Over at Blake's place, there's some musing about who might serve as Presidential Science Advisor in a Democratic administration. It's an interesting question, as John Marburger III has clearly been hamstrung by the Bushies in a number of areas, and this post has not enjoyed as much influence with the Executive Branch since the days of Glenn Seaborg. Blake goes so far as to suggest that someone from the current ranks of science popularizers, or even an eminent biologist like E.O. Wilson might be a good choice.

Here's my take: the idea of a science popularizer as Science Advisor to the Prez has its appeal. In a perfect world, I would love to see Timothy Ferris in some kind of role, as he has both public and private sector experience, a broad knowledge and appreciation for science and the ability to communicate both to the public and academia.

Having said that, let me lay it on the line here. Independent, thoughtful men and women who are career scientists or better-known for science popularization are probably not the best choice, because they will have already said or written things which are impolitic or easily misrepresented.

E.O. Wilson is one of my heroes, but the moment his name is floated all the sociobiology crap will be sifted through to find examples of alleged racism, etc. Besides, Uncle Eddie is a little long in the tooth.

No, what you need is someone who has achieved in science, but who switched to bureaucracy and who has some understanding of the weight lifting and making nice-nice that gets science funded in the first place. In other words, someone like a Glenn Seaborg or, dare I say it, like a Francis Collins. Or, if you prefer an astrophysics type, a Daniel Goldin, a France Cordova, a George Blumenthal.

I invite comments!


Viagra, Cialis, nitrous oxide, oysters....who knew that, in addition to these remedies, one could order shorts? They can be obtained in not-so-tight (and yet TIGHT) designs from Made With Molecules. You could send an email to the founder herself, Raven Hanna.

One interesting aside: while the products Raven sells are beautiful and I wouldn't mind some meself (hint, hint), it seems curious that much of the copy pitching the items implicitly recommends adopting the visual symbol of some chemical associated with some desired outcome (attention/relaxation/warm fuzzies) as if the symbol itself would transmit said outcome.....but I see that I am thinking too much.



Love the science blogging, think I'm great and want to know who to thank (besides my parents, of course)? *

Or, think I'm a terrible representative of the scientific community and want to know who to blame? *

Well, I've got an offer for you! Come and see Dr. Fred Schreiber (CSU Fresno) give the presentation at the next Central Valley Cafe Scientifique, on Monday evening, January 7th, at DiCicco's, in Clovis.

Fred's topic is going to be SEX, and based on my relationship with Fred I know it will be frank, disarming, enthusiastic with a touch of wry goofiness....and really good basic science, as well!

How do I know? Because Fred is truly one of my mentors.* Without his encouragement and support, I would not be a high school teacher, much less have a degree in the natural sciences. I've told this story often enough, I suppose, but it's worth telling again, because it illustrates the care that Fred has lavished on his students and his commitment to teaching science....

More than a dozen years ago, I was casting about for a new career. I was headed back to school again, just shy of a degree in music composition but not too sanguine about the prospects of turning that into a livelihood. As it was, I was remarried, delivering pizza in the evenings as one of my three jobs to make ends meet, and living in a dilapidated double-wide mobile home in the country. One evening in late June, I had just gotten home around 9:30. Wandering up to the back door of the trailer, I noticed something shiny on a shrub outside the mobile home. It was a tiny frog, bright green with (no lie) brilliant metallic gold eyes which had caught the patio lights. It looked a bit like this....

Except smaller! Because the picture above shows an adult, and I had a recently-transformed juvenile, which , as you can see from this second picture below, is rather tiny!

It was a Pacific Tree Frog (Pseudacris regilla), and as I cradled it in the palm of my hand, I was further astonished to hear my wife inside the mobile answer the phone, then call out that there was a phone call from Fresno State.

A phone call. At 9:30 in the evening, on a weekend, in early summer, when CSU Fresno was, in fact, out of session. This alone, from an academic, should tell you something interesting about Fred Schreiber. He was calling me at this point because I had left a voice mail expressing interest in learning more about the Science Department, but I had left that nearly a month ago and not heard anything back. He was very apologetic for being so late in returning my call, but he had been out of the country and now that he had tracked me down, how could he be of service? Keeping in mind that I was a complete unknown to Fred, I found myself spending the next half-hour on the phone with him, answering questions about my interests and experience, ending with him encouraging me to write a letter with an essay describing same and a copy of my transcripts, and he would do whatever he could to get me into the program.

Now, I had been a music student at this school for years and had never once had a teacher of any sort return a call, much less encourage my interests in this manner, so Fred's call was more than refreshing. It was a bright, cheery, International Orange Mae West jacket in the middle of an ocean of indifference and veiled hostility for an unconventional (and hardly distinguished) reentry student such as myself. Over the next few months, I met Fred several times and this set me on the path to being a science educator.

Is it any wonder that I'm thrilled to work with him on an important science education endeavor like Cafe Scientifique?

* (Disclaimer: My tongue is partially in cheek here. Fred can't really be blamed for any of my shortcomings, but he certainly deserves credit for the way he has encouraged and supported so many students over the years, including yours truly)



Organic sheets? So it contains carbon? Like everything else surrounding me at Target! Marketing is using the term incorrectly.

My son was in a Target store and, recalling an anecdote I tell my students to make a point about organic vs. inorganic, sent me the above photo and caption. Thanks, son!