Archive for September, 2008

October edition (click here)

Special book offer, symmetry & mosaics, Eureka as Gaeilge, synthetic biology, and are you smarter than a bag of sweets?

Society, art, culture

Donate your brain to science: Do you sometimes walk into a room and forget why you’re there? Would you like to improve your memory? Who’s in charge — your left or your right brain? Your chance to participating in some live neuroscience experiments taking place in TCD’s Science Gallery during October. Registration essential, as numbers are limited.

Geometry & Islamic mosaics: geometrical patterns in Islamic mosiacs is the topic for a special Maths Week talk at the Chester Beatty library, Dublin, on October 15, 6:30 pm, when maths professor, Jose Maria Montesinos (Universidad Complutense, Madrid) will be the guest speaker. Adm free, booking advised rsvp@cbl.ie

Do the circles move for you? Neuroscientists have discovered the cause of an optical illusion made famous by Isia Leviant’s 1981 painting, Enigma, in which a concentric circles seem to flow. Try this and other optical illusions illusion here. The cause, it seems, is due to how our eyes constantly make tiny movements or saccades.

Artist commissions: Athlone Institute of Technology is commissioning for an external sculpture, and three internal works, for its new School of Engineering and Informatics. Total value €100,000. Closing date for expressions of interest Monday, October 6. Full details from Ms Jackie Cunnane, jcunnane@ait.ie tel: 090 642 4555

Science and creativity a full-length Guardian interview with novelist Ian McEwan, in which he discusses the differences between the creative processes in art and science, plus poet Ruth Padel’s her poems about Charles Darwin. Serendipitously, this popped up under ‘related links’ during the recent discussion about teaching creationism in science classes in the UK.

Sculpture In Context: the largest outdoor sculpture exhibition in Ireland continues at the National Botanic Gardens until October 17, featuring the work of over 100 artists across the gardens. And all free.


Science Week 2008

Science — shaping our world

Can you picture science in a photograph? Or capture it in an essay? If so, and you are a second level student, then you could be in with a chance to win a prize in two competitions in advance of Science Week. Closing date for the ‘science snaps’ photography competition is October 20, and October 17 for the essay.

Start planning now for November’s annual Science Week.

Submit details of your event at www.scienceweek.ie


Conferences & Opportunities. . .

Best practice in science education: well-known TV medic and popular science presenter Prof Lord Robert Winston is the keynote speaker at a special international conference on science education, organised by Atlantic Corridor, in Tullamore, Thursday, October 23. Aimed at anyone in science-based industries and science education and (we quote) “all stakeholders interested and involved in sustainable socio-economic development”.

The alchemy of medicine and print: A special conference to mark the 275th anniversary of Dublin’s wonderful Edward Worth Library, is taking place in the Royal Society London, November 27-28, and with talks on subjects such as Robert Boyle and the uses of print, alchemy and chemistry, and picturing bones.

Synthetic biology: scientific and social implications: the European Molecular Biology Lab’s ninth annual conference on science and society will consider synthetic biology and the problems arising. Germany, November 7-9. All welcome, €40

The Battle of Ideas 2008: thought-provoking debate is promised by the London-based Institute of Ideas for its annual gathering in November, when themes will include science and the environment, health and well-being, and technology and the city. Expect some discussion about the recent resignation of the Royal Society’s education officer, Rev Prof Michael Reiss. London, November 1-2

India and Ireland, science and medicine: a one-day conference exploring colonial connections between Ireland and India will look at aspects of education, medicine and science, with a panel of international speakers. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, October 11th. Adm free, all welcome.

Medicine, healthcare and history: advance notice of a conference taking place at UCD next April, organised by the Society for the Social History of Medicine, and which is currently calling for proposals for papers (closing date: November 30). Students can also apply for bursaries to attend.

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Top 10 amazing physics videos: musical Tesla coil, water droplets in zero gravity, how superconducting levitation works, and the LHC rap, among others.

Book offer — Growing Knowledge: Why did the US post-war Marshall Aid programme for Europe fund an agricultural research agency in Ireland?

new book from Teagasc

The reason, I learned from an informative chapter by economic historian Cormac Ó Gráda in this new book, was to help restore food supplies to Britain, which depended heavily on Ireland for its food supply in the 1950s. The 200-page book was published by Teagasc to mark 50 years of farm and food research in Ireland, which began in 1958. It’s a delightful and informative coffee table book if you are at all interested in the topic — and includes intriguing asides on the serendipitous nature of scientific research, including the role played by the Irish postal service in the development of a high fertility breed of sheep.

Special offer for Science@Culture Readers: €22 including p&p (Regular price €30), while stocks last. Contact Joanne.Carroll@teagasc.ie

Page-turning physics: if you enjoy a bit of particle physics with your thriller, then you may like Final Theory, by Mark Alpert: the “grand unified” novel brings together Einstein’s mysterious daughter, particle accelerators, the FBI, and a gamut of guys with evil on their mind. Alpert, it turns out, is a physicist and an editor at Scientific American.

The Gradu8: an online competition aimed at Irish school students now has a US science offshoot. Graduate.ie (also at Gradu8.net) runs a weekly competition that sends Irish school students hunting the Web for information on certain websites. In researching the answers, the aim is, they learn about civic, social and political awareness, and develop computing skills. The US offshoot is being piloted to promote science, technology, engineering and maths to 35 schools in Syracuse, New York, and already gets over 12,000 competition entries.

On the air waves

Eureka! Raidió na Gaeltachta’s first ever appearance in this bulletin — with a new science series, Eureka, starting this Wednesday evening at 8 p.m., presented by Bríd Maloney, aimed at a transition year students, and covering everything from astronomy and space to the environment and competing. Go n’éirí go geall leo.

The language of the Universe: a new four-part series on the story of mathematics, presented by Prof Marcus du Sautoy, starts on BBC Four on Monday, October 6, at 9pm. Starting in Egypt, with the invention of the decimal system, the Babylonian Base 60 number system, and some ancient Greeks. Other new science series on BBC Four this autumn/winter include a Darwin season, and a look at science and Islam. Expect a massive amount of Darwin across BBC radio and television over the coming 12 months — no word yet on any plans from RTE. But watch this space.

The Irish mind: the recent TV series produced in association with the RIA and screened on RTE television in the spring, is being screened on CNBC in the USA and Europe, and you can catch it online, with transcripts of some of the interviews, including the conversation with TCD biochemist Prof Luke O’Neill.

How to think about science: this regular series from CBC Radio 1, now online, features interviews with leading historians, sociologists and anthropologists of science, including Simon Schaffer. Worth a listen, and thanks to Julianna for bringing this to our attention.

Science on screen: what is the collective noun for science film festivals? The first international science film festival takes place in France October 18-26. The Imagine Science Film Festival – ‘putting the science back into science fiction’ – is rolling in New York at the same time (October 16-25). Then, a short intermission before the annual World Congress of Science and Factual Producers gathering in Italy, December 1-4.

Out & About

10 ways to win a maths bet in the pub: the provocative title for this month’s Alchemist Cafe, presented by entertaining mathematician, author and broadcaster Rob Eastaway, and part of Maths Week. October 14, 7.30 pm, Dublin. Adm free.

Warped passages: this year’s Hamilton lecture, marking that day in 1843 when William Rowan Hamilton invented quaternions, will be given by Harvard’s Prof Lisa Randall, who will be asking are there other universes with more dimensions than our own? October 16, 7:30 pm, TCD. Adm free, booking advised.

Are you smarter than a bag of sweets? can you beat a bag of sweets at noughts & crosses? Find out in this intriguing Maths Week presentation for secondary school students organised by Dundalk Institute of Technology, October 16, 5pm. Just one of the many interesting events taking place around the country during quaternion week.

Mills, millers and milling: a tour of Fancroft mill in Co Tipperary, and the economics of small hydro mills, are part of the weekend programme for the Mills & Millers of Ireland AGM, October 18-19. Adm €30. Email stephbourke@eircom.net

Watching ice melt: global glacier changes is the topic for an EPA climate change lecture to be broadcast live to Limerick, Galway and Waterford, in addition to the talk’s Dublin venue. The speaker is Dr Wilfried Haeberli, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service in Geneva. Adm free, booking advised. October 21, 7pm.

Mimesis, memory, and the hyper real: the intriguing title for a lunchtime seminar by Dr Susan Schreibman (director, Digital Humanities Observatory, Dublin) at the UCD Humanities Institute of Ireland (Friday, 3 October, 1pm). Later in the same series, DCU Prof Michael Cronin will be talking about “space, time and diversity in late modern Ireland” (Friday, October 31). UCD

Birds, bogs and beautiful trees: the October programme of events at the National Botanic Gardens includes a guided walk of the great trees there (October 9), a talk on birdwatching (October 17, 7:30 p.m.) and another on beautiful bogs (October 23, 8 p.m.).

Stargazing: the dark evenings mean that astronomy returns to the agenda. This month’s line-up includes a talk about the search for planets around other stars systems (Astronomy Ireland, Monday 13, 8 p.m., Dublin). A talk by Dublin cosmologist Prof Luke Drury (DIAS) about the “new gamma-ray sky” (Irish Astronomy Society, October 20, 8 p.m., Dunsink Observatory). And an introduction to meteor watching at the South Dublin Astronomy Society (October 2, 8 p.m.)


Next scheduled edition: November 1st 2008.
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September edition

Fascinating placebos, big bang day, the aesthetics of trash, and science in the Dublin Theatre Festivals . . . all this and more in our packed September edition. ———————————————————————————————

Art & Society. . .
The Aesthetics of Trash
: two-day international conference taking a cultural perspective on objects and obsolescence, by way of literature, geography, consumption and production. UCD, Sept 4-6

Based On Our Current Science . . . : time travel, pseudoscience, conspiracy theories . . . and visual culture. Special exhibition at Dublin’s Gallery of Photography exploring how the lens can carry the ideological concerns for a particular time. Until September 21, plus special outdoor screenings in the adjacent Meeting House at Square September 3-5.

LAB01: Pay Attention! Brain research joins the fringe programme of the Dublin Theatre Festival, when TCD’s science gallery is transformed into a working brain research lab, and you get the chance to become a live experimental subject. Make art using your brain waves, and test and control your attention. October 4-31.

The robots are coming: ArtBots comes to Dublin, in time for Culture Night and the fringe theatre festival. Events include Forcefield, by sound artist and theremin player, Ray Lee (September 19, adm free, booking essential). Plus work by 15 artists from nine countries, workshops and a panel discussion about living with robots. September 19-21

Sculpture In Context : over 100 artists rose to the challenge of responding creatively to the National Botanic Gardens, and the result is Ireland’s largest outdoor sculpture exhibition. Until 17th October

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Conferences & Opportunities. . .

Bodies and books, medicine and print: the wonderful Edward Worth Library at Dr Steeven’s Hospital in Dublin, is 275 years old, and its founding will be marked by two special conferences, the first in Dublin this September 22, and the second in London (November 27-28), when the topic will be science, medicine and book collecting in Ireland during Worth’s lifetime (1678-1733). That event takes place at the Royal Society, where Worth was a Fellow. The Dublin meeting concludes with the re-issue of a history of the hospital, first published in 1924.

Science, society and synthetic biology: the uses and abuses of new knowledge, and paradigm shifts vs science fashion shifts . . . some of the topics for the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) annual science and society conference, which this year looks at systems and synthetic biology. Germany, November 7-9; all welcome, adm e40/20

Science & technology in 19th-century Ireland: that’s the theme for a 2-day conference next July 2-3, at the RIA, Dublin, and organised by the Society for the Study of 19thC Ireland in association with the RIA and the Open University. Proposals for 20-minute papers are invited; the closing date for abstracts is the end of this month. Details: g.hooper@open.ac.uk or

Science week, 2008: this year’s festival is on November 9-16.

Irish science open forum Expo: a showcase for Irish scientific and technological research, education, and industry, organised by the Irish Science Open Forum (ISOF, modelled on a similar European forum) takes place in Dublin on November 13-15, as part of this year’s Science Week.

Offaly rocks: 10,000 years of history, no less, will be explored at a special geology gathering this weekend (Sept 4-7) organised by Offaly Naturalists Field Club, including field trips. Kinnitty Community Centre. Booking essential, cost e20, info: apedlow@offalycoco.ie ———————————————————————————————-
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Omniumgatherum . . .

An end to ‘blue sky’ thinking: that’s the motto of the wonderful Cloud Appreciation Society, where over 13,000 members in 66 countries, including 145 in Ireland, are not ashamed to say that they love clouds and want to see more of them. We highly recommend Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s wonderful book, The Cloudspotter’s Guide, which combines lucid scientific explanations of physics and meteorology, with musings on art, film (the killer stratus cloud!), architecture and much more. Guaranteed to change the way you look at clouds.

Snapping landscapes: the annual geological and landscape photography competition, organised by the Geological Survey of Ireland, promises a prize fund of €800, and accepts entries from across the world. Held in honour of 19th-century artist and geological surveyor, George Victor Du Noyer, the closing date is 10th October. See last year’s winners here.

Big bang day: Wednesday, September 10, is when the world’s biggest machine, and our most sophisticated and expensive ever science experiment, will be officially switched on. We’re talking the LHC, or large hadron collider, the world’s biggest and fastest ever particle smasher at CERN on the French-Swiss border. (Pedants among you will rightly point out that it will take months for the particle beams to reach full speed and actually start producing real data, but don’t let that get in the way of the story). Ireland is not a member ( and that’s another story), so coverage here will be muted, by comparison with say Britain, where BBC Radio 4 is devoting a whole day to coverage, live from the control room, with everything from topical discussions, news programmes, satire and even a play. You’ll also find lots of background information on the Guardian and New Scientist, and other events at other venues, such as the Science Museum.

Burren rock: the GSI has a new geological map of the Burren that should appeal to anyone who likes to put landscape and terrain together. The reverse includes detailed information on how the limestones formed, sea-level changes, visitor attractions, key geological localities to visit, and more. Price €5

Sugar-coated pills: Did you know, for instance, that the tranquilliser diazepam works only if the recipient knows that they are being given the drug? That similarly, morphine works best if you know that you are receiving it — else the dose has to be higher. Learn more in Ben ‘bad science’ Goldacre’s two-part series on the history and science of the fascinating placebo phenomenon on BBC Radio 4.

iPhone apps for science geeks: a genetic decoder, star map, periodic table of the elements, 3D chemical molecules . . . who’d have thought there could be so many applications so soon for the new iPhone. Thanks to Wired.com for the list, most of them for free.

Out & about . . .
Is Ireland racist? That’s the challenging topic for the Irish Skeptics Society monthly lecture, by UCD social psychologist Dr Mick O’Connell. September 10, 8 p.m., TCD Science Gallery.

Culture vultures: over 100 cultural organisations and venues open their doors for the annual Dublin culture night on September 19. It includes a chance to visit the wonderful library at the Royal Irish Academy, an after-dark tour of the National Botanic Gardens, and the opportunity to handle specimens from the Natural History Museum.

And not a drop to drink: water shortages and climate change is the topic for a special Planet Earth talk by Dr Pat Leahy, director of the American Geological Institute, in Dublin (Sept 24) and Galway (Sept 25).

Glassmaking in Ireland 1780-1850: Anne Moran (NCAD) will give a talk about historic Irish glassmaking at Collins Barracks, September 6, noon; adm free. Other free public events from the National Museum include ‘My, what big teeth you have’, a chance to find out the differences between carnivores, herbivores and omnivores (September 3)

Dublin’s trams: past and present trams will be the subject of a special engineering heritage talk by transport historian and enthusiast Michael Corcoran — always worth listening to — hosted by Engineers Ireland and the Irish Railway Record Society; Dublin, September 29, 8pm, adm free all welcome.

Wild bird safari: join the wonderfully knowledgeable Glynn Anderson, guide at the National Botanic Gardens, for a special bird safari; bring binoculars; suitable for children aged 9-12. September 27, 2:30 pm.

The denial of global warming: why are so many climate change sceptics in the US? That is one of the questions that may be addressed by geologist and science historian, Prof Naomi Oreskes (University of California, San Diego), who is giving a free public lecture in Dublin this Wednesday (September 3, 6 pm, TCD), organised by the geophysics section of the Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies. All welcome, adm free.

The stars, the stars: August’s total solar eclipse is the topic for this month’s meeting of the the South Dublin Astronomy Society (11 Sept, Gonzaga College Ranelagh, 8pm); the Irish Astronomy Association September talk is about the future for the Hubble space telescope (September 3, 7:30 pm, QUB Belfast). And finally, light pollution is the topic for Astronomy Ireland’s September talk, by Albert White, a founder of the Irish light pollution awareness campaign; next Monday, September 8th, 8 pm, TCD.


Next scheduled edition: October 1st 2008.
We try to ensure links are valid when we go to press• but can’t be responsible for other websites.



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