Category Archives: Science Cafe

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution tomorrow morning.” — Henry Ford

THE REVOLUTION BEGINS: THE BATTLE OF STARBUCKS

Brain maven Alex Straiker was in a chatty mood this morning, for which I detested him. I hadn’t had my life giving dose of Sumatra yet and therefore was in no position to tolerate the very existence of Straiker or anybody else, much less hear anything he or they had to say.

But good old Alex persisted. And give me credit; I didn’t assault or batter him. I must like the fellow.

Lucky Guy

Anyway, he asked, “Did you see what happened at the Starbucks?”

I concealed my abhorrence of his presence enough to grunt in the negative. “Yeah,” he said, “someone smashed the window.”

Fortunately for him my caffeine fix arrived at that moment. I took a deep gulp. As if by magic, I felt I could bear the existence of certain humans, of which he is one.

“What happened?” I asked. “What was it all about?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “Anti-corporate radicals?” He smirked.

“Aha! May Day,” I concluded. “The revolution is starting.”

The Battle Has Been Joined

“Perhaps,” Alex said. “But it’s May 6th.”

“There is that,” I allowed. “When did it happen?”

“Last night, I assume.”

“Maybe they were late.”

Good scientist that he is, Alex eyed me skeptically. “Well, I suppose that’s possible,” he said, which is code for “That’s stupid.”

Riot!

Not having my digital camera with me, I borrowed his iPhone and trundled off to Indiana Avenue where the Starbuck’s in question faces the Sample Gates. I clicked away at the devastation for publication in this up-to-the-nano-second media colossus. No one scoops the Electron Pencil.

While waddling back to Soma Coffee I mused about what I would say upon receiving my Pulitzer Prize for recording the opening shot in the Great War Against the Corporations.

“I’d Like To Thank….”

Back at Soma, Alex and The Loved One sat waiting for me. “So,” T-LO asked, “What do you think?”

By this time, perspective had elbowed its way back into my thinking processes. Maybe, I thought, just maybe, it could have been just another incident of vandalism. I felt let down.

Alex said, “Did you notice the smell in there?”

No, I told him, I hadn’t gone in.

“There was a horrible smell. They said there was a problem with the ovens, as well. It smelled like burned plastic.”

A lightbulb went off over T-LO’s head. “I’ve got it,” she announced. “They were stoners. They smashed their way into the place and put some food in the oven. But being stupid and stoned, they didn’t realize that you shouldn’t put plastic in a hot oven.”

“Dude, I Got The Munchies.”

Alex nodded. Her theory seemed distinctly more reasonable than my revolution story. Still, I persisted. “Hey, there’s a long history of revolutionary action (read: rationalized vandalism) in this town,” I said. I reminded them of the rough welcome both Starbucks and McDonald’s got when they opened up shop in downtown Bloomington some 12 years ago. Windows were routinely smashed and radical graffiti was spray painted on their walls.

It was clear, though, that neither T-Lo nor Alex was willing to grant another iota of credence to the idea anymore.

By and by, T-LO and I said our goodbyes to the Soma gang. I suggested we walk past the Starbuck’s. Early Sunday morning coffee sippers sat calmly in its outdoor cafe seats. Birds tweeted, the sun shone, joggers huffed past. Revolution was not in the air. Nobody seemed to notice the board-up job on the Starbuck’s storefront.

I shrugged and said, “Well, it wasn’t crazy to think it was a revolution, was it?”

“I Mean, It Could Happen, Couldn’t It?”

T-LO had the good grace not to respond. George Bull, a long-time IU staffer, now retired, coasted up on his snazzy new bike. I pointed out the boarded-up window. “Oh,” he said, “I hadn’t even noticed.”

“I thought it might have been radicals,” I said.

“Hmm,” he said. “Looks more like childish overexuberance on graduation day.”

Sheesh. These people sure know how to throw cold water on a good scoop.

PRETTY PICTURES — HARD SCIENCE

Speaking of Straiker (which sounds like a good name for a blog — I’d better copyright it), he tells us plans have been finalized for an innovative art exhibit at the SOFA Grunwald Gallery. Set to open in August, 2013, the show will be a collaboration between scientists and artists.

Straiker says with the new developments in microscopic imaging for scientific researchers, the potential for compelling art is ripe to be explored. Straiker and a couple of colleagues, Jim Miller, also of the Psychological and Brain Sciences Department, and the botanist Jessica Lucas, have their own exhibit of images on display at Finch’s Brasserie.

Photo Microscopy Image Of Plant Root Hairs By Jessica Lucas

“But we’re just dabblers,” Straiker says. “We’ll partner with real artists for this show. It should be interesting.”

Jim Powers, manager of the IU Light Microscopy Imaging Center, and Lucas, as well as some geologists and a few other scientific researchers, all are slated to participate in the show.

SCIENCE CAFE UPDATE

BTW: Straiker also revealed this morning that the Science Cafe, originally scheduled to resume sessions last month, has been tabled until September. “Everybody wanted to do it in the fall,” Straiker explained. “It’s not easy getting these scientists together on anything. It’s like herding cats.”

The Science Cafe will be held monthly at Rachael’s Cafe. Each session will feature a researcher speaking about a specific topic. The idea is to bring science to the public. I can’t wait.

Electron Pencil event listings: Music, art, movies, lectures, parties, receptions, benefits, plays, meetings, fairs, conspiracies, rituals, etc.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

IU Mathers Museum of World CulturesExhibits, “Blended Harmonies: Music and Religion in Nepal”; through July 1st — “Esse Quam Videri (To Be, Rather than To Be Seen): Muslim Self Portraits; through June 17th — “From the Big Bang to the World Wide Web: The Origins of Everything”; through July 1st

IU Kinsey Institute GalleryExhibit, “Man as Object: Reversing the Gaze”; through June 29th

◗ Ivy Tech Waldron Arts Center Exhibits at various galleries: Angela Hendrix-Petry, Benjamin Pines, Nate Johnson, and Yang Chen; all through May 29th

Angela Hendrix-Petry With Chloe & Jasper

The Venue Fine Arts & GiftsExhibit, Daniel Lager; through May 17th

The Solution LabConference, Bloomington Startup Weekend, for developers, designers, entrepreneurs, etc.; through Sunday

Cafe DjangoBrunch guitar, Peter Kienie; 11am-1pm

Sembower FieldIUBaseball vs. Nebraska; 1pm

TC Steele State Historic SiteSunday Hiking Series: The Birds and the Trees for Nature Lovers, led by IU’s Jules Erwin; 1-3pm

Monroe County History CenterReception, Historic Preservation Month, keynote address by Duncan Campbell of Ball State University’s Center for Historic Preservation; exhibit, Bloomington Fading photos; 3pm

Bloomington Fading

IU Neal-Marshall Black Culture CenterListening & dancing to Ritmos Unidos; 4pm

Emeriti HouseJuried art show, works by retired IU faculty and staff; 5:30-7:30pm

The Player’s PubRichard Dugger Band; 6pm

Bear’s PlaceRyder Film Series, “444 The Last day on Earth”; 7pm

The Pencil Today:

THE QUOTE

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.” — Kurt Vonnegut

THE RETURN OF THE SCIENCE CAFE

Yep, the Bloomington Science Cafe is back. The shebang petered out when its home at the time, Borders, closed down here a couple of years ago.

Now it’s got new digs: Rachael’s Cafe.

Cerebellum tinkerer Alex Straiker of the IU Psychological and Brain Sciences Department is the driving force behind the local Cafe’s resurrection.

Straiker

Science cafes, Straiker explains, exist all over the world in big cities and college towns. They bring researchers and scientists together with less cranially endowed folk. Typically, they’re at coffeehouses and bookstores.

He’d hoped to start a Science Cafe when he arrived in town some five years ago but found one already underway. Graduate School Communications Director Erika Biga Lee was the mad scientist behind that incarnation. She’d started the thing in September, 2006, and welcomed Straiker aboard.

Biga Lee

Erika Biga Lee’s baby was sponsored in part by Borders until the bookstore chain sputtered to its demise. “It sort of went down with the ship,” Straiker says.

While Science Cafe I was up and running, the general public could stop by and listen to lectures on the science of marijuana, say, or the geology of Mars. One night, peak oil was the topic.

“Typically, 30 or 40 people would come,” Straiker says, “but attendance could range from 25 to 65.”

Erika Biga Lee is too busy these days to direct the get-togethers so Straiker and his lab colleague, Jim Wager-Miller, will run the show. They’re looking to present talks on the science of coffee, addictions, and dark matter within the first few weeks.

Straiker says he comes up with the topics, based mostly on ideas that intrigue him. Then he and Wager-Miller go around the IU campus looking for experts in those fields who’d like to make presentations.

“There’s an emphasis on openness and participation,” Straiker says. “We welcome questions. It’s meant to be a bridge between scientists and people.”

Straiker is hoping the first Bloomington Science Cafe II session will be either Wednesday, March 21st or 28th, 2012. Admission is free and open to the public. Rachael’s is at 300 E. 3rd St. Phone: 812.330.1882. Science Cafe sessions will be every Wednesday from 6:30-8pm.

CERTIFIED ORGANIC POISON

Interesting little piece on NPR this morning. Dartmouth College researchers have found high levels of arsenic in rice around the world.

Killer Weed

The horror. Surely our local food faddists will be up in arms about this. Just another example of the fascist-corporate agri-business tyrants poisoning us for fun and profit, no?

No.

“It turns out that arsenic is naturally occurring in soil and water and rice plants seem to have this special ability to soak up more arsenic from the environment than other plants,” says reporter Nancy Shute.

Brown rice actually contains more arsenic than white rice because it hasn’t been stripped of its constituent substances. And, no, buying organic rice won’t make any difference because, well, arsenic is there, folks, right in the holy dirt we plant our crops in.

Mother Earth is a killer.

THE SANTORUM SCHOOL

Now we know Rick Santorum and his wife have homeschooled their seven children.

I imagine they didn’t want the young’uns to be tainted by too many things like facts and knowledge. Man, I shudder to think what, for instance, the daily math lesson must have been like in the Santorum boot camp.

Mrs. Santorum: “Children, god created all the numbers. Let us remember that six times two equals twelve. We know this because that’s how many apostles Jesus had. Who can name all the apostles?”

Young Patrick Santorum: “Peter, James the Greater, James the Lesser, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas.”

Math, Santorum-Style

Mrs. Santorum: “Very good. And which apostle betrayed our lord and savior, Jesus Christ?”

Peter Santorum: “Judas.”

Mrs. Santorum: “Now, Peter. Pronounce his name correctly.”

Peter: “Um…, uh….”

Mrs. Santorum: “Say it like this: JEW-diss.”

Peter: “JEW-diss.”

Mrs. Santorum: “Very good. How much did Judas sell out our lord and savior for?”

Sarah Maria Santorum: “Ooh, ooh, ooh!”

Mrs. Santorum: “Yes, Sarah.”

Sarah: “Thirty pieces of silver.”

Judas Loved Money, Had a Sharp Nose, And Was Sneaky — You Do The Math

Mrs. Santorum: “Very good. And did the apostles accept food stamps?”

Daniel Santorum: “No.”

Mrs. Santorum: “So should Americans accept food stamps?”

All (in unsion): “No, ma’am.”

And so on. Math.

I’m still of two minds regarding the question of homeschooling. I subscribe wholeheartedly to Mark Twain’s line, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”

Meaning, among other things, that making kids sit in a classroom all day is about as ridiculous a way to impart knowledge to hungry young minds as can be conjured by the most cruel sadist.

I’ve met so many homeschooled kids who speak remarkably well and can relate to adults confidently. Most of the school-schooled kids I know are pretty much rotten little bastards who I’ll be happy to spend time with only after they reach the age of 30.

“Do Me A Favor, Kids — Go Away For A Few Years, OK?”

I know of homeschooled kids who devour books on the Moomins and Tintin and then graduate to Neil Gaiman. Again, most of the school-schooled kids I meet have never once in their lives heard the sound of a vocalist that wasn’t Auto-Tuned and pitch-corrected. I mean, they actually believe Katy Perry sounds that way.

One of the things that concern me about homeschooling is the desire on the part of parents to isolate their kids from the world. Of course, when you take the aforementioned contrasts into account, isolating the kids from the world doesn’t sound like the worst thing you could do to them.

But if you’re hoping to isolate your kids from liberals, agnostics, Muslims, Hallowe’en witches, Harry Potter, “In the Night Kitchen,” and M&Ms, homeschooling seems more a sentence than a choice.

Perhaps worst of all, Rick and his wife, Karen, compelled their children to spend the vast majority of their days with, well, them. The poor kids.

But there is a bright side to all this. At least neighborhood schoolkids were isolated from Santorum-think.

TOO BUSY THINKIN’ ‘BOUT MY BABY

Marvin Gaye didn’t have time for school — he had girls on his mind.

He became one of this holy land’s most beloved recording artists. Later, he tumbled into substance addiction and then his old man pumped him full of lead, snuffing his life out at the age of 44.

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