Science Online 2010

Posted on 18th January 2010 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists

This last weekend I burned several month’s worth of Science Friday and This Week in Science episodes to CDs for the ride and made my yearly trip to the Sigma Xi conference center in Durham North Carolina to spend a couple days being overwhelmed with fantastic resources, ideas, and projects in the realm of online science.

Science Swag Bag
Science Swag Bag
Credit: Moi

This year I was blown away by the number of big-name science popularizers, authors, and bloggers who were able to attend. Including Darlene Cavalier, Kirsten Sanford, Chris Mooney, Carl Zimmer, Nate Silver, and many many more.

Darlene Cavalier, Dr. Kiki Sandford, Rebecca Skloot, Joanne Manaster at Science Online 2010
Darlene Cavalier, Dr. Kiki Sandford, Rebecca Skloot, Joanne Manaster at Science Online 2010
Credit: Science Cheerleader

I’ll be posting summaries and thoughts on all the sessions I attended this year throughout the rest of the day. Thanks so much to Bora Zivkovic, Anto Zuiker, and Blog Together for once again organizing such an inspiring and energizing immersion into the world of online science for community-building and activism.

Previous Science Online Coverage 2009, 2008, and 2007

Casting a Wider Net: Promoting Gender and Ethnic Diversity in STEM

Dr. Anne Jefferson of Highly Allochthonous blog headed up this session to “Identify successful online and offline programs, and their commonalities, for recruiting diverse participants into STEM activities” and to “Draft a set of recommendations for individuals, employers, and STEM organizations for supporting women and minority scientists and science students through social media;” with the term “diversity” referring to a diversity of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexuality, employment sector, geography, age, philosophy, or socio-economic status.

Jefferson presented a great deal of survey data she and her peers had conducted soliciting opinions on the effectiveness of blogs supporting women in science, which found that students and academics felt reading these blogs made their personal experiences feel more normal, inspired an interest in academia over industry, and provided a feeling of connection within the field and with other women scientists; however, the same study found women in government and industry held a neutral or even negative perspective of such blogs for reasons at which we may only speculate.

Lyndell Bade on NSF's GK-12 Program
Lyndell Bade on NSF’s GK-12 Program
Credit: Moi

Lyndell Bade presented in lieu of DNLee of Urban Science Adventures blog on their efforts with NSF’s GK-12 Program (couldn’t find a link to specific program). This inspiring program focused on ecology and evolution, with summer research opportunities and high school internships, she described how girls in the program went from being afraid of even touching birds to naming and caring for them. She also mentioned how the group of students went from being segregated to integrated over the course of the project and came up with the name “Future Ecologists As Researchers (F.E.A.R.)” for their group.

Evelyn Lynge presented on the American Association of University Women (AAUW), an organization I of which I was unaware, but has a long illustrious history following its foundation in 1881 by 17 women with college degrees, which includes raising money for Marie Curie to buy radium, lobbying for women’s suffrage in 1920, support of the 1964 Civil Rights act, and, most recently, efforts in passage of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009.

Suzanne Franks presented on fostering a community, with some deep insights into the process such as knowing your history, using creativity to overcome monetary constraints (like starting a support group with chips, soda, and a volleyball net), and building connections outside of the community through space and time (WEPAN, mentornet, Chronicle Forums, and the ADVANCE Portal). She also presented a list of her favorite books on the subject, highly recommending Diann Jordan’s “Sisters in Science: Conversations with Black Women Scientists on Race, Gender, and Their Passion for Science,” while Vicky and I also added Jane Margolis’ “Stuck in the Shallow End: Education, Race, and Computing” as highly pertinent to our own efforts.

A Disconnect to Consider

Memes of note from the discussion included the hypothesis that the Christian Clerical origins of many sciences contributes to the exclusion of women, a woman working in industry noting that the majority of her coworkers were women (mine too) and wondered if the issue of a lack of diversity wasn’t worse in academia, and taking advantage of the fact that online communities may be fashioned without ethnicities, genders, or other differentiating traits. This last idea led to another commenter raising the question of whether it was more important for online communities to be diversity-neutral and stand on the merit of ideas alone, or if it was better for people to know the gender, race, etc of participants so there may be role-models with which others may identify.

Is a lack of identity in an online community “a bug or a feature?” was the question one participant raised. One problem with online anonymity, it was countered, was that it allowed people to associate whatever stereotype the reader had with the speaker. An example given was a blogger who regularly wrote about her medical doctor, who was identified as a woman, but whom commenters on the blog continually referred to as “he”. Another point was raised that, when a gender/ethnicity identity is revealed, critics may use it to reinforce their stereotypes, as when it is discovered that someone is a women, a male with gender-bias might think, “That’s why her ideas are wrong.” This reminded me of this classic Non-Sequitur Comic Strip illustrating this same idea.

At the same time, it must also be taken into consideration that the minorities within a field or at an organization may not appreciate being foisted into a role-model status, and that university departments should be sensitive to whether they are trying too hard to stress the presence of minorities within their organization.

Random Personal Thoughts:

Vicky has covered our efforts to bring our neighborhood kids into computer literacy with the incentive of giving them laptops (See her posts for classes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), and a delicate objective within that is to introduce them to our geek culture while encouraging the students to express their own unique perspectives to online mediums. It’s challenging for me to consider that I don’t ever consciously think about the fact that I am culturally identified as Caucasian, but our neighborhood kids do continually make reference to the fact that they are African American, and I can cite many instances of them self-stereotyping, as when one student criticized another for using a “white-people voice” when talking to us. Ethnicity does play a large role in self-identification for minorities, and role-models who buck the stereotypes are crucial in challenging everyone’s assumptions.

Know Your History

I work in the Information Services Division of the Coast Guard’s Aviation Logistics Center, where I have noticed that more than 50 percent of the programmers over the age of 40 are women. Under 40, the percentage of women programmers drops dramatically. This is because, historically, computing was women’s work. The ENIAC Programmers were women and one of computer science’s programming pioneers, Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, was a woman. Somewhere along the way things changed, women began to perceive computing as a “geek” thing, unattractive as a profession (despite the fact that there is nothing more attractive than a geeky lady).

While the geek factor probably plays a part in the lack of African American representation in computing, in our local the poverty factor also presents a barrier to students going into computer science. An African American child in Elizabeth City North Carolina wanting to go into computer science, despite a personal interest in computing and social support in the form of scholarships and student loans, would still be facing an imposing cultural barrier: they have grown up in households without computers. This lack of resources comes up again and again during different conference sessions, and is a major obstruction to breaking down the barriers to academia for people of lower socio-economic status.


See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

Rebooting Science Journalism in the Age of the Web

Four prominent journalists, Ed Yong, Carl Zimmer, John Timmer, and David Dobbs, shared their views and opinions on the state of the field in this panel discussion. I was glad to have Yong announce that the “blogger versus journalist” debate was put to sleep four years ago (waaaaay back in Science Online 2007) and that everyone was mostly in agreement that journalism is now defined as a set of values, such as commitment to accuracy and fact-checking, rather than just a paid profession.

Timmer brought up the advantage large newspapers have in bringing science to non-scientists, as most people read the NYT’s for general articles, and are introduced to science news incidentally through the periodical. In contrast, Ars Technica’s readers come to the site because they are looking specifically for science and technology news. Bora made a very insightful observation about push vs pull media, where blogs are the pull and newspapers are the push because the “audience is already there and can’t escape.”

Zimmer and Dobbs Before the Session
Credit: Moi

Dobbs’ talked about his experience writing lengthy, well-researched articles, the very satisfying kind I love to read in the New Yorker, and how such articles are impossible without funding. With New Scientist gone to a metered system, the Wall Street Journal gone subscription-only, and now the New York Times apparently about to go metered, for-profit support was in question, leading Dobbs to speculate on whether fellowships or other means of supporting the practice would emerge.

Zimmer, who has a foot in MSM and the blogmos, talked about how, after the NYT’s passed on it, his posting videos of duck sex with artificial duck vaginas went viral. This reminded me of the fact that my all-time greatest hit on flickr is a picture titled “Elephant Clitoris, Lion Penis, and Ostrich Penis,” which makes me wonder how many of Zimmer’s hits were people searching for something else.

Debate Over

After someone solicited their opinions on this website, which, like EurekAlert and PhysOrg, publishes raw University press releases in a pretty, newspaperish format, the panelists were in agreement that they thought the site was misleading and damaging to science news, as there was no journalist to fact-check the Universities’ claims and solicit the perspectives of other scientists. When a representative of Futurity in the audience objected to the criticisms, an interesting debate broke out about what constitutes “news” and proper “fact checking.” One audience member said she never trusted anything written about science from any source until she got to read the research paper herself, while a writer from the New Yorker argued that was impossible and that journalistic “filters” were needed to break science news down for the layperson.

My own perspective on this debate, as someone who links to these sites regularly, is that I don’t see much change between the press releases and the MSM article publications, except that the MSM provides much more background and context. As for the fact-checking part of the issue, regular readers of the press-release sites know that, if other scientists object to another researcher’s claims, they will release their own press release debunking it. Whenever I link to a story on this blog in my daily links, I always make sure to run objections and counter-findings of other researchers.

Credit: Ragnar Singsaas

Besides, it’s not like the MSM does the best job of vetting stories anyways. Bora brought up the story of Ida, the missing link, as a great example of a story that inspired the public, even if they didn’t know much about the significance of the fossil; however, it could be argued that this story was an example of the MSM publishing the claims of researchers unquestioningly, as counter-research claimed Ida was a dead-end branch on the evolutionary tree, not a human ancestor. Healthy debate and conflicting research is part of the excitement of science, and I do see this in the chains of press-releases Universities put out, especially research countering another University’s findings.


See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

Shakespeare wasn’t a semantic web guy

One of the headaches we have come to accept with the anarchic REST Architecture of the World Wide Web is that a link we post to an image, web page, or other resource online today may go dead a month from now. This could happen for a variety of reasons, like the host going down, a company deciding to charge for the content, or the link changing domains. As a result, looking at old blog posts, we see broken images, “content no longer available” messages for embedded videos, and “page cannot be found” messages in response to our onclicks.

What is an inconvenience for web content authors is a much more serious issue for researchers who publish online. What happens to a paper that links to a bioinformatics dataset hosted at another server that goes dead? An anarchic architecture is fantastic for online freedom of expression, but it’s a serious flaw when trying to ensure academic integrity.

Super-mega-kudos to Dr. Jonathan Rees for giving a talk on what is a highly-technical and obscure problem in online research and citations, a talk that less than a dozen people attended and less than half a dozen were able to sit all the way through, but concerned a fascinating problem in computer science that affects everyone who attended the conference.

Factory Pattern Provides a Level of Indirection
Factory Pattern Provides a Level of Indirection
Credit: Michael Duell

The solution Dr. Rees advocates involves the computer science principle of introducing a level of indirection to provide a buffer between software components subject to change. In the case of linking to online resources, we are seeking a level of indirection between the source and the referrer to insulate the reference list from the possibility of the link changing or the existence of many different links for the same resource.

The Shared Names Project seeks to provide this level of indirection with a database of links that provide a single connection to a citation that can change its reference if the WWW link to the reference changes. For instance, instead of linking to “” directly, researchers would create a “” link that redirects to to post in their papers and posts. This way, if becomes “”, only the sharedname unique_key pointer would need to change.

The problem with this level of indirection, despite affording us some stability, is that we are implementing what, to my mind, is a maintenance nightmare. In a programming environment, I try to have total control over all aspects of my program. As Dr. Rees himself asks, whose responsibility it is to manage the database of links? Publishers cannot be responsible for notifying every url-redirecting service, like TinyUrl, that their link has changed, and a community of people using the database of links will cause redundancy and conflicts.

As much as I appreciate Dr. Rees bringing attention to what is an important problem in Computer Science, I can’t see SharedNames as a practical solution.

Few people realize that WWW was just one of many possible strategies for linking everything together. Ted Nelson envisioned an internet where there was only one instance of every object online, and we would all use the same link to it, allowing content providers to control the use of their objects and bring additional stability to the internet. Unfortunately, because we didn’t go with Ted Nelson’s vision of what a URI should be, if we want to maintain the integrity of our references online, we have no choice but to make a redundant copy whenever possible and assume responsibility for maintaining it ourselves. Dr. Rees did mention the fact that data cannot be copyrighted under United States law, this means that researchers in bioinformatics do have the option of downloading the data and posting it to a server with more stability, assuming the storage size is manageable and the resources are available.


See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

Citizen Science and Students

Bioblitzes are 24-hour volunteer efforts to count and catalogue every life form appearing in a location from sunrise of day one to sunrise of day two. Every year the Audubon Society holds a Christmas Bird Count every year, where participants count the different species of birds that appear in their backyards. iNaturalist brings together a community of people to catalogue the species they see with GPS coordinates and pictures verifying them.

These are all examples of citizen science, described as “any study or project that involves the public and collaboration with a University or non-profit organization.” Sandra Porter, Tara Richerson, and Antony Williams hosted this session to discuss methods of bringing scientists and volunteers together.

Scientists on these projects need to be concerned with data quality, consistent collection, and record keeping, while teachers looking for projects for their students voiced their need to meet educational standards, have the project complete before students graduate, and have the students get additional benefits, such as something to put on a CV or have their name put on some of the data. Projects need to be appropriate to student grade levels, like a project for Trinity High School, where students peformed DNA barcoding on street vendor food among other things.

A Few Citizen Science Resources:

  • Science Cheerleader posted a project finder for citizen science opportunities on her blog and promoted the Citizens for Science website, which is a new resource she introduced in another of the conferences sessions.
  • Grid Computing initiatives like folding@home and seti@home, which are software that take advantage of your computer’s idle time, processing tasks while you aren’t using it.
  • folding@home
  • Games like, the protein-folding puzzle game that solves real-world issues. The anecdote was raise of 13-year-old Aristides Poehlman being a child prodigy at this task in which experts struggle.
  • Crowd sourcing initiatives like ChemSpider, a collaborative effort to build a database of chemical structures, and wikipedia, where a collaboration of volunteers perform the research to build a useful resource.
  • WolframAlpha needs volunteer experts, and while Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is a disturbingly dehumanizing metaphor, I can see the potential for scientists soliciting for projects and why someone suggested it.
  • What's Invasive!
    What’s Invasive!

    On the ride back to EC, Vicky and I heard about a Google Android app What’s Invasive, which allows users to upload photos of invasive species they find with coordinates to help inform National Park Service rangers of where to focus their efforts.


    See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

    You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

    Government 2.0

    When the Office of Science and Technology Policy held an online forum about how to implement open access policies for research conducted by federal agencies, I leapt at the chance to broadcast my opinion to power; unfortunately, few others chose to do the same. I thought for certain that the slashdot crowd would jump at the chance to participate in a forum that wisely used the same crowd-moderation format as their nerd news site, but the link suggestion got no love.

    Anil Dash, Government 2.0
    Anil Dash, Government 2.0
    Credit: Moi

    Anil Dash works with ExpertLabs the organization enabling the government to solicit feedback from its citizens, and he wants to know why, in a packed room of attendees, only two people responded to the OSTP. There were several hypotheses, but the reason that made the most sense was that no one had even heard about the opportunity.

    Why not? Why didn’t Slashdot carry the story? Why did Science Blogs only produce one quick link covering this remarkable opportunity (Christina K. Pikas was also the only other person in the room to respond to the OSTP’s request)? There’s also only one link to, a resource I would expect scientists to be falling over each other to poke, prod, and peer review, but there’s absolutely nothing coming from the science blogs on this.

    Dash noted a similar phenomenon of non-participation among New Yorkers, who were incredibly active in getting President Obama elected, but are now sitting back, doing nothing except waiting for the Chief Executive to produce results. But this doesn’t have Anil Dash discouraged, he considers the American Government to be the most interesting startup of 2009. The Whitehouse started a blog, the federal government was mandated to go open access, and a series of informative websites have continued to open up government to the online community.

    Dash has several explanations for the lack of public response to these incredible developments: experts don’t have the time or know-how to properly respond to the solicitations, policy-makers don’t know how to ask the right questions, and federal agencies don’t know how or are uncomfortable with the shameless self-promotion required to get a message out online.

    I found Dash naively-optimistic at many points during the session, but that is a fantastic attitude to have in someone trying to lead a movement. In this case, the movement is one of experts providing advice to a government that is finally openly asking for it. There are numerous posts critical of the OSTP from the Bush-era, now that government is trying to fix things, there should be as many positive posts supporting those efforts.


    You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

    Push it ‘til it breaks, using visual metaphors in your blogs

    How far can you stretch a metaphor before it finally snaps?” – Tom Servo, MST3K

    Adding visuals to blog posts and science articles is an essential means of drawing a reader into your content. while I am big on posting CC images in my daily links, I realized with this session that I am not always cognizant of whether the images I post help my readers grasp certain complex concepts (with the exception of maybe my post on thermodynamics). Glendon Mellow’s oil paintings and Felice Frankel’s photography provide unique ways of looking at scientific concepts that give readers a conceptual hook for retaining those ideas.

    Mellow’s work Haldane’s Precambrian Puzzle was a delightful metaphor for the complexity of assembling the puzzle piece fossils in the geological strata into a coherent and accurate picture. The painting is a collection of ceramic tiles that, when put together in one configuration, depict a rabbit skeleton in the same geological layer as several trilobites, which would be problematic for evolutionary theory.

    Haldane's Precambrian Puzzle
    Haldane’s Precambrian Puzzle
    Credit: Glendon Mellow

    However another arrangement of the tiles provides a more accurate depiction of things. It was noted that this also symbolizes all scientific pursuits, such as looking at data in different ways to make new discoveries. This reminded me of when scientists discovered bits of fossil they had collected of multiple organisms turned out to be a single alien-looking animal or the historical debate over Hallucigenia sparsa and which side of the animal is up.

    Felice Frankel’s photograph metaphors were much more challenging, and I had to agree with her that they were too open to interpretation without the prose of the book they appear in, George M. Whitesides No Small Matter: Science on the Nanoscale; however, it is undeniable that her photography enhances the ideas and strengthens the reader’s understanding and retention of the concepts. One of my favorite photos from the session was of a single string vibrating on a viola, representing electron excitation, which made the whole concept of electron orbitals more concrete for me.

    Ann Allen of the Charlotte Observer brought up a personal experience where she was driving in Florida, saw a strange cloud in the sky and thought it had something to do with the Air Force Base. Then she completely forgot about it until she got home and her husband told her the Challenger Space Shuttle had blown up. Without context, she could not retain the memory of what she had seen, but, with it, she has kept the memory, and the neurological-quirk she experienced with it, to this day. Metaphors provide the context that enables understanding in our readers and allows them to retain the empirical facts associated with them.

    I jotted down a note in my laptop asking myself, “What kinds of visual metaphors do we use in Computer Science?” When Mellow reminded me of a CS metaphor I had posted in response to his session last year, where I mentioned the metaphors we use to interface with our computers, like the metaphor of the desktop, recycle bin, and folders, representing the complex processes of organizing data on hardware. Rear Admiral Grace Hopper, pioneer in computer science, used to bring 11 centimeter strips of phone cord to meetings to illustrate one nanosecond of network traffic.

    Several participants brought up the point that everything is a metaphor, words are metaphors and we understand everything in the world through metaphors. Serendipitously, I am reading You Are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier, where he further elaborates on this idea of everything being a metaphor with the way our senses interpret the world:

    The visible colors are merely words for different wavelengths of light. Every sound wave is actually composed of numerous sine waves, each of which can be easily described mathematically. Each one is like a particular size of bump in the corduroy roads of my childhood… But the world’s smells can’t be broken down into just a few numbers on a gradient; there is no “smell pixel.” Think of it this way: colors and sounds can be measured with rulers, but odors must be looked up in a dictionary.

    While our eyes and ears are tuned to gradients, our olfactory senses are like a library of metaphors for chemical signatures. Many breeds of dogs have long noses to accommodate the extensive library of chemical signatures they are able to identify.

    Dog Nose
    Dog Nose
    Credit: Narisa

    One of the things I really enjoyed about this session was the artists’ enthusiasm for hearing interpretations of their work that they had never considered. The open nature of the humanity’s, its free-association, is an imaginative exercise that allows us to find new connections in empirical analysis.


  • Some of Felice Frankel’s photographs for are posted here for you to enjoy.
  • See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

    You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Session: Engaging Underrepresented Groups in Online Science Media

    Super-giga-kudos to Abel Pharmboy and Damond Nollan for addressing what has been a conscience-pinging aspect of attending Science Online each year: the fact that I spend Martin Luther King day blogging about the conference. The presentation focused on historic Durham, home of North Carolina Central University (NCCU), ranked number one among public Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), and Martin Luther King’s history of visiting the locale.

    One personal difficulty I’ve had teaching our neighborhood kids about computer science is the incredible lack of prominent African Americans in Computer Science. Women are well-represented historically (if not presently), but African Americans make up a scant 0.25 percent of Computer Scientists according to one source. For this reason, I was thankful to be introduced to Dr. Marjorie Lee Brown (1914-1979), a mathematician at NCCU who acquired the first mainframe computer for a Historically Black College and University through a $60,000 grant from IBM in 1960. Dr. Brown is going into my slides next to Grace Hopper the next time I’m referencing Computer Science role models.

    An interesting statistic that was brought up in the session was that, while minorities haven’t adopted personal computers as much as whites, they have outpaced whites in the adoption of cell-phone technologies:

    Technology Adoption Among Ethnic Groups
    Technology Adoption Among Ethnic Groups

    Is this a potential in-road to bringing minorities into the online forum? This depends on the cell phone. As smartphones become more affordable and more prevalent, I am optimistic that these palm-computers will help connect minorities to the online community. However, organizations like The Kramden Institute, which provides refurbished computers to honors students in need, will continue to be the only substantive way of bridging the digital divide.

    The presentation covered Dr. Martin Luther King’s many visits to the area, and introduced me to this variation of a Rabbi Hillel Silver quote Dr. King made:

    Science investigates; religion interprets. Science gives man knowledge which is power; religion gives man wisdom which is control. Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values.

    The two are not rivals. They are complementary.

    Science keeps religion from sinking into the valley of crippling irrationalism and paralyzing obscurantism. Religion prevents science from falling into the marsh of obsolete materialism and moral nihilism.

    As someone who is beginning to lean toward spiritual naturalism over militant atheism, replacing the word “religion” with “spirituality” makes this quote, not just acceptable, but highly-enlightening.


    See coverage of the Casting a Wider Net: Promoting Gender and Ethnic Diversity in STEM session.

    See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

    You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

    Connections with mathematics and Programming Through Modeling

    Maria Droujkova and Blake Stacey hosted this small session on tools for visualizing mathematics and building an online mathematics community. Stacey started off by dazzling us with Greg Egan’s Light Mill applet, which provides a two-dimensional simulation of a Crookes Radiometer, one of those light bulb-like objects with a fan inside that spins when placed in sunlight (I also learned they spin backwards when placed in the refrigerator). The simulation shows the movement of atoms driving the turning of the fan blades.

    Greg Egan's Light Mill Applet
    Greg Egan’s Light Mill Applet

    Then Stacey demonstrated a python script he wrote in 15 minutes to simulate the Moon’s orbit around the Earth to scale using VPython (I’ve been fiddling with the processing java framework for similar apps). While such simulations are simple and can’t compete with video games, Droujkova made the insightful observation that when you are the programmer, capable of tweeking the variables and logic within your simulation, the simple program becomes far more engaging and enlightening.

    Droujkova pulled up a Theory of Change mind map she had worked on, illustrating how a network of people interested in mathematics in local areas can affect big change.

    Theory of Change
    Theory of Change
    (Click to Enlarge)
    Credit: Maria Droujkova

    In it, she identifies five communities of math enthusiasts, of which I would consider myself in the “Humanistic” category:

    1. Executable mathematics: mathematics you interact with, an abacus, logarithmic ruler, rubics cube, mathematical objects become social objects that people can play with and interact with, Google Analytics, (My own recent examples: Daqarta Audio analyzer and Eureqa Data inference program) GraphJam
    2. Psychology of mathematics: covers math anxieties, values of mathematical sophistication (precision, logical arguments), meta-cognitive skills (problem solving),
    3. Mathematical Authoring: science fairs, competitions, there is nothing for students to demonstrate mathematics until graduate school, give kids an opportunity to build their own math objects (The Government 2.0 session mentioned President Obama bringing winners of science fairs to the Whitehouse)
    4. Humanistic Mathematics: make mathematics a spectator sport, demonstrate the beauty of mathematics in art, music, spectator sport, stories, youtube, illusions
    5. Community Mathematics: compared to science mathematics has no online coverage, math 2.0, networks, social objects, (Google Android’s Maths Workout combines social networking with math challenges and Arthur Benjamin, the Mathemagician)

    Droujkova pointed out that, if you think there’s a lack of public interest in science online, think of how it feels to be in mathematics. She has set up a math interest group in order to organize people with diverse interests in mathematics and foster an ongoing dialogue.


    See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

    You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

    Blogging the Future – The Use of Online Media in the Next Generation of Scientists

    Stacy Baker’s students from Staten Island Academy presented their projects in information technology for all the attendees to ohhh and ahhh at. One student, Salina’s, project involved conducting a survey of the student’s peers to learn about how they use blogs for getting information, with Facebook being the most popular site and sites that cover wide variety of subjects being preferred over subject-specific ones. Ammar introduced us to the fantastic interactive periodic table, which I concur is the hands-down best one online today. Similarly, Melina reviewed iPhone applications and how students use them, with nearly half of students using apps to help with studies, and a similar number finding themselves overwhelmed by too much data.

    Mike presented on starting his own blog, and how writing for his blog was different than writing for class because he knew the public would be reading it, which meant he really had to check his facts and accuracy. One child prodigy was building games in flash as well as fractal tree generators and science experiments concerning video games and mathematical abilities. Not only was his aptitude in programming these games highly impressive, but I was also inspired by how open-source software and science enables fantastic demonstrations as his.

    Alex and Carl presented on educational video games, and how, while they find popular Playstation games engaging, educational games are often two-dimensional and boring. The students had not played Spore, which I am enchanted with but also believe it could be more educational in teaching evolution. Same with my enjoyment of Portal, which plays games with physics in a maze of puzzles.

    Alex conceptualized a game called “Body Pod” which would involve traveling around the body in an avatar. This sounded very much like the Federation of American Scientists’ free game ImmuneAttack, where you fly a miniature craft around the human body performing medical tasks for patients. I’ve played the game briefly, and was blown away by how educational it was in addition to having great graphics, action, and engaging game play.

    Audience members asked the students if Web 2.0 made their biology class easier than their other classes, with the response that it actually made it more challenging. It is the non-Web 2.0 classes that were standard and easier to get through.

    The students were fans of Facebook, but didn’t see the point in Twitter, to which an audience member suggested that the advantages of Twitter were not obvious and that people needed to learn the nuances of the application in order to appreciate it.

    The issue of access to the Internet and the availability of computers came up. As this is a private school, the students come from families that can afford computers and have the education to use them, while students from lower-income districts can’t participate in Web 2.0 learning to the same degree, increasing the digital divide. Ms. Baker correctly pointed out that this is a community issue, where the local community must find ways to overcome shortages of computers and internet access lest they fall behind.


    See the wiki for this session, which has links to additional resources.

    You can see a PDF of my raw notes from this session here.

    Comments Off on Science Online 2010

    Science Online 2009

    Posted on 20th January 2009 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists

    Bora Zivkovic and Anton Anton Zuiker Kick Off the Conference

    Bora Zivkovic and Anton Anton Zuiker Kick Off the Conference

    The last two years I have had the pleasure of attending Seed Media’s’s yearly Science Blogging conference in Research Triangle (See previous years’ posts 2007 here and 2008 here, here, and here). Each year I come away from the conference brimming with so much blog-fodder that I end up needing an entire day to cover it all.

    Unlike previous years, I decided to go eco-friendly and only grab the free swag I knew I would use. Two books Edge’s What Have You Changed your Mind About? and The Best American Science Writing 2008 will both be regular companions with me throughout the year, as their previous volumes have done. I’ll be looking forward to Open Laboratory 2008, when it gets posted to LuLu, as the previous editions also made great relaxation reading.

    One bit of new swag I couldn’t resist was from Small Science Zines, little books you can print out on a sheet of paper and distribute proselytizing science subjects. I picked up two of these, Endless Spirals and Snake Legs & Wisdom Teeth and found them delightfully illustrated in a rough indy-magazine sort of flavor. There’s something rebellious about this concept, reminiscent of distributing fliers for punk rock bands, only its science, which is appropriate, since science is a perpetual rebellion of ideas.

    This was also the first road trip for my brand-spanking-new Toyota Prius. Vicky and I both had turns driving it, each of us trying to drive in such a way as to bring our average MPG up higher and higher. When we got home, our average MPG was 41.9, just shy of the magical 42. I think we can get that extra tenth of a decimal place with a few more days of driving slower than senior citizens.

    Prius at 41.9 MPG

    Prius at 41.9 MPG

    I’ve got eight fascinating sessions to cover, lots and lots of blog-fodder. So I hope to tackle two of these a day for the rest of the week.

    Science Fiction in Science Blogs

    [science fiction] is the herald of possibility. It is the plea that someone should work on the future. Yet it is not prophecy. It is the dream that precedes the dawn when the inventor or scientist awakens and goes to his books or his lab saying, ‘I wonder whether I could make that dream come true in the world of real science.’” – L. Ron Hubbard*

    Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds Blog

    Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds Blog

    Readers of this blog know that lately I’ve been trying to run a once-a-week flash fiction (see category Pure Speculation for the stories), or get something posted to 365Tomorrows. I’ve been criticized in the past for mixing my love of Science Fiction with my love of Science, but I always defend this practice. I see Science Fiction as the vision to inspire the Scientific discipline that enriches our lives in every day’s news.

    Stephanie Zvan of Almost Diamonds moderated this first of sessions I attended as Scio09, and the session I was most surprised and delighted to see. Before the conference, Zvan posted some questions about Science Fiction and science blogging, and io9 posted a summary of the survey results, which I was shocked to find very negative, but then, reading the survey results myself, found them extremely positive (So in addition to their lame BSG spoilers, I now have another reason to dislike io9 (I’ll read it, but I won’t like it. So Thpppt!)).

    Although much of the discussion was geeking out about what authors and stories people liked rather than whether SF promotes science, I think the way people became so animated when discussing their SF favs was a demonstration of its power. People get energized by their fandom, and that’s a good thing.

    Consider one of my favorites, Star Trek. Valid complaints of Star Trek include its militaristic or communistic society (a debatable point) and its “maleable reality” or Treknobabble, but the series also represented a positive vision of the future. Some people, when they watch the documentary Trekkies only see a bunch of screwball fanatics, but I see a bunch of scientists, engineers, and doctors (albeit eccentric ones).

    I was glad to see both Scicurious and Dr. Isis sing Star Trek’s praises. Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy is a huge Trek fan, even having debates about the show with Wil “Wesley Crusher” Wheaton.

    Plait’s easily the best example of a science blogger who uses SF to educate. His status as a fanboy combined with his regular posts critiquing the science in the SF he encounters makes for an SF fan who takes it in with a critical perspective. That’s science.

    Kim Gainer, English Professor at Radford University, brought up the important point that Science Fiction provides a medium for wrestling with the ethical questions in science. My whole novel Clones was such a thought experiment, dealing with the unique social dynamics of people raising child versions of themselves. Science Fiction stories about resurrecting Neanderthals or Wooly Mammoths give people the opportunity to philosophize about it, work out all the implications, decades before it happens.

    Other participants brought up the opinion that some of the best SF there is concerns politics. “Vonnegut is the most important science fiction writer I’ve ever read,” commented one participant. SF Authors introduced many scientists to the political aspect of their professions, which was something I would not have ever imagined had I not attended.

    The most insightful comment of the discussion, was when someone brought up the idea that science is inherently a speculative endeavor. “Every time you create an hypothesis you create an alternative universe for testing.” Science, therefore, is the practice of Science Fiction.

    * Sorry to start this post off with a quote from a cult leader, but it’s a brilliant quote nonetheless.

    The Wiki for this Session has a collection of responses from scientists and science fiction writers on the topic.

    Science Online – middle/high school perspective

    High School Perspective of Online Science

    High School Perspective of Online Science

    Stacey Baker of Using Blogs in Science Education and a panel of her students from a private school I missed typing down gave a presentation/discussion about “How the Facebook Generation Does It.” Students today are using Twitter, Skype, AIM, and NING to facilitate discussions and collaboration among students in the same class and all over the world. Social networking into a profession or academic discipline is being built into the class structure.

    Some of the more fascinating items discussed during the session dealt with the credibility of sources online. Baker mentioned that she would regularly slip bad online sources into a reference lists to see if the students would spot it. Wikipedia was cited as a great starting point for delving into any subject, but the students were not allowed to reference it directly. Instead, they must find their own references, or cite Wikipedia’s sources. An interesting dimension of this is the fact that Wikipedia is a plain-English interpretation of a source, and oftentimes students will go to the original source, only to find it incomprehensibly erudite.

    I also learned about the concept of the Creepy Treehouse, where teachers or professors lure students into class participation in non-classroom settings, such as Facebook, Twitter, or blogs. The problem with these mediums is that if forces the students to manage two accounts for these services, one account for the classroom face and another for their personal face. I completely sympathize with the students on this, as I am not 100% comfortable with the fact that many of my professional colleagues have added me as a friend on Facebook, where they are grouped along with my old party friends from college.

    Of course, the point was made, that the entire Internet is the Creepy Treehouse now. I got a taste of this at work, when I walked into a room just as a coworker was demonstrating how much fun it was to Google people’s names. “Good morning Ryan! I bet we’ll get some great results for you with your blog and all that,” he said, and promptly submitted my name to Google Images. Then this picture came up in the first page of results. My coworkers had a good laugh about it, but, if I was a teacher, I’d hate for the Principal of the school to see that (Remember kids: MySpace is Forever).

    In a later session, Bora Zivkovic would make a very encouraging point on this issue, that this may simply be a generational misunderstanding, and that, as time passes and the cultural understanding changes with the technology, having pictures of yourself intoxicated online will cease being the big deal it is today. This groked with me, as I understand that everyone has a non-professional face, and Google has no means to distinguish between them.

    My favorite moment of this session came when someone asked what it was like to grow up in a world with all of this information at your fingertips. I personally remember all those long afternoons at the college library, sifting through stacks of books for any bit of supporting evidence to scavenge into a paper, which would inevitably have the formatting tweaked to stretch it into 10-15 pages. What was it like for today’s high school students?

    “We can’t imagine what it was like for you all,” one student remarked.

    “Thank god for older people who are able to access computers and contribute online materials,” said another.

    Wiki for this Session

    The Semantic Web in Science

    John Wilbanks giving a presentation on the Semantic Web in Science.

    John Wilbanks

    John Wilbanks, Vice President of Science Commons gave a fairly technical overview of the Semantic Web, its promise, and what needs to be accomplished for it to fulfill its promise. I’ve been extremely excited about the Semantic Web for a very long time, too long a time. It concerns me that I’m not seeing the benefits of this idea yet: an Internet packed, not just with links between different data, but information about the links themselves.

    Part of Google’s page-ranking algorithm concerns how many web sites are linking to a particular site where a keyword appears, known as the “Bag of Words” paradigm. The problem with this approach is that we don’t know why these other sites are linking to this first page. The Resource Description Framework offers a means to correct this oversight, providing a description of the type of link being used:

    Examples of RDF Triples

    Credit: W3C

    Every arrow in the above example represents an RDF Triple: subject, predicate, object. In the World Wide Web, with every link we all ready have a vague concept of subject and object, but With this addition of predicate, we have the ability to triangulate links into concepts.

    Imagine a search engine that knows when you type “primate,” it should also look for “monkey,” “ape,” and “chimpanzee,” or a search engine that knows when you enter “wood,” that you are looking for forestry information and not carpentry. That is the revolution at which the semantic web hints, but never seems to manifest.

    Why is that? One point brought up in the session is the lack of Semantic Web software. Currently Nepomuk is, to my mind, a leading contender with its beta Semantic Desktop, but anyone who can code an effective WYSIWYG semantic web tagging tool would strike it rich. In a few years, when I intend to be pursuing a doctorate in Computer Science, I want the Semantic Web to be my focus. There is simply so much to do in this field.

    And why isn’t everyone working on it? The fact is, there is too much data online for people to go back through everything all ready out there and add all of this metadata and not enough incentive. It’s like the current attempts to switch to hydrogen cars. There are no hydrogen fuel stations, because there aren’t cars demanding them, and there won’t be cars without the fuel stations. We won’t have a semantic web until we have a web coded with semantic data, and people won’t have the incentive to code in semantic data until there are popular tools making use of that data.

    Interesting note: yesterday I mentioned Star Trek’s influence in science, well, for the semantic web, there is a Star Trek Ontology, which is used for hypotheticals where real world examples would be too complicated.

    The NeuroCommons is one example of the semantic web in action in science. Wilbanks encourages people to download it and create their own versions as it is open-source.

    Wiki for this Session

    The Web and the History of Science

    GG of Skulls in the Stars, Brian Switek of Laelaps, and Scicurious of Neurotopia v2.0 moderated this session discussing why science bloggers should cover the history of science and find ways to work it into their current posts.

    I’ve occasionally posted history of science stories, like that of Harry K. Daghlian and Kudryavka. One of the participants mentioned that communicating the history of science was an “Exercise in storytelling,” and I found this observation insightful. History is an attempt to craft, not just stories, but meaningful stories out of the past.

    The discussion also delved into the importance of science history for understanding why facts are facts. Like the fact that our current Anthropogenic Climate Change science is founded on science extending back to 1804, giving it 200 years of credibility. Being able to conduct the same basic experiments, same basic proofs that were performed a century ago make the experiments accessible to the average person. The historical approach allows us to take problem back in time, to a context where it was comprehensible to the layman.

    My favorite, and most conceptually challenging portion of the discussion dealt with the mythologizing of science history. We tend to talk about science in terms of inevitable forward progress, but it was really a great deal of starts and stops, trackbacks, and endless debates. Scicurious brought up the intriguing example of Bayer inventing heroin and marketing it as the non-addictive morphine originally, but today we pretend as though everyone always knew heroin was addictive. Will future generations learn that “Pluto is a plutoid” without learning about how much ire demoting Pluto from its planetary status caused?

    Another problem raised concerning this habit of mythologizing our historical figures is our tendency to turn them into heroic caricatures of themselves. “There’s Darwin the ideal and Darwin the man,” one participant noted, and I realized the obverse of this is true as well. We demonize those we disagree with, for instance William Jennings Bryan is portrayed purely as a religious nut in Science Blogs, but the man was extremely socially progressive, and was fighting Evolution on the moral grounds that Scopes’ textbook argued the inferiority of non-whites and endorsed eugenics.

    No one in science today would endorse eugenics or the genetic inferiority of non-whites; however, we do ourselves a disservice, and our rhetorical opponents a disservice, by not acknowledging the complexities of the history. Especially when they can go read the original textbook online and see that we aren’t telling the whole story when we invoke the Scopes Trial.

    Wiki for this Session

    Science and Art

    Glendon Mellow of Flying Trilobite blog moderates a session on Science and Art.

    Glendon Mellow of Flying Trilobite

    Glendon Mellow of the Flying Trilobite hosted a very enjoyable session, where he started out by covering what he considered the various types of science art:

    Scientific Illustration: drawings to illustrate the content of an article. I post many of these for links having to do with dinosaurs or extinct creatures.

    Fine Art: a high-culture art, often inspired by science. An interesting and somewhat disturbing example would be Mark Quin’s sculpture of himself made out of his own blood.

    Art Inspired by Scientific Subjects: self explanatory, includes optical illusions and Salvador Dali. Awhile back I blogged the MoMa exhibit Design and the Elastic Mind (my photos of it here), which I would put into this category.

    Science Fiction: interesting examples of this were invented ecosystems and the speculative dinosaur project.

    To this list, I think I would add Found Art. This would include putting a cast of dinosaur bones together into an action pose, propping up a taxidermied animal, mounting forminifera, or any other sort of museum display. A Cabinet of Curiosities would be a great example of found art. This form of art is much more scientifically rigorous, but also very creative. One attendee mentioned that there are many artistic choices in science, such as how to color astronomy photos to best bring out their details.

    After the introduction, Mellow said that he felt his relationship with science was “parasitic,” where he’s getting a lot of inspiration from science, but doesn’t feel like he’s giving back. I was glad to see the overwhelming response from the room was essentially, Keep doing what you’re doing. That art inspires science, and scientific illustrations go a long way toward communicating scientific discoveries to the general public.

    As part of this art communicating science, I would stress the importance of the metaphor as a tool for illustrating concepts. In Computer Science, we would be lost without metaphors. In fact, our Windows and Macintosh operating systems are basically a collection of metaphors for all the inner mechanical and electronic workings of our computers. Metaphors are indispensable in describing atoms and quantum physics. So writers take heed, remember the importance of metaphors in your work.

    A few times the specter of the two cultures debate was raised, but I was glad that one attendee decided to shoot down the whole thing as “tedious.” I agreed with the idea that there are artists who see science as oppressive and scientists who see art as frivolous. These people have personal problems, not cultural ones, and need to free their intellects.

    The reality is that there are not two cultures. Someone brought up a younger scientist, who grew up playing with Transformers Beast Machines and therefore had no problem relating biological to mechanical. Another raised the phenomena of Jurassic Park encouraging scientists to fact-check its many portrayals.

    So the two cultures is a myth, propagated by scientists who don’t like art, and artists who don’t like science. The reality is that science inspires art, and art, science. The two cultures should continue to work toward our common good. Sessions like this, hosted by thoughtful people like Mellow, are this principle put to practise.

    You can see the various artwork referenced at the Wiki for this Session. Highly recommended.

    Science Online for Kids (and Parents)

    No compulsory learning can remain in the soul… In teaching children, train them by a kind of game, and you will be able to see more clearly the natural bent of each.” – Plato, the republic, Book VII

    Janet Stemwedel of Adventures in Ethics and Science blog moderates a session on Science Online for Kids (and Parents).

    Janet Stemwedel of Adventures in Ethics and Science

    Janet Stemwedel of the Adventures in Ethics and Science blog ran a session that made a personal project in my life so much easier. I’ve wanted to compile a give-away CD at the science center of links to the best science sites for kids on the web. Dr. Freeride has done all the work on that, for which I am very grateful.

    One of Stemwedel’s criteria for including a link, is that it be of interest to parent’s as well as kids. She cited Sesame Street’s habit of including lots of jokes and satire for adults to enjoy while watching the show with their kids. I think NASA’s Spaceship Spitzer cartoon does a great job of appealing to kids while sneaking in jokes and references for adults. Also the show is served in small doses, which is nice for not getting stuck in front of the monitor for long stretches of time.

    Beyond the World Wide Web, I realized afterwards the resources available in Virtual Worlds. The International Space Museum, NASA’s COLAB, and the NOAA in Second Life are also fantastic playgrounds for parents to let their children do the exploring, while riding along over their shoulder to help them get the most out of the experience.

    Crayon Physics was mentioned as a great science game. To that I would add the Federation of American Scientists’ free video game Immune Attack and Hopelab’s game ReMission, both of which involve flying around inside the human body, battling viruses and cancer cells. For physics, I’m currently playing Portal, which is witty and involves thinking about velocity and momentum in interesting ways, but the game is for older kids due to its complexity. Spore is a game that scores low and high marks in various areas from scientists, so, while the game is kid-friendly, parents need to be able to explain to kids why the depiction of biological and cultural evolution is somewhat misleading… or they might come away believing in Creationism.

    Which brings up another issue for parents who want to weave science into the everyday fabric of their children’s lives, as Janet Stemwedel does, the problem of science anxiety. Dr. Stemwedel notes that much of science has changed since we were kids, Pluto was a planet and brontosaurus was a dinosaur. Parents might not feel qualified to teach their kids science, but they need to understand that science isn’t static, that it’s always changing. Continuing education is an important principle in every adult’s life, and the education of our children is a wonderful opportunity to practice it.

    Extending the Virtual into the physical, I realized that Geocaching often offers wonderful opportunities for outdoor science lessons. Many contributors to this hobby require people to identify trees or answer other nature questions in order to find the cache. Kids can also collaborate with their parents to set up their own geocaches, including a bit of science trivia in order to locate it. If I were a kid, I would love to return to my cache year after year and see the growing list of signatures on it.

    My recent most favorite example of a parent teaching their child science is the Energy Game Dr. Richard Feynman used to play with is father growing up, where he was challenged to answer where something got its energy (ie. a spring wound up by a person), and where that energy came from (person ate food), and where that came from, etc, until the energy chain was always traced back to the Sun.

    Wiki for this Session

    Nature Blogging

    Kevin Zelnio of Deep-Sea Newsand Grrrlscientist of Living the Scientific Life host a session on Nature Blogging.

    Kevin Zelnio of Deep-Sea News
    and Grrrlscientist of Living the Scientific Life

    Grrrlscientist of Living the Scientific Life and Kevin Zelnio of Deep-Sea News co-hosted this session, which I attended and Vicky snuck into. While I don’t consider myself a nature blogger, I do like to cover Take a Child Outside Week, and my flickr sets are much more about using museum specimens to catalogue what you find outside than taking inspiring photos.

    A good deal of the session kept returning to the question of “What is Nature Blogging?” as opposed to science blogging. One participant made the insightful observation that Henry David Thoreau was a nature blogger, but not a science blogger. Someone else noted that The Origin of the Species was both scientifically rigorous and filled with natural philosophy.

    Richard Carter, answered via Twitter, “Nature Blogs are unlikely to cover the large hadron collider.” To which a commenter replied, “I take that as a challenge.”

    Another, related question, was “How much Science should be in Nature Blogs?” Several commenters agreed that including science definitely enhanced their reading experiences, and that nature blogs, because they tend toward a softer scientific emphasis, provide a “Lower barrier to entry” for their readers to understand the science they do bring into the mix. In other words, have fun, but sneak some science into the enchanting photography and emotional experiences.

    Nature blogging isn’t a subset of science blogging because it includes people who post photos from their back yard, wondering about what they’ve photographed. Nature blogs, it was raised, are interwoven with advocacy. They bring attention to the myriad conservation efforts going on all around the world, and encourage people to participate in Citizen Science projects like the Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

    It was at this point Vicky and I learned about the amazing website, where members upload photos of species they photography along with coordinates. The site has fantastic potential for citizen science, and Vicky has all ready signed up and started contributing to it. She sees the site as way to track decimated American Chestnut populations. Vicky has been uploading photos all night to keep up with the California submissions.

    I would probably blog more outdoor excursions if I wasn’t so uptight about properly identifying the species I photograph outside. Museums have these convenient labels on everything, while outside is just so incredibly overwhelmingly biodiverse. The world outside is filled with the promise of adventure, overwhelmingly complex and inspiring in a way I find difficult to accurately articulate. I’m thankful for the bloggers out there who are able convey that sense of wonder.

    Wiki for this Session

    Hey, You Can’t Say That!

    ideonexus Blocked at the Coast Guard Base

    ideonexus Blocked at the Coast Guard Base

    In the interest of enabling attendees to speak candidly about personal conflicts they have experience between their professional or personal lives and their online persona, speakers were kept anonymous for this session (not sure how posting their names on the conference program affects this). It was suggested that all panelists should be referred to as {PZ1, PZ2, PZ3…} in honor of Science Blogs’ most controversial author, PZ Myers of Pharyngula fame, who couldn’t make it.

    This session was also the most packed of all, and had some of the most interesting stories. PZ2 talked about how his employer wanted to put an editor on his blog, and how he expects to be fired any moment now for refusing to allow it. PZ3 talked about her employer took no interest in her personal blog until they thought they could benefit from its publicity. Another blogger talked about how he had to stop criticizing a company on his blog when he started receiving grant money from them.

    One attendee talked about how someone dredged up an inflammatory post he had written years ago and submitted it to his present employer, demanding action. The employer, luckily, was sophisticated enough to realize the post was a personal one and did not represent the publication, but it does raise the idea of our online histories coming back to haunt us, not all of it under our control. Someone suggested that people should blog respectfully under their real name as a means of pushing the unfavorable websites down the search results.

    I thought PZ3 had one of the most insightful observations, when she talked about the naivety of scientists, and their belief in intellectual honesty. It doesn’t occur to them that they can’t speak their mind.

    “We need a bloggers union,” someone said, and someone else mentioned the Online News Association.

    At the very end of the session, a moderator asked if there were any bloggers who worked for the Federal Government who had some stories to share. I didn’t think there was enough time left to squeeze in my experiences, but because I work for the Federal Government, on a Coast Guard base, I have to be extremely careful about my online actions while on my work computer.

    Five years ago, I quite foolishly downloaded my ideonexus beta blog to my server at work to make some tweaks on my lunch break. It just happened that we were undergoing a security audit that week, and guess what they found when they looked at my computer?

    I got pulled into the Project Manager’s office, where my blog, specifically a political rant, was pulled up in a browser window, being broadcast from my workstation to the intranet. After being properly chewed out, I was made to sign a statement that I would be fired if I ever screwed up like this again.

    The real issue, I would learn later, wasn’t that I was using my workstation for non-work activities during my break, it was that I was using my computer to post political content that others could read. It is seriously illegal to use Federal property to promote a political ideology, and it would have been proper to fire me on the spot.

    Recently, CGblog has me identified as an unofficial Coast Guard blogger; although, my blog really has very little to do with the Coast Guard, except for my post on Phytoremediation projects on base. This isn’t a big deal, as everyone at work knows I blog science and geekery for the local paper, but I do have two posts out there that could catch me some heat. One post brags about my ridiculously expensive tax-payer-funded chair and another jokes about getting away with having the Flying Spaghetti Monster on my desk.

    Is there a Sword of Damocles hanging over my head?

    Wiki for this Session

    Science Blog Networks, What Works, What Doesn’t

    Cameron Neylon of the Science in the open, Deepak Singh of business | bytes | genes | molecules (bbgm), and several panelists from Science Blogs and members of Nature Network discussed the merits of community blogging versus indy (“Garage”) blogging.

    I got a chuckle as a few participants refered to Science Blogs as “the Borg,” even by the people who blog there. On the plus side of not being part of a blogging community, is the fact that we indies have total freedom in how we design our blogs (even if some changes irritated my readers). One of the reasons I jumped the ship to roll my own blog again was the freedom to install whatever widgets I wanted in the sidebar.

    At the same time, being a member of Science Blogs certainly has its appeal. Some participants talked about the increase in traffic they got from Sb, and others talked about how being part of Sb “legitimized” their blogs in some ways, that they could feel comfortable putting their blog on their CVs.

    Comments from a few former Sb bloggers brought up the potential negatives of being part of the community, how they all get overshadowed by PZ Myers and that people assume all Sbers are militant Atheists.

    Per Bora’s comments, the organization of Sb appears to give the bloggers a union of sorts. They have the power to get advertising they don’t like removed from the site, and have raised protest about their employer in the past.

    My favorite line from the session pointed out that we are all online, and we are all part of a Science Blogging Community, “Google is the community.”

    Wiki for this Session

    Science Online 09

    David Ng’s on my Facebook!

    Posted on 23rd May 2008 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists

    David Ng's on my Facebook

    David Ng is a difficult name to research as, Mr. Ng himself writes, there are a bazillion David Ng’s in the world; however, “David Ng” is also a few genes:

    Currently, the code for DAVIDNG9 can be found only in the genetic instructions of one Thermus Aquaticus, a very old species of bacteria that have the nifty ability to grow in boiling hot environments, thereby making them an unfavorable pet choice for children. To be honest, this was actually pleasing to me, to know that DAVIDNG wasn’t literally everywhere in all manner of organisms. By contrast, the code for ELVIS is very common10. Unfortunately, my own curiosity got the better of me and I also took it upon myself to check if DAVENG11 was present in the various genomes of various organisms. Turns out, in a major knock against my individuality, DAVENG was everywhere.

    Director of the Advanced Molecular Biology Laboratory at the University of British Columbia, Mr. Ng also authors Science Blogs’ World’s Fair, but most of all, he is… (lead editor…? organizer…? cat herder…?) of the Science Creative Quarterly, where his editorial oversight has prevented me from embarrassing myself in a few places, and where he has published many entertaining columns, covered projects, and made science entertaining–one of the most important contributions anyone can make to the New Enlightenment.

    Plus he’s on my facebook. I rule.

    Boo-Yaaa! Janet D. stemwedel’s on my Facebook!

    Posted on 28th February 2008 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists - Tags: ,

    Behold the latest addition to my Facebook trophy friends!

    Dr Janet D. Stemwedel
    Dr (X 2) Janet D. Stemwedel
    Photo by base10

    Janet Stemwedel (Bio here and homepage here) has two, count ’em, two Ph.D’s. One in chemistry from Stanford University, and then went for another in Philosophy from San Jose State University.

    This consilience of academic disciplines gives Dr (X 2) Stemwedel incredible powers of scientific philosophication, which she applies to her thought-provoking blog Adventures in Ethics and Science, and articles for other sites and publications, like “Getting ethics to catch on with scientists.” She also has the power to teleport ninja stars into the large intestines of her enemies, but she’s too ethical for such undistinguished tactics.

    Dr Janet D. Stemwedel on my Facebook
    Dr2 Janet D. Stemwedel
    on my facebook

    She also set up the Science Blogging Ethics Wiki, which I thought was cool, even if it was quickly forgotten and only three authors contributed to it. The issue of Opportunities for Educational online dialogues came up in her 2007 SBC talk, and are theme in her writing, like when Dr2 Stemwedel provides an example of using the Socratic Method with her kids, in an article titled Kids and Combustion, where I learned something myself. I pity any fool who would dare slur the Stemwedel family name, for Dr.2 Stemwedel would quickly harness the power of her twin doctorates and dispatch the adversary with a deadly Occam’s Razor attack, which makes even Ryo from Streetfighter tremble in fear.

    Janet Stemwedel, Ph.D (X 2)’s Tribe of Science posts interest me most, delving into issues of scientists policing one another, science culture, and provides a continuing line of thought about what science is and what are the best way to bring out its best qualities. I think this dialogue, like the dialogue with her children, is the best method (however cool the ninja-Ph.D. thing would be). So she is highly successful in her efforts to promote ethical science, education, and blogging by simply keeping people thinking and discussing it.

    Can you believe there isn’t a Wikipedia entry for this remarkable blogger??? I hypothesize early wikipedians were struck with sudden amnesia from out-of-nowhere psionic-attacks for daring to reveal the identity of Dr. Free-Ride as she was known in her former, anonymous blog-life. Don’t let the sweet, motherly façade lull you into a false sense of security. : )

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    Interview with A Blog Around the Clock

    Posted on 25th February 2008 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists - Tags:

    Check it out! I’m famous!

    Kids with ‘Dr’ in front of their names: Interview with Ryan Somma

    Hyper-Cool Infrared Ryan

    Hyper-Cool Infrared Ryan

    Check out all the other SBC’08 Interviews here. Bora’s posting one a day, and there are many more to come, which means many more interesting science blogs to discover. : )

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    New Facebook Trophy Friend: Phil Plait

    Posted on 14th February 2008 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists - Tags:
    Phil Plait on My Facebook

    Phil Plait on My Facebook

    Look upon my Facebook Friends List ye mighty and despair!!!

    Author of the Bad Astronomy blog, Phil Plait’s book Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing is highly recommended by the National Science Teachers Association. He has a new book, Death from the Skies, due out in 2008 about the multiple ways our cosmos could squash us like bugs. With such an unassuming title, I fear it might not do well with our sensationalism-starved masses.

    ; )

    Plait is also a regular contributor to the Huffington Post. His politics #$&%ing rock and his logic is impeccable. Unfortunately, the Huffington Post won’t let me RSS just Phil Plait.

    Most importantly of all, Plait got pwned by Wil Wheaton at Star Trek fandom. Anyone who would dare even face Wil Wheaton in a battle of trecknobabble has much much larger cajones that I could ever aspire to.

    I see Plait as what Chris Mooney refers to as a Science Ambassador, like Carl Sagan or EO Wilson… only hipper.

    This latest addition to my Facebook Trophy friends will further serve my quest for World Domination. You hear me you high school jocks? Your days are numbered!!!

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    North Carolina Science Blogging Conference 2008 (NCSBC 2008)

    Posted on 21st January 2008 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists - Tags: ,

    I attended NCSBC 2008 this last weekend, and I’ve got much to write about on it. Just like last year’s event I’m left will a great deal to mull over, new intellectual avenues to pursue, and issues to work out.

    Bora Zivkovic has the best roundup of coverage from the conference, including several videos of the sessions. There’s a lot of great stuff there, so take a moment to check it out if you’re curious. There are some good lectures listed.

    It’s sooooo cool to hang out with minds publishing on the frontier of this ever-evolving medium.

    Some Miscellaneous Notes from the Conference:

    NCSBC08 Schwag Bag

    Look at all that stuff!
    NCSBC08 Schwag Bag

  • The “Shwag Bag” this year was freakin’ stuffed!!! Magazines like National Geographic, Discover, Scientific American, The Scientist, Science News, and Wired, and CD’s of Nature Podcats, News Hour, and Software, and free books on Science in SF movies (right up my alley), public speaking, and the Edge’s What are You Optimistic About? and, of course, the PLoS t-shirt, which I will wear to the gym all the time (still have last year’s) …aaaaand, like last year, there was an excess amount of magazines, so I grabbed a few stacks to give away at the Port Discover Children’s Science Center.
  • I got Chris Mooney to autograph my copy of The Republican War on Science, the book I was very excited to see come out when it did because it gave a public voice to all the anger and frustration I’d been feeling (and will continue to feel for another 365 days). Mooney’s signature included the statement, “…thanks for defending science, reason, and the Enlightenment.” All scientists should be defending Enlightenment values.
  • Dr. Reed Cartwright, Professor Steve Steve, and Chtulu

    Dr. Reed Cartwright
    and Prof Steve Steve

    of Panda’s Thumb
    With Cthulu

  • I experienced a great deal of the Familiar Stranger phenomenon, seeing all these bloggers in real-life who I’d previously become acquainted with through online pictures, a one-sided acquaintance, as they don’t know me. The Science Bloggers are celebrities, and I imagine it must take some acclimating to have so many strangers looking at you as if they know you.
  • One of my favorite things about hanging out with Scientists and other Academics is their inclusiveness. These are people who all share an interest in education, and Enlightenment ideals. They make for a very sensitive, friendly, and engaging group.
  • There wasn’t a single smoker in the crowd. How awesome and how unique. It speaks highly of the demographic.

  • Friday Night Dinner

    NCSBC 2008 Dinner

    NCSBC 2008 Dinner
    photo by John Dupuis

    Being the social-phobic dweeby-guy that I am, I decided to sign up for the the NCSBC Friday-night dinner early on as an exercise in social skills. You know, maintaining a conversation with other people and getting outside of my head for a bit. Practice for that day I get elected President, so I will be able to listen to my advisors and not just clear brush on my ranch in the comfort of my own unchallenged ideas all day.

    At first, my worst fears were realized as I was sitting by myself uncomfortably; however, one of the waiters, noticing my discomfort, assured me more people were coming, to chill out and have a beer. The beer helped, and so did having more bloggers show up to share the table. And a very cool selection of intellectuals they were!

    Eric Roston of CarbonNation (two N’s), was first to sit down. He’s author of the upcoming book The Carbon Age: How Life’s Core Element Has Become Civilization’s Greatest Threat, which sounded like a very fascinating overview of, not just the Earth’s current rising carbon levels, but also the complete life of carbon atoms, from conception in the centers of stars, to sequestration in the shells of forminifera and eventually limestone rock. This is Roston’s first book, and his blog will cover the years of information on his subject that he couldn’t include in print.

    Thomas Levenson, author of many books, first winner of the Foundation for the Future’s Science Documentary Film Award, and who has recently started the Inverse Square Blog, also joined us. His blog has been up and running for two months now, and I found much to agree with in his posts, as well as many wonderful old paintings on display. He’s working on a book about Isaac Newton, and the blog is at the request of his publishers. Although Levenson downplayed the frequency of his posting, I found a great deal of content for only being online two months.

    Head of the Steacie Science & Engineering Library, York University, Toronto, John Dupuis of Confessions of a Science Librarian was also in attendance, and I enjoyed his strong personality. When North Carolina’s Senate Candidate, Jim Neal, stopped by the dinner to speak with the bloggers, Dupuis challenged the Democrat to name the Prime Minister of Canada, where Dupuis heralds from. He’s also a Creative Commons supporter, like me, and tried to convince Roston to put his book online for free in addition to in print, like Cory Doctrow. Dupuis also has some pictures of the dinner online as well.

    Christina Pikas of Christina’s Library Rant, and who helpfully posted her notes from conference online, which I am now using to learn about some of the points I missed during the “Adventures in Science Blogging” talk was also at our table. She was very pleasant, down to Earth, and sociable.

    Out of my earshot, but also at our table was Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director of Project Exploration, which works to make science accessible to the public through “Youth Development Initiatives; Services for Schools and Teachers; and Public Exhibitions and Online Initiatives.” Lyon was very outspoken, in a good way, at the Framing Science Session. It’s good that there are passionate activists like her in the world in general.

    Someone else beyond my conversational zone was Kate Skegg, who I got the opportunity to speak with in between sessions at the conference itself. Skegg is just getting into blogging with katesboard, after achieving her Master’s degree online. Kate believes everyone should be blogging, just as “everyone should sing” she told me.

    Although he couldn’t name the Prime Minister of Canada, I thought Jim Neal’s appearance at the dinner was a remarkable act. Scientists are fed up with the Bush Administration’s abuse, they’re blogging about it, and their Science Debate 2008 movement shows they are becoming politically savvy.

    The dinner was at the Town Hall Grill, and the Mahi-Mahi I had, served on polenta was tasty, and the atmosphere was nice. : )

    Blog Accreditation and the Ethics of Science Blogging

    This was my most highly-anticipated session, a discussion led by Janet Stemwedel of Adventures in Ethics and Science blog, which wrestled with the issues of factual accuracy, comment moderation, and other responsibilities bloggers have to their readership.

    One contributor brought up the “Science News Parabola,” where, as a scientific paper is approaching publication, the scientific accuracy increases, peaking at publication, and then becomes communicated with less and less accuracy in press releases and the media. It should be noted that this blog is part of the downward curve in scientific accuracy, a natural result of my lack of a scientific background.

    I was glad to see the issue brought up that readers need to become more savvy. It isn’t enough that we maintain factual accuracy, if readers can’t tell the difference between a blogger communicating his or her best approximation of truth and an intellectually dishonest scientist like David Deming, then any measure of accuracy achieved is worthless.

    There was a huge learning curve that came with e-mail, where urban legends swept like wildfire across the web. Now people know to fact check the e-mails they receive against sites like snopes. I think learning that they could not trust everything they read online led to questioning everything else, from running to FactCheck to verify Political rhetoric, to catching Ted Koppel’s embarrassing presentation of forged documents.

    It was noted that blogs have the power of instantaneous peer-review, and I know I love it when real scientists post corrections to my comments. I love it even more, when I post something under debate, and commenters engage the disputation, usually without resolution, but at least with everyone coming away from the argument more educated. I’ve found that nothing inspires me to hit the books like when someone challenges my position on an issue.

    At the same time, another commenter brought up the issue of blogs having the power to spread disinformation as well, citing the Grand Canyon-Creationist Book Controversy, where bloggers incorrectly spread the news that the Grand Canyon bookstore was selling a creationist text. Once true, but no longer. The blogosphere corrected the mistake, but, as with print media, the correction got less attention than the original story, albeit more attention than print media gives their corrections.

    So what about a Blog Accreditation Standard for Scientific Accuracy?

    My first reaction is that this is an unfeasible idea. Maybe if bloggers only wrote about science in their own field of expertise, but bloggers write about a wide range of topics from their research, to movies, to politics, books, music, and accounts of their personal lives. No system can accredit such diversity of content.

    So how about just accrediting specific posts? The posts would need to go out first and get Certification later; otherwise, bloggers would suffer delays in getting their content out. Once certified, the blogger could put a certification icon on the post, but by that point the blog has moved on and readers won’t notice unless the blog claims their bragging rights with another post.

    However, such a system of after-the-fact certification of blog posts could be used to establish a directory of factually-accurate articles that people may reference. This way, blogs could become official citations in places like Wikipedia, thus dramatically improving their respect when compared to traditional media.

    Who’s going to run the certification process? Perhaps it would be like Peer-Review journals, where the organization keeps a directory of experts on hand who review submitted blog posts and advises the board of which to include in the directory of peer-reviewed posts. Because blogs really aren’t profitable, the Certification Board and peer-reviewers’ efforts would be voluntary (although there could be a marketable product here that submitters might pay for).

    Of course, my own blog wouldn’t have anything to do with the process, being neither an expert or a scientist blogger; however, I would appreciate having such a resource online to reference, since including citations from it would greatly improve the legitimacy of my own posts.

    Framing Science, Science Debate 2008

    Jennifer Jaquet of Shifting Baselines, Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum of the Intersection gave an important talk on why scientific issues don’t get press coverage and provided a brief overview of the Science Debate 2008 initiative.

    Jennifer Ouellette has the best write-up of the session, and Bora has the video posted (see “Changing Minds through Science Communication” in the list of video feeds), so I’ll just publish my own thoughts on the matter. Which you should skip reading all together, and check out the above links instead. : )

    Larry Moran of Sandwalk blog has posted a dissenting opinion to the movement, and has previously suggested that science should stay out of politics. There were also several people in the audience who lamented the unfairness of today’s media, arguing that, even if the Candidates debate Science, they will only distort it for their own ends.

    If scientists are not very fond of politics, that is more than understandable. Political disputations are a quagmire of irrationality. The defenses and detractions of political positions are overwhelmingly subjective.

    One need only look to Senator Inhofe’s and David Demming’s blatantly dishonest attacks on Global Warming Theory to understand why scientists would want to avoid engaging political debate. The effort tends to be incredibly time-consuming, and people’s minds are very stubbornly adhered to their ideology, no matter what facts contradict their positions.

    But look at what happens when scientists, and those who hold science dear, don’t confront the political arena. The Republican congress dismantled the Office of Technology Assessment, President Bush II downgraded the Science Advisor’s position, moving the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) off the premises, and denied H. Marburger III the title “assistant to the president.” These actions were just a prelude to the now chronic abuse of science occurring in the Bush Administration.

    If scientists don’t want to engage politics, then they then have no business complaining when all their research funding goes bye bye. Scientists need to sign the petition, join an organization that represents their interests, obediently pay their dues, and donate the few minutes it takes to cut-and-paste e-mails to their representatives when told to do so.

    Non-Scientists need to get behind this idea, and others like it, because, although science isn’t “Truth” with a capital “T,” it is the closest approximation we humans, with our muddled and narrow perception of reality, have to it. We should be suspicious of a congress that dissolves the office responsible for reporting the truth to them, and we should be wary of a President who moves the truth off the premises, but most of all, we should make them suffer the political consequences of ignoring the Science and Enlightenment base.

    If you haven’t all ready, please sign-up for Science Debate 2008.

    PZ Myers is Rockin’ on my Facebook! Suck it H8rs!!!

    Posted on 7th January 2008 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists - Tags: , ,
    PZ Myers on my Facebook
    PZ Myers on my Facebook

    A Biology professor at the University of Minnesota, PZ Myer’s sharp wit and powerful logic put the smack down on Intelligent Design’s anti-science agenda. For the last five years, Myer’s evolution-promotin’, evangelical-blastin’, cephalopod-appreciatin’ blog Pharyngula has generated between 10,000 and 25,000 hits daily and posts that exceed hundreds of comments.

    Raised Lutheran, Myers simply didn’t buy into Christianity, finding much more promise and awe in the natural world, what biologist E.O. Wilson termed the ionian enchantment. This is the modern day Thomas Henry Huxley, aka. “Darwin’s Bulldog,” who defended Darwin’s Theory of Evolution against criticism in its early days, only these days the opponents are Ann Coulter, Bill O’Reilly, and other arch-conservatives.

    Myer’s greatest strength lies in his political insightfulness. Because the science fails to fit their preconceived ideas about the world, conservative political pundits resort to attacking the scientific process, casting doubt on established scientific principles, and presenting alternative hypotheses completely bereft of factual support.

    Luckily, PZ Myer’s is there to call BullPuckies on them.

    Myer’s didn’t get any takers when he asked Ann Coulter fans to cite one scientific argument from her book Godless, where she attacks science and evolutionary theory extensively with insults and factual inaccuracies. When Bill O’Reilly interviewed Ben Stein, Myer’s was there to respond to the major points and their silliness. PZ Myers’ witty sarcastic response to Jim Pinkoski’s arguments for biblical literalism, led to the spread of the PYGMIES + DWARFS internet meme in the Science Blogger community.

    PZ Myers will make an excellent addition to my collection, and further my nefarious plans substantially.


    Andrew Kavanagh’s on my Facebook!

    Posted on 15th November 2007 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists - Tags: , ,
    Doctor Kav on my Facebook

    Hey all you “cool” kids from my high school, remember this?

    Ryan: Hey guys! Can I ride to school with you?

    Cool Kids: Okay Ryan, but we can’t be seen with you, so you’ll have to ride in the trunk.

    Ryan: Sweet! Now I won’t be like all those losers who ride the bus to school! Hey! You guys wanna come over to my house later and play with my transformers collection?

    Cool Kids: Into the trunk Ryan.

    Well, you know what? BITE ME LOSERS! Because Andrew Kavanagh’s on my Facebook! Thpppt! on you! Thpppt! I say!

    That’s right, THE Andrew Kavanagh (aka. “Kav”), is on MY facebook friends list. Author of the Living in the Real World blog, 11 refereed articles, three conference proceeding papers, 23 conference presentations, and, most importantly, an occassional commenter on this blog.
    Herr Docktor Kavanagh is a Research Associate in the
    Department of Communications Systems at Lancaster University, specifically at the
    Infolab21, whose website describes its function as:

    Lancaster University’s world-class research, development and business centre in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT). It is a well equipped, high-tech environment shared by academic research staff, research students and businesses.

    Obviously this is a ruse to throw people off the top-secret facility’s nefarious plot for world domination, but I’ll speak no more of this, lest Dr. Kav decide I know too much and makes me disappear.

    Super-Dooper impressive is Dr. Kav’s thesis, Energy deposition in the lower auroral ionosphere through energetic particle precipitation (PDF). Doesn’t that just sound cool? I would love to drop that bomb on a boring conversation:

    Average Person: …and the Bahamas were just grrrrrand, we just lay on the beach all day soaking up sun!

    Dr. Kav: Sun, huh? You know I wrote my thesis on Energy deposition in the lower auroral ionosphere through energetic particle precipitation (PDF). Did you know that solar radiation follows an average eleven-year periodicy that produces–?

    Average Person: My goodness! Is that spinach dip over there? Please excuse me.

    This thesis truly deserves the word epic. Dr. Kav draws data from RIOMETER (Relative Ionospheric Opacity Meter using Extra Terrestrial Electromagnetic Radiation), SAMPEX (Solar, Anomalous, Magnetospheric Particle Explorer), GEOTAIL satellite, CUTLASS radars, DMSP satelites, EISCAT, CANOPUS, IRIS (Imaging Riometer for Ionospheric Studies), and many other observation points on Earth and in space. What an incredible cooperative effort, requiring 28 phreaking pages of references to cover (Go cry emo-boy Michael Crichton!).

    A model of a solar flare showing possible sources for different radiation types
    A model of a solar flare
    showing possible sources for
    different radiation types

    It was also pretty dang-gone educational for lay-people like myself. The first chapter and section introductions explained concepts like solar wind, the Earth’s Magnetosphere, and the Interplanetary Magnet Field. I didn’t realize that solar wind was actual plasma flowing from the sun, or that there even was an Interplanetary Magnet Field. I was only aware of the Earth’s.

    Although most of the text was lost on me, I was genuinely impressed by all the research, which revealed to me a whole nother realm of inquiry into our shared reality. It’s incredible how many experts it takes to figure out this thing, and Dr. Kav is one of those important experts, and the “cool kids” should take a moment out of their mundane lives to envy him.

    They should also give me back my lunch money… with Interest! (Two Dollars a day for gas money my ass.)

    My Faith in Ira Flatow has Not Improved

    Posted on 1st November 2007 by Ryan Somma in Social Networking Scientists - Tags: ,

    Ira Flatow responded to my friend’s request on Facebook (still denied), after I wrote to him back in September explaining my obsession with collecting Science exponents on social networking sites and singing their praises when they add me.

    This was his response:

    Ira Flatow Responds to My Friend Request

    To Ira’s credit, he did actually click the link to my blog. To Ira’s discredit, he didn’t flame me for flaming him… or maybe that’s to his credit, like… I dunno… Being a bigger person than me or something.

    Whatever. My blog isn’t an after-@#$%ing-school special. No matter how cool Ira is for his books and radio and networking with real scientists, he still sucks just a little bit for not adding me. : P

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