When Technology Betrays Us. (Or, I hate my wretched cell phone.)

I just watched the movie Iron Man, for the second time. Entertaining, albeit sobering, reminder that our own nation’s superior advances in technology–in this case, weapons technology–can be hijacked by friends or foes and, eventually, used against us. Keeping our weapons out of enemy hands is a problem for the Department of Defense to worry about. I’ve got my own “technology trust issues” I’d like to vent about.
Let me start with my  touch screen cell phone. Formerly known as my trusted companion. Keeper of my diary, confider of private discussions. My personal assistant for goodness sake. For no good reason, “it” has turned against me. Randomly dialing people, exposing my conversations for all the world to listen in on. Sneaky thing does this when I least expect it. Like when I’m damning to hell the speeding cab driver, talking to myself, or whispering my sins to Father Mark in the confessional box. 
My phone has more commands and function buttons than my ridiculously over-engineered cable TV remote control. Still I have yet to locate what must be a simple “lock” or “please do not call anyone without my permission” request. Working on it.
Technological applications have the ability to betray insects, too, as it turns out.  Even the smartest of bugs: cockroaches. This New ScientistTech article explains how a matchbox-sized robot can “infiltrate a pack of cockroaches and influence their collective behavior.” The robot can “persuade a group of cockroaches to venture out into the light despite their normal preference for the dark, for example.” 
(Note to self: borrow that little robot to march the menacing mice out of my house and into an open flame.)
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X2 Project: Now YOU can help forecast the future of science

The X2 Project, sponsored by the National Academies and the Department of Defense.  An opportunity to play with the big boys!

The creators of the X2 Project, a collaborative forecasting experiment, understand the future is shaped by all of us. The old model–small groups of rocket scientists, CEOs and politicians determining our future–is crumbling. That’s a good thing because that model eroded public trust and contributed to the current, incestuous state-of-affairs when it comes to science policy (and science education, one could argue).
Get to the good stuff, you say? Ok! 
I asked X2 Project’s founder, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang, to give us the low-down on this wild experiment. Here are highlights of our chat. Note: You’ve got to log on and participate! I did. Such fun and I’ve earned three points so far. Log on, you’ll understand. (more…)

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A debate that wasn't says much about science in U.S.

It’s Sunday, May 11th (Happy Mother’s Day!) and I am very excited because my opinion piece on the proposed presidential science debate (“Science Debate 2008“) was just published in the Philadelphia Inquirer and already picked up by the University of Pennsylvania’s Newsweek.com feed and the National Basketball Association’s newsfeed.

Here’s the published version. Posted in its entirety below.   Let me know what you think. I’d like your opinions on my opinions.  Cheers!

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Exclusive: Benefits and Challenges of Engaging the Public (us) in Science and Technology

Recently, I came across the Technically Speaking website, which takes a look at the benefits and challenges of developing a more tech savvy citizenry. The website is a project of the National Academy of Engineering whose mission it is to “promote the technological welfare of the nation by marshaling the knowledge and insights of eminent members of the engineering profession.”
I invited Greg Pearson, a senior program officer at the National Academy of Engineering, to share his insights about public engagement in science and technology. He agreed. (Thank you, Greg!) So today, I present to you the Science Cheerleader’s very first exclusive–hooray!  
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Open Access Science: Back to the Future?

I just read this article currently featured on Scientific American Magazine’s website examining the risks and benefits of the so-called Science 2.0, also known as Open Access Science.  

“Science 2.0 generally refers to new practices of scientists who post raw experimental results, nascent theories, claims of discovery and draft papers on the Web for others to see and comment on,” writes M. Mitchell Waldrop.

Are we witnessing a potential, fundamental shift in how science will intersect with society in general?
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Shad: Our Pollution vs. Their Resolution.

Watercolor by Sherman F. Denton, 1904

Right now, Shad are starting to appear in rivers. A sure sign spring has sprung!

The Shad is a remarkable fish with a rich history (as told by John McPhee in The Founding Fish) and impressive ecological link. Like the Salmon, it is anadromous and migrates from its salt water ocean home to fresh river waters to spawn. The Shad’s oscillating presence in the rivers reflects the health of the water. No Shad? That’s Bad. It means our (drinking!) water is polluted and the Shad took a pass. Fortunately, citizen science and other efforts are underway to keep rivers clean.

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