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Open mic for science communication

Science Showoff promises “open mic for all communicators of science” and aims to be

a place where people from all the bits of the science communication industry could share their latest work, in a performance-based way, and then chew it over with a pint in hand (or a whisky in hand). We also wanted it to be democratic, with space for people we see all the time, as well as people we’ve never seen perform before.

Science Showoff will run its fifth night in London in the evening of Tuesday 7th February. The gig is free with a collection for London Wildlife Trust. There are ten acts covering a range of sciences and here are three I would be most looking forward to (if I was anywhere near London):

Katie Steckles, who is well known in maths communication, will present a session on Fibonacci and the Golden Ratio:

A lot of people have heard of the Golden Ratio, but many, even those who have read Dan Brown books, might not know exactly what it is. I will give several illustrative explanations, using stuffed rabbits and slagging off TV presenters, and hopefully give you some idea of why I think it’s incredibly lovely.

Helen Arney, one third of Festival of the Spoken Nerd, promises:

I’ll be trying out a new singalong song that encompasses time, space, mathematics and philosophy. Features live powerpoint!

Rhys Phillips, who featured on the Travels in a Mathematical World Podcast episode 63, talking about lightning:

Rhys “Lightning” Phillips will be looking at what happens when planes are hit by lightning and showing cool videos of things going bang in a lightning lab! He’ll also be pondering on why song writers think that lightning is frightening.

Full line up: Science Showoff 5 (will make you get down) LINE-UP ANNOUNCED(1 February 2012).

singingbanana code challenge

James Grime, of the Enigma project and guest editor of the February 2012 code month at Nrich, has posted a code breaking challenge on his YouTube channel singingbanana. The prize is a signed copy of Simon Singh’s The Code Book. You can get the ciphertext to decrypt along with a couple of clues presented with James’ trademark charm in the video singingbanana code challenge 2012. The winner and solution will be announced in March.

(Edited 11:28 to add link to Nrich Codes and Ciphers – February 2012 page.)

Three new Mathematics Matters case studies

Three new case studies have been posted to the IMA’s Mathematics Matters series. This aims to address the following problem:

The industry and technology that surrounds us owes a great debt to modern mathematics research, yet this fact is perfectly hidden in its physical manifestation. The concern with this state of affairs is that what is unknown cannot be appreciated or valued.

The new case studies, on finding replacements for fossil fuels and finding a new, non-invasive, way to monitor diabetes, takes the total now available to 26.

IMA: Mathematics Matters.

Alan Turing Pardon: Early Day Motion

John Leech MP, on his blog, reports having submitted an Early Day Motion (EDM) to Parliament calling for a pardon for Alan Turing.

The Parliament website defines EDMs:

Early day motions (EDMs) are tabled by MPs to publicise a particular event or cause, and to gather support among MPs for that event or cause. MPs demonstrate their support for an EDM by signing the motion.

Gordon Brown issued a Government apology in 2009 for the way Turing was treated following a conviction of gross indecency in 1952. A pardon would go further. In his blog post, John Leech reports that the EDM is “prompted by a petition on the Downing Street web page”. This e-petition calls for a pardon to go “some way to healing” the damage caused by the circumstances of Turing’s death, in recognition of the work Turing did, and to “act as an apology to many of the other gay men, not as well known as Alan Turing, who were subjected to these laws”.

The full text of the petition is available on the Downing Street website and the full text of the EDM is on John Leech’s blog.

John Leech MP: Alan Turing should be pardoned (31 January 2012).
e-petition: Grant a pardon to Alan Turing.
BBC: PM apology after Turing petition (2009).
Parliament: Early Day Motions.

A dozen stats tips for journalists

A post on the website of the getstats campaign offers a dozen tips for journalists, who “increasingly have to have at least minimal competence in understanding stats and data, if they are going to do a creditable job”.

From a warning to think about the motivation of whoever “cooked up” the number in a press release, to putting figures in context to add to their impact, the list is aimed at the basic skill set that getstats thinks are “the basis for a journalistic career in the 21st century”. Your views on the items in the list are invited via the webpage.

getstats: What Journalists Need to Know(31 January 2012).

2012 BSA Media Fellows – call for applications

In Math/Maths 78: Researchers and the Media Special we spoke to Nathan Green, a researcher who had done a Media Fellowship with the British Science Association. These

aim to bridge the communication gap between scientists and journalists and give space for a dialogue between the two. They reflect the British Science Association’s commitment to increasing the accessibility of the sciences and providing opportunities for discussion and debate. The Media Fellowships aim to give scientists and their colleagues, the confidence and willingness to engage with the media and tackle issues of mistrust and misrepresentation and to give journalists access to new scientific expertise.
The Media Fellowship scheme is the only one of it’s kind in the UK.

If this sounds interesting, you’ll be pleased to hear the call for 2012 BSA Media Fellows is now open. These are for fellowships lasting between 3-7 weeks during July to September 2012. Applications close at midnight on 11 March 2012. You can read lots about the scheme, tips on applying and apply online via the BSA website.

Application for 2012 Media Fellowships.

Why the hot light bulb annoys me

A new post is available over at Second-Rate Minds by Peter Rowlett.

The light bulb puzzle presents you with three switches, one of which controls a light bulb inside a closed room. You are permitted to flip switches as much as you like, then you must open the door and say which switch controls the light bulb. You don’t seem to have enough information. You can …

Read the full post: “Why the hot light bulb annoys me