Category Archives: science communication

January 31, 2016 deadlines for early bird tickets (ESOF) and conference abstracts (emerging technologies)

ESOF 2016 (EuroScience Open Forum)

Early bird tickets for this biennial science conference are available until Jan.  31, 2016 according to a Jan. 18, 2016 email notice,

Our most affordable tickets are available to purchase until the end of the month, so make sure you get yours before they disappear. Prices start from only £75 for a full four-day pass for early careers researchers (up to 5 years post doc), and £225 for a full delegate pass. All registrations are entitled to a year long complimentary subscription to Nature at this time.

You can also book your accommodation when you register to attend ESOF. We have worked hard with our city partners to bring you the best deals for your stay in Manchester. With the summer set to be busy with not only ESOF but major international sporting events, make sure you take advantage of these deals.

To register to attend please click here

You can find out more about the event which takes place from July 23 – 27, 2016 in Manchester, England here and/or you can watch this video,

For any interested journalists, media registration has opened (from the Jan. 18, 2016 notice),

Media registration opens

We are delighted to announce our ESOF press accreditation is available for journalists and science communications professionals to register for the conference. Accreditation provides complimentary access to the full ESOF programme, social events and a range of exclusive press only activities. Further details of the eligibility criteria and registration process can be found here.

Nature Publishing Group offers journalists a travel grant which will cover most if not all the expenses associated with attending 2016 ESOF (from the ESOF Nature Travel Grant webpage),

The Nature Travel Grant Scheme offers journalists and members of media organisations from around the world the opportunity to attend ESOF for free. The grant offers complimentary registration as well as help covering travel and accommodation costs.

1. Purpose

Created by EuroScience, the biennial ESOF – EuroScience Open Forum – meeting is the largest pan-European general science conference dedicated to scientific research and innovation. At ESOF meetings leading scientists, researchers, journalists, business people, policy makers and the general public from all over the world discuss new discoveries and debate the direction that research is taking in the sciences, humanities and social sciences.

Springer Nature is a leading global research, educational and professional publisher, home to an array of respected and trusted brands providing quality content through a range of innovative products and services, including the journal Nature. Springer Nature was formed in 2015 through the merger of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media. Nature Publishing Group has supported ESOF since its very first meeting in 2004.

Similar to the 2012 and 2014 edition of meeting, Springer Nature is funding the Nature Travel Grant Scheme for journalists to attend ESOF2016 with the aim to increase the impact of ESOF.

2. The Scheme

In addition to free registration, the Nature Travel Grant Scheme offers a lump sum of £450 for UK based journalists, £600 for journalists based in Europe and £800 for journalists based outside of Europe, to help cover the costs of travel and accommodation to attend ESOF2016.

3. Who can apply?

All journalists irrespective of their gender, age, nationality, place of residence and media type (paper, radio, TV, web) are welcome to apply. Media accreditation will be required.

4. Application procedure

To submit an application sign into the EuroScience Conference and Membership Platform (ESCMP) and click on “Apply for a Grant”. Follow the application procedure.

On submitting the application form for travel grants, you agree to the full acceptance of the rules and to the decision taken by the Selection Committee.

The deadline for submitting an application is February 29th 2016, 12:00 pm CET.

Good luck!

4th Annual Governance of Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy and Ethics Conference

Here’s more about the conference (deadline for abstracts is Jan. 31, 2016) from the conference’s Call for Abstract’s webpage,

Fourth Annual Conference on
Governance of Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy, and Ethics

May 24-26, 2016, Tempe, Arizona

Call for abstracts:

The co-sponsors invite submission of abstracts for proposed presentations.  Submitters of abstracts need not provide a written paper, although provision will be made for posting and possible post-conference publication of papers for those presenters interested in such options.  Although abstracts are invited for any aspect or topic relating to the governance of emerging technologies, some particular themes that will be emphasized at this year’s conference include existential or catastrophic risks, governance implications of algorithms, resilience and emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, military technologies, and gene editing.

Abstracts should not exceed 500 words.
Abstracts must be submitted by January 31, 2016 to be considered.
Decisions on abstracts will be made by the program committee and communicated by February 29 [2016]. 

Funding: The sponsors will pay for the conference registration (including all conference meals) for one presenter for each accepted abstract.  In addition, we will have limited funds available for travel subsidies in whole or in part.  After completing your abstract online, you will be asked if you wish to apply for a travel subsidy.  Any such additional funding will be awarded based on the strength of the abstract, demonstration of financial need, and/or the potential to encourage student authors and early-career scholars.  Accepted presenters for whom conference funding is not available will need to pay their own transportation and hotel costs.

For more information, please contact Lauren Burkhart at Lauren.Burkhart@asu.edu.

You don’t often see conference organizers offering to pay registration and meals for a single presenter from each accepted submission. Good luck!

Summer camp, science blogging, and algae eyes: Nerd Nite Vancouver (Canada), Jan. 19, 2016

H/t to the Jan. 14-21, 2016 issue (events/timeout p. 10) of the Georgia Straight for pointing to a Jan. 19, 2016 event focused, mostly, on science (from the vancouver.nerdnite.com webpage listing Nerd Nite Vancouver events),

Nerd Nite Vancouver v16

2016 is looking bright for nerds and we’re here to kick it off with some amazing speakers and our favourite beverage – beer! Join us or a pint and a New Year of Nerdery at our local haunt.

Where: The Fox Cabaret

When: Tuesday January 19th, Doors @ 7; Talks @ 7:30

Tickets: as low as $5 online; $9 at the door

#1 The Examination of Bill Murray’s Meatball and the Evolution of Nerds: SummerCamp 101

Jeff Willis

What does Bill Murray, Meatballs and Nerd Evolution have in common? Summer Camp! Buckle your seat belt, open your cranium and roll up your sleeves as we take an introspective and hilarious indepth [sic] journey of relating Bill Murray’s movies to the design and flavor of a meatball wrapped up with the birthing of nerds. How can it be? Nerds, camp and Bill Murray…WTF…what the fun!  Jeff Willis is a giant camp geek and ready to share his thesis of the evolution of a nerd through the lens of summer camp. Geeking about camp at Nerd Nite.

Bio: Since 1991, Jeff (aka Willy), has been developing and leading various camps, expeditions and outdoor programs throughout Canada, Japan, Germany and the Arctic. His love of outdoor education coupled with formal training and years of experience in youth and family work led him to create and work at numerous camps such as Camp Fircom, Camp Suzuki and Fireside Avdentures. He is the quintessential camp director – an energetic leader, creating meaningful experiences for campers and having a load of fun along the way!

#2 Ever Wonder about Science Blogging?

Dr. Raymond Nakamura

In this experimental presentation, we are going to develop an outline for a science blog and a cartoon to go with it. At the beginning, I will exploit the curiosity of the audience to develop a topic. In the middle, I will mine the knowledge and perhaps smart phones of the audience to flesh out an outline. And in the end, I will tap into the imagination and humour of the audience to create a related science cartoon. Come see if this experiment blows up in my face and perhaps learn a little about science communication in the process.

Bio: Raymond Nakamura spends most of his time walking the dog, washing dishes, and helping his daughter with homework. As Head of Raymond’s Brain, he creates blog posts for Science World, co-hosts a podcast for the Nikkei National Museum, writes exhibit text and develops educational programs. He is an editor and cartoonist for the Science Borealis Canadian science blog site, an executive for the Lower Mainland Museum Educators group, and author of a picture book called Peach Girl. Twitter stalk him @raymondsbrain.

#3 The Seas Have Eyes

Dr. Greg Gavelis

Gaze into the algae and the algae gaze back into you. Discover why this bizarre statement is true as we learn about the scientific pursuit of a single cell said to have a human-like eye. In this process, we will explore the controversy and lurid details behind a lost branch of evolutionary theory, and perhaps find an answer to the question “Just how did eyes evolve, anyway?”

Bio: Greg Gavelis works at UBC [University of British Columbia], researching evolutionary cell biology. His findings have been featured in the journals Nature and National Geographic online.  In the past, Greg has accrued further nerd points through his Harry Potter themed wedding, collection of magic cards, inhalers and orthodontia, and was once hospitalized by a squirrel.

Online tickets are still available, as of 1740 PST on Jan. 18, 2016.

PoetryFilm news: January 2016 issue (around the world)

On Jan. 9, 2016 the latest issue (January 2016) of PoetryFilm News landed in my email box (*Note: There’s a long blank space between the last excerpt and my last comments. I’m sorry but I can’t figure what’s causing it. sigh*),

Forthcoming in 2016
  • I [Zata Banks] have been awarded a 3-month Artist-Researcher residency at the Skagastrond Research Library in Iceland in association with The University of Iceland. … (January – April 2016)
  • Collaboration with The University of Lincoln [UK] on a Poetry + Film creative module for the BA Graphic Design course, including a lecture, and evaluating the final student work (January – March 2016)
  • Screening of a selection of psychoanalysis-informed poetry film artworks taken from The PoetryFilm Archive + psychoanalytic discussion at The Freud Museum, London [UK] (March 2016, exact date TBC)
  • Lecture at Millfield School [UK] about the poetry film artform to inspire sixth form students to make their own poetry film artworks (April 2016)
  • I [Zata Banks] have been invited to judge the USA-based Carbon Culture Review poetry film competition (closing date April 2016).

The Carbon Culture Review (CCR; its focus is on new literature, art, technology, and contemporary culture) poetry film competition was last mentioned here in an Oct. 30, 2015 posting. Since then more information (deadline extension and a broader scope for entries) about the competition has been made available. From the CCR Poetry Film webpage,

Poetry Film Prize

We want to integrate film and literary culture. Carbon Culture will award a $1,000.00 prize for the best poetry film. Zata Kitowski [now Banks], director of PoetryFilm, will pick the grand prize winner and finalists. The winning entry will receive $1,000.00. The top five entries will receive high-profile placements across our social media networks, a one page note alongside honorable mentions in our newsstand print and device editions. Deadline for submissions is April 1, 2016.

By submitting, you grant CCR the right to publish selected poetry films in our online issue as well as recognition in our print issue. All rights revert to the film creator(s) and/or submitter.

Rules for Submission

  1. Create a video adaptation of your original, unpublished poem.
  2. Post the video to a Youtube or Vimeo account and make it live.
  3. Submit the piece as an .Mp4 alongside your bio or team member’s bios to us.
  4. One submission per poet, please. If you previously created a poetry film for our initial guidelines listed in early 2015 for John Gosslee’s poem before we opened the contest to any original poem, you may submit this and one other poetry film for consideration.

Prize Announcements will be made in July 2016. Payment will be made via Paypal.

Film Types

All visual and textual interpretations of any contemporary poem written by you or someone on your team are welcome. Animation (digital or cartoon,) live action, kinetic poems, stop motion, anything you can imagine. We are looking for literal and non-literal interpretations of the poem. How long should it be? That is up to you. Poetry is meant to be heard and we encourage audio.

Eligibility

The prize is open to poets, students, individuals and teams.

You can go here to submit your piece and if you haven’t already, you will need to create an account.

*’Note’ added Jan. 12, 2016 at 1250 PST.

Swinging from 2015 to 2016 with FrogHeart

On Thursday, Dec. 31, 2015, the bear ate me (borrowed from Joan Armatrading’s song “Eating the bear”) or, if you prefer this phrase, I had a meltdown when I lost more than 1/2 of a post that I’d worked on for hours.

There’s been a problem dogging me for some months. I will write up something and save it as a draft only to find that most of the text has been replaced by a single URL repeated several times. I have not been able to source the problem which is intermittent. (sigh)

Moving on to happier thoughts, it’s a new year. Happy 2016!

As a way of swinging into the new year, here’s a brief wrap up for 2015.

International colleagues

As always, I thank my international colleagues David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis blog), Dexter Johnson (Nanoclast blog on the IEEE [International Electrical and Electronics Engineers website]), and Dr. Andrew Maynard (2020 science blog and Risk Innovation Laboratory at Arizona State University), all of whom have been blogging as long or longer than I have (FYI, FrogHeart began in April/May 2008). More importantly, they have been wonderful sources of information and inspiration.

In particular, David, thank you for keeping me up to date on the Canadian and international science policy situations. Also, darn you for scooping me on the Canadian science policy scene, on more than one occasion.

Dexter, thank you for all those tidbits about the science and the business of nanotechnology that you tuck into your curated blog. There’s always a revelation or two to be found in your writings.

Andrew, congratulations on your move to Arizona State University (from the University of Michigan Risk Science Center) where you are founding their Risk Innovation Lab.

While Andrew’s blog has become more focused on the topic of risk, Andrew continues to write about nanotechnology by extending the topic to emerging technologies.

In fact, I have a Dec. 3, 2015 post featuring a recent Nature article by Andrew on the occasion of the upcoming 2016 World Economic Forum in Davos. In it he discusses new approaches to risk as occasioned by the rise of emerging technologies such synthetic biology, nanotechnology, and more.

While Tim Harper, serial entrepreneur and scientist, is not actively blogging about nanotechnology these days, his writings do pop up in various places, notably on the Azonano website where he is listed as an expert, which he most assuredly is. His focus these days is in establishing graphene-based startups.

Moving on to another somewhat related topic. While no one else seems to be writing about nanotechnology as extensively as I do, there are many, many Canadian science bloggers.

Canadian colleagues

Thank you to Gregor Wolbring, ur Canadian science blogger and professor at the University of Calgary. His writing about human enhancement has become increasingly timely as we continue to introduce electronics onto and into our bodies. While he writes regularly, I don’t believe he’s blogging regularly. However, you can find out more about Gregor and his work  at  http://www.crds.org/research/faculty/Gregor_Wolbring2.shtml
or on his facebook page
https://www.facebook.com/GregorWolbring

Science Borealis (scroll down to get to the feeds), a Canadian science blog aggregator, is my main source of information on the Canadian scene. Thank you for my second Editors Pick award. In 2014 the award was in the Science in Society category and in 2015 it’s in the Engineering & Tech category (last item on the list).

While I haven’t yet heard about the results of Paige Jarreau’s and Science Borealis’ joint survey on the Canadian science blog readers (the reader doesn’t have to be Canadian but the science blog has to be), I was delighted to be asked and to participate. My Dec. 14, 2015 posting listed preliminary results,

They have compiled some preliminary results:

  • 21 bloggers + Science Borealis hosted the survey.
  • 523 respondents began the survey.
  • 338 respondents entered their email addresses to win a prize
  • 63% of 400 Respondents are not science bloggers
  • 56% of 402 Respondents describe themselves as scientists
  • 76% of 431 Respondents were not familiar with Science Borealis before taking the survey
  • 85% of 403 Respondents often, very often or always seek out science information online.
  • 59% of 402 Respondents rarely or never seek science content that is specifically Canadian
  • Of 400 Respondents, locations were: 35% Canada, 35% US, 30% Other.

And most of all, a heartfelt thank you to all who read this blog.

FrogHeart and 2015

There won’t be any statistics from the software packaged with my  hosting service (AWSTATS and Webalizer). Google and its efforts to minimize spam (or so it claims) had a devastating effect on my visit numbers. As I used those numbers as motivation, fantasizing that my readership was increasing, I had to find other means for motivation and am not quite sure how I did it but I upped publication to three posts per day (five-day week) throughout most of the year.

With 260 working days (roughly) in a year that would have meant a total of 780 posts. I’ve rounded that down to 700 posts to allow for days off and days where I didn’t manage three.

In 2015 I logged my 4000th post and substantially contributed to the Science Borealis 2015 output. In the editors’ Dec. 20, 2015 post,

… Science Borealis now boasts a membership of 122 blogs  — about a dozen up from last year. Together, this year, our members have posted over 4,400 posts, with two weeks still to go….

At a rough guess, I’d estimate that FrogHeart was responsible for 15% of the Science Borealis output and 121 bloggers were responsible for the other 85%.

That’s enough for 2015.

FrogHeart and 2016

Bluntly, I do not know anything other than a change of some sort is likely.

Hopefully, I will be doing more art/science projects (my last one was ‘A digital poetry of gold nanoparticles’). I was awarded a small grant ($400 CAD) from the Canadian Academy of Independent Scholars (thank you!) for a spoken word project to be accomplished later this year.

As for this blog, I hope to continue.

In closing, I think it’s only fair to share Joan Armatrading’s song, ‘Eating the bear’. May we all do so in 2016,

Bonne Année!

The Stephen Hawking medal for science communication

Stephen Hawking launched a medal for science communication at a Dec. 16, 2015 press conference held at the Royal Society in London (UK). From a Dec. 16, 2015 news item on phys.org (Note: A link has been removed),

The “Stephen Hawking Medal for Science Communication” will be awarded to those who help promote science to the public through media such as cinema, music, writing and art.

“I’m happy to say I’m here today not to accept a medal but to announce one,” Hawking joked as he launched the medal at an event at the Royal Society, Britain’s de-facto academy of sciences.

“People worldwide display an incredible appetite of scientific information… The public want to know, they want to understand.”

The first medals will be awarded next summer in three different categories: the scientific, artistic and film communities.

The winners will be announced at the Starmus Festival, a gathering celebrating art and science in Spain’s Canary Islands that will take place from June 27 to July 2 next year [2016].

There’s a Dec. 16, 2015 press release on the Starmus website (it’s a little repetitive but I hope not too much so),

A ground-breaking new award for science communication in honour of Professor Stephen Hawking was announced today at the Royal Society in London, by a panel including Prof. Hawking, the Starmus founding director Prof. Garik Israelian, Dr. Brian May [member of the band Queen and astrophysicist], Prof. Richard Dawkins [evolutionary biologist known for memes and atheism], Alexei Leonov and Nobel Laureate Sir Harold Kroto [one of the discoverers of buckminsterfullerenes, also known as, buckyballs or C60 or fullerenes].

The first of its kind, the Medal will recognize the work of those helping to promote the public awareness of science through different disciplines such as music, arts and cinema. Each year, three Medals will be awarded at the STARMUS International Science and Arts Festival in Tenerife.

The press release goes on to enumerate and quote a number of the dignitaries attending the press conference,

At today’s launch at the Royal Society in London, Stephen Hawking outlined his vision for science communication, saying:

‘By engaging with everyone from school children to politicians to pensioners, science communicators put science right at the heart of daily life. Bringing science to the people brings people into science. This matters to me, to you, to the world as a whole.

Therefore I am very pleased to support and honour the work of science communicators and look forward to awarding The Stephen Hawking Medal next summer at the Starmus Festival in Tenerife. I hope to see you all there.’

Professor Garik Israelian, founder of Starmus Festival, commented:

‘This award is a milestone in the history of science, spearheaded by one of the most famous scientists and inspiring figures of our time, Professor Stephen Hawking. As part of this tribute and our desire to bring science and space to the general public, Starmus has created a ground-breaking initiative under the name of one of the greatest scientists in history.’

In addition to this, Professor Israelian revealed that there will be ‘citizen participation through a public voting process on social media to decide the winner of The Starmus Science Communicator of the Year – Filmmaker category, inviting the general public to participate in the awards and make history.’

A portrait of Stephen Hawking by cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first man to walk in space, has formed the design of the Medal. Leonov commented:

‘Rarely is the life of the artist such a success and so I am very proud that my portrait of Sir Stephen Hawking, a historical figure of world importance, was chosen for this Medal. This Medal is not just a piece of paper, but a visible and tangible object that will inspire reflection for its winners. It is an honour for me.’

As well as the speakers panel unveiling the Medal, many special guests participated in the press conference, including Phantom of the Opera singer Sarah Brightman, having recently joined the Starmus music panel, and renowned composer Hans Zimmer.

Dara O’Briain, Prof. Brian Cox OBE and Prof. Kip Thorne were also in attendance, alongside representatives of the Canary Islands, privileged setting of the festival, including Managing Director of The Canary Islands Tourism Board, Ms. María Méndez, and the Councillor for Tourism in Tenerife, Mr. Alberto Bernabé, attended the presentation.

Here’s a video from the event,

I’m glad to see that science communication is going to enjoy some more recognition.

As for Starmus, the 2016 event being held from June 27 – July 2, 2016 in Tenerife, Canary Islands, Spain is a tribute to Stephen Hawking. The Starmus festival website’s homepage has this to say,

STARMUS Festival was born with the aim of making the most universal science and art accessible to the public.

Traditionally the perfect symbiosis between astronomy, art and music, STARMUS 2016 will bring together not only the brightest minds from these areas but many others besides, as we debate the future of humanity with scientists, business people at the cutting edge, and celebrities of all kinds.

Join us for an event in Tenerife that rises to a level where others fail!

That last line is a pretty bold statement. I wish the organizers all the best luck as they put the programme together and start attracting participants.

Some Baba Brinkman rap videos for Christmas

It’s about time to catch up with Canadian rapper, Baba Brinkman who has made an industry of rapping about science issues (mostly). Here’s a brief rundown of some of his latest ventures.

He was in Paris for the climate talks (also known as World Climate Change Conference 2015 [COP21]) and produced this ‘live’ rap on Dec. 10, 2015 for the press conference on “Moral Obligation – Scientific Imperative” for Climate Matters,

The piece is part of his forthcoming album and show “The Rap Guide to Climate Chaos.”

On Dec. 18, 2015 Baba released a new music video with his take on religion and science (from a Dec. 18, 2015 posting on his blog),

The digital animation is by Steven Fahey, who is a full time animator for the Simpsons, and I’m completely blown away by the results he achieved. The video is about the evolution of religious instincts, and how the secular among us can make sense of beliefs we don’t share.

Here’s the ‘Religion evolves’ video,

A few days after Baba released his video, new research was published contradicting some of what he has in there (i.e., religion as a binding element for societies struggling to survive in ancient times. From a Dec. 21, 2015 University of Central Florida news release on EurekAlert (Note: A link has been removed),

Humans haven’t learned much in more than 2,000 years when it comes to religion and politics.

Religion has led to social tension and conflict, not just in today’s society, but dating back to 700 B.C. according to a new study published today in Current Anthropology .

University of Colorado anthropology Professor Arthur A. Joyce and University of Central Florida Associate Professor Sarah Barber found evidence in several Mexican archeological sites that contradict the long-held belief that religion acted to unite early state societies. It often had the opposite effect, the study says.

“It doesn’t matter if we today don’t share particular religious beliefs, but when people in the past acted on their beliefs, those actions could have real, material consequences,” Barber said about the team’s findings. “It really behooves us to acknowledge religion when considering political processes.”

Sounds like sage advice in today’s world that has multiple examples of politics and religion intersecting and resulting in conflict.

The team published its findings “Ensoulment, Entrapment, and Political Centralization: A Comparative Study of Religion and Politics in Later Formative Oaxaca,” after spending several years conducting field research in the lower Río Verde valley of Oaxaca, Mexico’s Pacific coastal lowlands. They compared their results with data from the highland Valley of Oaxaca.

Their study viewed archaeological evidence from 700 B.C. to A.D. 250, a period identified as a time of the emergence of states in the region. In the lower Verde, religious rituals involving offerings and the burial of people in cemeteries at smaller communities created strong ties to the local community that impeded the creation of state institutions.

And in the Valley of Oaxaca, elites became central to mediating between their communities and the gods, which eventually triggered conflict with traditional community leaders. It culminated in the emergence of a regional state with its capital at the hilltop city of Monte Albán.

“In both the Valley of Oaxaca and the Lower Río Verde Valley, religion was important in the formation and history of early cities and states, but in vastly different ways,” said Joyce, lead author on the study. “Given the role of religion in social life and politics today, that shouldn’t be too surprising.”

The conflict in the lower Río Verde valley is evident in rapid rise and fall of its state institutions. At Río Viejo, the capital of the lower Verde state, people had built massive temples by AD 100. Yet these impressive, labor-intensive buildings, along with many towns throughout the valley, were abandoned a little over a century later.

“An innovative aspect of our research is to view the burials of ancestors and ceremonial offerings in the lower Verde as essential to these ancient communities,” said Joyce, whose research focuses on both political life and ecology in ancient Mesoamerica. “Such a perspective is also more consistent with the worldviews of the Native Americans that lived there.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Ensoulment, Entrapment, and Political Centralization A Comparative Study of Religion and Politics in Later Formative Oaxaca by Arthur A. Joyce and Sarah B. Barber. Current Anthropology Vol. 56, No. 6 (December 2015), pp. 819-847 DOI: 10.1086/683998

This paper is behind a paywall.

Getting back to Baba, having research, which contradicts or appears to contradict your position, suddenly appear is part of the scientific process. Making your work scientifically authentic adds pressure for a performer or artist, on the other hand, it also blesses that performer or artist with credibility. In any event, it’s well worth checking out Baba’s website and, for anyone, who’s wanted to become a patron of the arts (or of a particular rapper), there’s this Dec. 3, 2015 posting on Baba’s blog about Patreon,

Every year or so since 2010 I’ve reached out to my friends and fans asking for help with a Kickstarter or IndieGogo campaign to fund my latest album or video project. Well now I’m hoping to put an end to that regular cycle with the help of Patreon, a site that lets fans become patrons with exclusive access to the artists they support and the work they help create.

Click here to visit Patreon.com/BabaBrinkman

Good luck Baba. (BTW, Currently living in New York with his scientist wife and child, he’s originally from the Canadian province of British Columbia.)

The science in Star Wars according to the American Chemical Society

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has produced a video in its Reactions series, which focuses on Stars Wars science from the middle part of the series (episodes 4, 5, & 6) or what some might consider the classic, ‘first’ episodes. From a Dec. 15, 2015 news ACS news release on EurekAlert,

Star Wars VII: The Force Awakens hits movie screens this week with its intense plot, edge-of-your-seat action scenes and, of course, lots of lightsabers. But is it actually possible to create a real-life lightsaber or build a functioning Death Star laser? To answer these questions and more, Reactions explores the science behind the Star Wars franchise.

Here’s the video,

You’ll notice the ‘parsec’ situation is not explained. In Star Wars they reference the term parsec as a unit of time (in the first episode produced which is now no. 4, Star Wars: A New Hope). But, a ‘parsec’ is a unit of distance. Here’s Kyle Hill writing about the ‘parsec’ situation in a Feb. 12, 2013 article for Wired (Note: A link has been removed),

You’ll hear any reputable Star Wars fan point it out eventually: Han Solo’s famous boast that the Millennium Falcon “made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs” may have sounded impressive, but from an astronomical perspective, it made no sense. A parsec is a unit of distance, not time, so why would Solo use it to explain how quickly his ship could travel?

There are two stories going on here. The first is that Solo’s famous line of dialog was simply a mistake of terminology. The second — the one I choose believe [sic] — is far more interesting, because it means that when Obi-Wan sat down across from the wryly smiling Han Solo in that cramped cantina, he met a time-traveling smuggler born at least 40 years before the events of The Phantom Menace [episode 1, which was produced after the classic episodes, effectively the ‘first’ episode is a prequel] ever took place.

I understand the new movie, episode 7 is quite good but haven’t had a chance to see it yet. If you get there before I do, please let me know if it’s as good as the reviews suggest and what you think of the science.

The search for James Clerk Maxwell

The Brits really know how to celebrate an anniversary. In this case it’s the 150th anniversary of James Clerk Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory unifying electricity, magnetism, and light. (My Nov. 27, 2015 posting the first piece here featuring the anniversary and it describes the theory in more detail than you’ll find here.)

As part of the celebration there’s a five-episode series titled: Self Drives: Maxwell’s Equations being broadcast on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) 4. Stephen Curry writes about the series in a Dec. 9, 2015 posting on the Guardian science blogs (Note: Links have been removed),

There’s a potent antidote to the “Isn’t this amazing?” school of science communication and it’s called Will Self. In Self Drives: Maxwell’s Equations, which was broadcast recently [you can hear it as a podcast by visiting this site] on BBC Radio 4, the curious curmudgeon takes science to task once again as he goes in search of the mathematical and physical genius behind James Clerk Maxwell.

Over five short episodes, Self’s querulous quest takes him from Maxwell’s birthplace in Edinburgh to his family home in Glenlair, to the radio telescope at Jodrell Bank and the Diamond synchrotron near Oxford, and finally to Cambridge, where Maxwell studied mathematics in his youth and returned in his latter years as one of the nation’s most accomplished scientists to head the university’s Cavendish physics laboratory. Accompanying Self along the way is Akram Khan, the same physics professor who joined the errant writer on his earlier orbit of the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. I would have dubbed Khan Sancho Panza to Self’s Don Quixote but for this particular expedition the characters are reversed. It is Khan who wishes to see the poetry of science, while Self is happier to be grounded in prosaic and flawed reality. At CERN he refused truculently to worship in the cathedral of particle physics, stymied in equal measure by the difficulty of the subject matter and the boosterism of its scientific proponents. Here again the journey is mostly one of disappointment and frustration.

But not for the listener. The quest is far from fruitless, and nor is it lacking in emotional and intellectual force. Self’s documentary is not straight biography – you will find out more about Maxwell’s life and work from Wikipedia – but he has a different target in mind. …

Here’s the pair of explorers,

Will Self, Akram Khan and Maxwell’s infamous equations. Photograph: Laurence Grissell/BBC

Will Self, Akram Khan and Maxwell’s infamous equations. Photograph: Laurence Grissell/BBC

It’s good writing and an intriguing look into communicating science in a way that’s not quite so reverent and/or kid friendly as we tend to be in Canada.

Survey ends today—The last* chance to participate

The survey being conducted by Paige Jarreau and Science Borealis (Canadian science blog aggregator) is coming to an end today. If you have any interest in participating here’s more including a link from my Nov. 25, 2015 posting,

… Dr. Paige Jarreau from Louisiana State University and 20 other Canadian science bloggers [are conducting] a broad survey of Canadian science blog readers.

Together we are trying to find out who reads science blogs in Canada, where they come from, whether Canadian-specific content is important to them and where they go for trustworthy, accurate science news and information. Your feedback will also help me learn more about my own blog readers.

It only take 5 minutes [I’d say more like 20 minutes as there’s more than one ‘essay’ question in addition to the questions where you tick off a box] to complete the survey. Begin here: http://bit.ly/ScienceBorealisSurvey

If you complete the survey you will be entered to win one of eleven prizes! A $50 Chapters Gift Card, a $20 surprise gift card, 3 Science Borealis T-shirts and 6 Surprise Gifts! PLUS everyone who completes the survey will receive a free hi-resolution science photograph from Paige’s Photography!

Ooops! I got the deadline wrong several times in that November 25, 2015 posting. The correct deadline is today, Dec. 14, 2015.

If you read one of the blogs being aggregated by Science Borealis, you are eligible to enter and win a prize no matter where in the world you live. Organizers will try to ensure that prizes are age appropriate.

They have compiled some preliminary results:

  • 21 bloggers + Science Borealis hosted the survey.
  • 523 respondents began the survey.
  • 338 respondents entered their email addresses to win a prize
  • 63% of 400 Respondents are not science bloggers
  • 56% of 402 Respondents describe themselves as scientists
  • 76% of 431 Respondents were not familiar with Science Borealis before taking the survey
  • 85% of 403 Respondents often, very often or always seek out science information online.
  • 59% of 402 Respondents rarely or never seek science content that is specifically Canadian
  • Of 400 Respondents, locations were: 35% Canada, 35% US, 30% Other.

To anyone who linked to the survey from here, I’m very appreciative. The data is being broken down blog by blog so I will find out a little about the FrogHeart readership (the ones who participated, that is). As well, thank you to all the participants regardless of which link you used to get to the survey. It’s very exciting to see the numbers of people who took the time to start the survey. I don’t know about you but, in my book, ‘survey’ requests can be quite tiresome. So, I’m deeply thankful and will be sharing the results once they have been disseminated.

*’ast’ in headline changed to ‘last’ on Dec. 14, 2015 at 1755 hours PST.