National Academies to Host Seminar on Science Communication

Readers in the DC area will definitely want to check out the upcoming event on June 23 at the National Academies. Details are posted below. I hope to be able to attend and to report back on some collected remarks.

It will be interesting to compare the thoughts of the assembled practitioners with the conclusions from the article we published last week at Nature Biotechnology, which synthesized relevant research in the fields of science communication, ethics, and policy and highlighted eight key recommendations.

The National Academies Presents: An Educational Event on Science Communication

The National Academies is holding an educational event on innovative strategies for communicating science. The event is intended for scientists, practitioners, students and educators looking for new ways to reach audiences and effectively communicate scientific issues to the public. Speakers include Shawn Otto, CEO of Science Debate 2008; Phil Plait, President of the James Randi Education Foundation; and Jerry Zucker, Director of Ghost and Airplane! and Vice-Chair the Science & Entertainment Exchange.

NOTE: This event is free and open to the public. An RSVP is required for each individual session. Please contact Olive Schwarzschild,

Tuesday, JUNE 23, 2009

The National Academies
500 Fifth Street, N.W.
Keck 100
Washington, DC

Session 1 - 10:00 AM - 11:30 AM

Science for All Seasons: Communicating Science to Diverse Audiences
This panel will explore various ways in which science is communicated to diverse, non-specialist audiences. The mix of participants, selected to represent contrasting but complementary approaches, will highlight a variety of outreach strategies, describing "best practices" scenarios from which scientists and science organizations can learn.

Panelists Include:

· Sue Allen, The Exploratorium
· Don Hoyt Gorman, Senior Editor, SEED Online
· Meghan Murphy, Director of Outreach, X Prize Foundation
· Shawn Otto, Co-founder and CEO of Science Debate 2008
· Kelly Stoetzel, Producer, TED conferences

Moderated by: Barbara Kline Pope, Executive Director, Office of Communications, The National Academies

NOTE: RSVP is required. Please contact Olive Schwarzschild,

Session 2 - 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

Information - and Misinformation - at the Speed of Light

Featured Speaker: Phil Plait, President of the James Randi Education Foundation and author of the highly popular Bad Astronomy blog

Phil Plait looks at how science communication has been changed by the Internet. He will talk about how blogging, online media, and even Twitter have been leveraged to spread science information - and sometimes misinformation - to millions of people around the globe, focusing on the best ways to harness all that the Web has to offer.

NOTE: RSVP is required. Please contact Olive Schwarzschild,

Session 3 - 2:00 PM - 3:30 PM

Science and Hollywood: Education Through Entertainment
Beyond good storytelling, entertainment channels affect opinions, inform ideas, and even change behavior. This panel will focus on the intersections of science and entertainment to explore the power of the popular media to communicate key ideas in science.

Panelists Include:

· Neal Baer, Executive Producer for Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Chair of the Advisory Board for Hollywood, Health, and Society
· Jim Kakalios, University of Minnesota physicist, author of The Physics of Superheroes and science advisor to the film Watchmen
· Bruce Joel Rubin, Screenwriter for Deep Impact, The Last Mimzy, and the forthcoming adaptation of the best-selling book, The Time Traveler's Wife
· Anne Simon, University of Maryland virologist, author of The Real Science Behind the X-Files and long-time advisor to the television series

Moderated by: Jerry Zucker, Director of such feature films as Ghost, First Knight, Rat Race, and Airplane!, and vice-chair of The Science & Entertainment Exchange

The panel will be introduced by President of the National Academy of Sciences, Ralph J. Cicerone.

NOTE: RSVP is required. Please contact Olive Schwarzschild,

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

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  • Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
  • Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
  • Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.

Scientists study tattooed corpses, find pigment in lymph nodes

It turns out, that tattoo ink can travel throughout your body and settle in lymph nodes.

17th August 1973: An American tattoo artist working on a client's shoulder. (Photo by F. Roy Kemp/BIPs/Getty Images)

In the slightly macabre experiment to find out where tattoo ink travels to in the body, French and German researchers recently used synchrotron X-ray fluorescence in four "inked" human cadavers — as well as one without. The results of their 2017 study? Some of the tattoo ink apparently settled in lymph nodes.

Image from the study.

As the authors explain in the study — they hail from Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility, and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment — it would have been unethical to test this on live animals since those creatures would not be able to give permission to be tattooed.

Because of the prevalence of tattoos these days, the researchers wanted to find out if the ink could be harmful in some way.

"The increasing prevalence of tattoos provoked safety concerns with respect to particle distribution and effects inside the human body," they write.

It works like this: Since lymph nodes filter lymph, which is the fluid that carries white blood cells throughout the body in an effort to fight infections that are encountered, that is where some of the ink particles collect.

Image by authors of the study.

Titanium dioxide appears to be the thing that travels. It's a white tattoo ink pigment that's mixed with other colors all the time to control shades.

The study's authors will keep working on this in the meantime.

“In future experiments we will also look into the pigment and heavy metal burden of other, more distant internal organs and tissues in order to track any possible bio-distribution of tattoo ink ingredients throughout the body. The outcome of these investigations not only will be helpful in the assessment of the health risks associated with tattooing but also in the judgment of other exposures such as, e.g., the entrance of TiO2 nanoparticles present in cosmetics at the site of damaged skin."

Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
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