Sunday, April 29, 2012

Big Ideas for VERY Busy People

One of the great things about living in Cambridge is being surrounded by such brilliant minds.  What with numerous colleges and universities in the area, Harvard, MIT, Boston University, Boston College to name a few, we're bursting with new ideas!

We got a glimpse into 9 novel ideas at the Big IDEAS for Busy People event Friday night, where speakers only have FIVE minutes to describe their big idea, followed by another 5 minutes to answer questions from the audience.  The talks were very diverse, ranging from biomedical and electrical engineering, atmospheric science, physics, psychology, even literature!  There was a huge turnout, and although I showed up half an hour early, I was barely able to find a seat.  Just goes to show how this city drinks in science and new ideas.  I've summarized only a few of the great talks below.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Science and Magic

You're sitting in an auditorium.  A man emerges from the side of the stage in a black tuxedo and a top hat.  He introduces himself as the Great Gregory!  He takes off his hat and shows the audience that it is empty. But wait!  He reaches in and pulls a rabbit out of the hat!

OK maybe that was too basic of an example; but what are you thinking of when watching a magic trick?  Are you actively trying to figure out how the magician is accomplishing this feat?  Or are you just in awe and really want  this illusion to be real?  

The magician is skilled in altering reality, they understand how our senses construct the world around us.  Scientists also question reality in an effort to understand nature, and are in many ways magicians themselves!  The Science of Illusion was explored by a panel of scientists and artists at the MIT Museum on Wednesday.  What was especially intriguing about this event was the intersection of science, art, and magic.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Big Ideas for Busy People TONIGHT

Big Ideas for Busy People is happening tonight! More details about the event here. In the meantime, check out some "lightening lectures" in the video below created by YouTube user PhysicsWoman.

Experimenting with Art and Science

If you’re like me, you grew up thinking that artists and scientists inhabit non-overlapping worlds or perhaps even that they use different sides of their brain. Fortunately, great science communicators have stepped up to dispel this myth, coming up with creative new methods of bringing out the art in science. New projects like WNYC’s Radiolab or Studio 360 routinely weave potent storytelling, sound design, and music to frame the science story and stimulate their audiences’ imagination. During my Cambridge Science Festival wanderings, I’ve observed the same trends on display. The Story Collider is a science storytelling show that believes everyone has a personal science story to tell. On Tuesday night the founders of The Story Collider, Brian Wecht and Ben Lillie, hosted a storytelling event at the MIT Museum showcasing inspired science stories that had the packed museum in stitches for much of the night.

Monday, April 23, 2012

What's Your Question?

Over the weekend I attended the thought-provoking symposium Rivers of Ice: What's Your Question, co-sponsored by GlacierWorks. Following the symposium was a reception at MIT's absolutely spectacular Rivers of Ice exhibition, featuring images from GlacierWorks founder David Breashears. A fully packed auditorium tuned in to hear five experts from diverse backgrounds speak on melting glaciers in the Himalaya and the impacts of climate change. Framing the speakers were beautiful works of art by local high school students that inspire questions surrounding water supply, rising temperatures, agriculture and politics.

Adventure photographer and film-maker David Breashears introduced a short film that followed his exploits on a recent climb. We were taken on a journey of breathtaking beauty that showed first-hand the effects of climate change in this remote region and on its people. The photos that followed included some of the earliest photos of glaciers captured juxtaposed with a current photo taken from the exact same spot!  While most glaciers are losing mass at an increased rate, a few are actually gaining mass.  Albeit only a few inches a year, but this underscores the complex mechanisms at play in the region.

Adventure photographer David Breashears introduces the audience to the changes he has witnessed firsthand
from his decades of climbing the mountains of the high Himalaya.
Same goes for all the impacts of climate change. Take for example, global temperature increase. While one year may be cooler than others, and some regions may experience cooler temperatures than usual, that does not take away from the global long-term trend that average temperatures are increasing. Conversely, a warm spell such as our recent non-winter also does not mean that it is getting worse. The real answer is, it's complicated.

Solving the challenge of climate change is also no short order, all panelists agree.  But it is not impossible.  Susan Solomon, atmospheric chemistry professor in the Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences at MIT stated that the number one problem we must solve is that of energy consumption.  How do we come off our polluting, high carbon energy diet?  How do we provide clean energy to the billions of people in the developing world who are striving to live just like us?

Orville Schell, director of the Center on US-China Relations, Asia Society, remarked that if the United States (2nd highest emitter of carbon dioxide) and China (1st highest emitter of carbon dioxide) do not come to a binding, strict agreement to substantially lower their emissions, it will not matter what the rest of the world's countries do.  Personally, I'm a big believer of every little bit helps.  Otherwise, it's much too easy to sit back and let someone else figure it out without taking any responsibility. After all, climate change is a global problem.

But the best question was raised by one of the high school students, simply put, how do we motivate people, (and more importantly, politicians) to reduce their consumption of energy in order to avert the most serious consequences of climate change when they are unlikely to be affected by said consequences anytime soon?  I do not know the answer, but it fills me with confidence to see intelligent, engaged youth posing these questions. Keep questioning, and the answers are bound to come.

One of the many beautiful quotes part of the Rivers of Ice exhibition at the MIT museum.

If you were unable to attend the What's Your Question event, make sure to check out Rivers of Ice: Vanishing Glaciers of the Greater Himalaya on at the MIT museum on now until March 2013. See for yourself the striking images of receding glaciers and the impact that this vanishing supply of water will mean for millions of people downstream.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Kick off to CSF!

What an amazing start to the Cambridge Science Festival!  This is the place that really has something for everyone.  And what better way to start off the festivities than at the Science Carnival!
Every table had a pile of bright-eyed youngsters eagerly learning about robots, cells, and chemical reactions, among the many many other science topics.  And let's not forget about the liquid nitrogen ice cream!  But I must say the kicker for me was the Science of Circus performances with the amazing athletes from Simply Circus.  Can I please run away and join the circus now?

Monday, April 16, 2012

Pre-register for Festival Events!

Hope you've enjoyed this taste of summer today!  

We're now a mere 3 days away now from the kickoff to the Cambridge Science Festival.  I want to remind everyone to please take a look and pre-register for the events you'd like to attend over the next couple weeks!

Here is my current list of the CSF events you need to pre-register for:

For students and teachers:

Scratch Workshop for Educators
| Pre-register - waitlist only
6th Grade Solar Adventure
| Pre-register
Center for Ultracold Atoms Kids Day
| Pre-register
Central Squared (C2) Challenge
| Pre-register
Taleblazer Location-Based Augmented Reality Game
| Registration closed - FILLED
Vertex Community Lab
| Pre-register

For graduate students/early career:

Standing Up for Science Media Workshop

Careers in Science: Speed Networking Event
| Pre-register
Career Invigoration: Best Practices for Writing a Resume

Career Invigoration: Interviewing for Your Next Technical Job

6th Annual Vertex Networking and Industry Session

Mentor-Mentee Partnerships: How seasoned and early career researchers work together to ensure the continuity of science
| Pre-register


Science of Eating Local
| Pre-register - waitlist only
Rivers of Ice: What's Your Question?
| Pre-register
Trebuchet Design Challenge
| Pre-register
Multiple Sclerosis: Moving Towards a Cure
| Pre-register
Draper Prize Lecture 2012
| Pre-register
Akamai Open House
| Pre-register
Fishing for Sustainability in New England
| Pre-register for Panels | Pre-register for MOS Forum
Syrup, Seeds, and Bees: Exploring Links in Maple Ecology
| Pre-register
Growing Science: How out-of-school time programs can help change the face of the STEM workforce
| Pre-register
Group Intelligence | Pre-register
Swissnex Boston Science Café feat. The Giant Cell & HMS Prof. David Sinclair  | Pre-register
Boston Mega Awesome Fellowship Event
| Pre-register
Biology Flash Mob
| Pre-register

For all MIT Museum
go to:
This includes pre-registration for:
Workshop: Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Slide Rules
Workshop: Math and Origami (but mostly origami)
Workshop: Knots for Novices
Science of Illusion
Science for Sinners
Workshops: Splash @ CSF
Workshops: Do It Yourself Game Design
Workshop: Paper-Based Electronic Art

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Adult events in #cambscifest

These are events for big kids - like you and me.  I know it's long - don't get overwhelmed, just take it in piece by piece.

T minus one week, folks.  See you all there.

P.S. Want to help out?  We still need volunteers

Adult Events...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Family Events in 2012 #cambscifest

Hi Folks!

Here's a breakdown of all great family friendly activities at the 2012 Cambridge Science Festival this year.  Hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 20, 2012
Of course, there is the annual Science Carnival - this year themed as the Science of Circus! From 12-4pm at the Cambridge Public Library.