Off to Camp

By Mark Trodden | August 10, 2006 7:54 am

I’m spending part of today doing a little background preparation for a fascinating event that I’m attending this coming weekend. I have been lucky enough to be invited to the first Science Foo Camp, “a free, invitation-only gathering produced by Nature and O’Reilly Media, and hosted by Google at the Googleplex in Mountain View, CA”.

I’m pretty excited about attending, and am looking forward to meeting many talented new people from disciplines with which I do not usually strongly interact, since the formal goal of this rather unusual meeting was spelled out in the invitation as

The aim is to encourage cross-fertilization of ideas–and to have fun. We believe that a host of interesting problems straddle the intersections between scientific disciplines, and between science and computing. Science Foo presents a unique opportunity to explore topics that cross these divides: what can biology learn from physics (and vice versa), how are experimental and information technologies transforming the scientific process, how should scientific information be communicated in the age of the web, and how should science engage with society at large?

When I participate in a meeting in my field, I pretty much know what to expect, what the structure will be, how I’ll navigate the meeting, and what is expected of me. In this case, I have a broad sketch of what will go on, a list of participants, and access to some wiki pages through which to communicate some preliminary ideas and bios with them. Indeed, as Timo Hannay of Nature put it when he kicked off blogging about the event over at Nascent,

In true Foo Camp style, there’s no agenda yet, but by the end of Friday evening, shortly after our kick-off dinner, there will be. And then two remarkable days will follow.

So this free-form nature is precisely what the organizers intend, and should make for a dynamic meeting, albeit one which tests my natural tendency to want to know what’s going on at all times.

I’ll certainly blog more about the meeting when it’s over, and hopefully even while I’m there. However, what I can say (for example, about the remarkable invitee list) will be limited by the Chatham House Rule, under which the entire meeting is being conducted:

When a meeting, or part thereof, is held under the Chatham House Rule, participants are free to use the information received, but neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s), nor that of any other participant, may be revealed.

Nevertheless, I hope to be able to provide some idea of what goes on, and of the general atmosphere at this unique gathering.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science, Science and Society, Travel
  • spyder

    You have to appreciate a co-sponsor that publishes a book called “Physics for Game Developers.” Have fun.

  • Samantha

    Good lord, Mark. I am actually jealous and sorry not to be able to hear who else is attending this camp. But I look forward to hearing about it when you come back.

  • Louise

    From Reuters today:
    “A rights group accused Western Internet companies on Thursday of complicity with censorship in China and called on Microsoft Corp., Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. to resist Beijing’s demands.

    New York-based Human Rights Watch called the blocking of politically sensitive Web sites and search terms “arbitrary, opaque, and unaccountable” and urged the publicly traded firms to be upfront with their users about censorship.”

    I hope you benefit from the “free-form nature” of this event. Since you are among the lucky few invited to the party, perhaps you can ask Google about this.

  • Tucker Hiatt

    Ooooh… Science Camp! I hope you get to do the egg drop thingy. Remember: the cushiony stuff goes BELOW the egg!

    Seriously, Mark: If you find the right moment, perhaps you wouldn’t mind telling the assembled Sci Foo citizens about Wonderfest, the Bay Area Festival of Science. Wonderfest happens at Stanford and UC Berkeley on the first weekend of every November ( The heart of Wonderfest is a series of public dialogues between pair of researchers in discussion of provocative scientific questions. Here are some of the dialogues set for Wonderfest 2006:

    Raphael Bousso (UC Berkeley physics) & Leonard Susskind (Stanford physics) on “Is the World Made of Strings?”

    Thomas Lewis (UCSF psych) & David Watts (UCSF med) on “Do We Understand Love?”

    David Deamer (UC Santa Cruz chemistry) & Andrew Pohorille (NASA-Ames molecular bio) on “Was the Origin of Life Inevitable?”

    Wonderfest is good stuff.

    Have fun at Sci Foo, Mark; and please encourage attendees to spread the word about Wonderfest. Science needs all the good PR it can get.

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About Mark Trodden

Mark Trodden holds the Fay R. and Eugene L. Langberg Endowed Chair in Physics and is co-director of the Center for Particle Cosmology at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a theoretical physicist working on particle physics and gravity— in particular on the roles they play in the evolution and structure of the universe. When asked for a short phrase to describe his research area, he says he is a particle cosmologist.


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