Category: Personal

Four Days in Cairo

By Chris Mooney | July 6, 2011 9:28 am

I’m back in the U.S.–a tad disoriented, but back. Jon and Jamie have done a great job blogging in my absence, and today I will seek to get back in the swing.

It will be slightly hard, though, as I’m still taking in my first experience of the Middle East. Doha, Qatar reminded me a lot of Las Vegas, only hotter and much less interested in its visitors having fun (e.g., it is nearly impossible to find a beer there unless you are at an American hotel). You spend your time inside consuming vast amounts of air conditioning, and trying to imagine just how much water it takes to fuel the artificial lawns outside the window. The thing that most struck me was the oxymoron (no longer) of standing outside in a hot wind.

The more amazing experience was post-revolution Cairo. Many foreign tourists are unreasonably terrified of the place–due in part to media coverage of riots and protests–and their absence has damaged the economy. In fact, it’s a very safe place to visit–unless, perhaps, you deliberately stand in the middle of a protest in Tahrir Square (my picture above is of a burned building there). And the people are wonderful–even when they’re pushing you to buy something, a phenomenon we encountered in a rather extreme form, since we were among the few tourists around.

We were there–myself and science journalists Deborah Blum, David Dobbs, Beryl Lieff Benderly and Curtis Brainard–for a workshop, sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, with our Egyptian media counterparts. We went in wrongly assuming that they were more focused on politics and didn’t know a great deal about science journalism, and were very surprised–the participants were quite sophisticated about the challenges of our field and very dedicated to covering public health and the environment (the Nile Delta, in particular, is greatly threatened by sea level rise).

The result was a wonderful exchange that I hope can continue–as frankly, I had at least as much to learn from them as they had to learn from me.  In the meantime, we have to watch Egypt closely as the search for post-revolution stability moves forward–and hope that science and research will play a central role in a long-term economic recovery.

Caltech Nobel Laureate chemist Ahmed Zewail (sometimes mentioned as a possibility for Egypt’s first Democratic president) has founded a “Science City” to that end–a project that was endorsed by the Mubarak government but has only gotten traction since the Revolution. I sincerely hope this mega-initiative succeeds: It’s precisely the kind of innovation that will set the groundwork for a future democratic, and economically progressive Egypt.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Personal

Off to Doha and Cairo

By Chris Mooney | June 25, 2011 9:30 pm

I’m at Dulles airport, about to board a plane to Doha, Qatar for the World Conference of Science Journalists. Then, a small group of us are going on to Egypt for a workshop on science journalism.

I’m not entirely sure how blogging will fare during all this–I return July 5. It may be easy and normal, or not so much.

I know Jon and Jamie will be pitching in, as always. Indeed, check out Jamie’s great fracking post (below), and look forward to more…

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Personal

My Science Denial Article in The Week

By Chris Mooney | May 17, 2011 8:10 am

My Mother Jones piece on the science of why we deny science has been republished, in shortened form, in The Week. Check it out here.

Meanwhile, I’ve just gotten back from the CFI Cruise to Greece.

Many ruminations to follow, I hope, about Greece, the latest Point of Inquiry episode (which it seems like everyone is talking about, though I’ve barely been able to keep up), and Jamie’s great guest blogging.

In the meantime, Happy Tuesday.

Intersections and New Directions

By Chris Mooney | April 28, 2011 12:49 pm

History sometimes has a strange–and in this case, also very nostalgia evoking–way of echoing itself.

In May of 2007, I took a trip to Venice, Italy, to attend a friend’s wedding. I wasn’t going to be able to blog, so I called for guest bloggers. I selected Sheril Kirshenbaum, who proceeded to blog so successfully and so popularly that upon my return, I asked her to stay. She did, and the rest is four years of history–history that just officially ended today.

Now, May of 2011 approaches, and next week I depart for Venice, Italy, to begin the Center for Inquiry travel club’s Mediterranean Cruise, where I’ll be joined by our very own Phil Plait and Lawrence Krauss, among others. Appropriately enough, I’ve been referring to this as a tour of the “Geek Islands.”

And once again, it is time for another “Intersection” transition, albeit of a very different type. Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Guest Posts, Personal

Parting Ways at The Intersection

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 28, 2011 9:12 am

I’ve been blogging since 2006: First at The Nexus followed by four years at The Intersection with Chris. My writing has evolved tremendously since then, and in many ways, so have I.  Now I’m about to begin a new chapter..

I’m thrilled to announce I’ll be writing the monthly science column for Bloomberg View. This is the upcoming opinion page from Bloomberg News, led by David Shipley and James Rubin.

I’m equally delighted to announce I’ve joined Wired Science Blogs. My blog will launch in a couple of weeks, so for now I’ll say I’m very excited about the theme. (In the mean time, watch for clues coming via Twitter). Of course, since blogs exist in virtual space, I’m not really going anywhere and will just be a different hyperlink away.

It’s been incredible to share the terrific Discover network with so many esteemed colleagues and friends since 2009! Special thanks to Amos, Eliza, Ed, Phil, Razib, Carl, Henry, Corey, and of course, Chris for all of your support.  I also appreciate the warm welcome at both Wired Science and Bloomberg where I’m honored to be joining two new families of talented writers.

Read More

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Announcements, Culture, Personal, Updates

A Note on Earth Day

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | April 22, 2011 1:40 pm

Dear readers,

I’ve received several emails asking why I’ve been posting less. While it’s true I’ve had a busy Spring semester between the book’s debut, speaking engagements, and teaching responsibilities, be assured I am not slowing down. Rather, quite the opposite! I’ve taken on new projects that I’ll share more about soon. And I’ll also continue to blog emphasizing the conservation of biodiversity on a changing planet.

On Earth Day and every day, I truly believe there is much reason for hope.



Three Science of Kissing Talks Coming Up

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | February 8, 2011 1:08 pm

Since Chris posted his upcoming talks, I’ll add mine to the mix…

Tomorrow, February 9th at 6pm, I’ll be speaking at UT-Austin’s Science Study Break. By using film and television clips as examples, I’ll describe the science behind why we kiss and there will be giveaways as well!

On Friday, February 11 at 5pm, I’ll be speaking at Science in the Pub at The Cactus Cafe, also at UT.

And on Monday February 14th, I will be speaking at Hofstra University in New York. The Science of Kissing is a terrific topic for Valentines Day!

There will also be a lot of radio and television appearances over the next several days as well, so stay tuned!

MORE ABOUT: valentines

My First Reading at a Nightclub

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | January 19, 2011 2:25 pm

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture, Personal

You Think You Know Someone..

By Sheril Kirshenbaum | January 18, 2011 10:49 am

Nemo and I have been together for nine years. A long time–especially in parakeet years. So you can imagine my surprise when her new veterinarian Dr. M. Scott Echols immediately recognized and recorded her special super power:

Dr. Echols explained that some budgies–particularly in wild populations–fluoresce under UV light. As he describes in the video, this energetically costly characteristic may help with individual identification, social signaling, and mate selection.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Birds, Education, Personal

Never Knew I'd Been Sitting in Pews (A Strange Story From the Front Lines of Coffeeshop Science Journalism)

By Chris Mooney | December 21, 2010 8:57 am

So this is kind of funny.

At least since 2003, I’ve been working–including writing two of my three books–at Tryst coffeeshop in the Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C. And being a creature of routines, over time I’ve established my favorite place to sit–usually, on one of two wooden benches against the back wall of the place.

I’ve probably had ass planted in these seats for hundreds of hours in total over the years. Suffice it to say, it’s a multi-year routine; and the best coffeeshop I’ve ever worked in. When I chose to move back to D.C. this year after a multiyear jaunt across Los Angeles, Princeton, NJ, and Cambridge, MA, Tryst had something to do with it.

At the same time, as a second generation atheist,* I wasn’t brought up religious at all, and the number of hours I’ve spent in a church is…well, it depends on if you count architectural tours in European cities, but it’s surely a tiny fraction of the time spent at Tryst.

pew not a surveySo it came as a total surprise the other day when, to my minor horror, I heard a waitress refer to these beloved benches as “pews.” But as soon as she said it, I knew it was true. I then snapped the following picture. Proof.

All this time, it seems I have been seated in religious benches. Kinda ironic, given the kinds of things I’ve written while seated there. (Although maybe some atheists will say, “ah ha!”)

Now, I know what you’re wondering. Why are there pews in Tryst, of all places, in a city (D.C.) where the first thing most people think of when they hear the word is an organization that does surveys?

That’s something I may have to get to the bottom of.

* Apparently we “second generation atheists” aren’t “productive.” Here’s Conservapedia, where Einstein is wrong and ideological blinders are part of the business model:

…it is not easy to find many examples of productive second generation atheists. While atheists raised in religious environments have occasionally been productive, atheists raised in atheistic environments are not known to be. On the other hand, it has been shown that second generation atheists who converted to Christianity early in life have been moderately successful.

I think I’ve been very productive as a second generation atheist unwittingly sitting in pews, at a very secular coffeehouse, without undergoing a conversion. I hope Conservapedia will footnote me.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Personal, Science and Religion

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