Thursday, October 31, 2013

Open Access Crusaders: interview with the Eisen Brothers

Vampire Phylogeny

"Teeth lengthened by receding gums glow in the shaded valleys of the Carpathian basin. The genetic milieu of the Visigoths, Huns, Carpians, and Slavic peoples have swirled over centuries as granite crags pushed populations into shallow gene pools. A ghoulish thing of legend emerged from Transylvania and has since soaked literature and pop-culture with a reddish froth. Science and medicine have given us reason not to fear for our necks in a story that is truly stranger than fiction... "

Thus begins one of my most successful Blog Posts.  The idea to write up this particular hypothesis on a biochemical etiology of vampires was born on a fall day in 2008. A fellow graduate student at Colorado State - Nicholas Clark and I were talking about "talking about science" to the public.  We decided a useful method to engage the public would be to hook them in with a popular topic and then sneak in some hardcore biochemistry.  So we did it. We planned a "Biochemistry of Halloween" lecture and delivered it the following fall.  There were 60-70 people in attendance and the talk was wildly popular. So popular in fact that Nick and I were invited to present the talk for the Colorado State Alumni association at the Park Hill library in Denver the following year. This time there were more people from the general public and our presentation was met with even greater enthusiasm.  One of the attendees even came up to us afterwards and asked us for all our references as she was particularly interested in the porphyria/vampire hypothesis as her ex had a form of the disease and was now in jail for attempting to slit her throat with a paring knife.

After this experience I have been hesitant to present this talk because I feared it may be taken the wrong way. As if we were saying "people with porphyria are vampires." This is not what we were trying to get across. I have since finished graduate school and moved on to a postdoc at Emory University in Atlanta. Nick is Postdocing at NIST near Washington DC. 

Recently, I took it upon myself to raise the talk from the dead. I presented it at Nerd Nite Atlanta at Manuel's Tavern on October 16th, 2013.  I also amended the talk to include several disclaimers about porphyria patients and attempt to address the stigma that has recently become associated with this very serious genetic disease. I felt much better about the talk this time and it was well-received by an enthralled audience though it was not the same without Nick and his unique knowledge-set on the biochemistry of Zombies and Zombification. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Thursday, October 17, 2013

ShutDown/OpenUp Funny

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New chapter in the the "Story of Stuff"

If you have ever seen Annie Leonard's brilliant "Story of Stuff" digital short I thought you would appreciate the phoneblok idea.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

What is this and how did I find it?

Monday, October 14, 2013

Hello Dolly

The New York Times RetroReport (which I've featured previously) focuses its light on Dolly the sheep and the implications of animal cloning. Looking at the legacy of Dolly and all the fear pumped into the mainstream by the media makes me think we really need to stop letting all the chicken little attitudes hog the microphones in the aftermath of biotechnology breakthroughs. I'm talking to you Krulwich!

Do not FUCK with science bloggers!

My friend and colleague Dr. Danielle Lee had a run in with the man this weekend. Dr. Lee is a postdoctoral researcher in Oklahoma and she writes a blog for the Scientific American Blog Network called The Urban Scientist. She was recently asked by another organization (whom I had never heard of before) called to contribute a monthly blog post. After she politely asked if she was going to be paid for her writing she received an unthinkably unprofessional and flagrantly demeaning reply. Aghast that Danielle may want to actually get paid for her work, the representative asked...

"Are you an Urban Scientist or an Urban Whore?"

What. The. Fuck?

Prominent blogger PZ Myers points out the "nuances" of the questioners intonation.

 In the wake of this electronic slap in the face Danielle took it upon herself to post the e-mail on her blog at Scientific American and record the following video response.  I am absolutely amazed at her composure. I do not think I would have been able to hold back my emotion the way she does here.

So, Scientific American had her back from the start and took steps to sever connection to the person who wrote that e-mail to Danielle, right?

Unfortunately, not exactly.

As we found out later - the legal team at Scientific American got all worked up over Dr. Lee's decision to share the e-mail exchange on a blog with their letterhead on it so they took it down without telling her.

They censored her to cover their asses, that is exceedingly clear.

But to us, their concerned public, SciAm Editor in Chief Mariette DiChristina tweeted this

This was Saturday morning and ZOMG did shit hit the fan. The internet exploded with a veritable rallying cry behind Danielle under the banner #StandwithDNlee. The part about how the post fell outside the mission of "discovering science" epitomizes everything I find frustrating about the old model of media, that there are these shining beacons of truth and that we should really trust brands over people. In this day-and-age words ARE science! Words on the internet are highly traceable data points. There is an entire branch of science emerging that makes hay out of twitter data. Someone will post a graph of #StandwithDNlee trending data over the last three days and I will post it here when I find it. To say that any blog-post on any topic is not about "discovering science" is to be caught unaware about what science on the internet looks like today and will continue to develop into in the future.

After calls to Boycott SciAm from Dr. Isis and fierce push-back from within the very SciAm Blog Network itself Mariette DiChristina issued a more thorough public statement here.

In the statement DiChristina attempts to explain what happened and the precarious timing of it all as this went down on a holiday weekend and so on and so forth.

I wanted more ownership of the fuck-up but hey, people are going to protect their interests first and foremost.

Currently, Dr. Lee's Post is back up and my other hero Bora Zivkovic, the blogfather himself, is doing his best to pull up the mainsail on a network that had a rough weekend. 

If you are sick of all this drama and just want to laugh for a bit. Check out our first #MicroscoParty. I'm posting this so you can witness first-hand the awesomeness that is Dr. Danielle Lee.

Scalia and Satan

Saturday, October 12, 2013

SAVE THE ARCTIC (Original Narration by Randall)

I just found out about this video sitting in a session on how to make internet science videos here at the Science Online Oceans Conference

Science, Comics, and Astronaut Tears

Charles Soule gives us a run-down over at the World Science Festival homepage. Inspiring me to get out my sketch pad here at the Science Online Oceans Conference.

@thorsonofodin Sets Sail for Science Online Oceans


Here I am in Miami for the first ever Science Online Oceans Conference.

Despite the fact that this entire genre of science is way outside my wheelhouse I decided to make the trek down from Atlanta. I am curious to see what I learn and who I meet. If it is even a fraction of the intensity of the flag-ship Science Online Conference I attended last February then I am sure I'll be reeling for months.

Leading up to the conference I put together a blog post about the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. I've been following the political and ecological implications of the dead zone problem for years and decided to summarize the current status of the dilemma.
You can check out that post at Scientific American. A big deal for me as it is my debut piece for the SciAm Network.

Follow the emerging information from this event on Twitter using #ScioOceans.

Some cool links so far...

OMG I want to build one of these DIY mini-submarines! Mom! I can finally build that submarine I dreamed of as a kid! OpenROV 

Want - a navy blue uglifish t-shirt. Awesome - Uglifish

Some sweet web-sites I came across at #ScioOceans.
COSEE Florida
The Echinoblog
Bittel Me This
Ocean Conservancy
Story Collider
Deep Sea News 
Society of Environmental Journalism
Plankton Portal

Look at my twitter feed over on the sidebar until I update here ------>

Friday, October 4, 2013

Self-assembling cube-bots!

I refuse to dignify the recent Tea-Party tantrum and resultant government shutdown with coverage so here is an example of what the future holds. What a society can create when it uses science is phenomenal and yet we have elected congresspeople who do not believe in evolution, climate change, or even embryology. Equally amazing but in a bad way.