Nightmare bugs: Answers to your questions about antibiotic resistance

Last night, the PBS show Frontline aired a new documentary about antibiotic resistance and the growing risks we all face from the increasingly untreatable bacteria that live in both hospitals and our communities. Starting at noon Eastern/11:00 Central, I'll be moderating a live web chat with the documentary's producers and infectious disease expert Dr. Sean Elliot. We'll be talking about the film, but we'll also be taking your questions and trying to add some context to the fear. We know antibiotic resistance is a big problem. So what can we actually do about it?

You can follow along with the chat and submit questions here:

Read the rest

Maggie interviewing Curtis White, author of "The Science Delusion"

I'm going to be hosting a Q&A on Wednesday with Curtis White, essayist, novelist, and professional curmudgeon. He's got a new book out called "The Science Delusion", which ties together critiques of Richard Dawkins and The New Atheism with critiques of pop-neuroscience like Jonah Lehrer's work. If you're going to be in Minneapolis, you should join us — it should be an interesting conversation. The event starts at 7:00 pm at Magers and Quinn Booksellers.

Today: SFMOMA's farewell procession, co-presented by Boing Boing

This is it, folks. Today at 6PM the SFMOMA closes to begin its three year long expansion. It'll be reborn sometime in 2016 clad in shining armor, engulfing the rest of its current city block. Get in your last run through the current exhibits, explore a new corner of the building before it changes.

Join me and David at the museum at 5:30 for the farewell procession. Local artist Desiree Holman is curating the procession, which recasts the Young American Patriots fife and drum core and Dance Sanctuary dancers as docents for the future. You're encouraged to come in your best future time traveler costume, and Teri Sage from TS I Love You Hats will be helping everyone make awesome tin foil future hats as well.

This will be my 56th visit to the museum. For the last year and a half I've been coming almost every week, writing software, meeting friends and making new ones on the rooftop sculpture garden. It's been a great pleasure to learn so much about art, people and myself. While it's painful to have to be away for so long, I have great faith that the museum's future will be spectacular. Come celebrate that with us.

SFMOMA Countdown Celebration: May 30 - June 2
RSVP on Facebook

Stanford Robotics and the Law Conference call for papers

I'm late getting to this (my own fault, I missed an important email), but We: Robot, the Robotics and the Law Conference at Stanford Law School is still accepting papers until Jan 18. Last year's event was apparently smashing, and this year's CFP is quite enticing:

The following list is by no means exhaustive, but rather meant as an elaboration on conference themes:

* Legal and policy responses to likely effects of robotics on manufacturing or the environment
* Perspectives on the interplay between legal frameworks and robotic software and hardware
* Intellectual property issues raised by collaboration within robotics (or with robots)
* Perspectives on collaboration between legal and technical communities
* Tort law issues, including product liability, professional malpractice, and the calculation of damages
* Administrative law issues, including FDA or FAA approval
* Privacy law and privacy enhancing technologies
* Comparative/international perspectives on robotics law
* Issues of legal and economic policy, including tax, employment, and corporate governance

In addition to scholarly papers, we invite proposals for demos of cutting-edge commercial applications of robotics or recent technical research that speaks one way or another to the immediate commercial prospects of robots.

Call For Papers: Robotics and the Law Conference at Stanford Law School

What does the $1000 genome really mean for you?

The cost of genome sequencing is starting to sink into the affordable range. (In comparison to its previous cost. We're talking "within reach" the same way Design Within Reach uses the phrase.)

Companies are starting to claim that a $1000 personal genome sequence is on the horizon. But what does that mean for you? Should you save up and get one? Can it really tell you anything meaningful at all? Who is going to sift through all the information your genome represents — and how will they do it?

Tonight, starting at 7:00 Eastern, Science Online New York City is hosting a round-table to discuss these issues, especially the problems associated with collecting, making sense of, and protecting a massive new stream of personal data. The live event is sold out, but you can watch whole thing streaming online.

Panelists: Ronald Crystal, the Chairman of the Department of Genetic Medicine at Weill-Cornell Medical College, who has had his genome sequenced and analyzed it himself. Virginia Hughes, a freelance author who has written about her experience with the 23andMe genotyping service. Manish Ponda of Rockefeller University, who has experimented with other -omic type analyses.

SoNYC's livestream feed

Via Lou Woodley

Wikipedia Edit-a-Thon at the library of the Royal Society

Wikipedia's entries on women in the sciences are lacking. The Royal Society has an extensive collection of original sources documenting the work of women in the sciences. On October 19, the nail will meet the hammer in the form of a group Edit-a-Thon and workshop. The event is especially aimed at fledgling Wiki editors, who might be intimidated by the job of editing the Internet's primary source of basic information. Representatives from Wikimedia UK will be on hand to show you how the site works and answer questions. They're going to pick the entries that need improving. Participants will get access to the Royal Society archives and will work together to make Wikipedia better. What a cool program! More museums should totally do this! (Via Ed Yong)

NYC conference for sofware artists seeks Kickstarting

Isabel sez,

We've created a conference that brings together some of the most cutting edge artists and curators working in new media and software art today...now we just need people to buy the conference tickets and attend. We're using Kickstarter for that, and the conference is October 16th at a major museum in New York City.

If you have a career at an interactive marketing or advertising agency, publisher, or software company, this is where you'll find the people making the inspiring work that you'll be referencing for the year to come. If you're in the gallery space, a museum curator or an art buyer, we hope you will come be blown away by the amazing new work that's exploding into the contemporary art space. Even if you're just personally interested in art that's made using a technological process, you can still support the cause (and get a mesmerizing t-shirt).

The LISA Conference: Leaders in Software and Art

Stross and Doctorow text-and-voice chat today at 11AM Eastern

Charlie Stross and I are doing a text and voice chat with Internet Evolution today at 11AM Eastern, in celebration of our forthcoming novel Rapture of the Nerds. Hope to see you there!

Look out! The team of Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow has produced upcoming science fiction novel Rapture of the Nerds, due out in September 2012, dealing with a disturbing future in which "metaconsciousness" roams the solar system. Both authors join us to discuss their work and the future of the Internet.

Cory Doctorow is a coeditor of Boing Boing and a columnist for multiple publications including the Guardian, Locus, and Publishers Weekly. He was named one of the Web’s 25 influencers by Forbes magazine and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. His award-winning novel, Little Brother, was a New York Times bestseller. He lives in London with his wife and daughter.

Charles Stross, author of several major novels of SF and fantasy, including Singularity Sky, Accelerando, Halting State, and Rule 34, is widely hailed as one of the most original voices in modern SF. His short fiction has won multiple Hugo and Locus awards. He lives in Edinburgh.

We've also got a meatspace mini-tour lined up in September, with stops in Brookline, MA; Brooklyn, NY; Lexington, KY and Rochester, NY.

Cory Doctorow & Charles Stross

LibraryCamp: crowdfunded UK unconference for libraries

Sue sez, "If the LibraryCamp Crowdfunder pitch reaches its target, library workers from across the UK be heading to Birmingham in October to attend LibraryCamp 2012 (think Barcamp). The volunteer organisers decided to set up their own DIY conference last year because traditional conferences were too expensive and often staff on the frontline weren't allowed to go. But Library camp is different - it's an unconference for a start, so anyone can lead a workshop or facilitate a session. It's also free to attend and you don't have to be a librarian or even work in a library, you just need to be passionate about the future of libraries."

Library Camp brings together people who are interested in modernising and transforming libraries for one day of intensive debate, knowledge sharing and ideas. It's an unconference so anyone can lead a workshop or facilitate a session and it's free to attend. You don't have to be a librarian or even work in a library, you just need to be passionate about the future of libraries. This year the unconference will be back in Birmingham in October and we want to invite 200 people so we need to raise £1000 to pay for a venue and feed the campers!

Library Camp 2012 (Thanks, Sue!)

ToorCamp: Hack/Make under the stars


George writes,

ToorCamp, the American Hacker Camp, is back again this summer! Although there is no missile silo this time, the weather/environment should be a lot more pleasant on the beach in Washington state. The 5-day (August 8-12) open-air event is open to all hackers, makers, breakers, and shakers to build projects, exchange ideas with the brightest technology folk from around the world, toast a few marshmallows, and just geek out amongst the trees.

There are on-going talks, workshops (including things like hardware hacking, welding, penetration testing, brewing and others), contests, and art projects. [PRO-TIP: We're still accepting submissions if you have something you'd like to present.] And of course, there is plenty of outdoors -- stunning scenery, whale watching, surfing, birding, etc. The camp itself has everything you need: power, internet, food and fun.

We are encouraging attendees to set up a campsite with their friends/maker-space/group, and we'd like to offer all Boing Boing readers a discount code ('bboingrocks!' good until July 1st) for an Happy Mutants Campsite!

Bring a tent, make some friends, and learn a few things. Look forward to seeing everybody there!

NSA whistleblower to keynote HOPE hacker conference in NYC

2600 Magazine's Emmanuel Goldstein writes, "Our second keynote speaker at this year's HOPE conference is someone who has been deep inside the National Security Agency. Former analyst William Binney became aware of an increased tendency at the massive center of surveillance to focus their attention on American citizens, something the NSA was never supposed to do. Binney did the right thing - he quit and told the world what he had learned. Such integrity is something we see often in the hacker world, usually kids standing up to authority and telling the world of their wrongdoings. This time, the stage is much bigger." Cory

East London variety show returns Jun 14

Juggling happy mutant Mat Ricardo is putting on another one of his glorious east London variety shows! He writes,

Mat Ricardo's London Varieties is back - and we only have two more London shows this year! Next one is June 14th - that's NEXT THURSDAY - and it's a cracker of a line-up. Former world champion of close-up magic, and one of Derren Brown's co-writers - the astonishing RICHARD MCDOUGALL. All the way from Ireland with their spandex unitards, the incredible circus craziness of the LORDS OF STRUT. One of the UK's funniest and most in-demand speciality acts - the hilarious NOEL BRITTEN.

PLUS: A very special interview guest from the glory days of music hall, your host will be performing several new tricks for the first time ever, we'll be showing more rare archive variety footage and all the usual surprises!

It's all going to happen at the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club - doors 7pm, show 8pm. Tickets are only £10. (more information)

The point of it all (Thanks, Mat!)

The practical side of the transit of Venus

The transit of Venus is cool.

I think we can all agree on that. On Tuesday, the planet Venus will pass between us and the Sun—a little black dot sliding across the face of a giant, yellow ball. Barring the Singularity, this will be your last opportunity to see a transit of Venus. The next one won't happen until December of 2117.

But, beyond looking nifty and reminding you of your own mortality, what, exactly, is the transit of Venus good for? Is this a cultural event, a scientific event, or a little of both?

Historically, the transit of Venus provided the data that allowed us to gauge the size of the solar system for the first time. This time around, according to Space.com, researchers will be watching the transit with an eye to the universe outside our solar system. That's because what we learn from the transit of Venus could help us identify planets (including Earth-ish planets) elsewhere in the galaxy.

Astronomers already key in on transits to search for alien worlds, often finding them by detecting the telltale dips in brightness exoplanets cause when they pass in front of their parent stars. NASA's Kepler space telescope has been very successful using this technique, flagging more than 2,300 candidate alien planets to date.

“During the transit, Venus Express will make important observations of Venus’ atmosphere that will be compared with ground-based telescopes to help exoplanet hunters test their techniques," said Håkan Svedhem, ESA’s Venus Express project scientist.

Read the rest of the Space.com story

Find lots of educational materials, how-tos, and useful transit of Venus information at TransitofVenus.org

Check out Discovery News' guide to safely photographing the transit of Venus

What's quantum physics got to do with biology?

Photosynthesis allows plants to convert light from the Sun into energy, and, in some cases, it does this incredibly well. In fact, certain bacteria can capture 95% of the light that hits them and turn it into useful energy.

Solar panels also convert light from the Sun into energy—but they aren't nearly as good at it. The very best solar panels ever tested in a lab (i.e., not the ones actually available for sale and installation on your house) were able to convert about 34% of the light that hit them into electricity. (Individual experimental solar cells can do better than that. But those are even further away from being incorporated into commercially available panels.)

Why can't we use the Sun's energy as effectively as bacteria can? The secret may be that the bacteria are using quantum physics to transmit energy. It's sort of like the bacteria have a method for keeping boxes of energy from falling off the truck during transport.

Read the rest

How to: Experience Manhattanhenge

Step 1, naturally, is to be in Manhattan.

I'm in New York City today and Scientific American contributing editor Steven Ashley was kind enough to reminded me that my visit is coinciding with Manhattanhenge—a twice-a-year event when the sun lines up with Manhattan's street grid. This year, there will be a Manhattanhenge on May 29/30 and another on July 11/12.

You'll note that Manhattanhenge does not actually occur on the same day as the solstice—when the Sun is at the highest point in the sky and the length of the day begins to get either longer (winter solstice) or shorter (summer solstice). That's because Manhattan's grid is rotated 30 degrees east off of true north, writes Neil deGrasse Tyson on the Hayden Planetarium website. That's enough to make Manhattanhenge less astronomically accurate than Stonehenge. But it's still awfully nifty and is supposed to look really, really cool.

Tonight's event should start around 8:17 pm (Eastern time, of course). Here's Neil deGrasse Tyson's advice on getting a good view:

For best effect, position yourself as far east in Manhattan as possible. But ensure that when you look west across the avenues you can still see New Jersey. Clear cross streets include 14th, 23rd, 34th. 42nd, 57th, and several streets adjacent to them. The Empire State building and the Chrysler building render 34th street and 42nd streets especially striking vistas.

Note that any city crossed by a rectangular grid can identify days where the setting Sun aligns with their streets. But a closer look at such cities around the world shows them to be less than ideal for this purpose. Beyond the grid you need a clear view to the horizon, as Manhattan has across the Hudson River to New Jersey. And tall buildings that line the streets create a vertical channel to frame the setting Sun, creating a striking photographic opportunity.

Read the rest at the Hayden Planetarium website

Check out some reader-submitted photos of Manhattanhenge that Xeni posted last year.

Image: Manhattanhenge 2011 | The Commuter, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from 59949757@N06's photostream