Friday, June 22, 2007

Coffee cam, bento and lettuces

Once again at lunch yesterday reminded of the banal fascination of actuality which the web does so well. A colleague uses her facebook page to document the development of her home-grown lettuces. She is currently entranced by a japanese mother who visually blogs her son's bento box every morning. My friend Opher has given his newborn a blog already and it's true that this does address the regret I feel at not being there with him for his first encumbered outings. Of course it did all start with Coffee cam and I sometimes feel hasn't strayed far.

Shadows and light

A rather lovely musing by Margaret Wertheim in the NYTimes about whether shadows can move faster than the speed of light. I first met Margaret at AAAS in San Francisco earlier this year where she gave a passionate and practical guide to public involvement in science. It was one of those funny moments where you remember that actually the US is still, occasionally very different from UK. It's the same issue as there not being Science Week there. I haven't really got to the bottom of it but I think it's something about the way that authority works. I always these days describe Cafe Scientifique in terms of Habermas and "knowledge without power". (Actually googling that makes it look like most people think that's impossible so maybe I should write it down.) She runs the Institute for Figuring in LA, and as a hobby she crochets coral reefs.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Apeldoorn Conference 2007

I was at the Apeldoorn Conference again last weekend. It's an amazingly illustrious gathering which picks a contemporary global issue and then chews it over with opinion formers, journalists, politicians and captains of industry. It was founded by Wim Kok and Tony Blair a few years ago and has the additional goal of strengthening UK/Holland links. My father's father was dutch, and, strangely, a cousin, Felix Rottenberg was leader of the Dutch Labour Party (I've never met him). The first year I went I lead a workshop on public trust in science which partly gave rise to the Counterpoints chapter on that. Two memorable moments (both unattributable under the Chatham House Rule): in the summing up, one of the organisers was asked about dissemination, and replied that although there was a conference report being written that would be published on the web and so on, the principal route was just the fact that so many influential people were present. At the Trust we worry about the impact of some of, say, the education research we commission; I like the idea that no further efforts are required if so many of the people who can make a difference are in the room already. Secondly, there was a thrill from getting stuff straight from the source: for example there was a discussion on China's role in climate change, and one of the participants had been sent by Tony Blair to offer the chinese the chance to join the G8 in return for some carbon targets; oddly it didn't feel like oneupmanship, just relevant background. The redoubtable Norman Geras has been blogging about the conference too.