Category Archives: North Carolina

Cicadas, or how I Am Such A Scientist, or a demonstration of good editing

Charles Q. Choi runs a bi-weekly series on the Guest Blog over at Scienctific American – Too Hard for Science? In these posts, he asks scientists about experiments that cannot be or should not be done, for a variety of reasons, though it would be fun and informative it such experiments could get done.

For one of his posts, he interviewed me. What I came up with, inspired by the emergence of periodic cicadas in my neighborhood, was a traditional circadian experiment applied to a much longer cycle of 13 or 17 years.

Fortunetaly for me, Charles is a good editor. He took my long rant and turned it into a really nice blog post. Read his elegant version here – Too Hard for Science? Bora Zivkovic–Centuries to Solve the Secrets of Cicadas.

Now compare that to the original text I sent him, posted right here:

The scientist: Bora Zivkovic, Blog Editor at Scientific American and a chronobiologist.

The idea: Everything in living organisms cycles. Some processes repeat in miliseconds, others in seconds, minutes or hours, yet others in days, months or years. Biological cycles that are most studied and best understood by science are those that repeat approximately once a day – circadian rhythms.

One of the reasons why daily rhythms are best understood is that pioneers of the field came up with a metaphor of the ‘biological clock‘ which, in turn, prompted them to adapt oscillator theory (the stuff you learned in school about the pendulum) from physics to biology.

And while the clock metaphor sometimes breaks down, it has been a surprisingly useful and powerful idea in this line of research. Circadian researchers came up with all sorts of experimental protocols to study how daily rhythms get entrained (synchronized) to the environmental cycles (usually light-dark cycles of day and night), and how organisms use their internal clocks to measure other relevant environmental parameters, especially the changes in daylength (photoperiod) – information they use to precisely measure the time of year and thus migrate, molt or mate during an appropriate season.

These kinds of experiments – for example building Phase-Response Curves to a variety of environmental cues, or a variety of tests for photoperiodism (night-break protocol, skeleton photoperiods, resonance cycles, T-cycles, Nanda-Hamner protocol etc.) – take a long time to perform.

Each data point requires several weeks: measuring period and phase of the oscillation before and after the pulse (or a series of pulses) of an environmental cue in order to see how application of that cue at a particular phase of the cycle affects the biological rhythm (or the outcome of measuring daylength, e.g., reproductive response). It requires many data points, gathered from many individual organisms.

And all along the organisms need to be kept in constant conditions: not even the slightest fluctuations in light (usually constant darkness), temperature, air pressure, etc. are allowed.

It is not surprising that these kinds of experiments, though sometimes applied to shorter cycles (e.g., miliseconds-long brain cycles), are rarely applied to biological rhythms that are longer than a day, e.g., rhythms that evolved as adaptations to tidal, lunar and annual environmental cycles. It would take longer to do than a usual, five-year period of a grant, and some experiments may last an entire researcher’s career. Which is one of the reasons we know so little about these biological rhythms.

~~~~~~

Living out in the country, in the South, just outside Chapel Hill, NC, every day I open the door I hear the deafening and ominous-sounding noise (often described as “horror movie soundtrack) coming from the woods surrounding the neighborhood. The cicadas have emerged! The 13-year periodic cicadas, that is. Brood XIX.

I was not paying attention ahead of time, so I did not know they were slated to appear this year in my neck of the woods. One morning last week, I saw a cicada on the back porch and noticed red eyes! A rule of thumb that is easy to remember: green eyes = annual cicadas, red eyes = periodic cicadas. I got excited! I was waiting for this all my life!

Fortunately, once they emerge, cicadas are out for a few weeks, so my busy travel schedule did not prevent me from going to find them (just follow the sound) to take a few pictures and short videos.

There are three species of periodic cicadas that emerge every 17 years – Magicicada septendecim, Magicicada cassini and Magicicada septendecula. Each of these species has a ‘sister species’ that emerges every 13 years: M.tredecim, M. tredecassini and M.tredecula. A newer species split produced another 13-year species: Magicicada neotredecim. The species differ in morphology and color, while the 13 and 17-year pairs of sister species are essentially indistinguishable from each other. M.tredecim and M.neotredecim, since they appear at the same time and place, differ in the pitch of their songs: M.neotredecim sings a higher tone.

So, how do they count to 13 or 17?

While under ground, they undergo metamorphosis four times and thus go through five larval instars. The 13 and 17-year cicadas only differ in the duration of the fifth instar. They emerge simultaneously, live as adults for a few weeks, climb up the trees, sing, mate, lay eggs and die.

When the eggs hatch, the newly emerged larvae fall from the trees to the ground, dig themselves deeper down, latch onto the tree roots to feed on the sap, and wait another 13 or 17 years to emerge again.

There are a number of hypotheses (and speculations) why periodic cicadas emerge every 13 or 17 years, including some that home in on the fact that these two numbers are prime numbers (pdf).

Perhaps that is a way to fool predators which cannot evolve the same periodicity (but predators are there anyway, and will gladly gorge on these defenseless insects when they appear, whenever that is, even though it may not be so good for them). Perhaps this is a speciation mechanism, lowering the risk of hybridization between recently split sister species?

Or perhaps that is all just crude adaptationist thinking and the strangeness of the prime-number cycles is in the eye of the beholder – the humans! After all, if an insect shows up every year, it is not very exciting. Numerous species of annual cicadas do that every year and it seems to be a perfectly adaptive strategy for them. But if an insect, especially one that is so large, noisy and numerous, shows up very rarely, this is an event that will get your attention.

Perhaps our fascination with them is due to their geographic distribution. Annual cicadas may also have very long developmental times, but all of their broods are in one place, thus the insects show up every year. In periodic cicadas, different broods appear in different parts of the country, which makes their appearance rare and unusual in each geographic spot.

In any case, I am more interested in the precision of their timing than in potential adaptive explanations for it. How do they get to be so exact? Is this just a by-product of their developmental biology? Is 13 or 17 years just a simple addition of the duration of five larval stages?

Or should we consider this cycle to be an output of a “clock” (or “calendar”) of sorts? Or perhaps a result of interactions between two or more biological timepieces, similarly to photoperiodism? In which case, we should use the experimental protocols from circadian research and apply them to cicada cycles.

Finally, it is possible that a ling developmental cycle is driven by one timing mechanism, but the synchronization of emergence in the last year is driven by another, perhaps some kind of clock that may be sensitive to sound made by other insects of the same species as they start digging their way up to the surface.
The problem: In order to apply the standard experiments (like construction of a Phase-Response Curve, or T-cycles), we need to bring the cicadas into the lab. And that is really difficult to do. Husbandry has been a big problem for research on these insect, which is why almost all of it was done out in the field.

When kept in the lab, the only way to feed them is to provide them with the trees so they can drink the sap from the roots. This makes it impossible to keep them in constant conditions – trees require light and will have their own rhythms that the cicadas can potentially pick up, as timing cues, from the sap. So, the first thing we need to do is figure out a way to feed them artificially, without reliance on living trees for food.

Also, we do not know which environmental cues are relevant. Is it light cycle? Photoperiod? Or something cycling in the tree-sap? Or temperature cycles? What are the roles of developmental hormones like Juvenile Hormone or Ecdysone? We would have to test all of them simultaneously, hoping that at least one of them turns out to be the correct one.

Second, more obvious problem, is time. These experiments would last hundreds of years, perhaps thousands! Some experiments rely on outcomes of previous experiments for the proper design. Who would do them? What funding agency would finance them? Why would anyone start such experiments while knowing full well that the results would not be known within one’s lifetime? Isn’t this too tantalizing for a scientist’s curiosity?

The solution? One obvious solution is to figure out ways to get to the same answers in shorter time-frames. Perhaps by sequencing the genome and figuring out what each gene does (perhaps by looking at equivalents in other species, like fruitflies, or inserting them into Drosophila and observing their effects), hoping to find out the way timing is regulated. This will probably not answer all our questions, but may be good enough.

Another way is to set aside space and funding for such experiments and place them into an unusual administrative framework – a longitudinal study guided by an organization, not a single researcher getting a grant to do this in his or her lab. This way the work will probably get done, and the papers will get published somewhere around 2835 A.D.

~~~~

See? How long and complex my text is? Now go back to the post by Charles to see again how nicely he edited the story.

Cicadas, Brood XIX, northern Chatham Co, NC [Videos]



American Scientist’s Pizza Lunch – NC FIRST Robotics competition

At American Scientist‘s next Pizza Lunch, it’s time to turn our attention from accomplished scientists to budding scientists. At noon, Tuesday, March 29 come hear Marie E. Hopper, regional director of NC FIRST Robotics, talk about a different kind of science lesson. FIRST Robotics stages competitions among high school students. Kids who sign up design and build remotely operated robots that can succeed in specially designed “games”. Each year, the rules of the games change. Students don’t see the rules until six weeks before the starting buzzer.

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org

Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/center/directions.shtml

Sigma Xi Pizza Lunch – ‘ Friends or Foes: Social Relationships Among Female Chimpanzees’ with Anne Pusey

To keep keeping you on your toes, we’ll host Pizza Lunch on a Wednesday again this month, rather than on a Tuesday. And it promises to be another good one.

Come hear Anne Pusey, chair of evolutionary anthropology and a James B. Duke professor at Duke, speak at noon Wed., Feb 23 at Sigma Xi. Her talk: Friends or Foes: Social Relationships Among Female Chimpanzees. Pusey has studied competition, cooperation and social bonds in multiple species. Most of her work focuses on our close evolutionary cousins, the chimpanzees. Early in her career, Pusey observed juvenile and adolescent development under the direction of Jane Goodall at Tanzania’s Gombe Stream Reserve. She still has ties. Her research team maintains and digitizes data collected at Gombe, where Goodall started observing chimpanzees more than 50 years ago.

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org

Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/center/directions.shtml

Sigma Xi Pizza Lunch (if you have stomach to eat at the time): Everything you wanted to know about Bedbugs but were too afraid to ask

You’ve heard the media buzz about bed bugs. But what of the science? Join us at noon, Jan. 25 here at Sigma Xi to hear N.C. State University entomologist Coby Schal offer the facts. He’ll discuss the basic biology of the insects and some of the new research strategies aimed at finding ways to better control them.

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org

Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here.

Science Cafe Raleigh: Rain Forests – Going, Going, Gone?

Happy New Year! We are excited to be starting a new year of science cafes. Our January Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 1/18 at Tir Na Nog on South Blount Street. Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Meg Lowman, Director of the Nature Research Center (a new wing of the Museum of Natural Sciences currently under construction). Dr. Lowman is a world famous canopy researcher. To learn more about her and her work please see the information listed below (be sure to look at her website). We will have a fun and informative discussion about the amazing (and sometimes strange) diversity of life that can be found in the earth’s rainforests as well as how researchers have figured out ways to study sometimes elusive plants and animals. We will talk about the importance of what is being discovered in the rainforests and how these discoveries can affect our way of life. I hope that many of you can come.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

6:30-8:30 p.m. with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Tir Na Nog, 218 South Blount Street, Raleigh, 833-7795

Every child grows up with a sense of awe about tropical forests — extraordinary creatures including poison dart frogs, sloths, orchids and jaguars representing a veritable treasure-trove of biodiversity. But scientists estimate that more than half of Africa’s rain forests are gone, with at least 40 percent losses in Asia and Latin America and 95 percent in Madagascar. Even with new technologies, measuring tropical deforestation is not easy, and illegal logging is epidemic in many parts of the world. What is the prognosis for the future of tropical rain forests? And how will human beings fare if these vital ecosystems disappear? What essential services do tropical forests provide for the planet, and how can we conserve them for our children?

About our speaker:

Dr. Meg Lowman (www.canopymeg.com) is Director of the Nature Research Center, North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and a research professor at NC State University. Over the past three decades, “Canopy Meg” has earned an international reputation as a pioneer in forest canopy ecology, tropical rain forest conservation, and for designing canopy access tools including ropes, hot-air balloons, walkways and construction cranes. Equipped with degrees in biology, ecology and botany, Lowman developed her childhood interest of building tree forts into mapping canopy biodiversity worldwide and spearheading the construction of canopy walkways in tropical forests for conservation. She uses science education to influence government policy and encourage environmental stewardship. Her book, “Life in the Treetops,” earned a cover review in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

Sigma Xi pizza lunch lecture – Science in the current media environment

Next Tuesday at Sigma Xi:

Hi all. Normally we aim to hold pizza lunch on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. In November, that date conflicts with the ship date of the January-February 2011 issue of American Scientist. So we’ll convene a week later. Still, I think you’ll find the session—something different this time—worth the wait.

Join us on Tuesday, Nov. 23 to hear one of our own, veteran science blogger Bora Zivkovic, talk about the shifting ecosystems within his craft. Zivkovic has had a front seat to much of that change, as author of the influential A Blog Around The Clock, as co-founder (with Anton Zuiker) of the international conference ScienceOnline in RTP, as the former online community manager at Public Library of Science and, now, as the new blog and community editor for Scientific American magazine. For a long time, people spoke of the day when print and online media would converge. In a growing share of the publishing world, that convergence has occurred. And Bora, when it comes to science journalism, has been a catalyst in that change.

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org

Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/center/directions.shtml

Science Café Raleigh: Where Have All the Frogs Gone?

Hi Café Enthusiasts,

This month’s Science Café (description below) will be held on November 16th at The Irregardless Cafe. We will be meeting Dr. Bryan Stuart and discussing the status of amphibian populations around the world. Dramatic changes are currently happening globally with diverse populations of frogs and salamanders. It is a time when many new species are being discovered and simultaneously we are also mysteriously losing many species to extinction. Dr. Stuart will discuss current herpetological research that is helping us understand what is happening with the world’s amphibian biodiversity. I hope that many of you can come – it should be a very informative discussion.

Where Have All the Frogs Gone?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Time: 6:30-8:30pm with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A

Location: The Irregardless Café, 901 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh, 833-8898

Since the 1980s, dramatic reductions in amphibian populations (including population crashes and mass localized extinctions) have been noted from locations all over the world. Currently, the loss of these animals (especially frogs) is thought to be one of the most critical threats to global biodiversity. Many of the causes are still poorly understood, and the topic is the subject of much ongoing research. Join us to discuss what is known and what is yet to be known about the global loss of such an important group of animals.

About our Speaker:

Bryan Stuart is currently the Curator of Herpetology at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. In 2006, Stuart received his Ph.D. from the University of Illinois-Chicago working in a collaborative program with the Field Museum. He remains a Research Associate and close collaborator with the Field Museum and also completed a two-year postdoctoral program at UC-Berkeley before joining the Museum staff here in Raleigh. Stuart has authored and co-authored numerous publications about reptiles and amphibians in several prominent scientific journals, such as Herpetologica and Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. He travels often and extensively in Southeast Asia as well as Africa for his current research and study of herpetological biodiversity.

This will be our final science café for 2010, with our next café being held in January 2011.

As always, it helps so much if you can send me an email letting me know if you will be coming to the event (katey DOT ahmann AT ncdenr DOT gov). Having an approximate participant count helps us communicate with the restaurant so that they can be prepared for serving our group.

I hope to see you tonight!

If you come to Durham tonight you’ll get to schmooze and share drinks with a bunch of veteran Triangle bloggers, or veteran bloggers now living in the Triangle, and some new bloggers and some fans. Join us – more the merrier. Who will be there?

Anton Zuiker
me and my wife
Pam Spaulding
David Kroll a.k.a. Abel PharmBoy
Craig McClain
Misha Angrist
Wayne Sutton
Ilina Ewen
Dawn and Brian Crawford
Ruby Sinreich and Brian Russell
Princess Ojiaku
Andre Blackman
Gabrielle Kaasa
Lisa Sullivan
J. Michael Quante
Joanna Wolfe
Rob Zelt
Wendy Livingston
Allegra Sinclair
Stacey Alexander
Alicia Cuthbertson
Kevin Davis
Beck Tench
Jeff Stern
Fiona Morgan
Jeremy Griffin
Dipika Kohli
and more….

There is plenty of space, and you can still register or just show up.

The BlogTogether Birthday Bash

Being such a large technology hub, it is not surprising that North Carolina is the home to a number of pioneer bloggers, people who have been at it for a decade or more.

The city of Greensboro took to blogging so early and so intensely (mainly due to the efforts by everyone’s blogfather Ed Cone and the early adoption of blogs by Greensboro News & Record) that it was dubbed Blogsboro in a 2005 article in LA Times. According to some, Greensboro has the highest per capita number of bloggers, and blogging is almost essential for running for local office.

Just an hour to the East of Greensboro lies the Triangle area with its several universities and the Research Triangle Park full of technology companies. UNC school of journalism adopted blogging early on as well. Unsurprisingly, the blogging craze quickly spread around the Triangle as well.

One of such early pioneer bloggers is my good friend Anton Zuiker, who recently celebrated his tenth blogiversary.

One way in which Anton is not a typical blogger is that he is not a natural self-promoter. There are so many things he did that the outside world erroneously ascribes to others (including me, especially me). For just a few examples, he was involved in the organization of the 2005 Chapel Hill BlogerCon and helped Brian Russell in the organization of the 2006 PodcasterCon. He organized Triangle Blogger Meetups for years. He founded Blog Together, the community of local bloggers. He is one of the founding members of SCONC, association of science communicators of NC. He hosts a Triangle Blogger BBQ every year at his home. He left his fingerprints in a number of online publications at Duke, UNC and NCSU.

Without Anton, the annual ScienceOnline conferences would never have happened. The Open Laboratory anthologies stem from a seed that was his idea. Science In The Triangle news-site was originally his idea. He set up Scienceblogging.org to begin with. He organized the first local food-blogging event and the first Long Table event. He is the silent force that brought a bunch of us independent bloggers together, meeting face-to-face, becoming friends, doing business together, organizing events together, etc. – what he calls the ‘Blogtogether spirit’.

And now, ten years after he started blogging, and almost six years since the foundation of BlogTogether, Anton is organizing something new – The BlogTogether Birthday Bash.

If you live in North Carolina or just happen to be in the state on October 19th 2010, and if you are a blogger or commenter or blog-reader or just a fan of a particular blogger, join us for an evening of conversations and community and fun (and a few drinks).

Come to downtown Durham and have something to eat in one of the wonderful local restaurants. Then come to Casbah at 7pm where there will be a cash bar for drinks. A number of bloggers will stand up and tell a story that in some way relates to their blogging, perhaps how their blogs changed their lives. As Anton explains:

We’ll ask a handful of bloggers to get up on stage and tell a story about what blogging has meant to them or done for them, and share a highlight of something they’re particularly proud of having accomplished because of blogging.

After half a dozen or so prepared stories, we’ll throw it open to the crowd for anyone who wants 5 minutes to share a highlight or read a memorable post or thank someone in the audience for their blog mentorship.

You can see who has registered so far and if you can join us please register today, bring your significant others or friends, and let us know if you are willing to get up on stage and tell us your blogging story.

A busy week coming up!

Sometimes, everything happens in the same week:

Tuesday at noon at Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi pizza lunch lecture: Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science, talk by Dr.Will Kimler, NCSU.

Tuesday at 7pm at Casbah in Durham: The BlogTogether Birthday Bash.

Wednesday at 8pm at Duke: Waves of Mu (which means I will have to miss Science Cafe Raleigh – March of the Fossil Penguins, at the same time. Ugh!).

Thursday at 9am at Duke: Open Access Publishing panel.

Dr. Kiki’s Science Hour 68: Taking Science Online (video)

An hour-long show with Dr.Kiki last night, about science media and blogging, ScienceOnline conferences, science communication in North Carolina and more – you can download the file here, watch as mp4, or just watch here:

Sigma Xi pizza lunch lecture: Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science

From Sigma Xi:

Join us at noon, Tuesday, Oct. 19 here at Sigma Xi to hear NC State University evolutionary biologist Will Kimler talk about “Images of Darwin and the Nature of Science.” Prof. Kimler researches the history of evolutionary ideas in natural history, ecology, genetics and behavior.

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org

Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here

Science Cafe Raleigh – March of the Fossil Penguins

March of the Fossil Penguins

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

6:30-8:30 p.m. with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A

Tir Na Nog, 218 South Blount Street, Raleigh, 833-7795

RSVP to kateyDOTahmannATncdenrDOTgov

Penguins are familiar faces at zoos and aquariums, but they evolved long before humans. These fascinating birds have been around for more than 60 million years, during which they survived dramatic changes in climate, wholesale re-arrangements of the continents, and the rise of new mammalian competitors. Thanks to their dense bones, penguins have left behind a rich fossil record that we can use to trace their geographical expansion and morphological evolution. In this Science Cafe we will get to know some of the diverse cast of extinct penguins, including primitive species from the deep past, spear-billed penguins from Peru, and giants that would have towered over today’s Emperor Penguins.

About our Speaker:

Dr. Daniel Ksepka (blog) is a paleontologist at North Carolina State University and a research associate at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. His research focuses on reconstructing the evolutionary tree of birds and understanding the transition from aerial flight to underwater wing-propelled diving in groups like penguins and the now extinct plotopterid birds. Ksepka has traveled to South America and New Zealand to collect and study fossil penguins. He is the author of numerous scientific papers on penguin evolution as well as the science blog “March of the Fossil Penguins.”

For the coverage of Dr.Ksepka’s latest paper, see How the Penguin Got His Tuxedo and Inkayacu – Peru’s Giant Fossil Penguin and the Stories Its Feathers Tell and Giant extinct penguin skipped tuxedo for more colorful feathers, How the penguin got its tuxedo and A fossil penguin gets its colours.

Watch Dr. Ksepka discuss his research: March of the Fossilized Penguins

Superbug in the Triangle!

Well, hopefully not the real MRSA in your home! But the book Superbug will be introduced to the audiences around here. Author Maryn McKenna (Twitter) will be in the Triangle this week.

First, on Wednesday October 6th at 7:30 pm, Maryn will be reading at my most favourite bookstore in the world – Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. I’ll be there.

Then, next day, on Thursday October 7th at 7:00 pm, she will be going over to Durham to read/sign at The Regulator Bookshop. I may try to come to that again.

Join us if you are in town for one or the other or both events!

Mythbusters – yes, I got to meet Jamie and Adam

Last week, Mythbusters duo of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman came to Chapel Hill and did an event at the Dean Dome on UNC campus as the starting event of the NC Science Festival.

I am not going to recap what happened, as Tyler Dukes, Ross Maloney and Maria Gontaruk did it masterfully last week. I want to think a little bit more about Mythbusters and what their show means in the ecosystem of science media and communication, so please continue reading here….

How to write and publish a science book?

SCONC Presents: Writing Science: Local Authors Discuss Their Craft (an N.C. Science Festival event):

Join the Science Communicators of North Carolina as we probe the minds of local science writers to find out how they go about the process of writing a book.

How are ideas generated? What does their research process entail? How do they go about getting words down on the blank page/screen? What is the editing process like? Once the book is finished, what next?

Find out the answers to these questions and pose your own.

Panel includes:

T. Delene Beeland (blog, Twitter), author of the forthcoming The Secret World of Red Wolves.

Scott Huler (blog, Twitter), author of On the Grid (review).

Glenn Murphy, author of Why is Snot Green?

Moderated by Russ Campbell (blog, Twitter) of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund.

Thursday, September 23, 2010 from 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM (ET) in Research Triangle Park.

Get your free ticket(s) here!

Really bad timing for me – I’ll be at the Block by Block summit on exactly the same day. I hate I will have to miss this. But you should go if you are in the area! This is bound to be awesome!

Ira Flatow at Duke

Science Friday Host to Headline Sept. 20 Festival:

The Duke Center for Science Education, a multi-disciplinary effort to “bring science education resources and outreach to the university and the community” is hosting its first-ever Science Education Showcase on Sept. 20.

Ira Flatow, science journalist and host of NPR’s “Science Friday” show will be the keynote speaker at 1:30 p.m. in Love Auditorium, Levine Science Research Center (LSRC). Before and after the talk, students, faculty and staff will be sharing hands-on activities and demos that they’ve developed with CSE. Some of these exhibits will also be making an appearance at the first-ever USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington Oct. 23 and 24. More on that in a later post.

You’ll need a ticket to see Flatow. They’re free, but you gotta have one. And you’d better hurry. Try the Bryan Center Box Office or online: http://www.tickets.duke.edu/

Evolutionary and Developmental Precursors for the Human Mathematical Mind

Now that summer is starting to fade, here is something else to look forward to: The 2010-2011 American Scientist Pizza Lunch speaker series returns next month.

Join us at noon, Tuesday, Sept. 21 here at Sigma Xi to hear Duke University cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Brannon give a talk entitled: “Evolutionary and Developmental Precursors for the Human Mathematical Mind.” In other words, Brannon studies what we all take for granted: our ability to do the numbers. She does it, in part, with studies of human babies and other primates.

Thanks to a grant from the N.C. Biotechnology Center, American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org

Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/center/directions.shtml

Periodic Tables: Durham’s Science Cafe – Bonobo Handshake: Love and Adventure in the Congo

From e-mail:

I hope you can join us for our next installment of Periodic Tables: Durham’s Science Cafe! Below are the details for the evening. And remember, try to come early if you want a seat and a bite to eat before we kick things off at 7pm!

——

What: Bonobo Handshake: Love and Adventure in the Congo

“A young woman follows her fiancé to war-torn Congo to study extremely endangered bonobo apes—who teach her a new truth about love and belonging.”

Author and scientist Vanessa Woods will discuss and sign copies of her new book, Bonobo Handshake: A Memoir of Love and Adventure in the Congo. Like chimpanzees, bonobos are related to humans by 98.7%. But in contrast to chimpanzees, who live in male dominated societies where infanticide and lethal aggression are observed, bonobos live in highly tolerant and peaceful societies due to female dominance that maintains group cohesion and regulates tension through sexual behavior. How much of us is chimpanzee and how much is bonobo?

The Regulator Bookstore will be on hand to sell Vanessa’s book after her talk.

Who: Vanessa Woods, Author and Research Scientist at Duke University

Where: Broad Street Cafe, 1116 Broad Street, Durham

When: Tuesday, August 10th @7pm (2nd Tuesday of every month)

Parking: We understand that parking can be tough so please feel free to park at the NC School for Science and Math (catty-corner to Broad Street Cafe)

Additional Info

Tentative conference schedule for Fall 2010

For various reasons, mostly financial, I had to say No to a number of invitations to meetings throughout the summer (including, unfortunately, the Lindau Nobel conference and Science Online London). But in Fall I will be busy again. This is the tentative schedule. Let me know if you will be at any of these meetings so we can meet up there.

August 21st, 2010, Raleigh NC. Science Communication Conference at the Museum of Natural Science in Raleigh. See the organizing wiki (Note: I was somewhat involved in advising during the early stages of organization, will attend but will not be on the podium – as it is an Unconference, I am likely to speak up from my comfy chair in the audience). Edit: I will give the Concluding Note at the end….

September 14th, 2010, Boston MA. 140 Characters Conference. I am currently on the “reserve” list in case one of the targeted bigwigs declines the invitation. If given a chance, I will talk about real-time science communication online.

September 16th, 2010, Raleigh NC. PechaKucha Raleigh #4. I will not speak, but intend to attend. The #3 was excellent.

September 23-24th, 2010, Chicago IL. Block by Block: Community News Summit 2010 organized by Michelle McLellan and Jay Rosen, about community news online. I accepted the invitation but am not sure yet about the format and if I am expected to say something from the front or the back of the room. I am assuming that I was invited at least in part due to the local science coverage efforts here in NC, especially Science In The Triangle.

October 1st-2nd, 2010, Greensboro NC. ConvergeSouth. Very tech and business oriented this year, under a new management. But still an occasion to meet my Triad friends.

November 3-4, 2010, Greenville SC. 2010 Conference on Communicating Science. I will do the session “New Tools for Communication (Use of “New” Media)” on the 4th in the morning.

November 5-9th, 2010, New Haven CT. ScienceWriters2010 co-organized by National Association of Science Writers and Council for the Advancement of Science Writing’s New Horizons in Science Briefings®. I will be a part of a panel on November 6th, Rebooting science journalism: Adapting to the new media landscape, together with Emily Bell and Betsy Mason, organized and moderated by David Dobbs.

December 2-4th, 2010, Raleigh NC. W.M.Keck Center for Behavioral Biology Alumni meeting. As I am an alumnus, I will definitely attend to see all my old friends from grad school and am also likely to give a talk about Open Access.

And then, it’s ScienceOnline2011 crunchtime….

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At the Museum: bonobos and bioluminescence

Two great lectures at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences:

1. Museum hosts presentation on ‘Bioluminescence Below the Bahamas’

RALEIGH ― Join Duke University biologist Sonke Johnsen for a detailed look into the world of marine bioluminescence and its use as an adaptation to help organisms hide, hunt and communicate. Johnsen’s multimedia presentation, “Deep Light: Bioluminescence and Vision 2,000 Feet below the Bahamas,” takes place at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences on Thursday, August 12 at 7pm. Free.

Johnsen is associate professor of biology and director of The Johnsen Lab at Duke, which studies bioluminescence ― an organism’s ability to produce its own light ― and other aspects of visual ecology. He recently participated in an inaugural survey of deep-sea floor bioluminescence and continues to collaborate with Edith Widder, bioluminescence expert and a former curator of GLOW: Living Lights, the first-ever museum exhibit to explore the phenomenon of bioluminescence. Now showing at the Museum of Natural Sciences, this exhibit reveals the world of light-producing terrestrial organisms, from fireflies to foxfire fungus, before traveling to the mid-ocean, where an estimated 90 percent of animals produce light. GLOW runs through September 12.

Adult tickets to GLOW are available at a discounted rate on these evenings, with tickets sold from 5 to 6:30pm. For more information, visit www.naturalsciences.org.

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2. Vanessa Woods to discuss “Bonobo Handshake” at Museum of Natural Sciences

In the midst of the war-torn Congo, there exists a peaceful society in which females are in charge, war is nonexistent, and sex is as common and friendly as a handshake. Welcome to the world of bonobos, a rare ape with whom we share 98.7 percent of our DNA. On Thursday, August 19 at 6:30pm, join author and Duke University scientist Vanessa Woods for a detailed discussion of her new book, “Bonobo Handshake,” at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh. Free.

“For thousands of years, we have wondered what makes us human,” says Woods. “To find the answer, we study our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and more recently, bonobos. Neither species is easy to study, but bonobos are particularly difficult, being the world’s most endangered ape in the world’s most dangerous country. But this makes them all the more important, and bonobos could not only unlock the secret of what makes us human, but also teach us how being a little less human could go a long way.” Woods will be signing copies of her book in the Museum Store prior to her lecture.

Woods is an internationally published author and journalist and is the main Australian/ New Zealand feature writer for the Discovery Channel. She graduated with a Masters of Science Communication from the Centre for the Public Awareness of Science at the Australian National University and has written for various publications including BBC Wildlife, New Scientist, and Travel Africa. In 2003, Woods won the Australasian Science award for journalism. In 2007, her children’s book on space was named an Acclaimed Book by the UK Royal Society and shortlisted for the Royal Society’s Junior Science Book Prize.

Bed bugs and cockroaches: The insects that bug us

Our August Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 8/17 at Tir Na Nog on S. Blount Street.

Just in time to lead up to BugFest the museum’s annual event highlighting the world of arthropods, our café this month will be a discussion about insects (in particular, some species that we are not too fond of… bed bugs and cockroaches!)

I first learned about bed bugs from a television documentary probably a year or more ago. Since that show, and most likely because I work in a natural history museum, I have heard more and more about these pests and how difficult they are to deal with. Because travelers can bring them home in suitcases after staying in infested hotel rooms, it is important for all of us to understand their life history. An interesting website http://bedbugregistry.com/, is a site where the public report bed bugs that they have encountered in hotels and apartments. You can see from the listings that these pests are found throughout our country.

Another pest that people are more familiar with, the cockroach, (found in all 50 states) is also very difficult to deal with — So, we’ve added them to the line up for our evening’s café discussion. Learn how to distinguish one species of roach from another and how to be on the lookout for these unwanted house (or office) guests.

Bed bugs and cockroaches: The insects that bug us

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

6:30-8:30 p.m. with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A

Tir Na Nog, 218 South Blount Street, Raleigh, 833-7795

After disappearing from many countries for almost 50 years, bed bugs have made a comeback and are once again sucking our blood while we sleep and stowing away in our luggage when we travel. Cockroaches, on the other hand, have always been a fact of life for people living in the South, but all roaches are not the same — some are part of our outdoor environment and only end up in our homes by accident, while others are only found in buildings and produce allergens that can pose health risks.

In this Science Café, we will explore some of the urban legends related to bed bugs, observe some insects to get an idea of what to watch out for, and discuss how you can keep these tiny vampires out of your home. We will also discuss do-it-yourself options for cockroach control as well as give you some cockroach identification tips.

About Our Speaker: Richard Santangelo is a research specialist in the Entomology Department at North Carolina State University. His work focuses on urban pest control aspects of entomology, including pesticide resistance monitoring of cockroaches and bed bugs, product testing of commercial insecticides for pest control, and allergen intervention in low income housing and hog farms. Santangelo has also worked on a Colorado Spider Survey with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and biological control of cotton pests in Arizona.

3D Google Earth Tour of NC Maps (video)

Science Café Raleigh – A Nuclear Renaissance

Our July Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 7/20 at Tir Na Nog on S. Blount Street. With the disastrous BP Gulf oil spill now continuing into its third month, every day we are reminded of the challenges our country faces with regards to our energy production and consumption. Can nuclear energy be a viable answer for some of our energy needs? Our café speaker for the evening will be Dr. David McNelis, the Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment, and Economic Development at UNC’s Institute for the Environment. It should be an interesting evening for all of us to learn more about the pros and cons of nuclear power, and about how our choices about energy will impact our present and future world.
A Nuclear Renaissance
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
6:30-8:30 p.m. with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Tir Na Nog 218 South Blount Street, Raleigh, 833-7795
From its development in the 1950s and ’60s to the protests against its use in the 1970s and ’80s, commercial nuclear energy in the United States has always been surrounded by debate. Opponents of its use have presented possible risks to the environment and human health. Meanwhile, proponents cite it as a sustainable energy source that reduces carbon emissions and eases dependence on foreign oil. In February 2010, the federal government approved a loan guarantee for the construction of two nuclear reactors in Georgia, which would be the first plants to start construction in the U.S. since the 1970s. What does this renewed commitment to nuclear power mean to our energy future? What will it mean for our environment and our health? Come to our café and join in on a discussion of a Nuclear Renaissance.
About the Speaker:
Professor David N. McNelis has more than 45 years of environmental sciences and engineering experience in federal government, university and industry settings. He served in research and research management positions with the U.S. Army, the U.S. Public Health Service and the Environmental Protection Agency; with the Department of Energy’s prime contractor for the Nevada Test Site; and with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He now serves as the Director of the Center for Sustainable Energy, Environment and Economic Development in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s Institute for the Environment and as President of Nuclear Fuel Cycle Technologies, LLC. In addition to being a Research Professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at UNC, he is also an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Nuclear Engineering at NCSU. Currently Dr. McNelis specializes in conventional, alternative and nuclear energy systems and technologies and the nuclear fuel cycle (including partitioning, transmutation, repository capacity and nuclear non proliferation).
This café is sponsored by Progress Energy.

Books: ‘On The Grid’ by Scott Huler

grid_cover.jpgAbout a month ago, I told you about the book-reading event where Scott Huler (blog, Twitter, SIT interview) read from his latest book On The Grid (amazon.com). I read the book immediately after, but never wrote a review of my own. My event review already contained some of my thoughts about the topic, but I feel I need to say more, if nothing else in order to use this blog to alert more people about it and to tell everyone “Read This Book”.
infrastructure 001.JPGWhat I wrote last month,

“I think of myself as a reasonably curious and informed person, and I have visited at least a couple of infrastructure plants, but almost every anecdote and every little tidbit of information were new to me. Scott’s point – that we don’t know almost anything about infrastructure – was thus proven to me.”

infrastructure 003.JPG…was reinforced when I read the book itself: I don’t know anything about infrastructure. But after reading the book I can say I know a little bit, understand how much I don’t know, and realize how much more I’d like to know. I bet it was fun watching me as I was reading it, exclaiming on average five times per page “This is so cool”, and “Hey, this is neat” and “Wow, I had no idea!” and (rarely) “w00t! Here’s a tidbit I actually heard of before” and “Hey, I know where this is!” (as I lived in Raleigh for eleven years, I know the area well).
infrastructure 006.JPGA few years ago, Scott was just as ignorant about infrastructure as most of us are. But then his curiosity got better of him and he started researching. He would start at his house in Raleigh and trace all the wires and cables and pipes going in and out of the house to see where they led. Sometimes there would be a crew on his street digging into the asphalt and fixing something and he would approach them and ask questions. At other times he would figure out where the headquarters are and who to ask to talk to:
infrastructure 007.JPG

“What Scott realized during the two years of research for the book is that people in charge of infrastructure know what they are doing. When something doesn’t work well, or the system is not as up-to-date as it could be, it is not due to incompetence or ignorance, but because there is a lack of two essential ingredients: money and political will. These two factors, in turn, become available to the engineers to build and upgrade the systems, only if people are persuaded to act. And people are persuaded to act in two ways: if it becomes too costly, or if it becomes too painful to continue with the old way of doing things. It is also easier to build brand new systems for new services than it is to replace old systems that work ‘well enough’ with more more modern ways of providing the same service.”

infrastructure 008.JPGIn a sense, this book is a memoir of curiosity as Scott describes his own adventures with a hard-hat, a modern Jean Valjean sloshing his way through the Raleigh sewers, test-driving the public transportation, and passing multiple security checks in order to enter the nearby nuclear plant.
infrastructure 009.JPGBut it is more than just a story of personal awe at modern engineering. Scott weaves in the explanations of the engineering and the underlying science, explains the history and the politics of the Raleigh infrastructure, the historical evolution of technologies underlying modern infrastructure, and illustrates it by comparisons to other infrastructures: how does New York City does that, how did Philadelphia did it 50 years ago, how did London 500 years ago, how about Rome 2000 years ago?
infrastructure 014.JPG

“What is really astonishing is how well the systems work, even in USA which has fallen way behind the rest of the developed world. We are taking it for granted that the systems always work, that water and electricity and phone and sewers and garbage collection and public transportation always work. We get angry on those rare occasions when a system temporarily fails. We are, for the most part, unprepared and untrained to provide some of the services ourselves in times of outages, or to continue with normal life and work when a service fails. And we are certainly not teaching our kids the necessary skills – I can chop up wood and start a wood stove, I can use an oil heater, I know how to slaughter and render a pig, how to get water out of a well, dig a ditch, and many other skills I learned as a child (and working around horses) – yet I am not teaching any of that to my own kids. They see it as irrelevant to the modern world and they have a point – chance they will ever need to employ such skills is negligible.”

infrastructure 015.JPGAnd this brings me to the point where I start musing about stuff that the book leaves out. As I was reading, I was constantly hungry for more. I wanted more comparisons with other cities and countries and how they solved particular problems. I wanted more history. I wanted more science. I wanted more about political angles. But then, when I finished, I realized that a book I was hungry for would be a 10-tome encyclopedic monograph and a complete flop. It is good that Scott has self-control and self-discipline as a writer to know exactly what to include and what to leave out. He provides an excellent Bibliography at the end for everyone who is interested in pursuing a particular interest further. His book’s homepage is a repository for some really cool links – just click on the infrastructure you are interested in (note that “Communications” is under construction, as it is in the real world – it is undergoing a revolution as we speak so it is hard to collect a list of ‘definitive’ resources – those are yet to be written):
OnTheGrid homepage.jpg
infrastructure 022.JPGWhat many readers will likely notice as they go through the book is that there is very little about the environmental impacts of various technologies used to ensure that cities function and citizens have all their needs met. And I think this was a good strategy. If Scott included this information, many readers and critics would focus entirely on the environmental bits (already available in so many other books, articles and blogs) and completely miss what the book is all about – the ingenuity needed to keep billions of people living in some kind of semblance of normal life and the interconnectedness that infrastructure imposes on the society, even on those who would want not to be interconnected:
infrastructure 027.JPG

“There are people who advocate for moving “off the grid” and living a self-sufficient existence. But, as Scott discovered, they are fooling themselves. Both the process of moving off the grid and the subsequent life off the grid are still heavily dependent on the grid, on various infrastructure systems that make such a move and such a life possible, at least in the developed world.”

infrastructure 031.JPGMy guess is, if there’s anyone out there who could possibly not like this book, it will be die-hard libertarians who fantasize about being self-sufficient in this over-populated, inter-connected world.
infrastructure 032.JPGAt several places in the book, Scott tries to define what infrastructure is. It is a network that provides a service to everyone. It has some kind of control center, a collection center or distribution center. It has a number of peripheral stations and nodes. And there are some kinds of channels that connect the central place to the outside stations and those stations to the final users – every household in town. There is also a lot of redundancy built into the system, e.g., if a water main breaks somewhere, you will still get your water but it will come to you via other pipes in surrounding streets, with zero interruption to your service.
infrastructure 025.JPGScott covers surveying of land, stormwater, freshwater, wastewater, roads, power, solid waste, communications (phone, broadcast media, internet) and transportation (e.g., public transportation, trains, airplanes). These are the kinds of things that are traditionally thought of as ‘infrastructure’. But aren’t there other such systems? I’d think security has the same center-spokes model of organization as well: police stations and sub-stations (distribution centers) that can send cops out wherever needed (distribution channels), with potential criminals brought to court (processing centers) and if found guilty placed in prison (collection center). Similarly with fire-departments. Ambulances are just the most peripheral tentacles of the health-care infrastructure. The local-county-state-federal political system is also a kind of infrastructure. So is the military. So is the postal system. So is the food industry and distribution.
infrastructure 018.JPGThinking about all of these other potential examples of infrastructure made me realize how many services that require complex infrastructure undergo cycles of centralization and decentralization. For transportation, everyone needed to have a horse. Later, it was centralized into ship, railroad, bus and airline infrastructures. But that was counteracted by the popularity of individually owned cars. And of course taxis were there all along. And as each decade and each country has its own slight moves towards or away from centralization, in the end a balance is struck in which both modes operate.
infrastructure 020.JPGYou raised your own chickens. Then you bought them from mega-farms. Now many, but not most citizens, are raising their own chickens again. It is not feasible – not enough square miles on the planet – for everyone to raise chickens any more. But having everyone fed factory chicken is not palatable to many, either. Thus, a new, uneasy balance.
infrastructure 011.JPGNowhere is this seen more obviously today as in Communications infrastructure. We are in the middle of a big decentralization movement, away from broadcast (radio, TV and yes, newspaper industry infrastructure with its printing presses, distribution centers and trucks) infrastructure that marked about half of 20th century, and forward into something more resembling the media ecosystem of the most of human history – everyone is both a sender and a receiver, except that instead of writing letters or assembling at a pub every evening, we can do this online. But internet is itself an infrastructure – a series of tubes network of cables and it is essential not to allow any centralized corporation to have any power over what passes through those cables and who gets to send and receive stuff this way.
infrastructure 013.JPGFinally, as I was reading the book I was often wishing to see photographs of places or drawings of the engineering systems he describes. As good as Scott is at putting it in words, there were times when I really wanted to actually see how something looks like. And there were times when what I really wanted was something even more interactive, perhaps an online visualization of an infrastructure system that allows me to change parameters (e.g., amount of rainfall per minute) and see how that effects some output (e.g., rate of clearing water off the streets, or speed at which it is rushing through the pipes, or how it affects the water level of the receiving river). That kind of stuff would make this really come to life to me.
infrastructure 030.JPGPerhaps “On The Grid” will have an iPad edition in the future in which the text of the book is just a beginning of the journey – links to other sources (e,g., solutions around the globe, historical sources), to images, videos, interactive visualizations and, why not, real games. After all, it is right here in Raleigh that IBM is designing a game that allows one to plan and build modern infrastructure – CityOne. These two should talk to each other and make something magnificent like that.
Cross-posted from Science In The Triangle.
The small images are thumbnails – click on each to see the whole picture, full-size.

Beauty and Science Merge in Illustrators’ Exhibit at NCSU Libraries

From the NCSU Libraries News:

The best in the world of science illustration will be hosted in a beautiful display featured in the D. H. Hill Library Special Collections Exhibit Gallery at North Carolina State University from June 14 through the first week in August. The Guild of Natural Science Illustrators (GNSI), founded at the Smithsonian Institution in 1968, is working with the NCSU Libraries to present “The Art in Science: Annual Exhibit of the Guild of Natural Science Illustrators.” Ranging from pen and ink drawings to the latest digital animations, the juried exhibit is a great chance to see some of the most exciting work being done by today’s science illustrators.
“We are delighted and honored to host this event,” explains Susan Nutter, Vice Provost and Director of Libraries. “NC State, of course, has a national reputation in the animal sciences, entomology, natural resources, and other natural sciences–and our design school is among the nation’s best. This is a great opportunity for our students, faculty, and the public to see these disciplines combined into a unique blend of artistic aesthetic with the communication of scientific principles.”
The GNSI, which has thousands of members throughout the globe, provides a forum to celebrate and advance the work of the artists who illustrate the textbooks, journals, media, and other learning materials that permeate the academic and scientific worlds.
While the works chosen by the GNSI jury to be displayed at the NCSU Libraries serve mainly to make scientific principles easily to understand and enjoy, they are in themselves beautiful works of design and art. The exhibit will be particularly inspirational for students who are thinking about a career in science illustration, faculty looking for ways to enhance their teaching, and anyone who loves nature and good design.
The exhibit is free and open to the public during regular hours at the D. H. Hill Library on the NC State campus. Hours can be found on the Libraries’ web site.

Bios of scheduled speakers:

KATURA REYNOLDS coordinated the GNSI Annual Members Exhibit in coordination with group’s 2010 summer conference in Raleigh. A resident of Eugene, Oregon, Katura attended the University of California at Santa Cruz, earning a BA in art in 1997, and a graduate certificate in science illustration in 2002. Her own illustration work has been used at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of Natural History, at the Huntington Botanical Gardens, and in a variety of other publications and museum exhibits.
GAIL GUTH is a freelance artist and principal and owner of the firm Guth Illustration & Design, specializing in natural science illustration and graphic design. Her clients include local firms, national publishers, and individual researchers. She also teaches workshops in drawing and sketching and watercolor landscapes. Her work combines traditional techniques with computer graphics, and ranges from small design projects to exhibit graphics, academic publications and book illustrations.
PATRICIA SAVAGE is a North Carolinian who has been a full-time fine artist since 1989. Several of Patricia’s botanical paintings are featured in Today’s Botanical Artists. The Pastel Journals’ 6th Annual Pastel 100 Competition awarded Patricia with Best in Wildlife and Honorable Mention in Wildlife. She served as Artist in-Residence in Denali National Park and joined Smith College and PBS The 1899 Harriman Expedition Retraced: A Century of Change. Her work has appeared in The Best in Wildlife Art 1 and 2, Focus Magazine (Italy), US Art, Wildlife Art, and Wildlife in North Carolina. She has exhibited at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, the Bell Museum of Natural History, the National Geographic Society, the U. S. Botanic Gardens, and Walt Disney World’s Animal Kingdom.

Triangle PechaKucha #3 – registration is open

3rd PechaKucha Night event June 17th!
May 24, 2010–Raleigh, NC – Triangle PechaKucha is pleased to announce their third PechaKucha Night sponsored by Lonerider Beer, Relevance and Yelp!. The event will take place in Durham, NC, on June 17th, 2010, at 7:30 pm (doors open at 6:30). The event is free, but to attend you must register. Space is limited. Go here to register.
What is it? PechaKucha Nights are local idea-sharing events in the 20 x 20 format: speakers present 20 slides for 20 seconds per slide. Slides advance automatically to keep things moving forward at a rapid pace. Anyone can present, but meaningful PechaKucha presentations are the ones that uncover the unexpected — unexpected talent, unexpected ideas. The key to a great presentation is to present something you feel passionate about. Many people use PechaKucha Night to present their latest creative projects or work.
Presenters:
Jimmy Chalmers (Twitter): The Hive Mind: Lessons from Honey Bees
Justin Gehtland: Doing Well by Doing Good and Embracing your Fear of Failure
Alex Gibson (Twitter): My Crush on Gina Bianchini: Bad Ideas and High Profits
Doug Hughes (Twitter): Under Pressure? Dealing With Life’s Stressors
Michael Stewart-Isaacs (Twitter) : Entrepreganda: Emerging Our Country from Recession to Progression
Nathania Johnson (Twitter): We Don’t Need No Education: Why the Worst Students are the Brightest Thinkers
Gabrielle Kaasa (Twitter): Love, Life and Friendship: 10 Lessons From My 99 Year Old Great-Grandma
Steven Keith (Twitter): Epiphany Farming
Teri Saylor (Twitter): Advancing Civil Rights in Raleigh: The Face of Modern Activism

Richard Spangler
: The Black Man as Leader, as Told By a White Guy From Connecticut
Mbelu Walton: Heart of Lightness: Paying it Forward in the Congo
Dan Wilson (Twitter): So You Wanna Start a Business
* These events are fluid and social. Lonerider will be serving free beer all night and there will be light snacks. PechaKucha is properly pronounced ‘peh-CHAK-cha’ and is Japanese for ‘chatter’ or the sound of conversation.
* Date & Time: June 17th, 2010, at 7:30 pm (doors open at 6:30)
* Location: Relevance, 200 North Mangum Street, Suite 204, Durham, NC, 27701
* Register: http://www.pknraleigh.com
More about the PechaKucha Foundation
Devised and shared by Klein Dytham Architecture in 2003 as a place for designers, developers, and architects to meet, network, and show their work in public, PechaKucha Night now takes place in 226 Cities around the world. To learn more about the global Pecha Kucha organization visit: http://www.pecha-kucha.org.
“I wonder if the business world will ever experiment with the Pecha Kucha form for meetings. IMAGINE PEOPLE – concise, well-rehearsed presentations in under ten minutes, with plenty of time left for questions. Think it’s possible to end Death-By-PowerPoint in such a hip way?” – The Not-So-Ancient Art of Pecha Kucha
“The beauty of Pecha Kucha Night lies in the tension between the chaos of a full-blown party and the politeness of an art school crit, with the snappy pace holding it all together.” – Pecha Kucha Nights and Beer: a Sober Guide to Better Presentations
MEDIA CONTACT: Carlee Mallard | pknraleigh@gmail.com | http://www.pknraleigh.com | @pknraleigh

Instead of your -80 freezer defrosting and ruining years of your research

Deposit it with people who guarantee your samples will remain frozen:

Books: ‘Bonobo Handshake’ by Vanessa Woods

To get disclaimers out of the way, first, Vanessa Woods (on Twitter) is a friend. I first met her online, reading her blog Bonobo Handshake where she documented her day-to-day life and work with bonobos in the Congo. We met in person shortly after her arrival to North Carolina, at a blogger meetup in Durham, after which she came to three editions of ScienceOnline conference.
I interviewed Vanessa after the 2008 event and blogged (scroll down to the second half of the post) about her 2009 session ‘Blogging adventure: how to post from strange locations’. At the 2010 conference, she was one of the five storytellers at the ScienceOnline Monti on Thursday night (and did another stint at The Monti in Carrboro a couple of months later). I have since then also met her husband Brian Hare and we instantly hit it off marvelously.
bonobo 002.JPGI have read Vanessa’s previous book, ‘It’s every monkey for themselves‘, but never reviewed it on the blog because I felt uneasy – that book is so personal! But it is an excellent and wonderfully written page-turner of a book so I knew I was in for a treat when I got a review copy of her new book, Bonobo Handshake (amazon.com). I could not wait for it to officially come out so I could go to the first public reading (where I took the picture) at the Regulator in Durham on May 27th, on the day of publication.
Vanessa recently moved her blog to a new location on Psychology Today network and had a few interviews in local papers, more sure to come soon.
Vanessa will also soon read/sign the book at Quail Ridge Books on June 9th at 7:30pm, and at Chapel Hill Borders on June 12th at 2pm (also June 22 at Barnes & Noble on Maynard in Cary, June 30 at The Country Bookshop in Southern Pines, and Aug. 10 at Broad Street Café in Durham, in-between readings in other cities on the East and West coasts) and I hope you can make it to one of these events as they are fun, especially the way she tries to talk about a species renowned for its sexual behavior by using language that is appropriate for the kids in the audience ;-)
The book weaves four parallel threads. The first is Vanessa’s own life. Bonobo Handshake starts where ‘Each monkey’ leaves off. And while the ‘Monkey’ covered the period of her life that was pretty distressing, this book begins as her life begins to normalize, describing how she met Brian, fell in love, and got married – a happy trajectory.
The second thread is the science – the experiments they did on behavior and cognition in bonobos and chimps, and how the results fit into the prior knowledge and literature on primate (including human) nature.
The third thread reports on the conservation status of great apes, especially bonobos, and all the social, cultural, financial and political factors that work for or against the efforts to prevent them from going extinct.
The fourth thread is the country of Congo, where all the bonobos in the wild live, especially its recent history of war and its effects on the local people.
The four threads are seamlessly intervowen with each other, but it takes some time into the book to realize that there is, besides the fact that Vanessa was there and did the stuff and wrote about it, another unifying thread – the question of cooperation vs. competition. Vanessa and Brian sometimes love, sometimes fight: what determined one behavior at one time and the opposite at another time?
bonobo handshake.jpgFor the most part, chimps compete and bonobos cooperate: why is that? And what accounts for occasional exceptions to that rule? When threatened, or perceiving to be threatened, animals become insecure. Chimps deal with that insecurity by lashing out – becoming violent and aggressive, or at least putting out a great show of machismo. When bonobos feel insecure (including when they are very young), they solve the problem (and release the tension) by having sex with each other. If chimps won the national elections in the USA, they would probably rule by fear and force, investing mightily into the military, the police and the prison system, going around the world bombing other countries, declaring various internal “Wars on X”, and generally trying to keep the population fearful, subdued and obedient. Bonobos in such a position would always first try to find out a diplomatic solution: how to turn a stranger, or even an enemy into a friend and ally? Share something! Whatever you have: food, shelter, sex…. Everyone is safer that way in the end.
Of course, there are reasons why chimps are one way and bonobos the other. Food is scarce where chimps live, thus there is competition for it, thus the strongest individual wins, and the winner takes all. The position in the hierarchy is the key to survival. Individualism rules. On the other hand, there is plenty of food where bonobos live, enough to share with everyone, eat enough to get bloated, and still plenty left over to just let rot. Why fight over it? Thus, communitarian spirit rules, and if a big strong male starts to feel his oats a little too much, the females will get together and gang up on him as a sisterhood and beat the crap out of him – a rare exception to their usual non-violence, but an act that restores harmony to the group as a whole.
What can we learn from it? That, being equally related to both species, as well as being smarter, we are quite capable of switching between the two modes of reaction to perceived threats: competitive or cooperative. Some people (probably due to the social environment in which they were raised) tend to respond more like chimps, others more like bonobos, but all are capable of behaving both ways. Thus, all are capable of making choices how to react. And the society as a whole can teach people about the exictence of this choice and, in some general ways regarding different kinds of issues, suggest which of the two reactions is condoned by the society and which one will lend you in jail. Studying both chimps and bonobos, comparing them to each other and to humans, can help us understand this choice better, and what it takes to make one or the other reaction to a perceived threat. And even how to study, as researchers, competitions versus cooperation, something that was historically colored by the social upbringing of individual scientists.
[An aside: this is not really relevant to the book as whole, but if I remember correctly it occurs once in the book, and Vanessa sometimes mentions it in her public speaking and on her blog. She mentions the old trope that we are about 98% identical to both chimps and bonobos. That number denotes the identity of sequences of DNA that is expressed in adult, sexually mature individuals at a particular time of year and particular time of day. It ignores all the unexpressed DNA, individual differences, seasonal/daily changes in expression, and effect of the environment. It also ignores the fact that the sequence is not what really matters - it is how the developing organism (from zygote, through embryonic and post-embryonic development, through metamorphosis, growth, maturation, puberty, adulthood and senescence) uses those sequences to effect the development of traits and the day-to-day response of the organism to the environment. It is not the sequence that matters, but which gene is expressed in which cell at what time and in conjunction with which other genes that matters. The number "98% equal" reeks of genetic determinism, which originates with Adaptation and Natural Selection, the 1966 book by George Williams which corrupted generations of biologists, and 'The Selfish Gene', the 1976 book by Richard Dawkins which ruined generations of lay readers and science journalists. It peaked in late 1990s (I wrote this in 1999) with the hype over Human Genome Project ("Holy Grail", "Blueprint of Life"!) and currently survives only in the realm of that abomination of science we all know as Evolutionary Psychology. There is a lot of literature explaining the poverty of the genocentric and deterministic view of biology, most notably the entire opuses of Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, their numerous students and proteges and fans, and an entire generation of evo-devo researchers (the field was spawned/inspired by Gould's 1977 book 'Ontogeny and Phylogeny') and Philosophers of Science (e.g.., Bob Brandon, Bill Wimsatt) who spent some years proving it wrong and, successfully done that, have since moved on to more fertile topics. Actually, one of the easiest-to-read books on the topic for lay audience is titled - What it Means to be 95% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and their Genes. Saying that humans and bonobos are 98 (or 95, or 99, different numbers are thrown out) percent identical to us is like saying that an airplane and a house are identical because both are built with identical sizes, shapes and colors of Lego blocks - except that one propeller-piece that the airplane has and the house does not. Bonobos and humans are similar because our development is similar, leading to similar phenotypes - not much to do with the sequences of c-DNA libraries. Aside over.]
Conservation of Great Apes depends on humans cooperating to make it happen, but also has to take into account the instrinsic proclivities of different species (chimps, bonobos, gorillas, orangutans and gibbons are all different) towards violence vs. collaboration which dictate the sizes and shapes and organizational schemes of their sanctuaries and eventual wild refuges.
Finally, civil war in Congo is an enormous example of violent competition, but what were its causes? Who chose to compete in this way and why? What was the competition about? Did the end of the Cold War sufficiently weaken the Non-Aligned Movement in a way that reduced the national pride of the people of its member-nations (allowing tribal instincts to take over), reduced the economic cooperation between the member countries (thus sending some of their economies into a downward spiral leading to hopelessness which often leads to lashing out at perceived enemies), or reduced the military cooperation between the members that would scare any potential leader of a tribal movement, or reduced the authority and thus ability of the Movement’s leadership to intervene and prevent wars between the members?
Why did some people come out of war utterly changed – the “living dead” – while others emerged hopeful, energetic and optimistic, full of life and love? How did collaboration of some people help save some of them from murder, and save their psyches from lifelong scars?
Vanessa weaves these four threads expertly and, at the end of the book, you cannot help but care about all four! It is a fast and easy read, you never feel bored or inundated by information, yet you end the book with vastly more knowledge than when you began. And once you know about something enough, you start caring.
I remember as a kid, before the Internet, trying to find something to read after I have finished all 20 library books I took out and still having a couple of weeks of boring vacation ahead of me. Stuck somewhere outside of civilization, with nothing else to do, there was nothing else but to explore the enormous leather-bound classics, each thousands of pages long, each unabridged – stuff that every home has. So I read, slowly and carefully as there was no need to rush, such books as David Copperfield, Pickwick Papers, Teutonic Knights, Moby Dick, Les Miserables, The Road to Life and Martin Eden and others. Being a kid, I did not know anything about any of those topics, and these ancient authors LOVED to write lengthy treateses on various topics over many pages, yet, by getting informed about them, I got to care about Victorian England, Medieval Religious Wars in Poland, classification of whales (and how Melville got it horribly wrong), Paris sewers, educational reforms, and the hard life of becoming a writer. Once, when I contracted something (rubella? scarlet fever?) that made me sick for a couple of days but contagious for another three weeks, with nothing to do at home, I read the unabridged five volumes of War and Peace – at the beginning I did not, but at the end I did care about Russian aristocracy and military strategy (or “how to lose a land war in a Russian winter, part I”).
I don’t know about you, but before I picked up ‘Bonobo Hanshake’ I cared about Vanessa, being a friend, and was thus interested to see what happened after the ‘Monkeys’ book was published. I was interested in bonobo behavior (as we discussed it a lot back in grad school – I did my concentration in Animal Behavior and was a part of the Keck Center for Behavioral Biology) especially as I did not follow the scientific literature on it over the past 6-7 years. I had no idea how endangered bonobos were, nor did I know anything about the civil war in the Congo (and how it is related to the civil war in Rwanda). And while Vanessa did not emulate the 19th century writers, and instead of long chapters on each topic she intertwined brief updates on each of the four threads within each short chapter, I still learned a lot – enough to start caring about the apes, about the people of Congo, about the primatologists working in dangerous places, about individual bonobos and individual Congolese people whose lives intersected Vanessa’s over the past few years. More you know, more you care. So, even if the four themes of this book do not automatically excite you, I suggest you pick up the book – a couple of hours later, you will deeply care about it, know more, want to know even more, and will feel good about it.
Update: In strange synchronocity, my SciBlings Jason Goldman and Brian Switek also reviewed the book today.
Update: The book has now also been reviewed by DeLene Beeland, Sheril Kirshenbaum and Christie Wilcox.

In newspapers, therefore I am

You may have heard that, about six months ago, Charlotte Observer and Raleigh News & Observer started a new Monday Science/Technology section.
Among other articles, there is also an ongoing weekly feature – a brief interview with a science blogger (usually, but not always, located in North Carolina), conducted by amazing and unique Delene Beeland (blog, Twitter).
Today was my turn (actually not – the blogger who was scheduled for this week had a good reason not to be interviewed in this particular week, and I was glad to help in a hurry).
You can now read the interview with me at Charlotte Observer and News & Observer sites.
The picture was taken by John Rees at the Triangle Tweetup last Thursday.

Science Café Raleigh – The Human-Animal Bond

Hi Café Friends,
Our June Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 6/15 at the Irregardless Café on Morgan Street. Our café speaker for the evening will be Dr. Dianne Dunning from the NCSU School of Veterinary Medicine. Join us for a thought provoking discussion with Dr. Dunning about the relationships humans have with animals in our increasingly crowded world.
The Human-Animal Bond
Tuesday June 15, 2010
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm with discussions beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Location: The Irregardless Café, 901 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh 833-8898
Animals touch our daily lives — from the pets we keep, to the food we eat, to the health care advances we enjoy. Current animal welfare concerns include pet overpopulation, rescue and care of animals in disasters, treatment of food animals, biomedical research involving animals, and the affects of global urbanization and environmental change on wildlife. Our evolving human-animal bond and the mandate to be good stewards of animal welfare are at the heart of these concerns. Join our discussion about how the integration of veterinary medicine and animal science, as well as ethics and public policy, can dictate how successfully these concerns are addressed, and how the diverse needs of humans and animals are met on a local and global scale.
About the Speaker
Dr. Dianne Dunning is a clinical associate professor and the director of the Animal Welfare, Ethics and Public Policy Program (AWEPP) at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine. Through professional education, public service, research and public policy development, AWEPP seeks to explore and address issues including pet abandonment, animal abuse and fighting, companion animal loss and grief, and the link between animal health and human well being.
Please RSVP (Katey Ahmann: kateyDOTahmannATncdenrDOTgov ) if you are able to come – As always, I will be communicating with the restaurant so that we can have a good set-up for our group.
Looking forward to seeing eveyone on the 15th – hope you can come.

Science Communicators of North Carolina (SCONC) Goes Behind the Scenes at RTI Tuesday, June 8.

If you report, or just try to keep up to date, on research in this region, you know about RTI International. In 1958, it was the founding tenant of North Carolina’s Research Triangle Park. Today it’s one of the largest research institutes on the planet.
At 5:30 pm on Tuesday, June 8, RTI will welcome SCONC members to its 180-acre campus to learn about efforts to solve one of the world’s most pressing challenges: the need to reengineer our energy use. Come and learn about efforts to create fuel from biomass, to remove sulfur and other bad actors from coal combustion and to use nanotechnology to develop more efficient lighting systems.
RTI will provide refreshments. We’ll meet in the Johnson Science and Engineering Building, # 23 on this map:

http://www.rti.org/pubs/rti_international_maps.pdf

Directions to RTI are here:

http://www.rti.org/page.cfm?objectid=B505CA11-5A3C-4AE4-857960640DE8D489

Special note to non-U.S. citizens: RSVP right away so RTI can get you on a special “approved” list. Everyone else: if you can come, email Cathy Clabby by Monday June 7 at cclabby@amsci.org.
See you there!!

Scott Huler – ‘On The Grid’ at Quail Ridge Books

huler 003.JPGAs I alerted you before, last night Scott Huler (blog, Twitter, SIT interview) did a reading from his latest book On The Grid (amazon.com) at the Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh.
The store was packed. The store sold out all the books before Scott was even done talking. The C-Span Book TV crew was there filming so the event will be on TV some day soon. Scott was also, earlier yesterday, on WUNC’s The State Of Things (the podcast will soon be online here) and the day before that he was on KERA’s Think with Krys Boyd (download MP3 podcast by clicking here).
Scott’s energy and enthusiasm are infectuos. He held the audience captive and often laughing. The questions at the end were smart and his answers perfectly on target. But most importantly, we all learned a lot last night. I think of myself as a reasonably curious and informed person, and I have visited at least a couple of infrastructure plants, but almost every anecdote and every little tidbit of information were new to me. Scott’s point – that we don’t know almost anything about infrastructure – was thus proven to me.
What Scott realized during the two years of research for the book is that people in charge of infrastructure know what they are doing. When something doesn’t work well, or the system is not as up-to-date as it could be, it is not due to incompetence or ignorance, but because there is a lack of two essential ingredients: money and political will. These two factors, in turn, become available to the engineers to build and upgrade the systems, only if people are persuaded to act. And people are persuaded to act in two ways: if it becomes too costly, or if it becomes too painful to continue with the old way of doing things. It is also easier to build brand new systems for new services than it is to replace old systems that work ‘well enough’ with more more modern ways of providing the same service.
huler 002.JPGThere are people who advocate for moving “off the grid” and living a self-sufficient existence. But, as Scott discovered, they are fooling themselves. Both the process of moving off the grid and the subsequent life off the grid are still heavily dependent on the grid, on various infrastructure systems that make such a move and such a life possible, at least in the developed world.
What is really astonishing is how well the systems work, even in USA which has fallen way behind the rest of the developed world. We are taking it for granted that the systems always work, that water and electricity and phone and sewers and garbage collection and public transportation always work. We get angry on those rare occasions when a system temporarily fails. We are, for the most part, unprepared and untrained to provide some of the services ourselves in times of outages, or to continue with normal life and work when a service fails. And we are certainly not teaching our kids the necessary skills – I can chop up wood and start a wood stove, I can use an oil heater, I know how to slaughter and render a pig, how to get water out of a well, dig a ditch, and many other skills I learned as a child (and working around horses) – yet I am not teaching any of that to my own kids. They see it as irrelevant to the modern world and they have a point – chance they will ever need to employ such skills is negligible.
grid_cover.jpgI got the book last night and am about to start reading it – very eagerly so. Scott started with his house in Raleigh and traced all the wires and cables and pipes going in and out of the house to see where they led. He compared what he learned in Raleigh and its various infrastructure experts and officials, to the equivalent services in other geographical places, and traced them back in history. I can’t wait to read the synthesis of all that research. I hope you will read it, too.
Cross-posted from Science In The Triangle

‘On The Grid’ by Scott Huler at Quail Ridge Books

Last night I went to the book reading of “On The Grid” by Scott Huler at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. It was a great event. I wrote a more detailed summary over on Science In The Triangle.

Cory Doctorow in Chapel Hill

Cory Doctorow, blogger at BoingBoing and author of several books, came to town last weekend and did a reading/signing of his latest novel For The Win at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill on Sunday.
I assume that, being bloggers and blog-readers, you all know who Cory is and what he does – if not, follow the links above as this post is going to be self-centered ;-)
This is the first time I got to meet Cory in person, but he is pretty important person in my life. After I have been blogging about politics for a couple of years and my blog started being well known in the circles of the progressive blogosphere, Kerry/Edwards ticket lost and we all sunk into a collective state of depression. I wrote a few election post-mortems but the wind was out of my sails and I was tired of political blogging.
So I started a new blog in January 2005 and posted a longish blog post about circadian rhythms and sleep in humans. I installed Sitemeter on that one-post blog and went to sleep, only to wake up in the morning to an avalanche of traffic – coming from BoingBoing, linked to by Cory. Soon others linked to it as well, e.g., Andrew Sullivan. To this day, this is still one of the most visited posts in my blogging career and at least once a year it gets rediscovered by someone on digg, redditt or stumbleupon which brings in another mini-avalanche of traffic to it.
That was a wake-up call and an Eureka moment. Aha! Everyone can bash Bush and Cheney, but not everyone can write about science from a position of expertise! I can! On that day I became a science blogger. I knew a handful of science blogs at the time – Intersection, Loom, Pharyngula, Deltoid…but really, the space was still wide open at that time. Very soon, my science blog was receiving as high traffic as the political one, although I kept it very narrowly focused on just chronobiology – talk about a niche blog!
A year later, I was invited to join Scienceblogs.com which widened my audience and enabled me to organize the first science blogging conference (now known as ScienceOnline) and to put together the first science blogging anthology (Open Laboratory 2006). This broadened my audience even more and put my name out there into the media, the science publishing world and Science 2.0 world. As a blogger whose academic library password expired, I naturally became a proponent of Open Access and tended to blog a lot about PLoS papers because I could access them. All of this led to a job at PLoS which I got in the comments of a blog post of mine. That job then led to many other opportunities – speaking invitations, two trips to Europe, various consulting gigs, etc.
So, a single link from someone like Cory can completely alter one’s career trajectory. Just saying. Never hold your links back, you never know how that can help a person one day.
Oh, and you never know what exactly on your blog is interesting to other people. Cory says he loves the Clock Quotes. Go figure!
Anyway, I took a few murky photos at the reading – under the fold:

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Public vs. Publicized: Future of the Web at WWW2010

2010-logo-small1.jpgIt is somewhat hard to grok how much a Big Deal the WWW2010 conference is when it’s happening in one’s own backyard. After all, all I had to do was drop the kids at school a little earlier each morning and drive down to Raleigh, through the familiar downtown streets, park in a familiar parking lot, and enter a familiar convention center, just to immediately bump into familiar people – the ‘home team’ of people I have been seeing at blogger meetups, tweetups and other events for years, like Paul Jones, Ruby Sinreich, Fred Stutzman, Ryan Boyles, Wayne Sutton, Kim Ashley, Henry Copeland and others.
But it is a Big Deal. It is the ‘official’ conference of the World Wide Web. Yup, Tim Berners-Lee, the guy who invented the Web, was there. I saw him, though I did not talk to him. I mean, what excuse could I come up with to approach him? Ask him to autograph my web browser?

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American Scientist pizza lunch – “Using Games to develop strategies and skills to thrive in a real-time world.”

From the American Scientist:

If you can, join us at noon, Tuesday, May 25, here in Research Triangle Park for our final 2009-2010 American Scientist pizza lunch talk. (Don’t worry, we’ll start back up in the fall the way we always do.)
Our speaker will be Phaedra Boinodiris, a Serious Games Program Manager at IBM, where she helps craft IBM’s serious games strategy in technical training, marketing and leadership development. She’ll discuss: “Using Games to develop strategies and skills to thrive in a real-time world.” Boinodiris is the founder of the INNOV8 program, a series of games focused on business process management. An entrepreneur, she co-founded WomenGamers.Com, a popular women’s gaming portal on the Internet.
American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org
Directions to Sigma Xi, the Scientific Research Society in RTP, are here: http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/center/directions.shtml

Public vs. Publicized: Future of the Web at WWW2010

Last week I attended the WWW2010 conference in Raleigh. I posted my summary of the event over on Science In The Triangle blog so check it out.

‘Bonobo Handshake’ coming soon to a bookstore near you

bonobo handshake.jpgVanessa Woods (website, old blog, new blog, Twitter) will be reading from her new book “Bonobo Handshake” (comes out May 27th – you can pre-order on amazon.com) at the Regulator in Durham on May 27th at 7pm, at Quail Ridge Books on June 9th at 7:30pm, and at Chapel Hill Borders on June 12th at 2pm.
I have interviewed Vanessa last year so you can learn more about her there.
I received a review copy recently and am halfway through. Once I finish I will post my book review here.
From Publishers Weekly:

Devoted to learning more about bonobos, a smaller, more peaceable species of primate than chimpanzees, and lesser known, Australian journalist Woods and her fiancé, scientist Brian Hare, conducted research in the bonobos’ only known habitat–civil war-torn Congo. Woods’s plainspoken, unadorned account traces the couple’s work at Lola Ya Bonobo Sanctuary, located outside Kinshasa in the 75-acre forested grounds of what was once Congo dictator Mobutu Sese Seko’s weekend retreat. The sanctuary, founded in 1994 and run by French activist Claudine André, served as an orphanage for baby bonobos, left for dead after their parents had been hunted for bush meat; the sanctuary healed and nurtured them (assigning each a human caretaker called a mama), with the aim of reintroducing the animals to the wild. Hare had only previously conducted research on the more warlike, male-dominated chimpanzee, and needed Woods because she spoke French and won the animals’ trust; through their daily work, the couple witnessed with astonishment how the matriarchal bonobo society cooperated nicely using frequent sex, and could even inspire human behavior. When Woods describes her daily interaction with the bonobos, her account takes on a warm charm. Woods’s personable, accessible work about bonobos elucidates the marvelous intelligence and tolerance of this gentle cousin to humans.

‘On The Grid’ is coming in two days

grid_cover.jpgScott Huler (blog, Twitter), the author of ‘Defining the Wind’, has a new book coming out this Tuesday. ‘On The Grid’ (amazon.com) is the story of infrastructure. For this book, Scott started with his own house (unlike me, Scott did the work) and traced where all those pipes, drains, cables and wires were coming from and going to, how does it all work, does it work well, where does it all come from historically, and how its current state of (dis)repair portends to the future.
You can read a review in Raleigh News & Observer, as well as an article by Scott in the same paper and another one at the Science In The Triangle blog.
Scott Huler has a book reading and signing event on Wednesday, May 12th at the Regulator in Durham, then another one on May 26th at Quail Ridge Books in Raleigh. I’ll try to make it to one or both of these – and you should, too.
From the blurb:

Wires, pipes, roads, and water support the lives we lead, but the average person doesn’t know where they go or even how they work. Our systems of infrastructure are not only shrouded in mystery, many are woefully out of date. In On the Grid, Scott Huler takes the time to understand the systems that sustain our way of life, starting from his own quarter of an acre in North Carolina and traveling as far as Ancient Rome.
Each chapter follows one element of infrastructure to its source — or to its outlet. Huler visits power plants, watches new asphalt pavement being laid, and traces a drop of water backward from his faucet to the Gulf of Mexico and then a drop of his wastewater out to the Atlantic. Huler reaches out to guides along the way, bot the workers who operate these systems and the people who plan them.
Mesmerizing and often hilarious, On the Grid brings infrastructure to life and details the ins and outs of our civilization wigh fascinating, back-to-basics information about the systems we all depend on.

Explaining Research with Dennis Meredith

Dennis-Meredith-pic-200x300.jpgLast week, at the SigmaXi pizza lunch (well, really dinner), organized by SCONC, we were served a delicious dish – a lively presentation by Dennis Meredith about Explaining Research, the topic of his excellent new book – in my humble opinion the best recent book on this topic.
His presentation was almost identical to what he presented on our panel at the AAAS meeting in February in San Diego, and you can check out the slideshow (with the audio of his presentation going on with the slides) here.
Dennis and I are friends, and he attended 3-4 of the four ScienceOnline conferences to date and you can read my interview of Dennis here.
His presentation last week mainly focused on the power of the image – be it still or video. Research shows that words (auditory) and images (visual) work synergistically – presenting information simultaneously via auditory and visual channels results in greater recollection of facts than words-only method and picture-only method added up. Yet scientists are extremely devoted to purely textual communication.
Explaining-research-book-cover-196x300.jpgIt is important for researchers to keep this in mind and remember to make pictures and videos of themselves, their lab groups, their equipment and experiments. Those can be placed on the lab webpage, on social networks (like Flickr, Facebook and YouTube) and blogs where they help the audience understand the work better and get more interested in the work. Slideshows can be placed on Slideshare or MyBrainShark and thus made available to the public outside the small audience at a conference where the original presentation happened.
The current digital technology has improved so much recently that a relatively cheap digital camera, something that any individual can afford, is capable of producing photographs and videos of sufficiently high quality for most of the researcher’s needs. There is a plethora of programs, free or commercial, that one can use to ‘photoshop’ or edit pictures, to record and edit audio, and to record and edit video files, as well as to produce attractive graphs.
Yet there are situations when it is worth hiring a professional photographer – not just because the professional will have much better equipment, but because the professional has the knowledge and skills concerning lighting, framing, and editing. Thus, if a lab expects their paper to be deserving of making the cover of a scientific journal, it is worth hiring a professional to produce the image. For producing more complex (and hopefully more lasting) videos for sites like Scivee.tv and JoVE, again it pays to hire a professional to make the video as best as it can be.
The way scientific publishing is evolving, with journals rethinking the way they format and publish the articles with the Web in mind, it will be more and more feasible – and important for the authors – to embed high-quality images, audio, video and animations in the papers themselves, not just as supplemental information. Thus it is important for researchers to understand this and keep learning and practicing the art and craft of producing compelling images, graphs, audio and video.
Cross-posted from Science In The Triangle

Science Cafe Raleigh – Geological Forces in North Carolina

Our May Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 5/18 at Tir Na Nog on S. Blount Street. This year there has been an incredible amount of geologic activity around the world. During this cafe we will be talking about volcanoes and earthquakes and how these and other forces have shaped North Carolina. Our café speaker for the evening will be Dr. Kevin Stewart from the Geology Department at UNC. It should be an interesting evening for all of us to learn more about the earth, how it changes, and how those changes can affect our present world. Dr. Stewart will have some of his books on hand for those who may be interested in getting a copy.
Geologic Forces in Our State and Beyond
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
6:30-8:30 p.m. with discussion beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Tir Na Nog 218 South Blount Street, Raleigh, 833-7795
Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, rising seas! These geologic events have been making the headlines lately, but did you know these same events have shaped the North Carolina landscape for the past billion years? We tend to think of our state as being far from the geologic action, but we once had Himalayan-scale mountain ranges and exploding volcanoes. Join us as we discuss the geologic history of North Carolina as well as the global geologic events that are occurring today.
About the Speaker:
Dr. Kevin Stewart has been a professor of Geological Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill for the past 24 years. Stewart’s research focuses on the deformation of the earth’s crust and the tectonic history of mountain belts. He has worked in the southern Appalachians, the Rocky Mountains, and the Apennines in Italy. He recently co-authored a book published by UNC Press titled Exploring the Geology of the Carolinas.
Please RSVP (katey.ahmann@ncdenr.gov) if you are able to come. Tir Na Nog’s owner will be there that night to help make sure all goes well.

Explaining Research with Dennis Meredith

Last week I went to Sigma Xi to hear Dennis Meredith speak about Explaining Research. I posted my summary of his talk over on Science In The Triangle blog so click on over…..

Periodic Tables – next Durham NC science cafe: ‘The Importance of Being Dad: Paternal Care in Primates’

In ten days, new Periodic Tables:

May 11, 2010 at 7:00 P.M.
The Importance of Being Dad: Paternal Care in Primates
Although human males often get criticized for being “deadbeat dads”, the truth is that compared to most mammals, human males are simply outstanding fathers. Join us as Dr. Susan Alberts discusses why we don’t generally expect male mammals to provide paternal care (answer: because we think they usually can’t recognize their own offspring), and the unusual and surprising case of paternal care in a primate species where we least expect to find it.
In the baboons of the Amboseli basin of southern Kenya males differentiate their own offspring from other males’ offspring, and provide care to them. Dr. Alberts will talk about why this should be so, and what it means about males of all species and their tendencies to provide offspring care.
Speaker: Dr. Susan Alberts, Associate Professor in the Department of Biology at Duke University

WWW2010 conference this week in Raleigh, NC

2010-logo-small1.jpgWWW2010 is starting tonight. Interested to know more about it? Sure, here’s the brief history:

The World Wide Web was first conceived in 1989 by Tim Berners-Lee at CERN in Geneva, Switzerland. The first conference of the series, WWW1, was held at CERN in 1994 and organized by Robert Cailliau. The IW3C2 was founded by Joseph Hardin and Robert Cailliau later in 1994 and has been responsible for the conference series ever since. Except for 1994 and 1995 when two conferences were held each year, WWWn became an annual event held in late April or early May. The location of the conference rotates among North America, Europe, and Asia. In 2001 the conference designator changed from a number (1 through 10) to the year it is held; i.e., WWW11 became known as WWW2002, and so on.
The WWW Conference series aims to provide the world a premier forum for discussion and debate about the evolution of the Web, the standardization of its associated technologies, and the impact of those technologies on society and culture. The conferences bring together researchers, developers, users and commercial ventures – indeed all who are passionate about the Web and what it has to offer.

Yup. this is the Web conference. See the schedule. And this year it is in my backyard, in Raleigh NC. Now, I do not have time nor money to attend the whole thing. But, the WWW2010 has a few simultaneous conferences happening at the same place and time, for more affordable prices, featuring some of the same people (and others one can bump into in the hallways) and some very exciting topics.
So, there is a Web Science Conference 2010 which has at least two interesting papers presented:
Understanding how Twitter is used to widely spread Scientific Messages (PDF) by Julie Letierce, Alexandre Passant, John Breslin and Stefan Decke, and Studying Scientific Discourse on the Web using Bibliometrics: A Chemistry Blogging Case Study (PDF) by Paul Groth and Thomas Gurney. Both papers will be given tomorrow, on Monday at 2pm. But I did not register for this part, so I cannot see these.
But I will go to the FutureWeb conference on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday – the registration also works for the Plenary Talks of the main WWW2010 conference. And I will livetweet and then blog from it all three days.
FutureWeb is on Twitter and Facebook. They will have daily video/written coverage and a blog. The hashtag is #fw2010.
The official hashtag for the main WWW2010 conference is #www2010 and for the other two co-conferences is #websci10 and #w4a10.

Using Multimedia to Advance Your Research and Adventures in Self-Publishing

Science Communicators of North Carolina and Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, present:

“Using Multimedia to Advance Your Research” — and – “Adventures in Self-Publishing”
By Dennis Meredith, author of Explaining Research: How to Reach Key Audiences to Advance Your Work (Oxford University Press)
April 26, 2010, 6:00 p.m.
Sigma Xi Center, RTP
Dennis Meredith drew a standing-room-only crowd when he talked at the 2010 AAAS meeting about the role of multimedia in research. We’ve prevailed on Dennis, formerly of Duke University, to reprise his presentation for the home-state crowd.
From the AAAS Annual Meeting guide:
“Creating video and Web explanations of research not only enhances the public’s understanding of science and technology; it also brings scientists practical benefits, such as content that helps funding agencies and legislators advocate for research budgets. And more personally, it teaches scientists an invaluable “visual vernacular” that they can use to enhance their communications with key audiences, including their colleagues, donors, institutional leaders, and students.”
Dennis will also discuss his experiences in publishing Explaining Research with Oxford and in self-publishing his supplemental booklet, Working with Public Information Officers. Although there are many caveats and pitfalls, it is possible to self-publish a science book and make money. Dennis will be signing copies of both books after the talk.
Food and drink will be available at 6:00. The seminar begins at 6:30.
RSVP to chapters@sigmaxi.org by Tuesday, April 20
Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society, 3106 East NC Highway 54, Research Triangle Park, NC

‘Rent’ at Duke

Rent_4C-1.jpg
The other night I went to the opening night of RENT at Duke, the latest production of the Hoof ‘n’ Horn ensemble, the ‘South’s oldest student-run musical theater organization’ (find them on Facebook and Twitter). Here’s the promo video, released before the opening night:

I always have difficulty judging plays by amateur ensembles – at exactly which standard should I hold them? I have seen amazing high-school plays and horrible professional ones (I mentioned both in this post), as well as, of course, amazing professional ones. The Duke group is a mix of people with some stage experience and even Broadway aspirations and their colleagues in other majors for whom acting is fun and they take it seriously, but not in terms of a life career.
But it was reassuring, in the car back home, that my wife and I had some very similar reactions and thoughts – this meant I was not crazy!
There are two ways to take this performance. One is curmudgeonly: “these kids are too young to grok it”. The other is much more charitable: “they subtly and successfully adapted the early 1990s play for their 2010 audience of peers”. Of course, not having interviewed the Director or anyone in the cast, I do not know what their conscious intention was with the play. But I will go with the charitable interpretation here.
What does it mean to ‘adapt’ a play? On one hand, one can take the main story and completely change the time and place, the names of characters, the details. This is what Akira Kurosawa liked to do to Shakespeare when he adapted Hamlet, Macbeth and King Lear to the large screen. The work stands on its own and the knowledge of the original is not necessary for one to understand and enjoy the movie.
Then, one can take an old play and keep it in its original setting – time and place – but adapt it to a modern audience. I suspect that this is what was done to the original Spring Awakening. I have not read the original script, but I assume that it did not contain nudity, or even stylized acts of sex and masturbation. On the other hand, the original probably contained references to geographical places, persons and events that have been lost to memory except for a handful of German historians. After all, the play happens in 19th century Germany. The adaptation also happens in 19th century Germany, but unnecessary details have probably been excised to make the play relevant to today’s audiences. What is important is that the cast has to study the place/period while preparing for their roles, and the audience needs to try to transport itself into the said time and place.
RENT is in itself an adaptation of Puccini’s opera La Boheme. While the original opera is set in 1830s Paris, RENT is set in 1980s New York City. There are many parallels, even some names of main characters remain the same, and the main storyline is certainly the same. When one watches La Boheme on stage, one knows to mentally transport oneself to the 1830s Paris and the cast does its best to convey the atmosphere of that time and place. Yet even La Boheme has had adaptations done over the years – some set in Paris in 1957, some in London, etc.
With RENT, if one has seen it before (I saw it at DPAC a couple of years ago and it was excellent) and knows what it’s about (I have heard the soundtrack at home about a gazillion times), one tries to transport oneself to the NYC of the 1980s (or early 1990s). Many of us remember that time – it is so recent (I was not in the States at the time yet – arrived at JFK in 1991 – but the situation was similar around the world, and we were certainly carefully watching from the sides, with some bewilderment and fear, the soap-opera that was Reagan’s America). We know the atmosphere of those times: Reagan years, marginalization of The Other, alienation, refusal to take AIDS seriously as “gay disease”, etc.
At the time, AIDS was very new. We did not know much about it – what kind of disease it was, how it was transmitted, who could or could not get it, how long could one harbor the virus before getting sick, if there was a way to prolong one’s life or even cure the disease. AIDS at that time was absolutely terrifying! Fear of unknown, coupled with the fear of a debilitating and deadly disease, coupled with horrendous stigma attached to it by the rest of the society.
AIDS is still a horrible and deadly disease. But it is not as horrifying as it once was. We know much more about it today and there are much more effective treatments that can allow the patients to live decent lives carrying the virus for quite a long time before succumbing. Much of the stigma associated with it is gone as well, as most of new cases are now found among the heterosexual men and women of all ages. Thus we can now deal with AIDS in a much less emotional (and political) and much more rational way. It has become a part of the social milieu, and we have built methods to deal with this problem as a society (how good those methods are is debatable, but they exist, thus we can at least feel complacent about AIDS now).
The Duke play, for better or for worse, reflects that shift in attitude. AIDS in their version is not as horrifying as in other versions (e.g., at DPAC). While the script (and the stage set) is the same, the acting – posture, movement, facial expression, tone of voice – minimize the terror of AIDS. They are all so…..damned cheerful all the time! Nobody even really, truly dies in their play. Even the officially dead ones immediately hop up and dance and sing with a smile right after the dying scenes!
But perhaps that is on purpose. Perhaps the new generation is trying – consciously or accidentally – to tell us something.
East Village on Manhattan is just not as dark and dreary as it once was. The artistic avant-garde has, for the most part I hear, moved to Brooklyn. Bohemia, art, drugs, AIDS, freedom, alienation, rebellion, loneliness, desperate search for community – all mixed up (often within the same person) – it’s not in Manhattan (or America, for the most part) any more. So it is not in RENT any more either.
The Duke crew shows us how they can resist being rent apart – in this age of greater tolerance, greater connectivity and community (helped tremendously by the massive spread of cell phones and Internet since the play was written), it is harder to feel lost. One feels it is much easier to find people who can help, find communities to join. Everything is easier when one has friends – and friends are easier to find today than ever in history – just a phone-call (no need to put a coin in the public phone) or a tweet away. Perhaps the experience of 9/11 has changed the attitude of New Yorkers in a similar way.
These kids, just toddlers when the play was first put on stage in 1994, live in a different era – perhaps the grand ambitions are toned down compared to my generation, but the general optimism about the ability to lead a decent, happy life is much greater. Not to be snide about it, but this is Duke students experiencing life in their own social circles, where everything comes easier…
So, one is left wondering – are these kids incapable of grasping how dark and desperate and lonely was life for AIDS-riven artists in 1980s NYC? Or are they trying to tell us to stop preaching to them about the bad old times and to get on with the program?
It’s really hard to tell – I’ve been thinking about it for two days now and am still not sure. How much is it on purpose, and how much is it just naturally flowing from who they are, their age, their socioeconomic stratum, their generational outlook on life?
Is it on purpose that Mimi is blond and Maureen brunette? It is the other way round in pretty much every other version of RENT. Mimi (remember, her full name is Mimi Márquez) is supposed to be Hispanic in a very obvious, stereotypical way. In every play (or movie or novel or comic strip for that matter), most characters need to be stereotypical, to help the audience orient itself. A transformation of the character into something audience does not expect is often the story. Even the voices and the singing styles are reversed. Throughout the play I kept thinking to myself that Ryan Murphy would be a perfect Mimi and Allie DiMona a perfect Maureen. Yet they did it the other way round – why? Is it because of some personal deals behind the scenes, is it some kind of an inter-Duke hierarchy, or is this on purpose, to provide a different vision that should make people like me uneasy, but will make perfect sense to the 99% of their intended audience – the other Duke students? Mimi is supposed to be a dancer at a strip club and Ally does a great job acting like and moving like a dancer at a strip club – something that most Mimis don’t emphasize. Is that also a generational change in sensibilities, a greater ease with sexuality?
The role of Angel, probably still pretty shocking back in 1994, is pretty bland here. One of the key characters in traditional versions, Angel is in the background in this version, not having the energy and the seriousness that I think Angel should have. Is that also on purpose? To show that cross-dressing (and dying of AIDS) is not such a big deal any more?
The ensemble has huge energy whenever they sing together as a chorus. The chemistry they have as a group is palpable. Yet, this chemistry vanishes when they sing duets. Is it because they did not have much time – a few weeks in-between classes (and Blue Devils games) – to rehearse, or was that also on purpose: showcasing the community spirit at the expense of inter-personal relationships, perhaps as a poignant reminder that there are pros and cons to every generation’s mindset: this one, perhaps, being more at ease in groups than one-on-one? Or was it accidental, because they are who they are, acting out their own selves? Or is that the case with every generation at that age: feeling more secure in a group than when dealing with others one-on-one, something that one gradually gains with age and maturity?
RENT Production Photo.jpg
I got free tickets from the producers of this show, and I am aware that this is an amateur college production. I have no inclination to be as critical about each individual’s skills or performance as I would do if I paid hundreds of dollars to watch big theatrical names in a top-flight theater. Some of them are excellent singers (Amber Sembly, Brittany Duck, Aidan Stallworth), others excellent actors (Matt Campbell, Robert Francis), a few are both (notably Ryan Murphy, also Brooke Parker), and a few are really not that great, but so what? They are all having great fun doing this, and it shows, and it was fun to watch. Most of them have no ambition to make theater their profession, so why not have fun while in college.
Alessandra DiMona (Mimi) is interesting – a great presence on stage, and an amazing voice. Yet, listening to her sing, I was thinking of my father (who was a professional singer) and his insistence that Number One trait of a good singer is diction – every syllable and every word has to be clear and understandable to the last elderly foreigner in the back row of the third balcony. It felt to me like she is in the middle of a transition of her singing training, still enjoying the amazing potential and scope of her voice, but still learning how to discipline it. She can certainly belt out a note or two, but the next note should not be barely audible (and if that is due to movement, e.g., dancing, well, that can be trained as well – general fitness training plus voice training), just to pick up again on the next syllable. I feel like she should hire some old Russian lady teacher of the Old School to drill her several hours a day until she cries….for several months, until that amazing voice is under control. She has a great potential so I hope she gets the necessary training to fulfill that potential. If she does that, she can have a career on Broadway – her voice is that powerful and pleasant.
But back to the question of ‘adaptation’. When one adapts a 19th century play for 21st century, the audience is aware of that. But how can one subtly adapt a 1980s play for 2010? The intended audience – the Duke students – may have never seen RENT before, may not be aware that it was set in 1980s, may have no idea how life in the 1980s America used to be. But a couple of old geezers in the audience, like me, are going to be confused as we remember the 1980s, the AIDS scare, the isolation and alienation of the Reagan years, and we know where and when RENT is supposed to occur – is this a case of the new generation missing the point of RENT, or is this a case of adaptation to the worldview of the 2010 set? Even if the shift was unintentional, it certainly made me think – something that should be obvious from this review you are reading right now.
I am also aware that this was the opening night. Even professionals are nervous on the premiere night. It was visible how the ensemble started out tense and relaxed as the night wore off (and they noticed that no huge disasters happened on stage). They are probably getting better and better each night. You should go and see them if you can – they still have a few nights to go.

Personalized Medicine: Too Much Information / Too Little Information

Next American Scientist Pizza Lunch:

It’s not often that we get to dive a little deeper into a topic encountered at a recent pizza lunch talk. But we will this month. In March, Geoff Ginsburg from Duke briefed us well on the current science regarding genomic (or personalized) medicine and its promising applications. At noon on Tuesday, April 20, Jim Evans from UNC-Chapel Hill will discuss the complexity of implementing this new medicine with a talk entitled: Personalized Medicine: Too Much Information / Too Little Information. Like Dr. Ginsburg, Dr. Evans is a doctor-scientist. He is also editor of the journal Genetics in Medicine and sits on an advisory committee to the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services on genetics, health and society.
American Scientist Pizza Lunch is free and open to science journalists and science communicators of all stripes. Feel free to forward this message to anyone who might want to attend. RSVPs are required (for the slice count) to cclabby@amsci.org
This time, we’ll be back at our home base, Sigma Xi in Research Triangle Park. You’ll find directions here:

http://www.sigmaxi.org/about/center/directions.shtml

Science Cafe Raleigh: Clash of the Titans; Energy, Environment, and the Economy

Our April Science Café (description below) will be held on Tuesday 4/20 at the Irregardless Cafe on Morgan Street. Our café speaker for that night is Rogelio Sullivan, Associate Director of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center and also of the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems Center (FREEDM) at NCSU. Come and learn how our country is dealing with our ever-increasing energy consumption, and of ways that we may be able to reduce our dependence on foreign oil using a combination of innovative alternative energy cars and changes in our daily transportation habits.
Clash of the Titans; Energy, Environment, and the Economy
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Time: 6:30 – 8:30 pm with discussions beginning at 7:00 followed by Q&A
Location: The Irregardless Café, 901 W. Morgan Street, Raleigh 833-8898
There are approximately 250 million cars on U.S. roads today, fueled primarily by imported oil, and demand is growing. The electric utilities are in the midst of a “Smart Grid” revolution, driven by new technology, increased demand, and need for higher reliability and security. The U.S. government, along with the auto and electric utility industries, are currently striving for electrification of the transportation sector by way of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles. All-electric vehicles can provide significant oil savings, improved air quality, reduced energy costs to consumers, increased energy diversity, and support for the electric grid. But are U.S. drivers ready to go all electric?
About the Speaker:
Rogelio Sullivan is the Associate Director of the Advanced Transportation Energy Center and also of the Future Renewable Electric Energy Delivery and Management Systems Center (FREEDM) at NCSU. The two research centers are working in partnership with industry to develop technologies that can effectively create the “energy internet”; which will support widespread utilization of renewable energy, plug in electric vehicles, and greater consumer participation in the energy marketplace. Mr. Sullivan is an engineer with more than 20 years of research and development management experience in advanced transportation systems such as hybrids, batteries, lightweight materials, advanced combustion engines, and vehicle auxiliary systems.
PS. Please RSVP if you can come – it is very helpful for restaurant preparations if my estimate for them is as accurate as possible: katey.ahmann@ncdenr.gov