This has been a busy week for me here at the Chemical Heritage Foundation. On Tuesday, June 23 I presented The Elements Unearthed project at a Brown Bag Lunch here. It’s pretty informal; people bring their lunches and eat while the speaker presents. I had 20 people attend, which was very nice. I would have been happy with five!. After a couple of technology glitches I switched to Plan B and everything went well. In addition to talking about the purpose of the project (which is to document the history, uses, sources, mining, refining, and hazards of the chemical elements and industrial materials through student-created podcasts (whew!)), I showed some short samples of the student videos created this last semester for glass blowing and synthetic diamonds. I also showed some animations with narration of a podcast episode I’m working on this summer on the history of atomic theory. You saw a sample image on the last post of Aristote’s hylomorphism. That’s just one frame of a whole animation. But just so that you can have a sneak peak at what will be posted to iTunes and YouTube by the end of August, here is the first video clip of the students’ work:
This is a clip edited and narrated by Alex Anderson, who also took the photos of the rejects at the end of the clip. Videotaping was done by Sam Comstock, Megan Parish, and Bernardo Martinez. My only contribution was some final tweaking of the video color balance and lighting to match up the two cameras and smooth up some transitions; otherwise, the editing is all Alex’s work. This is a representative sample of the kind of work you’ll see when these episodes are finally posted. I’ll post the samples for Synthetic Diamonds and Aristotle/Empedocles next time.
Here is the PDF version of my presentation, sans video clips: Elements_Unearthed_Presentation_6-23-09
After my presentation, Ron Brashear, the Director of the Beckman Center here at CHF, took me out to lunch. As we talked, I was surprised to find that we knew some of the same people. He had worked at the Huntington Library in California, researching Edwin Hubble’s letters and personal papers. As part of his research, he visited Mt. Wilson Observatory where Hubble did most of his work. I’ve been up there several times with the NASA Explorer School workshops that I did for JPL, and so we’ve both met some of the astronomers and docents at Mt. Wilson and we’ve both visited the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, AZ. It is a small world, as they say.
I find, however, that as I have these opportunities to work in the science education and science history fields, that I increasingly meet the same people, or at least find that we have the same aquaintances. Academic and scientific circles become increasingly rarefied and specialized, but sometimes they intersect in interesting ways. One of the great privileges of my life has been to meet some of the best minds in several scientific disciplines, including space exploration, astronomy, and now science history. I’m not going to drop names here, but when comparing them to so-called “celebrities” I’ve met, the scientists are the truly great ones, the ones we should be holding up as heroes. My fellowship here at CHF has already helped me to make contact with some of these personal heroes and to at least intersect their circles, and that may be the best part of all for a science groupie like me.
The other activity I’ve worked on is a Preliminary Proposal for an Informal Science Education grant from the National Science Foundation, which was due yesterday at 5:00. After writing with blazing speed (I hope it makes sense), I wrestled with NSF’s Fastlane submission system and finally hit the submit button a few minutes after 5:00, only to realize that I forgot to justify one of my budget entries – to provide stipends for time and equipment to the mentor teachers/schools of the participating teams. Hopefully that won’t be enough to kill it. I am submitting the Summary Page and the Project Description here for your evaluation. I would appreciate any feedback you can give.