Dinner With a Dinosaur X

You are cordially invited to Dinner With a Dinosaur X—that’s a Roman numeral, not a mysterious appellation. The event happens March 12, 2010, in the Great Hall at Chicago’s Union Station, located at 210 South Canal Street, 60606. Yes, there will be a dinosaur, and no, it will not be alive. Other relics include Honorary Dinner Chairs Governor Pat Quinn and Senator Dick Durbin.

More importantly, proceeds from the event will benefit Project Exploration, “a nonprofit science education organization that makes science accessible to the public—especially minority youth and girls—through personalized experiences with scientists and science.” Individual tickets are $300, with Fossil, Field, and Expedition level tables ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. You can also make a donation of your choosing online. So if you’re in the Chicago area, and even if you’re not, consider supporting this worthy cause.


Fighting Change with Change

i-5f925fdb549b400f1ffbc6519f5e6b02-changebuzz.jpgIf we are to skirt the disasters of pollution, ocean acidification, and climate change, we must change our ways of life. But as Matthew C. Nisbet reports on Framing Science, young people may be less engaged than older generations when it comes to global warming. Citing survey numbers that show young people trust information from the media only slightly more than “information” from Sarah Palin, Matthew writes “news organizations and journalists need to take initiatives to increase their credibility with younger audiences.” Matt also has advice for President Obama, suggesting he “marshal the power of the bully pulpit” to get the nation’s and the world’s attention focused on climate change. On A Few Things Ill Considered, Coby presents a common perspective from a commenter, who says “somebody MUST dumb down this conversation to communicate to the public. Right now I am freezing my tail in lower than normal temps in Texas and worrying over the increase in my energy bill.” And on Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk offers a way to combat global warming and improve public health, by driving a little less whenever we can.

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Imagining the Future

i-623d2553395dea8ccb96564bd63b94dc-futurebuzz.jpgOn Universe, Claire L. Evans interviews sci-fi world-builder Ursula K. Le Guin. Their conversation centers on the Google Books Settlement, which seeks to “circumvent existing U.S. copyright law.” While Le Guin hopes her books will become more accessible in the future, she says “the vast and currently chaotic electronic expansion of publishing should not be controlled solely by corporations.” On Uncertain Principles, Chad Orzel reviews China Mieville’s new novel The City and the City, which is about two cities that enforce very strict boundaries despite being “co-located” on the same real estate. While Chad appreciates the trickiness of the premise and Mieville’s “bravura show of writing ability,” he wonders why either city “would agree to such a daft state of affairs.” On Pharyngula, PZ Myers gripes about SF’s dependence on humanoid aliens, asking why more creators don’t examine “the diversity within the phylum Chordata, let alone some of the weirdness in other phyla.” And on Collective Imagination Greg Laden wonders if having a chip in his head might make his medical odyssey a bit more efficient.

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Belief and the Brain

i-907fe0116cff667203a484dbeb974018-brainbuzz.jpgYou don’t have to be brain-damaged to feel the presence of God, but it just might help. On Neurophilosophy, Mo analyzes a recent study into feelings of “self-transcendence” among individuals afflicted with brain lesions. Those with tumors in the posterior regions of the brain were more likely to identify as religious, and feelings of “creative self-forgetfulness,” “transpersonal identification” and “spiritual acceptance” increased after surgical removal of “the left inferior parietal lobule and the right angular gyrus.” The posterior regions of the brain are strongly associated with religious feeling, as earlier work has shown that “the mystical experiences of Tibetan Buddhist monks and Carmelite nuns are associated with altered parietal lobe activity.” Razib Khan covers the same study on Gene Expression, writing “drugs, deprivation (e.g., fasting) and traumatic personal events seem to push people toward this state of ‘self-transcendence’ quite often.” And on Pharyngula, PZ Myers offers a glimpse into the head of a true believer.

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Animal and Human Rights

i-ce27b1e033be525d787d70135ae8aa47-osubuzz.jpgEarlier this week on Adventures in Ethics and Science, Dr. Free-Ride reported that a UCLA researcher faces renewed harassment from animal rights activists for talking about his work. Dr. Dario Ringach and his family have been the subject of invasive physical and personal attacks, and Dr. Free-Ride too has now been targeted by the “militant” animal rights group Negotiation is Over. Scicurious on Neurotopia decries these threatening tactics, writing “we shouldn’t have to do our work in fear of threats, intimidation, and severe bodily harm.” On Good Math, Bad Math Mark Chu-Carroll adds “animal research shouldn’t be done for trivial purposes: the work must be important enough to justify subjecting living creatures to it.” And DrugMonkey draws the line between human and non-human, asking if it’s fair to call animals “sentient.” Finally, Eric Michael Johnson offers an opposing viewpoint on The Primate Diaries, writing that vivisection “is a barbaric practice that has led to some necessary medical breakthroughs but has mostly served to profit multinational corporations.” When words can be so strong, who needs to be a radical anyway?

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