Tag Archives: Tom McFadden

Photograph 51 (about Rosalind Franklin and the double helix) in London, UK, Sept. – Nov. 2015

Thanks to David Bruggeman’s August 27, 2015 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog for this news featuring a new theatrical production of Anna Zeigler’s play about Rosalind Franklin titled: Photograph 51,

Photograph 51 will be at the Noël Coward Theatre in the West End of London starting on September 5, with Nicole Kidman playing Franklin.  It marks the first London stage performance by Kidman since 1998, and is scheduled to run through November 21 [2015].

There has been at least one attempt to turn this play into a movie as per my Jan. 16, 2012 posting (scroll down about 75% of the way),

… from the news item on Nanowerk,

A film version of third STAGE Competition winner Photograph 51 is being produced by Academy Award-nominated director Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan), Academy Award-winning actress Rachel Weisz, and Ari Handel. [emphases mine] Playwright Anna Ziegler will adapt her play for the screen. Photograph 51 was featured at the 2011 World Science Festival in New York City; the play has also enjoyed prestigious productions in New York City and Washington, D.C.

To my knowledge this play has not yet become a movie and sharp-eyed observers may note that Darren Aronofsky and Rachel Weisz, listed as producers for the proposed film, were married at that time and have subsequently divorced, which may have affected plans for the movie.

Here’s more about the upcoming theatrical production in London (UK), from the Photograph 51 webpage on the londontheatre1.com website,

The Michael Grandage Company has today [July 27, 2015] announced the full company for the UK première of Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51. Nicole Kidman who leads the company as Rosalind Franklin is joined by Will Attenborough (James Watson), Edward Bennett (Francis Crick), Stephen Campbell Moore (Maurice Wilkins), Patrick Kennedy (Don Caspar) and Joshua Silver (Ray Gosling). Photograph 51 opens at the Noel Coward Theatre on 14th September, with previews from 5th September, and runs until 21st November, 2015.

Photograph 51 also sees the return of Michael Grandage Company to the West End following their immensely successful season in 2013/14, also at the Noel Coward Theatre. The company is committed to reaching as wide an audience as possible through accessible ticket prices across their theatre work, and are offering over 20,000 tickets at £10 (including booking fee and restoration levy), which is 25% of the tickets for the entire run, across all levels of the auditorium. In addition, the company will stage access performances – with both captioned and audio described performances.

“The instant I saw the photograph my mouth fell open and my pulse began to race”

Does Rosalind Franklin know how precious her photograph is? In the race to unlock the secret of life it could be the one to hold the key. With rival scientists looking everywhere for the answer, who will be first to see it and more importantly, understand it? Anna Ziegler’s extraordinary play looks at the woman who cracked DNA and asks what is sacrificed in the pursuit of science, love and a place in history.

Nicole Kidman makes her hugely anticipated return to the London stage in the role of Rosalind Franklin, the woman who discovered the secret to Life, in the UK première of Anna Ziegler’s award-winning play. The production reunites Kidman and Grandage following their recent collaboration on the forthcoming feature film Genius [this film is about the literary world].

You can see a trailer where Kidman is seen briefly as Rosalind Franklin in the upcoming theatrical production. It is embedded in David Bruggeman’s August 27, 2015 posting. Here’s one of my all time favourite productions of the Rosalind Franklin story, from an Aug. 19, 2013 posting, (scroll down about 65% of the way to the part about Tom McFadden and science raps for school children),

For a description of the controversies surrounding Photograph 51 and Rosalind Franklin’s contributions, there’s this Wikipedia entry.

ETA Sept. 3, 2015: Nick Clark has written a Sept. 3, 2015 article for The Independent.com about how Kidman’s got involved with the play,

It took four years for Michael Grandage to find a play that would tempt Nicole Kidman back to the London stage for the first time in 17 years, and he discovered it in an unlikely place: the slush pile.

After turning down the chance to headline a classic revival of Ibsen or Tennessee Williams, the Australian superstar plumped instead for Photograph 51, a play about a “scientific injustice” that had been sent to the director unsolicited, and had only ever been staged in minor productions in the US.

I think there’s a little self-aggrandizement taking place here. More importantly, Grandage and Kidman are turning the spotlight on a story that isn’t as well known as it should be and for that they should be thanked. (h/t Lainey Gossip)

One final comment, James Watson seems to have an interesting relationship with the now dead Franklin. As noted in the Clark article and elsewhere, she’s mentioned (quite briefly) in Watson’s book, The Double Helix, which helped keep her name in the history books as an obscure footnote. More interestingly, David Bruggeman notes in his August 27, 2015 posting that Watson was present at one the play’s productions (2011 World Science Festival in Ireland) and participated in a public discussion (The secret behind the secret of life: facts and fictions) with the playwright Ziegler and other biologists,

In the 1950s, three labs raced to unravel the structure of DNA. Five decades after the Nobel Prize was awarded for the breakthrough, the contribution of one scientist—Rosalind Franklin—remains controversial. The event was a riveting performance of The Ensemble Studio Theatre Production of Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, directed by Linsay Firman, a historical drama that explores Rosalind Franklin’s electrifying story, followed (in Friday’s performance) by a discussion among three of the men whose lives the play dramatizes—Nobel laureate James Watson, Raymond Gosling, who worked closely with Franklin at King’s College and co-authored one of Franklin’s 3 papers published in ‘Nature’ in 1953, and emeritus professor of biology Don Caspar—illuminating one of science’s most remarkable, influential, and controversial discoveries. [emphases of names mine)

Fascinating, oui?

Please, don’t kill my hive! (a Science Rap Academy production)

In celebration of an upcoming event in Vancouver (Canada), “Honey, Hives, and Poetry,” I’m including this April 17, 2015 news from David Bruggeman (on his Pasco Phronesis blog),

Tom McFadden has debuted the first video of this year’s Science Rap Academy.  Seventh and eighth grade students at the Nueva School prepare a music video based on a science concept, usually reworking a rap or hip-hop song.

Here’s the first installment in this year’s Science Rap Academy series, Please Don’t Kill My Hive,

There are many posts on this blog about Tom McFadden and his various science rap projects (many of them courtesy of David Bruggeman/Pasco Phronesis). Here’s one of the more recent ones, a May 30, 2014 posting.

Getting back to David’s April 17, 2015 news, he also mentions the latest installment of  “Science goes to the movies” which features three movies (Kingsman: The Secret Service, The Lazarus Effect, and Them!) and has Neil deGrasse Tyson as a guest. David has embedded the episode on his blog. One brief comment, it’s hard to tell how familiar Tyson or the hosts, Faith Salie and Dr. Heather Berlin are with the history of the novel or science. But the first few minutes of the conversation suggest that Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is the first novel to demonize scientists. (I had the advantage of not getting caught up in their moment and access to search engines.) Well, novels were still pretty new in Europe and I don’t believe that there were any other novels featuring scientists prior to Mary Shelley’s work.

A brief history of novels: Japan can lay claim to the first novel, The Tale of Genji, in the 11th century CE, (The plot concerned itself with aristocratic life and romance.) Europe and its experience with the novel is a little more confusing. From the City University of New York, Brooklyn site, The Novel webpage,

The term for the novel in most European languages is roman, which suggests its closeness to the medieval romance. The English name is derived from the Italian novella, meaning “a little new thing.” Romances and novelle, short tales in prose, were predecessors of the novel, as were picaresque narratives. Picaro is Spanish for “rogue,” and the typical picaresque story is of the escapades of a rascal who lives by his wits. The development of the realistic novel owes much to such works, which were written to deflate romantic or idealized fictional forms. Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1605-15), the story of an engaging madman who tries to live by the ideals of chivalric romance, explores the role of illusion and reality in life and was the single most important progenitor of the modern novel.

The novel broke from those narrative predecessors that used timeless stories to mirror unchanging moral truths. It was a product of an intellectual milieu shaped by the great seventeenth-century philosophers, Descartes and Locke, who insisted upon the importance of individual experience. They believed that reality could be discovered by the individual through the senses. Thus, the novel emphasized specific, observed details. It individualized its characters by locating them precisely in time and space. And its subjects reflected the popular eighteenth-century concern with the social structures of everyday life.

The novel is often said to have emerged with the appearance of Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe (1719) and Moll Flanders (1722). Both are picaresque stories, in that each is a sequence of episodes held together largely because they happen to one person. But the central character in both novels is so convincing and set in so solid and specific a world that Defoe is often credited with being the first writer of “realistic” fiction. The first “novel of character” or psychological novel is Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740-41), an epistolary novel (or novel in which the narrative is conveyed entirely by an exchange of letters). It is a work characterized by the careful plotting of emotional states. Even more significant in this vein is Richardson’s masterpiece Clarissa (1747-48). Defoe and Richardson were the first great writers in our literature who did not take their plots from mythology, history, legend, or previous literature. They established the novel’s claim as an authentic account of the actual experience of individuals.

As far as I’m aware none of these novels are concerned with science or scientists for that matter. After all, science was still emerging from a period where alchemy reined supreme. One of the great European scientists, Isaac Newton (1642-1726/7), practiced alchemy along with his science. And that practice did not die with Newton.

With those provisos in mind, or not, do enjoy the movie reviews embedded in David’s April 17, 2015 news.  One final note,David in his weekly roundup of science on late night tv noted that Neil deGrasse Tyson’s late night tv talk show, Star Talks, debuted April 20, 2015, the episode can be seen again later this week while deGrasse Tyson continues to make the rounds of other talk shows to publicize his own.

Three Vancouver (Canada) science events: Vancouver Public Library on April 27, 2015, Café Scientifique on April 28, 2015, and the Wall Exchange on May 26, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015, 7:00 pm – 8:30 pm is a combined bee/poetry event at the main branch of the Vancouver Public Library. From the Vancouver Public Library “Honey, Hives, and Poetry in the City” event page,

Celebrate National Poetry Month by investigating food and poetry as a means of cultural and social activism and community building. Featured will be:

  • Rachel Rose, Poet Laureate of Vancouver
  • A collaborative reading by scientist and author Mark L. Winston (Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive) and award winning poet Renee Sarojini Saklikar (Children of Air India)
  • Readings from author and poet Elee Kraljii Gardiner and the Thursdays Writing Collective.
  • Presentation and honey tasting with Hives for Humanity.


Address: 350 West Georgia St.
VancouverV6B 6B1

  • Phone:

Location Details: Alice MacKay Room, Lower Level

[ETA April 21, 2015 at 1000 PST: I’ve just embedded a video which launches a new year of Science Rap Academy (Tom McFadden) in my April 21, 2015 post titled: Please, don’t kill my hive! (a Science Rap Academy production).]

*Change of Speaker for April 28, 2015  Café Scientifique, see Café Scientifique (Vancouver, Canada) makes a ‘happy’ change: new speaker for April 28, 2015 posting.”*

The day after the bee/poetry event, Tuesday, April 28, 2015  Café Scientifique, held in the back room of The Railway Club (2nd floor of 579 Dunsmuir St. [at Seymour St.], will be hosting a talk on pain (from the April 13, 2015 announcement,

Our speakers for the evening will be Dr. Matthew Ramer and Dr. John Kramer.  The title of their talk is:

Knowing Pains: How can we study pain to better treat it?

Pain is arguably the most useful of sensations.  It is nature’s way of telling us to stop doing whatever it is we are doing in order to prevent damage, and to protect injured body parts during the healing process.  In the absence of pain (in certain congenital conditions and in advanced diabetes, for example), the consequence can be loss of limbs and even of life.

There are circumstances, however, when pain serves no useful purpose:  it persists when the injury has healed or occurs in the absence of any frank tissue damage, and is inappropriate in context (previously innocuous stimuli become painful) and magnitude (mildly painful stimuli become excruciating).  This is called neuropathic pain and is incredibly difficult to treat because it is unresponsive to all of the drugs we use to treat normal, useful (“acute”) pain.

Ultimately, our research is aimed at finding new ways to minimise suffering from neuropathic pain.  Prerequisites to this goal include understanding how normal and neuropathic pain are encoded and perceived by the nervous system, and accurately measuring and quantifying pain so that we can draw reasonable conclusions about whether or not a particular treatment is effective.  We will discuss some historical and current ideas of how pain is transmitted from body to brain, and emphasize that the pain “channel” is not hard-wired, but like the process of learning, it is plastic, labile, and subject to “top-down” control.  We will also tackle the contentious issue of pain measurement in the clinic and laboratory.*

Both speakers are from iCORD (International Collaboration On Repair Discoveries), an interdisciplinary research centre focused on spinal cord injury located at Vancouver General Hospital. There’s more about Dr. Matt Ramer here and Dr. John Kramer here.

*Change of Speaker for April 28, 2015  Café Scientifique, see Café Scientifique (Vancouver, Canada) makes a ‘happy’ change: new speaker for April 28, 2015 posting.”*

The Wall Institute for Advanced Studies is bringing Dr. Bonnie Bassler, the bacteria whisperer, to speak in Vancouver. From the Wall Exchange series event page,

Dr. Bonnie Bassler, Molecular Biology, Princeton University

The Secret Social Lives of Bacteria

May 26, 2015
7:30 pm. Doors open at 6:30 pm.
Vogue Theatre, 918 Granville Street, Vancouver

Tickets available online, 2015 or by calling the Vogue Theatre Box Office: 604-569-1144

Learn more:

Bacterial behaviour may hold key to combatting antibiotic resistance
The Wall Papers

Here are some more details about the tickets, the event, and the speaker from the Northern Tickets event page,

Bonnie Bassler
The Secret, Social Lives of Bacteria
Vogue Theatre
Tuesday May 26th, 2015
Doors 6:30PM, Begins 7:30PM
Free Entry
**Tickets must be redeemed by 7:15PM to be valid**

Dr. Bonnie Bassler is an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Squibb Professor and Chair of the Department of Molecular Biology at Princeton University. The research in Dr. Bassler’s laboratory focuses on the chemical signaling mechanisms that bacteria use to communicate with each other known as “quorum sensing.” Therapies that block quorum sensing activity may represent an important new strategy for combating bacterial infections. Her research reveals new insights into the basic biology and ecology of bacteria; findings that may have direct application in the future treatment of disease.

Vogue Theatre
918 Granville Street – Vancouver

Go forth and enjoy!

* Removed ‘,t’ at very end of Café Scientifique excerpt on April 24, 2015.

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2015 meeting in San Jose, CA from Feb. 12 -16, 2014

The theme for the 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting is Innovations, Information, and Imaging and you can find the program here. A few of the talks and presentations caught my eye and I’m starting with the plenary lectures as these reflect, more or less, the interpretation of the theme and set the tone for the meeting.

Plenary lectures

President’s Address
Thursday, 12 February 2015: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM

Dr. Gerald Fink’s work in genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology has advanced our understanding of gene regulation, mutation, and recombination. He developed a technique for transforming yeast that allowed researchers to introduce a foreign piece of genetic material into yeast cells and study the inheritance and expression of that DNA. [emphasis mine] The technique, fundamental to genetic engineering, laid the groundwork for the commercial use of yeast as biological factories for manufacturing vaccines and other drugs, and set the stage for genetic engineering in all organisms. Fink chaired a National Research Council Committee that produced the 2003 report Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism: Confronting the Dual Use Dilemma, recommending practices to prevent the potentially destructive application of biotechnology research while enabling legitimate research. …

I did not include Dr.Fink’s many, many professional attributes but rest assured Dr. Fink has founded at least one research group, received many professional honours, and has multiple degrees.

Back to the plenary lectures,

Daphne Koller: The Online Revolution: Learning Without Limits
Plenary Lecture
Friday, 13 February 2015: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Dr. Daphne Koller is the Rajeev Motwani Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University and president and co-founder of Coursera, an online education platform. Her research focus is artificial intelligence and its applications in the biomedical sciences. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Koller completed her Ph.D. at Stanford under the supervision of Joseph Halpern and performed postdoctoral research at University of California, Berkeley. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2004 and was awarded the first ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in Computing Sciences. She co-authored, with Nir Friedman, a textbook on probabilistic graphical models and offered a free online course on the subject. She and Andrew Ng, a fellow Stanford computer science professor, launched Coursera in 2012. Koller and Ng were recognized on the 2013 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

David Baker: Post-Evolutionary Biology: Design of Novel Protein Structures, Functions, and Assemblies

Plenary Lecture

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Dr. David Baker is a biochemist and computational biologist whose research focuses on the prediction and design of macromolecular structures and functions. He is the director of the Rosetta Commons, a consortium of labs and researchers that develop the Rosetta biomolecular structure prediction and design program, which has been extended to the distributed computing project Rosetta@Home and the online computer game Foldit. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and completed postdoctoral work in biophysics at University of California, San Francisco. Baker has received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize; the Sackler International Prize in Biophysics; the Overton Prize from the International Society of Computational Biology; the Feynman Prize from the Foresight Institute; and the Centenary Award from the Biochemical Society. He is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[emphasis mine]

I found the mention of the Foresight Institute (a nanotechnology organization founded by Eric Drexler and Christine Petersen) quite interesting. The title of Baker’s presentation certainly brings to mind, synthetic biology.

Back to the plenary lectures,

Neil Shubin: Finding Your Inner Fish
Plenary Lecture
Monday, 16 February 2015: 8:30 AM-9:30 AM

Dr. Neil Shubin is a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist who researches the origin of animal anatomical features. He has done field work in Greenland, Africa, Asia, and North America. One of his discoveries, Tiktaalik roseae, has been described as the “missing link” between fish and land animals. He has also done important work on the developmental biology of limbs, and he uses his diverse fossil findings to devise hypotheses on how anatomical transformations occurred by way of genetic and morphogenetic processes. He is a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He earned a Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University. Shubin’s popular science book Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body was adapted for a PBS documentary series in 2014.

Here are a few presentations from the main program; this first one is a ‘conference within a conference’,

Citizen Science 2015, Day One
Pre-registration required
Wednesday, 11 February 2015: 8:30 AM-5:00 PM

Citizen science is a partnership between everyday people and professional scientists to investigate pressing questions about the world. Citizen Science 2015 invites anyone interested in such collaborations to participate in a two-day pre-conference before the AAAS Annual Meeting. All involved in any aspect of citizen science are welcome, including researchers, project leaders, educators, evaluators, designers and makers, volunteers, and more–representing a wide variety of disciplines. Join people from across the field of citizen science to discuss designing, implementing, sustaining, evaluating, and participating in projects. Share your project innovations and questions. Citizen Science 2015 is the inaugural conference and gathering of the newly formed Citizen Science Association (CSA). For additional information, including Citizen Science Conference registration, visit www.citizenscienceassociation.org.

Revolutionary Vision: Implants, Prosthetics, Smart Glasses, and the Telescopic Contact Lens
Friday, 13 February 2015: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM

According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide. Age-related macular degeneration alone is the leading cause of blindness among older adults in the western world. These facts leave no question as to why the brightest minds in science and engineering are setting their sights on vision through new electronics, retinal prosthesis, wearable technologies, and even telescopic contact lenses. Researchers are bringing into focus novel electronics such as systems on plastic, which are deformable and implantable, zero-power, and wireless and have numerous applications for sight and vision. Retinal prosthesis combined with video goggles pulsing near-infrared light, meanwhile, have restored up to half of normal acuity in rats. This symposium showcases and demos the latest prototypes tackling form as well as function: smart glasses with novel display architecture that make them small and light while maintaining an optimal field of view. These breakthroughs not only help subjects see but also hold promise for noninvasive continuous monitoring of eye health. Scientists will reveal the first-ever telescopic contact lens, which magnifies 2.8 times and offers hope for millions suffering from macular degeneration and seeking alternatives to bulky glasses and invasive surgery. These advances reveal the great promise that science holds for the visually impaired — truly a sight to behold.
Megan Williams, swissnex
Christian Simm, swissnex
and Melanie Picard, swissnex
Christian Simm, swissnex
Daniel Palanker, Stanford University
Restoration of Sight with Photovoltaic Subretinal Prosthesis
Eric Tremblay, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)
Smart Glasses and Telescopic Contact Lenses for Macular Degeneration
Giovanni Antonio Salvatore, ETH Zurich
The Next Technological Leap in Electronics

Celebration of 2015: The International Year of Light
Friday, 13 February 2015: 8:30 AM-11:30 AM

In recognition that light-based science and technologies play a critical role in our daily lives, the United Nations passed a resolution declaring 2015 the International Year of Light. The UN resolution states that “applications of light science and technology are vital for existing and future advances in medicine, energy, information and communications, fiber optics, astronomy, agriculture, archaeology, entertainment, and culture.” Hundreds of science and engineering organizations across the globe signed on in support of the International Year of Light 2015 and will be raising awareness of light-based science and technology throughout the year. This symposium brings together speakers from diverse fields to illustrate the many sectors that are influenced by optics and photonics.
Martha Paterson, The Optical Society (OSA)
Anthony Johnson, University of Maryland
and Phil Bucksbaum, Stanford University
Anthony Johnson, University of Maryland
Elizabeth Hillman, Columbia University
Optics in Neuroscience
Warren Warren, Duke University
Applying Nonlinear Laser Microscopy to Melanoma Diagnosis and Renaissance Art Imaging
Uwe Bergmann, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
X-Ray Laser Research: Lighting Our Future
Alan Eli Willner, University of Southern California
Optical Communications
Christopher Stratas , Flextronics
LED Lighting and Energy Efficiency
R. Rox Anderson, Harvard Medical School
Lasers in Medicine

I last mentioned the upcoming International Year of Light in a Nov. 7, 2014 post about the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISENet) newsletter. For anyone who has difficulty connecting nano with light, remember the Lycurgus Cup (Sept. 21, 2010 post) infused with gold and silver nanoparticles and which appears either green or red depending on how the light is shone?

Back to the programme,

The Future of the Internet: Meaning and Names or Numbers?
The Future of Computing
Friday, 13 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM

Information-centric networking (ICN) is a new, disruptive technology that holds the promise of eliminating many of the internet’s current technical shortcomings. The idea is based on two simple concepts: addressing information by its name rather than by its location, and adding computation and memory to the network, especially at the edge. The implications for network architects are far reaching and offer both elegant solutions and perplexing implementation challenges. The field of ICN research is active, including hundreds of projects at leading academic, industrial, and government laboratories around the world. This session will explore the motivations and current state-of-the-art in ICN research from multiple perspectives and approaches. The speakers in this session have contributed to every facet of the internet’s evolution since its inception.
Glenn T. Edens, PARC Xerox
J.J. Garcia-Luna-Aceves, University of California, Santa Cruz
Vinton Cerf, Google Inc.
Digital Vellum
David Oran, Cisco Systems
Information-Centric Networking: Is It Ready for Prime Time? Will It Ever Be?
Glenn T. Edens, PARC Xerox
Information-Centric Networking: Towards a Reliable and Robust 21st Century Internet

It seems odd that the speakers come from industry/business exclusively.

Comics, Zombies, and Hip-Hop: Leveraging Pop Culture for Science Engagement
Friday, 13 February 2015: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM

Access to quality scientific information is progressively more important in society today. The critical ways information can be used range from increasing scientific literacy and developing the public’s understanding of behaviors that promote health and well-being, to increasing interest in careers in science and success in school — particularly among students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Traditional forms of scientific communication — textbooks, talks, and articles in the lay press — succeed at reaching some, but leave many others in the dark. Recent research also indicates that scientists have a narrow view of outreach, mostly considering it as simply giving a talk at a school. However, new forms of culturally relevant engagement for K-12 students are emerging — comic books with rich scientific content that have been demonstrated to increase student engagement, novel workshops (for settings in and out of school) that interweave STEM  exploration with creative writing to build students’ scientific and written literacy, and connecting hip-hop culture and the classroom through rap — while engaging students as co-teachers and translators to help their peers learn science.
Rebecca L. Smith, University of California
Kishore Hari, University of California
Rebecca L. Smith, University of California
Judy Diamond, University of Nebraska State Museum
Engaging Teenagers with Science Through Comics
Julius Diaz Panoriñgan, 826LA
Developing Multiple Literacies with Zombies, Space Exploration, and Superheroes
Tom McFadden, Nueva School
Science Rapping from Auckland to Oakland

Tom McFadden, one of the speakers, has been mentioned here on more than one occasion (most recently in a May 30, 2014 post).

Back to the program,

Citizen Science from the Zooniverse: Cutting-Edge Research with 1 Million Scientists
Friday, 13 February 2015: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM

Citizen science (CS) involves public participation and engagement in scientific research in a way that makes it possible to perform tasks that a small number of researchers could not accomplish alone, makes the research more democratic, and potentially educates the participants. Volunteers simply need access to a computer or tablet to become involved and assist research activities. The presence of massive online datasets and the availability of high-speed internet access provide many opportunities for citizen scientists to work on projects analyzing and interpreting data — especially images — in astronomy, biology, climate science, and other fields. The growing phenomenon of CS has drawn the interest of social scientists who study the efficacy of CS projects, motivations of participants, and applications to industry and policymaking. CS clearly has considerable potential in the era of big data. Galaxy Zoo is an example of a successful CS project; it invites volunteers to visually classify the shapes and structures of galaxies seen in images from optical surveys. The project resulted in catalogs of hundreds of thousands of classified galaxies, allowing for novel statistical analyses and the identification of rare objects. Its popularity led to the Zooniverse, a suite of projects in a diverse and interdisciplinary range of fields. This symposium will demonstrate how CS is becoming a vital tool and highlight the work of a variety of researchers.
Ramin A. Skibba, University of California
Laura Whyte, Adler Planetarium
Introduction to Citizen Science and the Zooniverse
Brooke Simmons, University of Oxford
The Scientific Impact of Galaxy Zoo
Alexandra Swanson, University of Minnesota
Photographing Carnivores with Snapshot Serengeti
Kevin Wood, University of Washington
Old Weather: Studying Historical Weather Patterns with Ship Logbooks
Paul Pharoah, University of Cambridge
Contributing to Cancer Research with Cell Slider
Philip Marshall, Stanford University
Using Space Warps To Find Gravitational Lenses

The Zooniverse has been mentioned here before, most recently in a March 17, 2014 post about the TED 2014 conference held in Vancouver (Canada),

Robert Simpson talked about citizen science, the Zooniverse project, and astronomy.  I have mentioned Zooniverse here (a Jan. 17, 2012 posting titled: Champagne galaxy, drawing bubbles for science and a Sept. 17, 2013 posting titled: Volunteer on the Plankton Portal and help scientists figure out ways to keep the ocean healthy.  Simpson says there are 1 million people participating in various Zooniverse projects and he mentioned that in addition to getting clicks and time from people, they’ve also gotten curiosity. That might seem obvious but he went on to describe a project (the Galaxy Zoo project) where the citizen scientists became curious about certain phenomena they were observing and as a consequence of their curiosity an entirely new type of galaxy was discovered, a pea galaxy. From the Pea Galaxy Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),

A Pea galaxy, also referred to as a Pea or Green Pea, might be a type of Luminous Blue Compact Galaxy which is undergoing very high rates of star formation.[1] Pea galaxies are so-named because of their small size and greenish appearance in the images taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).

Pea Galaxies were first discovered in 2007 by the volunteer users within the forum section of the online astronomy project Galaxy Zoo (GZ).[2]

Here’s the last presentation I’m featuring in this post and it has a ‘nano’ flavour,

Beyond Silicon: New Materials for 21st Century Electronics
Saturday, 14 February 2015: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM

Silicon Valley gets its name from the element found at the heart of all microelectronics. For decades, pure silicon single crystals have been the basis for computer chips. But as chips become smaller and faster, doubling the number of transistors on integrated circuits every two years in accordance with Moore’s law, silicon is nearing its practical limits. Scientists are exploring radical new materials and approaches to take over where silicon leaves off — from graphene, a honeycombed sheet of carbon just one atom thick, to topological insulators that conduct electricity perfectly on their surfaces and materials that use the electron’s spin, rather than its charge, to store information. Beyond graphene, scientists are investigating relatively new types of two-dimensional materials that have graphene-like structures and are also semiconducting, making them a natural fit for advanced electronics. This session will describe theoretical and experimental progress in materials beyond silicon that hold promise for continued improvement in computer performance.
Glennda Chui, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Shoucheng Zhang, Stanford University
Stuart S.P. Parkin, IBM Research
Spintronic and Ionitronic Materials and Devices
Joshua Goldberger, Ohio State University
Beyond Graphene: Making New Two-Dimensional Materials for Future Electronics
Elsa Reichmanis, Georgia Institute of Technology
Active Organic and Polymer Materials for Flexible Electronics

There are some very intriguing presentations and one theme not featured here: data visualization (several presentations about visualizing data and/or science can be found). you can explore for yourself, here’s the online program.

Older, Tom McFadden, and a chance to crowdsource a science rap video

My source for almost all things science and music (and, often, pop culture), David Bruggeman announced this in a May 29, 2014 post on his Pasco Phronesis blog (Note: A link has been removed),

Tom [McFadden] would like your help, because he wants to remake the video with contributions from the ‘crowd.’  Between now and June 30 [2014], you can submit a visual for a minimum of one line of the song.

I’ll describe more about McFadden’s work in a moment but first, here’s the video of his ‘Older’ science rap,

Here’s a little more information about this latest McFadden project, from a May 27, 2014 post on his Science with Tom [McFadden] blog,

Introducing “Older”, a parody of Drake’s “Over”, about science as a process rather than as a body of facts.

If you are a science student of any age, a teacher, a scientist, or a science lover, I want you to submit your visuals for some part of this video. (And if you’re a science teacher, this is a fun end of the year activity for your students).

Please share the song/competition with anyone who may be interested, and tweet about it using #ScienceFolder.

The contest deadline is June 30, 2014. The Grand Prize is a performance of a full science rap show by Tom McFadden. I’m unclear as to whether or not he will travel outside the US, regardless, it looks like a fun project. From McFadden’s May 27, 2014 post,

VISUALS: You have lots of creative freedom here. Your visuals can be drawings, animations, stop-motion, shots of you rapping with props, or anything you can dream up. If you’re short on time, you can even just submit a photo of you with your science folder or lab notebook.

LENGTH OF SUBMISSION: If you want to be considered for the grand prize, you need to submit at least one line of the song (for example, you could choose “Teacher talking. Tympanic membrane swayin’” and come up with a visual for that line). You are welcome to submit visuals for multiple lines, for a full verse, a chorus, or for the whole song. If you are working as a class, you can have different students in charge of different lines.

There’ are additional details in the post.

I have more information about McFadden in a March 28, 2013 posting in the context of his Brahe’s Battles Kickstarter project,

I can’t resist the science rap stories David Bruggeman has been highlighting on his Pascro Phronesis blog. In his Mar. 26, 2013 posting, David provides some scoop about Tom McFadden’s Kickstarter project, Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe’s Battles),

After Fulbright work in New Zealand and similar efforts in other countries, McFadden is back in the San Francisco area helping middle school students develop raps for science debates.  The project is called “Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science” (BRAHE’S Battles) and if fully funded, it would support video production for battle raps on various scientific debates in five schools.

This was a successful Kickstarter project as noted in my Aug. 19, 2013 post,

Now on to Tom McFadden and his successful crowdfunding campaign Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe’s Battles); which was featured  in my Mar. 28, 2013 posting. Now, David Bruggeman provides an update in his Aug. 16, 2013 posting on the Pasco Phronesis blog,

Tom McFadden’s Brahe’s B.A.T.T.L.E.S. project has dropped two nuggets of video goodness of late, one of which is racing through the interwebs.  A conceptual cousin of the New York City-based Science Genius project, McFadden’s project centers around scientific matters of debate, if not controversy. First one out of the chute involves the matter of Rosalind Franklin and her under-credited role in developing the model of DNA.

I really meant it when I said David Bruggeman is my source.

Good luck to all the contest entrants!


You say pants, I say underpants when it’s all about the scientific lingerie

I’d forgotten the Brits say pants where we Canucks say underpants, a type of linguistic confusion which can lead to crosscultural snafus, as it did for me this morning (Aug. 23, 2013) on reading Stuart Clark’s Guardian Science blog posting, Pants named after astronomer Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin (Note: Links have been removed),

You know that science communication has reached a whole new level when someone names a pair of women’s pants after an astronomer.

Today [August 23, 2013], internet-based retailer Who Made Your Pants? launches a line of women’s pants called Cecilia, named after Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, the pioneering 20th century astronomer who explained the composition of the stars.

I’ve been an admirer of Payne’s achievements for a long time and couldn’t resist using her as a character in my novel The Day Without Yesterday.

She changed the face of astrophysics with her 1925 PhD thesis, in which she demonstrated that the sun was made almost exclusively from hydrogen and helium. Only 2% of its mass came from the other chemical elements, such as iron, oxygen and silicon.

Her name was chosen for the undergarment in a popular vote on the Who Made Your Pants? Facebook page. Customers were offered a choice between Cecilia, cell donor Henrietta Lacks and astronaut Sally Ride.

Becky John, who runs the company, and is also an organiser of the Winchester Science Festival says, “We will always name our pants after women who have been forgotten.”

Clark’s piece is amusing (he’s got a good punch line at the end) and informative and I recommend reading it.

As for Becky Johnson’s company,  Who Made Your Pants?, here’s a bit about the company from the About Us page,

Who Made Your Pants? is a campaigning lingerie brand based in Southampton, UK. We’re about two things – amazing pants, and amazing women.

We think that every day should be a good pants day, and that there should be a little bit of gorgeous under everyone’s clothes, something just for them. So we buy fabrics that have been sold on by big underwear companies at the end of season, stop them ending up as waste and turn them into gorgeous new pants that have a great start in life. They’re designed to sit flat under clothes, have no VPL [visible panty line], and be comfortable and all day fabulous.

We also think that it’s not really on for anyone to be made to work in bad conditions just for a cheap pair of pants. Who could feel lovely in something made in a bad place? So we make our pants in a great place. We’ve a little factory in Southampton where we create jobs for women who’ve had a hard time. The first job everyone learns is making the pants. We hope that all jobs within the business can be filled by the women as they gain skills though – if someone is interested in marketing, or finance, we’ll arrange training

When I first clicked through to the company website I was expecting to see what the Brits call trousers and found this instead,

Named for astronomer Cecilia Payne, our first side seamed shortie is made from smooth comfortable strecth fabrics and topped with reclaimed lace. A pretty lettuce edge hem finishes them off - and we can't wait to show you the next colours we have planned... [downloaded from http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk/pages/shop]

Named for astronomer Cecilia Payne, our first side seamed shortie is made from smooth comfortable strecth fabrics and topped with reclaimed lace. A pretty lettuce edge hem finishes them off – and we can’t wait to show you the next colours we have planned… [downloaded from http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk/pages/shop]

The company also has a ‘Rosalind’ as in a Rosalind Franklin pant,

Named for Rosalind Franklin, the higher cut shortie is based on a shape our designer saw and loved in Brazil. Smooth lycra or jersey is edged with reclaimed stretch lace for a stay put, no VPL, all day every day style. A great shape to show off gorgeous print fabrics [downloaded from http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk/pages/shop]

Named for Rosalind Franklin, the higher cut shortie is based on a shape our designer saw and loved in Brazil. Smooth lycra or jersey is edged with reclaimed stretch lace for a stay put, no VPL, all day every day style. A great shape to show off gorgeous print fabrics [downloaded from http://www.whomadeyourpants.co.uk/pages/shop]

It seems to be a ‘Rosalind Franklin’ week here as I embedded a rap created by a grade seven class for Tom McFadden’s Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe’s Battles) about her in an Aug. 19, 2013 posting (scroll down to the end of the post for the video). For anyone not familiar with Rosalind Franklin and the controversy, here’s an essay about it and her on the San Diego Supercomputer Center website.

Baba Brinkman’s Don’t Sleep With Mean People’ crowdfunding campaign and first two videos from Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science available

I have two music and science-related items, the first concerning Baba Brinkiman, a Canadian rapper who’s been mentioned here many times, and the second concerns Tom McFadden who raps science and creates rapping programs where children rap science.

Brinkman is coming to the end of a crowdfunding campaign, which hasn’t been mentioned here before, Don’t Sleep With Mean People on the RocketHub platform. Baba is trying to raise $15,000 to do this,

The goal of this crowdfunding campaign is to make “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” a globally recognizable meme, a scientifically-informed peace movement driven by one of the most powerful forces nature has ever invented: sexual selection. The slogan already has a theme song, which is part of the off-Broadway theatre production The Rap Guide to Evolution. With the money from this campaign we will produce both a short documentary film and a professional-quality music video (complete with goofy, easily-imitated dance routine) and hire a publicity company to promote the work across multiple media platforms. In the end, we hope “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” will be bigger than Gangnam Style, and a hell of a lot more useful.

The beauty of “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” is that it works on multiple levels. At the deepest level, it has the potential to transform our species by reducing the frequency of “mean genes” in the human gene pool. But even in the short term, once people learn that bad behaviour is a one way ticket to celibacy, the world will very rapidly become a more peaceful and cooperative place.

Currently the slogan “Mean People Suck” bears the weight of the world’s anti-mean sentiments, but unfortunately it isn’t an actionable statement. We aim to replace it with something people can put into daily practice. At present, “Mean People Suck” is mentioned on 196,000 unique websites, while “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” is only mentioned on 5,670. By spreading the slogan on T-Shirts, billboards, bumper stickers, and viral YouTube videos (…), we aim to reverse this trend.

Previously successful applications of “Don’t Sleep With Mean People” include the play Lysistrata by Aristophanes (c. 411 BC), and the Liberian “sex strike activism” of Leymah Gbowee. In both cases the courageous actions of women were the key to punishing bad behaviour in men, and our campaign takes the same approach. Darwin’s theory of evolution predicts the lower-investing sex (usually males) will tend towards fiercer competition for mates, while the higher-investing sex (usually females) will be relatively choosier and will thus wield more “selective” power.

By encouraging everyone – and especially women – to choose less-mean sex partners, we hope to evolve the world into a better place.

As of today, Aug. 19, 2013, there are 11 more days left to the campaign. From the campaign FAQs,

What will you spend the money on?
Film production costs for the music video and short documentary, promotion, and fulfillment of our obligations to deliver the Goods you’ve earned.

What happens if you don’t hit your $15,000 target?
We’ll make a lower-budget short film and music video and promote them without professional help.

Now on to Tom McFadden and his successful crowdfunding campaign Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe’s Battles); which was featured  in my Mar. 28, 2013 posting. Now, David Bruggeman provides an update in his Aug. 16, 2013 posting on the Pasco Phronesis blog,

Tom McFadden’s Brahe’s B.A.T.T.L.E.S. project has dropped two nuggets of video goodness of late, one of which is racing through the interwebs.  A conceptual cousin of the New York City-based Science Genius project, McFadden’s project centers around scientific matters of debate, if not controversy. First one out of the chute involves the matter of Rosalind Franklin and her under-credited role in developing the model of DNA.

Here’s the Rosalind Franklin rap (David has included both this rap and the project’s more recently released rap [Pluto] in his posting),

I love it. I’ve written about Franklin before, both in a Jan. 16, 2012 posting which mentions a proposed movie about her and in a Jan. 28, 2010 posting which features a ‘Rosalind’ scarf’ in the context of science knitting.

You can comment and participate in McFadden’s project on this YouTube channel or on McFadden’s Science with Tom blog.

Science rap: a Kickstarter project and a PBS (US Public Broadcasting Service) News Hour contest

I can’t resist the science rap stories David Bruggeman has been highlighting on his Pascro Phronesis blog. In his Mar. 26, 2013 posting, David provides some scoop about Tom McFadden’s Kickstarter project, Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science (Brahe’s Battles),

After Fulbright work in New Zealand and similar efforts in other countries, McFadden is back in the San Francisco area helping middle school students develop raps for science debates.  The project is called “Battle Rap Histories of Epic Science” (BRAHE’S Battles) and if fully funded, it would support video production for battle raps on various scientific debates in five schools.

McFadden was mentioned here previously in my Nov. 30, 2012 posting which in the context of a digital storytelling webcast (scroll down 1/2 way),

… a Fulbrighter and former Stanford University biology course instructor who became a Science Rapper.  Tom emerged from the California BioPop scene with hit singles such as, “Regulatin’ Genes” and “Oxidate it or Love it,” …

Here’s McFadden’s Kickstarter promotional video (I almost embedded another video here but the Rosalind Franklin reference in first rap won me over unequivocally),

McFadden needs approximately $11,900 total to reach his goal. There are 19 days left for the campaign and $4,783 has been raised. This looks like a great project especially given McFadden’s track record. For the curious, here are some of the incentives being offered,

Pledge $10 or more

MP3 DIGITAL DOWNLOAD. Get an audio download of the “Brahe’s Battle” song of your choice when audio production is completed.

Estimated delivery: May 2013

Pledge $35 or more

THE RYMEBOSOME MIXTAPE: Get a digital download of the “Rhymebosome mixtape”. This includes all 5 mp3s from the Brahe’s Battles project, and almost every science song Tom McFadden has ever created (including hits like “Fossil Rock Anthem”, “Regulatin’ Genes”).

Estimated delivery: May 2013

Pledge $150 or more

YOUR NAME “BEASTIE RAPPED”: Have your name (or the name of your choice) “beastie rapped” by the stars of ‘Brahe’s Battles. (This is rhyming game I play with all the kids where we finish each others rhymes. It was shown briefly in the intro video rhyming with the name “Crick”). We will email you the video as a keepsake! (Includes $50 reward)

Estimated delivery: June 2013

There are lots of choices left including an option for a 20 min. Google hang out with Tom McFadden, an option to commission a song on a topic of your choosing (audio only), or you can choose a Platinum package for $1500 which provides most of these options. If you want to check out McFadden further, there’s his own website, The Rhymebosome.

As for the second project (science rap contest), David sets the stage by noting some history, from his Mar. 27, 2013 posting,

While East Coast and West Coast rappers (in)famously had beef back in the 90s, East Coast and West Coast science rappers have nothing but love.

He then proceeds to detail a science rap project which has its roots on the US East Coast (Note: Links have been removed),

 Chris Emdin, you may recall, is the education professor at Teacher’s College at Columbia working with GZA on Science Genius, a rap education project formatted roughly similar to what Tom McFadden is working on in the Bay Area.

Science Genius, Emdin and GZA were featured in tonight’s edition of PBS Newshour.  GZA even drops a little taste of his upcoming science-influenced album.

David features a video of the PBS segment and more information about the project in his posting. You can also visit the PBS News Hour website here for details about the contest,

Create Your Own Science Rap

Enter your own science rap or hip-hop verse for a chance to win a PBS NewsHour mug signed by GZA of the Wu-Tang Clan along with a personal video shout-out from the rap legend himself. Our contest is modeled after the Science Genius competition, a partnership between GZA, Christopher Emdin and Rap Genius. Entries will be judged by Emdin and two of his Columbia University Teachers College graduate students.

Here are the competition guidelines,

Competition guidelines:

  • Entries must incorporate at least one scientific topic/concept into 16 bars of verse. (16 bars is the length of a traditional verse, and a bar is made up of beats of four.)
  • The main topic/concept of the rap must be referenced in different ways at least three times in the verse.
  • Be creative in your expression of the science (E.g.: envision yourself either as somebody involved in the scientific process or an object undergoing the scientific process. Draw connections between your real world experiences and the concepts themselves.)
  • Information must be scientifically accurate and verifiable.
  • Lyrics must rhyme, and incorporate metaphor/analogy
  • Entries are due by Friday, May 3. [emphasis mine]

There’s more information either in David’s posting or on the PBS News Hour website.

Good luck to McFadden and to the science rap competitors in the PBS News Hour contest.