PCAST To End Summer With A Report Doubleheader

While the next meeting of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST) is September 19, there are some items that cannot wait.  Namely the release of two reports.

On August 28 PCAST will hold a public conference call in connection with the release of two new reports.  One will be a review of the National Nanotechnology Initiative (periodically required by law) and the other focuses on educational information technology.

The call runs from 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Eastern.  Registration is required, and closes at noon Eastern on the 26th..


FOX To Air STEM Programs For Kids

Several FOX owned stations have agreed to air a two-hour collection of programs focused on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (H/T @Scirens).  (It’s another reminder that FOX is a distinct entity from Fox News Channel.)  Called Xploration Station (not the original title), it consists of four 30-minute programs with lots of on location footage.  The four programs are called Xploration Awesome Plnet, Xploration Outer Space, Xploration Earth 2050, and Xploration Animal Science.  Here’s a promotional video:

The hosts all have experience in science, technology and/or video presentation.  Phillippe Cousteau (Awesome Planet) is part of the Cousteau family of ocean explorers, Emily Calandrelli has degrees in engineering and astronautics and has worked for NASA, Joe Penna is a filmmaker who drew attention to his work in part due to his YouTube channel MysteryGuitarMan.  Animal Science – an Emmy-nominated program – appears to be narrated rather than hosted.

The programs will run on the weekends starting in September.  Check your local listings to see when and on what channel.

End Your July With Some Science Rap

New science raps await, courtesy of some of the usual subjects.

Tom McFadden’s Science Rap Academy tackles asthma in its latest video, which is over the Macklemore track “Can’t Hold Us.”  It focuses on the hygiene hypothesis as a possible explanation for the increase in asthma diagnoses.  I’ll let the video explain:

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, Baba Brinkman has been working on The Rap Guide to Religion.  It approaches the subject from an evolutionary perspective, and Brinkman has premiered it at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Part of the show is available now for listeners as an enticement to help Brinkman fund animations for his raps.  The Kickstarter page for the project outlines the talent he has lined up, with some samples of their work.  You can also listen to two tracks from the album (if you contribute, you will receive downloads of all eight tracks).  My favorite of the two is “Religion Evolves”.

The usual assortment of rewards (copies of the album, t-shirts, custom raps) is available for whatever you’d be willing to contribute.  Continue reading

PBS Is Bringing Frankenstein To The Web

Next Month PBS Digital Studios will premiere its first scripted series online starting next month.  Frankenstein, M.D. is a co-production of PBS and Pemberly Digital.  This will be the fourth series Pemberton has produced that was the adaptation of a classic novel (the other three are Jane Austen works).  Biologist and PBS Digital host Joe Hanson serves as science adviser to the program.  The first three episodes will drop on August 19.

This Frankenstein is updated in both story and delivery system.  Victoria Frankenstein is an M.D./Ph.D. student working on her research and a YouTube science show.  She has been on Twitter since May.  The press release makes the expected vague warnings of danger facing Veronica, her friends and her mentor.

The 24 episodes in the first season are relatively short, and scheduled to build toward a Halloween finale.  If you’re going to watch, you may want to also follow Victoria and her friends online.  It might prove interesting.

Safe Travels To Cora Marrett

Usually when I write about a science policy administrator or politician of note, they have passed.  Thankfully this is not the case with Cora Marrett, who most recently served as the Deputy Director of the National Science Foundation (NSF).

She has been with NSF off and on since 1992, joining the Foundation to work as the first assistant director (the top job) in the (then newly created) education and human resources directorate.  Marrett’s background is in sociology, and when not working at the NSF, she has held academic positions at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Massachusetts – Amherst.  In her most recent tenure with the Foundation, she has worked on broadening participation in science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines, and served as Acting Director of NSF during the searches for the last two NSF Directors.  If there was such a thing as being an institution at the National Science Foundation, Marrett would qualify for that status.

While I would have liked to see Dr. Marrett become Director, that was not something she was likely interested in, with her family back in Wisconsin.  My thanks to her for her service to the country through her work at the Foundation.  My best wishes to her in the future.

Lost In The New Weird Al Release – Science Music Goodness

Some tidbits of science music news to whet the appetite.

Tom McFadden has these Tweets to tempt us with a new project.  It’s all I can find on it, at least for now.

Baba Brinkman has been working on The Rap Guide To Religion, seeking to explore the topic through various scientific avenues.  It’s in previews in New York right now, and will be properly premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.  Brinkman arguably made his reputation as a performer – before Mark Pallen approached him to write about evolution – at the Festival.  I expect this project to piss some people off more than his Rap Guide to Evolution did.

Finally, there’s a new track from A Capella Science.  In the style of Eminem, “Eminemium (Choose Yourself)” Timblais tweaks his formula ever so slightly.  His first rap track also tackles an ethical challenge facing scientists.  It’s still as well-produced (both musically and visually) as “Bohemian Gravity,” “Rolling Through the Higgs” and “Massless.”  But this time the fun is intercut with some serious food for thought.

The AHRC Is Looking For A Few Good Projects For The Zoonivers

The Constructing Scientific Communities project of the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) is looking to fund 1-4 projects.  Proposals are due July 25th, and the project is looking for proposals that would use the Zooniverse platform.  The Zooniverse is a citizen science platform focused on projects that involve human processing of large amounts of data.  Zooniverse projects have involved classification and/or transcription of massive amounts of data.  Here’s the proposal criteria, with number 3 being highly encouraged rather than essential.

  1. Merit and usefulness of the data expected to result from the project.
  2. Novelty of the problem; projects which require extending the capability of the Zooniverse platform or serve as case studies for crowdsourcing in new areas or in new ways are welcome.
  3. Alignment with the goals and interests of the Constructing Scientific Communities project. In particular, we wish to encourage projects that :
    1. Have a significant historical dimension, especially in relation to the history of science.
    2. Involve the transcription of text, either in its entirety or for rich metadata.

Funding will not be available for imaging or digitization.  The focus is on supporting use of the Zooniverse platform.  Successful proposals will need to accept that the data will eventually become public.  They will also demonstrate the inadequacy of computation methods to achieve the desired goals, demonstrating a need for human classification.

Good luck!