Reflecting self

Self-portrait of Rosetta during Mars flybySelfies. Definitely notorious in the digital world. Who hasn’t wrinkled up their nose in disgust at a friend’s shameless self-promotion or puckered up a duck face for the camera?

Or maybe selfies power your voyage of exploration for personal acceptance, understanding and confidence.

Universally reviled, or defended as an act of self-expression. A moment of attention-grabbing vanity or an opportunity for reflection—what exactly is the deal?

Selfie history

The earliest selfie was recorded in days when point-and-click was more like click-run-stand very still. Today, due to digital cameras in general and the omnipresent smartphone in particular, more than one million self-portraits are taken and uploaded to social media every day.

Selfie fails

Analysts suggest that selfie-taking is narcissistic, that men posting selfies display signs of psychopathy and that all it really shows is that we haven’t moved on from self-obsessed toddlerhood.

Described as a marker of the YOLO generation, selfies provoke outrage and despair. It’s catchy to point the finger at

Cool science gifts for the cool science kids

Image of child in spacesuit helmet with Dolly the sheep reflected in the backgroundWith the arrival of a Talk Science to Me baby this summer, we’re looking ahead this festive season to nurturing the next generation of science fans with some cool gifts.

Crowdsourced from friends, like a lot of parenting advice these days, here’s our list for keeping the kids (and adults too) fully occupied over the festive season.

(Many) days out with science

First up, from a new mom, our associate editor Roma Ilnyckyj recommends a family membership to a science museum. In Vancouver, BC, we’re spoiled for choice with excellent kid-friendly institutions like Science World, which is filled to the brim with interactive exhibits, as well as the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, which connects us with the natural world, and the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre, to blast us off among the stars. Or you may live close to London’s Natural History Museum or the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, which both allow free

#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

Treasures: Stellar Nucleosynthesis

Most of the things in our “Treasures” series are living organisms. I think this is partly because lots of living organisms are easy to identify with: they exist on a scale similar to ours and are easy to categorize as discrete entities. Phenomena are a little harder to sell, for the most part. Stellar nucleosynthesis has had some help though, in the form of Carl Sagan’s wildly popular and surprisingly durable “star stuff” monologue. And it’s true: we’re literally made of atoms that came here from dying stars. Of course this is equally true of centipedes, norovirus and Rob Ford, so admittedly the magic relies on a bit of anthropocentrism.

But while the original is now nearly a quarter-century old, the basic process still holds more than enough wonder to power a brief voyage on the Ship of the Imagination™ (length of voyage largely determined by your choice of refreshments). The key, which is basically omitted from every version of the Sagan quote that I’ve heard, is that all the naturally occurring elements don’t just come from

The Chelyabinsk event

My friends and I all have vivid mental pictures of the Tunguska Event, probably because of Carl Sagan’s retelling of it in the original Cosmos series. Recently, another region of Russia—the Urals—was jolted awake by a similar, though smaller, event.

This one caused more casualties than any other strike on record. Reports are that close to 900 people in the city of Chelyabinsk were injured, though no deaths are being reported so far. Photo © alexeya CC attribution license. Retrieved from FlickrIn summary: an object from space entered our atmosphere at approximately Mach 33, exploded over a populated area, injured hundreds and did massive structural damage… and absolutely no one predicted it. Stuart Clark at the Guardian correctly understands this incident to signify a major issue in science communication: specifically, why basic research matters. Now, as the event begins to fade from the news cycle, it’s wise to keep the larger issues signified by it in mind.

As Clark puts it:

“There could be hundreds of thousands of these smaller asteroids waiting to be discovered. Were something of