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Archive for January, 2009

February & Darwin edition

Details of Darwin Day events, more Irish science blogs, sidewalk astronomy, and the Week of Wonder (engineering). Sadly, we recently heard that ENFO — the environmental information centre in Dublin city — is to close this year.

Art, society & culture

CATCH THIS! The Third Policeman: Flann O’Brien’s surreal story of bicycles and molecules, and the physics of de Selby comes to Dublin in a  stage adaptation by Sligo company Blue Raincoat. Project Theatre, February 16-18. Post-show discussion with Jocelyn Clarke (writer), Niall Henry (director) and the cast on Tuesday 23 February.

lightwaveLightwave — defy the darkness: dispel the depths of winter with a festival of light at the TCD Science Gallery, including electric fish, a camera obscura, and a kaleidoscope that tracks earthquakes around the world. Exhibitions continue until Feb 21st.
Dancing with other brains: post-genomic reflections on what it means to be human, at a half-day seminar bringing together researchers from the natural sciences and humanities. The Alexander von Humboldt Association of Ireland, RIA and UCD’s School of Philosophy.  Friday Feb 13, RIA Dublin 2:30pm. All welcome, adm free. Registration essential: Maeve.Cooke[at]ucd.ie

Where was Odysseus’s homeland? using geology, geophysics and landscape science, Prof. John Underhill (Univ Edinburgh) attempts to locate Homer’s Ithaca.  Assess the evidence yourself at his evening talk, on Saturday Feb 21st, 6pm, TCD.

The Body in the Library: forensics meets crime writing in this new exhibition celebrating the great fictional detectives, from the start of the genre in 1841, and including Wilkie Collins’s Moonstone, Sherlock Holmes, Agatha Christie, and Raymond Chandler, among others. Plus, a symposium on crime writing in April.  TCD’s old library. Until 15 June 2009

Art and space: an international exhibition of astronomical drawings, ‘In the Footsteps of Galileo’, opens at  Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork on Friday Feb 6, part of International Year of Astronomy, marking 400 years since scientists first turned a telescope on the heavens.

Omniumgatherum

mary_mulvihill_coverSave time, save money: out now, our new book packed with 101 easy and practical tips for saving time, money and some of the planet’s scarce resources.  A ‘green’ book, that is also a ‘beat the recession book’.  So, don’t be short of New Year’s resolutions. Drive like a Woman, Shop like a Man is in all good bookshops now, €8.99. You’ll save the cover price in minutes!

Blog awards: good to see some  science blogs among the nominations for this year’s Irish blog awards (winners announced on Feb 21).  (You’ll have to wait until next year to nominate Science@Culture!) I particularly liked Paul Whelan’s beautiful lichens of Ireland, and the Frog Blog from the science department at St Columba’s College, both nominated under the Specialist category. I’ve added these to my growing Irish science blog roll (see right), where I also added Chris Horn’s blog – the former Iona CEO is not afraid to put his head above the parapet on Irish science policy — and University Diary, DCU president Ferdinand  Ferdinand von Prondzynski’s personal blog.

Is this a machine? Engage Elbot in chat, and see if you can decide whether this is human or just a machine with a sense of humour!

Science Spin: the latest edition of the Irish monthly science magazine is out now, and you can read some of the features online.

BBC Science: catch the wide range of BBC science, nature and environment programmes on television and radio, with the BBC listing here.

Perimeter presentations: want to hear Roger Penrose talk about life “before the big bang”?  Or Nobel physicist Frank Wilczek on where next for particle physics? Both scientists recently gave public talks at the Perimeter Institute (PI), Ontario, which are now available to watch online.  Blackberry users among you helped to fund these events! PI was established 10 years ago as a state-of-the-art theoretical physics institute by Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research In Motion (RIM),  maker of the successful BlackBerryTM.

Ginger beer and chewing gum:  learn about the biochemistry of fermentation and respiration as you make ginger beer; and measure the citric acid level in chewing gum… just two of the articles available to download free from Science in School, a European journal aimed at science teachers.

Darwin Day

darwin-old

Charles Darwin’s work on the origin of species changed how we think about life on Earth, and is arguably one of the most revolutionary ideas of all time. This year marks his bi-centenary (born February 12th, 1809), and 150 years since the 1859 publication of ‘Origin’. Events are taking place across Ireland, and there is a wealth of resources online — notably a wonderful dedicated section at The Guardian, and another rich offering at the BBC, that includes various radio and TVprogrammes, plus a section at Nature with reviews, essays and a PDF for teachers (and anyone else!) with 15 recent studies that provide evidence for natural selection.

The sceptics’ Darwin: the Irish Sceptics start the celebrations a day early, on Feb 11th, with a talk on Darwin and human evolution by Prof Tom Hayden of UCD, always an entertaining speaker.  Dublin, 8pm.

Mr Darwin’s Big Idea: marking Darwin Day at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, Dr Matthew Jebb will introduce Darwin’s life and discoveries, achievements and insights. Plus an exhibition of Darwin’s correspondence with David Moore, director of the gardens in the mid-1800s. Thursday Feb 12, 3pm.

Darwin Day and the humanists: Darwin, genetics and the nature of humankind, is this year’s Humanist Association Darwin day lecture, to be given by TCD geneticist, Prof David McConnell, Dublin Thursday, February 12, 7:30 p.m.

Geology, geography and the theory of evolution: the Belfast Geologists’ Society Darwin day talk is by QUB science historian and evolutionary expert, Prof Peter Bowler. Monday 16th February 7.30 pm (reception 7pm), adm free, all welcome. St Bartholomew’s Church Hall, Stranmillis Road, Belfast. Contact:  peter.crowther@nmni.com

David Attenborough Darwin special: Attenborough, a passionate Darwinian, kicks off the BBC Darwin season with a one-hour special.  Sunday, Feb 1st BBC One 9pm. If you missed it, check out the BBC Darwin site, where you may be able to catch it again — they are making a lot of material available there for the season.

Darwin ‘in our times’: Melvyn Bragg’s four-part radio series, broadcast in the New Year, is worth listening to from the BBC Radio 4 site.

Conferences & opportunities…

Science & technology in 19th-century Ireland: the post-Darwin universe of Synge’s Playboy; Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Ireland and the New Science; an ecological view of 19th-century Dublin; science and education — the case of Castleknock College; and gender, science and religion… just some of the topics for what promises to be a fascinating two-day conference on science and technology in 19th-century Ireland. The Society for the Study of 19th Century Ireland, the RIA Committee for the History of Irish Science, and the Open University. July 2-3, 2009.  Dublin

Stay sharp, with the mind doctor! Use your brain or lose it, is the message from best-selling author and TCD neuroscientist, Prof Ian Robertson. Always worth listening to, he’ll show how to keep your mind active in this seminar. Fee €50, proceeds to Headway (brain injury support). Tuesday, March 10, 7pm, National College of Ireland, IFSC Dublin.

Future Gardens: Evolution or Revolution? A one-day conference  exploring how garden designs will respond to environmental and social pressures; with international speakers, organised by the Garden & Landscape Designers Association on Saturday, Feb 21st. €155 (concs €90)

Life Through a Lens: Can you come up with a photograph showing how we might use energy in the future?  Are you at secondary school? Sustainable Energy Ireland has launched a photography competition, on the theme: Energy — the next generation, with €10 000 in prizes. Closing date is March 27th 2009.

Out & about

Climate change, seminars: the Friday lunchtime seminars run by UCD’s Earth Systems Institute continue with Prof  Frank Convery on Europe’s carbon market (Feb 6), zoologist Gareth Dyke on birds as sensitive indicators of climate change — the canary in the mine?! — (Feb13); mass extinctions (Feb 20) and soils and climate change (Feb 27). Adm free, all welcome. Fridays, 12.30pm until June, Dublin.

wow_logoWOW! make a balloon-powered car, see how tall you can build a tower of paper, and discover Morse code… just some of the events taking place during the engineering Week of Wonder (Feb 9-15). Organised by Engineers Ireland, with events around the country.

Careers in digital media: Interested in a career in software, gaming or mobile technologies? Then check out this careers seminar, where senior-cycle school students can quiz industry professionals currently working in Dublin’s Digital Hub. Tuesday Feb 10, 10am.    Booking advised.

Living with robots: a chance to hear robotics expert, Prof Noel Sharkey (Univ Sheffield, and originally from Northern Ireland), frequently outspoken on the ethics of robots in caring for elderly people, and the military use of robotics.  Digital Hub, Dublin, February 12, 6pm. All welcome.

The stars, the stars:   International Year of Astronomy is under way, and events this month include some sidewalk astronomy, courtesy of the Irish Astronomy Society, if you fancy some public stargazing and a chance to see the rings of Saturn: Firhouse, Dublin 16, Fri 6th & Sat 7th Feb 7.30pm.  The association’s monthly talk is by asteroid hunter, Dave McDonald, who last year discovered only the second ever asteroid from Ireland.  Monday, Feb 16th, 8pm, Dunsink Observatory.  Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork launches its Year of Astronomy programme on Friday Feb 6, with an exhibition of astronomical drawings, ‘In the Footsteps of Galileo’, organised by astronomical artist Deirdre Kelleghan.   ‘Farce and fortuity in the exploration of space’ — that’s this month’s Astronomy Ireland talk, by Doug Ellison of unmannedspaceflight.com. Monday Feb 9, 8pm.  Get ‘Mad about meteorites’ with geologist Matthew Parkes of the Natural History Museum, as part of the museum’s Planet Earth exhibition at Turlough Park, Co Mayo.  Wednesday Feb 11, 3.30pm.

ENFO –  Wetland Exhibition:  I’ve long been a fan of ENFO, the environment information centre in Dublin city, run by the Department of the Environment, but we hear it is to close soon as part of the cutbacks.  A pity.  And under a ‘green’ Minister for the environment, too. Meanwhile,  check out the current exhibition about wetlands, from estuaries and turlougs, to fens and rivers.  Until February 24.

ihai-bridgeA Century of Civil Engineering in Ireland: the erudite historian of Irish engineering,  Dr Ron Cox (TCD), is talking about a century of Irish engineering heritage.  Monday, Feb 10, 6:30pm; adm free, all welcome.  Engineers Ireland, Dublin 4 — a pleasant venue, aided by the adjacent bar!

The War of the Sexes: multi-tasking, map reading, parallel parking . . . are men and women really different? The gender divide is up for discussion on Wednesday, Feb 4th at the DANA public science centre in London. Worth checking out if you happen to be in London at any stage.  Other events this month include a look at whether emotions can be contagious, the science of taste and flavours, and martial arts and science.

Whole-brained innovation for a sustainable economy:  that’s the topic for the next seminar in UCD’s inter-disciplinary series on culture, society and change.  Friday, Feb 6, lunchtime.  UCD

Arctic ice and the climate system:  the Irish Meteorological Society February talk will be given by  Dr Tido Semmler, Thursday Feb 26, venue tbc. All welcome.

Alchemy:  can we build effective solar energy devices that can mimic plants?  That was the topic for January’s Alchemist Cafe, with UCD  solar energy physicist Dr Dominic Zerulla.  If you missed the debate, check out the website, where a video of the discussion should appear soon, courtesy of Marek.   No details yet of the February cafe — sadly, my bulletin always seems to be published before they post details of their next meeting 😦

Next edition: March, 2009

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January, 2009

New Year wishes! for this, the International Year of Astronomy and the Darwin 200 celebrations.

Darwin 200

darwin-portraitCharles Darwin’s work on the origin of species changed how we think about life on Earth, and is arguably one of the most revolutionary ideas of all time. This year marks Darwin’s bi-centenary (born 1809), and 150 years since the publication in 1859 of ‘Origin’. Events are taking place across Ireland, and there is a wealth of resources online — notably a wonderful dedicated section at The Guardian, and another rich offering at the BBC, that includes various radio and TVprogrammes, plus a section at Nature with reviews, essays and a PDF for teachers (and anyone else!) with 15 recent studies that provide evidence for natural selection.

The Man and the Myths: Darwin was an honorary member of the RIA, and the academy is marking the occasion with a discourse, by QUB science historian, Prof Peter Bowler, Monday, January 19, 6pm. Booking advised

Mr Darwin’s Big Idea: marking Darwin Day at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin, Dr Matthew Jebb will introduce Darwin’s life and discoveries, achievements and insights. Plus an exhibition of Darwin’s correspondence with David Moore, director of the gardens in the mid-1800s. Thursday Feb 12, 3pm.

Darwin, and human evolution: events at the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, include a talk by TCD geneticist Dr Miguel De Arce about Darwin’s life (Thursday 15th January 1pm & 6 pm), while UCD zoologist, Prof Tom Hayden, will talk about human evolution on Thursday, January 29, 1pm & 6 pm. Adm free, all welcome

Darwin Day and the humanists: Darwin, genetics and the nature of humankind, is this year’s Humanist Association Darwin day lecture, to be given by TCD geneticist, Prof David McConnell, Dublin Thursday, February 12, 7:30 p.m.

Art, society & culture

RECOMMENDED! The Third Policeman: Flann O’Brien’s surreal story of bicycles and molecules, and the physics of de Selby comes to Dublin in an acclaimed stage adaptation by Sligo company Blue Raincoat. Project Theatre, February 16-18. Post-show discussion with Jocelyn Clarke (writer), Niall Henry (director) and the cast on Tuesday 23 February.

Lightwave — defy the darkness: dispel the depths of winter with a festival of light at the TCD Science Gallery, including electric fish, a camera obscura, and a kaleidoscope that tracks earthquakes around the world. Events: Jan 24th-Feb 1st; exhibitions continue until Feb 21st.

The Exhibition

Bodies: The Exhibition

The body politic: the controversial ‘Bodies’ exhibition, featuring dissected and ‘plastinated’ human bodies, opens in Dublin on January 24 at the Ambassador Theatre. Controversy surrounds the source of some of the cadavers: all are from a special facility in China, but some were unclaimed bodies with no next of kin, and no consent. Read Fiona McCann’s report in the Irish Times.

Living with robots: a chance to hear robotics expert, Prof Noel Sharkey (Univ Sheffield, and originally from Northern Ireland), frequently outspoken on the ethics of robots in caring for elderly people, and the military use of robotics. The Digital Hub, Dublin, February 12, 6pm. All welcome.

UnConventional music: a two-day ‘unconference’ on digital music for musicians and music industry professionals, which showcases, presentations, and ‘speed mentoring’, takes place in Belfast, Feb 6-7, organised by the NI Digital Content Industry Group.

Fictional functions, functional fictions: explore the social, cultural and ethical implications of new designs and emerging technologies, with Prof Anthony Dunne, Design Interactions, Royal College of Art in London. Free lecture, Wednesday, January 15, noon, TCD Science Gallery.

Omniumgatherum

Goldilocks goes digital: you can now catch quite a bit of radio science, thanks to RTE’s new digital station, Choice. The science and related programmes include some new, some recent and some from the archives, among them my own recent geology series The Goldilocks World, the archive ‘Green Light ‘environment series, and the latest ‘Science in Action’ (BBC World Service).

five-minutes-to-midnight-cover Five Minutes to Midnight? Climate change will transform Ireland sooner than we think according to a new book by NUI Galway geographer, Dr Kieran Hickey, intended as a wake-up call for Irish readers and politicians. Hickey covers not just climate, but also diseases (e.g. skin cancer and malaria), the arrival of great white sharks off Irish coasts, changes to farming and fisheries, and landscapes.

New science bookclub: the Science Gallery has started a new monthly book club, kicking off with ‘The frog who croaked blue’, Jamie Ward’s book about synaesthesia. The discussion will be led by two TCD scientists who are studying the genetics of synaesthesia. Join the discussion on Wednesday, January 28.

Conferences & opportunities…

Online networking masterclass: are you LinkedIn? Do you twitter? Learn how to master online networking, and improve your visibility, reputation and business success . . . in a half-day workshop run by WITS (Women in Technology & Science), and given by Krishna De. Free to members, €55 for non-members, incl lunch. Join WITS here. Sat January 24, 10am-1.30pm, Dublin.

New sciences in society: from nanoscience to stem cells . . . a symposium, Negotiating new sciences in society, aims to examine public attitudes, and ethical and regulatory issues, with speakers from France, Denmark and USA. 22-23 January at DCU. Contact: padraig.murphy@dcu.ie €50, incl dinner.

Life, language and landscape, art culture and the environment — some of the topics of discussion in this year’s Burren sprint conference, directed by Fintan O’Toole. February 6-8, Co Clare.

Teaching, learning & technology: the Computer Education Society of Ireland (CESI) two-day national conference is on ICT and learning, with presentations and workshops on topics such as blogging, digital video essentials, and ‘virtual school twinning’. Dublin, February 13-14

Out & about

astronomy-2009 A heavenly year: sidewalk astronomy, astronomical art, a constellation of stars, and hours of observing the night sky. . . a rich programme of events is promised for this international year of astronomy, and taking place around the country from Armagh Observatory to Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork. Full details at the astronomy2009.ie and you can keep in touch by subscribing to their RSS feed.
21st-Century science: IRCSET, the Irish Research Council for Science, Engineering and Technology, is hosting a lecture on: Complexity; Science for the 21st Century, Thursday, January 22, Dublin. Contact: jdenari@ircset.ie

Costing the earth? TV geologist Dr Iain Stewart, of the new BBC series, How Earth Made Us, will talk about the cultural and economic importance of minerals (think: The Iron Age, and now, the silicon age), and why we need to husband our geological resources, in a New Year lecture for the Irish Geological Association, Thursday Jan 22nd, TCD, 8 pm; free, all welcome.

Touch a meteorite! Hold a bit of outer space, and inspect meteorites under a microscope, with geologist Dr Matthew Parkes, at the ongoing Earth & Space exhibition in the National Museum, Turlough Park, Co Mayo. January 18, 2-5pm. Adm free, all welcome.

tyndall-iopThe human body, ultimate physics: the physics of aneurysms, flatulence and perspiration . . . this year’s Tyndall lecture for schools is by medical physicist Dr Kevin McGuigan (RCSI). Venues around the country January-February. Transition year and above; booking essential.

New geology course: study the Earth, with this introductory geology course, focusing on the southeast of Ireland and especially Waterford’s wonderful volcanic Copper Coast. Start Mon, January 26, Dungarvan VEC. Workshops, and 9 lectures; fee applies.

Climate change, seminars
: a new series of Friday lunchtime seminars, organised by UCD’s Earth Systems Institute, starts this Fri Jan 16th, with a talk by meteorologist Prof Peter Lynch, on the mathematics and computer modelling involved in ‘calculating’ climate change for Ireland. Future topics include extreme weather events, sustainable road transport, and Europe’s carbon market. Adm free, all welcome. Fridays, 12.30pm until June, Dublin.

How to improve your brain function!
TCD neuroscientist Prof Ian Robertson gave an entertaining presentation to the Alchemist Cafe in Dublin in November. If you missed it, you can watch the video here. No details yet for any New Year alchemy.

The stars, the stars: dark nights, and hopefully clear skies, and keep your eyes peeled for Comet Lulin later in the month. It is 40 years since Apollo 11 landed on the moon. Dublin cosmologist Prof Denis O’Sullivan will talk about his work on several Apollo missions, for the Irish Astronomy Society January talk (January 19, Dunsink Observatory, 8pm), plus a small exhibition of objects that have travelled to the moon and back. The western winter star party, organised by Galway astronomy club, with an excellent line-up of speakers, and topics ranging from prehistoric Irish astronomy to the latest gamma ray science. GAlway, January 30-31,

Next edition: February, 2009

We try to ensure links are valid when we go to press• but can’t be responsible for other websites.

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