Archive → January, 2012
My substance abuser writer and researcher friend DrugMonkey (@drugmonkeyblog) just tweeted a CNN story suggesting that actress Demi Moore may have suffered adverse reactions after smoking a synthetic cannabimimetic product:
A woman called 911 soliciting help for actress Demi Moore, whom she said was “convulsing” and “burning up” after “smoking something,” according to a recording of the call obtained Friday from the Los Angeles Fire Department.
[. . .]
“She smoked something — it’s not marijuana, but it’s similar to incense. And she seems to be having convulsions of some sort.”
Reports of tremors and seizures have been accumulating in association with synthetic marijuana products. These products are generally composed of an herbal material that is spiked with one or more synthetic compounds that act at cannabinoid CB1 receptors.
The “burning up” described by the 911 caller in the story would be consistent with some reports of serotonin-like syndrome associated with synthetic marijuana use.
The US Drug Enforcement Agency is currently regulating some of the psychoactive compounds as Schedule I substances, illegal for use or sale as they are deemed as having no medical value. Individual states have also issued bans on compounds containing even more related compounds in these products. However, marketers have been skirting laws by using compounds not expressly deemed illegal in state or federal statutes.
Moreover, analytical crime laboratories across the nation have suffered extensive budget cuts making it difficult to keep up with the demands in determinig which products are illicit.
On a personal note, the synthetic marijuana story that DrugMonkey, dr_leigh, and I have been writing about for two years is growing increasingly disturbing. I just received my second reader email in three months from a father whose son shot himself to death while allegedly addicted to synthetic marijuana products. We’ve been in touch with the US DEA to inquire as to whether similar cases are currently under investigation.
Just as DrugMonkey wrote awhile back (I have to find the post), adverse drug effects with celebrities are usually required before aggressive government action is taken against illicit drugs (death of University of Maryland basketball player Len Bias from cocaine and a congenital cardiac abnormality).
Just a quick post about a local news item here in North Carolina.
The environment in Europe toward genetically-modified foods, and other issues, is resulting in BASF relocating their plant sciences division from Limburgerhof, Germany, to Research Triangle Park.
Next week in the state capital of North Carolina, 450 science communicators of various flavors are meeting for three days at ScienceOnline2012 to learn from one another the most effective ways to, well, communicate science.
I’m really excited because several of my C&EN and CENtral Science colleagues will be joining me from the DC HQ, including our benevolent overlord, sister in Gatorhood, and C&EN Online Editor, Rachel Pepling, and my Santa Fe science writing bud and fellow Ryan Adams enthusiast, Lauren Wolf. Even Sarah Everts – our beloved Canadian – will be joining us from post in Berlin. In fact, the attendees will include folks from over 25 US states and a dozen countries.
As a wee blogger during the mid-noughts, I was fortunate to join the co-founders – Anton Zuiker and Bora Zivkovic (with Brian Russell and Paul Jones) – to help lead sessions at what was then the 2007 NC Science Blogging Conference. This crowd-sourced meeting is now known as ScienceOnline and has grown to be one of the most highly-sought online meetups in the world, having spawned similar meetings such as Science Online London. Someone – I can’t recall who – called ScienceOnline the South-By-Southwest (SXSW) of science communication.
Most readers know that I was originally a Jersey kid. We were raised (or forced by peers) to be full of self-important hubris and my undergrad education was a four-year battle of one-upsman(woman)ship.
That piss and vinegar got diluted out of me – in a good way – during residencies in Gainesville, Florida, and Denver, followed by the middle-ground of Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, where I began writing a science blog.
I realized that in these places, outside of the influence of the New York-New Jersey-Philadelphia corridor, that one could be a solid, critical scientist, while also being a human being. (Although I realize it’s even been tougher in NC now with the harsh competition of workforce reductions, especially in pharma.)
Co-founder of ScienceOnline and general BlogFather Bora Zivkovic, now blog community manager for Scientific American, wrote a characteristically long post about the nature of this unconference. Bora writes a lot – a real lot – but even his greatest admirers may often miss the richest of his gems.
This was one that should be of particular focus to any nervous folks attending for the first time:
The ScienceOnline Community
ScienceOnline2012 is a community-organized, community-planned, community-funded, community-owned and community-run conference. The ethos of the meeting is that this is an egalitarian community. Nobody is VIP, nobody is a priori a superstar. One becomes a superstar by virtue of being here (including virtually, yes). Participating in ScienceOnline is a badge of honor and a matter of pride – it means “I am a part of the small but cutting-edge community that is changing the worlds of science and science communication”. Even those who tend to get treated as VIPs by other conferences – New York Times and The New Yorker columnists, senior scientists, Pulitzer Prize winners, familiar NPR voices, CEOs, top bloggers – love the fact that, once a year, they are equal to undergrads, high school students (and their teachers), beginner bloggers, programmers, artists, librarians, and others in the community. Everyone is a superstar in their own domain, and a n00b in others. Everyone has something to teach and something to learn. It is a lot of fun. A lot of networking goes on. A lot of intense learning goes on. Many, many collaborations and projects got started here, and those often turned into gigs and jobs later on. Some of those projects would then be first announced to the world at the next meeting.
I’ve been most fortunate to be a contributor and beneficiary of this community.
And I very much wish that we behaved this way every day.
So, we’ll see some of y’all next week.
And for those of you among the 56% of first-time attendees: stop me (if I’m running around madly) and say hello and tell me who you are.
You’re simply a friend I haven’t yet met.
Well, I’m coming up on 10 days on my new job at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences working on science communications for our new wing, the Nature Research Center. Beyond my creative and uniformly brilliant co-workers, I’m blown away by how many remarkable people I’ve met from around the state and world by just being at the Museum.
Among those were the filmmakers from the visual science education operation, Untamed Science. Co-founders Rob Nelson and Jonas Stenstrom. I learned that I was very fortunate to get an audience with Jonas as he was visiting from Sweden where he coordinates the team’s international science education efforts. He first met Rob, a native Texan & Coloradan, while both were studying in Australia. Joining them was their local documentarian partner, the talented Michelle Lotker.
Untamed Science describe themselves as “a group of scientists and filmmakers that have united with one simple goal – communicate science in a fun way to the next generation.” Their portfolio of free video and text content covers the spectrum of biology, physics, chemistry, earth science and technology.
Their target audience began as middle-school students but many of the details are those that parents (yes, me) might not know. I had a fabulous time sitting with our nine-year-old daughter last night to go through about a dozen of their videos and podcasts. Bedtime was delayed significantly – thanks, folks.
A belated Happy New Year, folks! May 2012 bring you high yields, great happiness, and good health.
Museum Director Dr. Betsy Bennett was named Tar Heel of the Year by the Research Triangle area newspaper, the Raleigh News & Observer. Bennett was recognized for her leadership and transformation of what has become the largest museum of its kind in the southeastern United States.
Since being appointed as director in 1990, Betsy has led two major expansions of the Museum from its humble home in the state agricultural building. N&O reporter Jane Stancill did superb work on this feature which graced page one of our Sunday paper. Betsy’s life story starts as does so many of ours in biology and chemistry, with a love of nature and how it works. I can’t do justice to Stancill’s writing – I absolutely love the imagery and metaphor of this concise thesis of her feature:
“Bennett’s skills developed on a natural path, a trail that meandered through science, education and politics.”
But I’m not telling you all of this to suck up to the new boss. Yes, yes, she’s a truly remarkable person and unmatched in her ambassadorship of the state’s central institution for science education. What I want to stress is that scientists are central to the daily life of citizens and should be recognized for these efforts as much as any sports figure, business leader, or politician.