As the time bell rings…

An advert in the 10 March 1979 issue of the British music publication, Melody Maker. Credit: David Kroll

Well, friends, this is the last post I’ll be making on Take As Directed at PLOS Blogs.

Tonight, after the bartender calls, “Time, gentlemen,” we’ll take down the neon lights, pack up the boxes, and head through the ether across the country from PLOS in San Francisco to our new home at Forbes.com in New York City.

I were very fortunate to be among the founding bloggers in September, 2010, when the PLOS Blogs network was launched under the guidance of a superb science writer himself, then-PLOS Community Manager, Brian Mossop. If you’ll recall, this was just after 20+ of us left ScienceBlogs.com in the wake of the ethical failure there that came to be known as Pepsigate. At that time, I had already agreed to move my Terra Sigillata blog to the CENtral Science network of Chemical & Engineering News.

(Addendum: I will be keeping my beloved, original blog at CENtral Science at the same bat channel.)


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Category: A TAD of Reader Love, Free-Range Writing, Personal | 4 Comments

NBOMics: The Science of “Smiles”

An earlier version of this post appeared originally on 1 October 2012 at Terra Sigillata.

This is tiring enough for a science writer. I cannot imagine being in law enforcement.

The pace at which psychoactive designer drugs are appearing on the street is about as challenging for me as keeping up with dietary supplement companies that adulterate their products with actual prescription drugs (an area I’ve been covering since 2007 but a practice that goes back decades.)

This week’s designer drug hullabaloo comes to us courtesy of last week’s frightful murder-suicide by Sons of Anarchy actor, the late Johnny Lewis. ABC News is reporting today that Lewis was reportedly taking “Smiles,” a street name for 2C-I, the phenethylamine hallucinogen first synthesized by Alexander Shulgin.

2C-I is more properly known as 2,5-dimethoxy-4-iodophenethylamine. This structural analog of mescaline (3,4,5-trimethoxyphenylethylamine) was among a litany of designer drugs that was criminalized in the US back in July with the Synthetic Drug Abuse Prevention Act of 2012 (Cheryl Hogue had a nice discussion of the Act, including some quotes from yours truly, in the 27 August 2012 issue of Chemical & Engineering News.).

But the psychedelic drug information website, Erowid, is proposing that the effects reported for “Smiles” are more likely due to the compound 25I-NBOMe (or 2C-I-NBOMe): the more complex and much more potent 5-HT2A agonist, 2-(4-iodo-2,5-dimethoxyphenyl)-N-[(2-methoxyphenyl)methyl]ethanamine.

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Category: Drugs of Abuse, REPOST | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Much ado about arsenic and aflatoxins

This post appeared originally at my Terra Sigillata blog yesterday, 20 September 2012.

The other problem. Credit: Nakhonsawan Field Crop Research Center, Thailand.

In the past 24 48 hours, do you recall hearing anything about arsenic in rice? If you’re in the United States, the answer is very likely, “yes!”

A great many pixels were spilled yesterday when Consumer Reports and the US Food and Drug Administration released — almost simultaneously — analytical data on inorganic arsenic concentrations in 200 samples of commercial rice products, particularly those grown in the southern US.

You can’t do any better in understanding this story than reading, “Arsenic and Rice. Yes, again,” on Deborah Blum’s Elemental blog at Wired Science Blogs. Professor Blum has been discussing arsenic in the diet for a few years, an interest she developed while composing her superb book, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Science in Jazz Age New York.

Deborah’s post puts in perspective the risks of inorganic (and organic) arsenic concentrations in food products such as rice relative to drinking water. Arsenic occurs in nature but exists in higher concentrations in water from areas where arsenical pesticides have been used in cotton farming or poultry deworming (the latter discussed in 2006 at NYTimes). While she closes in being critical of the FDA for lack of clear consumer guidance, let it suffice to say that no character in Blum’s book was killed by poisoning with rice from Louisiana.


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Category: CROSSPOST, Public Health, Risk Assessment, The American South, Toxicology | 1 Comment

Personal reflections on a September 11th (9/11) hero – REPOST

Here is why I will always remember.

Originally posted on 11 September 2006 at Terra Sigillata on ScienceBlogs.

This post tells you what it means.

Let me tell you about John Michael Griffin, Jr.

Griff, as he was known in high school, was a friend of mine.

Late in the first half of our lives, he stood up for me physically and philosophically, for being a science geek. John’s endorsement was the first time I was ever deemed cool for wanting to be a scientist.

Griff died an engineer and hero in the collapse of one of the World Trade Center towers five [11] years ago today.

We lost touch almost twenty years before, but his kindness and friendship formed not only one of the cornerstones of the scientific life I have today, but in the person and father I have become as well.

—–

At a northern New Jersey Catholic high school in a predominantly Irish town, being a gangly Polish boy from two towns over was not the formula to cultivate one’s popularity or self-preservation.

Throwing the curve in biology and chemistry classes didn’t help either, nor did being a David Bowie fan in a place where Bruce Springsteen was as revered as St. Patrick. That’s probably where the nickname, “Zowie,” came from – the name of the glam rocker’s first child.

Worse, I had skipped a grade in elementary school, and being a year behind physically was not compatible with self-preservation during high school gym class.

But, it was a very simple gesture, sometime in junior year, when one of the packs of scoundrels had me cornered, slamming me against the wall and throwing my books down the hallway. I believe that the offense was that our biology teacher had taken to buying me a Pepsi everytime I scored 100 on one of his exams, and I had been enjoying yet another one.

John, already well on his way to his adult height of 6′ 7″ or 6′ 8″, stepped in and said, “Hey, lay off of Zowie. He’s goin’ places.” And with that, the beatings stopped.

I didn’t play sports, at least not any of the ones offered by our school. At that time, soccer hadn’t taken off in the States but I was a huge player and had met John at Giants Stadium in the NJ Meadowlands where I had season tickets (Section 113, row 7, seat 26) for the relocated New York Cosmos. At just $4 a ticket for kids 16 and under, I could afford season tickets to see some of the greatest international soccer stars of the late 20th century: Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer, Italy’s Giorgio Chinaglia, Yugoslavia’s Vladislav Bogiçeviç, and, of course, Brazil’s great Pelé.

All accounts of John as an adult include his devotion to the Giants, NY Rangers, and NY Yankees, but few recall those soccer days. John’s family were long-time Giants season ticket holders and probably got their Cosmos season tickets three rows behind me as some sort of promotional giveaway. I recall that John was surprised that a science dork such as I would be cool enough to know about soccer and come to games myself, my father dropping me off outside the gates so he could go home and watch his beloved football games.

But, we Jersey boys loved soccer at a school where American football and basketball reigned supreme. Many Saturday and Sunday afternoons were spent at the massive stadium during soccer’s American heyday of the late 1970s, with crowds of 50,000 – 75,000 that have yet to be matched today.

—–

Among John’s gifts was the ability to make anything fun and to make anyone laugh. I recall sitting with him in a ski lodge in Amsterdam, NY, as I was recovering from frostbite during an ill-prepared class trip ski weekend. He pulled me into an imaginary board game with a napkin dispenser, where he pretended each napkin contained a message as to how to proceed during each turn. We looked at each other in horror when the waitress came unannounced and cleared our table of the napkins.

As a teenager, John was a physical caricature, handsome but a goof, self-effacing but self-confident, and had a clever and caustic wit, both of which he carried into adult professional life and fatherhood. His 15 Sept 2001 missing notice in the Bergen (NJ) Record noted that schoolkids called him, “Barney,” to reflect how they flocked to his presence.

No one was safe from John’s good-hearted and bombastic comedy routines. My father was nicknamed, “Groucho,” by John due to the resemblance of his thick mustache to that of the 1930′s comedian – John would burst spontaneously into seemingly classic Marx Brothers riffs, but with the content imitating my father carrying on about some printing press mishap.

From Class of 1981, St. Mary’s High School, Rutherford, NJ: Clockwise from John with cap in the foreground: Kevin Tormey, Joe McGuire, Matt DiTomasso, Walter Marlowe (valedictorian), Benn O’Hara. Taken at my boyhood home in Wallington on the afternoon between Communion breakfast and evening graduation ceremonies. Griff and DiTomasso ran around Communion breakfast saying, “Party at Kroll’s house.”

My last remembrances of John are half a life away, from the impromptu high school graduation party he called at my house to his pride at finishing his engineering degree and managing facilities for a million-square foot building in Manhattan.

Perhaps he protected me as a kid because he knew that way deep down, he was destined to become an engineering geek himself. And a hero, a much bigger hero, in protecting the lives of others in a very real way.

—–

On the glorious fall morning of 11 Sept 2001, I was fixing coffee for my wife who had been sleeping in when the newsreader on my pager announced that a jet had struck the south tower of the World Trade Center.

I had missed my recent 20-year high school reunion and had not known that John had only months before been appointed director of operations at the WTC by Larry Silverstein’s, Silverstein Properties.

I did not learn until two weeks later that John had facilitated the escape of dozens of workers, handing out wet towels so people could breathe on their way down the stairs. In the 102 Minutes book by New York Times writers Jim Lynch and Kevin Flynn, John is immortalized in the corroborated account of the elevator rescue of 72-year-old Port Authority construction inspector, Tony Savas.

When he returned to 78, Greg Trapp saw a group of three Port Authority employees at work on the doors to the elevator where Tony Savas, a seventy-two-year-old structural inspector, was trapped. Trapp peered into the small gap and saw him, a man with thinning white hair, seemingly serene. One of the workers grabbed a metal easel, wedging the legs into the opening, trying to spread the doors from the bottom, where they seemed to have the greatest leverage. But their efforts had the opposite effect at the top of the doors, which seemed to pinch tighter.

At that moment, John Griffin, who had recently started as the trade center’s director of operations, came over to the elevator bank. At six feet, eight inches tall, Griffin had no problem reaching the top of the door to apply pressure as the others pushed from the bottom. The doors popped apart. Out came Savas, who seemed surprised to find Griffin, his new boss, involved in the rescue. Savas seemed exhilarated, possessed of a sudden burst of energy, rubbing his hands together, or so it seemed to Trapp.

“Okay,” Savas said. “What do you need me to do?”

One of the Port Authority workers shook his head. “We just got you out-you need to leave the building.”

No, Savas insisted. He wanted to help. “I’ve got a second wind.”

John and Mr. Savas stayed behind.

John’s wife, June, sweetheart of the class behind us, was quoted in John’s NYT, Portraits of Grief:

“He was at the back of about 30 people they were evacuating,” his wife, June Griffin, related from the accounts of survivors. “He had been in fires before — he should have gotten out.”

Mrs. Griffin speculated that her husband, instead of running for the exits, headed for the fire control center, where his training as a fire safety officer would have directed him. “He was an engineer,” Mrs. Griffin said. “He must have thought, ‘Buildings don’t just fall down.’”

John also left two daughters, both now teenagers, his parents, a younger brother and older sister, and literally hundreds of friends.

Not just any friends, either – anyone who knew John still says that when he talked with you, it was as though you were the most important person in the world.

—–

Leaving New Jersey in the mid-1980s and running on the tenure-track treadmill 1,600 miles away caused me to stop living life and lose track of a great many friends. I am deeply saddened not to have known John as an adult, a devoted husband and, by all accounts, a remarkable father.

Since John’s death, we’ve all found a little more time in our schedules to make time for one another. As the father of a little girl conceived in the months after the terrorist attacks, I try to respect June’s privacy and just send little gifts for the girls every so often. I cannot imagine how they and nearly 3,000 other families deal privately with the most public of tragedies.

I finally worked up the guts to go to Ground Zero [six years and] two months ago for the first time. Despite all the bickering about what the memorial should look like, there is a small memorial area set up in the interim. John’s name sits at the top of one column of names on the placards commemorating those lost.

He’ll always be at the top of my list.

John’s wife, June, put up this as her Facebook profile photo this year.

Postscript

This picture also appeared last year (2011) when John’s younger daughter, Julie, now 19, was interviewed for the Waldwick (NJ) Suburban News by Jody Weinberger.

Julie’s memory of the events that took place on 9/11 is spotty. She was a fourth-grader at Crescent Elementary School when relatives came to take her and Jenna home.

“It was kind of chaotic,” Julie recalls, sitting on a stool in her kitchen. “Even though people were saying things, I didn’t know what they were talking about. I didn’t know what terrorism was and not even adults could really grasp what was happening.

“My grandpa came up to me and told me bad people did something to where my dad worked and that’s all I could really grasp at the time.”

After discussing her father’s rescue of Mr. Savas, Julie shared more of her mixed feelings:

“But then I think he actually went back to help more people and I think that’s when the buildings collapsed,” Julie said. “I was kind of angry knowing that he went to go save other people instead of thinking about coming home to his family. That bothered me but now I know he’s a hero.”

As the 10th anniversary of 9/11 approaches, Julie thinks about just some of the many moments she’s missed not having her father around.

“People think that it’s just the anniversaries, birthdays and holidays, and it’s true, those really are hard times, but every day [you have to] keep your head up and think positive,” she said. “It’s little things like learning how to drive and applying for college, or my first day of college that you just kind of wish he was there for, and you just have to keep going, I guess.”

Julie feels that by going after her dreams – which currently means graduating from the University of Tampa and pursuing a career in elementary education – she is making her father proud.

Category: Personal, REPOST | Comments Off

Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO) serves on House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology

Like you, I was stunned today by the statements of Rep. Todd Akin, the GOP Senate candidate from St. Louis.

As reported by Aaron Black at The Washington Post:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, (pregnancy from rape) is really rare,” Akin told KTVI-TV in a clip posted to YouTube by the Democratic super PAC American Bridge. “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Akin added: “But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

The Post reports that such a claim regarding rape-initiated pregnancy has percolated up on rare occasions from social conservatives. (One of these was in 1995 from North Carolina’s state representative Henry Aldridge.)

Similar to other politicians holding forth on female reproductive physiology, Akin holds no health-related degrees. His House website indicates that he earned a BS in management engineering from Worcester Polytechnical Institute. Interestingly, this official biography fails to note that he also earned a Master of Divinity at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. However, his new campaign website for his Senate run proudly notes this degree.

Regardless of his comments on pregnancy and lack of health sciences education, Akin currently serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology.

The official webpage of the House committee that counts akin as a member.

 

With his horribly misguided and insensitive comments, I’m disgusted that Akin has any input into this nation’s science and technology strategies.

Update: Since I put up this post, several folks have tweeted that we should really have more representation by scientists on these congressional committees that govern science, health, and technology. Unfortunately, very few scientists or physicians run for public office, and even fewer for Congress. Cornelia Dean had an excellent article in The New York Times last August on efforts to cultivate scientists into running for public office.

Update 20 Aug, 3:46 pm: Dear god, he still doesn’t understand.

Rape is rape, Congressman.

 

Category: Medicine, Politics and Science, Religion | 64 Comments

Much love to Xeni Jardin

We want to send out our best wishes for comfort, success, and a speedy recovery to Boing Boing co-editor Xeni Jardin as she takes a major step this morning in her journey through breast cancer.

Miles O'Brien and Xeni Jardin (and Monkey, too). From Xeni's Twitter feed, 11 June 2012.

Xeni let us know last night that Miles O’Brien will be running her Twitter feed post-operatively. Her surgery begins this morning at 7:30 Pacific time.

Xeni documented her diagnosis for all of us back in December and has been selfless in sharing her story as it unfolds, providing fora for discussion and understanding for the 230,000 women and 2,100 men diagnosed with invasive breast cancer each year (and that’s in the US alone).

We struck up a friendship a couple of weeks ago when she tweeted in as I was live-streaming an interview I did with Dr. Mansukh Wani, co-discoverer of the anticancer drug Taxol (paclitaxel). She reported that Taxol was brutally tough on her body but it had shrunk her tumor. Nevertheless, she’d have to undergo surgery.

Love to her, her Mom, family, and all of her friends.

Update: Here’s a tweet and photo of Xeni flashing the victory sign after surgery.

Update (13 June): Looking fabulous in a photo 24 hr post-surgery.

Category: Blogging community, Cancer, GoodPeople, Personal | 2 Comments

The Empty Seat

I’ve been having a bit of an existential crisis as of late, taking tally on my life and thinking deeply about my shortcomings and how my self-destructive streak has negatively affected friends and family. It’s been a very down week inside of my head.

But what also came this week was a surprise, one I had forgotten about entirely. The Durham Performing Arts Center – known locally as DPAC (pronounced DEE-pack) – reminded me that I had purchased a ticket awhile back to attend a performance by Elvis Costello & the Imposters.

The show, originally intended for 22 September 2011, was postponed due to an undisclosed health issue. This week’s email came to remind me that Mr. Costello and colleagues were to fulfill their responsibilities to Durham this evening, 29 April. Fantastic stroke of luck – this was like finding a $20 bill in your dry cleaning.

Well, $93.90 to be exact – a $79.50 ticket plus a $10.75 “convenience charge” from Ticketmaster – to provide me with the convenience of purchasing a $79.50 ticket – plus a $3.65 “order processing charge.”

I had purchased a single ticket primarily because I generally buy a pair and end up either going alone or selling them. But this time, the attraction in buying a single ticket was that I scored a terrific spot in the second row, one seat in from the aisle.

1981 English Mugs tour. Elvis Costello & the Attractions with Martin Belmont and Squeeze with Paul Carrack (of 'Tempted' fame).

Elvis Costello holds great meaning for me since I first saw him 31 years ago, at the legendary Capitol Theatre in Passaic, NJ, on 7 February 1981. Costello and the Attractions were appearing with another of my boyhood loves, Squeeze. As the concert was sold out and I hadn’t started driving yet, my Mom offered to go to a ticket agency at our local mall to see what she could do for me. I’m happy to say that I gave her the money to buy the tickets – from my prep cook employment at Jumbo’s Pizza in Wallington – and she came back with two, seventh-row tickets for the then-outrageous price of $25.00 per ticket. (The face price was $12.50).

Original program artwork by James D. Moyssiadis. Click image to go to his site.

The beginning of 1981 witnessed the most progressive jump in my coming of age. I was playing bass in my first band with my wishful high school sweetheart, Sue B. (as she will always be known) fronting us on vocals.  A growth spurt brought me from being a scrawny target in gym class to a more confident six feet tall. My interest in writing and playing music also led to a level of acceptance by self and others.

It didn’t hurt to also have a life-defining learning experience with Sue B. in the back of a Pontiac Bonneville while the The Clash’s “London Calling” album set the soundtrack (I’ve since had an unhealthy interest in the Spanish Civil War and Montgomery Clift). Sue will say that she fell for me because of my willingness to help her with chemistry lab reports, marking the first time that being adept in science earned me something positive. As we approached high school graduation, appearing to be on the road to “going places” was reinforced further by the protection from ignorant bullies by a dear friend who later died in the World Trade Center attacks.

For reasons I can’t recall, Sue B. couldn’t go with me to the Elvis & Squeeze concert that cold February night. So I was stuck with a $25 ticket and a longing heart. I wanted so badly to share with someone this experience of my two favorite bands at the time. I most certainly did not want to be sharing my night with an empty seat.

While lamenting my conundrum as I cut a 75-pound blob of pizza dough into 20-ounce balls, one of the counter girls at Jumbo’s Pizza came back to place an order. This was another Sue, my spiky-haired punk rock chick friend who I didn’t even think of fancying because her 20-something-ness rendered her unachievable. Elvis and Squeeze might not be edgy enough for her, I thought at first, but I asked her if she wanted to go with me anyway. I even had the chutzpah to ask her to buy the ticket since this wouldn’t actually a date. To my giddy surprise, Sue accepted.

If you’re an Elvis fan, just take a look at this set list from the show. Holy. Dear. God. Sue and I had an amazing time – dancing and laughing at the good fortune of being so close to some truly remarkable musicians. At some point during the night, she grabbed hold of my hand then, realizing what she had done, bashfully let go and looked away. When she dropped me off at home that night, I don’t recall if she kissed me good night. That I don’t remember tells me that it was at most the kind of peck that a 22-year-old woman should be giving to a 16-year-old boy.

"I only know it isn't mine." - The Shirt.

I wore my concert T-shirt into the ground. The English Mugs tour. Elvis Costello & The Attractions with their “old chinas,” Squeeze. It took me a few more years to learn what old chinas were (East London Cockney for “mate” – the rhyme being “plate” as in china plate) – the friend who taught me, a British postdoc while I was at Florida, is someone I always greet at AACR meetings as, “me old china!”

Elvis also played prominently in my first and only writing gig for our high school newspaper. “Trust” was the album upon which this tour was based but it didn’t come out until right around the time of the concert. Bruce Springsteen’s double-album, “The River,” came out at the same time but I remember starting my review of Trust with a piss-and-vinegar admonition for anyone giving me grief about not reviewing Springsteen’s new work. I don’t have the column but I remember saying that Springsteen was so popular then that he could release a double-set of blank vinyl and it would still sell over a million copies, thereby relieving me of the need to say anything about his record.

I continued to love Elvis through college and grad school, especially his work on “Spike” with Paul McCartney and “Blood and Chocolate” with his then-wife, Cait O’Riordan of The Pogues. (Elvis said the album was named for Cait’s chocolate cravings concomitant with her menstrual periods.)

But tonight. I have an empty seat next to me in the pit in Section 1, Row 2.

Who will be in seat 101?

Someone like the Sues? Nah.

Perhaps a 16-year-old kid with a chip on his shoulder.

I’m hoping the latter – I’d like to share with him some advice on what awaits him, how to behave, how to appreciate others, and not fuck up – too badly.

Category: Free-Range Writing, Music, New Jersey, Personal | 13 Comments

Science Storyteller Perrin Ireland to scribe as artist-in-residence at the Nature Research Center Grand Opening!

As readers at Take As Directed and Terra Sigillata are aware, I’m working at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh as we launch our new wing, the Nature Research Center (NRC). Dedicated to bringing ordinary citizens in touch and involved with science and scientists, the NRC will open to the public during a 24-hour Grand Opening celebration beginning this Friday, April 20, at 5 pm EDT.

Making science accessible to the public is a philosophy evident, for example, in the hire of Brian Malow to serve as the emcee of the Museum’s SECU Daily Planet, the iconic global multimedia theatre at the heart of the NRC.

Perrin Ireland, science storyteller and artist-in-residence for the 24-hour grand opening of the Nature Research Center. Credit: Lou Woodley at ScienceOnline2012.

In keeping with this theme, I’m delighted to announce that science storyteller Perrin Ireland has agreed to join us as artist-in-residence for the duration of our grand opening activities.

“I am currently science storyteller at Alphachimp Studio, Inc, a graphic facilitation studio in Nashville, TN that helps people tell their stories visually,” says Perrin. “I work with scientists and health professionals to transform their content into playful, engaging animations.”

Perrin is well-known to the online and meatspace science communications world as an outstanding visual artist. But she’s an equally vivid writer. When she launched her old blog, Perrin shared this worldview:

My pen and ink explications of science are the love children of graphic novels and dissection manuals. They explore the technicalities and history of the research experience. I discuss the role research plays in the human relationship to other creatures via illustration with the intent to make scientific concepts accessible to a general audience that largely believes itself science illiterate.

I yearn for the days of yore when everybody was an amateur naturalist, and the world was any illustrator’s oyster. People discovered how things worked by drawing what they found. I drew my way through my biology degree at Brown University.

My goal is to invite the lay audience to reclaim science as an intimate practice of embracing the world. I am for a people’s science. (In my graphic stories I’m interested in illustrating that there are many ways to do things besides the ways we do them, and they’re all perfectly acceptable) . . . My calling is to illuminate, to represent the voiceless, minute, creative explosions of life that guide me to continue expanding my perspective.

Perrin will be throughout the Nature Research Center during the 24-hour opening capturing the work of scientists from around the world who are joining us to speak with the public. These programs will not only take place in our Daily Planet theatre but also at our more intimate Windows on Research areas outside of our laboratories.

And funny that I mentioned Brian Malow above – Perrin has agreed to scribe Brian’s late-night science cafe show in the NRC’s new “science sports bar” at midnight to 2 am during the opening. Details are still being negotiated but all signs point to Perrin both being documentarian and interview subject.

I’m really excited to see what happens when two remarkably creative people get together with internationally-recognized scientists at a public event currently anticipated to draw 50,000 visitors during the 24-hour event. So if you’re in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina – or can drive or fly here by Friday, April 20 at 5 pm EDT – we hope you’ll join us.

For a full schedule of our 24-hour Grand Opening events, see this main Plan Your Visit page to learn about events and performances, outdoor displays and activities, indoor activities, the full Daily Planet schedule, and a full PDF event map.

Category: North Carolina, Public Understanding of Science, Science Journalism, Women in Science and Medicine | Comments Off

“Science Comedian” Brian Malow joins NC Museum of Natural Sciences

Brian Malow, new Curator of the SECU Daily Planet. What's the Daily Planet? Click on the image.

RALEIGH, NC – Although it’s personal day job news, I’m certain this announcement will be of interest to all of our PLoS readers and others in the science communications community.

Brian Malow, Earth’s Premier Science Comedian, has been named Curator of the SECU Daily Planet at the new Nature Research Center (NRC) of the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.

Currently residing in San Francisco, Malow produces science videos for TIME magazine’s website and is a contributor to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s StarTalk radio show.

The SECU Daily Planet is the iconic centerpiece of the new 80,000 square foot wing of North Carolina’s flagship natural science museum.

The NRC addition will open to the public with a 24-hour program of Grand Opening events beginning at 5 pm on Friday, April 20.

The Grand Opening will be preceded by a formal Gala and After Party on the evening of Friday, April 13. Tickets for the Gala and After Party are on sale here but admission to the April 20th public grand opening – and every day afterward – is free.

Building upon a 132-year history of showing visitors what we know about the natural world, the Museum’s NRC will engage visitors in-person and online to experience the scientific process in action: how we know what we know.

And what exactly is the Daily Planet?


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Category: Natural Sciences, Personal, Public Understanding of Science, ScienceOnline2012 | 8 Comments

Thoughts on academic scientists giving media interviews

Where there's mutual understanding of our distinct but overlapping goals, there's love. The author with the superb science writer, Ed Yong. Credit: John Timmer/Ars Technica.

Many thanks to the large, diverse group of folks who’ve referred this post via Twitter, Facebook, and blogs. The tips can be found by scrolling down but I’ve provided this initial background on why I chose today to post these ideas.

Tomorrow I’ll have the opportunity to work with my new boss, tree canopy biologist Meg Lowman (Canopy Meg), to talk about science communication with deans and department heads at North Carolina State University and some of our research colleagues at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. Meg and have appointments (in the College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences (PAMS) and the College of Humanities and Social Sciences (CHASS), respectively.)

For more information on these partnerships, here’s an article at NC State on what Meg and I are trying to do in our relationship between the university and the Museum’s new wing, the Nature Research Center. We’re having a sneak-preview gala on April 13th and a huge public grand opening on April 20.

Come visit with us for our 13 April Gala, 20 April public grand opening, or anytime thereafter. Click on the image for more details. (Bonus points if you know the chemical depicted and the reason.)

Last September we here at Take As Directed had a great discussion on the scientist-journalist relationship and the expectations in both professions. The discussion spawned a new feature by my PLoS colleague and MIT Science Writing Program faculty member Seth Mnookin called SciWriteLabs where he conducted online interviews and discussions with folks like me, Ivan Oransky, Vincent Racaniello and others. In those discussions I came up with the following thoughts that never made it to a blog post.

(And speaking of great science writing, Mnookin’s The Panic Virus is a superb and engaging investigation of the anti-vaccine activists and how belief systems persist in the face of scientific evidence to the contrary. The Panic Virus just became available in paperback.)

So, I wanted to share this with tomorrow’s workshop attendees but was hoping for your feedback as well, journalists and scientists.

As another guide, you may also care to read a similar post from Jacquelyn Gill at her excellent blog, Contemplative Mammoth.

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Category: Blogging community, GoodPeople, Journalism, Journalists, Awesome, Science Journalism | 6 Comments