Archive for November 16th, 2010

Get Ready For a Truly Experimental Day at the Intersection: Live Workshop Training

By Chris Mooney | November 16, 2010 8:46 pm

Tomorrow, I’m one of three teachers and trainers at an all new, day long NSF sponsored science communication workshop entitled Science: Becoming The Messenger. (There’s also an advanced half day session on Thursday, designed to further develop the skills of a smaller, specially selected group of communicators).

I’m playing many roles at the workshop, but one of them is teaching two installments of a breakout session entitled “Writing for the Public”–which covers things like press releases and opeds, but is most heavily focused on the use of new media. The first session of the breakout will be from 130 to 3 pm ET, and the second is from 315 to 445 pm ET.

Why does this concern you?

Although the participants don’t know it yet (unless they read this blog), by the end of each hour-and-a-half breakout session a live blog post will be produced here about one individual workshop participant’s research. And it will be followed by an all-out attempt by members of the breakout group to use as many social media tools as possible to drive up the post’s traffic, comments, Diggs, Stumbles, etc.

And that’s not all. There will be a competition between the two breakout groups to see which one produces–and publicizes–a better and more widely read blog post. To determine which breakout group, in a relatively short space of time, is better able to draw upon Facebook, Twitter, and any other online tool they can think of to drive traffic and attention, and create a happening dialogue right here at Discover Blogs.

Regular readers of this blog aren’t excluded from this conversation, or from the competition. They, too, will also be able to participate in getting the word out about these special posts if they think they deserve it–and, ultimately, in voting on which post was more successful.

Honestly, if the regular readers here favor one post over the other, it’s obvious it’s going to win. You’re far more numerous than the workshop participants, for one thing. And we know well that some of you create big traffic waves through Stumble, Reddit, and Digg on occasion.

To identify the “winning” blog post, I’ll examine how much web traffic increases after it goes up, using SiteMeter. But that’s probably a biased and incomplete measure on its own. So metrics like number of comments, number of Diggs and Stumbles, links at places like Reddit, and other factors will also factor into the decision. We’ll give the posts about a day in order to determine which one outdistances the other (or whether it’s just ambiguous, which is certainly a possibility).

And then, I’ll do a post calling for a vote. Once again, you’re involved in that process–indeed, you’re crucial to it.

So stand by for one hell of an experiment. Unless something goes very wrong, the first post should be up by 3pm at the absolute latest, and the second by 445 pm.

Publishers Weekly Reviews The Science of Kissing

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | November 16, 2010 8:57 am

Picture 1The Science of Kissing: What Our Lips Are Telling Us

Sheril Kirshenbaum, Grand Central, $19.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-446-55990-4

In the vein of Stephen Pinker’s The Language Instinct, scientist Kirshenbaum examines one of humanity’s fondest pastimes. Divided into three parts, the book covers the evolutionary and cultural history of the kiss, the chemistry of kissing, and the future of kissing. In part one, “The Hunt for Kissing’s Origins,” Kirshenbaum examines the role kissing played in the Middle Ages–a businesslike kiss was employed as a legal way to seal contracts and business agreements. Many men did not know how to read and write, so their signature X was kissed to make it legal. Part two, “Kissing in the Body,” will appeal to anyone who has ever been curious about the chemical properties of butterflies in the stomach. Kirshenbaum writes just as gracefully about prostitutes in pop culture as she does the myriad of complicated biological and chemical processes that science uses to explain osculation. Part three, “Great Expectations,” covers Kirshenbaum’s personal attempt to further investigate the kiss and leaves a long list of fascinating questions that demand further research. (Jan.)



Why It's Time to Rock Alzheimer's

By Chris Mooney | November 16, 2010 8:34 am

As the countdown to the Rock Stars of Science™ release proceeds, I’ve done a piece at Huffington Post about why it matters so much that we value our scientists–because, well, the economic fate of the country is at stake:

…it’s myopia in the extreme to ignore the aging of our population right now, and the economic consequences if biomedical research doesn’t keep pace with demographics. According to philanthropist George Vradenburg, formerly a senior media executive at AOL, Fox, and CBS and now chairman of US Against Alzheimer’s, a recent report by Standard & Poors entitled “Global Aging 2010: An Irreversible Truth” says it all.

“There’s a decline in investment in research in the aging demographic at the same time that it may become the criteria on which sovereign debt is rated,” says Vradenburg, citing the report. If countries aren’t able to afford caring for their ever-older populations in the future, their entire financial picture could be clouded or undermined.

In this context, it’s vitally important to make science more glamorous, admired, respected. But the investments must follow the fame. It’s about much more than ensuring that our researchers have successful careers–it’s about whether their successes will be enough to save us from an aging-related boom in healthcare costs that could make our current, bitter debates seem mild in comparison.

You can read the full Huffington Post item here.


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