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January 6, 2012 / Dr. Toad

Just found out there’s a Nerd Nite Seattle, and a Dorkbot Seattle, and a Weird Science Salon Seattle — all added to ‘Meetup’ links on the right.  Edit: And to the calendar, d’oh!

Hope to check them out soon!

January 5, 2012 / Dr. Toad

Huffington Post has a brand-new science section, with first entries by Lisa Randall, George Smoot, and Peter Gleick (and others) and article reposts on why deep voices are attractive and bacteria-powered robots in space (and others).

Of course, HuffPo has a less than illustrious history of publishing pseudoscientific quackery (especially anti-vaccination quackery), but they now have one of their denouncersSeth Mnookin — writing for them, so perhaps they’re trying to get things right this time. Carl Zimmer is optimistic too.

January 5, 2012 / Dr. Toad


The calendar and the seminar series pages have been updated.

The calendar is sparse — it doesn’t include the technical seminars that are nonetheless open to the public and can be found by scrolling down the seminar series page.

See you all there!

January 4, 2012 / Dr. Toad

Like many Seattleites huddling indoors and breathing each other’s viruses in this sickly weather, I’m currently battling an invasion with my trusted treadmill of snot. The Stranger‘s Jonathan Golob is on it:

To an invader, this is a nightmare to navigate: tangled chains of protein and sugar, with every nook and cranny crammed with water molecules. […]

All together, the body makes about a liter of snot a day—probably a bit more in the average toddler.

Best of health to us all!

January 3, 2012 / Dr. Toad

A friend posted this link on Facebook, and I can’t help but share: an interactive scale of the universe.

January 1, 2012 / Dr. Toad

Happy new year of science!

2011 brought us closer than ever to the Higgs boson and saw a computer win against human champions in Jeopardy!. A 6.5-year-long international clinical trial found that antiretroviral drugs can be used as HIV prevention. Wired, Science and just about everyone have their lists of top breakthroughs in 2011.

What will happen in 2012? Sadly, I’m not going to make any wild predictions of extraordinary discoveries about to be made. But I can tell you where to go in Seattle to get your science fix in the new year. The Science Cafes and Science on Tap continue their monthly quest for truth in wine and the scientific method. Town Hall has an impressive winter lineup of speakers on topics from the human mind to the mindless pollution of our oceans. There is no shortage of free public seminars at the UW. Benaroya Hall hosts its 15th annual National Geographic Live! speaker series. And I swear I’ll update the calendar to reflect all of these and more asap — right now it’s awfully out of date.

So, happy new year of science! Oh, and: the Feynman Series is on youtube:


December 22, 2011 / Dr. Toad

“There is something about computers that is both fascinating and intimidating. […] they are like human machines with “super brains”. Some of them can even play music. On the other hand, we are inclined to be intimidated by their complex mechanisms and large arrays of blinking lights. You should do what scientists tell you to.”

I leave you for 2011 with these words of wisdom from How It Works… The Computer, a 1979 book by David Carey, scanned and posted on yesterday. Do you know enough about the workings of a computer to spot the photoshop jobs? Original scans here.

Image by Rob Beschizza,

See you in 2012, for which my New Year’s resolution is to write more! Happy holidays!


December 14, 2011 / Dr. Toad

100 years of South Pole

100 years ago today Roald Amundsen‘s expedition became the first to reach the South Pole. They used sled dogs, then they ate them. They made it back. A rival attempt by Robert Falcon Scott‘s party was successful just over a month later in January 1912, but all perished on their way back.

Amundsen's expedition with tent on South Pole

Amunden's expedition on the South Pole

Today you can fly to the South Pole from Cape Town or Punta Arenas for $40,000. Or you can grab a buddy and ski unassisted across the entire Antarctic continent.

My friend Kat Huybers is in Antarctica right now. She’s a glaciologist at UW, there with a small team of scientists, now waiting to be flown to the Pensacola mountains where they will camp on ice for 30+ days to study the glacial history of the place.

Pensacola Mountains, Antarctica

Pensacola Mountains, Antarctica

Wishing them and all those braving the elements for science a safe passage and a safe return home.

December 6, 2011 / Dr. Toad

I have been neglecting to blog — I just moved, I’m interviewing for jobs, and I’ve been monitoring the parliamentary elections in Russia and their aftermath…

Meanwhile, NASA’s Kepler mission has discovered Kepler-22b, an extrasolar planet 200 times as big as ours that orbits in the “Goldilocks zone” for Earth-like life. Its average temperature is 22 C.

And The New York Times dedicated its entire science section this week to computing and AI, with a feature on neuromorphic chips and essays by Daphne Koller on online learning, Scott Aaronson on quantum computing, and Sebastian Thrun (by the way, one of the professors of the Stanford online AI course, now taken by over 70,000 people all over the world) as always on self-driving cars.

And many more exciting things are happening too, I’m sure. Soon to be linked to and commented on. Just as soon as things abate on the personal and professional fronts.

November 30, 2011 / Dr. Toad

Recommended Today — Nov 30, 2011

This afternoon at 4pm Temple Grandin is giving a public lecture on improving animal welfare at the Hogness Auditorium, Health Sciences Center, UW (map).

Grandin is the world-renowned researcher and spokesperson for autism and animal behavior. Her work has been called revolutionary and revelatory for her ability to communicate the mental states of autism. She published more than 400 works, was named a hero and one of the 100 most influential people of the world by Time magazine, and became the subject of a multiple-Emmy-winning HBO film.

Free and open to the public. Come early, it will get full quick! Details are here.


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