Category Archives: science communication

Early Christmas shopping? Science sabotage for fun game: a Kickstarter campaign

David Bruggeman has written a July 5, 2016 posting about the Lab Wars board game, his second one in support of the UK scientists and creators, Caezar Al-Jassar and Kuly Heer,

… The game (set for 2-4 people ages 12 and up, with gameplay of 30-60 minutes) has players building up their own labs and reputations while sabotaging their…colleagues(?).  Some of these sabotages are based on actual events, and if your version of the game includes the “Legends of Science” expansion pack, you will have the chance to play with famous scientists and their lab equipment.

David has embedded a video showing how the game is played in his July 5, 2016 posting (Pasco Phronesis blog).

There is a Kickstarter campaign for the game which has 28 hours left to it. Their goal was £5,000 and they now have £45,269. Don’t be scared away by the £, pledges, it is possible to pledge in other currencies.

On going to the Lab Wars website, I was thrilled to find this,

LabWarsBox

Canada-friendly shipping? Thank you for including a Canuck flavour to your campaigning.

From the Kickstarter campaign page,

What's in the box!
What’s in the box!

 Box components

  • 1 two part box made of 128gsm paper stock and 1.5mm cardboard
  • 1 glossy rulebook 128gsm paper stock
  • 137 cards at 300gsm card stock (as above)
  • 50 flask shaped research points from punchboard/cardboard chits
  • 1 legendary scientist meeple as the first player marker – (artwork of Marie Curie coming soon!) – unlocked at £7500 as a stretch goal
  • Cardboard divider to easily separate decks

There are also German, French, and/or Spanish language print versions available too according to the Kickstarter page.

Pledges start at £1 (you get a thank you and a PDF of the experiments and historical sabotage that form the base of the game. £19 (approx. $27 USD, €24, or $35 CAD) will get you a game.

I found out more about the UK scientists behind the game on the Lab Wars About Us page,

We’ve played board games for many many years but found that there was nothing out there that represented the fun and wacky aspects of scientific research. The game was originally inspired by the book “The Secret Anarchy of Science” by Michael Brooks and our own personal experiences. Being a difficult and laborious industry, some famous and/or dodgy scientists have often led to underhanded tactics to get ahead of their peers. Using this as the driving force we decided that  we should create a game around this concept so that players could be devious against one another with a science theme.

So while on holiday in Spain the summer of 2015 we came up with the original concept of Lab Wars. We immediately sourced card, pens and scissors so that we could playtest it and pretty much spent our entire holiday playing it for hours trying to perfect it.

We purposefully made the game with non-scientists in mind and have playtested it for many many hours with people who are not familiar with science. We feel we have created a game that is fun, unique with mechanisms that allow replayability. …

If you’re interested, there isn’t much time left.

Note: Kickstarters can be chancey. Even people with the best of intentions can find they have difficulty following through. If you think about it, someone who planned to produce and ship 500 widgets is likely to find that producing and shipping 10,000 widgets (due to the success of their Kickstarter campaign) is an entirely different affair.

Café Scientifique (Vancouver, Canada) June 28, 2016 talk: Why Online Dating Doesn’t Work

Vancouver’s (Canada) Café Scientifique seems to be roaming around;  Shebeen Whiskey House (212 Carrall St) is hosting the next Café Scientifique talk. From the June 6, 2016 notice received via email,

Our next café will happen on Tuesday June 28th [2016], 7:30pm at the Shebeen Whiskey House (212 Carrall St). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Martin Graff, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at the University of South Wales, UK. The title of his talk is:

Why Online Dating Doesn’t Work

There is much evidence that being in a good relationship can be beneficial to our health, happiness and general well-being.  However, should we resort to online dating in the pursuit of a happy relationship?  Psychological research would seem to suggest that online dating may not be the easy answer.

This talk focuses on the reasons why we should be cautious in our online dating pursuits.  For example, people make bad decisions in online dating.  Furthermore, those we contact are often not what they appear to be.  Additionally, there is no evidence that the algorithms employed by dating sites and which purport to match us with a desirable partner actually work in reality.

Finally, this talk will also give some tips on how to at least maximize our chances in an online dating environment.

Dr. Martin Graff is Reader and Head of Research in Psychology at the University of South Wales, UK, an associate fellow of the British Psychological Society and a Chartered Psychologist.  He has researched cognitive processes in web-based learning, the formation and dissolution of romantic relationships online and offline, online persuasion and disinhibition. He has written over 50 scientific articles, published widely in the field of Internet behaviour, and presented his work at numerous International Conferences. He writes for Psychology Today magazine and regularly speaks at events in the UK and Internationally.

Happy dating!

Call for Entries: 2016 AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards

You don’t have to rush your entry into the competition (from a May 3, 2016 AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) notice received via email),

We are accepting entries in the 2016 competition for the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards. The deadline is August 1, 2016. Entries must have been published, broadcast or posted online during the contest year: July 16, 2015, to July 15, 2016.

Thanks to a doubled endowment by The Kavli Foundation, we accept entries from journalists worldwide in all categories. Nearly 40 percent of our winners in 2015 — the inaugural year of the global competition — were international entrants.

We present two awards in each category: a Gold award ($5,000) and a Silver award ($3,500). The categories are as follows: large newspaper, small newspaper, magazine, television spot news/feature, television in-depth, audio (radio or podcast), online and children’s science news.

Contest rules can be found here,

The contest year is 16 July 2015 through 15 July 2016. All entries must be submitted online on or before midnight 1 August 2016. Entries must have been originally published, broadcast or posted online during the contest year. There is no entry fee.

The awards are open to reporters doing work for independent news organizations around the world. Print articles must be readily accessible to the public by subscription or newsstand sales. If the submitted work was published or broadcast in a language other than English, you must provide an English translation. See online FAQ for further discussion.

A story or series of stories may be entered in one category only.

The following are not eligible for the AAAS Kavli Science Journalism Awards:

  • Items exclusively concerning health or medical treatment. (See the online FAQ for further discussion.)
  • Items published originally in AAAS publications or produced by AAAS.
  • Items by employees of AAAS or The Kavli Foundation.
  • Winners of the 2015 awards are not eligible. Individuals who have won three times are no longer eligible.

 

Read the official contest rules

Submission guidelines can be found here and submissions can be made from this page (scroll down).

Two May 31, 2016 talks (Why nuclear power is necessary and DNA is not destiny) in Vancouver, Canada

Both the upcoming science talks in Vancouver are scheduled for May 31, 2016. Isn’t that always the way?

Why nuclear power is necessary

This talk is being held by ARPICO (Society of Italian Researchers & Professionals in Western Canada). From the ARPICO event page,

Why Nuclear Power is Necessary

Presenter

Patrick Walden graduated with a B.Sc. in Physics from UBC and a Ph.D in Particle Physics from Caltech. His Post Doctoral research was done at the Stanford University Linear Accelerator (SLAC), and since 1974 he has been at TRIUMF here in Vancouver. Patrick has been active in the fields of pion photo-production, meson spectroscopy, the dynamics of pion production from nuclei, and nuclear astrophysics.

Abstract

Nuclear power is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions-free energy in the world. It supplies approximately 5% of the world’s total energy demand. Presently, human activity is on the brink of initiating a global greenhouse climate catastrophe unless we can limit our greenhouse gas emissions.

In this talk, Dr. Patrick Walden will examine the concerns about nuclear power and the reasons why, contrary to public perception, nuclear power is one of the safest, most economical, plentiful, and greenest sources of energy available.

Logistics

  • May 31, 2016 – 7:00pm
  • Roundhouse Community Centre – Room B – (181 Roundhouse Mews, Vancouver BC V6Z2W3)
  • Underground pay parking is available, access off Drake St. south of Pacific Blvd.
    Admission by donation. Q&A and complimentary refreshments follow. Registration is highly recommended as seating is limited. RSVP at info@arpico.ca or at EventBrite by May 28th, 2016.

A map for the location can be found here.

There is a Skytrain station nearbyYaletown-Roundhouse Canada Line Station

DNA is not destiny

This month’s Café Scientifique talk is being held in downtown Vancouver at Yaggers (433 W. Pender St.). Details of the talk are (from the May 13, 2016 email announcement,

… Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Steven Heine, a Professor in the Department of Psychology at UBC [University of British Columbia]. The title of his talk is:

DNA is Not Destiny: How Essences Distort how we Think about Genes

People the world over are essentialist thinkers – they are attracted to the idea that hidden essences make things as they are. And because genetic concepts remind people of essences, they tend to think of genes in ways similar to essences. That is, people tend to think about genetic causes as immutable, deterministic, homogenous, discrete, and natural.  Dr. Heine will discuss how our essentialist biases lead people to think differently about sex, race, crime, eugenics, and disease whenever these are described in genetic terms. Moreover, Dr. Heine will discuss how our essentialistic biases make people vulnerable to the sensationalist hype that has emerged with the genomic revolution and access to direct-to-consumer genotyping services.

Logistics

Tuesday May 31st, 7:30pm at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender).

I have found a little more information about Dr. Steven Heine and his work (from his University of British Columbia webpage),

Our lab is currently working on three distinct research programs, which we refer to as Cultural Psychology, Meaning Maintenance, and Genetic Essentialism.

Our third research program on genetic esssentialism considers how people understand essences and genetic foundations for human behavior. We propose that encounters with genetic explanations for human outcomes prompts people to think of those outcomes in essentiialized ways, by viewing those outcomes as more deterministic, immutable, and fatalistic. For example, we find that women are more vulnerable to stereotype threat when they hear of genetic reasons for why men outperform women in math than when they hear of environmental reasons for this difference. We also find that men are more tolerant of sex crimes when they learn of genetic basis for sexual motivations than when they hear of social-constructivist accounts. We are conducting several studies to explore the ways that people respond to genetic accounts for human conditions.

Have fun whichever one you choose to attend.

Science Odyssey replaces National Science and Technology Week (Canada)

Canada’s National Science and Technology Week was a ten-day (yes, not a week) affair held annually in October. At one time, it had some decent funding but over the years (under Liberal and Conservative governments) that funding became less adequate. So, I’m delighted to see the current government has decided to pump some new life into the effort, which has been rebranded as Science Odyssey and is taking place from May 6 – May 15, 2016. Here’s more from the event’s homepage (you can find links to event(s) taking place in your community there),

Embark with us on a Science Odyssey, a collaborative event geared to engage and inspire Canadians of all ages with accomplishments and activities in science, technology and engineering and mathematics.

Science Odyssey brings together a series of fun activities across the country from Friday, May 6 to Sunday, May 15, 2016. Events go from science-to-the –streets celebrations, to visits to labs, science fairs, talks and conferences, school field trips, encounters with researchers and scientists, museums and science centres special exhibits, community organizations hosting scientific events, online activities, and much more.

What is Science Odyssey?

Science Odyssey evolved from the National Science and Technology Week (NSTW) to a celebration of science from the whole of Canada’s prolific scientific community.

Events will come from federal government scientific research and technological initiatives; it will also serve as an occasion to showcase the excellence in science, technology and engineering housed at Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics; it is also an opportunity to highlight the work of many other institutions, community organizations and groups dedicated to science promotion activities.

Science Odyssey is a collaborative event led by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) in collaboration with many other federal departments and agencies and community organizations.

A May 6, 2016 NSERC news release provides some information about funding,

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, announced $4.8 million dollars in awards today for 43 recipients to be supported by the PromoScience program, which enables science outreach across Canada. The announcement was made at the Canadian Association of Science Centres annual conference in Vancouver, British Columbia. The program provides funding to science centres, day camps, after-school programs, science outreach organizations, networks and more to support youth engagement in science

Minister Duncan, along with Dr. B. Mario Pinto, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), made the announcement at the start of ScienceOdyssey, a 10-day national celebration of science-based activities and events across Canada. The focus of Science Odyssey is to showcase the wonders of Canadian science, technology, engineering and math to youth and the public at large.

Interestingly, there was another nationwide STEM event taking place. Science Rendezvous was held on Saturday, May 7, 2016. They seem to have allied themselves with Science Odyssey (listed as a sponsor), from the ScienceRendezvous homepage,

Science Rendezvous is an annual festival that takes science out of the lab lab and onto the street! We work with Canada’s top research institutes to present a coast-to-coast open house and festival that is  for everyone. With over 300 events across 30 cities and 1000’s of mind-blowing activities, Science Rendezvous is Canada’s largest celebration of the amazing feats of science and engineering happening right here at home.

In 2015, more than 200,000 attendees participated in our unique brand of hands-on science, a new landmark for such events in Canada.

Science Rendezvous is the only organization that generates this level of public engagement with science, and direct face-to-face involvement with those at the very frontiers of innovation.

I’m glad to see more science outreach.

Science-themed scriptwriting competition for Google (call for submissions)

David Bruggeman writes about a Google-sponsored scriptwriting competition in an April 28, 2016 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog (Note: Links have been removed),

At the Tribeca Film Festival last week [the festival ran from April 13 – 24, 2016] Google announced that its CS Education in Media Program is partnering with the website The Black List for a fellowship competition to support the image of computer science and computer scientists in media (H/T STEMDaily).  The Black List is a screenwriting site known for hosting the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The fellowship could award up to $15,000 for as many as three scripts (one film script and two episodic television pilots).  The writers would use the money to support their work on new materials for six months.  At the end of that period the writer(s) would present that work to Google along with a summary of how the grant helped advance that work and/or affected their career.

Here’s more about the competition from The Black list website’s The Google Computer Science Education in Media Fellowship Call for Submissions webpage,

The Black List is pleased to partner with Google’s Computer Science Education in Media program to offer financial grants in support of the development of three scripts with a focus on changing the image in popular culture of computer science and computer scientists.

REQUIREMENTS

  • The candidate must host a script on www.blcklst.com for a least one week during the opt-in period.
  • Such script must be original to the candidate.
  • The candidate must be competent to contract.
  • If selected for the fellowship, writers must develop a feature screenplay or episodic pilot that changes the image of computer science or computer scientists, particular as it applies to women and minorities, in popular culture.
  • Further, selected writers must agree that six months following receipt of the fellowship that they will provide a designated representative of Google with a sample of his/her new work along with a report addressing how the grant has been used to advance his/her work and/or impacted his/her career.

SELECTION PROCESS

Beginning April 20, 2016, users of the Black List website can opt into consideration for this fellowship.

On July 15 [2016], the Black List will short list ten writers based on all data available on the Black List website about their opted in feature screenplays and teleplays.

These ten short listed candidates will be asked to submit one-page biographies, which will be sent to Google along with the screenplays/teleplays.

Google will review these 10 scripts and choose the Fellowship recipients. Google reserves the right to grant no fellowships if, in Google’s opinion, no entry is of sufficient merit.

DEADLINES OF NOTE (ALL TIMES 11:59 PM PT)

Evaluation purchase deadline* June 15, 2016

Opt in deadline July 15, 2016

* In order for new script evaluations to guarantee consideration for this opportunity, they must be purchased by midnight on the Evaluation deadline.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT GOOGLE’S COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION IN MEDIA PROGRAM

Why is Google working with Hollywood? 

Google aims to inspire young people around the world not just to use technology, but to create it.  To do so, we need more students pursuing an education in CS, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field. Google wants to prepare the next generation for the workplace of the future, and expand access to CS education that engages and retains students from all backgrounds.

  • Moreover, Google’s research shows that perceptions of CS and computer scientists are primary drivers that motivate girls to pursue CS. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” as our friend Geena Davis notes.
  • Google’s hope is that by dispelling stereotypes and identifying positive portrayals of women in tech it can do for CS what CSI did for the field of forensic science, changing its gender make-up and increasing its appeal to a wider audience.
  • Media is part of the ecosystem that needs to change in conjunction with the other areas of work where Google has invested including increasing access to curriculum, non-profit grants, and policy support. If we don’t address the perceptions piece for both young people and adults through mainstream media, we run the risk of undermining our other efforts in CS education.

Background stats on perceptions of CS: 

Google’s research shows that perceptions of careers in computer science really matter.  Girls who feel that television portrays programmers negatively or who don’t see other students like them taking CS are significantly less likely to get into computing. Interestingly, girls who want a career with social impact are also less likely to go into CS.

Google conducted a research study to identify the factors that most influence girls to study computer science, and the second most important category of factors was Career Perceptions.

  • Girls who felt that television portrays programmers in a negative light were less likely to pursue CS.
  • If a girl didn’t see the right social crowd in a class — that is, if there weren’t enough students like her — she was less likely to go into CS.
  • Girls who want careers with social impact are less likely to go into CS. (It’s clear we need to do a better job of showing how CS can be used to develop solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems.)
  • Perception accounts for 27% of the decision making for girls to pursue CS.. #1 factor is parent/adult encouragement which is also influenced by media.

Stats on representation in media:

  • Blacks & Hispanics are already underrepresented on-screen 14.1% and 4.9%, respectively.
  • Combine this with lack of / misrepresentation of STEM/CS characters in family movies and prime TV, you get STEM characters < 18% women; CS characters <13%.

Proven Success with other Fields:

  • Forensic Science – CSI increased the number of forensic science majors in nationally recognized programs by at least 50% in 5 years – a majority being women.
  • Law – UCLA claimed a 16.5% increase in law school applicants 1 year after LA Law premiered.  Justice Sotomayor credits her interest in law from watching Perry Mason at 10 years old.
 …

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FAQ & Answers

Go here to register (there is a cost associated with registering but there don’t appear to be any citizenship or residency restrictions, e.g., must be US citizen or must reside in the US. Good Luck!