Tag Archives: Royal Society

Happy International Women’s Day March 8, 2016!

The UK’s Medical Research Council’s Clinical Science Centre and  Imperial College have found an interesting way to celebrate   International Women’s Day 2016 according to a March 8, 2016 posting by Stuart Clark for the Guardian (Note: Links have been removed),

Tonight [March 8, 2016] at the Royal Society, London, around a dozen women will be presented with Suffrage Science awards. Organised by the Medical Research Council’s Clinical Science Centre, Imperial College, they honour women’s contributions to science and are timing to coincide with International Women’s Day.

One of today’s awardees is Pippa Goldschmidt. She is being honoured for her work in science communication. With a PhD in astronomy, …

Her latest project is editing the short story collection I Am Because You Are. These stories all take their inspiration from Albert Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, which is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.

What can fiction bring to science?

Science is too often a closed book for many people, they study it at school and are bored by it, or find it difficult or irrelevant to their lives. But fiction has this incredible ability to reflect and examine all aspects of the real world, and writing fiction about science is a great way of opening it up to new audiences, and helping to demystify it.

Science is also heavily reliant on literary concepts, such as metaphors, to get its points across; we often hear the phrases ‘the Universe is like an expanding balloon’, or ‘DNA is like an alphabet’. So I think fiction and science have more in common with each other than may first appear.

Should you be able to attend, I’d be delighted to hear more about the event.

Next, I have a March 8, 2016 article by Lauren J. Young on Inverse.com (Note: Links have been removed),

Women have achieved a lot throughout history. That’s why today, on March 8, thousands of events are taking place in more than 40 countries across the world to celebrate International Women’s Day. This year’s theme is Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step it up for Gender Equality, alluding to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals — a 15-year plan for growth and development in all countries including gender equality and education for all.

International Women’s Day dates back to February 28, 1909, when the Socialist Party of America observed it for the first time in the United States, and two years later, the leader of the Women’s Office for Germany’s Social Democratic Party, Clara Zetkin, expanded the idea internationally. It gained support by the United Nations in 1975, which strengthened the movement.

International Women’s Day is also a day to celebrate science: The United Nations created an interactive timeline documenting some of the most significant contributions made by women. Here are the three:

In Ancient Greece, Agnodice was one of the first female gynecologists. She risked her life to practice medicine even though women who were caught were sentenced to death.

You can find the UN timeline here.

Finally, the UN has a separate International Day of Women and Girls in Science celebrated on Feb. 11 (presumably of each year).

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.

Spanning north to south and French to English on the African continent with nanotechnology

A Sept. 27, 2015 news item on the Algérie Presse Service (rough translation: Algerian Press Agency) describes plans for a new nanotechnology centre shared by Algeria and South Africa,

Un projet de réalisation d’un centre de recherche algéro-sud-africain dédié à la synthèse et la caractérisation des nanomatériaux (structures à l’échelle de l’atome) pour différentes applications, a été annoncé dimanche à Alger lors d’un workshop sur les nanotechnologies.

Le lieu d’implantation du centre et le programme qui lui sera dédié seront décidés par le ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche scientifique et son homologue sud-africain lors d’une réunion prévue en octobre prochain en Afrique du Sud, a indiqué Pr. Hafid Aourag, DG de la Recherche scientifique et du développement technologique qui présidait ce workshop entre experts algériens et sud africains sur les nanotechnologies.

The announcement about the new centre was made during a nanotechnology workshop being held in Algiers this last weekend (Sept. 26-27, 2015). The proposed nanotechnology center’s location and other details will be decided by the Algerian Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research and his South African counterpart during an October 2015 meeting in South Africa according to Hafid Aourag, professor and Director General of Scientific Research and Technological Development in Algeria.

Aourag noted that Algeria and South Africa have a long and successful history of science collaboration,

“La coopération de l’Algérie avec l’Afrique du Sud a atteint un stade très avancé”, a-t-il estimé, révélant l’existence de “beaucoup de projets entre les laboratoires de recherche des deux pays”.

Pr. Aourag a rappelé que les deux pays avaient déjà “cofinancé plus de 25 projets” ayant donné des résultats concrets comme la publication de 35 travaux dans des revues et la réalisation de produits innovants issus des nanotechnologies.

“Il s’agit essentiellement de produits issus des nanomatériaux dans les domaines de l’agriculture et du traitement de l’eau”, a-t-il précisé.

There have been some 25 joint nanotechnology projects ranging from agricultural applications to water treatment.

Aourag added,

Il a relevé que la première centrale technologique en Algérie, dédiée à la fabrication des semi-conducteurs et spécialisée en nanotechnologie, “est déjà fonctionnelle et sera inaugurée, en octobre prochain”.

If I understand this rightly, Aourag is saying that Algeria has focussed on the semiconductor industry and the fabrication of parts at the nanoscale and this will be inaugurated October 2015.

It’s not clear to me  if this business about the semiconductors is part of the nanotechnology centre initiative or if it’s an incidental, related announcement.

As I found this north-south collaboration intriguing, I ran a search and found this on the University of South Africa website in a Sept. 10, 2013 news release,

Professor Malik Maaza, incumbent of the UNESCO-Unisa Africa Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology, continues to represent the continent on the global nano stage. He was recently elected as the only African member of the advisory board of the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A, a prestigious materials journal.

With about 20 years of experience in nanosciences, Algerian born and an adoptive South African [emphasis mine] Professor Malik Maaza is an ideal incumbent for the UNESCO-Unisa Africa Chair in Nanoscience and Nanotechnology. He has undergraduate degrees in Solid State Physics and Photonics from the University of Oran, Algeria, and University of Paris VI, France. His PhD in Neutron Optics was obtained from the University of Paris VI.

He is a man passionate about voicing Africa’s nanoscience and nanotechnology knowledge production progress and contributions. Parallel to the initiation of the South African Nanotechnology Initiative (SANi) launched in 2006, which Maaza instigated with Dr Philemon Mjwara, current Director General of the national department of science and technology, in 2005, in Trieste-Italy, under the patronage of [The World Academy of Sciences] TWAS, [Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics] ICTP and [United Nations Industrial Development Organization] UNIDO, he initiated the Nanosciences African Network (NANOAFNET), which has its headquarters at the iThemba LABS-NRF in Cape Town.

That’s all I’ve got on Algeria-South Africa science-themed relations and connections.

Should anyone have a better translation than I’ve been able to offer or more details about any aspect of this initiative, please do leave a comment.

Rachel Carson (Silent Spring), the Royal Society, and men

Silent Spring, the book by Rachel Carson, has had an extraordinary impact in Canada, the US, and many other parts of the world. The 1962 publication of the book effectively launched the environmental movement.

Carson died two years after publication with the consequences that 2014 is the 50th anniversary of her death. Britain’s The Royal Society in partnership with the Royal Society of Literature is marking this anniversary with a public lecture and panel discussion on Thursday, Oct. 2, 2014 (6:30 – 7:30 pm at The Royal Society, London). This is an astonishing event for reasons to be discussed after reading a description: Writing Wrongs,

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Rachel Carson, the American conservationist responsible for putting the environment on the political agenda. When her masterpiece Silent Spring was published in 1962, she was attacked as savagely as Darwin on the publication of The Origin of the Species, but the book spurred a reversal in US pesticide policy and led to a ban on DDT and other pesticides. But does Silent Spring persuade because of the strength of its arguments, or the beauty of its language? And have Carson’s warnings been sufficiently heeded? John Burnside FRSL is a prize-winning poet, short-story writer and novelist. A passionate environmentalist, he contributes a regular nature column to the New Scientist. Professor John Pickett FRS is Scientific Leader of Chemical Ecology at Rothampstead Research, and a world authority on pest control. In a conversation chaired by Damian Carrington, Head of Environment at the Guardian, they will discuss the complementary roles of literature and science in saving the planet.

This event is free to attend and open to all. No tickets are required. Doors open at 6pm and seats will be allocated on a first-come-first-served basis.

Speech-to-text interpretation will be provided at this event.

If you require British Sign Language (BSL) interpretation please contact the events team no later than 2 weeks prior to the event and we would be happy to arrange an interpreter.

A live video will be available on this page when the event starts and a recorded video will be available a few days afterwards.

You’ll note that this is an all male panel, which is astonishing, given the number of female scientists working in the fields of environmental science and female writers of all stripes, especially in light of the raw sexism Carson was subjected to at the time her book was published. Victoria Johnson in her Aug. 7, 2014 posting on the Guardian science blog network supplies some context for concern not only about this particular event but others too (Note Links have been removed),

The problem is, Writing Wrongs has an all-male panel.

Debates about gender-balanced panels at conferences and public events are not new. In 2009 the group Feminist Philosophers set up a Gendered Conference Campaign, challenging the prevalence of all-male conferences in their field. In 2011, a group of gender equality advocates and activists pledged to boycott events with all-male panels. Then, in early 2013, journalist Rebecca Rosen took the rather novel step of asking men to sign a pledge to refuse speaking at or moderating events dominated by male contributors. More than 300 people signed the online pledge. But, within hours, it had to be anonymised because of the torrent of abusive comments.

Johnson then focuses specifically on Writing Wrongs event (Note: A link has been removed),

Earlier this week I wrote to the Royal Society asking why Writing Wrongs had an all-male panel. I even offered some suggestions for female speakers they might like to ask. My argument was that Carson is not only the most famous environmentalist and nature writer of the 20th century; she was also a female scientist who faced gender-based slurs from the mainstream media and naturally, vested interests, on the publication of Silent Spring. Keen to discredit the conclusions of her detailed analysis they dismissed her as a hysterical woman, unable to conduct objective research.

Not only was it strange to see an all-male panel, especially when I knew plenty of female science writers, academics and environmental journalists who would have been equally qualified to speak, it seemed entirely inappropriate given who had apparently inspired this event.

The Royal Society responded to my email. They’d asked a female chair, but she was unavailable. I was then told they were looking into other female speakers, but had needed to proceed with promotion of the event. Is it really that hard to find a female science writer or a leading academic working on pesticides? Not if you live in the 21st century and know how to use the Internet, write an email or operate a phone. I was then reassured, that sometimes; the Royal Society does have female representation on at important events. This was followed by some blurb and a link to their Equality and Diversity policy. Unfortunately, whenever I have challenged other event organisers on the lack of gender-balance, I have pretty much had the same response.

To get a sense for the quality of the vituperation that Carson experienced in 1962, there’s this from her Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),

Carson and the others involved with publication of Silent Spring expected fierce criticism. They were particularly concerned about the possibility of being sued for libel. Carson was also undergoing radiation therapy to combat her spreading cancer, and expected to have little energy to devote to defending her work and responding to critics. In preparation for the anticipated attacks, Carson and her agent attempted to amass as many prominent supporters as possible before the book’s release.[54]

Most of the book’s scientific chapters were reviewed by scientists with relevant expertise, among whom Carson found strong support. …

American Cyanamid biochemist Robert White-Stevens and former Cyanamid chemist Thomas Jukes were among the most aggressive critics, especially of Carson’s analysis of DDT.[60] According to White-Stevens, “If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth.”[61] Others went further, attacking Carson’s scientific credentials (because her training was in marine biology rather than biochemistry) and her personal character. White-Stevens labeled her “a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature”,[62] while former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Ezra Taft Benson—in a letter to former President Dwight D. Eisenhower—reportedly concluded that because she was unmarried despite being physically attractive, she was “probably a Communist.”[63] [emphasis mine]

Many critics repeatedly asserted that she was calling for the elimination of all pesticides. Yet Carson had made it clear she was not advocating the banning or complete withdrawal of helpful pesticides, but was instead encouraging responsible and carefully managed use with an awareness of the chemicals’ impact on the entire ecosystem.[64]  …

In the US (and elsewhere), an accusation of being a ‘communist’ particularly in the late 1950s and early 1960s could destroy your career.

Getting back to the modern day, having organized panels in the past, I appreciate how very challenging it is to get a diverse set of people on a panel but as Johnson notes, it shouldn’t be all that difficult in 2014.

Abandoning the effort to find a female speaker after what was apparently a single attempt seems a bit chicken-hearted. Were the event organizers concerned about avoiding rejection? If so, they should perhaps consider other job or volunteer activities as rejections are pretty common when trying to attract panel members.

Should the organizers try again, I have some advice: “Try to get more than one female speaker on your panel as cancellations are also common in these endeavours.” Of course, the organizers may end up with an female panel in the end as bizarre things can happen at the last minute to your carefully planned panel. I wish the event organizers good luck!

Science, Scotland, and independence

A referendum on Scotland’s independence will take place later this year on Sept, 18, 2014 and. in the meantime, there’s a great deal of discussion about what a ‘yes’ vote might mean. Canadians will be somewhat familiar with this process having experienced two ‘sovereignty’ referendum votes (1980 and 1995, respectively) in the province of Québec and two 1948 referendums (the first result was inconclusive) in Newfoundland where they chose between dominion status and joining the Canadian confederation (Referendums in Canada Wikipedia entry).

One of the features of Québec’s sovereignty or independence proposals is a desire to retain the financial advantages of being party to a larger,established country while claiming new advantages available to an independent constituency or as they say ‘having one’s cake and eating it too’.

While there are many, many historical, cultural and other differences between the situations in Québec and Scotland, it is not entirely surprising to note that there is at least one area where the Scottish/UK debates seem to be emulating the Québec/Canada debates and that is the desire to retain the advantages of being part of the UK with regard to science research funding.

According to a Dec. 2013 (?) posting of the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) ‘Future of the UK and Scotland’ blog two reports discussing the subject of science research funding in the context of Scotland’s proposed independence were launched in November 2013,

In November [2013], two papers were published regarding the future of Scotland. The first, ‘Scotland analysis: Science and research’, written by the UK government, and unveiled by David Willetts, UK Science Minister earlier in November, focuses solely on the issues related to science and research in Scotland,  whereas the second one, a Scottish Government White Paper, addresses a whole range of issues associated with independence in Scotland with a brief discussion of the futures of science and higher education in Scotland (Chapter 5- Education, Skills and Employment).

Both papers testify to the strength of the Scottish science base and the contribution of Scottish universities to the UK research base as a whole. …

However, when it comes to the independence debate, the two papers present contrasting positions. The UK government paper highlights the disproportionate level of funding and research support that Scottish universities receive compared to the rest of the UK, warning that the funding will not continue at the same level in an independent Scotland. According to the paper, while Scotland only contributes 8% to the GDP, it receives 13% of the research funding from various funding bodies. Should Scotland go independent, the paper argues, the UK research funding flow will stop and it will be up to the Scottish Funding Council to decide whether to keep public research funding at present levels. [emphasis mine]…

Adopting a different perspective, the Scottish Government White Paper argues that it will be in the interest of both sides to remain in a ‘common research area’, which shares research councils, access to facilities, and peer reviewing. According to this paper, Scotland universities have made a huge input to UK research and the research councils have been partly funded by Scottish taxpayers. Therefore, Scotland will seek to remain in the ‘common research area‘ and will negotiate a formula to continue funding research councils based on population, but with Scottish research institutes receiving lower or higher funding support based on their research performance. [emphases mine]

… The Scottish Government White Paper presents an ideal research system which maintains the positive aspects of the current system but eliminates other features (for example, attracting international research talent through modifying immigration policy). [emphasis mine] …

At a workshop, organised by the ESRC Innogen Centre in November [2013] and attended by Scottish-based industrialists, academics, policy agencies and senior research managers, there was considerable debate about uncertainties such as these. There were real worries about how the current high levels of research funding could be continued and how Scotland would be able to compete on research

A July 5, 2014 news item on BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) News online mentions the latest doings in this area of Scotland’s independence debate,

Medical and scientific research across the UK would suffer if Scotland votes for independence, according to the heads of three academic institutions.

The claim was made by the presidents of the Royal Society, the British Academy and the Academy of Medical Sciences.

Sir Paul Nurse, Lord Stern and Sir John Tooke said scientific collaboration would be damaged by a “Yes” vote.

In a joint letter to The Times newspaper, the three academics also claimed that maintaining existing levels of research in Scotland would cost Scottish taxpayers more should the country leave the UK.

They wrote: “Scotland has long done particularly well through its access to UK research funding.

“If it turns out that an independent Scotland has to form its own science and research budget, maintaining these levels of research spending would cost the Scottish taxpayer significantly more.”

They went on to state that the strong links and collaborations which exist across the UK “would be put at risk”, with any new system aiming to restore these links “likely to be expensive and bureaucratic”.

The presidents wrote: “We believe that if separation were to occur, research not only in Scotland but also the rest of the UK would suffer.

However Academics for Yes, a pro-independence group which comprises 60 academics from Scottish universities, said a “Yes” vote would protect the country’s universities and allow research priorities to be determined.

Its spokesman, Professor Bryan MacGregor from the University of Aberdeen, said: “On the one hand, we have the UK and England contexts of cuts in research and science funding, high student fees with unsustainable loan funding, an immigration policy that is preventing and deterring international student recruitment and the possibility of an exit from the EU and its research funding.

“And, on the other, we have a Scottish government committed to funding research, to free access to universities for residents and to attracting international students.

Earlier this year a group of 14 clinical academics and scientists put their names to an open letter raising “grave concerns that the country does not sleepwalk into a situation that jeopardises its present success in the highly-competitive arena of biomedical research”.

But the Scottish government, which currently provides about a third of research funds, has argued there is no reason why the current UK-wide structure for funding could not continue post-independence.

Kieron Flanagan in a Feb. 12, 2013 posting on the Guardian political science blog explored the possibilities (Note: Links have been removed),

Let’s face it: few people on either side of the Scottish independence debate are likely to be swayed by arguments about the impacts independence might have on scientific research. Yet science is a policy area where major changes would follow from a “Yes” vote for an independent Scotland. Nonetheless, the commentator Colin Macilwain passionately argued that Scottish science is ready to go it alone in a recent Nature opinion column.

… an independent Scotland could choose to continue to subscribe to the UK research councils in the same way that associated non-EU countries pay to take part in the European research programmes. It would have a strong moral claim to continued access, and it would be difficult to see how a UK government could refuse such an arrangement. Continued access to the existing research councils would allow Scotland to ensure that a diverse range of funding sources remains available to its scientists, and might also help encourage UK research charities to continue to fund research in the country.

So, while Macilwain is certainly right that Scottish science can go it alone, those working in Scottish science may conclude that the additional costs of running a small country research system, the additional risks of maintaining autonomy for funding decisions in a much smaller political world, and the consequent reduction in diversity of funding streams together outweigh the attractions of building a whole new research system from scratch.

While I think Flanagan is quite right when he says the impact that a ‘Yes’ vote will have on science funding and research in Scotland is unlikely to sway anyone’s vote, it’s fascinating to observe the discussion. I don’t believe that any such specific concerns about science and research funding have ever arisen in the context of the Québec referendums. If someone knows otherwise, please drop a line in the comments.

In any event, I can’t help but wonder what impact a ‘Yes’ vote will have on other independence movements both in Canada (Québec certainly and Alberta possibly, where mumbles about independence are sometimes heard) and elsewhere.

The Owl and the Pussycat’s Edward Lear commemorated in London exhibit

An artist, science illustrator, poet, and more, Edward Lear is being celebrated by Britain’s Royal Society on the bicentenary of his birth as per GrrlScientist’s Aug. 29, 2012 posting on the Guardian Science blogs,

Do you love art, science and books? If so, then the Royal Society has a real treat for you! As of today, the Royal Society is hosting a public display of Edward Lear’s works. Displayed works include rare and valuable books, drawings and lithographs. Edward Lear, a British artist, scientific illustrator, author and poet, is perhaps most famous for his endearing nonsense poetry, particularly “The Owl and the Pussycat”.

I strongly encourage visiting GrrlScientist’s posting as she has a marvelous image of toucans (as illustrated by Lear) and a charming video of a song based on The Owl and the Pussycat.

The exhibition runs from Aug. 29 – October 26, 2012. It’s free to the public but you must arrange an appointment. From the exhibition webpage,

Visiting times
The exhibition is open on Mondays to Fridays from 10am – 5pm. To arrange a visit please call +44 (0)20 7451 2606 or email .

Special weekend opening
The exhibition will also be open on Sat 22 and Sun 23 Sep 2012, when the Royal Society participates in Open House Weekend 2012. No appointment is necessary [sic] for visits during this weekend.

Unfortunately, the Royal Society has a fairly draconian approach to sharing its materials (from their Terms and Conditions webpage),

Intellectual property rights

We are the owner or the lawful representative of the owner of all intellectual property rights in our site, and in the material published on it.  Those works are protected by copyright laws and treaties around the world.  All such rights are reserved.

You may view the Images available on our site provided for the purpose of preview.

You must not use in whole or in part any materials on our site for purposes other than your private, personal use without obtaining a Licence to do so from us.

If you print off, copy or download any part of our site and/ or any materials published on it in breach of these terms, your right to use our site will cease immediately and you must, at our option, return or destroy any copies of the materials you have made. Unauthorised use of our site and/ or materials may lead to the institution of legal proceedings against you.

I trust that copying portions of the exhibition webpage and portions of their Terms and Conditions does not contravene the copyright they are asserting for their materials.

Trip down memory lane courtesy of the Royal Society

It’s a long trip down memory lane, courtesy of the Royal Society, all the way back to 1665 when they first started published their Philosophical Transactions. In her Oct. 26, 2011 posting in Punctuated Equilibrium on the Guardian science blogs site, GrrlScientist writes,

Beginning today, the historical archives of the peer-reviewed journal, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, are permanently free to online access from anywhere in the world, according to an announcement by The Royal Society.

The Royal Society, established in 1660, began publishing the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society — world’s first scientific journal — in March 1665. In 1886, it was divided into two journals, Philosophical Transactions A (mathematics, physics and engineering) and Philosophical Transactions B (biological sciences), both of which are published to this day. Its historical archives are defined as all scientific papers published 70 years or longer ago. These historical archives include more than 60,000 scientific papers.

I took a peek at the 1865-1866 issue and it is quite the experience to see what was being published. Here’s an excerpt from the Table of Contents for the 1st issue (Note: I have removed links to the documents),

Epistle Dedicatory

Phil. Trans. 1665 1: doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0001

  • ·  The Introduction

Phil. Trans. 1665 1:1-2; doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0002

  • ·  An Accompt of the Improvement of Optick Glasses

Phil. Trans. 1665 1:2-3; doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0003

  • ·  A Spot in One of the Belts of Jupiter

Phil. Trans. 1665 1:3; doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0005

  • ·  The Motion of the Late Comet Praedicted

Phil. Trans. 1665 1:3-8; doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0004

  • ·  An Experimental History of Cold

Phil. Trans. 1665 1:8-9; doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0006

An Account of a Very Odd Monstrous Calf

Phil. Trans. 1665 1:10; doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0007

  • ·  Of a Peculiar Lead-Ore of Germany, and the Use Thereof

Phil. Trans. 1665 1:10-11; doi:10.1098/rstl.1665.0008

I did take a look at one of the articles and found it easy to read, other than the spelling. Here’s a little more about the Philosophical Transactions from the Royal Society publishing website,

In 1662, the newly formed ‘Royal Society of London for Improving Natural Knowledge’ was granted a charter to publish by King Charles II and on 6 March 1665, the first issue of Philosophical Transactions was published under the visionary editorship of Henry Oldenburg, who was also the Secretary of the Society. … In 1886, the breadth and scope of scientific discovery had increased to such an extent that it became necessary to divide the journal into two, Philosophical Transactions A and B, covering the physical sciences and the life sciences respectively.

This initiative is part of a larger commitment to open access publishing (more from GrrlScientist’s Oct. 26, 2011 posting),

Opening its historical archive is part of the Royal Society’s ongoing commitment to open access in scientific publishing. It coincides with The Royal Society’s 5th annual Open Access Week, and also comes soon after the launch of its first ever fully open access journal, Open Biology. All of the Royal Society’s journals provide free access to selected papers, hot-off-the-presses.

There are more details about when and which journals give full open access in GrrlScientist’s post.

Celebrating 350 years of the Royal Society’s Library

The One Culture Festival, which took place this last weekend (Oct. 2-3, 2011), celebrates the 350th anniversary of the Royal Society’s Library (my Dec. 2, 2010 posting noted the Royal Society kicked off its 350th anniversary with a report). One assumes that the Royal Society was founded some months before the library was created. From the introduction to the festival by Professor Uta Frith,

This year we are celebrating the anniversary of the foundation of the library and collections of the Royal Society. It all started small, with a single book, and a tiny one at that. Diplomat, natural philosopher and founder member of the Royal Society, Kenelm Digby donated this gift and thereby inspired others to do likewise. In this way he initiated what has now grown into a national treasure. What could be more fitting for a celebration than a festival for literature, arts and science! Its apt name ‘One Culture’ confronts the famous C.P. Snow lecture “Two Cultures” (1959), which pointed out that modern society suffered from a lack of communication between sciences and humanities, and reminds us that the separation of science from other cultural achievements is both artificial and unnecessary.

Here’s a description of some of the festival events from Anna Perman’s Oct. 3, 2011 post for the Guardian Science blogs (Notes and Theories; Dispatches from the Science Desk),

This weekend at the Royal Society, the One Culture festival explored the sweeping narratives and the smaller dramas of science and literature, of individual scientists and their great ideas. Science’s most elite club opened its doors to writers like Sebastian Faulks, Michael Frayn, John Banville; dancers from the Rambert Dance Company; Take the Space theatre company; and scientists who manage to combine artistic pursuits with a research career.

In his conversation with Uta Frith on Sunday, Sebastian Faulks described how he starts with a big idea, then narrows his focus to a story that can illustrate it, and the characters who can make that possible: much like a scientist, who starts with a question about how the world works and narrows the focus of their microscope to the tiny part of it that can answer that question. Through focusing on single molecules of human existence, Faulks reveals the wider truths about humanity.

For the Rambert Dance Company, and their scientist in residence Nicky Clayton, the big ideas of science have informed some of their most challenging dances. For them, the boundaries of “science” and “art” are artificial – what links them is far more basic. As Mark Baldwin, director of Rambert, put it:

“The commonalities at the base of it all are enormous. We’re talking about ideas.”

The ideas they both get excited about are big, abstract ones. Clayton, as scientist in residence at Rambert, talks to the dancers about scientific ideas. She has to think carefully about what can be put into movement. For her, these movements are not just a way of communicating, or illustrating these ideas. They are about inspiration. And this inspiration has found its way back into her science, as shown by this video from Cambridge University (note the opening Stephen Fry voiceover!) [I will be placing the video a little further down.]

Both in this article and in Frith’s introduction there’s a description of C. P. Snow’s 1959 book (originally a lecture), Two Cultures as being about the two cultures of art and science. I read it a few years ago and found that Snow also opined at length about the developed and developing worlds, science education, and worries over Britain’s science primacy being threatened. I probably wouldn’t have noticed the other themes since the art/science theme is the first idea he mentions and he offers personal anecdotes about his experiences, which makes it more memorable, if I hadn’t come across a commentary pointing out these other themes in the book. (I did post about Two Cultures, May 8, 2009 on its 50th anniversary. [scroll down about 1/3 of the way])

Here’s the video featuring Nicky Clayton, scientist-in-residence with the Rambert Dance Company. Prepare yourself for birds and Argentine tango.