From Star Trek to honeybees

United States design patent 307,923This year’s Science Literacy Week really does have it all, starting with two amazing library exhibits:

  1. The Science of Star Trek at Schulich Library
  2. Knowing Blood, Medical Observations, Fluid Meanings at Osler Library of the History of Medicine.

If you can’t make it up to Osler Library, we have a touch table coming to Schulich Library tomorrow that will allow you to explore the Knowing Blood exhibit from Tuesday to Friday.

The fun with technology does not stop there, however, because we have 3D printing and learn to code workshops. You can also explore virtual reality technologies with the Oculus Rift. I will definitely be there for that.

I haven’t forgotten about the bees…we have hives on the roof of Schulich Library and they make the best honey. Take a visit up there with an experienced beekeeper.

There is more happening than I can mention here but I don’t want to leave out Wednesday’s Wikipedia edit-a-thon on women in science, or the talk from Dr. Joe Schwarcz on the facts and myths of eating right on Thursday afternoon.

I will leave you with the calendar of events to explore. Now if only we had transporter rooms… Well, there is always next year!

Star Trek and science

I liked watching “Star Trek: The Next Generation” when I was a teenager.  I liked the character of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, who was a scientist, diplomat, and Shakespeare-lover all rolled into one.

The film, “Star Trek into Darkness,” started playing in cinemas this past weekend.  As a homage to the movie, Phil Plait provides an amusing look at the science errors in the Star Trek franchise in his blog post, “The Top 6 Star Trek Science Mistakes.”

Calling all citizen scientists

GalaxyZoo

There is room for everyone in science and researchers are harnessing the enthusiasm of everyday people (not to mention their free time) to work on projects.

Galaxy Zoo is perhaps the most famous example of citizen science, with over 200,000 volunteers classifying galaxy images taken from a robotic telescope. Citizens have always played an important role in astronomy but now anyone can contribute without buying expensive equipment. We humans are needed to describe the images but the task is too large for a researcher or group of researchers to take on. Thus far over 150 million galaxies have been classified by volunteer astronomers (zooites) and a few have gone on to make really neat discoveries.

A more local example is Phylo, a citizen science project from McGill. A lot of these projects are actually games that people can play (yes, science can be fun!) and this one uses your pattern recognition skills to solve DNA puzzles in order to learn more about gene mutations and genetic disorders.

I urge you to find a citizen science project that interests you. Take a look at this list from Scientific American. There are a lot of weather or nature watching options (Snowtweets, RinkWatch, ZomBee Watch, SubseaObservers). There is even an Open Dinosaur Project.

Happy exploring!

Technology à la mode

techfashionWho doesn’t like their fashion with a bit of high-tech functionality? From the lab to the runways of some of the most glamorous fashion shows, wearable electronics and other futuristic fabrications are catching people’s attention. I can’t decide which I like the best from this CBC image gallery of high-tech fashions: the solar paneled bikini or the cat ears that move around in reaction to my brainwaves.

Image from www.designerbase.co

Oliver Sacks – Hallucinations

I gave several workshops in the past two weeks, as did many of my fellow librarians. One of the topics we cover in our workshops is the importance of making the distinction between popular and scholarly literature, namely the difference between scientific articles that are written for the general public and those that are meant to communicate ideas and results of scientific studies among academic researchers. Today’s post is about a scientist who most certainly writes for the general public but is no less fascinating or important for it. Just don’t cite one of his popular publications if you’ve been asked to find scholarly and peer-reviewed articles :-/

Oliver Sacks is a physician, best-selling author, and professor of neurology at the NYU School of Medicine. He writes primarily about people with neurological disorders, but it doesn’t stop there. His latest book, Hallucinations, comes out in November and the title is pretty self-explanatory. If you’d like a taste, read an excerpt called Altered States from The New Yorker (Vol. 88 Issue 25, p40-47) published this summer. Just search for The New Yorker from the Journals tab on the Library homepage and then, from within the journal, search for this volume/issue and read it online. Easy! Oh, and here’s a video from The New Yorker of Sacks, in anticipation of his new book, discussing the hallucinogenic mind…

Check out some other classic titles in the McGill Library catalogue including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat: and Other Clinical Tales and of course Awakenings, the book that the 1990 film of the same name is based on. Happy reading…

Image courtesy of www.oliversacks.com

Mathematical theory and the Rubik’s Cube

The 2012 World Cube Association’s U.S. National Championship was held at the beginning of August in Las Vegas.  A California teenager, Deven Nadudvari, set a record by using one hand to solve 5 different 3-by-3 Rubik’s Cubes in an average of 14.86 seconds each.

“You can use Rubik’s Cube to teach engineering, you can use it to teach mathematics, and you can use it to talk about the interplay between design and engineering and mathematics and creativity,“ according to Paul Hoffman, president of the Liberty Science Center in Jersey City, who is organizing an international exhibition in 2014 that will celebrate the cube’s 40th anniversary. (Montreal Gazette, 8/11/2012, Quenqua)

The Rubik’s Cube has been used to teach Group Theory in mathematics.  For more information about group theory and the cube, check out any of these books.

Photo from allie

Science at the movies

Peter Parker (a.k.a. Spider-Man) is one of my favorite action superheroes.  It turns out that the “Decay Rate Algorithm” in the movie, The Amazing Spider-Man, is based on real science.  Jim Kakalios, the author of The Physics of Superheroes and a physics professor at the University of Minnesota, explains the science behind the most recent Spider-Man movie in this short video: