Talking about science online at #sciodc
Apr29

Talking about science online at #sciodc

This Wednesday, May 1, ScienceOnlineDC will be holding its inaugural event. ScienceOnlineDC is one of several local satellites of ScienceOnline, a nonprofit organization that facilitates conversations, community, and collaborations at the intersection of science and the Web. Our goal is to bring together science journalists, bloggers, federal and private research scientists, policymakers, and other science enthusiasts in the DC metro area for dynamic discussions about how science is carried out and communicated online. My co-organizers are Geoffrey Hunt of the American Society for Biochemistry & Molecular Biology, AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow Jamie Vernon, and Hannah Waters of the Smithsonian Institution. Our first event will focus on federal agencies' social media policies - how does government transparency influence the social media activities of scientists and communications staff? Here's the panelist lineup: Jamie Vernon, moderator Gretchen Goldman, analyst, Union of Concerned Scientists (check out her post about Wednesday's event) Megan McVey, communications coordinator, United States Global Change Research Program Sarah Dewitt, communications officer, NASA, Office of the Chief Scientist John Ohab, public affairs specialist, Naval Research Laboratory One of the hallmarks of ScienceOnline events is the unconference format. Sure, we've rounded up some experts to put in the front of the room, but most of the conversation will be driven by the attendees, both in person and online. Even if you can't be there in person, chime in via the livestream and twitter (#sciodc). Should be a great discussion. Of course, you may be wondering why I'm pitching this event to an audience of chemists, most of whom are not in the DC area. I'll tell you why. Because it's important for chemists to be involved in these conversations. Because many of you are already having such conversations on twitter and each other's blogs. And some of those conversations include pondering who could be the chemist version of Neil deGrasse Tyson. But chemistry doesn't need one deGrasse Tyson; it needs several. So, let's move those discussions out of the chemistry inner circle and into Science, writ large. Chemistry is the central science, after all. And you can start by attending any gathering with other people in your community who are interested in how science is communicated. As I said earlier, ScienceOnlineDC is only one of several satellites. Others with regular events include Seattle, Vancouver, and the Bay Area. There are SpotOn events in London and New York. Attend a local #SciTweetUp or Science Cafe. Or participate in the livestreams and twitter conversations that often accompany these events. And if you are in DC on Wednesday, c'mon by. We'd love to have you. UPDATE, 5/6: Doh! How could I leave out...

Read More
More On GZA and “Dark Matter”
Jun18

More On GZA and “Dark Matter”

The e-mail arrived in David Kaiser's inbox late last year. "Would you like to meet an internationally-renowned hip-hop artist?" the subject beckoned. "There's only one response to that," says Kaiser, the Germeshausen Professor of the History of Science at MIT. "And that's, 'Yes, how can I help?'" With that, one of the most interdisciplinary collaborations of Kaiser's career was born. In December, he made the acquaintance of GZA, a founding member of legendary rap group the Wu-Tang Clan. At the time, GZA was in the planning stages for an album entitled "Dark Matter," which as reported in this week's issue is inspired by science in general and the quantum world and the cosmos in particular. GZA and Kaiser have sat down twice for freewheeling conversations about quantum theory and cosmology. Together with three other physicists, they've even discussed the similarities and differences in how budding rappers and budding academicians seek out mentors. Kaiser's just one of the many scientists with whom GZA, a.k.a. Gary Grice, has powwowed about science. The list includes some of the most illustrious names in the business, including MIT marine biologist Penny Chisholm and Hayden Planetarium director Neil DeGrasse Tyson. Of course, it's far from the first time someone's rapped about chemistry. We've covered chemists who produce tracks with a college-chemistry-major education bent. And as reader Barney Grubbs, an associate professor of chemistry at Stony Brook University, points out, Sacramento hip-hop duo Blackalicious produced a number called "Chemical Calisthenics". But that music lacks the public outreach mission that GZA says "Dark Matter" has. When the album drops this fall, it will come with a companion illustrated book, and possibly also a glossary, the Wall Street Journal reports. "Neil DeGrasse Tyson calls himself a 'popularizer of science,' " GZA says. "I would like to be that someday as well." Crafting lyrics for "Dark Matter" will be about more than just random utterances of scientific terms to fit a rhythm, GZA adds. In fact, he says words' meanings have always been integral to his creative process. Nicknamed "The Genius," GZA is known for lyrics that refer to philosophy and chess in addition to science, and a voracious curiosity about many fields. "I would never force in a term--science-related or not-- just because it seems right," he says. Still, "Dark Matter" is likely to become a talking point among chemists who get frustrated that science is portrayed inaccurately in the entertainment world. When it comes to balancing scientific accuracy and artistry, GZA says he stands in the middle. "I think it's important that science be represented but it should be accurate, particularly because shows hire scientists as consultants," he...

Read More