A short update…

I’ve got an Art History exam in the morning which has been consuming my time, but I wanted to get some kind of post up. Especially since it almost looks as though I just don’t post on Thursdays. I swear the recent several weeks of “no post on Thursday” is purely coincidental.

I’m still waiting to hear if This Week In Science got the audio file I sent them and whether or not they liked it. I did manage to find a legally-free embeddable flash-based audio player that I can use, so I’ll probably post it for listening to online or for downloading soon.

Meanwhile: One of my competitors in the College Blogging Scholarship 2007 competition had an interested post up the other day. Famous neuroscientist Shelley Batts of Retrospectacle posted about a bunch of computer people getting together to have a “hackfest”, where they all work on their projects and exchange ideas. She wonders if something similar might not be possible for scientists.

I have regularly found myself thinking about the possibility of a similar gathering for scientists. I wonder – would an international society of Peripatetic Scientists be feasible? What I envision would be a combination of “Science Cafe’” and “Semi-spontaneous field trip” (or even perhaps a “Flash Mob of Nerds”).

I picture groups of scientists, engineers, and other interested people converging on relatively short notice (say, no more than a week or so) to explore something together, whether it’s a section of a national park, or an observatory, or a grocery store, or even to just wander around in a public space discussing some topic. Rather than a carefully planned and organized event where people take turns “giving presentations”, I tend to suspect a more spontaneous exploration by a group of diverse people like this would result in much better horizontal meme transfer potential. It’s so much easier to participate and listen when one isn’t busy focusing on one’s own presentation material…

How many of you reading this might be interested in participating in this sort of thing?
(UPDATE: TO clarify, I mean how many of you, if you heard something like this was happening where you are, would be interested, not how many people are so incredibly impressed by me that they would travel across the world to be where I am…)

Published by


The Author is (currently) an autodidactic student of Industrial and Environmental microbiology, who is sick of people assuming all microbiology should be medical in nature, and who would really like to be allowed to go to graduate school one of these days now that he's finished his BS in Microbiology (with a bonus AS in Chemistry). He also enjoys exploring the Big Room (the one with the really high blue ceiling and big light that tracks from one side to the other every day) and looking at its contents from unusual mental angles.

6 thoughts on “A short update…”

  1. I’d count as an interested person…since you and I both know that I couldn’t really contribute. (Damnit Sean, I’m a photographer, not a scientist!)

    It would all depend on my capability of paying money to travel, though, so me being able to do something like that would be shaky at best.

  2. […]you and I both know that I couldnít really contribute. (Damnit Sean, Iím a photographer[…]

    Now, see, that’s why I included non-scientist “interested persons” in that description.

    You do realize you just contradicted yourself, right?

    What does a photographer DO? “See things”, perhaps?

    Like maybe something that somebody else didn’t notice because they were busy looking for particular minerals or particular plants or particular kinds of activity or whatever?

    Sounds like a potential for contribution to me…

  3. It seems that thought experiments would be the name of the game with this. No way you’re going to go dragging around say, a DNA sequencer or electron microscope. I suppose chemistry might be on the table, though, as well, depending on the focus.

    It could make an interesting game. There was this TV show called ‘junkyard wars’ where people competed to make some interesting things from junk. Get people together and do something like, ‘ok, let’s see if we can find an easy way to make a spectrometer’ (ok, that’s already been done, but there are a lot of other possibilities). It would be best to get a group of people with a diverse background, electronics, programming, the different sciences, a mechanic possible, et cetera. That could be a lot of fun. And it would fit in nicely with your hillbilly biotech lab idea.

    OK, that’s all I have right now. It would be pretty interesting to visit Yellowstone…

  4. As far as the “doing” science part goes, part of my contention is that you don’t need dna sequencers and electron microscopes in order to do something useful (despite the fact that there are specific things that obviously would require them – I’m just saying not everything has to involve large or expensive equipment in order to be useful science…)

    The Junkyard Wars (or “Iron Chef”, for that matter) concept would be nice, and would fit in well with the contention above: “Okay, we don’t have a DNA sequencer or an electron microscope, but we do have some sampling equipment and a field microscope kit. What can we do with it?…”

    If I knew where I was going to be next year, I’d be considering trying to organize something like this already (they’re not looking for Ph.D. geologists out there at University of Missouri or the surrounding area, are they?…)

  5. I’m not sure. I don’t really keep up with the geologists in the area, but Missouri does have some incredible cave systems, with some unusual formations, like the Angel Showers in Ozark Caverns which makes it look like water just seeps out from solid rock in the middle of the ceiling. It’s absolutely beautiful to see in person.

    Oops they’re locking me in the room. Time to go.

Leave a Reply