Science in Fiction, elsewhere on the internet

I’ve started writing for Physics Today, covering how science and technology is used in the entertainment industries. The first column for Enterprise just went live, looking at how a traditional geoscience tool, LiDAR, is used on sets to map spaces for VFX. I deeply appreciate all the time given to me by Ron Bedard of Industrial Pixel Visual Effects, Huseyin Carter of Plowman Craven, and Ben Cole of MPC (I’ve got a lot more from Ben Cole for a future installment).

In related news, my editor went to Comic-Con last week in a quest to find physics — you can check out his adventures on the Physics Today Dayside blog.

And just for some flat-out movie science goodness, ithologist (someone who looks at tracks & traces, then figures out what sort of creatures & behaviours created them) Tony Martin did an analysis of this summer’s Pacific Rim.

I’ll be at Dragon Con in Atlanta again this year, with panels in the Stargate, Science, Space, Apocalypse, and Literature tracks. The schedules are currently extremely tentative, but I’ll post when they get more firmly established.

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Summer Science Program 2013

I’m heading to New Mexico to chat with Summer Science Program students, alumni, and stray members of the public for the Open House this weekend. If you’re in Socorro and want to talk about disasters, science fiction, and highly non-linear career paths in science, come on by!

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DragonCon 2013

I’ll be back at DragonCon this year! Scheduling TBD, although I suspect I’ll be poking around several tracks again.

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I’m writing a column for reviewing science in television in movies over at Physics Today. This month’s instalment? Continuum, a police drama set in present-day and near-future Vancouver exploits the possibility of jumping back and forth in time.

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Why do I support expanding BC tax credits to match other Canadian provinces?

Because BC needs to support its knowledge-economies. The resource industry alone cannot support the hopes, dreams, careers, and futures of this province.

Because BC specializes in creating alternate worlds and realities, and I love watching the results. MacGyver and Stargate, Rambo and Twilight, Battlestar Galactica and the X-Files: this province is home to a lot of favourite shows and movies.

Because working as a science consultant is the most creative, playful thing I’ve done in math and science, and I’m always excited when another opportunity arises to play.

Because working in the film industry helped cover my bills when grad school plans hiccuped, and was the odd-job that let me focus on my research to graduate, yet avoid student debt.

Because tax credits are a variation of “the more you spend, the more you save!” where everyone wins.

Because even the resource industry, favourite of the BC Jobs Plan and my day job, uses tax incentives.

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I’ve finally resumed city-life and will be back to writing again. Considering that I’ve got an enormous pile of desperately-in-need-of-love-and-attention draft posts to start from, any requests with where I should start? Science from a neglected Stargate episode? Tales from conventions? Reviews of more recent scifi?

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Summer Science Program

Do you know science-inclined high school students who would love a chance to work themselves into exhaustion this summer? The Summer Science Program teaches physics, mathematics, astronomy, and computer science while setting students on telescopes to monitor and collect data on near-Earth objects. Their observations get submitted into official tracking databases, reducing our risk for planetary annihilation.


Orbital Dynamics at SSP.

I was a resident of this program once upon a time and not-so-long ago. Aside from being the first time I was seriously academically challenged (an exhilarating experience!), it also included me in the most amazing alumni network I’ve had the pleasure to join. This is a network based on intelligence, curiosity, and respect, where every few months we get into lively debates over current events in science and technology. The experiences of individuals spanning more than 50 years of programs, scattered around the world, and working in every imaginable field, has been invaluable to me when picking undergraduate and graduate programs, when job-seeking, and when struggling with work-life balances. It’s an open, helpful, supportive community of brilliant people, and I’m give back every chance I get through my own experiences in unusual science careers.

So if you know a high school student looking for a real challenge, applications are open.

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Dragon*Con: Apocalypse Rising

I’m visiting the DragonCon Apocalypse Rising Track for two panels on Friday afternoon and Monday morning; check my schedule for the other tracks I’ll be at during DragonCon 2012.

2012: It’s Here

Friday, August 31: 4:00pm-5:00pm
Westin Vinings 1-2, 6th Floor

Our experts attempt to sort fact from fiction as they work to demystify the mythological 2012 – the year the world ends (maybe).

I’ll be joining cryptographer Elonka Dunin and author Elizabeth Donald to indulge in the oh-so-many catastrophe predictions for this year. Debunking disaster hype is one of my favourite pastimes, as is dreaming up all new disaster scenarios, so this panel should really fun!

Related Panels
2012 – Don’t Panic!, Sunday 10:00am in the Hilton Crystal Ballroom, 1st floor

Year Two: What Now?

Monday September 3: 10:00am-11:00am
Westin Vinings 1-2, 6th floor

Civilization has ended and you have survived the first year. Now it’s time to figure out what’s next, and how to live long term.

This panel brings together disaster specialists from a wide slew of paths:
disaster preparation consultant David Harmer knows the processes and procedures while author Nacy L. Holder can dream up disaster scenarios. Nuclear engineer Patrick Mason will ground us in the realities of man-made catastrophes, while I’ll be representing the wrath of Mother Nature in the impacts of large-scale geohazards. Between the four of us, we should have a thought-provoking, rambunctious, and just-possibly-informative discussion on what happens after we’ve settled into a post-apocalyptic world.

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Dragon*Con: Space Track

I’m visiting the DragonCon Space Track for one panel on Friday; check my schedule for the other tracks I’ll be at during DragonCon 2012.

To Boldly Go – Where?

Friday, August 31: 11:30am-12:30pm
Hilton 203, 2nd floor

Panel & audience discussion on where our next step into space should be. The Moon? Mars? The Asteriods?

My co-panelists have solid Rocket Scientist credentials to draw on for this panel. Kim Steadman is a long-time scientist with the Cassini-Huygens Mission to Saturn who also worked on the getting rovers safely onto the Martian surface, and A.C. Charania is a specialist at getting things into space with his leadership roles at Generation Orbit Launch Services & SpaceWorks. Not in the program, but certainly on the panel, is academic Stephen Fleming, with an extremely long history of involvement in space policy and venture investments. I’ll be playing the role of Rocket Surgeon on how we’ve explored the “What if?” aspects of space exploration (…and maybe pulling a tiny bit from my days of working science policy in DC for public perceptions of exploration). This should be a lively way to kick off the convention, and I do hope we get some robotics specialists, planetary scientists, and big dreamers from the audience participate!

Fermi Paradox – Where Are Our Cosmic Neighbors?

Monday, September 3: 4:00pm-5:00pm
Hilton 203, 2nd floor

We celebrate our 5th year of Space Track with a fun discussion of THE question – Where IS Everyone? We’ll enjoy LN2 ice cream to say goodbye to 2012

I will not be at this panel! Although I was originally scheduled to be here gossiping about prospective aliens, I need to catch a flight to the West Coast. So go on, enjoy the ice cream, hassle Scott Edgington (JPL planetary scientist), Dr. Pamela L. Gay (astronomy podcaster), and Les Johnson (NASA scientist & fiction author), and let me know how it goes!

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DragonCon: Science Track

I’m visiting the DragonCon Science Track for one panel on Sunday; check my schedule for the other tracks I’ll be at during DragonCon 2012.

Disasters Past, Present, and Future – Hear from the Feds

Sunday September 2: 11:30am-12:30pm
Hilton 202, 2nd floor

Ever wonder if the U.S. government is truly prepared to respond to a mass-casualty emergency? What about if 2, 3, or 4 occurred simultaneously?

Kara M. Stephens, Ali S. Khan, and Dave Leroy Daigle of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are experts on zombies. I’m a Master in Disaster, an expert in ways the planet is trying to kill us all. Between us, we spend our lazy Sunday afternoons dreaming up horrible ways for the world to end, then head back to work on Monday morning to try to keep it from happening. This panel is your chance to ask questions about just how bad things can go, what the government has planned, and what you can do to mitigate inevitable catastrophe.

We’re All Doomed, DOOMED!!! Or Are We?

Saturday September 1: 5:30pm-6:30pm
Hilton 202, 2nd floor

What are some real or imagined doomsday scenarios, how dangerous and likely are they? It’s eschatological fun for everyone!

With Matthew Prince Lowry and “others” at this point, it’s going to be similar to the Disasters: Past, Present, and Future panel, but a lot more speculative with the farthest reaches of what can go very, very wrong.

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