Sessions at SXSW Interactive 2012 about Science

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Friday 9th March 2012

  • Where Do Science Fiction and Science Fact Meet?

    by Brian David Johnson

    What kind of future do you want to live in? What excites or concerns you about the future? Intel Futurist Brian David Johnson poses these questions as part of The Tomorrow Project, an initiative to investigate not only the future of computing but also the broader implications on our lives and the planet. Science and technology have progressed to the point where what we build is only constrained by the limits of our own imaginations. The future is not a fixed point in front of us that we are all hurtling helplessly towards. The future is built everyday by the actions of people. The Tomorrow Project engages in ongoing discussions with superstars, science fiction authors and scientists to get their visions for the world that's coming and the world they'd like to build.

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Friday 9th March

    In Salon J, Hilton Austin Downtown

    Coverage audio clip

Saturday 10th March 2012

  • Rethinking How to Communicate Science

    by Laura Hermann

    It's been 30 years since Edward Tufte convinced designers that the visual display of quantitative information mattered. We illustrate evidence to promote understanding, but our choices to express science have changed. The pervasiveness of technology in our lives generates volumes of data. Increasingly, scientists and researchers make extensible versions of their datasets available. Crowdsourcing projects generate additional data sources. The result is a new diction to distinguish fact from fiction.We used to rely on science writers and designers to translate impenetrable academic and scientific studies. Today, citizens and academics alike have accessible ways to visualize information. Is that enough? Communicating about science requires balancing competing interests with conflicting evidence. The craft of science communication will evolve with new technology and the ways we decipher the political, social and economic context of available evidence will be increasingly critical.

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Saturday 10th March

    In Capitol E-H, Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol

    Coverage audio clip

  • Crowdsourcing Science

    by Adrien Treuille

    This session will talk about computer games than enable game players across the world to help solve scientific problems. Adrien co-created EteRNA and Foldit, computer games where users design and fold real biomolecules and, as a result, help reveal better ways for drugs to target diseases. He has modeled complex phenomena from fluid dynamics to crowd motion to macromolecules. Adrien received an NSF CAREER Award, was included in the MIT Technology Review Top 35 Innovators Under 35, had his work featured in The New York Times, and has published in Nature. His work brings crowdsourcing, games and advanced simulation techniques together to advance key areas of engineering and medicine. http://poptech.org/popcasts/adri...

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Saturday 10th March

    In Texas Ballroom 1-3, Hyatt Regency Austin

    Coverage audio clip

  • The Secret Lives of Links

    by Jared Spool

    Links are the molecular bonds of our web sites, holding all the pages together. They are the essence of a web site.  Yet, what do we really know about them? If you create great links, your users easily find everything they need on your site. If you do a poor job, your users will find your site impossible or frustrating. We never discuss what truly makes a good link good. Until now. Jared will show you the latest thinking behind the art and science of making great links. Join him for this entertaining and amusing look at the secret lives of our site's links.

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Saturday 10th March

    In Ballroom D, Austin Convention Center

Sunday 11th March 2012

  • The Science of Habits: Why We Do What We Do

    by Charles Duhigg

    Why do some people and companies seem to change easily, while others struggle for years? How do firms like Target, Apple and Proctor and Gamble anticipate (and manipulate) shoppers' habits? Why was the product Febreze a flop - until consumer psychologists figured out to target one specific cleaning habit, and it became a $1 billion hit? In the past decade, neurology, sociology and economic psychology have revolutionized our understanding of habits. Go into neurology laboratories where amnesiacs re-learn their most basic habits, and corporate boardrooms where shoppers' habits are turned on and off like flicking a switch. The author, Charles Duhigg, is an investigative reporter at the New York Times. His book on the science of habits will be Random House's major spring 2012 release.

    At 11:00am to 11:20am, Sunday 11th March

    In Ballroom G, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage audio clip

  • Computation and Its Impact on the Future

    by Stephen Wolfram

    Stephen Wolfram is a distinguished scientist and inventor who is most recently known for the launch of the computational knowledge engine Wolfram|Alpha. Along with the computational software system Mathematica, Wolfram|Alpha has put into action some concepts Wolfram has been developing throughout his remarkable career, most notably documented in his book A New Kind of Science (NKS).

    Wolfram uses his approach to tackle a remarkable array of fundamental problems in science and technology, and shows how computation offers a whole new way of looking at the operation of our universe. He believes that computation is the most important idea that has emerged in the past century and that it will have profound implications on our future.

    Each one of Wolfram's accomplishments is representative of his vision of computation. Stephen's life work is based on the idea that computation empowers the individual to discover facts and concepts that have never been explored before, with emerging platforms making computation more accessible than ever. His goal at SXSW is to inspire attendees to explore new corners of the computational universe.

    At 12:30pm to 1:30pm, Sunday 11th March

    In Ballroom D, Austin Convention Center

    Coverage sketch note

Monday 12th March 2012

  • Get Excited and Make Things with Science

    by Jeremy Keith, Ariel Waldman and Matt Bellis

    The relationship most adults have with science is one of observation: watching government agencies explore on behalf of us, but not actually exploring it ourselves. Science should be disruptively accessible – empowering people from a variety of different backgrounds to explore, participate in, and build new ways of interacting with and contributing to science. By having a fresh set of eyes from those who solve different types of problems, new concepts often emerge and go on to influence science in unexpected ways. A grassroots effort called Science Hack Day aims to bridge the gap between the science, technology and design industries. A Hack Day is a 48 hour all-night event that brings different people with good ideas together in the same physical space for a brief but intense period of collaboration, hacking, and building ‘cool stuff’. By collaborating on focused tasks during this short period, small groups of hackers are capable of producing remarkable results.

    At 12:30pm to 1:30pm, Monday 12th March

    In Citadel, Driskill Hotel

  • Beer & Bots: Reception with Dean Kamen & Maywa Denki

    This is a rare opportunity to meet two remarkable inventors with surprisingly common ground. Dean Kamen is the Founder of DEKA and FIRST. Perhaps best known for inventing the Segway, his devices, such as drug pumps, revolutionary wheelchairs and the robotic “Luke Arm” for amputees have touched and improved lives around the globe. Be inspired and learn about FIRST, a program that teaches kids of all ages the principles of math, science and physics via robotics competitions. Novmichi Tosa is President of Maywa Denki, a Japanese sensation that is one-part Toy Company, one-part musical performance art and one-part cultural icon. Maywa Denki’s unforgettable performances, viral videos, music, toys and “nonsense” instruments have taken Asia by storm. It also runs workshops that teach Japanese children how to make instruments out of dime-store items. Join us to discuss innovation, education and how you can engage to build a better world. Sponsored by IEEE.

    At 3:00pm to 4:30pm, Monday 12th March

    In Exhibit Hall 3/4, Austin Convention Center

  • How to Live Forever

    by Laura Deming

    It’s been decades since we first made an organism live longer. What have we done in the interim, and how does it affect you? Can we slow human aging? Covering everything from the secrets of the centenarians to hacked lungs and livers, this talk will illustrate how we plan to tweak genes and engineer tissues to extend the human healthspan. Laura Deming, Thiel Fellow with the 20under20 program, stopped out of college to start commercializing anti-aging research. Find out why the science is exciting enough to take the leap.

    At 3:45pm to 4:00pm, Monday 12th March

    In Room 10AB, Austin Convention Center

  • Bringing Back the Scientific Method

    If you look back at the history of human civilization, and the last 100 years in particular, you will see a history that is, for the most part, dominated and driven by science. The scientific method and its results have transformed humanity from superstitious tribesmen to gods that can control almost every aspect of themselves and the environment. Yet, beneath the glamorous technology that science has enabled lays a system that is outdated, inefficient, and broken. From the education of future scientists to the equipment needed to carry out basic research, the process of discovery and innovation is hampered by commercialization and inefficiency. The university, once a bastion of knowledge and exploration, is now nothing more than a toll booth. First, students must spend up to $200,000 (much of it with debt that follows them through bankruptcy) for the privilege of teaching themselves from outdated textbooks that cost thousands more. They then enter the modern laboratory, funded by organizations that value the quantity of research over quality and stocked by research equipment manufacturers that gouge their clients by pricing equipment five or ten times what they are worth. Here they start their journey of pumping out research articles, for which they don’t get paid, so that companies like Wiley and Elsevier can make 40% profit margins for simple file hosting. Professorship and tenure is their only respite, the so called white light at the end of the tunnel, yet if they take that path they will be relegated to spending the rest of their lives teaching and writing grants. If instead these scientists decide to enter the corporate world, they will most likely spend their lives trying to increase the efficiency of ammonia synthesis or engine output by 3% instead of curing cancer or building the next rocket that will fly to Mars. The rapid growth of scientific research and knowledge in the last century is unsustainable under the weight of all of these problems. In order to maintain humanity’s momentum and tackle the global problems that we face now and in the next 50 years, in order to save future generations from the problems we’ve created, we need to open science up to the masses, making it more democratic and efficient. This talk is about how citizens, without involvement from the government or private industries, can help solve science’s problems.

    At 5:15pm to 5:30pm, Monday 12th March

    In Room 10AB, Austin Convention Center

Tuesday 13th March 2012

  • The Science of Good Design: A Dangerous Idea

    by Ben McAllister

    The business world is increasingly enamored with design. Business leaders look to designers for guidance on everything from product innovation to corporate strategy. While designers and business people may bring different perspectives to the table, they share one common language: research.

    But research can be dangerous. It often provides easy answers that go unquestioned because the research feels like science. What if we’ve put too much trust in research? What about the aspects of design and product development that are important, but hard to measure? Where does research end and design judgment begin?

    In this talk, frog Associate Strategy Director Ben McAllister explores these questions and takes a hard look at the role of research in design. Drawing from not only design, but also economics and the philosophy of science, Ben confronts the conventional wisdom around design research, offering a new vision of how research can inspire creativity and guide decision making.

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Tuesday 13th March

    In Town Lake Ballroom, Radisson Hotel & Suites Austin-Town Lake

    Coverage slide deck

  • What Journalism Can Learn from Science

    by Matt Thompson and Gideon Lichfield

    The scientific method revolutionized the world of truth-seeking. Yet journalism - which, like science, seeks truth - is far less rigorous. We’ll walk through why this gap has led to record levels of distrust in journalism, and why journalism that’s replicable, trackable, and reviewable can help to restore that trust.

    To be clear, journalism isn't science. It's got tight deadlines and other limits on its ability to gather evidence, no peer review, and often, very little that resembles methodology. But online tools and new reporting techniques are enabling journalists to be much more scientific in their methods.

    From the rise of database journalism, which adds empirical rigor to narrative journalism’s fog of anecdotes, to the emergence of accountability projects that permit tracking and peer review over time, we’ll outline a system of news that can help us better discern the truth amid a rising onslaught of information. We’ll focus our session on identifying solutions and painting a vivid and inspiring picture of what journalism can become.

    At 12:30pm to 1:30pm, Tuesday 13th March

    In Capitol A-D, Sheraton Austin Hotel at the Capitol

  • The Ultimate Bruce Sterling Talk

    by Bruce Sterling

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Tuesday 13th March

    In Ballroom D, Austin Convention Center