#goodbyephilae #goodbyerosetta

Talk Science To Me staff are a bunch of hard-nosed, emotionless science communicators who check their feelings at the door each day to report the cold, hard facts…

Okay, strike that — as you know from previous blog posts, we’re passionate about science and unafraid of wearing our hearts on our sleeves. When little Philae crashed onto Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko almost two years ago, staff joined many others around the world in getting a little teary about its last tweet. As the lander, lost and off course, settled into what could have been a terminal nap, we were left with the image of the ever-present Rosetta orbiter circling a lump of icy rock in deep space, hovering expectantly for its little friend to wake up and communicate once more. Definitely Pixar-worthy!

And it’s happening again. This Friday, September 30, Rosetta’s mission managers at the European Space Agency (ESA) are set to crash the orbiter on a one-way trip to the comet’s surface in a final flurry of data collection. They are hoping that files from this terminal moment can be transmitted before impact and inevitable shutdown.

NEW EPISODE! Final chapter of

Science communication along the garden path

Starburst fountain by William Pye, Alnwick Castle Garden; photo credit, afmaxwellI’m a lapsed scientist, so it’s no great surprise that I find science at every turn. However, I was pleasantly surprised to realize on a recent trip to the United Kingdom that science communication is also all around us, even as part of something as innocuous as visiting a garden. Even though I could only gaze at Alnwick Castle in the distance, the castle garden was fully open, warmed by an unseasonal blaze of sunshine and backlit by glorious blue skies. I quickly realized that this wasn’t just a walk in a park; science communication popped right out from the shrubbery.

…okay, yes—it is difficult to switch off as a writer. There’s always inspiration for another story just around a corner, even on holiday.

photo credit: afmaxwell The Poison Garden

Alnwick Castle has had its Poison Garden since 2005, and with appropriate Home Office licensing, it contains enough herbaceous material to kill off

Halley’s comet, impending doom and communicating science

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHalley's_Comet_-_May_29_1910.jpgOn May 18, 1910, Halley’s comet made its closest recorded contact (0.15 astronomical units,* or approximately 23 million kilometres) with our planet, and the Earth passed through its tail. The event was full of scientific excitement and wonder, since photographic plates and spectroscopy were newly available to researchers. With these new tools, astronomers and the public got a better view of the comet itself and also a first inkling of what it contained.

Exciting times for science!

However, as the comet approached, the spectroscopy results revealed that among other gases, the comet’s tail showed strong band signatures for the toxic gas cyanogen. First synthesized in 1815, cyanogen is toxic, since it reduces rapidly to form cyanide and thus poisons the essential cytochrome c oxidase system to mess with mitochondrial function (not good).

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABayeux_Tapestry_scene32_Halley_comet.jpgAlthough many chose to report the existence of the gas in the

Around town, a.k.a. back to school

By User Ancheta Wis on en.wikipedia [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons One of the reasons for highlighting upcoming science conferences in Vancouver in my Around Town series is that it gives me a push to find out more on a subject I may have little exposure to. It’s also a great inspiration for a regular series of blog posts!

Last month, press releases ahead of one of these conferences, the 68th American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting, caught my eye. As is common in the promotion of meetings for large organizations, the preceding month saw a few press releases announcing some of the research coming to the Vancouver Convention Centre. The first reported a preliminary study on the effect of daylight saving time (DST) on incidence of ischemic stroke, and the second investigated engagement in various mentally stimulating activities in older age and the effect on development of thinking and memory problems.

When I blog about upcoming events, I

Bench to blog: Part 2

At Talk Science to Me, we receive requests throughout the year from people who are right at the beginning of a career shift from science to science writing. Although we don’t have entry-level positions available, we do have experience in making The Switch. In this two-part series (see part 1 here), Amanda, our science writer, gives some insight into why and how she made the move out from behind the bench.

Part 2: Practical tips for making the switch from science doing to science writing

7760446202_461b55101a_oSo, you want to switch from programming the PCR or mass spectrometer to creating content at the keyboard?  From doing the science to writing about it? Here are some helpful tips on how to make that transition.

Do you like writing?

Important question.

Do communicating and engaging give you a buzz? Does your heart sing when you realize that the audience understands the complex theory just presented? Do you baffle? Or can you leave an audience entertained, informed, enlightened and wanting to know more? Can you extract the story behind the science, refine it in the