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

Lost in space #philae

My #lifeonacomet has just begun @ESA_Rosetta. I’ll tell you more about my new home, comet #67P soon… zzzzz #CometLanding

— Philae Lander (@Philae2014) November 15, 2014

So how did you feel when Philae sent its last tweet?

Here at Talk Science To Me, we deal with science communications day in, day out—editing, writing, designing, summarizing the news, marketing, and on and on…all while keeping a professional and critical eye on what’s happening in the #scicomms* world beyond the keyboard.

Professional and critical, that is, until the most recent event to capture our attention: the European Space Agency’s Philae lander alighting on the comet 67P. We were riveted, from first release to eventual touchdown and beyond.

Bearing a bilingual inscription, the Philae Obelisk was used alongside the Rosetta Stone to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphs. (C) Eugene Birchall, 2010 (CC-BY-SA-2.0).Unfortunately, problems with the landing (a lot of bouncing) meant that Philae landed where the sun hardly shines. Unable to recharge its batteries, the

NASA launches MAVEN, there is much rejoicing

We’re talking about water on Mars! Again! I think even hardcore Mars nuts might be getting tired of this, which is kind of a shame because it is really interesting. With varying caveats, we’ve known for a long time that Mars had water. More recently we got confirmation that it still does. But a lot of that water is still unaccounted for. The geology tells us that there were vast bodies of water at one time; NASA is interested in finding out where that water is now. To that end, they shot another amazing piece of engineering, MAVEN, into space yesterday—but with much less fanfare than the Curiosity launch.

MAVEN's magnetometer. Admittedly not as cute as Curiosity's camera. Image by NASA (Public Domain)

I think part of the difference has to do with timing. Curiosity is still pretty fresh, so MAVEN is not quite as novel. Another issue might be that MAVEN hasn’t really been sold as technology porn, at least not with the same budget. Much of the fervor I saw

Extreme citizen science at PPSR2012

I’m at the Ecological Society of America’s annual meeting (Twitter hashtag #ESA2012) all week, in Portland, Oregon, USA, hearing lots of amazing stories and getting incredibly excited about science (and scientists). I want to share my favourite thing so far, from the pre-conference meeting on public participation in scientific research (a.k.a. citizen science, #PPSR2012). It’s a way to charge a smart phone in the middle of the jungle using a cookpot over a fire.

Hatsuden Nabe

The story here comes from Muki Haklay, professor of geographical information science at University College London, where he directs the Extreme Citizen Science group. These guys are doing all kinds of way cool things to get people who are normally shut out of science—poor people, illiterate people, people in remote areas—involved in scientific research. Haklay began his talk by asking, “Imagine if anyone could take part in scientific research, regardless of literacy or education.”

The photo is from Cameroon, where local communities have been using Android phones (with a specially designed pictographic app) to collect data on illegal logging and poaching. The problem? How to charge those