Science Foo Camp (scifoo) are in the corridors, foo bars and even the bus that shuttles between the Googleplex and the hotel…On Saturday, for example, I ride the bus with David Hawkins who is a laywer working in the area of climate change. He tells me all about the legal issues, how climate modelling works and little on Bjørn Lomborg, who is also here. I tell him about workflows on the web and bioinformatics. We work in completely different areas, and we’d never normally meet. But in a short conversation, we manage to learn a little from each other and find connections. The problems that climateprediction.net face, turn out to be quite similar to the problems that genomics faces in integrating data on the web. When we arrive at the Googleplex, it’s time for Open Science… (more…)Some of the most interesting conversations you have at
August 6, 2007
August 4, 2007
Douglas Kell, who has kindly allowed and paid for me to attend Science Foo Camp (scifoo), says to me “tell me what you get up to”. So here goes. Scifoo day 1, A chance to meet and around 250 engineers, scientists, philosophers and other odd people from all over the world.My boss,
Shortly after arriving at the Googleplex, California and being fed by gourmet chefs, it all starts . There is a quick round of introductions from everyone in the room, the conference schedule gets put up on a big board, and interactively edited like a wiki. Sounds chaotic, but it actually works.
- Drew Endy from OpenWetWare talked about biotechnology. He drew analogies between civil engineering and bio-engineering. Today we can build wonderful bridges like Viaduc Millau in France. But it hasn’t always been that way. In the stone age, we used rocks as they were to build the likes of Stone Henge. Then we moved to to quarrying rock more systematically, so we can build simple bridges. For biotechnology to succeed in the same way as civil engineering, we need to synthesize DNA in the same way as we synthesis concrete to make bridges. But currently, biotechnology is still in its stone age.
- Charles Simonyi gave a talk about his recent trip as a Space tourist. I’ve never met an astronaut before, and never wondered what it smells like or what the quality of your sleep is like in space. You can find out more about Charles in Space</.
- Felice Frankel: Visualisation, visualisation, visualisation! (although she doesn’t like that word)
After all this, theres some time for “corridor conversations” with other delegates, which is where most of the interesting stuff goes on. Its difficult to pull out a narrative, because theres all kinds of people here: some people I managed to speak to (note form, sorry!):
- Bora Zivkovic (who blogs around the clock) and is the online community manager at PLOS. How do you get people to do peer-review online on the web? “I need two years to make this happen”!
- Euan Adie, how does postgenomic and flags and lollipops all work then?
- Lincoln Stein, how do you credit people for wiki annotations of genome sequences? How do you create metabolic maps?
- Andrew Walkingshaw, wheres the crossover between chemical informatics and bioinformatics
- Deepak Singh, whats the conflict of interest with biotech blogging and business?
- Nikita Bernstein and Moshe Pritsker, theres a lot of crossover between the Journal of Visualised Experiments (JOVE) and putting workflows on the web… hope to catch up with these people again later.
- Peter Murray-Rust, is the Chemical Markup Language actually useful to anybody and what can you do with it? Answer, take a look at Oscar
- Pierre Lindenbaum, I want an online screencast of Taverna, becase the tutorials suck!
- Aaron Schwartz, who works for The Internet Archive. Semantic webheads don’t seem to spend enough thinking about scalability and Fear and Loathing in Biotech firms is a true story (according to him!)
- Ted Kaehler one of the people behind one hundred dollar laptop: one laptop per child. It is possible to program this neat little machine using Squeak, and yes, it is internationalised too, less developed countries like India can have Hindi keyboard for example. It is good fun to actually feel and play with this cute little piece of kit. Some guy who’s name I can’t remember had ported Mathematica to it…(wow!) but it ran really slowly.
- Dr. Jane Booble from Stanford University, when will you prove that P = NP?
In his introduction, Tim O’Reilly described scifoo as “making new synapses in the global brain”. You take a load of people from different disciplines, stick them together, and they find all sorts of interesting connections that they might not otherwise have found. It might sound pretentious, but I think its true. Unlike larger conferences, scifoo is small and intimate enough to be able to talk to lots of different people which is one thing that makes it special. This year, they’ve lifted the blogging ban, so everything is public unless stated otherwise. Which means you’ll be hearing lots more about it from bloggers like me at the conference.
Day two will be fun, theres lots of demos, and more people to meet: Martin Rees, how do we survive the twenty first century given that we’re all going to die?…Must try and pluck up the courage to talk to Sergey but I’m completely starstruck. Brian Cox, Hello, I’ve seen you on the telly…Esther “always make new mistakes” Dyson, Anne Wojcicki, George Church, Eric Lander, Paul Z. Myers Theres a tonne of bio-people here….So many people, so little time!
[this post originally published on nodalpoint]
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