Today in Art and Science Blending

No, not more They Might Be Giants videos, since it’s all online at their YouTube channel by now.  This installment looks at a play and museum exhibits engaging with science

The Boston Herald reports on a play commissioned (in part by the National Institutes of Health) to commemorate the bicentennial of Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species.  It’s currently in previews.  Titled “From Orchids to Octopi: An Evolutionary Love Story,” the play relates evolutionary concepts to the audience through the life of its human protagonist.  The playwright, Melinda Lopez, used some of her own struggles in adapting evolution to the stage in the work.  However, I do not anticipate a third-act car chase like the one used by Charlie Kaufman in his effort to adapt “The Orchid Thief” from page to screen.  It is in previews at Central Square Theater just off the MIT campus.

The Scientist brings word of science museums using art to bring in adult patrons, listing two current exhibits at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.  Yeah, this is a turnaround from the more common instance of art museums having science exhibits, and it seems to have had the desired impact at this one museum.  For those who will be in Philadelphia soon, both exhibits (one on prints of pressed plants from Java, the other a collection of wildlife photographs combined with museum specimens) are around until May.


Another ACMD Resignation – An Example of What Nutt Should Have Done

Eric Carlin, former chief of Mentor UK, a charity focused on drug misuse prevention, has resigned from the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD).  He was appointed to the Council in 2008, and opted not to resign over the sacking of then-Chairman Nutt last fall.  However, the latest meeting of the Council persuaded Carlin (if I’m reading him correctly) that the ACMD remains much too focused on the chemistry and legality of drugs, and not enough on other programs and measures that could reduce harm.  He has posted his resignation letter on his blog.

Too bad Professor Nutt couldn’t have removed himself from the ACMD the way Carlin did.  Not that Carlin leaving is a good thing; it reduces the number of members who are focused on non-pharmacological means to reduce drug harms.  However, having a significant policy difference with the emphasis of the ACMD, Carlin handled that difference in a way that might highlight the issue of emphasis and lead to a better discussion about all of the ACMD’s responsibilities.  What he didn’t do was to try and have a policy fight in public while still representing an advisory council he disagreed with.

Preliminary review of British press reaction might lead one to believe Carlin’s resignation is just about another classification of a previously legal high – Mephedrone.  This seems consistent with Carlin’s contention that the media and the Council is focused on just one aspect of its work.  Contrary to the loudest voices in the drugs debate in Britain, the Council is responsible for more than simply classifying drugs.  The Council’s Terms of Reference:

“It shall be the duty of the Advisory Council to keep under review the situation in the United Kingdom with respect to drugs which are being or appear to them likely to be misused and of which the misuse is having or appears to them capable of having harmful effects sufficient to constitute a social problem, and to give to any one or more of the Ministers, where either Council consider it expedient to do so or they are consulted by the Minister or Ministers in question, advice on measures (whether or not involving alteration of the law) which in the opinion of the Council ought to be taken for preventing the misuse of such drugs or dealing with social problems connected with their misuse, and in particular on measures which in the opinion of the Council, ought to be taken.”

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