Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Fantastic Fungus Day - Whipple Museum

What: FREE creative writing workshop.
Please note that booking is required for this event.
Email: Telephone: 01223 330906

Where: The Whipple Museum of the History of Science, Free School Lane, Cambridge.

When: Saturday 30 October 2010, 10am – 2pm with lunch break from 12-1.

This event is part of the Cambridge Festival of Ideas.

How did a history of science museum end up with a case of hand-blown glass models…of fungus? Come find out!

Writers are invited to look, listen, and write in a workshop which will include a talk on the history of the glass fungi models on display in the Whipple Museum, a discussion on mushrooms in medicine, and a collection of poetry about mushrooms.

  • 10:00-10:30: Introductions; Kelley Swain, writer-in-residence at the Whipple, will lead a reading and discussion of samples of mushroom poetry. (Guests will each receive a packet of collected mushroom poetry)
  • 10:30 - 11:00: PhD student Ruth Horry will give a short talk on the display of glass fungi
  • 11:00-11:30: Time for discussion, writing, and examining the glass fungi models.
  • 11:30-12:00: Reconvene for short talk by Dr. Richard Barnett on mushrooms in medicine.
  • 12:00-1:00: Break for lunch.
  • 1:00-1:30: Time for discussion, writing. Real mushrooms will be available as writing prompts.
  • 1:30-1:50: Those who wish to share what they have written will be invited to do so.
  • 1:50-2:00: Feedback forms!

Monday, September 27, 2010

This is a news website article about a scientific paper...

From the Guardian.

Seminar - From Tristram Shandy to Bad Sex: Some Uses of Mathematics in Fiction

An LKL Maths-Art seminar by Tony Mann
Thursday 14 October 2010, 6.00 - 7.30pm

The worlds of mathematics and fiction might be thought to have little in common, but mathematics has featured in many novels, and many novelists have engaged seriously with mathematics and mathematicians. A few (perhaps surprisingly few) mathematicians have written fiction; many real and imaginary mathematicians have been appropriated as fictional characters, and novelists have based work on various mathematical structures and devices. This talk will examine some of these literary uses of mathematics. It will look at some illustrative examples from Plath to Borges and the Oulipo, mention some of the recent crop of diverse and fascinating mathematical novels, and discuss some of the issues that arise from this meeting of disciplines.

In his twenty-one years at the University of Greenwich, TONY MANN has taught mathematics, software engineering and digital media. His roles at the University have included Head of Department of Mathematical Sciences, 2002-2010. Before becoming an academic he worked as a software engineer in the electricity supply industry, writing mathematical modelling software. He is currently President of the British Society for the History of Mathematics (BSHM), is also Treasurer of the interdisciplinary Leonardo da Vinci Society, and has served on the Committee of the Computer Arts Society. In 2009 he organised a conference on Mathematics and Fiction in Oxford, following which he published an article in the BSHM Bulletin about mathematics and fiction.

DATE: Thursday 14th October
TIME: 6.00 to 7.30pm
PLACE: London Knowledge Lab, 23-29 Emerald St, London, WC1N 3QS
[Travel information & maps at: ]

All welcome. No reservation required, but an email to is appreciated for planning purposes.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Journal of Science Communication - Is Science Communication a Discipline?

The September 2010 issue of the open access JCOM - Journal of Science Communication - (issue 3 volume 9) includes a number of commentaries that explore the question of whether science communication is a discipline. Details are included below, including an overview from the editor, Nico Pitrelli.


Road maps for the 21st-century research in Science Communication

Nico Pitrelli

This is an introduction to the essays from the Jcom commentary devoted to the statute and the future of research in science communication. The authors have a long experience in international research in this domain. In the past few years, they have all been committed to the production of collective works which
are now the most important references for science communication research programmes in the next few years.
What topics should science communication research focus on and why? What is its general purpose? What is its real degree of autonomy from other similar fields of study? In other words, is science communication its 'own' field? These are some of the questions addressed by the in-depth discussion in this Jcom issue,
with the awareness that science communication is a young, brittle research field, looking for a shared map, but also one of the most stimulating places of the contemporary academic panorama.


Notes from some spaces in-between

Alice R. Bell

Science communication is less a community of researchers, but more a space where communities of research coexist to study and deal with communities of researchers. It is, as a field, a consequence of the spaces left between areas of expertise in (late) modern society. It exists to deal with the fragmentations of expertise in today’s society. In between those fragments is where it lives. It’s not an easy position, but an awareness of this unease is part of how science communication scholars can be most effective; as we examine, reflect, debate and help others manage the inescapable cultural gaps of post/late modern knowledge communities.


Brian Trench, Massimiano Bucchi

Science communication, an emerging discipline

Several publications have sought to define the field of science communication and review current issues and recent research. But the status of science communication is uncertain in disciplinary terms. This commentary considers two dimensions of the status of discipline as they apply to science communication – the clarity with which the field is defined and the level of development of theories to guide formal studies. It argues that further theoretical development is needed to support science communication’s full emergence as a

Toss Gascoigne, Donghong Cheng, Michel Claessens, Jenni Metcalfe, Bernard
Schiele, Shunke Shi

Is science communication its own field?

The present comment examines to what extent science communication has attained the status of an academic discipline and a distinct research field, as opposed to the common view that science communication is merely a sub-discipline of media studies, sociology of science or history of science. Against this background, the authors of this comment chart the progress science communication has made as an emerging subject over the last 50 years in terms of a number of measures. Although discussions are still ongoing about the elements that must be present to constitute a legitimate disciplinary field, we show here that science communication meets four key elements that constitute an analytical framework to classify academic disciplines: the presence of a
community; a history of inquiry; a mode of inquiry that defines how data is collected; and the existence of a communications network.


Richard Holliman

From analogue to digital scholarship: implications for science communication

Digital media have transformed the social practices of science communication. They have extended the number of channels that scientists, media professionals, other stakeholders and citizens use to communicate scientific information. Social media provide opportunities to communicate in more immediate and informal ways, while digital technologies have the potential to make the various processes of research more visible in the public sphere. Some digital media also offer, on occasion, opportunities for interaction and engagement. Similarly, ideas about public engagement are shifting and extending social practices, partially influencing governance strategies, and science communication policies and practices. In this paper I explore this developing context via a personal journey from an analogue to a digital scholar. In so doing, I discuss some of the demands that a globalised digital landscape introduces for science communication researchers and document some of the skills and competencies required to be a digital scholar of science communication.


Coming of age in the academy? The status of our emerging field

Susanna Hornig Priest

Science communication is certainly growing as an academic field, as well as a professional specialization. This calls to mind predictions made decades ago about the ways in which the explosion of scientific knowledge was envisioned as the likely source of new difficulties in the relationship between science and society. It is largely this challenge that has inspired the creation of the field of science communication. Has science communication become its own academic subdiscipline in the process? What exactly does this entail?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

CFP - Lost and Found: In Search of Extinct Species

Explora International Conference
31 March–1 April 2011
CAS (EA – 801) / Toulouse Natural History Museum

Extinction has always fascinated and intrigued men, be they men of science or men of letters. The history of the Earth has been marked by five major mass extinctions, the most famous being undoubtedly the one that saw the end of the dinosaurs on Earth at the close of the Cretaceous period. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the increasing number of paleontological discoveries challenged certainties about the origins and place of man on Earth. The scientists’ search for extinct species and their conclusions, or surmises, undermined literalist readings of the Bible. Hinting at the issue of extinction, the discoveries paved the way for the development of evolutionary theory, climaxing with the publication of Charles Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in 1859. The study of fossils was thus poised between conflicting interpretations of the evolution of life on Earth: fossils crystallized conflicts, bringing to light the tensions between science and religion and epitomizing the period’s questionings as to the past and future of man on Earth.

This interdisciplinary conference aims to look at the way in which extinct species and past ecosystems have been represented and sensationalized from the nineteenth century to the present time. It will examine how man’s sudden awareness of species extinction (from the Dodo bird and the Moa to the more recent American pigeon) and/or the threat of extinction have informed literature and the arts, particularly focussing on the impact of climate change in literary and non-literary narratives, on the issue of man’s (in)significance in the history of the Earth and on the literary and artistic significance of end-of-world scenarios.

We invite 20-minute papers that engage with, but are not limited to, the following topics :

- the history of paleontology and fossil classification
- the history of fossil collecting
- the popularisation of geology and paleontology
- the reconstructions of extinct species
- representations of extinct species in literature and the arts
- representations of ecosystems in literature and the arts
- extinct species, ecology and the development of ecocriticism
- theories of mass extinction
- end-of-world scenarios

Please send 300-word proposals (attached as a .doc-file) together with a short biographical note to Deadline for submissions: 20 November 2010.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Talk - Mathematics as Art in Contemporary Theatre

Monday, 18 October 2010, 12:45 - 14:00, CRASSH

Part of the CRASSH Fellows Work-in-Progress seminar series.  All welcome, no registration necessary.  Sandwich lunch and refreshments provided.

Dr Stephen Abbott (Mathematics/Middlebury)

While there are a few notable plays written about mathematics and science throughout the previous century, a qualitative shift in the relationship between science and theater occurred sometime in the past decade following the success of Arcadia (Tom Stoppard, 1993) and Copenhagen (Michael Frayn, 1999).  In the ensuing years, theater has seen a proliferation of successful plays that manage to synthesize explicit mathematical ideas into both the theme and mechanics of the performance. 

This is not a case of theater simply mining science for interesting source material.  What happens in the best mathematical plays is that the metaphors work in both directions as does the sense of illumination.  This cross-pollination is most easily experienced in plays with explicit mathematical content (A Disappearing Number, Proof) but it can also be analyzed in relation to form.  In fact, a defining trait of modern science plays is the successful way in which they exploit the merging of form and content.  What is significant is that 20th century mathematics—and in particular mathematical logic—is also characterized by investigations into the consequences of merging form and content.  These structural similarities reveal an even deeper kinship between drama and mathematics than might be expected.
To access the Readings for the Work in Progress seminar, please contact Michelle Maciejewska.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Possible theatrical trips...

There are three plays of interest to group members on over the next few weeks that I thought it might be fun to go and see:

  • Bedlam is currently playing at the Globe in London, until the beginning of October.

  • A Disappearing Number will be live-streamed at the Arts Picturhouse on 14th October.

  • The Alchemist is on at the ADC from 12-16th October.

I'll send a message to the mailing list to see who's interested - or let me know if you'd like to join a group outing to any of these!