Session Suggestions

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What sessions do you want to offer, collaborate on, attend?

Please put new entries at the top of the page. If you see something that appeals to you, leave a comment so the organizer knows you're interested. A simple +1 is a useful vote. Leaving your name and a link/email will help proposers to make contact and discuss ideas for the session. If you don't want to run a full hour-long session, but just want to share a result, technique, problem, project, or something else we'd be interested in, check out Lightning Talks.

What happens if we do nothing to restrain future greenhouse gas emissions?

Some suggest continued greenhouse gas emissions will lead to global catastrophe. Others think continued unrestrained CO2 emissions will cause nothing more than a minor bump in the road? What is the outlook for the future? How does climate risk compare with other risks we face? How do these risks vary depend on who or what you are or when you might be alive? Ken Caldeira

Climate geoengineering

Some have suggested that we might be able to engineer global climate to avoid climate damage (or possibly even to terraform Earth!). Are there circumstances under which this could possibly be a sensible thing to do? Ken Caldeira

Ocean acidification

Carbon dioxide is being absorbed by the oceans and is making it more difficult for organisms to make calcium carbonate shells, etc. Is this going to be a minor adaptive challenge or does it signal widespread extinction? Ken Caldeira

Play Twisdom!

This isn't a session, but rather of a way of stimulating discussion via social media-- Twisdom is a Twitter-based game that's a little like a virtual Magic 8 ball. Wondering about something you've discussed in a session? Want to pose a question to SciFoo campers as a whole? Just tweet a question and tag it #twisdom, or search on #twisdom and reply to questions others have asked. Full FAQ here.

If you catch Lucianne Walkowicz around, feel free to ask for a card with shortcut directions.

Past extinctions tell us that the climate and ocean really matter, so where are the positive routes forward that people or governments want to do ?

Anybody can contribute, and this needs some people who have no specialist expertise, as well as some people who believe themselves to be expert. Geology looks like telling us that 5 big extinctions were linked to rapid climate change. Humans are now busy making the fastest climate change of all. So, we could be worried......

There are a lot of threads on Science and governance interaction.

The science is done, there are even a suite of remedies for reducing emissions gases, or to re-capture those already at large. These are all "expensive". By contrast, "cheap" might look at Climate Engineering of the atmosphere, and including farming, forestry and ocean use - but the unintended consequences are hard to predict. UN meetings show that very little happens from governments. And unilateral setting of a carbon price is a long way off from the G2 of USA and China. Is it possible to re-imagine a way towards sustainability which people and governments want to take, whilst short term austerity slows us ?

What can we do, practically, to raise the appallingly low level of discourse in our society -- even a little bit?

A brainstorming session: journalists, scientists, social network and game deigners, artists, foundation directors, deliberative polling experts, advertising copywriters, crowd sourcing users, and other thinkers needed.

- Saul Perlmutter ( +1 Olga: we lack empathy. I'm trying to address it without talking in my Emotions in motion session offering.

+1 Lucianne Walkowicz: I also think nuance and uncertainty have been terribly devalued. If people viewed knowledge as a process rather than something to be consumed we'd be headed in the right direction.

Leadership and grassroots mobilisation on climate change?

In the wake of Rio +20 many mourned the death of leadership on climate change, and instead argued for global grass roots civic action (notably Mary Robinson and Rejendra Pachauri). In contrast, last January Naomi Oreskes called for leadership on climate change, arguing the public can't be expected to know and act on something this abstract. Moreover, several of the so called grass roots projects celebrated as having emerged in Rio were pretty old fashioned PR stunts run by NGOs, more launched than emerging, and inviting rather passive public engagement. Is mass global engagement on something like climate change really achievable?

I don't really want to argue leadership vs grass roots because it seems a bit boring, but maybe we could get some clever positive examples of both in an attempt to wrangle a mix of ideas and approaches that might provide some hope? I also think it's important to think about ways science can play a role here, and if it's a complicating factor in terms of both democratic engagment and relationships with the green movement.

Alice Bell

Credibility across cultures: expertise, uncertainty and the politics of scientific advice

Scientific advice has never been in greater demand; nor has it been more contested. From climate change to cyber-security, poverty to pandemics, food technologies to fracking, the questions being asked of experts by policy makers, the media and the public continue to multiply. At the same time, in the wake of the financial crisis and controversies such as ‘Climategate’, the authority and legitimacy of experts is under greater scrutiny. And the explosion of social media has opened up new channels for debate, enabling, and at times forcing, experts to engage directly with more diverse audiences.

Worldwide, we see novel structures for scientific advice being put in place: through new institutions like the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES); and the appointment of ‘chief scientific advisers’ at the European Commission and the United Nations. But many questions persist about how to build and maintain robust, open and accountable processes of expert advice that can operate effectively across disciplines, sectors and national boundaries.

James Wilsdon

+ 1 - I wonder if we can talk about cultures within countries too, and the cross-national ways of dealing with this (e.g. international movements of sceptiticsm (I mean the various different types of scepticism) Alice Bell

+1 Sally Otto

State funding of science

It's been argued that the large-scale state funding of science is simply an accident of history. Maybe it is, and maybe it's just a transient policy briefly left over from the 20th C. But what can we do to preserve the advantages of this accident? How have scientists across the globe made the case to avoid cuts, what have been the successes and failures of such campaigns? (e.g. recent actions in UK, Canada, Columbia). Are there ways the sci community as a global entity make the case for state funding? How can they ensure this is done with a strong evidence base? Finally, what are the alternatives, and we loose public accountability with a loss of state funding?

Alice Bell

+ David A. Bray ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ...very interested, and perhaps we could also discuss whether nation-states as funders of science still matter, or are they on the decline in terms of both their investments and influence and perhaps non-state actors (whether for-profits, non-profits, or some other form of organization) are becoming more invested and having more influence? If so, what does this mean for science? And what does this mean for citizens of nations looking for publicly available scientific advances?

Science, technology and diplomacy

With the recent Higgs announcement from CERN, UK PM David Cameron was keen to celebrate the event as an achievement for British science. Seeing as the very basis of CERN is to draw on and develop science's networks of international collaboration (with at least part of an eye on preventing future war) his statement looked rather crass. Indeed there seems to be a resurgence of interest in this field - e.g. AAAS' new journal

Some possible questions around this:

1) Have science for diplomacy projects in high energy physics and polar/ climate research delivered? 2) Can work here be extended, perhaps with an eye on science's role in dealing with key global challenges? 3) How can we balance doing international science for primarily scientific reasons, with the pressure/opportunity to do some things for primarily diplomatic reasons e.g. British Antarctic Survey and UK interests in the Falklands. 4) Will the appointment of a chief scientific advisor to the UN change things? 5) Despite all this interest, is Matt Kearnes right to suggest there a ‘banal nationalism’ about much science policy recently, and does that lead to an entrenchment of linear models of innovation? 6) What about technology? What about when it comes to doing something to the world rather than abstract science it is easier to say we're just looking? (geo-engineering being the key challenge here perhaps).

Alice Bell

+ David A. Bray ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ...very interested, and this might link to your proposal about state funding of science, since it raises the question about whether diplomacy should focus on nation-to-national "international" collaborator or if some other form of collaborations spanning nations to non-profits to for-profits to (fill in the blank here) is arising with globalization?

New Dimensions in Imaging: Ultrafast (trillion frames per second imaging), Hyperspectral, Multimodal and Computational

What are new opportunities, emerging technologies and social implications with modern imaging. Would love to explore areas in science, health, consumer apps now possible.


+1 Peter: It may already be implied, but a discussion of image analysis would be great, too.

+1 Anders Ynnerman

Artificial versus Natural Intelligence

Humans are far from perfect reasoners yet still in at least a few ways ahead of machines. Why do machines continue to lag behind when it comes to common sense, perception, and natural language? Can studies of human cognition contribute to building smarter machines?

Gary Marcus gary dot marcus nyu edu

"Geek power in action - Taking on anti-science, pseudoscience and non-science in the media or in public policy"

In the UK we have had some recent successes in defeating anti-vax, anti-viv, anti-abortion and anti-embryo research campaigns that were based on misrepresenting science or evidence. We have been less successful against anti-GM, irrational drug policy, organ donation laws and some other areas.

What lessons can we learn about how to do this effectively while recognising legitimate difference in ethical outlooks with opponents of scientific progress or indeed within the academic community? What are the most effective ways to use the media to win the political argument and - where necessary - the public debate? What can we learn from our opponents?

I was in Parliament for 13 years, during the last seven I led many of these campaigns. It would be great to share outlooks and experiences.

Evan Harris and tweets here

The Societal Implications of Advances in Neuroscience and AI

(1) Some people think that as we better understand the causes of human behavior in terms of brain function, we will lose our impulse to punish. Will we? Ought we to? What would the world be like if we did?

(2) Emerging brain-related technologies may allow us to dampen or enhance memory and other cognitive abilities. Advances in brain scanning may allow us to determine whether or not a person is lying or experiencing pain. How will these and other brain-related technologies change our world? How should they?

(3) What about advances in artificial forms of intelligence? How will the law change when Google and other companies commercialize autonomous and semi-autonomous vehicles?

-Adam Kolber (

+1 Gary Marcus

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, may also relate to

Mike +1 can contribute on functional neuroimaging aspects

+1 Ryota Kanai I'm interested to discuss what kind of neurotechnology will emerge in the next ten years.

+1 Jack Gallant

+1 Anders Ynnerman: I'm interested in the use of biofeedback in Neuroscience (I have some nice slides to shown on this as well :-)

How Can We Best Move Towards Intelligent Agents and Distributed Collective Intelligence? .../... How Can We Make Life from Data?

Note: Prefer this to be an informal group discussion / roundtable discussion on Saturday late-morning or right after lunch. This is meant to be an interactive discussion in which everyone participating brings their ideas and insights. Diversity of different views key!

(1) Given the emergent state of the internet, big data is good; big data combined with intelligent agents that learn from data are even better. What does the future look like with intelligent agents that learn from data?
(2) What are the commercial and social impacts of combining big data and social media with modular code and open source modeling APIs to enable intelligent agents that learn?
(3) What are different R&D investment paths to intelligent agents that learn from data and the potential future impacts of the different paths?

Does: Big data + Social media + Modular code + Open source modeling APIs ... Result in ...

===> Intelligent agents that learn from data?

===> Do-it-yourself modular, remixable algorithms informed by human activities?

===> Distributed collective intelligence on the internet?

===> Eventually a self-organizing and self-improving (i.e., alive) internet?

Can We Make Life from Data?

With the second decade of the 21st century, we are approaching a period of a “perfect storm” in which the convergence of four key technologies will enable a novel form of distributed collective intelligence. With concerted, well-positioned efforts now, we can enable do-it-yourself modular, remixable algorithms informed by human activities and insights. Combining big data and social media (the internet's data and social information) with modular code and open source modeling APIs (equivalent to recombinant DNA), we can enable distributed collective intelligence of the net.

Such a nearing future gives hope that one day the internet too will become capable of self-organizing itself without human intervention. Would it then not become alive? The internet we access (and are a social part of) is already nearly genetic in its programmed code, memetic in its exchanges, but as a whole not yet part of a larger, living system. It cannot self-organize itself into a new, more beneficial form – yet. To organize itself more efficiently:

   • The internet we access will need to be self-organizing and self-improving (i.e., alive). 

+ David A. Bray ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) This is meant to be a collective and interactive group discussion, different thoughts and ideas on the topic highly encouraged!

+1 Olga

+1 Gary Marcus

+1 Anders Ynnerman

+1 Andrei Lupas +1 Eric Topol

How Can We Reward Innovation in Government? .../... How Can We Move Towards Entrepreneurial Government?

Note: Prefer this to be an informal group discussion / roundtable discussion on Saturday late-morning or right after lunch. This is meant to be an interactive discussion in which everyone participating brings their ideas and insights. Diversity of different views key!

Also: Apologies in advance that this (initially, it can be rescoped) is a U.S. pitch. You don't have to be from the U.S. to provide your views, and we certainly can expand it to include discussion of other national government and the broader challenges of governing in the 21st century? Or rescope this, different tacts welcomed!

... The Dawn of the 21st Century Has Presented Several Challenges for Effective Government Service Within the U.S. Government

(1) The rise of global, for-profit 24/7 news and social media has provided news reporters and pundits alike an incentive to search for extreme stories about government.
(2) Increased risk aversion of politically elected leaders compounds existing problems where the design of government rewards workers who maintain the status quo equities and disincentives those attempting innovation within government.
(3) Out of a sense of service and patriotism, a new generation familiar with the fast pace of world change have joined government only to discover government with internal controls designed to slow down any adaptation or innovation.
(4) Organizational adaptation in government happens gradually due to the legal and policy-driven nature of government.
(5) Increased demands to “do more with less” force government workers to focus on serving immediate needs, even if the methods and tools they use are outdated, foregoing future efforts to innovate and adapt to our changing world.

... If What We Want 21st Century Government To Do Is Different From Its Original Design, We Need to Link These Requirements to Rewards

(1) We need to reward behaviors that overcome the built-in organizational antibodies that will launch in government the moment we try to rework laws and policies to encourage collaboration, agility, and better coordination.
(2) We need to avoid partisan influence on what redesigned rewards we adopt for 21st century. We also need to recognize our role as an electorate in watching and rewarding polarizing political news stories vs. consolatory, moderate news.
(3) We need to recognize our responsibility to encourage those we elect to focus on reworking policies to reward better collaboration, agility, and better coordination and we need to provide early exit incentives for workers who do not want help adapt government.
(4) We need to recognize the influence of lobbyists who might not want government to change. If large business can see their fates linked to success of our nation’s government in the 21st century, they can help encourage political leaders to make the necessary reward redesigns to encourage a more entrepreneurial government.
(5) We need to announce, with Champions both in the Congress and the Presidency, science and engineer endeavors to balance the concerns of the Founders with the 21st century demands – to redesign of what gets rewarded in government, and thus gets done. By basing this iterative reward redesign endeavor in science and engineering, we can focus on evidence-based decisions as we enact organizational improvements.

Additional Background:

Our rapidly changing world necessitates a redesign of what gets rewarded in government, and thus gets done. Founders of the United States did not intend for our government to collaborate, demonstrate agility, or coordinate quickly. Such demands of a federal government did not exist in the late 1700s, when one-way communication between New York, NY and Baltimore, MD required two to three days on horseback vs. near-instantaneous two-way communication by phone or email today. Having recently fought the Revolutionary War against English monarchy, the Founders intentionally intended our government system to reward behaviors that would prevent anyone more from having too much influence and becoming “king-like”. They intended for turf battles to exist in government.

Fast-forward more than two-hundred and twenty years later, and our government still operates with our Founders’ principles in mind, yet now the requirements we have for government have changed. With globalization and increasing ubiquity of information technologies, we expect a government that does collaborate, demonstrates agility, and coordinates quickly. As U.S. citizens in a rapidly changing world, we recognize our government must adapt proactively to new 21st century opportunities and challenges.

Suggested premise -- the U.S. government is not broken; it is doing exactly what we designed it to do. We did not design our government to address challenges collaboratively, with agility, or with quick coordination. National dialogue seems to forget this shared history. If all that what we want 21st century government to do differs from its original design, then we need to link our new requirements – collaboration, agility, and better coordination – to what get rewarded in government, and thus gets done.

... Then Again, Maybe Governments Are On the Wane and Alternative Forms of Organizing and Governing On the Rise?

  • Rise of Transnational Corporations? When is Google going to ask China for diplomatic immunity for Google employees?
  • Rise of Networked Actors? Super-empowered individuals?
  • Ideological Diasporas? Mobilized individuals with common ideas?

... everyone's thoughts welcomed! This is meant to be a collective and interactive group discussion. Other international perspectives welcomed!

+ David A. Bray ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com )

How Can We Best Rewrite the Code of How We Interact Socially? .../... How Do We Build a Better Digital Government?

Note: Prefer this to be an informal group discussion / roundtable discussion on Saturday late-morning or right after lunch. This is meant to be an interactive discussion in which everyone participating brings their ideas and insights. Diversity of different views key!

We need a rewriting the code of how we interact, the human code of collaborations (vs. mere 20th century institutions) to respond better to emergent events and disruptive surprises. To prevent bad things from happening, to include natural disasters or terrorism attempts – as well as to identify emergent opportunities for good things to happen across nations, across governments and industry, and across people in our world.

How do we build a better digital government? E-government has been tried. has been tried. 25-point plan. Cloud first.

Are these deep and impactful efforts toward a digital government? Are these window curtains around a window that needs a new pane of glass?

Will the Federal government get there, or should we look to local and state government to get there first and then have it "bubble up"? Is this possible given tightening budgets?

What Are the Roles of Citizens in Providing Open Source Data, Remixing Data, and Evaluating/Moderating Data Streams?

   • Can global citizens be given anonymizing software to help

... Report "bad things" they're witnessing, natural or human-caused (disease outbreaks denied by a national government, war crimes, corruption of public officials?

   • Is this spying or is this witnessing for public good? 

... What is the role of citizens in providing data to the global commons -- and can they use pseudonyms to develop reliable reputations for telling the truth?

   • Can enough citizens evaluate and moderate data streams? 

... Do they citizens the time and motivation to pay attention? Or are we all driven to distraction and reducing everything to a 5-second sound bite? Does more data help or drown us with noise?

This would be an open-ended discussion. No easy answers here... more to seek what insights others have to contribute.

Background Links On the Topic

+ David A. Bray ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) This is meant to be a collective and interactive group discussion, different thoughts and ideas on the topic highly encouraged!

Black Holes

I have movies of how gravity distorts views near a black hole. I can take people on a relativistically accurate adventure, if interest exists. +1 Markus Covert +1 Ellen Jorgensen

- Robert Nemiroff (

Images and Anecdotes from APOD

I can review cool space images and humorous anecdotes accumulated while co-producing the Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) website over 17 years, if interest exists. APOD's main NASA address is .

- Robert Nemiroff (

+1 Markus Covert +1 Ellen Jorgensen

Build a Geometric Sculpture/Puzzle

I'll bring the parts for you to assemble into a challenging mathematical structure (that participants can each take home). It's a tricky puzzle with a visually engaging solution, as I believe hands-on activities develop important thinking processes and beautiful objects are associated with beautiful ideas. Such activities also provide informal opportunities for formal thinking, which I feel we all need more of. Come see if such an exercise builds your mental muscles or perhaps argue instead that I'm just playing with toys. It will be a cousin of this:

Also, if I can arrange for some Google bagels Sunday morning, I'll give a workshop on how to cut a bagel into two linked halves:

George Hart,

Olga:sounds awesome! count me in.

Hi George - We're not serving bagels. I'll see if we can go buy some for art purposes. Cat Allman

Can the USA help drive energy decarbonisation, now ?

We burn lots of fossil fuel, especially coal. Hopefully we all know this stuff seems to drive the climate and ocean change. Right now the USA has enough shale gas for domestic security for decades. So why carry on burning coal? And why oh why let it be exported. That makes the total carbon to the planet the same as coal. No kidding. Politicians could do something about this stuff, but maybe we have to tell them first. Ban shale gas exports from the USA. Interfere with Big Business. Discuss ?

Making carbon pricing happen

Everyone (or at least all economists like me) thinks that carbon pricing is a key step in dealing with climate change, but how do we deal with the political obstacles? We can discuss models like BC's revenue-neutral carbon tax (which I know a lot about) and California's cap-and-trade system (which I don't). Could also focus on Washington State, where I've been working to build a political coalition and would love feedback on policy options &etc. Yoram Bauman +1 +1

Can We Simultaneously Represent a Digital Data Format as a Human Narrative? .../... Can Data Tell Stories in Parallel?

Note: Prefer this to be an informal group discussion / roundtable discussion on Saturday late-morning or right after lunch. This is meant to be an interactive discussion in which everyone participating brings their ideas and insights. Diversity of different views key!

Can We Simultaneously Represent a Digital Data Format as a Human Narrative?

Can we remove the technological barriers separating ANALYSIS of information from the COLLECTION of information, by enabling production of parallel forms of collected information for analysis?

   • One in narrative, human storytelling form, and 
   • One in machine-formatted form with needed metadata tags 
     explicitly identifying the who/what/when/where/how associated with the information.

Can we perform ANALYSIS interactively on the information at the point of collection, to inform and refine the metadata tags associated with the information – and to prompt what additional information a COLLECTOR may want to seek in real-time?

Can Data Tell Stories in Parallel and Why Does This Matter?

Separating the COLLECTION of information from the ANALYSIS of information increases the risk that a narrative report collected by a human will lack or the needed machine-formatted metadata tags for analysis of information by a machine, or the report may possess incorrect tags.

Separating COLLECTION from ANALYSIS also introduces delays in the timeliness of analyzing collected information, which may result in sending troops to the wrong location, attacking an incorrect or no longer present target, or allowing enemy forces freedom of action during a protracted delay.

Why Now? How Could Machines and Humans Tell Each Other Stories Readable Simultaneously By Both?

The computing power of handhelds/tablet devices has increased exponentially over the last 10 years, doubling every 18 months. The storage space of handhelds/tablet devices also has increased alongside commercially available graphics, touch-screens, and other human interface capabilities. Such an envisioned system should be producible using a significant portion of already developed commercial hardware.

The “special sauce” for this effort will come from the software developed to interface with the human collector, to develop the narrative alongside the machine-formatted form, and to perform ANALYSIS interactively on the information at the point of COLLECTION.

  • This software will need to know when to request non-local data to incorporate into the analysis, when to send local data to non-local regional and higher echelon commands, and how to prioritize such queries given minimal – or sometimes non-existent – bandwidth.
  • This software will use both local ANALYSIS and the results of non-local analyses to inform and refine metadata tags associated with the information – and to prompt what additional information a COLLECTOR may want to seek in real-time.

... Thoughts welcomed! This is meant to be a group interactive discussion, not a monologue!

+ David A. Bray ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com )

Is Information Pollution a Real Problem? .../... What Can We Do About Increasing Competition for Finite Attention Spans?

Note: Prefer this to be an informal group discussion / roundtable discussion on Saturday late-morning or right after lunch. This is meant to be an interactive discussion in which everyone participating brings their ideas and insights. Diversity of different views key!

In the November 2003 issue of ACM’s Queue, Jakob Nielsen raised interesting questions surrounding the concept of “information pollution”. In his essay, Nielsen commented, “a one-minute interruption can easily cost a knowledge worker 10 to 15 minutes of lost productivity due to the time needed to reestablish mental context and reenter the flow state.”

Are We Increasingly Distracted?

Events since 2003 have reinforced Nielsen’s conclusions. According to a recent report from Basex, the average “knowledge worker” – someone who is part of the growing information economy – loses 2.1 hours a day to interruptions associated with multitasking. If those workers make an average of $21 an hour, that adds up to $588 billion a year, more than the gross domestic product of Argentina (, 2005). Another recent study found knowledge workers experienced interruptions approximately once every 10 minutes and it took an average of 23 minutes for them to return to their original task. With knowledge overload and turbulent environments, individuals confront multiple demands for their attention.

Granted, “information pollution” is the negative side of a more positive global movement empowering individuals to access and produce knowledge globally. Never before has humanity created and had access to so much knowledge. TIME Magazine's recent recognition of every individual (i.e., “you”) as the 2006 Person of the Year represents the accelerating trend where anyone can find, analyze, produce, and remix various media on the internet. For academia, the growth of new knowledge is exponential. In the year 1900, there were 9,000 scientific articles published that year. In 1950, there were 90,000 and by 2000 there were 900,000 scientific articles published in that year (Hawking, 2001). Yet with this positive movement of internet-enabled empowerment, concerns of “information pollution” and “knowledge overload” loom as well.

Do Better Technology Design and Strategic Intentions Have a Role?

Is there anything we can do to help humanity address such challenges?

Can we produce technology that not only helps individuals to keep up with all this new knowledge, but also alternate between concentrated focus and multi-tasking behaviors when they should?

Suggested principles (Strawman, Everyone Encouraged to Add to Them!)

First: we need Information Technology solutions that strive to REPLACE (not add) existing available information with BETTER information, specifically because of human cognitive load limitations
Second: we should try to AVOID technologies that create constant SHIFTS or frequent interruptions where at all possible
Third: we should treat human attention spans as a SCARCE resource; new IT solutions need to CONSERVE this resource, as it is exhaustible

... Thoughts welcomed! This is meant to be a group interactive discussion, not a monologue!

+ David A. Bray ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com )

"What if extinction is not forever?"

It is quickly becoming feasible to reconstitute the genomes of vanished species using genetic material from preserved specimens and archaeological artifacts. Three different techniques are being deployed. Revivals already under way include mammoths, aurochs, and passenger pigeons. Candidate species include the dodo, the Carolina parakeet, the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), and the Xerces blue butterfly. If we can actually revive an extinct species, should we? If so, why bother? Are some species more desirable, valuable, or ethical to bring back than others? Is it ethical to “improve” a revived species—for example to make a formerly extinct bird resistant to avian malaria? Do revived species have a “right” to be returned to the wild? Should revived species be treated as genetically modified organisms? In this session we can discuss the rapidly evolving science making all this possible and the downstream implications and opportunities.

Stewart Brand (; George Church (; Ryan Phelan (

(And hopefully Jack Horner and Beth Shapiro will join us as well) +1 +1(Jason Osborne +1 Oliver Medvedik ( +1 Sally Otto +1 Ellen Jorgensen

"Applying Thermodynamics to the WWW"

Is there any utility to applying statistical mechanics and thermodynamics to understand and characterize the WWW? For example, if we calculate and track the entropy of a network on the WWW can we relate it to its susceptibility to cyber-attack? Does web traffic obey the laws of thermodynamics? Are there sets of conditions that can allow us to predict directions of web traffic the same way we can predict the flow of energy in chemical/biological systems? Can we apply statistical mechanics to calculate properties from large data sets obtained from less-traditional disciplines like medical imaging, earth-mapping, etc. (

Olga: very interesting! Will try to be there.

Do, or should, humans have an off-world future?

As a species we seem to be finally inching towards a capacity to exploit, if not inhabit, resources beyond the Earth. I'd love to discuss ideas and opinion (both crazy, sane, lighthearted and sincere) on this. Is it something we should be taking far more seriously? Does it offer a real solution to human problems of population, overuse of planetary resources, and vulnerability to 'extinction' events, or is it just too darn hard? I think it can be argued that the cost of fixing the human impact on Earth's environment and ecosystem is comparable to that for genuine exploitation or colonization of off-world sites. Or would expanding outwards simply be another way to sweep things under the carpet, to avoid facing the inevitable, and to increase the separation between the haves and the have-nots? We live at an interesting time, where we're not only learning more about the deep history of Earth and its densely entwined biological and geophysical systems, but also standing on the brink of placing this planet in some sort of context among thousands of exoplanetary systems. Will this lead us to a fresh perspective on our species? Perhaps we're like a rare tree frog that only survives in a single patch of forest, or perhaps we're more like a highly adaptable colony of bacteria, poised to infest the cosmos... (Caleb Scharf,

+1 Lucianne Walkowicz ( +1

+1 Anders Ynnerman

+1 Andrei Lupas

+1 Oliver Medvedik (

+1 Ellen Jorgensen

How to build a whole-cell model (unplugged)

My lab recently published the first model of a bacterium that takes every gene into account[1][2]. If people are interested, I'd be happy to stand in front of a whiteboard with some markers and describe how we did it. I also could lead a discussion on whole-cell modeling applications such as rational, computer-aided design of cells -- George Church is also attending, he'd be great to have participate in this. (Markus Covert)

+1 +1 Yes. I'd be delighted to participate -- especially to build useful properties -- for example, resistance to all viruses -George

+1 Gary Marcus I'd like to attend.

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, and can whole-cell models tell us something about how to make digital data "alive" ?

+1 Oliver Medvedik


+1 Ellen Jorgensen

The future of genetics - how do genes work

New technologies have allowed us to read the genetic code of multiple species and the uncover genetic changes in cancer and many other diseases. This has also led to multiple business opportunities and has already led to a massive impact on the world as we know it. The key question and bottleneck, however, are and will be to figure out what these genes actually do - what is their function in a healthy organism and when something goes wrong in disease. Some of these answers will not only drive science but also lead to the development of new companies and entirely new medicines.

I propose to discuss what technologies could be developed and might already exist to answer these questions essential for human health and essential for "finding the next big biotech". For instance, we have recently developed a radical new technology, stem cells with a single set of chromosomes that not only break a paradigm of biology but also allow us to mine the function of essentially all genes. In other words, combing this technology with the potential of stem cells, within weeks (rather than years) one can now assess the function of nearly all genes modelling cancer, spinal cord or brain repair, virus infections, killing by environmental poisons, repair of islets in diabetes, drug development, etc etc. Among other possible technologies, i would therefore like to put such new technologies up for discussion.

+1 Elodie Ghedin ( - what new technologies could be developed to determine function of the thousands of completely novel genes discovered in microbial/parasite genomes.

+1 Ryan Phelan (


+1 as a person trying to figure out how to read genetic influences on animals that lived millions of years ago, this sounds interesting. Leslea Hlusko (

Consumer biotechnology

Rising global consumption of meat and other agricultural products is leading us to hit planetary resource limits. Already 30% of all available land is dedicated to livestock and related production. Animal farming is the leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, erosion, etc. Animal products, as we have cultivated them for thousands of years (and more recently with intensive farming), have serious limits in terms of sustainability, health, safety, scalability and animal welfare. What if we could make meat, leather and other materials without the need to kill animals? We'd like to propose and discuss these themes in the context of "consumer biotechnology" and its implications. (Gabor Forgacs, / Andras Forgacs,

+1 +1 George Church

+1 (Oliver Medvedik, Is the main issue in creating an easily cultivated food source, that is either algal or or fungal based, taste more like meat or is it to boost the nutritional/protein content of the aforementioned, or both?

+1 Ellen Jorgensen How far should we go? We can easily rationalize the use of powerful technologies for food and fuel production, but what about individual consumer-driven stuff? Is a designer Bonsai tree an acceptable use of this technology, or a glow-in-the-dark Sea Monkey? We already have Glofish, which are banned in California, what's next?

Smartphone Science?

Most scientists and millions of people have recently started carrying around a sophisticated electronic measuring device called a smartphone. In the near future, other devices such as smart glasses and possibly even smart jewelry might have even greater capabilities. These include the ability to self-locate, orient, hear, see, detect vibration, detect magnetic fields, process information, and communicate data automatically. But is this data of any use? What real scientific questions might be addressable? Please consider not only "Citizen Science" but inexpensive or supportive "Scientist Science" -- what apps might help you "in the field"? Assume programming is not an obstacle. Being an astronomer, I see some untapped potential for astronomy including, possibly, cloud monitors, meteor detectors, and cosmic ray shower detectors. How about in your field?

- Robert Nemiroff ( +1+1+1 +1 (Lucianne Walkowicz, +1 (Arek Stopczynski, +1 (Jason Osborne, +1 (Elodie Ghedin, +1 Ellen Jorgensen, +1 Ryan Phelan ( +1 George Church +1 Olga +1 Ramesh Raskar +1 Eric Topol, +1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, and can smartphone science tell us something about how to make a combination of human activities plus digital data "alive" ?

Economics comedy

I'd be happy to perform some economics comedy if desired. My show includes a bit on climate change and carbon pricing so we can have a serious conversation too. I'd love to talk about how to push this in the real world; I confess to being keen on ballot measures :)

Yoram Bauman

Cartoon books and public communication

I've co-authored (with the illustrator Grady Klein) a couple of cartoon economics books and we're currently working on a climate change cartoon book (kind of a cartoon version of IPCC AR5) and maybe also a calculus cartoon book (although Larry Gonick just published one).

I'd be keen to share what I know, learn more about digital/animation options, and otherwise spread the gospel. And maybe there could be a connection here with the Google Science Communication Fellows program?

Yoram Bauman +1

I've supervised a couple of masters dissertations on communicating science through cartoons and am currently revising a scholarly paper on topic. Happy to share expertise Alice Bell

+1 I draw/write comics (albeit mostly not about science) and am an astronomer-- would love to discuss comics as a science communication medium. -Lucianne Walkowicz +1 when asked what my dream job would have been, I always answer cartoonist. I would love to see more science communication through cartoons. Elodie Ghedin ( +1 Olga

What I learned by Doing Capitalism

The Innovation Economy begins with discovery and culminates in speculation. Over some 250 years, economic growth has been driven by successive processes of trial and error: upstream exercises in research and invention, and downstream experiments in exploiting the new economic space opened by innovation. At each stage investments are made under conditions of inescapable uncertainty and are dependent for funding on sources unconcerned with economic return: states motivated by politically legitimate missions and speculators seeking short-term financial reward. Thus, upstream and downstream, the Innovation Economy has evolved through the complex interaction of the state and financial capitalists with the market economy. In turn, for all the participants in this three-player game, the instruments for hedging the uncertainty they cannot escape are Cash and Control: unequivocal access to cash in order buy the time necessary for evaluating the unanticipated and sufficient control of circumstances to change the parameters of the problem. (Bill Janeway )

Story vs. the Whole Truth and Nothing But the Truth: Is Communicating About Science Ever (That) Simple?

How do we, or can we, communicate about science -- either the facts and limitations of a new discovery or the processes and personalities that lead to such discoveries -- honestly to a general audience while also holding their attention? Is a good story vs. the whole truth and nothing but the truth a real dilemma or a false dichotomy? In short, how much background, context, and factual detail is enough, and how much is too much? I'm also interested in talking about the strengths and limitations of various media as they tie into these questions. (Jim Ottaviani;


+1 George Hart ( viewing mathematics as included when you say "science". +1 Leslea Hlusko (, might be interesting to also talk about whether or not "personalities" is the best way to capture someone's interest in science. Is Bear Grylls the best way to get people interested in nature?

+1 Helen Scales. love to take part in this discussion. Couple of ideas: are we too obsessed with story? which topics/issues go overlooked because there isn't a gripping human story peg to hang them on? Also, perhaps a brief broadening of the discussion to whether we can and/or should measure how well science communication “works” e.g. in changing attitudes, behaviour, & decision making. How goal-driven is Sci comm? Or do we just do it because we know it must be a good thing?

Neuroscience and National Security

The potential applications of neuroscience are among the emerging technologies of interest to national security organizations. These theorized applications include deception detection, cognitive enhancement and brain-machine interface, among many others. My online Coursera "Neuroethics" course will highlight these topics and the ethical issues they raise as set out in my book Mind Wars. Here's the link to the Coursera page: [3] Jonathan D. Moreno

+1 George Church

+1 Jack Gallant

Public participation in scientific research

This is a hot topic right now (AKA Citizen Science) and I think that there are a lot of campers who will be interested in it (eg See below). So, I've made this suggestion mainly to create a place-holder. Add your ideas here and lets see what coalesces. Jonathan Silvertown

Some questions:

  • What kinds of social network operate in PPSR projects and which are most successful?
  • Why do some projects catch fire (eg Galaxy Zoo) while most do not?
  • What are the common denominators of success?
  • What kinds of science project lend themselves to PPSR?


+1 (Lucianne Walkowicz,

Some more q'ns, from Alice Bell:

  • Old question, but worth still asking: is citizen science public engagment?
  • Newer one: does crowd-funding count as public participation? Are their better ways to involve the public in questions of scientific funding? (should we do this, can we?).
  • What are the ethical issues involved in citizen science?
  • Can citizen science build trust, especially in climate science?

All good! More, anyone? (Jonathan Silvertown)

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, could we also talk about questions about open data and more open science? I think there's an interestign overlap between public participation in scientific research and the (not-so-much-a-success) efforts of and

Lucianne Walkowicz: Here's one I've been thinking about: how do we continue to meaningfully engage people in research as machine learning techniques improve? For example: Supernova Zoo has been a wild success, but one of its uses is as a training set for automated classification algorithms. The Supernova Zoo citizen science effort made it possible to do the work of Supernova Zoo *without* people, which (to my mind anyway) is great-- but what then is the value if (for example) people want to go on identifying supernovae? In one sense they are no longer making a contribution to the actual research, but in another they are engaging with data in a way that may be personally meaningful to them and therefore have intrinsic value of its own. Should the approach be to divert them to another project where their help is more needed? Many citizen science projects "sell" (in part) on the basis of being a contribution to actual research, so it seems disingenuous to keep saying that to people if it no longer is the case for that particular project.

Lucianne makes an important point that some citizen science projects will have an end point when you have to say to everyone, "job done. Now lets move on". This is less of a problem where the citizen scientists define the research questions themselves. That is where it gets really interesting! (Jonathan Silvertown)

Mike Tyszka +1. Would love to get into whether citizen science has the potential to be less biased towards positive findings than professional science.

David Henkel-Wallace +1. One thing that'd be useful to discuss is how to make it easier for people to participate, especially in data collection (e.g. weather data collection). How do we reduce the participatory friction (and not reduce the quality of the data set)? How can infrastructure provide affordances for data collection and participation?

Ryota_Kanai +1. I'm interested in the possibility of citizen science in neuroscience. People are curious about how their brains are different. Perhaps MRI scan version of 23andme may make people participate in data collection and research.

+1 Oliver Medvedik ( John Wilbanks had a great talk during TEDGlobal where he proposes a medical commons ( where participants/citizens freely share their medical data. With sufficient participation and data mining this has tremendous potential to determine statistical significance in what may presently be anecdotal or unreported. How far can we we go with such selfless citizen participation?

+1 Ellen Jorgensen ( What is the role of community biolabs in encouraging and enabling citizen science and how far do we go in enabling people to do genetic engineering and synthetic biology at the "amateur" level?

Helen Scales +1. And how about the current/future role of citizen science in reconnecting people with natural world? Amateur naturalists have played impt role in science/nat history in past - is this still the case? Can we lure more people back to the great outdoors with cit sci? Or is it only committed bird & bug spotters who take part?

Large-scale Citizen Science in the Classroom ; Classroom-Sourcing Science

"Child scientists committing acts of science and discovering bazillion-year-old sharks"

School children can commit ‘real’ (and publishable!) acts of science. Imagine a nation-wide Citizen Science program that simultaneously advances professional-level science as well as STEM education in the classroom. Been there, done that. Let’s talk about designing the second and third generation models of Citizen Science for your science or industry.

The idea of doing publishable science in the classroom is still revolutionary to most people, especially when you add in the possibility of students being mentioned in professional scientific publications (or even writing the publication). In Paleontology, and natural history in general, amateur contributions to the body of scientific knowledge are welcomed and acknowledged through publications. Nearly 75% of all scientifically important discoveries in paleontology are made by amateurs. Through innovative research, novel apps, centralized interaction portals and STEM education approaches, we can give students the opportunity to commit real science and publish well before college. ( Jason Osborne, ) +1+1 +1 Markus Covert (very interested in learning about the current scope, say paleontology, but also in increasing the scope and potentially standardizing to increase access) +1 Ellen Jorgensen ( How can we leverage community labs to fill in gaps in the science education system? How to best establish meaningful partnerships?

The Problem with Digital Systems

Michael Godfrey

For a long time I have been concered about the fact that there is insufficient error management in digital systems. There has been some recent progress which I can outline. But, the fundamental requirement of a demonstrably correctly functioning system is not currently being met. This talk will review the history (from von Neumann) and requirements for achieving correct systems.

Limitations of the Brain as Computational Device

Many of society’s problems can be traced to the organ that’s calling all the shots. As with all computational devices, the brain is ill-suited for some computational tasks and optimized for others. What are the brain’s limits, flaws, and bugs as a computational device? Do we understand the neuroscience behind these limitations? How does the brain’s architecture shape our world? (Dean

Olga: I would be interested in talking about what other tools/sensory we have to complement the inadequacy of the brain.

Gary Marcus My book Kluge was very much along these lines - would be glad to discuss.

Ahna Girshick +1 I could talk briefly about my work in the brain's perceptual biases, as the inadvertent result of optimization to our environment.

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, could we also possible talk about ways to overcome those limitations? To augment or extend our brain through alternative technologies or means?

+1 Jack Gallant

How do we develop new urban systems for a post-oil, connected city?

Ryan Chin,

Simply electrifying our existing fleet of private gasoline powered automobiles will not solve our problems including the reduction of global carbon emissions. How do we design and then deploy radically new urban systems for mobility, energy, and the built environment that can truly disrupt the "business as usual" model we currently employ? I would like to introduce a number of design proposals that offer the possibility of creating a smart sustainable city that is highly connected through a new urban nervous system. +1

Can we develop productive approaches to countering local anti-science cultures? How will the post-Dawkins dialog be shaped?

Money, Nicholas P. Dr.

In the last decade, science educators have played defense against creationists and representatives of other science-denigrating disciplines. Most of these discussions have taken place in local communities and many high school teachers and college professors have modeled their arguments upon the writings of Richard Dawkins and other popular advocates of scientific thinking. There is a recognizable sequence to these interactions, which begins with the scientist’s engagement with critics, is followed by the adoption of a militant stance against illogic, leads to exhaustion with the ineffectiveness of strategy, and ends with disengagement. I would like to introduce this session with some personal reflections based upon my discussions with diverse audiences about the Kentucky Creation Museum and will encourage group consideration of creative approaches toward more productive public discourse.



Modeling the world: Many of us are using models on our research or work topic. What if we were able to plug all our small models together ? Develop a standard ? Develop a method ? Develop an open database to boost modeling tasks ? Maybe that already exists ? does it ? Should it be , on some way, linked to the NetCDF format ?

"I have a map of the United States... Actual size. It says, 'Scale: 1 mile = 1 mile.' I spent last summer folding it. I also have a full-size map of the world. I hardly ever unroll it. People ask me where I live, and I say, 'E6'." -- Steven Wright



let's imagine and organize a drone race

uses of drone as services in every day life

Does neuroimaging help us predict future behavior?

What is the latest on neuromarketing (i.e., using functional brain scans to predict consummatory behavior)? Neuroprediction in legal contexts (i.e., can neuroscience predict who will get in trouble with the law)? Does neuroimaging data predict psychiatric/neurological disease (i.e., will you develop a mental illness, or dementia?). And of course I'm happy to talk about brains of criminal psychopaths and serial killers who we have scanned with our mobile MRI system - Kent Kiehl (

General Purpose Computing and policy

what solutions can we offer to companies/industries/interest groups who have an instruction, protocol, or network resource they want to suppress for reasons they perceive as legitimate? Should owners of computers always be allowed to inspect, initiate and terminate processes on their computers? What about users (as opposed to owners)? Does it matter if the "computer" is a prosthetic leg or arm? How about an airplane or a (possibly self-driving) car? -Cory

Discovering materials on the computer: can new algorithms lead to a new technological revolution?

Can the computer really discover new materials, using a form of artificial intelligence? If yes - then why has industry not taken advantage of this? Can computer-driven discovery replace the traditional experimental trial-and-error approach? - Artem (

Energy budgets and transfers

Fellow camper Joe Wolfe contacted me, saying he'd be interested in hearing me talk more about energy budgets (you can see a post of mine on it here: I'd be happy to talk about this stuff.


Science and underrepresented groups

I'd also be remiss if I didn't throw in there some kind of session suggestion about underrepresentation/ally work, and/or sexism/racism/sexuality issues in science. How can we be better allies? How can our work empower the next generation of scientists? And so on. -Kate Clancy (@KateClancy,

+1+1+1 Also: how do we reach out to underrepresented groups when underrepresentation also means a dearth of role models? What's the best approach to addressing unconscious bias? (Lucianne Walkowicz, +1 Olga: I also think it is a challenge of connecting science as inquiry to other ways of learning and knowing. +1

Why is music quantised/ digitised?

I've been thinking and writing about this from a physics perspective, but am keen to have the insight from other disciplines. Background: Psychologists talk of categorical pitch perception: we hear musical intervals in terms of discrete values from our own musical culture. Inter-note timings and thus rhythm are also often quantised. These quantisations allow music notations, including the familiar 5-line one, to be digital, and thus efficient and tolerant of noise. Questions: To what extent do they also facilitate harmony and elaborate structures? Do they make more successful memes?

And what might this tell us about music? Music's quantisations are different from/ complementary to those speech: speech sounds (phonemes) quantise features that, in music, would be included in timbre. In both music and speech, notation (or MIDI or ASCII) allows a rather greater and qualitatively different compression from those used for sound per se, e.g. mp3. Interesting point: pitch quantisation has led to singing styles that are, in an important acoustical sense, unnatural for the voice, yet have advantages. I'm interested in your ideas and your reaction to mine. Joe Wolfe (,

Effectively using big data

Why is it so hard to extract useful information from huge datasets? Can we build systems that allow people to mine data intelligently without having had to predict exactly what people want ahead of time? These issue arises in climate and weather, astrophyics, search results, the hadron collider etc. where we have huge volumes of data that are impossible to download locally, but whose interfaces are remarkably constrained. I can speak directly to the issues in climate models and observations, and maybe other people can come up with similar examples and solutions... - Gavin Schmidt

+1+1+1+1+1 And related: how can system design assist in exploratory data analysis on large datasets? Big data won't mean big discoveries if we always look for things we know are there! (Lucianne Walkowicz,

+1 Olga: Data represent what we're able to capture about life/universe. How can we find what we didn't know that we didn't know? Also accounting for various unknown biases is a fun challenge.

+1+1 I would like to try and bundle the notion of "democratizing access to big data" as part of this. How could we facilitate easy access to these large data--both for exploratory access as well as for running large analyses (processing jobs) on these data (Chaitan Baru,

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, and maybe combine this talk with too?

+1 Peter: Great topic. Also, how can we build big datasets by combining small datasets (e.g., can we combine all colloidal experiments into one dataset)? What are the potential downsides to open data/open science (and can they be avoided)?

Your genome, your health

If your car was not driving properly, and you took it to a shop, would you be happy if all they did was kick the tiers? That's kind of where Genomic Medicine is today.

Used to be you brought your car in to the shop, and the doctors would only look at it and say "Oh, we've seen 1,000 cases 'like' yours. Many of them got better using X Y Z. Let's try that." The current state of the art in genomic medicine actually does kick some tiers - which is good. Some cars actually do have faulty wheels. But then as far as steering and transmission go - forget it. We just kick tiers and (many of us) pretend that's all there is.

We can chat some about what it would take to understand the steering and transmission encoded in the human genome, and why that is probably The next big thing that's ultimately going to help us fix a human body. Gill

+1 Very much interested in how others are approaching this and can talk about how we are using stem cell biology to try to connect these dots. -Scott Noggle ( +1 Yes. Gene therapy via stem cells. By the way, more than 2400 genetic disease tests goes well beyond kicking tires/tiers George Church +1 Great----Into this! Eric Topol +1 Ellen Jorgensen --- as a PGP participant I'm definitely interested, lol

Large scale learning and teaching via the internet

Has anyone experience of large-scale peer instruction on the net?

I'm the author of a large-scale multimedia resource for introductory physics (Physclips). The current structure has a narrated, multimedia overview for each chapter, including film clips of the key phenomena. For the next levels, it has links to html pages for broader and deeper discussion. The film clips and animations are available for teachers to download. A few thousand people use it each day, and I've thought about offering them a bulletin board or wiki, as I do for my on-campus students. But I have limited time and resources and don't want to be drowned in discussion. Can anyone offer advice? []


Science/Art Collaboration and the Future of Innovation

+1 +1

Although art and science are often posed as the antitheses of one another, their central tenet is the same: to perceive and express deeper truths about our world. When combined, science and art have the potential to act as cutting-edge tools to derive meaning from measurement. Although data visualization and data-driven art seem to be increasingly in the public eye, these works are often created after the experiment (so to speak), rather than being part of the process of investigation. How can we bring science and the arts together to better enable innovative analyses, science education that better reflects the inquisitive process of research, as well as better communication and public participation in science? Possible things to discuss: the role of design and visualization in extracting meaning from large datasets, translation between scientific disciplines in interdisciplinary fields like astrobiology, artists as consultants, pattern recognition as a means to insight in art and science, sonification, making data tactile, making scientific results meaningful to the broader public. - Lucianne Walkowicz,, +1 (Jason Osborne

+1 George Hart ( including mathematics where you say "science"

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, and is there a place for art to help us understand how to "tell stories" (or draw pictures) in parallel with scientific data?

+1 Olga: will definitely be there for this discussion. I'd also add here activities like being in nature, yoga, dance, meditation here as they put us in touch with ourselves - and again allow to gain a deeper truth...

+1 Oliver Medvedik (

Painting with Blood, Dancing with DNA – Biology on the Screen and Canvas

This session riffs on Biology's crossover into art and entertainment -- on the big screen, gallery walls, and iPad's frame. Come ask Drew Berry, the "Steven Spielberg of Biological Animation" why his viruses are purple, and how he learned the gait of DNA. Learn how Laura Splan flattened 3D viruses into 2D doilies, and see her delicate blood paintings. And watch biology-inspired interactive music all apps including Scott Snibbe's "Virus" and Drew Berry's "Hollow," both made for Björk's Biophilia App Album.

Scott Snibbe Laura Splan Drew Berry +1 +1 Olga: +1 Anders Ynnerman

Visual Music, Hallucination, and Form Constants

I've always been curious about why certain abstract patterns have such visual resonance with our brains. Abstract animation is often referred to as "Visual Music" and I'd love to have a conversation both showing examples of Visual Music, and discussing how these patterns stimulate our brains; and also how our brains generate these patterns on their own. I've heard of Form Constants as a neurological theory for the formation of certain recurring patterns in internally generated perception: lattices, cobwebs, spirals. I (Scott Snibbe) and Scott Draves can show some examples of our interactive and non-interactive visual music, including Draves' Electric Sheep - an artifically evolving open-source mass-hallucination. WANTED: a neuroscientist to shed some light on these patterns and our brains. +1 Maybe Jack Gallant? +1 Olga

Perceiving information : Data visualization and visual perception

Data visualization is a great solution to keeping abreast of the rising tide of information, because visual imagery is not only processed by the brain much faster than tables of numbers, but is more memorable and engaging. But everything we see is subject to subtle perceptual biases, including data visualizations. Major decisions in science and politics are based on data visualizations, as well as popular opinions. But how accurately do we perceive the data when we rely on our visual systems? How can we scientifically study data visualization and create perceptual design guidelines? How easy is it to lie through data visualization? Can we balance beautiful and accurate design? WANTED: data visualization experts, neuroscientists, info designers.

- Ahna Girshick, +1 Olga

+1 Anders Ynnerman

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ...very interested, may also relate to


Crowdsourcing Scientific Data

A few years ago I got tired of doing tedious laboratory psychophysics experiments on visual perception and so I started crowdsourcing my experiments. The advantages were exciting: a savings in time and money and the potential to reach larger and more diverse pools of subjects. However I lost the precise control I had in the lab to make insights into neural systems. I am curious to talk about which types of scientific questions are well-suited to crowdsourcing, which ones are not, and some of the issues that arise. WANTED: scientists who have had insights into crowdsourcing their work

- Ahna Girshick, +1 Olga

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ... very interested, could we also talk about questions about open data and more open science? I think there's an interestign overlap between public participation in scientific research and the (not-so-much-a-success) efforts of and

Mike +1 ... all sorts of great questions here regarding ideal sample sizes for human studies. Is bigger better?

Face to Face debating platform

I have the vision of a platform / service on the internet that would allow people ( the 'actors' say 5, 6 ? )to debate face to face social, political, scientific topics, while the rest of the internet (the 'spectators') can watch their debate. Spectators could judge and note 'actors' on their ability to debate, to express their ideas, to respect the debating rules, or on the knowledge of the topic discussed. Thanks to these 'notes', the Actors would raise their level and gain access to some higher level debate.

Anyone with an internet connection could require taking part to some debate of his level.

This may:

  • provide a real debate tool accessible to all ( to all with an internet connection actually)
  • help new ideas to emerge
  • help unconventional talented people emerge and express their ideas

This could be the merging of democracy, technology, social gaming...

Looks like all the technology required for this exists already.

This is very far away from my day to day work, But I would be happy to discuss this at sci foo... bmuyl

+1 David ( click for sessions I'm interested in or email david.a.bray at gmail dot com ) ...very interested, may also relate to

Communication between different disciplines of science

Often, physicists, chemists, biologists, and engineers work on the same or similar problems, but are unaware of each others work, or do not understand it. In my experience, it can even be difficult to get scientists in the same discipline to agree to a common set of terms (sometimes because of conflicting opinions, sometimes because sloppy usage propagates through the literature).

How can we improve communication between different scientific disciplines, especially where a shared jargon does not exist? This may overlap some with discussions of big/open data, so here we could focus on communication of ideas, and the near-future.


Virtual clones of patients - the future of the medical record?

The amount of medical information obtained for each individual patient is growing at a tremendous rate. Imaging modalities are generating high resolution 4D data, Individual gene information is becoming available for diagnose and screening, etc. At the same time our models and simulations for current conditions and prediction of the development of the body are becoming increasingly comprehensive and accurate. Patient information is, however, still in practice saved in static medical records based on text and 2D-images and is not making use of the multitude of possibilities offered. Has the time come to rethink the notion of the medical record and turn it into a predictive instrument? Should the record be turned into a simulation, a virtual clone of the patient? Medical check ups would provide the boundary conditions for the simulated body. As new medical knowledge is obtained the simulation changes and "new" high risk patients can be called in for screening for a particular condition. The technical challenges are enormous and the social implications difficult to deal with. A panel debate involving technical, medical and social science experts could pave the path for this way of thinking of medical information and help turn medicine into a more proactive rather than reactive discipline.

Anders Ynnerman

What's with the cult of the new?

Many fields, and our culture at large, favour the new, even before it's known to be any good. Just think of the millions of dusty PCs that sat in elementary classrooms in the 1980s and 90s, now being replaced by iPads. Computing, as a field, seems to aggressively ignore its past (and computer programmers don't seem to read the literature).

In general there's a rush to the future ("electric cars will save us!") even when the reality is more nuanced (electric cars could be great, but trains, walking, and other elements will be part of any actual solution).

Do we have historical blindness? Is it impossible to revive the past?

(Note: I have a bias in have revived some older technologies through my career, with both success and lack thereof).

David Henkel-Wallace

How to make solar power, 24 hours per day, for less than 7 cents/kWh

(hint: no photovoltaics).

I'm currently working on very small (50 kW+) distributed power plants that can be pumped out in high volume and deployed quickly. The don't need to go in deserts and they run 24 hours a day.

If people are interested, I'd be happy to start with a bit of "what I'm working on", because it's a pretty different path from everyone else, but it would also be interesting to talk about the economics and cultural challenges of developing alternative energy in the USA in 2012, or about the termodynamics of the Rankine cycle, or why "boil the ocean" plans to save the world probably won't work.

Ironically, one advantage we had is that we had to pick an approach that didn't require government subsidy, since the subsidy rules generally (and innocently, I think) call out specific technologies. We didn't realise that that would end up helping us.

| Here's an article about us from a few months ago. Sorry it's a bit light on technical details -- I didn't write it!

Unfortunately I can't give a demo at scifoo since our first system weighs about 45 tons, but it's only a few miles up 101 and so anybody who wants can come see it in operation.

David Henkel-Wallace

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