Archive for March, 2009

A chance to win a new book, invite to a book launch, 50 years of the ‘two cultures’, Ada Lovelace day, and much more as always.

This edition arrives a little later than usual — apologies — but technical problems conspired to delay things.

Art, books & culture


Lab Coats and Lace: out now

Lab Coats and Lace:  a new collection of biographies of historic Irish women scientists and pioneers is being launched on International Women’s Day (IWD), this Sunday March 8th, as part of Dublin Book Festival, and all are welcome.  The book — and here I should declare an interest, as I had the pleasure of editing the volume — is published by WITS, with biographies of over a dozen inspiring women from the 19th and early 20th centuries, including the flying feminist Lilian Bland, the fabulous Boole sisters, and a trio of UCD women science professors from the 1960s. Packed with illustrations; price 19.95

Still Alice:  we hear great things of this novel about early Alzheimers disease written by neuroscientist and first-time novelist, Lisa Genova, which recently hit the New York Times bestseller list. (We’re especially impressed as she self-published the book initially in 2007, before finally finding a publisher.)  Genova was prompted to research and write the book after her grandmother succumbed to the disease: as a relative she was, she says, heartbroken, but as a scientist she was fascinated at how the disorder could dissassemble someone’s life and memory. Perhaps one for the TCD Science Gallery bookclub?  Speaking of which . . .

Art, science:  TCD’s Science Gallery’s events this month include a book club discussion (March 25th), and a SEED dating event for scientists, engineers, designers and artists interested in virtual worlds (march 19th), plus much more, as always.

Evolutionary art: computer-aided creativity, artificial life, and music and design inspired by evolution . . . the 7th European workshop on music, art and design inspired by evolution and biology takes place in Germany April 15-17, bringing together theorists, artists and other practitioners.

Latham's mutator art

Latham's mutator art

Survival of the finest: using software that mimics natural variation and selection, artist William Latham of Goldsmith College, London, has created ‘mutator art’: each new generation evolves from the previous one. What started as art has now looped back to science: Latham is working with researchers to create (or evolve) new protein and molecular shapes that could be used as candidate drugs.

Two cultures:  it’s 50 years since CP Snow famously proposed his ‘two cultures’ view of society, making this a good year for anniversar7 buffs, what with 400 years since a telescope was first trained on the heavens, and the Darwin double.  Worth reading Snow’s argument again, perhaps, to see if much has moved on since 1959.

Inspiring women entrepreneurs: WiSER, TCD’s women in science & research project, is running several great events in the run up to IWD, including an afternoon symposium on Friday, 6th, on women entrepreneurs. Other events include a film series, Women in Science, on Sunday afternoon.


Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace

Ada Lovelace day and women we admire: put March 24th in your diary, and pledge to post a blog about a woman in technology whom you admire. The idea for this inaugural Ada Lovelace day — remembering Byron’s daughter Ada (1815-52) who wrote programs for Babbage’s analytical engine and is today recognised as one of the founders of modern scientific computing — began with Suw Charman, and has already reached the target 1,000 pledges .. . but don’t let that stop you!

Darwin licked! Watch for a special stamp on March 20th to mark the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth.  Also available from An Post.

This hour of darkness . . . Make another note in your diary:  Saturday March 28th, and turn off your lights at 8.30pm to mark Earth Hour.  And when that’s over, and you’ve rediscovered how nice it is to be able to see the night sky from the city, and that you can actually get by without too many lights on . . . don’t feel you have to turn the lights back on!  The restaurant at Blackrock Castle Observatory, Cork, will be candlelit for the night.

You could win this book!

You could win this book!

A chance to win a copy of my new book:  There are 101 easy, practical ways to save time and money, and also tread a little more lightly on the planet, in my new book, Drive Like a Woman, Shop Like a Man.  A couple of tips could save you €1,000 a year — and all for just €8.99. Now, if you can suggest a useful tip, you could win a copy, just visit GreenMe.ie to enter.

Bizarre medical devices: a new multimedia website from London’ Science Museum features some of the thousands of weird and painful medical devices in the collections, many of them never before put on display. See some of them here, courtesy of New Scientist (and men, in particular, prepare to wince).

Conferences & opportunities…

God and geometry

God and geometry

Creative mathematics workshops : from Plato to Euler in 45 minutes, and you get to keep the kit. And all for €25. These two special workshops with demos and experiments are on April 2nd, 7pm,  and April 4th (afternoon), and aimed at teachers, but all are welcome.  Cultivate, Dublin.

Science & technology in 19th-century Ireland: the post-Darwin universe of Synge’s Playboy; Bram Stoker’s Dracula; an ecological view of 19th-century Dublin; science and education — the case of Castleknock College; and gender, science and religion… 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

Wiring the brain: from genetic to neuronal networks, this international conference takes place in Limerick, April 21-24, 2009

RDS demonstration bursaries:  want to develop a demonstration lecture for primary or secondary school students? Strapped for cash? The RDS is again offering funds to enable educators to explore more creative ways of presenting science. Closing date: April 10.  2009.

Science, gender, research: an EU conference on gender management, equal opportunities, and how to make the most of people’s potential, viz careers in science, takes place in the Czech Republic, May 14-15 2009.

Out & about

Hubble, bubble: Can we store CO2 in Ireland? One of the ‘fixes’ being researched for climate change and rising CO2 levels is to sequester the gas in geological deposits (old mines, for instance). Consulting geologist Dr Deirdre Lewis will discuss whether this could be done in Ireland in an evening talk, March 11, 7pm, UCD.

Making a show of Darwin: see a reconstruction of Charles Darwin’s study and an exhibition that includes his correspondence with Irish scientists, at the National Botanic Gardens, Dublin. For the latter however, you’ll need to visit during office hours . . but on the plus side, you get to see inside the herbarium, or museum, which is not usually open to the public.

. . . and also in Cork:  UCC has also put together an exhibition of Darwinalia, including specimens Darwin collected during the voyage of the Beagle. Until March 31st. Adm free.

Darwin, evolution and the creation of a controversy: that’s the topic for a lunchtime talk by James D. Williams (Univ Sussex) in Belfast, March 27th, 1pm; Cathcart Room, 69 University Street, Belfast (School of Education & Stranmillis University College)

Watch Rubot solve the cube

Watch Rubot solve the cube

Parading science:  Rubot, the Rubik cube solving robot, and science shows by the always entertaining Sue McGrath, are among the attractions at the science zone in the St Patrick’s festival, March 15th, Dublin.  Meanwhile, there will be cosmic chaos in Cork, as Blackrock Castle Observatory gets involved in celebrations, and NASA astronaut Dan Tani, who has married into Cork, will be grand marshal for the city’s parade. BCO is hosting a range of other events as part of the week-long festival.

Kerry weather research station: Met Eireann’s Valentia observatory is historic — the first place in these islands to submit a weather report when the stations were connected by telegraph in the 1860s as a way of collating data to produce forecasts. Today, the Co Kerry station continues to collect important data, as you can hear in a Met Society talk by Valentia chief scientist, Keith Lambkin. March 26th, Dublin.

Engineering Guinness:   the heritage section at Engineer’s Ireland March talk is about innovation at the historic Dublin Guinness brewery. March 12th, Dublin

Subjective experience and science: can science study subjective experience? Dr Fred Cummins from UCD’s cognitive science programme reports from the fringes of many diciplines for this month’s Alchemist cafe. Dublin, March 11. Adm free, finger food served, all welcome.

Geology of the Burren: the Burren seems to be a hive of activity, thanks in part to the BurrenBeo project.  Their March talk (19th, 8pm) is by  Dr Maria McNamara. Booking essential on info@burrenbeo.com

The challenge of climate change: this excellent series of Friday lunchtime seminars, run by UCD Earth Systems Institute, continues  with yet more wide-ranging talks, including predicting species extinctions (March 13th), the merits of bioethanol (March 20th) and food vs fuel (March 27th). RCPI, Kildare St, Dublin; 12.30pm; adm free, all welcome. And if you missed previous ones, videos are now avilable online.

Talks at Tara: the Lismullin Institute, at the foot of the Hill of Tara is running a series of public talks, including several on science topics, such as Ireland’s major contribution to telescope technology (March 25, Prof Ian Elliott, retired from DIAS Dunsink Observatory), marking the 400th anniversary of the first astronomical use of a telescope, and on April 8, Michael de Arce of TCD Genetics on Darwin’s Irish connections.  Wed evenings, 8pm; adm €5.

The Chair of Kildare: Sunday geology field trip, led by Dr Matthew Parkes (National Museum of Ireland), March 29th. See geology.ie

The stars, the stars: again it seems there are more astronomical events than anything else taking place (although closely followed by a growing number of ‘grow your own veg’ courses!), only partly explained by this being International Year of Astronomy.  Director of the ESA’s robotic exploration programme, Prof. David Southwood, is in Armagh Observatory for a public free talk on March 14th, 3pm (followed by tea),  and in Dublin for Astronomy Ireland on Monday March 16th (€5, 8pm).  COSMOS 2009, the annual star-fest organised by Tullamore Astronomy Club is on March 27-29, and promises a great line up of talks. The Irish Astronomical Society lecture is on Monday, March 9th (8pm, Dunsink Observatory, Dublin), on ‘Binary stars are double the fun; free, all welcome. And finally, Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork is gearing up with a programme for the year, including a stellar art exhibition and a new series of First Friday talks.

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