15th Anniversary National Book Festival Will Be Coming Out For Some Science Books

The Library of Congress hosts the National Book Festival, which will take place this Saturday in Washington D.C.  Last year marked the first time Science had its own pavilion at the Festival, and it has returned this year.

This year’s Science Pavilion will feature books from 10 authors.  Edward O. Wilson, who might be the best known of the bunch, will discuss his 2014 book, The Meaning of Human Existence.  The book seeks to distinguish the human experience from that of other animals.  Wilson will be part of a panel with Jeffrey Sachs, economist and director of the Earth Institute at Columbia.  The work he will discuss at the Festival is The Age of Sustainable Development.

Andrea Wulf is one of two authors who will are launching their books with a stop at the Festival.  She has written The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humboldt’s New World, a biography of Humboldt that explores his perspective on the world.  Casey Schwartz, a science journalist, is also launching her latest book, In the Mind Fields: Exploring the New Science of Neuropsychoanalysis.  It covers how to different fields – psychoanalysis and neuroscience, may or may not be able to work together.

Judy Foreman, a medical journalist, will be promoting her book A Nation in Pain: Healing Our Biggest Health Problem.  It focuses on chronic pain.

Paul Halpern, a physics professor and author, will discuss his latest book Einstein’s Dice and Schrodinger’s Cat: How Two Great Minds Battled Randomness to Create a Unified Theory of Physics. 

Norman Doige is a psychiatrist and researcher.  His latest book, The Brain’s Way of Healing: Remarkable Discoveries and Recoveries from the Frontiers of Neuroplasticity, reflects his work and interest in the brain.

Terrence Holt is a doctor and professor who came to medicine from teaching English and creative writing.  His latest book Internal Medicine: A Doctor’s Stories covers life as a surgical intern.

Rachel Swaby is a freelance journalist, and her first book is Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science and the World.

David Quammen is an author and journalist whose work has included tracing the path of viruses and viral outbreaks.  He’ll be talking about The Chimp and the River: How AIDS Emerged From an African Forest, which expands on his work on AIDS in his book Spillover, focusing on the history of the virus over the last three decades.

Each of these authors will speak in the Science Pavilion from 10 am to 7 pm on Saturday.  Many of them will be signing as well.

Human Subjects Research Rule Revisions Finally Proposed

More than four years after the federal government introduced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking on federal regulations on human subjects research (called the Common Rule), there has been another regulatory step (H/T ScienceInsider).

The Federal Register has a draft edition of the notice of proposed rulemaking it will publish on September 8.  Comments will be due in 90 days from the date of publication, which would be around December 6.  The draft notice is over 500 pages, so I will have additional posts on the subject once I have the chance to review this in more detail.

Quick thoughts on a first glance.

If this is implemented as written, it will affect researchers in a number of different fields (16 federal agencies are listed in the proposed rules, but not the Office of Science and Technology Policy), and it seeks to define areas of activity that would or would not be covered under the proposed rules.

(Two agencies – the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Consumer Product Safety Commission – will update their Common Rule regulations through separate proceedings.  The Department of Labor is not currently covered by the Common Rule, but has joined this rulemaking in order to adopt those regulations.)

The proposed changes are necessary to do the heavy lifting required to update a 24 year-old rule.  With the continued changes in technology, whatever final rule that emerges will become dated quickly.  Having a means of effectively assessing and adapting to future changes in technology and research capabilities would be nice to have.

Even if you don’t think work you’re engaged with isn’t covered by federal human subjects research regulations, read the notice.  You might be surprised.

Colo(u)r Me Optimistic About A Canadian Science Debate

Last month I noted the call for a science debate among party leaders in Canada in advance of the October 19 Parliamentary elections.  With my usual measure of skepticism (easily conflated with cynicism, even by me), I suggested that those advocating for such a debate aim a bit lower, say at the ministerial level rather than at the party leaders.

If you follow Science Borealis, a Canadian science policy blog of note, you can read about how successful (certainly compared to U.S. efforts) Canadians have been in getting science debates held in connection with provincial elections.

And at least one media program is trying to produce one.  All they can say at the moment is…

And this, about an event in Victoria, presumably focused on candidates in British Columbia.

This is very encouraging.

Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of August 31

With Labor Day being observed next Monday, some of the programs are getting their last vacation in and airing repeats.  Repeats worth catching again would include today’s (Monday’s) repeat of The Queen Latifah Show.  Michaela Conlin, who plays a forensic artist on the Bones program, was on back in Feburary, and I missed it the first time around.  The Talk‘s technology correspondent, Chi-Lan Lieu, will be on the program Thursday in a repeat of a July program.  On Friday Christian Slater will be on with James Corden again, a repeat of a July appearance.  Slater is part of the program Mr. Robot, which concerns hackers.

In new episodes, Slater’s costar, Rami Malek, will be on Tuesday’s edition of Jimmy Kimmel Live! On Friday Science Bob Pflugfelder will be on in the morning with Kelly and Michael.

Next week marks another change in this era of late night shifts.  Stephen Colbert finally premieres his edition of The Late Show on September 8.  If his current announced schedule holds, there will be two science and technology guests next week.  It’s a good sign that he may return to the top of the heap in terms of shows with science and/or technology guests.

Bill Nye The Improv Guy Monday Night

Those well familiar with The Science Guy’s career may remember that before he did science programs on television, he was on a sketch show.  Back in the 1980s and 1990s The Science Guy was a segment on the Almost Live! sketch comedy show produced in Seattle, Washington.

While not exactly a return to his roots, Nye will be on a comedy program tomorrow night in a featured role.  He will appear on the CW network’s edition of Whose Line Is It Anyway?  This is an improv program that has aired in some form in the U.S. and the U.K. going back to the 1980s.  Nye will be the celebrity guest, meaning he will feature in at least two improv games during the show.  It will air on the CW network tomorrow night at 9 pm Eastern and Pacific time.  It should be available online within 24 hours of the initial broadcast at cwseed.com.

It will likely be silly, and I’ll definitely have a blast.  For those concerned about Nye’s appearance (where he had to withdraw due to a torn quadriceps) on Dancing with the Stars, I am confident that any injuries during this program will be much less severe.

The Martian Is Trying Hard To Make You Wonder If It’s A Documentary

The Martian is a film scheduled to premiere in the United States on October 2.  Based on the book by Andy Weir, the film stars Matt Damon as an astronaut involved in a Mars mission who has to stay on the Red Planet much longer than expected.  NASA has been a big booster of the project, moreso (to my recollection) than other recent space-oriented films.

This video about the mission in the film further blurs the distinction between fictional story and current space enthusiasm.

How many of you thought, if only for a few seconds, that this was a real episode of Star Talk or COSMOS?  I did.

It’s a beautiful piece of work (much like the clips of the movies shown so far), and I can certainly see some people considering it an excellent advertisement for a future mission.  Unfortunately, for all the wonder it may inspire, that’s not going to be enough to get people there.  Even with a ‘decades-long space race’ like the one described in the video.

I think those that would expect The Martian to be the NASA equivalent of what Top Gun did for the Navy are going to be disappointed.  Making movies is hard work, but it’s not the same kind of hard work that it will take to generate the political will to make the necessary investments.

On The Lack Of Imagination In Science Advocacy Rhetoric

Perhaps I’ve just been in this field too long.

Earlier this month several leading science policy administrators put their names to this article on The Huffington Post.  In the piece the authors use the 70th anniversary of Science: The Endless Frontier to argue for using a vision from 1945 to continue America’s status as a prime innovating nation.

The report in question was written by Vannevar Bush to argue for a dedicated source of federal funding for scientific research.  This National Research Foundation was not the same thing as the National Science Foundation that emerged.  So while the report was not entirely successful in crafting the agency Bush envisioned, it has managed to be successful in crowding out any other major rationale for federal investment in science and technology research.  The shorthand it represents is reified by these senior administrators in their article.  Both in citing Science: The Endless Frontier and by calling for the same things – more scientists, more investments and more policy champions – the authors do little more than say what could have been said by their predecessors 5, 10, 15 or more years ago.

I’d love to hear a new theme, something that’s younger than me.