Just what is it about CA and the 'Cons? VidCon starts on Thursday in Anaheim, Comic-Con is right around the corner in July in San Diego, and this past weekend, the SETIcon II hit Santa Clara. And just what is SETIcon? As explained on the event's website:
SETIcon brings together innovative scientists, science fiction authors, space and science artists, space lovers, and the curious and adventurous everywhere for a 3-day public celebration and exploration of space, real science, technology, imagination, and science education.There is no other event in the world like SETIcon that explores space and the human imagination through the lens of real science, attracting global interest and participation. This is not a science conference with technical lectures (SETI Institute scientists lecture all over the world). Instead we’ll bring together scientists with authors and artists to celebrate science and exchange ideas around space exploration and our place in the cosmos. SETIcon will create a new channel of discussion between Earthlings where real science and imagination will meet.
I'm all for increased discussion amongst Earthlings about that sweet spot where science & creativity meet! Unfortunately, I couldn't go myself, so what's a modern girl to do? Absorb some of the conference vicariously via Twitter, YouTube and the blogosphere.
If you search for #Seticon on Twitter, you'll find some nuggets from the conference. Here are a few that caught my eye:
Camilla Corona @Camilla_SDO: Doug Vakoch: Humans are very visually oriented. What if other life forms rely on other senses? #SETIcon #AlienLanguages
Jeff Foust @jeff_foust: Doug Vakoch: what we read into any extraterrestrial message will say more about us than about them. #SETIcon
Now, if all these tweets have got your jonesing for more detailed coverage, take a few minutes to read Rebecca Boyle's post on PopSci about the event, where she uses sentences with more than 140 characters to describe it.
...hundreds of space enthusiasts and science evangelists came together to ask questions, buy and wear awesome T-shirts, and talk with breathless, uninhibited glee about the crazy science that keeps them up at night. Luminaries like Frank Drake and Bill Nye, along with planetary scientists, “Star Trek” actors and educators, filled two days of talks. Topics included antagonistic aliens, panspermia (“planetary spit-swapping happens,” SETI scientist Dale Andersen said), robot rights and the 100-Year Starship. It’s the only convention, as one person said, where people will be glad to tell you which of Saturn’s rings is his favorite, or which extremophile is the best.
She goes on to talk about the abundance of science tattoos; the environment created by the unique mix of science professionals and enthusiasts; and folks who have changed jobs midway through life to make careers out of their curiousity about space exploration.
The Seti Institute, the organizer of the event, is supposed to eventually post videos from the sessions on its YouTube Channel. Note to self: bookmark channel for future viewing when I need a break from cute kitty videos and Epic Rap Battles of History: Einstein vs. Stephen Hawking.
The Hangover Explained
The fact that you missed SETIcon II driving you to drink? Well, if you're going to imbibe, at least do so with the understanding of how the alcohol will affect your body. Y'all know I love creative science vids, so check out this smart-board animation piece from ASAPScience: WHAT CAUSES A HANGOVER?
There's more video fun from creators Mitchell Moffit (@mitchellmoffit) and Gregory Brown (@whalewatchmeplz) on their YouTube channel, including HOW TO SEE OR HEAR THE BIG BANG. They have a fun presentation style, and ridiculously good handwriting.
In addition to the vids, there's an interesting argument in the comments on the BIG BANG piece about the show MINUTE PHYSICS and whether or not ASAPScience is a rip off of it. MINUTE PHYSICS has been on my list o'things to watch for quite awhile now, so I figured this was a particularly appropriate moment to check it out (hey, if I'm actually writing about YouTube videos, then watching them can't be considered procrastination, right?).
There's definitely a shared visual style here. Is it a rip off? An homage? Or as commenter keepcalmcarryon1939 writes of ASAPScience:
Should we shun Neil deGrasse Tyson because Brian Greene was popular for trying to engage the public in science first? Or shun Brian Greene because Bill Nye did it before him? Or maybe we should shun Bill Nye because he liked to talk about science, even though Carl Sagan had his own television show way before Bill Nye did.
It's not about about who did what first. The important thing is that so many people are interested in talking about science. And that, friends, is really spectacular.
The science nerdling in me agrees - the more engaging ways we have to talk and learn about science, the better. However, the artist in me wonders if I might be a bit ticked off if I felt someone had copied or borrowed my unique take on how to explore science...even if the "borrower" explicitly stated that I had been an inspiration for their creation. Would I feel flattered? Or like calling my lawyer? Thoughts?
[Source: Thanks to The Daily Dot for bringing ASAPScience to my attention].
Wellcome Image Awards 2012
OK, this one's not for those with a weak stomach. The Wellcome Image Awards, from the Wellcome Trust, were presented on June 20th in London. The winner is a photo of a living human brain. Robert Ludlow took it during a surgical procedure on a patient with epilepsy. And while I'm usually somewhat squeamish about such things, I found myself gazing at the photo for longer than I would have thought my delicate sensibilities could handle, amazed at its vibrancy. I'm so used to seeing dull, lifeless brains floating around in jars (um, yes, I watch a lot of sci fi)...was incredible to see the living brain captured in all it's glory, looking so JUICY!
So just what are these fancy awards all about? Says the Trust's website:
Catherine Draycott, Head of Wellcome Images and a member of the judging panel, said: "The Wellcome Image Awards are unique in that the winners are chosen for their scientific and technical merit as much as for their aesthetic appeal. They offer people a chance to get closer to science and research and see it in a different way, as a source of beauty, as well as providing important information about ourselves and the world around us."
Credit Robert Ludlow,Wellcome Images
Intracranial recording for epilepsy. Surface of human brain in situ
You can see the entire collection of photos at WellcomeImageAwards.org, including my two other favorites: a striking shot of caffeine crystals and a very cool pic of connective tissue removed from a human knee.