On Wednesday I got an e-mail from the Scifoo guys giving me all the directions for preparing for Scifoo in August: where to book hotel room, travel plans, the Bus route to and fro the Hotel, updating the Scifoo wiki, etc. I am trying to think of something worthy to bring to the table for discussion, as they’re trying to get people’s ideas for what they’d like to talk about.
I was almost intimidated by looking at the list from last year, via jurvetson’s photostream:
I’d like to discuss an idea I’m formulating to improve climate modeling called “Global Swarming.” The core idea is to deploy tens of thousands of ocean probes by leveraging the creative smarts and logistics coordination of the web.
As someone who served as an expert witness in the Dover “Intelligent Design” trial, and who has worked in the “creation-evolution” arena for a long time, if there is any interest I would be happy to run a session on “What happens post-Dover?” What will be the next wave of anti-evolutionism and anti-science? What needs to be done to combat it and raise the American public’s awareness of the evidence for evolution? Why is this issue critical to the success of basic research in this country? How do scientists, educators, and tech folks fit in?
I’d like to brainstorm about programmable matter ProgrammableMatter. Programmable matter is any substance which can be programmed to change its shape or physical properties. We are currently working on constructing programmable matter and investigating how to program it. I would be most interested in talking about how one might program ensembles.
I’d like to present on OpenWetWare, a wiki promoting open research among biologists and biological engineers. With 65 labs and 1200 users on OpenWetWare, I can provide practical examples of how scientists are currently making use of the web(2.0) to support research and education in new ways. I’ll also talk about where the site is headed in the future, and how foocampers could help make it easier for scientists to share more of their secrets online.
I’ll bring a memory stick with the recent radar images of what appear to be hydrocarbon-filled lakes on Saturn’s moon, Titan, and some movies from Titan. I’m also happy to discuss the interesting phenomenon of “instant public science” done by enthusiasts everywhere who have instant access to the latest space science data from the web. BTW, Nature magazine’s piece on exciting questions in chemistry (this week) included a mention of Titan, which should be on every organic chemists’ hit list for places to visit.
I am interested in discussing the dichotomy of design and evolutionary search as divergent paths in complex systems development. – jurvetson.blogspot.com
I could begin a session about Systems Biology, with a general theme of building towards whole cell or whole organisms models in biology. I have some (whacky) ideas about this in addition to having done some real science on this subject.
I could present about novel circuit-focused neurotechnologies I’m developing, for advancing the study of brain function and consciousness, and for treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. Although I’ve been exploring this question in academic research settings – and I’m gearing up to set up my own university laboratory – I’d like to brainstorm about how to build the significant community of clinicians, engineers, scientists, and psychologists that we’d need to make strong scientific progress on the timeless, unyielding problem of understanding the nature of consciousness.
I could talk about/demonstrate: digital fabrication in the lab and its impact in field fab labs around the world, mathematical programs as a programming model for enormous/unreliable/extended systems and their application in analog logic circuits and Internet 0 networks, and microfluidic logic to integrate chemistry with computation
I could contribute to a session on powerlaws in nature, markets and human affairs. They’re found nearly everywhere, from earthquakes to species distributions to cities to wars. We used to think the world was mostly defined by gaussian distributions (bell curves) with neat medians and standard deviations. But now we see that powerlaws, where low-frequency events have the highest amplitude, are far more common, and they’re infinite functions where concepts like “average” are meaningless. What are the factors that create powerlaws and what does nature have in common with economics and social networking in this instance?
I’d like to talk to the assembled folks about a project we are running to help scientists move large datasets without using the internet (which can be very slow or expensive.
I hope to demo a viral database and talk about efforts to build real time surveillance via the WHO.
I’d like to discuss the range of applications being discussed in HE (HigherEd) that permit faculty and research groups to store and share a wide range of scholarly assets, including research data, texts (articles such as pre-prints and post-prints), images, and other media. These next generation academic apps provide support for tagging, community-of-use definitions, discovery, rights assertions via CC, and new models of peer review and commentary. Early designs typically implicate heavy use of atom or gdata for posting and retrieval, lucene, and ajax.
I can offer a brief introduction to the Human Genome, and the field of Comparative Genomics which focuses on comparing our own genome to that of other species. I’ll try to give a taste of some of the startling revelations, seeming paradoxes, and many open questions that make working with this three billion letter string a ball.
I could offer the opposite point of view, looking at the very simplest organisms, what they do, how they work, and what life looks like when the genome fits on a floppy.
I would like to talk about the future of the scientific method. How the scientific method was one invention the Chinese did not make before the west, and how the process of science has changed in the last 400 years and will change even more in the next 50 years. I’d love to hear others’ ideas of where the science method is headed.
I could offer some (possibly naive) ideas on how we could design evolvability into the scientific process by learning from the evolution of cellular complexity. I can also include some examples from language evolution and software evolution.
I can describe our general approach for open collaborative biomedical research at The Synaptic Leap.
I have in mind a presentation related to my project on Milestones in the History of Data Visualization – an attempt to provide a comprehensive catalog documenting and illustrating the historical developments leading to modern data visualization and visual thinking. The talk might encompass some of (a) some great moments in the history of data visualization, (b) ‘statistical historiography’: the study of history as ‘data’, (c) a self-referential Q: how to visualize this history. The goal would be more to suggest questions and aproaches than to provide answers – in fact a main reason to present would be to hear other people’s reactions.
As we’re on the topic of visualizations, I could give a talk about the rise of the geobrowser/virtual globe and how it is revolutionizing the geospatial visualization of information. I can showcase some of the best examples of scientific visualizations, show how geobrowsers are helping humanitarian causes and discuss the social-software aspect of Google Earth and other expected ‘mirror worlds’, where geospatial information is shared, wiki-like. Above all, I would love to brainstorm the possible use of geobrowsers in the projects of other campers.
I’m willing to give a talk about imaging projects in the Stanford Computer Graphics Laboratory, such as our large array of cameras, our handheld camera whose photographs you can refocus after you take the picture, and our work on multi-perspective panoramas (the Google-funded Stanford CityBlock Project). These projects are part of a trend towards “computational photography”, in which computers play a significant role in image formation.
I’m a Hugo Award-winning science-fiction writer, and I’m working on a trilogy (my 18th through 20th novels) about the World Wide Web spontaneously gaining consciousness once the number of interconnections it has exceeds the number in a human brain. I’d love to talk a bit about my ideas of how such a consciousness, at first an epiphenomenon supervening on top of the web infrastructure, might actually come to access the documents and input sources available online and how it might perceive external reality, and I’d love to brainstorm with people about what sort of interactions and relationships humanity might have with such an entity.
I could talk about the current and future generation of astronomical surveys that will map the sky every three nights or so (e.g. the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope). They are designed to be able to address multiple science goals from the same data set (e.g. understanding cosmology and dark energy through to indentifying moving sources such as asteroids in our Solar System). With hundreds of thousands of variable sources detected each year (on top of the ten billion non-variables) the flow of data presents a number of challenges for how we follow up these sources.
I could talk about insights gained as part of the NSF-funded Pathways research project (Cornell U, LANL) that looks at scholarly communication as a global workflow across heterogeneous repositories and tries to identify a lightweight interoperability framework to facilitate the emergence of a natively digital scholarly communication system. Think introspecting on the evolution of science by traversing a scholarly communication graph that jumps across repositories. I could also talk about work we have been doing with scholarly usage information: aggregating it across repositories, and using the aggregated data to generate recommendations and metrics.
I’d love to show the prototype of an NSF-sponsored web-based simulation designed to help students learn about the nature of science. I’ll bring the server on my laptop; we can all connect and play cosmologist. Advice welcome. More at NatureOfScienceGame
Making Open Access Affordable (free): There is a move afoot to put all science literature in the public domain (it is mostly funded with tax-free or tax money). There is a move afoot to put all science data in the public domain (ditto). These are unfunded mandates. We can not do much about the funding, but we computer scientists can do a LOT to drive the needed funds to zero by making it EASY to publish, organize, search, and display literature and data online. This also dovetails with Jill Mesirov’s approach to reproducable science – future science literature will be a multi-layer summary of the source data – words, graphs, pictures on top and derivations + data underneath. Many working on these issues will be at this event. We should have a group-grope.
Laboratory Information Management Systems (LIMS) for small labs with BIG data. It is embarrassing how many scientists use Excel as their database system – but even more embarrassing is how many use paper notebooks as their database. New science instruments (aka sensors) produce more data and more diverse data than will fit in a paper notebook, a table in a paper, or in Excel. How does “small science” work in this new world where it takes 3 super-programmers per ecologist to deploy some temperature and moisture sensors in a small ecosystem? We think we have an answer to this in the form of pre-canned LIMS applications.
Related to this I could talk a bit about how our work on myGrid has been aiming at taking the escience capabilities offered to large well funded groups down to a more ‘grass roots’ level – grid based science is traditionally the realm of people and groups with serious money but we don’t think this has to be the case.
I could present a software demo of a new web-based collaborative environment for sharing drug discovery data – initially focused on developing world infectious disease research (such as Malaria, Chagas Disease, African Sleeping Sickness) with technology that should be equally applicable for scientists collaborating around any private or public therapeutic area. This demo is a collaboration initiated between Collaborative Drug Discovery, Inc and Prof. McKerrow at UCSF which could shift drug discovery efforts away from today’s fragmented, secretive, individual lab model to an integrated, distributed model while maintaining data and IP protection.
Our present vaccine production infrastructure leaves us woefully unprepared to deal with either natural or artificial surprises – think SARS and avian influenza (H5N1), which can both easily outpace our technological response. There are superior technological alternatives that will not be widely available for years to come due to regulatory issues, and I would like engage the other campers on ways to address this problem. In particular, I would like to explore the potential contribution of distributed, low cost science – garage science – to improving our safety and preparedness.
The “Encyclopedia of Life” is a buzz phrase being bandied around by biologists – the idea is having an online resource that tells you what we know about each species of organism on the planet. It’s an idea that seems obvious, but how would we achieve this given the scale of the task (number of known species about 2 million, those waiting to be found maybe 2-100, we really don’t know), the rapidly dwindling number of experts who can tells us something about those organisms, the size of the literature (unlike most sciences, taxonomists care about stuff published back as far as the 18th century), and the widely distributed, often poorly digitized sources of information? I’d willing to chat about some of the issues involved, and some possible solutions
I would like to share briefly with you the results of a five year project to create and publish the world’s first totally integrated Encyclopedic vision of food – its origins, variations, complexity,nutrients, dimensions, meanings, enjoyment, history and a thousand and one stories about food. The result is a new kind of truly multidimensional Encyclopedia of Food and Culture that I edited with a whole team of scientists and scholars, and Scribner’s (Gale /Thompson) published in 2003. The Encyclopedia has been well reviewed and we won, among many awards, the Dartmouth Medal (the top prize in the reference world) in July 2004. I am bringing a three volume HARD copy with me and will put it on display at the “Table” for everyone to peruse at your leisure -(it is designed to ‘catch you’ – so if you are a browser and you love food you may have trouble giving it up for others to read!)I would also be delighted to talk about a new kind of World Food Museum that is designed to make the Encyclopedia come alive (please seem my bio statement for more).
I would like to present Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Citizen Science work as an example of several of the broader citizen science interests described in the Wiki. These include: Challenges of involving the public in data collection for professional research, scientific tradeoffs and possibilities, internet data collection tools, dynamic graphing and mapping tools, data mining, sustainability, webcommunity building plans for the future, and recruitment models within the contexts of conservation science and ornithology.
I would also like to demonstrate the new Pulluin software chip that fits in a TREO palm cell phone. It has a bird ID tool, lets you hear vocalizations, see pictures, and enter data into one of our citizen science projects, eBird. The ideal way to show you this toy would be to take interested campers on an early morning bird walk. If I can get enough signups, I will try to get eBird project leader, Brian Sullivan, to come up from Monterey, providing he is available. We would probably carpool to the shore to bird. If you are interested, email me and tell me which days, Sat., Sun., or both, you would be available.
Who are we? I’d like to give a short talk to argue for the importance of addressing an old question with a new meaning: What is it like to be human? Why do we dare, care and share? Why are we curious, generous and open? We have to deal with these questions before artifical intelligence, genetic engineering and the globalisation of cultures have changed us irreversibly. Many areas of activity in science, technology and the arts offer new perspectives: Sexual selection, algorithmic information theory, perception, nutrition, experimental economics, game theory and network theory, etc. They point to a coherent view of humans as flows and processes, rather than things and objects. Openness is essential. Attention is essential. Time is ripe for a new collective effort at producing a view of human being relevant to our age.
Robotics for the Masses – I would like to present two new technologies that we are public-domaining imminently. One is Gigapan, a technology for taking ultra-high-resolution panoramic images with low-cost equipment. We can generate time lapses of an entire field with enough detail to see individual petals in detail as they bloom and wither. The second is the TeRK site, which is designed to enable non-roboticists to make robots for tools without becoming robotics experts. I will bring Gigapans and TeRK robots with me and would love to show them doing their techie things. Both of these strands have the potential to be useful scientific tools.
Science, not near as much fun as math! :~) But without it the world remains untouchable. Do you want your child with maximum understanding? We better equip the rest to understand her, so that she is heard when speaking about this exquisite world. But how to reach as many as can be reached? Free is not near enough, full access comes close. The challenge is to deliver science, as the compelling, engaging, tantalizing world that it is, the very first frontier to cross into who we are. The quality of that experience needs freedom of expression. NASA World Wind is a bold step towards that. We are delighted to share the not-so-secret secrets thereof.
I could discuss how our fundamental discoveries on bipedal bugs and octopuses, gripping geckos and galloping ghost crabs have provided biological inspiration for the design of robots, artificial muscles and adhesives. I can include a demo of artificial muscles from Artificial Muscle Incorporated. I will bring two robots in development – a gecko-like climbing robot from our collaboration with Stanford and an insect-like hexapedal robot built by our UPenn colleagues. I will carry with me live death-head cockroaches that serve as our inspiration. I could facilitate a discussion of neuromechanical control architectures. I will introduce briefly our new center at Berkeley (CIBER – Center for Interdisciplinary Bio-inspiration in Education and Research) and a new journal – Bioinspiration and Biomimetics. I welcome this group’s creative suggestions not only for the next generation of robots, but also for novel designs using tunable skeletal structures, artificial muscles and dry adhesives
I would be interested in discussing and debating technical and nontechnical issue involving Social Semantic Search and Analytics. There is a significant interest in Social Search, and some interest in Semantic Search. Here is a scenario that probably involves more futuristic capabilities but a modest verion of this can lead to lower hanging fruits involving “little semantics” and “weak semantics” which would involve less infrastructure in creating and maintaining ontologies (albeit my experience shows building and maintaining large ontologies is doable, see Semantic Web: A different perspective on what works and what doesn’t: (a) a research paper is published ;Eg: Semantics Analytics on Social Networks www2006.org/programme/item.php?id=4068], (b) there is a popular press article with numerous factual errors and unsupported conjuctures e.g., this one, (c) there are several versions on popular web sites along with numerous blog postings containing emotional reactions See for example, (d) Tim O’Reilly digs into the facts and sets the record staight in Datamining Social Networking Sites. How can we track the string of these stories along various dimensions [thematic, spatial, temporal] while provding overview, ranking based on various criteria, contextual linking, insights on individual postings, and more? I am interested in more than clustering and linking through statistical analysis which are good to put some stories in font of a reader,but would not sufficiently help someone who needs to creat a cogent understanding of an event or a situation.
I’d like to discuss the planning of a Mountain View Consensus, in response to Bjørn Lomborg’s Copenhagen Consensus, a ranking of where to spend money on the world’s biggest problems. The frustrating thing about the Copenhagen Consensus is that it is published as a report – so if you think the compund interest rate should be 2% higher, you can only speculate on what the effect would be of changing it. For the Mountain View Consensus we would publish findings as a collaborative spreadsheet, with annotations for the values that different participants place on each variable, and the opportunity for anyone to add annotations. Also, while Lomborg invited only economists, we would include scientists and engineers who understand the technologies, and venture capitalists who understand risk factors and chances of technology bets.
I have two projects I’d like to share at Science Foo–and i’m eager to hear your thoughts on how best to build and deploy them both:
1) An open source project–the Family Medical History Tool –that could graphically capture essential medical data and which could be shared by family members (with this goes a myriad of challenging issues around privacy, HIPPA laws, etc.
2) We’re initiating a “citizen science” approach to a retrospective clinical trial providing open and transparent results real-time. We believe that additional data could be rapidly collected to demonstrate a correlation between drug metabolism and genotype for the 2D6 gene and the drug tamoxifen. Preliminary data shows that 5-10 % of women who are 2D6 poor metabolizers taking tamoxifen (to avoid a reoccurrence of cancer) may be getting nothing more than a placebo effect, and worse, run a 3 times greater risk of a cancer reoccurrence.
I could give a talk and lead a discussion on the status and prospects for advanced nanotechnologies based on digital control of molecular assembly. I’d start by describing machines that already do this (in biology) and how they are being exploited to make nanostructures. I’d then outline a path forward to some very powerful technologies that today can be studied only by means of physical modeling and computational simulation. There are potential applications on a scale relevant to the climate change problem.
4 days talking about stuff like this and I may become a total Science geek, man!