Matt Nisbet in Madison tonight

I’ve been so busy the last few days, I forgot to put up this post. Matt Nisbet, who blogs at Framing Science, is a professor of communication at American University. He will be giving a free talk tonight in Madison on science communication.

His talk is titled What’s Next for Science Communication? Promising Directions and Lingering Distractions. It will be in 1100 Grainger Hall, from 7-9 pm TONIGHT June 25, 2009.

The description:

Despite recent innovations in science communication such as deliberative forums, the application of framing research, and partnerships with the arts and humanities, these approaches are still all too commonly defined as simply novel ways to persuade the public to view scientific debates as scientists and their allies do. Instead, the question should not be how to “sell” the public on science and emerging technologies; but rather how to use communication research and its applications to empower greater public participation in the governance of these issues.

Elaborating on much-discussed articles published at Science, Environment, The Scientist, Nature Biotechnology, and other leading outlets, Nisbet argues that the sophistication of these emerging communication strategies needs to be complemented by an equally sophisticated view of public engagement. In particular, in areas such as biotechnology, evolution, and climate change, Nisbet emphasizes the need to use framing, partnerships with the arts, and new forms of digital journalism to generate “participatory conversations” with diverse publics and stakeholders that result in meaningful input on policy choices and decisions.

This lecture is part of a series on science communication hosted by the Life Sciences Communication department.

I’ll be there taking notes, pictures, mugshots, etc. If you are in town and can’t make it, I hear that it will be videotaped for both online viewing and rebroadcasted by Wisconsin Public Television. Hopefully, Matt will be available during his trip to “one of [his] favorite cities” to do a little interview…

The Curse has been Broken

This evening, Ariela and I saw the new Star Trek film, for the second time. Phil Plait and PZ Myers have both already reviewed it, but I think left out a few really interesting (and disappointing) things about the film, so I would like to add my own review to the pile.

To summarize, it was awesome. Despite a few plot holes, scientific inaccuracies, and awkward interations between characters, it was an excellent Trek movie, worthy enough on this description alone to have broken the “Curse of the Odd-Numbered Trek.”

Warning: Spoiler Alert – You have been warned. Continue reading The Curse has been Broken

Congratulations Dr. McGill!

This morning I attended my lab-mate’s Ph.D Exit Seminar, where she discussed her research for the last five to seven years on Chromatin in maize as well as Transformation Efficiency. Now I am pleased to announce that she has now attained (besides a few formalities) the distinction of henceforth being known as M. Annie McGill, Ph.D.

Congratulations!

In a reference to Top Gun, Annie is known in the lab as “Maverick,” which her mad Biolistic Transformation (“Gene Gun”) skills have earned her. Her office for years has been in the so-called “Danger Zone,” which has also been my office for the last two years. Along with another grad student in our lab who may be finishing his degree in a couple months, I also have a similarly-themed nickname. Can you guess which one is mine?

Dr. Annie, seen here removing her name placard, will be leaving in a month to go work for Monsanto in Connecticut, and she will be missed! The time that we spend together as grad students in the same program and lab, may sometimes seem long, and at other times too short. Congratulations again, Annie, today you’re Top Gun!

Finally an image that means what I feel!

They may be your friends, or family members. Indeed, there is an almost religious-like following going on which aims to gather your money and send you on an endless spiral toward endless unfulfillment. Is it heavy metal music? No. Scientology? Not this time. Is it the Apple Computers’ have-to-buy-the-next product cult? Yes.

Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy was having a conversation with Wesley Crusher Wil Wheaton about their latest “upgrade”, which made things worse for them. It happens from time to time when newer versions of products come out that are worse than their predecessors. Like Windows Vista. But it is always funny when it happens to Apple because it is the Un-Microsoft. Or is it?

Anyway, this is all just a way to show you the image that Phil made for the occasion that tickled me until I fluoresced:

I have spent my lifetime building up a resistance to the iWhatever.

Going to the 2009 BIO Convention

Today, I find myself in Atlanta Georgia. I am attending the Biotechnology Industry Organization’s 2009 International Convention, representing the Biofortified blog, and I am also the Council for Biotechnology Information’s guest blogger. You can read about what I’ll be doing here at Biofortified, but first, how did I get here?

A few months ago, the Council for Biotechnology Information contacted me and invited me to be their guest blogger for the convention. They created a news blog to report on the agriculture-related talks and panels, and offered to cover my expenses to help them report on the conference.

I’ve never been to the BIO conventions, which host presentations on more than just ag biotech issues. It would also give me the chance to promote Biofortified, get exposed to the biotech zeitgeist, and meet some interesting people. I also saw a public benefit – I could help people learn about the things going on at this conference as I learn about them. So what’s the catch? Continue reading Going to the 2009 BIO Convention

Final: Check

I just took my Botany final this afternoon, and my hands are about ready to abscise. Luckily there wasn’t any Ethylene in the air to make that happen, and ironically enough there’s no need to worry about Abscisic Acid – it does not cause Abscision! An irony of the plant sciences – there’s now a compound named after something it doesn’t even do. We should probably change its name eventually. Seriously, we should. It would be one way to one-up the zoologists who still refer to tissues in Barnacles as if they were tissues in a mollusc, when they’re actually arthropods. I’m all-into newer and better nomenclature.

Now to finish up a relaxing evening filled with homemade chicken soup (four carcasses I carved up previously), and a little blogging. I’ve got a lot of stuff coming down the pipeline with my research, and several blog posts that I have to write (mostly my own imposition), and I’ll be doing some more filming tomorrow for my videos. It’s a busy life I got myself into! Still feels like a weekend today.

Stay tuned here and at Biofortified for some goodies this week.

Things I learned from Star Trek

The Onion, while lauded for its weekly satirization of pop culture and news headlines, has a less well-known component, its AV Club. While I do not often read much from this section, even though they are just down the street.

But now in anticipation of the new Trek movie coming out this weekend, The Onion’s AV Club put together an intelligent and funny review of the sociological commentary that Star Trek has provided over the years, whether written well or not. Read Space-Racism is Bad.

A few of my favorites are in there, such as a comment on the stupidity of the Borg Queen concept while talking about keeping perspective in First Contact, and some subtle lessons about both immigration and abortion rights in Up The Long Ladder. But the best part of the article was Continue reading Things I learned from Star Trek

The anti-HFCS campaign in Slate

(Hat tip to the Ethicurean.)

Daniel Engber writes in Slate about the campaign against High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Delving deep into not only the science of sweeteners, but also the sociology of foodies, he concludes that HFCS is on the decline not because of what it is, but what meanings are imparted upon it.

Read Dark Sugar.

Here are some of my favorite parts:

There may be other reasons to blame obesity in the United States on high-fructose corn syrup. According to a critique popularized by Michael Pollan, the development of HFCS allowed cheap, subsidized corn to be converted into cheap, subsidized sugar. Food processors plumped up with empty calories, and America got fat. But it’s not clear we’d be consuming any less sweetener if corn weren’t so cheap and plentiful. Since the corn content of HFCS contributes less than 2 percent (PDF) to the cost of producing a can of soda, the effect of the subsidies amounts to just a few pennies in the retail price. And while the price of corn syrup is kept artificially low by farm subsidies, the prices of other sweeteners are artificially inflated by tariffs and quotas on imported raw cane sugar and refined sugar. In other words, if we wiped out all of our subsidies and trade restrictions, we’d still have plenty of cheap sugar around, and processed foods would be just as caloric. As Tom Philpott points out in Grist, you don’t need high-fructose corn syrup to rack up American-style obesity rates: Australia manages similar numbers with a food industry based largely on cane sugar.

And the following paragraph:

The unwholesome reputation of HFCS has no doubt been exacerbated by the general view that it’s less “natural” than other forms of sugar. The notion that anything natural is healthy—and anything artificial is not—seems especially silly when it comes to added sweeteners. If fructose is indeed the problem, we’d do well to avoid the all-natural sweeteners in health-food products and fruit drinks, which often include concentrated apple or pear juices. These are almost two-thirds fructose—and might be significantly worse for your health than HFCS. (Organic, raw agave nectar could be even more dangerous, containing 90 percent fructose.)

That’s one of the things that I’ve been telling people – if the fructose content of HFCS is a problem, then look out for the fruit juices sweetened by concentrates made from apple, grape, and apparently pear. Continue reading The anti-HFCS campaign in Slate