Happy Birthday Carl Sagan

Tip of the pipette to Phil Plait for reminding me.

Today, Carl Sagan would have been 75 years old if he had not died in 1996. As a scientist, communicator, and humanist he knew the value of science and the importance of helping people understand its full implications. The notion that we need an army of Sagans to fix the problems with public understanding and acceptance of science is often criticized by communication experts as naive – we need more approaches than just his.

But you know what, it wouldn’t hurt to have a few more Carl Sagans running around. There’s room for some more scientist-communicators like Sagan on this pale blue dot.


Wisconsin Citizens for Science meets today

A day long waited for – Wisconsin Citizens for Science is having its kickoff meeting today at 2 pm at the Monona Library. From the site:

That’s right folks, our first meeting has been scheduled for Saturday, April 18th at 2PM. Andrew Petto, WCfS interim president, will be speaking on the state of science education in Wisconsin, and there’ll be cookies and stuff. Scientifically speaking, “Yum, yum!” The meeting is at…

Monona Public Library
1000 Nichols Rd
Monona, WI 53716

I’ll be there to learn about the current state of science education in this state – and to eat cookies. That is, after a long, hard day selling beeswax candles and stuff at the Farmer’s Market. You could make a trip into town at noon to go to the first market of the season, (pick up a fabulous candle…) and then get involved in strengthening science education!

Wisconsin Citizens for Science!

PZ Myers just alerted me to a new organization taking up the mantle of watching over science education in the great state of Wisconsin: Behold Wisconsin Citizens for Science. I’ve already signed up, and if you’re in WI, especially Madison – its home base – I recommend adding yourself to its roster! There is little information up on the site yet, nor any indication of agenda items to watch, but in time I’m sure there will be plenty of that. But they have just announced today that their membership is now up to 72 – pretty good for just starting out!

In the same thread, I also learned of the Madison Skeptics society. No familiar faces in the pictures there yet, but Madison is a big place. Yet also quite small.

Now PZ is suggesting that Wisconsin is behind the times: just now organizing to help with science education in the schools – and that his home state of Minnesota is way ahead. Heck, even the Dakotas get higher marks from him. Now I don’t know about you but I think he’s got his numbers backwards. Kansas was the state that started it all – with Kansas Citizens for Science. Kansas was arguably the worst state when it comes to evolution in science education – and it trickled down to states with fewer problems. So doesn’t that suggest that by coming in last, that there isn’t as much of a problem here as in other states, like our puddly neighbor to the West? 🙂

I’ll try to help spread the word about the first meeting, when it comes.

Corn Breeding

The next in my Award-Winning series of plant breeding videos is up at the UW-Madison Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program website. This is the first in a series of videos interviewing plant breeders about what they do and what they like about it. The first breeder up for public scrutiny is professor Bill Tracy, here at UW-Madison, who is also the other PI on the project besides my adviser Shawn. Continue reading Corn Breeding

It’s spreading!

I’ve got two more genetic engineering blogs to add to my blogroll. The first is called GMO Food for Thought, and is run by C.S. Prakash, AgBioWorld founder. He maintains a declaration in support of Agricultural Biotechnology at his site, and there are over 3,400 signers of this list. (Although I can’t seem to navigate past the first page of signers.)

The second is Malaysia4Biotech, another blog popping up overseas, which has already started churning out the posts. Author Mahaletchumy Arujanan opens with the big Why for blogging about biotech:

The 21st century is hailed as the century of biological sciences, particularly biotechnology which is revolutionizing all aspects of our lifestyles from food to agriculture, environment, industry, and healthcare and medicine. Biotechnology is changing the terrains and landscapes of these fields to enhance the quality of life and environment. Countries are racing to embrace this powerful tool to create wealth though innovation. Malaysia is not spared as the government has pledged it strong commitments to develop this sector. Continue reading It’s spreading!

Hey that’s my gene!

Ariela and I were picking up a weird tomato plant at the nursery the other day, and I wanted to see if I could find some pole bean seeds. While I was searching the seed racks (unsuccessfully), Ariela noticed a seed package with a bright red ear of corn on it. I remember reading about a new variety of red sweet corn several years ago, it looks like they’ve finally made seeds available for it! I bought them and sprouted them right away – they’re ready to go in the ground tonight for some late-season sweet corn. But that’s not the best part. It’s got my gene. Continue reading Hey that’s my gene!

Pollination Methods – Corn

As I have mentioned on this blog before, in addition to my research on locating a gene in sweet corn, I’m making some educational videos on plant breeding. Well, now I’m proud to be able to show you the first in a whole series of them that I’m putting together. With help from my adviser, two film dudes at the Instructional Media Development Center at UW-Madison, and big bags of doubloons from the USDA. Over the past week, I’ve been updating the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics Program website, and now it has full video functionality. So armed with the plant breeding website powered by a wordpress platform, I give you the how-to on making controlled pollinations with Zea mays – How to breed corn.

You could actually do this in your own backyard using this system, or if you’re running a breeding company or academic lab and need to train employees on how to do this in the field – here’s what you need to succeed with your breeds.

Video below the fold. Continue reading Pollination Methods – Corn