would be absolutely awesome if SMBC Theater happened to do a Francis Bacon bit.)

Comment author: buybuydandavis 01 January 2012 08:39:41PM 14 points [-]

One thing that is rarely appreciated, or tallied up, is the improvement in the general human condition through technology.

Lifespan, size, intelligence. Indoor plumbing. Dentistry. Vaccines. General medical practices. Infant mortality rates. Childhood mortality rates.

Singularitarians like to wax poetic about the predicted wonders of the future, but most people would find the progress already made quite compelling if it was actually shown to them, and the wonders of that progress might make them more open to the greater wonders we believe the future holds.

Comment author: orthonormal 03 January 2012 11:57:35PM 1 point [-]

Can you come up with any traditions that would highlight the progress of past technology, and that you'd definitely want to do at a party?

Comment author: buybuydandavis 06 January 2012 09:05:55AM 0 points [-]

I think a death pool could be kind of fun. I suppose I'm rather morbid that way.

But between disease, war, and death, pick a year and a place to be born, and using mortality tables, plot out expectations on when and how you die, and what diseases and ailments you have. How many calories you lived on. How much you weighed. What was government like. What was crime like? Maybe we should all be cats, and get nine lives, run some randomization, and see how the nine lives end.

Most straightforward - did you make it to your current age, and if not, how did you die? Child mortality was pretty bad for most of human history.

Comment author: orthonormal 06 January 2012 02:21:41PM 0 points [-]

Like rolling an RPG character, but from human history? That could be workable, with the right preparation...

Comment author: buybuydandavis 06 January 2012 06:32:03PM 0 points [-]

Something like that. I think random sampling would be more fun than just showing the expectation. Instead of a one shot, you could go year by year, giving some sense of the passage of time, and then using the conditional mortality tables, if available.

Adding in actual dice rolls would add to the sense of personally being a causal factor in the process. It comes down to what kind of data you can get, and how energetic you're feeling.

I think this game would generalize well to all sorts of things - health, finances, etc. And, more to the point of Singularitarian progaganda, you could project out the same thing into the future, with different assumptions on accelerating returns.

Simulation is a nice way to get an intuitive feel for lots of processes. Back in grad school, I taught a neural network course, and there's nothing quite like seeing the magic of self organizing and learning systems simulated visually. I remember watching simulations of learning algorithms for things like balancing a stick upright. A strange magic that seems inevitable once you see it in operation.

Comment author: orthonormal 01 January 2012 07:30:09PM 3 points [-]

THINGS I CURRENTLY PLAN TO DO:

  • Post or link to instructions for fun party-sized scientific experiments (lots of psychology ones, like the rubber-hand illusion, would be good for this)
  • Post or link to lots of recipes for bacon dishes
  • Suggest a bunch of fun "traditions"
  • Finish turning the FAQ into info posts
  • Video-blog a few times

THINGS I MIGHT DO:

  • Make a funny puppet video of Sir Francis Bacon's life and achievements
Comment author: Raemon 01 January 2012 10:08:11PM *  6 points [-]

Definitely think this is a good idea. My first question was going to be "why Baconmas?" (as opposed to Newtonmass, or other potential holidays). You say in the blog that it specifically fills a holiday gap - curious if that was part of the original intent or if it just sorta worked out. For my purposes, I think the 22nd is actually a little too close to New Years - I like holidays to stand out from one another.

Most of my thoughts actually go up a few levels of meta - I'm interested in having a collection of holidays that reflect worldviews I care about, and I'm interested in them not just being individually optimal, but in working together to produce a whole better than the sum of their parts. The solstice celebration almost went down an alternate path which would have officially been called Newtonmas, but would have celebrated the rise of rational thinking, starting with Socrates and hitting various high notes throughout history. Other possibilities include Pi Day/Tau Day and Charles Darwin/Abraham Lincoln's Birthday.

I've also been wanting to do a science party for a while. The first one I tried suffered from trying to do "real" science, which as it turns out is really boring. (Few people contributed experiments because of the work involved in doing them "right"). Food oriented experiments seem like a more fun starting point. Blind taste testing seems like a good framework because you can try different things each year.

I'm vegetarian, and pigs ARE particularly smart and I'm not sure whether I should in good conscience be encouraging holidays that are bacon themed in particular. I suspect that most people would eat meat on any given holiday no matter what so I'm not sure it matters.

Comment author: orthonormal 04 January 2012 12:04:11AM 0 points [-]

Thanks for your thoughts!

The first one I tried suffered from trying to do "real" science, which as it turns out is really boring. (Few people contributed experiments because of the work involved in doing them "right"). Food oriented experiments seem like a more fun starting point. Blind taste testing seems like a good framework because you can try different things each year.

I'm trying to collect science demos that are fun for parties while actually being worthy of thought- here are a few examples I've found. I desperately want to find more!

I'm vegetarian, and pigs ARE particularly smart and I'm not sure whether I should in good conscience be encouraging holidays that are bacon themed in particular. I suspect that most people would eat meat on any given holiday no matter what so I'm not sure it matters.

It probably will result in slightly more people eating poorly raised pigs, all told. I decided that the benefits of a science-themed holiday, times the added popularity that it would have if I made it bacon-themed, outweighed that disutility. I understand if you disagree. (Also, I don't think that it's a bad thing to have a pig raised on a farm, have a reasonably good life, then die and be eaten. But most pigs don't live lives of high quality in our current food-system.)

Comment author: Raemon 04 January 2012 12:46:09AM *  1 point [-]

I think we more or less agree about pigs. I'm fine with humanely raised and killed farm animals.

I actually encouraged Calamari at the Solstice party, and squids seem at least as intelligent as pigs. I was thinking we'd be having meat anyway so it might as well be something on theme and any single instance of meat-eating doesn't really impact overall consumption of a species. As it turned out squid is hard to cook and wasn't really worth and I'm glad, because in retrospect, if it HAD become popular, I'd feel pretty bad. The squid also ended up being eaten in ADDITION to a more traditional roast, and probably would have been in future Solstices as well, if it became popular.

Comment author: dbaupp 03 January 2012 11:40:56AM 0 points [-]

Pi Day/Tau Day

Dates that rely on a specific formatting are a bit lame for some portion of the world (i.e. 14/3 isn't really significant), and it would be nice not to alienate people.

Comment author: AlexMennen 02 January 2012 06:41:19AM *  2 points [-]

This is an excellent idea. I will definitely celebrate Baconmas.

As for website suggestions, I would include some tips on how people can find Baconmas parties in their area or advertise Baconmas parties that they plan to host. (meetup.com, maybe?)

Edit: Also, make a facebook event page.

Comment author: orthonormal 04 January 2012 12:05:31AM 1 point [-]

Great! Yes, I'll make a Facebook page at the moment I launch it to alpha. And tips on finding/organizing Baconmas parties would be a good addition to my FAQ.

Comment author: orthonormal 05 January 2012 06:23:09PM 0 points [-]
Comment author: alexflint 04 January 2012 07:52:41AM 1 point [-]

Q: What is Baconmas?

Baconmas is a relatively new holiday, celebrated on January 22nd (the birthday of Sir Francis Bacon) to celebrate the sciences, with a side order of bacon. You should try it!

That is excellent! Simple, light-hearted, and to the point.

Comment author: orthonormal 05 January 2012 06:23:31PM 0 points [-]

Thanks!