Science

Scare and scare alike: zombies, maggots, and more at 'BAASICS.5: Monsters'

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“We stopped checking for monsters under our beds when we realized they were inside us,” reads a quote often misattributed to the Joker in 2008’s The Dark Knight. The presenters at July 14’s "BAASICS.5: Monsters" event at ODC Theater capitalized on this concept, examining both modern monsters (though not “cars and corn syrup,” as one emcee mentioned at the beginning of the event) and monsters of yore. 

In past years, the organization has explored provocative topics such as the future (more weighted toward a possible uprising of robots rather than the nagging question “What am I going to do with my life?”) and psychiatric and neurologic disorders by juxtaposing science and art. It’s easy to find the right balance between the two for these past themes, but I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this year’s event. 

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We will survive! Annalee Newitz's 'Scatter, Adapt, and Remember'

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Spoiler alert: Humans survive at the end of the world.

It’s a bit more complicated than that, of course, but it’s good to start on a note of hope. It’s a hope we can afford to have, as Annalee Newitz (editor of science and culture site io9.com, and a former Guardian contributor) discovered in the research that yielded her book Scatter, Adapt, and Remember: How Humans Will Survive a Mass Extinction (Doubleday, 320 pp., $26.95). She's among the participants in tonight's "Last Things"-themed InsideStoryTime at North Beach's Glass Door Gallery.

Fascinated with the possibility of future disasters, Newitz set out to learn all there is to learn about the history of mass extinctions on Earth. From megavolcanoes to meteor strikes, the common thread of disaster on this planet is that something has always survived. An impressive amount of work is being done to make it possible for us to continue this streak of survival, and we all possess some tools of survival already. Read more »

The Performant: Roll Out the Barrel

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At Nerd Nite, beer + nerds = fun

One of beer’s most intriguing qualities is that it’s an incredibly easy elixir to get nerdy about. In fact, it’s almost like a double gateway — attracting regular folk to the wide wonderful world of microbiology and science-minded folk to the bar scene. What’s more, beer as a social catalyst has been bringing people together for possibly over 10,000 years and is the third most popular beverage in the world after water and tea, providing plenty of opportunity for historical insight and cultural exchange.  All of which made hosting a beer-tasting event at San Francisco’s 38th edition of Nerd Nite kind of a no-brainer … except with brains. Read more »

The new Exploratorium opens -- are the piers as good as the Palace?

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As someone who was practically bottle-fed on the old Exploratorium space, I was hesitant approaching the science museum's opening day at its new home on Pier 15 and 17. Like many other SF natives, I was attached to the old world charm and neo-classical elegance of the Palace of Fine Arts location, opened in 1969 by physics professor Frank Oppenheimer.

But consider me a convert. Where the Palace of Fine Arts' physical layout seemed to dictate the content of the old museum, the new building, extensively rehabbed to house the famously hands-on exhibits, allows them to exist more organically. The new site now houses the largest pod of solar panels in the city, holds a magnificently vista-ed observatory, and harnesses as a heating source the Bay waters it sits above on 1800 wood and concrete pilings built around a century ago.

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The Performant: The Secret to Life, the Universe, and Nothing in Particular

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“Celestial Observatories for Cyanobacteria” illuminate the knowledge gap at the San Francisco Arts Commission

“The purpose of our lives is to celebrate the grandeur of the cosmos" -- William Kotzwinkle, Dr. Rat

At the age of eight, possibly inspired by my first encounter with Madeleine L'Engle’s A Wind in the Door, the notion occurred to me that just as individual cells were undetectable (to the naked eye) in the human body, so were individual human beings virtually undetectable on the great organism that is the world, and just as the planet earth was virtually undetectable in the vastness of a single galaxy, that single galaxy was virtually undetectable within the infinite scope of the universe.

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The Performant: Revenge of the nerds

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Gaiman and Palmer, the Bay Area Science Festival, and a live game of Frogger

Nerd might still be a four-letter word in high school locker rooms (assuming these are still high school locker rooms to be found), but there’s really never been a better time in history to be an adult nerd. No matter if your inclinations lie in language, linux, or the laws of thermodynamics, a nerdish life lived well is truly the best revenge for all those real or imagined slings and arrows of awkward youth.

Epitomizing this truism, geek-elite power couple Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer launched a joint mini-tour across the West Coast entitled simply “An Evening with Neil Gaimna and Amanda Palmer,” which turned out to be exactly that, no more and no less.

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