Science and Technology Guests on Late Night, Week of February 29

First I’ll note a guest I missed from last week.  Dr. David Agus, an oncologist who has a new book out about health, was on with Seth Meyers on February 24th.  That episode of Late Night will re-air on Friday.

Morris Chestnut plays a pathologist in the Fox television show Rosewood.  It returns this week, and Chestnut is making the rounds.  He’ll be on The Daily Show tonight (Monday), and The Wendy Williams Show and Late Night on Tuesday.

Tuesday is the big day of this week for late night.  Adam Savage will be on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  The last episodes of MythBusters air in the U.S. on the Discovery Channel (Saturday) and the Science Channel (Sunday).  Dr. Jennifer Berman will appear on Conan.  Her focus is on sexual health, so expect Conan to make a hash of it in the name of laughs and Irish guilt.  And in a rare appearance of The Tonight Show on these pages, Kevin Delaney from the Little Rock Museum of Discovery will visit on Tuesday, likely with demonstrations.  Because the night is already full, why not overstuff things by mentioning that Malcolm Gladwell, whose writings often engage science, will be on the panel for The Nightly Show.

Even though I had a rare mid-week post on late night content, there is still material from last week that you may have missed.  It didn’t make his appearance on The Nightly Show on February 24th, but Bill Nye posted this freestyle rap that makes more sense if you watched his segment with Larry Wilmore.  That show also covered the fight between Apple and the federal government over its newest encryption of iPhones with a desk segment from Larry and a panel discussion.  Making that episode a fully science-infused episode, the program had a short segment on how The Martian might have been different with a black astronaut.

The other Comedy Central programs also had science content on the 24th.  Both The Daily Show and @midnight dealt with the latest test video from Boston Dynamics’ Atlas robot.  And The Daily Show took a turn with Apple and the federal government in two segments on its February 25th program.

I’ll close with this offering from the statistics obsessive site FiveThirtyEight.  To note the 100th episode of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert the website compared the guests booked on that show with the other two late night programs in the same time slot (The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!).  Surprising no one who’s been reading this blog, scientists and technically oriented guests were booked to sit with Colbert much more often than with Jimmys Fallon or Kimmel.  And it pleases me more than it should that Colbert has had no animal trainers on, at least as FiveThirtyEight defines them.


InterAcademy Partnership Releases Responsible Research Guide

Earlier this month the InterAcademy Partnership, a coalition of world science academies, released a guidebook on conducting responsible research.  This report follows the IAP’s 2012 report (released with the InterAcademy Council) on responsible research and was written by the same committee.

(In March, the InterAcademy Partnership will be relaunched as a combination of the InterAcademy Council, the present InterAcademy Partnership, and two other international science advisory bodies.  It’s likely to happen during the InterAcademy Partnership international conference going on now in South Africa.)

This new report builds on the general principles for responsible research outlined in the 2012 report, as well as that report’s recommendations on how scientists, students, funders, policymakers and other stakeholders can provide the foundation for responsible research.  This new report is more of a practice-oriented, day-to-day guidebook on how to conduct responsible research (including public engagement) in ways consistent with the principles outlined in the 2012 report.  It is not intended to be *the* resource on conducting responsible research, but a resource, especially for training and educational purposes.

Policy-oriented readers may wish to give additional attention to Chapter 10, which covers communicating with policymakers and the public.  It takes care to note the different kinds of advice that scientists may be called to provide policymakers, noting the work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the L’Aquila earthquake in explaining the different and sometimes competing pressures scientists face when presenting work in the public sphere.

Commerce Department Seeking To Expand Manufacturing Network

The National Network of Manufacturing Innovation currently consists of seven institutes where industry and university partners work together on developing and deploying new manufacturing capabilities and processes.  Each institute has a specific focus:

  • America Makes, the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute (additive manufacturing and 3D printing);
  • DMDII (integrated digital design and manufacturing);
  • PowerAmerica (wide bandgap semiconductor-based power electronics);
  • LIFT (lightweight metals);
  • IACMI (advanced fiber-reinforced polymer composites);
  • AIM Photonics (integrated photonic circuit manufacturing);
  • NextFlex (flexible hybrid electronics)

Two more institutes are currently under competition.  One will focus on fibers and textiles manufacturing and the other on and advanced sensors, modeling and platforms.  Proposals on these institutes were submitted in the last few months, and decisions may come later this year.  In each instance, a federal agency provides start-up funding for the institute, which eventually will be self-sustaining through additional funding sources.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Energy have been the lead federal agencies for the institutes funded to date (and the two currently under competition), but the National Institute of Standards and Technology will be the federal agency partner for the new institutes that emerge from the competition announced by the Department of Commerce on February 19th.  The focus of the institutes is open, as long as the proposed institute doesn’t overlap with any existing one.  A Proposers’ Information Day is scheduled for March 8, where the competition will be described in additional detail for prospective teams.  Registration closes on March 2, and it will be webcast.  Submission deadline for pre-applications is April 20 and the deadline for full applications (for those invited based on successful pre-applications) is July 22 (subject to change)


Science And Technology In This Year’s Oscar Nominees

NOTE: None of the following is intended to help you fill out any Oscar ballot for any parties or contests.  I offer no guesses as to who or what film will when in various categories.

The Oscar ceremony will be broadcast Sunday night, February 28th.  While there are always science and technology awards mentioned during this ceremony (and given out about two weeks prior), several of this year’s nominations reflect science and technology themes, or people.

Last year there were two biographical films on noted scientists (Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking) competing for Oscars.  This year the film Steve Jobs is alone in that sub-category.  The film is nominated for two awards, Michael Fassbender for his role as Steve Jobs (Leading Actor) and Kate Winslet for her role as Joanna Hoffman (Supporting Actress).

The Martian and Ex Machina are nominated films set in futures not that far off from our own.  The Martian is based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir that tracks the efforts to retrieve an astronaut stranded on the red planet and the steps that astronaut takes to survive.  It is nominated for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Matt Damon), Sound Editing, Sound Mixing, Production Design, Visual Effects and Writing (Adapted Screenplay).

Ex Machina involves a tech genius and one of his employees as they try and figure out each other and an android.  It has two nominations: Visual Effects and Writing (Original Screenplay).  I will note, however, that Alicia Vikander, who played Ava in Ex Machina, is nominated in the Supporting Actress category for her work in The Danish Girl.

I’ll close by noting the animated film that fits here.  Inside Out is a Pixar film that focuses on the inner workings of the brain of a teenage girl.  While highly stylized and certainly not intended as a literal representation of the brain, the film does grapple with psychology throughout.  It’s nominated in the Animated Feature Film and Writing (Original Screenplay) categories.

Confirmation And Nomination News, Non-Scalia Edition

Contrary to the sturm und drang of the political class (and press) over judicial nominations, the Senate still confirms nominees and the President still nominates people to serve.

The latest cases in point for science and technology jobs involve the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Library of Congress.

In a slightly shorter time than I had predicted, Dr. Robert Califf was confirmed by the Senate to become the new Commissioner of the FDA.  Several senators had sought to block the nomination, including current Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.  Califf has been with the FDA since 2015 when he was appointed the Deputy Commissioner for the Office of Medical Products and Tobacco.

With the exception of Senator Sanders the stated objections by Senators were due to concerns over specific FDA policies.  Senators Markey and Manchin are concerned with how the FDA approves opiod-based painkillers and Senator Murkowski wants the FDA to label genetically modified salmon.  Echoing the concerns of other critics, Senator Sanders sought to block the nomination over Califf’s ties to the pharmaceutical industry based on his time leading the Duke Clinical Research Center.  (Matthew Herper at Forbes suggests that Califf could have been appointed to lead the FDA back in 2009 if not for those ties, which Herper does not consider disqualifying)

Califf was unanimously approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee (Senator Sanders, a committee member, was not present at the hearing and could not vote no) in January, and the Senate advanced his confirmation to a vote on Monday.  The vote to advance the nomination was 80-6 in favor, and the confirmation vote was 89-4 in favor.

Senators Manchin and Markey were joined by Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Senator Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire in voting against the nomination (Sanders, and the other Senators running for President, did not vote) Califf.  Joining those four Senators in voting against advancing the nomination were Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and Senator Rob Portman of Ohio.

On Wednesday President Obama announced he would nominate Carla Hayden to become the next Librarian of Congress.  Hayden is currently the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, and has served in that post since 1993.  She is a member of the National Museum and Library Services Board, confirmed to that post by the Senate in 2010.  She has worked in libraries and museums for most of her four decade career, most of that time in Baltimore and Chicago.

This nomination, coming after the 28-year tenure of the recently retired Librarian, James Billington, will likely mean notable scrutiny to the nomination, the first of the Information Age.  IT infrastructure is an issue for the Library, as noted by this 2015 GAO report.  The current Chief Information Officer has been on the job since September, after three years with no one in the position.  A possible source of contention is over copyright, as the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) released a statement congratulating Hayden but also “hop[ing] that the new Librarian would continue to demonstrate…respect for the Copyright Office’s expertise.”

While I suspect that the RIAA would make this statement regardless of whomever the President nominated, this video of Dr. Hayden could be interpreted as representing a potential Librarian of Congress that would be focused on making more information available to more people more easily.  Someone that sees the Library of Congress as the nation’s library more than the Congress’s library.

No confirmation hearing has been scheduled at this time.

Mid-Week Late Night Guest Update Plus Baseball Physics

9:10 p.m. Eastern – Via Twitter, Bill Nye Retweets that he will be on The Nightly Show tonight (Wednesday).  This is a big science night on late night.  Assuming it’s a panel segment, the Zika virus and/or the water problems in Flint may be up for discussion.

Original Post The Late Show held back on announcing most of its guests this week, and among the latest announced names is a return scientific guest.  String theorist Brian Greene returns to The Late Show tonight (Wednesday).  Perhaps another science demonstration is in order.  My best guess is gravitational waves, which were recently in the news, and confirm one of Einstein’s theories.  Einstein was the focus of Greene’s last demonstration for Colbert.

There are no other new guest announcements, but tonight is also the appearance of the cast of The Big Bang Theory, many of whom play scientists or engineers, will be on with Conan O’Brien.

There have already been scientific topics in the late night shows this week.  The Nightly Show and @midnight both covered the Zika virus.  On February 22 @midnight noticed this Jamaican musical PSA about avoiding the virus.  On the 23rd The Nightly Show addressed the implications of the virus on the use of artificial contraceptives in Latin America.

@midnight launched its February 23rd show covering a minor wrinkle in the conflict between the government and Apple over access to the company’s encryption system – the promise by virus company namesake John McAfee to personally break the phone so as to avoid forcing a ‘backdoor’ into the system that would weaken everyone’s security.  McAfee has not been affiliated with the company (since renamed) for several years, and the legal troubles alluded to in the @midnight piece likely prompted his inclusion in the show.

Finally, an item that may not make it into the late night monologues, but has potential.  With baseball in spring training, interesting stories aren’t quite here yet.  So when Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Josh Collmenter was teaching physics in the clubhouse, it got the attention of several sports outlets (in print and on television).  Collmenter says that his fellow players dictated the content of his presentation, and he has done lectures on idioms and history.  He does prepare for the lessons, and the reporter following the team, Steve Gilbert, has been Tweeting photos and video clips (H/T Keith Olbermann).  Unfortunately the audio is poor and the photos don’t make Collmenter’s whiteboard easy to read.

INGSA Seeks Speaker Suggestions For Second Global Conference

The International Network for Global Science Advice (INGSA) is holding its second global conference in Brussels this September 29 and 30, in conjunction with the European Commission.  The organizers have the following goals for the conference:

  • Identify core principles and best practices, common to structures providing scientific advice for governments worldwide.
  • Identify practical ways to improve the interaction of the demand and supply side of scientific advice.
  • Describe, by means of practical examples, the impact of effective science advisory processes.

Part of the conference involves parallel sessions, and the conference organizers are open to suggestions for speakers.  These sessions will have three speakers each, and are organized around the following topics:

  • Parallel Session I: Scientific advice for global policy
  • Parallel Session II: Getting equipped – developing the practice of providing scientific advice for policy
  • Parallel Session III: Scientific advice for and with society
  • Parallel Session IV: Science advice crossing borders

More details on each of the sessions, including specific topics the organizers are looking to cover, are found at the INGSA website.  The organizers are open to individuals submitting their own name (with a proposal), or others suggesting speakers (without a proposal).  Researchers, policymakers, and other stakeholders in the development and/or application of science advice are all possible speakers.

Submissions will close on March 25th, and organizers intend to review the submissions and notify all accepted speakers within four weeks of that date.  Plenary speakers for the conference will be announced at a later date.