Day 2: What’s your name?

The Day 2 Zero to Hero assignment is to edit your title and tagline, and flesh them out more in a widget.

Technically, the widget part of the assignment was easy. one or two sentences describing “What’s this blog about?” was a lot more difficult, and I don’t think I’m there quite yet.

I’m happy with the ‘dilettante’ title and “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” tagline.

A long time a go I was called a dilettante. I didn’t know what it meant then, so I had to ask and I also looked it up later. I was called a dilettante, because they recognised that I was interested in absolutely everything, but once I figured it out, that is, the why and how, I moved my attention to the next curiosity. Fortunately or unfortunately, I also value finishing anything I have started, so any important projects are completed. I say unfortunately, because in hindsight, some projects I should have moved on from without completion.

The quote in the tagline was in someone’s email sig at the time, and I liked it. Doing some searching, it can either be attributed to Ellen Parr or Dorothy Parker.

Impatient maybe, but never bored, and insatiably curious.

Looking up ‘dilettante’ in the dictionary then (or Google now), I saw that it could be used derogatorily. But when I was called a dilettante I know that is was meant as a compliment as in the early use of the word, and that is the spirit in which I named this blog.

adj. n.

1. a person who takes up an art, activity, or subject merely for amusement, esp. in a desultory or superficial way; dabbler.

2. a lover of an art or science.

From Italian dilettante, prop. present participle of dilettare (“to delight”), from Latin dēlectāre (“to delight”).

So, my blog is about wherever my curiosity takes me.


healthy comparisons

I was fortunate to be able to participate in the CSIRO Online Diet Study and have access to many of the resources available from the CSIRO Total Wellbeing Diet (TWD). I say fortunate, because after the completion of the study, participants including myself now have continued access to these resources until June 2011.

I chose to participate as I was already a waning member of SparkPeople. I wondered if the CSIRO Online Diet Study would compare favourably with SparkPeople with the extra benefit of including more local (as in Australian) content.

Although the CSIRO Online Diet Study had the usual hiccups of a new website and the user experience is rather awkward, I do prefer the unadorned simple tools. SparkPeople is a very rich or complicated web site, with many tools and resources that sometimes become overwhelming.

I’m sure the study will show that participation online achieves better results in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. But how much, how little, or what, I think will be difficult to interpret. It appears, that if you participate, you continue to progress. Whether this is eating healthily, exercising regularly, or writing a blog post.

Participation and interacting with others that share similar goals I think is one part of the answer, and being able to do it online too is an added bonus.


Yes, I have a supply of clean fresh water. However, water is becoming more scarce and is limited so I don’t feel I can wholly claim “Not In My Back Yard”.

Currently, I rely on a state government authority to deliver clean fresh water. Water is plentiful for drinking, bathing, flushing toilets, washing clothes, etc. However, I can only water my garden once per week with automatic sprinklers and supplement this with hand-watering using a hose pipe.

It is only the middle of October, but already the garden is suffering from subsequent dry warm days. I’m not sure whether watering with a hose pipe is going to be enough for the garden during the hot summer days. It is going to be difficult to prioritise my time to spend an hour every day to water different parts of the garden.

What I feel is really crazy, to me anyway, is that people can top up their swimming pools, but I can’t leave the hose pipe running on a fruit tree or turn on the automatic sprinklers. I guess if my lime tree dies, I can always go to the shop and buy a lime. But I would prefer not to buy the wax coated limes that have travelled thousands of kilometres.

If I could hear lots of splashing from people enjoying their swimming pools, then I may feel differently about it. Sadly, I think most of them are simply contemplation pools that require lots of top ups with water, chemicals, and power for the pumps.

I recognise that I have choices, some of them lifestyle choices. Unlike some parts of the world where the walk to a supply of clean fresh water is a long one. I don’t have to grow my own food, as there are many fresh food choices in shops very close to my home. And it is sheer joy to be able to pluck the ingredients from my own garden to create our meals.

A greywater reuse system seems the way to go. However, most systems are not suited to a small metropolitan block or the guidelines preclude any real advantage such that I feel that I am paying for an expensive hobby rather than working toward an environmental sustainable living. But I guess everyone has to have a hobby.

inside out

Aesthetic Crossovers in Art and Science (VISA2214) allowed me to explore not only the art and science crossovers in the life sciences, but introduced me to a new way of seeing and interpretation by artists and scientists.

One of the assignments was to produce a prototype. As I was still considering the question ‘what is art?’ it took some time to decide on an approach that I perceived as suitable to complete the work. However, the prototype gave me an excuse to review the histology slides from my Medical Technology degree which was an added bonus.

From the many slides, I selected two views and prepared some digital images.

I did not wish to create a temporary piece, so settled on making a paper mache object. My idea was formed from remembering that a long time ago, anatomical models were made from paper mache.

During the lectures and tutorial sessions I learnt that ‘things’ can be be classified into non-human animals and human animals. I decided to create a cat as I thought I could observe my own pets and use the photographs to realise the 3D object. Also, I liked the idea that I was superimposing human animal cells on a non-human animal.

Having not made paper mache before, I found some resources on the internet to provide some guidance. I found the initial making of the shape or form somewhat frustrating, but the layering of the paper mache over some weeks was time pleasantly spent. Time really did slip by as I got absorbed in the project.

paper mache cat (liver cells, naphol green)

Green Cat (liver cells stained with naphol green)

Red Cat (lung cells stained with H & E)

Red Cat (lung cells stained with H & E)

The final part of the assignment was to give a presentation. I took my prototypes in our cat cage covered in cloth. It was quite fun to see my classmates looking into the cage to see if my biological art was alive. My presentation probably does not stand alone, but it is included here as part of the documentation for my project.

Green Cat and Red Cat are not yet completed. I have been asked to consider giving them a face. I’m still thinking on this.

science and poverty

Last week I attended a talk by Prof Peter Quinn titled ‘An overview of modern astronomy and our quest to find the dawn of creation’. It was great to see Peter in action having listened to him on my computer for several weeks during the creation of a storyboard for a video. Face to a voice and all that.

Although I was by now familiar with the content, the questions from the audience (secondary school science teachers) were the most interesting. Peter finished his talk with information about the Square Kilometre Array (SKA). Being that there is much interest in the project as Australia has been shortlisted as one of the two sites identified as potential locations for the SKA.

The question that I have thought the most about was comparing the number of dollars to be spent on science versus that on solving world poverty. The teacher that posed the question asked how do we resolve the amount of money spent on the SKA when $X can address poverty. He also recounted that at another event he attended an audience member had symbolically shown a bowl of rice to question the cost of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Peter I thought effectively addressed the question, but there is still no answer. In Australia 1.5% of GDP is spent on science. That’s every little bit of science research you can think of including the SKA. Globally, the average spent on science is 2.0% of GDP.

So I think the question of solving world poverty would be better addressed to the people that handle 98% of GDP given that a piece of a larger pie is that much greater. Also, I don’t think you can skimp on science to solve world poverty, and 1.5% of GDP is already too little for science.

a day for everything


Open Access journals and archives assist me greatly in my research for work, study and various interests. Peer reviewed scientific articles freely accessible online are available to everyone with an internet connection.

I am fortunate that as an enrolled student that I have access to much scientific literature through the university subscriptions, and many are available online either on campus or through a proxy server from my place of study.

However, Open Access journals are preferred and often found first as I am able to search open archives and repositories without needing to go through various proxies and gateways. The huge benefit is that I am able to share my research with others and link to appropriate articles online.

Publications held in databases such as ScienceDirect and Web of Science, I can only share with others that have access through academic and professional libraries. Whereas publications in Public Library of Science or. BioMed Central (BMC) or any of the others listed in the Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) are accessible by everyone.

For more information about Open Access, see Peter Suber’s A Very Brief Introduction to Open Access, the Open Access Day web site, and browse journals in the Directory of Open Access Journals.

Happy Open Access Day.

deciding on a research topic

First week of uni and keen to get stuck into the Science Communication – Specialist Research Topics (COMM7402) unit. I’m looking forward to lots of juicy reading of science communication literature in a particular research field. And there comes the crunch.

The prospect of researching the scientific literature, presenting a seminar and writing a literature review does not phase me, but deciding on a topic in which I’m interested that is well documented in peer-reviewed journals seems to be the most difficult.

At the moment I’m attempting to narrow my interests by revisiting some ideas and thoughts that others have expressed online with regard to science communication, how science and technology is communicated, and by whom:

  • Science blogger v. blogging scientist, Clastic Detritus blog
  • The subtitle to FemaleScienceProfessor blog reads: “Women professors in the physical sciences: a few. Women professors in the physical sciences at research universities: even fewer. Women full professors in physical sciences at research universities, especially mine: infinitesimal. But we exist..”
  • The comments that follow the An Early Look at The Future of Science Journalism post that consider science article publishers and where the readers are.
  • Using a self reflective journal to enhance science communication showed that “The use of self-evaluation through reflective journals was found to enhance the effectiveness of tutoring. Implications for developing the ‘human side’ of science will be discussed, and the appropriateness of the course to develop these often under-represented aspects of science.” Is this a style that scientists and researchers can apply when blogging?
  • In Tim Dunlop’s article, If you build it they will come: Blogging and the new citizenship” exploring the idea whether bloggers are the new public intellectuals.
  • Google to Host Terabytes of Open-Source Science Data
  • An increasing number of articles being published in open access journals and repositories, and some organisations mandating open access publication.
  • Research Blogging, a blog that shares and discusses peer-reviewed articles.
  • Thanks to YouTube, Professors Are Finding New Audiences
  • Science in Second Life, for example SciLands to assist in the public understanding of science.
  • National Library of Medicine providing guidelines to cite a blog.
  • Russell Jacoby on Counterpoint, ABC (18 Feb 2008) and his article in the Chronicle Review, Big Brains, Small Impact. Refers to blogs as “private journals with megaphones” and concerned with why public intellectuals are disappearing.

    “Professionalization and academization appeared to be the reason. Younger intellectuals were retreating into specialized and cloistered environments.”


    “The new thinkers became academic — not public — intellectuals, with little purchase outside professional circles. While a book by Edmund Wilson could be read with pleasure by an educated citizen, a volume by an academic luminary such as Homi K. Bhabha or Fredric Jameson would give him or her a headache.”

  • Publishing in peer-reviewed papers in recognised journals is stated as the ‘gold standard’ if scientists and researchers wish to succeed as an academic. Little credence is given to writing on the web, yet as one PhD candidate said, she would not have found another researcher in her very specialised field if she had not blogged about her research.
  • Scientists that communicate science well for it to even become popular, have their science questioned, for example, Susan Greenfield who has a well established reputation for public communication.