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!

Now Available – The Experiment Of The Month Club

Subscriptions services have enjoyed a bit of a boost in recent months, and the trend has extended to science experiments.  One such service is Agent Ribbit, the brainchild of Courtney Sperlazza, a medical researcher who is homeschooling her kids (H/T STEM Connector).  Dissatisfied with the science materials she was able to find, she decided to create her own.  The experiments are designed for children ages 5-9, and there are add-on activities for children 3 and under.

If you sign up for Agent Ribbit, you can customize your subscription for the size of your group, and choose 1, 3, 6 and 12 month lengths.  The company is just starting its shipments with a box on epidemiology, so I’d encourage you to be patient.  It’s also worth noting that these kits aren’t limited to classrooms and home-schooling scenarios.  Any parent or older sibling interested in doing something with a younger child could benefit from the boxes.

(If there are similar services out there, especially for other age groups, I’d love to hear about them.)

So, That White House Maker Faire Is Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the first White House Maker Faire.  Starting at 10 a.m. Eastern you can watch the festivities, which may or may not strongly resemble the format of the White House Science Fairs (a pre-show with relevant science/technology personality of note, the President visits a few projects, then makes a speech touting an educational program).  Visit whitehouse.gov/live to watch it live, and it will likely be archived within 24 hours.  There will likely be an appearance of the marshmallow cannon from the 2012 White House Science Fair.

Tomorrow is also designated as a Day Of Making.  The White House encourages people to share their making experiences online and/or in person.  Their preferred hashtag for the social media is #NationofMakers.  MAKE magazine will hold an all-day meetup at its headquarters, including an online event from 5-7 p.m. Pacific time.

One of the Makers featured tomorrow will be an entrepreneur – Lisa Qiu Fetterman of Nomiku – who developed a sous vide cooking system for home use.  It will be interesting to see how well the White House meets the breadth of the Maker movement (which includes art and craft as well as science and technology) or if it sees the effort predominantly through the eyes of manufacturing and small business. The visibility of Mike Wright (a Maker of wide interests), might be an indicator.

Physics For Rock Stars Written By One (Who’s Also An Engineer)

New this week on book shelves is Physics for Rock Stars by Christine McKinley.  McKinley is very familiar with both parts of her book’s title.  She’s a mechanical engineer, and currently plays in the band Swan Sovereign.  You may have heard her in that band or in Dirty Martini, and you may have seen here in two television series: Decoded on the History Channel, and Under New York on the Discovery Channel.  Her first book follows her first Drammy award winning musical, Gracie and the Atom.  To hear her musical and scientific pursuits in one spot, there’s this recording of a recent LiveWire Radio show live from Portland.

The book is about science, but it’s also a memoir, relating how McKinley approaches physics and how it’s a meaningful part of her life.  That last part is captured, at least in part, in another LiveWire Radio performance, where she describes her Physics Cult.

Physics for Rock Stars is available now, check with McKinley’s website(s) to see when she is performing near you (chances are much higher on the west coast of the United States).

White House Maker Faire Is In Less Than 2 Weeks! Quick, Get Involved!

Yesterday the White House announced that its first Maker Faire will take place on June 18th.  The Administration had members of the band OK Go (who are arguably a Maker group that occasionally makes music) spread the word.

I agree that we all should get involved, and I like how the White House wants to make June 18th a Day of Making.  But that seems tough to do with just two weeks notice.  The Administration announced back in February that there would be a Maker Faire.  That would have been an excellent time to make the suggestions for how individuals could celebrate the White House Maker Faire (or the Day of Making) in their own communities.  Instead there were vague suggestions of how universities and companies could get involved.  They were good suggestions, but not really directed at getting people Making.

I’m concerned that the Maker Faire will end up being the same kind of showcase/good publicity opportunity that the Science Fair can be.  Sure, there are plenty of efforts to communicate the value of learning science and technology connected to the Fair, but the event does not seem to be something that an average kid could look at, decide they want to participate in, and know how to make that happen.  The participants appear to have already been chosen well before the date of the Fair is announced, and I wouldn’t argue with you if you thought the projects were window dressing for announcing the latest education initiative.

That’s troubling for a science fair.  But with the participatory and community elements of Maker Faires, the apparent lack of individual public engagement in the White House Maker Faire strikes me as a bigger problem.  It’s okay if the participants for this Maker Faire have already been selected (as this MAKE article suggests), but I wish the White House was more explicit about it.

Tom Wants Your Help With A Science Rap Video #ScienceFolder

Tom McFadden‘s recent work has focused on the kids he’s been working with in the larger San Francisco Bay area.  But he’s returned in front of the camera, if only for a little bit.  Based of a track by Drake, Tom’s latest video is called “Older

Tom would like your help, because he wants to remake the video with contributions from the ‘crowd.’  Between now and June 30, you can submit a visual for a minimum of one line of the song.  Instructions are on the Science with Tom website.  He’s offering an in-person visit to a school or university class for the Grand Prize winner.

ABC (the American one) gave Tom some love on its Nightly News broadcast Wednesday night.  Sure, it’s a puff piece, but it’s still likely to have more eyeballs see it than some of Tom’s videos.  Better late to the party than never.

Hooray Hooray, World Science Festival Begins Today!

The World Science Festival started tonight in New York City.  Peruse the program to find events of interest, though tickets may be required in advance.

Of particular note is another reading of Dear Albert, Alan Alda’s reading for the stage of a selection of Albert Einstein’s letters.  It opened the festival tonight.  It’s hardly the first time the reading has been done for the Festival, but I’ve found little mention of it outside of that context.  Paul Rudd performed as Einstein, and Brian Greene joined Alda after the reading to discuss the play.  I’m a bit frustrated about the apparent lack of performances, as it would seem that there have been plenty of chances to iron the kinks out and spread the work to a broader audience.  Or at least a collection of smaller ones across the country.  However, Alda’s play about Marie Curie, Radiance, appears to have had just a single run back in 2011, so I shouldn’t hold my breath about Dear Albert.

Alda will also close out the Festival announcing the winners of the latest edition of his Flame Challenge, where the entrants were required to explain what color is to an 11-year old.

Update Wednesday – Science Fair, Late Night Videos, Extended Chopra Interview

A few short items, most of them following on earlier posts.

Kari Byron, Host of MythBusters and Head Rush, will host a Discovery Education online event next Tuesday, May 27th.  It will take place at 1 pm Eastern time, in connection with the White House Science Fair (registration appears to be required, at least if you want to submit a question).  If you (or your class) can’t make it on the 27th, an archive will be made available after the event.  Several guests will appear during the event, including a student scientists and other leaders in STEM education efforts in the public and private sectors.

You may remember that for the 2013 White House Science Fair LeVar Burton and Bill Nye the Science Guy hosted a live event, but that was a White House produced activity that lacked the interactive component Discovery Education wants to have with Byron on Tuesday.

There is already video available of David Letterman’s latest segment with kid scientists from Naperville, Illinois.  It was the 23rd time kid scientists from Naperville have been on The Late Show, dating back to 1997.  The full episode is available for a few days via the CBS website, but the show uploaded three videos to YouTube.

In other late night video, Jon Stewart’s May 20 interview with former U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra ran longer than what was broadcast.  It ran long enough to be it’s own 30 minute show.  The full interview is available online.  Similarly, you can watch the full interview with Ron Suskind from the May 13 episode.  I did not list Suskind’s interview in advance because I did not note that he was there to talk about a book on his personal experience with his son’s autism.  While he certainly has experience with the condition, his normal work is in political reporting, and wouldn’t attract my attention otherwise.