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May 22, 2013



Long ago, I left the lab in order to “make science cool.” I forged my way into science communications, starting a science consulting agency to work with Hollywood screenwriters (where I consulted with sci-fi movie set decorators and screenwriters and producers such as Ed Solomon (X-Men) and Josh Brand, creator of “Northern Exposure”), and answering “ASK a scientist” questions for AOL and Earthlink in the early days of the internet. I got my big break when I was hired as a researcher on a TLC magazine show and worked my way up to producing science documentaries for TV networks such as Discovery, TLC, Sci-Fi Channel, National Geographic, and PBS. The world of science communication, especially online, has changed drastically since those times.

Admittedly late to the party (by a few years), I was struck by the ScienceOnline (#sciox) thunderbolt at this year’s #AAASmtg in Boston. I found myself among a highly-engaged group of people (aka Tweeps) using social media to communicate about science. Using conference-wide, topical, and panel specific hashtags (eg #AAASmtg, #sciart, #scicomm), attendees were able to broadcast what they learned, extend discussion, add links and sources, and network with each other beyond the physical conference space. Other users were then able to gather all that live-tweeting together into stories about particular panels on Storify, preserving the tweets and discussion for future reference; the linked story is just one of many examples from the conference. Wow! This really got us thinking about how science communication happens, how it benefits the science and the public, and what our role is here at ASKlabs.

After the excitement of the AAAS Meeting in February, especially around science, media, and communication, we helped to launch the inaugural activities of the fledgling ScienceOnline Boston chapter! (Twitter @sciobeantown or sign up for the Sciobeantown Google Group.) Our monthly Tweetups are a terrific way to meet area science communicators and journalists, science writers and bloggers.

Top: @Sciobeantown on Twitter. Below: #Sciobeantown April 2013 Tweetup at Za’s in Kendall Square (@biochembelle, @blattanzi, @easternblot, @haleybridger, @erinpodolak)

The communication tools available for scientists and science writers have multiplied exponentially, as have the potential audiences online. In fact, this Fall, MIT is hosting a special workshop called “The Evolving Culture of Science Engagement,” highlighting the kinds of changes occurring in science communication and, consequently, engagement. These changes mean more public access to science and to scientists! And hopefully, this will lead to a reversal of the shockingly low science literacy rates, which despite having tripled over the past two decades is only 28% among the US public (J. Raloff. Science News,  March 13, 2010; Vol.177 #6. p. 13.)

However, it seems that scientists themselves haven’t necessarily caught up with the technology or the possibilities of social media. Social media is a continually growing medium for communication, while print (newspapers, journals, and magazines) are on the decline. Evidence to support this can be found, among other places, the online open-access peer-reviewed journal PLOS Biology: “An Introduction to Social Media for Scientists.”

Science writers such as Christie Wilcox have called on scientists to focus on communication, and especially to learn how to use social media to spread the word about research. But more than just pointing out the need for and benefits of communicating to the public about science, these science writers have gone a step further and offered how-tos (from Jonathan Eisen), wikis (Christie Wilcox), workshops (Chris Mooney), and other resources to help scientists achieve social-media proficiency. There are even businesses like Compass Online which work to train scientists in social media and communication, and others like Science Sites that help scientists establish themselves online with websites and social media. Once established, scientists (as well as science writers already online, of course) can use metrics services like Impact Story or Orcid to figure out the kinds of audiences they’re reaching, and the kind of impact they’re making.

Obviously, there are a lot of scientists already using social media and communicating well. Those mentioned above are all scientists who blog, tweet, and generally engage in online science discussions. They are also helpfully encouraging other scientists to do the same. There are probably too many scientists online and science writers to name individually (for example, see the popularity of the Science Online annual conference!) but certainly Scicurious, Veronique Greenwood, and Virginia Hughes could be mentioned. Scientists who engage online, alongside science writers and bloggers, are amping up the level of scientific communication, particularly through social media.


L: Screenshot of SNFS Wiki; R: Oli Scarff/Getty Images from The Guardian “Are Scientists Normal People?” by Steve Caplan

Aside from social media, there are also academic articles and themed journal issues published on the benefits and strategies of social media communication for science and scientists. Among other important observations, these point out that, for NSF funded projects, “Broader Impacts” requirements might be met by social media engagement.

Communicating about science is not just good for scientists and their research (introducing them to new networks and conversations) it’s good for everyone. Indeed, a democracy strengthened by an informed technology-literate public is an asset to everyone’s future.

-- Alberta Chu
ASKlabs Documentary Film

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CommentsCategories SciComm Science Social Media World Tags #SciComm #Science #Scionline #Sciobeantown #scienceblogs #tech #AAAS #AAASmtg Scicomm, Science, Sciobeantown, Scionline, Science Blogs, Social Media, AAAS, Technology, PLOS Biology, Christie Wilcox, Jonathan Eisen, Chris Mooney, Compass Online, Science Sites, Impact Story, Orcid, social media metrics, Scicurious, Veronique Greenwood, Virginia Hughes, NSF, broader impact, public engagement

May 7, 2013



Looking for a quick science fix while you peruse the web? Want a great source for up to date science-related news and opinion? We’ve got a few suggestions to get you started. From podcasts, videos, and blogs, to citizen science projects and games which allow you to compile important data, you’ll find something here that you love. So if you’re hunkering for a little science with your internet cat memes, start here and see what you can find!

First off, there’s the preeminent RadioLab. Their podcasts and shorts are available on their website, and their radio show is broadcast on public radio across the nation. The website also features blogs and videos. RadioLab covers all kinds of science-related stories, including local news (the cicadas are coming!) and philosophical debates on happiness and uncertainty. If you're a sucker for a great story check out the Story Collider website where new podcasts are posted weekly and regular live shows featuring scientists telling 8-10 minute stories occur regularly in NYC and Boston. If videos and podcasts are your thing, then definitely keep an eye on a new project called Science Studio (preview site just launched today, people!) from Rose Eveleth, Ben Lillie, Bora Zivkovic, which aims to provide a curated collection of 2012’s best science audio and video on the web. Anyone can nominate their favorite piece, which is then judged by a panel resulting in a multimedia collection that is a one-stop shop for great science content on the web. The project is funded by National Association of Science Writers and supporters on Kickstarter.


L: R: Photo credit Jurgen Freund

Another science video project called Minute Earth gives us short videos appropriate for that brief (but needed) distraction. Created by Henry Reich, with Alex Reich, Peter Reich, Rose Eveleth, Emily Elert, and John Guittar, with music by Nathaniel Schroeder. The videos are short, and informational, about the science of things that affect our daily lives like bed bugs and frozen foods, as well as answering common questions - why are leaves green? how tall are mountains? It looks like the site was only just born (only 7 or 8 videos so far) but the short format and basic but good content make this an easy one to keep on your radar. Though not science-centered, TedEd provides loads of educational/informational videos on a variety of topics, helpfully sorted by topic. Even more exciting - users can also remix/recut videos to create their own. Scientific American is another multi-faceted source for that science fix - it includes a huge array of blogs and news articles, videos and podcasts. Finally, the brand-new Nautilus already has some great articles and blog posts (topics change monthly) that you can check out.

If you’re looking for a science fix that encourages your own participation, then check out some citizen science games and projects - the best place to start is at Zooniverse, a citizen science portal which has loads of links and information about different projects. If you want something more specific, then check these out: Foldit is a fun and fascinating game that contributes to scientific research on protein folding. EyeWire, led by Sebastian Seung at MIT, helps scientists map the brain. Or if you want to peruse the data available so far on brain mapping, check out the Human Connectome Project. Galaxy Zoo is a citizen science game that helps map the galaxy based on observations from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Hubble Space Telescope, while Old Weather combines citizen scientists and weather archives to help build data on climate and climate change. Magic Cicada allows you to help scientists map 2013’s cicada emergence in the US Northeast by recording your own sightings. Finally, National Geographic’s Field Expedition: Mongolia lets you help archaeologists look for the tomb of Genghis Khan with the help of satellite imagery, to minimize unnecessary disturbance of the landscape.

There are, of course, also a plethora of groups and discussions on Google+, Facebook, and LinkedIn, which means you can network, read blogs, join debates and hangouts, and check out user-posted material. You can look through multiple telescopes, live (!) at the Virtual Star Party Googlehangout with astronomers explaining what you're seeing; the next one is scheduled for May 12th.

Did we miss your favorite? Please let us know via email.

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CommentsCategories SciComm Social Media Science May 2013 Tags radiolab, science studio, nautilus, @roseveleth, minute earth, citizen science, zooniverse, connectome, sebastian seung, galaxy zoo #scicomm, #sciox

Apr 9, 2013



The Cambridge Science Festival 2013 is here at last! This is the sixth year of this innovative festival, which was the first of its kind in the US. Events take place all over Cambridge, with several events further afield, highlighting all the great venues and great science to be found in the Boston area. Follow the Festival on Twitter (@CSFtweets) for up-to-date info. Please consider making a donation to the Cambridge Science Festival here:

Of the 152 exhibits, events, and recurring programs ranging from the "Party for the Planet at Franklin Park Zoo" in celebration of Earth day, to the MIT Flea Market, the following events really jumped out at us: some #sciart, with a little innovation, storytelling, #scicomm, and education thrown in.

Friday, April 12

What: SoundScience Fun! @ The Museum of Science, ScienceLive Stage
When: April 12, 5:30pm - 6:15pm
Why: Learn about the science of sound through singing and demonstrations. Free!

What: The Edge of the Map @ Harvard University Science Center, Rm 302, 1 Oxford St., Cambridge
When: April 12, 8:00pm - 9:00pm (and again April 13, 2:00pm - 3:00pm & 5:00pm - 6:00pm & 8:00pm - 9:00pm, and April 14, 5:00pm - 6:00pm)
Why: A collaboration between Harvard biology students and theater-maker Calla Videt, this piece explores social issues and biology through genetics.

What: Operation Epsilon @ Central Square Theater, 450 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge
When: April 12-8:00pm - 10:00pm (and again April 13, 3:00pm - 5:00pm & 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 14, 2:00pm - 4:00pm; April 17, 7:30pm - 9:30pm; April 18, 7:30pm - 9:30pm; April 19, 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 20, 3:00pm - 5:00pm & 8:00pm - 10:00pm; April 21, 2:00pm - 4:00pm)
Why: This play is based on real transcripts which were secretly recorded during Hitler’s “Uranium Club’s” captivity in England. How close were the Nazis to an atomic bomb? What was really happening among these top scientists under Hitler?

Sunday, April 14

What: Artisan's Asylum Open House & DIY Festival @ Artisan's Asylum, 10 Tyler Street, Somerville
When: April 14, 1:00pm - 5:00pm
Why: Check out the Artisan’s Asylum - what they do, and what you could do too!

What: MIT Museum Art & Science Studio Showcase @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave, Cambridge
When: April 14, 1:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: See awesome current projects from MIT students, staff, and researchers.

What: Visual-Eyes Art: The Visual Ecology Exhibit @ MassArt Student Life Gallery, Kennedy Bldg., 621 Huntington Ave., 2nd Floor, Boston
When: April 14-1:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Anatomy, evolution, and art - MassArt students’ multi-media work on animal eyes.

What: Making Science Toys IV @ Beaver Brook Reservation, Waltham line, Waverley Oaks Road
When: April 14, 3:00pm - 5:30pm
Why: Aimed at kids, this course teaches how to make cool science toys - can adults come too?

What: H2Oratorio: A Deluge of Songs @ The Museum of Science, Cahners Theater
When: April 14, 5:00pm - 6:30pm (and again April 21, 2:00pm - 3:30pm)
Why: Songs about H20 with scientifically accurate lyrics? Sounds pretty good.

What: Hi-Fi-Sci: Music & Science Animation @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 14, 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Why: Composers and scientists come together for a presentation of musical interpretations of scientific visualizations. Science communication and art!

  L:, R:

Monday, April 15

What: Broader Impacts: How to Talk About Your Work with the Media @ MIT Building 34, Room 101 (50 Vassar St., Cambridge)
When: April 15, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Science in the media: what is the best way for scientists to get their work known?

Tuesday, April 16

What: Science & Poetry @ Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway, Cambridge
When: April 16, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: Scientists, poets, writers, discussion: how can science and poetry work together?


Storytellers Seth Mnookin and Anna Wexler from the Collider!

What: The Story Collider @ Johnny D's, 17 Holland Street, Davis Square, Somerville
When: April 16, 7:30pm - 10:00pm
Why: Six people entertain with true stories about science.

Wednesday, April 17

What: A Science Author Salon with Emily Anthes author of Frankenstein's Cat @ ZuZu Bar, 474 Mass Ave., Central Square, Cambridge
When: April 17, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: A talk about animal biotechnology from author Emily Anthes, co-presented by Nerd Nite Boston

Thursday, April 18

What: Science (Pub) Crawl, 3D Printing and Nature-Inspired Product Design Drop-in design workshops with Nervous System Design Studio @ Xylem, 287 3rd St., Kendall Sq. Free, 21+ cash bars 
When: April 18, 5:00pm-6:00pm
Why: What could be cooler?!?! Plus you're probably thirsty...

What: What Will it Take: Plugging the Leaky STEM Pipeline @ The Broad Institute Auditorium, 7 Cambridge Center, Kendall Square
When: April 18, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: A roundtable discussion on problems and possible solutions for the cracks in STEM programming.

Friday, April 19

What: Making Movies, Making Science @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 19, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Why: Short films by MIT students about science and technology, plus a Q&A

What: Trimpin: The Sound of Invention film screening and Q&A @ MIT Building 34, Room 101 (50 Vassar St., Cambridge)
When: April 19, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: Screening of doc about innovative sound artist Trimpin, his creative process, and his amazing accomplishments. Q&A with Trimpin afterwards!

What: Rites of Passage by Quicksilver Dance @ MIT Simmons Hall(229 Vassar Street, Cambridge)
When: April 19, 8:00pm- 9:30pm (and again April 20 at 8:00pm- 9:30pm)
Why: Dance interpretations including the process of evolution and movements of early lifeforms.

Saturday, April 20

What: Science & Comics @ Cambridge Public Library, Lecture Hall, 449 Broadway, Cambridge
When: April 20, 2:00pm - 4:00pm
Why: Comic artists and scientists discuss the possibilities within their collaborations

What: Living in the Future: Pop Culture Meets Today's Technology @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 20, 6:30pm - 8:30pm
Why: Discussion and clips of futuristic films, and learn how close scientists are to those fantastic representations.

What: The Festival of Bad Ad-Hoc Hypotheses @ MIT 26-100
When: April 20, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Why: Hilarious and improbable explanations of evolutionary theory given to a panel of judges.

Sunday, April 21

What: Art and Nature: Illustrating Urban Wildlife @ Danehy Park, 99 Sherman St., Cambridge
When: April 21, 1:00pm - 3:00pm
Why: Collect real specimens and learn to make art with natural inspiration from Cambridge wildlife.

What: Sci-Fi Radio Drama Double-Feature: LIVE! @ MIT Museum, 265 Mass Ave., Cambridge
When: April 21, 2:00pm - 4:30pm
Why: Experience science-fiction tales as they used to be on the radio, and then learn about some of the innovative sound techniques with effects artists!

What: Ocean Stories: A Synergy of Art and Science @ The Museum of Science
When: April 12-21, 9:00am-5:00pm
Why: See the experimental work resulting from collaborations between MIT and Woods Hole Oceaonographic Institution scientists and local artists. @sciart_synergy
Follow the exhibit on Twitter: @sciart_synergy and Facebook:

When you hit a Cambridge Science Fest (@CSFTweets) event be sure to post a photo or comment on Facebook or Twitter using #CambSciFest. We shall see you there!

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events SciArt SciComm Science Social Media STEM to STEAM Tags #cambscifest, cambridge science festival #sciart, #scicomm, #bostonarts, Boston events, MIT, MIT Museum, Boston Sciart, Museum of Science, Ocean Stories, Story Collider, Artisan's Asylum, Central Square Theater, Harvard, Cambridge Public LIbrary, The Broad Institute, STEM, Trimpin Seth Mnookin, Anna Wexler

Apr 2, 2013



ASKlabs relocated from LA to Boston ten years ago seeking the #sciart scene. Right away, we discovered the Boston Cyberarts Festival, the Decordova Museum, the ICA, the MIT Museum, the MIT List, MIT's Media Lab, and Arts Interactive. Lately we’ve noticed a groundswell of art and science happenings in the Boston area. With world-class scientific research and outstanding arts and cultural institutions in such proximity, it seems natural that the two would intersect, blend, even collide.

The Boston Cyberarts Festival was founded by George Fifield in 1999 with the goal of exposing public audiences to a wide range of digital and experimental media arts. The citywide biennial festival featured: new media art; music, dance, and theatrical performances; film and video; and lectures and panels. The last Cyberarts Festival was held in Spring 2011 but the organization is still very active. These days, Cyberarts produces exhibits, including Cycles, Tides and Seasons by Ben Houge, at the Harbor Island Pavilion on the Greenway Conservancy. The work opens with a reception on May 31st. Also coming up at the Cyberarts Gallery at the Green Street T station (Orange Line) is the Collision Collective’s Collision 19 show, for which they are still taking proposals. The show will run from June 14-July 27 of this year.

L: Adult Offerings at the Museum of Science. R: "Lightning Dreams" film premiere at the MOS wtih Greg Leyh, Lightning On Demand, SF; Daniel Davis, PhD, Museum of Science tesla coil expert, Alberta Chu, Filmmaker, ASKlabs; Lisa Monrose, MOS

Other events to check out include the excellent adult programs at Boston’s Museum of Science. In 2005 independent filmmaker/video artist Lisa Monrose stepped in as Program Manager of Lectures and Special Programs. She has been a driving force in science and art programs at the MOS and around town ever since. Upon arriving at the Museum of Science, she created the “When Science Meets Art” initiative featuring music performances with Evan Ziporyn and Christine Southworth, wearable technology fashion shows, a RadioLab Listening Party in the Planetarium, and lecture-exhibit-installations with artists such as Nathalie Miebach, Halsey Burgund, Alexis Rockman, Chris Jordan, and Anna Deavere Smith. In November 2012, ASKlabs was extremely pleased to have our world premiere of “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm” (2011) chronicling the creation of the world’s largest kinetic lightning sculpture (and tesla coil) as part of this MOS “When Science Meets Art” series. The program featured high-voltage engineer Greg Leyh, of Lightning on Demand from San Francisco and MOS resident tesla coil expert Dr. Daniel Davis.

The MOS also collaborates with the Brookline, MA, Coolidge Corner Theater’s “Science on Screen” film series which launched in Fall 2005. For these events, a film with a science theme is accompanied by a scientist lecture. Films like “It Came From Beneath the Sea” are presented with University of Chicago biologist Michael LaBarbera; “12 Monkeys” is accompanied by a talk from notable science writer Carl Zimmer. This program, piloted in the Boston area, has now been awarded funds to expand nationwide.

In Fall of 2012 Catalyst Conversations (founded by artist, educator, and curator Deborah Davidson) started holding monthly events consisting of thoughtfully curated panel discussions featuring scientists and artists together. Events have included author Seth Mnookin and artists Brian Knep, David Small and Nathalie Miebach; a conversation between scientist and writer Alan Lightman and artist Felice Frankel; artist Janet Echelman and her computer-scientist collaborator Peter Boyer, video artist Sam Jury and science writer Eli Kintish. The latest event featured oceanographer and photographer Larry Pratt, and artistic director of Contrapose Dance, Courtney Peix, and biologist, science journalist and creator of the “Dance Your PhD” contest, John Bohannon.

Currently on view at the Museum of Science Art & Science Gallery is Ocean Voices: A Synergy of Art and Science at the Museum of Science. This exhibit is an experiment in art and science collaboration produced by Whitney Bernstein and Lizzie Kripke of Synergy. New England artists and scientists were paired in order to build upon each other’s ideas, approaches, and perspectives to open up new modes of communication and public engagement. These pairings provide us with innovative ways of understanding oceanography, as well as interesting new insights into scientific and artistic practice. On March 3, 2013 MOS panel discussions with all of the artist and scientists involved with the project moderated by Ari Daniel Shapiro fascinated us with their reflections on the process of scientist and artist collaborations.

The Synergy Artist-Science collaborations was born out of a Climate Art Pizza event organized by science journalist Eli Kintisch. Eli began conducting Climate Art Pizza get-togethers in the Boston area in Fall 2011 when his MIT Knight Science Journalism fellowship brought him to town. More recently he has worked with the Cambridge Arts Council, Catalyst Conversations and the Broad Institute to bring together greater Boston-area organizations and practitioners of art/science initiatives to share current projects and, potentially, to prepare for collaborations, events, and further meetings.

With the national STEM to STEAM movement gaining momentum and a growing international interest in design and innovation, ASKlabs is very enthusiastic about collaborating with other area science/art communicators and educators to contribute to the national and global dialogue on art, design, science, engineering, education, and innovation which will strengthen our community and benefit all of society.

L: R:!-cage.jpg

Climate Art Pizza’s Science Art Blender also took place on April 1, 2013 at the Harvard Graduate School of Design (GSD). Billed “minitalks and schmoozing,” this event highlights the massive amount of exciting art and science work happening in Boston. We heard rapidfire 5-minute presentations from: data visualizer aka “visceralizer” Kyuha Shim on Tangible Topography; GSD's Marcus Owens on Multinatural Histories an exhibit being created for Harvard’s Peabody Natural History Museum for Fall 2013 and currently accepting submissions; Marine biologist Whitney Bernstein and artist Lizzie Kripke on the Synergy Artist-Scientist collaborations experiment; RISD Journalist-in-residence Eli Kintisch on his data-driven climate change art project, Here After Now, a collaboration with video artist Sam Jury; physicist Russell Seitz on his CO2 pyramid; artists Andi Sutton and Jane Marsching of Plotform presented their Marsh Radio Island environmental art project; and artist Maria Molteni gave us a bee waggle dance demonstration to articulate the many components of her work Festooning the Inflatable Beehive. The minitalks were followed by schmoozing - it was a great event - thanks to all the presenters, sponsors and attendees!

It’s a terrific time to be exploring science and art in Boston, so go check out some innovative and inspiring work right here, right now, at the epicenter of science, art, and technology. Follow @ASKlabsAlberta on Twitter to keep up on all the latest #sciart events in the Boston area. We’ll see you there!

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CommentsCategories April 2013 Art Boston DocFilm Events SciArt SciComm Science Social Media STEM to STEAM Tags #bostonarts #sciartboston #sciart George Fifield, Cyberarts, Ben Hogue, MOS, Museum of Science, Lisa Monrose, Catalyst Conversations, Deborah Davidson, Eli Kintisch, Climate Art Pizza, Blender, Science on Screen, STEM to STEAM, Felice Frankel, Alan Lightman, Synergy, Ocean Stories, WHOI, Whitney Bernstein, Lizzie Kripke

Feb 28, 2013

Visualizing Science: Seeing Unseen Forms

Visualizing Science: Seeing Unseen Forms

The recent AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science) conference, organized by the publishers of Science, brought thousands of attendees to Boston's Hynes Convention Center. This year's #AAASmtg, entitled "The Beauty and Benefits of Science" grabbed our attention because that's exactly what we focus on here at ASKlabs. Read on to hear about the most interesting #sciart talks of the conference: "Artful Science" which looked at the science and math behind the natural world; and the "Beauty and Utility of Scientific Images" symposium which presented tools scientists have developed to visualize the invisible - from cells to stars.

Organized by science and art education pioneer John R. Jungck of Beloit College, WI, the Artful Science symposium made connections across disciplines, exploring the intersection of art and science through mathematical equations and biological forms. Panelists Maura FlanneryRobert J. KrawczykJo Ellis-Monaghan, and mathematician/engineer turned sculptor George W. Hart dazzled participants with examples from botany, seashells, and mathematics-inspired sculpture. Professor Flannery opened with "Herbaria are works of art that are essential to science." Herbaria, an early field of science gave rise to botanical illustrations. With the advent of the printing press and reproducible drawings the field of botany was born.

Robert Krawczyk, an architect from Illinois Institute for Technology, explores chaos theory. He says, "Scientific phenomena have an artistic aesthetic. I may see things in there that scientists may not see." You can see his works online:

Why do we have such an immediate aesthetic response to seashells? Because seashells are self-similar, there is a sense of a repeating shape, a pattern. Presenter Jo Ellis-Monaghan spoke about "Seashells, Math and the Natural World" arguing that mathematics is both a creative language, and a language for describing reality. If she could write down the equations for a shimmering ocean surface, she said, she would give them to friends in the midwest. Seashells have helical spirals, and their mathematical model can also be used to recreate fossils and to figure out the structure of ancient ammonites. Seashell models are also a good introduction to vector modelling for students. On the left below is an example of Delauney triangulation and on the right, Voronoi fractals:


George W. Hart, (creator of the scupture shown below) is inspired by various forms and aesthetics, many of which are found under the sea. His large-scale works, made from materials ranging from books, and steel, to plastic from 3D printers, can be seen in major museums and public spaces. He recently helped to establish the Museum of Mathematics in NYC, AND he's Vi Hart's Dad! How cool is that?

Professor John R. Jungck, founder of Bioquest, emphasized the importance of beauty, fun, and collaboration. "Mathematics is a lens that allows us to see," he says, and adds that seeing is: doing, measuring, re-visioning, and modelling, all of which leads to a deeper understanding of how forms and patterns come about. He recommended Ernst Haeckel's book Art Forms in Nature and pled for educators to combine art and science in the classroom. And of course no presentation on form is complete without mention of D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson, pioneering mathematical biologist, author of the definitive tome "On Growth and Form" (1917). His observations of phyllotaxis (numerical relationships between spiral structures and the Fibonacci sequence) have become a textbook staple.

The symposium The Beauty and Utility of Scientific Images organized by Kartik Sheth, Associate Astronomor, NRAO (moderator) and Margaret Meixner, Astronomer, Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) transported participants beyond the visible worlds of seashells and plants, diving into invisible worlds. This symposium included diverse perspectives on the use of scientific imagery for research and public engagement in the fields of astronomy, environmental sciences, molecular biology, and neuroradiology.

Each speaker explained the process of creation and the use of imagery in making visible what is otherwise unseeable, with the aim of showing how visualizations contribute to new and pivotal research, as well as inspiring global movements and engaging the public. Stefi Baum pointed out that sophisticated instruments allow astronomers to capture images of phenomena on other wavelengths that are not on the visual spectrum. This not only creates beautiful and fascinating imagery, but also provides new data for astronomical interpretation.

Molecular Biologist Tom Kirchhausen uses multimedia imagery to both develop and communicate his research. He included examples of “molecular snapshots”, live movies, and “molecular movies” to illustrate the ways that visualizations aid research in the study of cellular clathrin coats. Both Kirchhausen and Baum gave evidence that images help scientists study phenomena which are either too far away or too small to see or observe. In fact, Kirchhausen provided an excellent dynamic visual to illustrate scale (check it out!) to explain just how tiny his object of study is, and why molecular snapshots and molecular movies are needed for his lab's work. Kirchhausen asked: are scientific images simply a visual record of our work? How can they be used to transmit knowledge and interpretation? Should visual aesthetics influence the scientific endeavor? 

David Yousem, Professor of Radiology at the John Hopkins Medical Institution in Baltimore, MD, explained that images can aid surgeons -- images of the brain and its pathways mapped onto surgical cases can help surgeons avoid disrupting important functioning parts of the brain. Yousem claims that these radiographs have also been mistaken for paintings when hung on a wall!

Imagery is an integral part of research across scientific fields. At the intersection of science and art we find the fuel that drives innovation and advances technology, knowledge, the humanities, culture, and society. Scientific imagery is also a key aspect of communicating science to the public and engaging the public in the importance of science research. This year's AAAS meeting was an amazing gathering of scientists, visualization and communications experts, and educators, exemplifying the fascinating and dynamic relationships between science and art. Whether researching the visible world around us, microscopic cellular functions, or galaxies far far away, scientists' utility of images and visualizations are a vital part of the scientific endeavor.

Find ASKlabs on Twitter: @ASKlabsAlberta
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Thanks to @RaphaelRosen22 for the livetweetage

Stay tuned for the scoop on #scicommsecrets and Social Media for Scientists #AAASsms.

CommentsCategories Art Boston Environment Events February 2013 SciArt SciComm Science Social Media

Feb 5, 2013

“New Form at the Farm” SCREENINGS at The PEM - Feb. 2. 2013

“New Form at the Farm” SCREENINGS at The PEM - Feb. 2. 2013

Another awesome day for “New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1”. The Peabody Essex Museum was a popular destination on Saturday as the closing day of the "Hats" exhibit concurred with the opening day of the museum’s new exhibit, "Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India After Independence" and our screening.

A big THANKS to everybody who came along for our Saturday screenings at the Peabody Essex! We hope had as much fun as we did. Our audience included families, filmmakers, design geeks and of course the South End hipsters rolled in, which made for lively Q&A discussions!


Gibbs Farm is indeed visible on Googlemaps satellite photos and the Kapoor sculpture is quite prominent: (See if you can spot the Serra!)

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We especially want to thank Jennifer Evans, Manager of Programs at the PEM for putting these fantastic screenings together. 

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events February 2013 Social Media UK US World

Jan 31, 2013

Outdoors with Anish Kapoor

Outdoors with Anish Kapoor

ArcelorMittal Orbit

This weekend’s screening of “New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1 at the Peabody Essex Museum chronicles Kapoor’s largest permanent outdoor sculpture to date at Gibbs Farm in New Zealand. But Dismemberment Site 1 isn’t his only large outdoor piece. In fact, the sculptor is well known for his large public works. We’ll share a few here, from the simple and remote The Eye in the Stone in the northern reaches of Norway to the mammoth and controversial ArcelorMittal Orbit, part of London’s 2012 Olympic Park.

Many of Kapoor’s outdoor sculptures are what he calls “Mirror Objects.” The most famous of these is Cloud Gate, otherwise known as “The Bean,” in Chicago’s Millenium Park. Though Kapoor dislikes the work’s nickname, it is an extremely popular sculpture, drawing tourists and film crews alike. In fact, several Chicago-set films have used Cloud Gate since its completion, including Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011), The Break-Up (Peyton Reed, 2006), and The Vow (Michael Sucsy, 2012). The work itself is shaped like a bean, and is highly reflective on all sides. Its shape allows visitors to pass under the sculpture, adding to the interactivity of the already reflective piece. On Kapoor’s website you can find some cool plans and drawings for the work, too.

Other Mirror Objects include the various Sky Mirror pieces. These are both permanent and travelling pieces, concave mirrored discs often placed at an angle or hammered irregularly so that they both reflect and distort. These can be found permanently at The Nottingham Playhouse in England, and The Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. Other versions have appeared in exhibitions at the Rockefeller Center in New York, Kensington Gardens in London, and the Brighton Pavilion Gardens for the Brighton Festival in England. Last year a similar mirror object was attached to a wall at the Storm King Art Center, and one is currently in place as a part of Koelnskulptur 6 in Germany.

Dismemberment Site 1, while similar to several of Kapoor’s other works (mostly indoor works, such as Marsyas at the Tate Modern 2002) is another beast altogether: huge and red and constantly changing in relation to perspective, it both complements the famous mirror objects and doesn’t merely reflect the landscape: it transforms it. Find out for yourself at Saturday’s screenings, 11am and 2:30pm.

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CommentsCategories Art DocFilm Environment Events January 2013 SciArt Social Media UK US World

Jan 22, 2013

#SCIART Current Events: Boston and Beyond

#SCIART Current Events: Boston and Beyond

Photo Credit: David Maisel’s History’s Shadow

Thanks to everyone who submitted to our BLUR Art & Science Pinterest Contest! Here are some ongoing and upcoming events in the world of Art and Science for you to check out:

Ongoing at FACT Liverpool: Noisy Table, an interactive ping pong table which emits sound as games are played, and Winter Sparks, a show in which four new media artists play with electricity and Tesla coils (both shows until February 24).

January 24: DIY BIO led by Romie Littrel at the Broad Art Center in Los Angeles

January 24: Maya Lin speaks at the Central Library in Copley Square, Boston

January 24: Brazilian animator Guilherme Marcondes presents the work from MIT Game Lab workshop at MIT Museum

January 28: Science on Screen at the Coolidge Corner Theatre presents Wes Anderson’s Rushmore (1998) with a talk by Steven Schlozman, MD

January 30: A Symposium with Gallery talk by Swiss Landscape Architects at Boston Architectural College

February 6: LASER event at Stanford University with talks on various subjects as well as an exercise to encourage discussion of ongoing art and science projects. (Next event April 4.)

February 14: Chemical Romance workshop led by Christina Agapakis at Broad Art Center in Los Angeles

February 15: Compass Points: Joël Tettamanti opens at the MIT Museum with work that focuses on the impact of humans on their environment and landscape.

February 16: Ocean Stories: A Synergy of Art and Science at the Museum of Science, Boston.

February 25-March 24: Encounters Between Art and Science, an exhibit at The British Library by artists on the Art and Science MA programme at Central St Martins - the work is all inspired by the Library and its science collections, and runs alongside Inspiring Science, a series of events and workshops which runs from March 11 to March 24 at The British Library.

Various events held by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences can be found here, taking place in California and Cambridge, MA.

Various events held by the UCLA Art│Sci Center and Lab

For more ideas about exhibits in the coming year, the Smithsonian blog Collage of Arts and Sciences has some recommendations too.

So check out some of these events if they’re near you while we wait for the BLUR contest results!

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events January 2013 SciArt SciComm Science Social Media UK US World

Jan 18, 2013



Last night’s World Premiere of New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor’s Dismemberment Site 1 at the RISD Art Museum was great. We were thrilled to share our films about the creation of landscape sculptures at Gibbs Farm with the RISD community, and Producer/Director Alberta Chu and Editor Stephanie Munroe enjoyed the Q&A afterwards with such an engaged audience of filmmakers, artists, and designers.

It was so interesting to see the New Form at the Farm documentary alongside our 2004 film Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra’s Tuhirangi Contour. Thanks to Deborah Clemons, Associate Educator, Public Programs, at the RISD Art Museum for programming such a nice event. A big THANKS to everyone who attended, and especially those who travelled up from NYC and down from Boston.

A group of us from Boston jumped on the Amtrak and headed down to Providence in the afternoon to explore RISD’s Nature Lab as well as the RISD Museum prior to showtime. RISD is one of the centers of the STEM to STEAM movement, which strives to change public policy by adding the "A" (for art and design) back into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) curriculum of public education. Last night, we learned that RISD President @JohnMaeda is a prime mover in this area. EVENT PHOTOS

We hope to see you at our next event, a screening of New Form at the Farm at Salem’s Peabody Essex Museum on February 2!

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events SciArt Social Media STEM to STEAM UK US World

Jan 3, 2013


2012 was a busy year for ASKlabs: filmmaking, social media, researching new ideas and stories, and an excellent film premiere. We participated in our first hackathon, went to our first Meetup, and made our first microdocumentary (super short film). Additional 2012 highlights include artist Tom Sachs' "Mission to Mars" installation at the Park Street Armory, Ai Weiwei at the the Hirshhorn Museum, Lauren Greenfield's documentary film "Queen of Versailles," meeting popular science author Steven Johnson, attending the World Congress of Science Producers conference in DC, and being safe inside a Faraday cage while being zapped with 1 megavolt of electricity.

We completed our film “Lightning Dreams: The Electrum at Gibbs Farm,” in February and had an excellent film premiere event at the Boston Museum of Science in November as part of their "When Art Meets Science" film series. San Francisco high-voltage engineer Greg Leyh appeared in person and Daniel Davis dazzled our audience with an amazing show of electricity in the MOS Theater of Electricity; the event was lauded in the Boston Globe and sold out.  Audience members and MOS staff all agreed that our event “Lightning Strikes” exceeded every expectation. We are extremely grateful to our friend and supporter, Boston artist and inventor (and sometimes museum consultant) Steve Hollinger for making this happen. Thanks to Lisa Monrose and Jennifer Garrett at the Museum of Science. West-coast and European premieres of the film are being planned for 2013. Stay tuned for details.

ASKlabs continues to develop films that increase public awareness and knowledge of global climate change. One greatly impacted area is the coral reef ecosystem. For that project we travelled to Cancun, Mexico to film the underwater sculptures of Jason de Cairnes Taylor which are seeded to help coral regenerate. The film will be completed in Spring of 2013.

In August, ASKlabs produced the microdocumentary “Putting it Together: The Modular Car” about group of MIT students leveraging crowd-sourced innovation to build a fuel-efficient modular vehicle - this car is to be developed in 2014 will do better than 200mpge. Filmed on location at MIT's Edgerton Center, thanks to Camilla Brinkman for helping to make this happen.

We jumped into transmedia when the Zeega/Tribeca Film Festival Hackathon accepted our interactive documentary concept about the late 19th century War of Currents between Edison and Tesla; during the day-long Hackathon we created films with other media-makers and artists using the novel new browser-based editing software developed by Jesse Shapins and his crew at Zeega in Cambridge. 

ASKlabs is currently in the midst of the BLUR pinterest contest - people from around the world are submitting Pinterest boards of images that say "beautiful science." We’re excited to bring the international emerging art/science community together as we approach the January 15th deadline for submissions.

At the close of 2012, we are developing what we believe is the perfect science-art documentary. We’ll reveal more as soon as we can.

We hope to see you at one of our screenings or events in 2013, please follow us on Facebook and Twitter: @ASKlabsAlberta. Thank you for your enthusiam and support always!


Alberta Chu

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events January 2013 SciArt SciComm Science Social Media UK US World

Dec 27, 2012

Hashing out Art and Science Hashtags & BLUR Pinterest Contest Prizes!

Twitter is a GREAT way to reach out to people that you don’t know but who have similar interests or do similar work. But to catch their attention, how do we know which hashtags to drop into which Tweets? Certainly more specific ones like #physics or #illustration make sense, but what about more generally? If Twitter can help us build a community around people who appreciate the collaboration of art and science, then we need a common language to help us communicate with each other. We have looked into the most common uses, recently, of some art and science hashtags and here's what we found:

But where’s the hashtag??
Image from

So, we’ll start with the shortest, and most easily Tweetable: #artsci does bring up some interesting tweets but the feed is choked by information from the Registrars of Arts and Science departments such as Rutgers Camden or University of Toronto’s Faculty of Arts and Science. On the other hand, #sciart has lots of great Tweets, and seems a lot more widely used than #artsci. Surprisingly, though it seems clunkier, #scienceart comes up with the widest and coolest array of relevant entries. These include videos of snowflake chemistry, beautiful illustrations, and calls for collaborations and submissions to science and art competitions. And finally, the very clunky #artandscience, as far as we can tell, brings up great stuff but is more institutionally based, so things like exhibits and articles are there, rather than random Twitter users sharing with each other.

This is not to say these hashtags are going to continue to be used this way. Social media is constantly evolving. If nothing else, it will remind you of the variety of ways you can search for cool ideas and inspirations in the world of art and science, which you can then use for your BLUR Pinterest board contest entries! Entries are due in just a few weeks on January 15, 2013. You can SUBMIT via Facebook message to our FB page: ASKLabs Documentary Film.

Announcing revised ASKLABS BLUR Pinterest Contest Prizes:
1st place: $200 Visa Gift Card and collection of three ASKlabs “Science as Art” documentary films featuring sculptures by Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and Eric Orr.
2nd place:  $50 Visa Gift Card and collection of three ASKlabs “Science as Art” documentary films featuring sculptures by Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and Eric Orr.
3rd place: Collection of three ASKlabs “Science as Art” documentary films featuring sculptures by Richard Serra, Anish Kapoor, and Eric Orr.

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CommentsCategories Art December 2012 SciArt SciComm Science Social Media UK US World

Dec 19, 2012

Art & Science Blogs: Some of our favorites to inspire your BLUR Pinterest boards!


Looking for some inspiration to help prepare your BLUR contest entry? Here are some of our favorite recent blog posts from the world of Science and Art.

Visual Science is a frequently updated blog from Discover magazine which presents new work, interesting issues in scientific imagery, and current exhibitions. A recent post highlights the work of local artist Nathalie Miebach, who combines basket-weaving, climate data, and climate change in her sculptures. Miebach’s work can be seen at the Massachusetts College of Art New Residency Hall in Boston, or at any of her upcoming shows, including a collaborative exhibit at Museum of Science, Boston and a solo exhibit at the California Museum of Arts and Craft, Los Angeles, CA in 2013. Exciting stuff!

If you want to know more about upcoming exhibits in your area, Symbiartic, which is a great blog from Scientific American run by bloggers Kalliopi Monoyios and Glendon Mellow, has brought back its “SciArt Buzz” segment, which lists regionally relevant SciArt exhibits and events. Even if you can’t make it to any of the events they’re promoting, you can check out their blog posts, which frequently focus on illustration and visualizations. We enjoyed and shared their shock and horror about sugar contents of common snacks as visualized by!

For more conceptual inspirations, we’d recommend At the Interface, by UK Blogger Johanna Kieniewicz, who works at The British Library. Her recent posts discuss the “how” and “why” of art and science collaborations. Or, if you want something entertaining, check out this post from Hayley Gillespie’s Biocreativity, which highlights the finalists from the Dance Your PhD competition, in which science PhD students choreograph their research! Hayley, who is also the owner/founder of Art.Science.Gallery in Austin, TX, has some great information about regional Texan events and resources, too.

Just wanted to give you some ideas for your BLUR Pinterest board entries! Entries are due in just a few weeks on January 15, 2013. You can SUBMIT via Facebook message to our FB page: ASKLabs Documentary Film.

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CommentsCategories Art December 2012 Events SciArt SciComm Science Social Media UK US World

Oct 29, 2012

Announcing... The Steampunk Fashion Contest

Announcing... The Steampunk Fashion Contest

On this day of Hurricane Sandy, we're making our playlist for the MOS Theater of Electricity reception, and confirming our brave Faraday Cage volunteers. Confirmed guests in the Faraday cage on Nov. 7th include: Susan Battista, Geoff Hargadon, Steve Hollinger, and Dave Strickler but you can have your 15 seconds as well... 

What is Steampunk? The Wiki definition. I like to think of it as Victorian, Sci-fi, Cyberpunk, retro-futuristic. Steampunk fashions will be judged by former Boston Globe fashion writer, Tina Cassidy and a small committee from the Museum of Science.

Get your tickets in advance:

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Events October 2012 SciArt Science Social Media US

Oct 12, 2012

More ASKlabs Events on the Horizon

More ASKlabs Events on the Horizon

This just in: the RISD Museum will be holding the world premiere screening of our 2010 film "New Form at the Farm: Anish Kapoor Dismemberment Site 1" along with an old favorite, our 2004 film "Seeing the Landscape: Richard Serra's Tuhirangi Contour." Back in 2004 "Seeing the Landscape" screened at the MFA Boston, the MIT List, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of art as part of the Washington DC Environmental Film Festival as well as at the Festival of Films on Art in Montreal. 

Both films will be screened on the same night, and we're looking at Jan./Feb. 2013.

Hope you can make it and please help spread the word!

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Environment Events October 2012 SciArt SciComm Science Social Media US World

Sep 16, 2012

ASKlabs 100th LIKE on Facebook

Congratulations to Niclas Bahn - our WINNER! He and his partner run an amazing video software company Noise Industries providing special effects for film editing, and they are based right here in the South End! Maximize your color correction capabilties, photo animation and even titiing with the tools of FxFactory, and that's just the tip of the iceberg! Niklaus, the "Lightning Dreams" DVD will be personally delivered to you next week, but we must insist that you still attend our MOS premiere on Nov. 7th! Thanks to everyone for participating.

Today is a gorgeous Fall day in Boston, perfect for Day #2 of SE Open Studios - stop by ASKlabs at 46 Waltham, Ste. 303 and pickup some fabulous Silkstone Designs bling for yourself or a friend!

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CommentsCategories Art Boston DocFilm Events SciArt Science September 2012 Social Media US World

Sep 14, 2012

Help Build a Tesla Museum!

No one deserves a museum more than Nikola Tesla, the most forgotten genius there ever was. The "Oatmeal Guy" aka Matthew Inman of Seattle, WA is spearheading a monumental effort to do so. NIKOLA TESLA SCIENCE CENTER

I vote that Greg Leyh of Lightning on Demand gets hired to build the mother of all tesla coils for this brilliant proposed museum. The coil could be enclosed in a glass dome so those in airplanes flying overhead can witness its spectacular displays. (A nod to Steve Hollinger for that idea)

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CommentsCategories Art Events SciArt Science September 2012 Social Media US World