My very lovely wife just wrote this to Scott Mann, our local MP.
I read it, nodded so much my head nearly fell off and asked her if I could post it on my blog. She said yes.
Dear Mr Mann,
It is a year ago that I contacted you about my concerns about UK military intervention in Syria. At the time there seemed to be no certainty across those who supported UK bombing in the House of Commons about what it would achieve. In your response to me you said that your reason for supporting military action was to “defend our country and our people” (against ISIL). You also said that “we cannot sit on our hands on this issue, and I believe we must extend action to defend our country and protect the long term security of the Syrian population”.
A year on and I see THE worst scenes of horror and human suffering that I have every witnessed in my whole life time. The security of the Syrian population is now so far beyond secure that I am unable to comprehend the level of suffering taking place in Aleppo.
It seems that the UK government were not prepared to sit on their hands a year ago, but have done so for the people of Aleppo. We are standing by while a city is massacred. People like me. People like you. Young. Old. Male. Female. Children. Babies.
I have just looked on your twitter timeline and see nothing about this humanitarian crisis. I have just looked on the PM’s twitter timeline and see nothing about this humanitarian crisis. Really? You have nothing to say about this?
The civilians in Aleppo are being left to the mercy of Assad and other civilians in other cities will also suffer too if we continue to do nothing. We must act now so that other civilians in cities in Syria are spared the fate of the people of Aleppo.
As someone who felt strongly enough to vote FOR military action in Syria last year I hope very much that you attended the emergency debate on Syria in Parliament yesterday. If you did not I hope you can find a way to be involved in future debates and action. We must be looking ahead and trying to prevent such atrocities continuing. Civilians in Syria need our help. UK MPs should be focusing on this, rather than standing by and saying nothing.
I want to register my utter despair with you about the situation in Syria. I urge you to support and push for any humanitarian support the UK government can provide. I urge you to represent the many members of your constituency who feel the despair that I do as they watch the news each evening.
I urge to think about the civilians of Syria and search for ways as a Member of Parliament that you can help them.
Over the years we’ve designed (and redesigned) touch tables of all shapes, sizes, and configurations (from touch coffee tables to drafting-style touch tables) but up until now we haven’t designed a model to work like a desk. Much of our focus has been on designing touch tables for public spaces like museums, schools, labs, retail, and other demanding environments. Our new desk prototype, tentatively named the Console, has an adjustable 55″ 4K Ultra HD LG commercial display with 3M touch technology. It is built, like all of our systems, out of aircraft-grade aluminum. What is pictured below is a custom configuration for a client building an amazing futuristic command center (more on that exciting project later). Notice we have custom shelving that attaches to the multitouch tables to create multi-unit work areas.
The Console touch table has a pneumatic lift system allowing it to work as a flat multitouch table or as a drafting-style table. The table’s legs route network and power cables from the display which includes a low-profile, but full-featured computer. The computer system, on the back of the display, includes a powerful Intel i7 quad-core processor, 16GB RAM, 512GB SSD hard drive, and a NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics card. The system can be upgraded to 32GB RAM, Dual 1TB SSD, and a NVIDIA GTX 1080 graphics card. The same top quality components will go into the Console as go into our other models. Power, ethernet, audio and video plugs are accessible in the lower legs of this new model.
As I mentioned, the model pictured here is part of a custom hardware project, but we are working on further developing the Console as a product within our multitouch table line with expected availability in March 2017. With our latest generation of displays having higher touch fidelity and improved resolution, a new generation of functional applications becomes practical. We have high hopes that the Console will meet the needs of clients looking to implement a variety of productivity, design, and communication applications in the coming years.
Our sales team is often asked, “Why should I buy your touch table? What makes your products different than those offered by others?” Beyond our great service and support, and the attention to detail in our design and assembly process, it is the quality of the components that we integrate and materials that we use in manufacturing that make our touch tables and touch walls better than our competitors.
We use the best available components and with our lean and nimble manufacturing methods we are able to integrate “what’s new” much faster than our competitors. Our line of 43”, 49”, 55”, and 65” touch tables and touch walls all use the following high-quality components:
3M Touch Technology – Well known for their highly accurate and reliable touch technology, Ideum has been integrating 3M touch technology for the last several years. Our entire line of integrated displays, from 43” to 65”, uses 3M’s “3rd Generation” projected-capacitive (pcap) touch technology. This non-optical touch technology is bezel-less and impervious to light interference. The 3M touch technology supports 80 simultaneous touch points. Ideum was the first company to offer 3M touch technology in 43”, 49”, and 65” display sizes. And we are the only company that offers object recognition through our proprietary Tangible Engine software.
LG Commercial 4K Ultra HD Displays – Early in 2016, we moved our entire line to 4K Ultra HD, well-before our competitors. All of our displays and touch tables from 43” to 86” use top-of-the-line LG commercial monitors. These displays are made with top-grade components and are designed for commercial applications. They provide brightness, clarity and a great visual experience along with superior reliability.
Intel i7 Quad-Core Processors – We’ve always used the latest in high-end Intel processors in our systems and we love having “Intel Inside.” All of our systems use Intel i7 Quad-Core processors. Along with a powerful processor, our systems come standard with 16GB ram (upgradeable to 32GB), and fast 512GB SSD hard drives (upgradeable to dual 1TB drives).
NVIDIA GTX Graphics – A full-sized, dedicated NVIDIA graphics card is in every system we sell. Our Platform, Drafting Table, Coffee Table, and the integrated low-profile Presenter computer box all come standard with an NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphic card (upgradeable to a GTX 1080). The Colossus 86” touch table comes standard with the GTX 1080.
Aircraft-Grade Aluminum Case & Chassis – Our displays and the chassis for our touch tables are all built out of high-quality aluminum, crafted here in the USA. While many of our competitors have plastics or other inferior materials, we build our systems for maximum durability. Our standard units come with a durable black powder-coat, but we can make them in virtually any color (and many different finishes).
It has been amazing to see how large scale touch technology has evolved since we built our first multitouch table back in 2008. We will continue to integrate the best quality components and seek out new and improved hardware for our systems. Many of our customers and partners have provided us with feedback about our touch tables and touch walls, so many of the improvements you’ve seen over the years have come from them. If you have suggestions or questions about our systems, please let us know.
Here is the preliminary programme for the workshop “Contemporary biomedical science and medical technology as a challenge to museums” (15th biannual meeting of the European Association of Museums for the History of Medical Sciences), to be held in Copenhagen, 16-18 September, 2010.
The mobile casino presentations below have been selected by the programme committee of themobilecasino.co.uk (Ken Arnold, Wellcome Collection, London; Robert Bud, Science Museum, London; Judy Chelnick, National Museum of American History, Washington DC; Mieneke te Hennepe, Boerhaave Museum, Leiden; and Thomas Söderqvist, Medical Museion, Copenhagen) in dialogue with the secretary of the EAMHMS (James Edmonson, Dittrick Museum, Cleveland).
Sniff Andersen Nexø (Dept of History, University of Copenhagen):
Suzanne Anker (School of Visual Arts , New York):
“Inside/Out: Historical Specimens through a 21st Century Lens”
Kerstin Hulter Åsberg (Dept of Neuroscience, Uppsala University):
“Uppsala Biomedical Center: A Mirror and a Museum of Modern Medical History”
Yin Chung Au (Planning and Coordination Centre for Developing Science Communication Industry, National Science Council, Taiwan):
“Seeing is communicating: Possible roles of med-art in communicating contemporary scientific process with the general public in digital age
Adam Bencard (Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen):
“The molecular body on display”
Caitlin Berrigan (independent artist):
“Improvising Glycoproteins: A case study in artistic virology”
Danny Birchall (Wellcome Collection, London):
“Medical London and the photography of everyday medicine”
Silvia Casini (Observa – Science in Society, Venice):
“Curating the Biomedical Archive-fever”
Judy M. Chelnick (Division of Medicine and Science, National Museum of American History):
“The Challenges of Collecting Contemporary Medical Science and Technology at the Smithsonian Institution”
Roger Cooter (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, UCL) and Claudia Stein (Dept of History, University of Warwick):’
“Visual Things and Universal Meanings: Aids Posters, the Politics of Globalization, and History”
Nina Czegledy (Senior Fellow, KMDI, University of Toronto):’
“At the Intersection of Art and Medicine”
John Durant (MIT Museum):
“Prospects for International Collaboration in Collecting Contemporary Science and Technology”
Joanna Ebenstein (The Observatory, New York):
“The Private, Curious, and Niche Collection: What They can Teach Us”
Jim Edmonson (Dittrick Museum, Case Western Reserve University):
“Collection plan for endoscopy, documenting the period 1996-2010”
Jim Garretts (Thackray Museum, Leeds):
“Bringing William Astbury into the 21st Century: the Thackray Museum and the Astbury Centre for Structural Molecular Biology in partnership”
Victoria Höög (Dept of Philosophy and History of Science, University of Lund):
“The Optic Invasion of the Body. Naturalism as an Interface between Epistemic Standards in Biomedical Images and the Medical Museums”
Karen Ingham (School of Research and Postgraduate Studies, Swansea Metropolitan University):
“Medicine, Materiality and Museology: collaborations between art, medicine and the museum space”
Ramunas Kondratas (independent scholar; formerly Division of Medicine and Science, National Museum of American History):
“The Use of New Media in Medical History Museums”
Lucy Lyons (Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen):
“What am I looking at?”
Robert Martensen (Office of History & Museum, NIH):
“Integrating the Physical and the Virtual in Exhibitions, Archives, and Historical Research at the National Institutes of Health”
Stella Mason (independent scholar):
“Contemporary Medicine in Museums: What do our visitors think of our efforts?”
René Mornex and Wendy Atkinson (Hospices Civils de Lyon, Université Claude Bernard Lyon1):
“A large health museum in Lyon”
Jan Eric Olsén (Dept of History of Ideas, University of Lund):
“The displaced clinic: healthcare gadgets for home use”
Kim Sawchuk (Dept of Communication Studies, Concordia University):
“Bio-tourism into museums, galleries, and science centres”
Thomas Schnalke (Berliner Medizinhistorisches Museum):
“Dissolving matters: the end of all medical museums’ games?”
Morten Skydsgaard (Steno Museum of the History of Science, Aarhus University):
“Boundaries of the Body and the Guest: Art as a facilitator in the exhibition The Incomplete Child”
Sébastien Soubiran (Jardin des Science, Université de Strasbourg):
“Which scientific world would we like to depict in a 21st century university museum?”
Yves Thomas (Polytech Nantes) and Catherine Cuenca (Université de Nantes and Musée des Arts et Métiers in Paris):
”Multimedia contributions to contemporary medical museology”
Maie Toomsalu (Medical Collections, University of Tartu):
“Visitor studies at the Medical Collections of University of Tartu”
Henrik Treimo (Norsk Teknisk Museum, Oslo):
”Invisible World: Visualising the invisible parts of the body”
Alex Tyrell (Science Museum, London):
“New voices: involving your audience in content creation”
Nurin Veis (Museum Victoria, Melbourne):
“How do we tell the story of the cochlear implant?”
Final titles will be announced after the revised/extended abstracts have been submitted by Monday, 2 August.
The workshop starts Thursday, 16 September at noon and ends Saturday, 18 September at 5 pm.
Sessions will be held at Medical Museion and in the Danish Museum of Art and Design. The two meeting venues are situated close to each other in central Copenhagen.
The format of the workshop is informal. In order to focus on discussion and intellectual exchange, each accepted abstract will get a maximum of 8 (eight) minutes for oral presentation, followed by a longer discussion. Extended abstracts (2-5 pages) will be distributed to all registered participants in late August.
The workshop is open to registered participants only. Due to space limitations, we have to impose a first register/first serve policy for attendance.
For details about registration, bank transfer, hotel bookings, special needs, etc., see http://www.mm.ku.dk/sker/eamhms.aspx.
The workshop is organized by Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen (www.mm.ku.dk; www.corporeality.net/museion).
Medical Museion is arranging a cross-disciplinary workshop on ‘Biomedicine and Aesthetics in a Museum Context’, Copenhagen, 30 August – 1 September, 2007.
The conjuncture of biomedicine and aesthetics is a rapidly growing field of artistic practice and academic reflection, dealing with an array of issues, from the public engagement with current biomedicine to methodological overlaps between the practices of artists and laboratory researchers. Museums are key institutions for this hybrid field of inquiry.
The aim of this closed workshop is to help forge new strategies of making sense of and presenting recent biomedicine in museums, especially taking into account the unique difficulties of rendering visible material biomedical practices in their social, cultural, political, aesthetic and scientific complexity.
The workshop will bring together key practitioners from a range of methodological approaches, including artists with a firm understanding of biomedical practice, museologists and material culture scholars, historians of science, art historians and aestheticians, biomedical practitioners with a knowledge of contemporary bioart, and visualisation specialists.
The workshop is limited to invited participants. Confirmed participants include: Ken Arnold (Wellcome Trust, London), David Edwards (Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University), Giovanni Frazzetto (BIOS, London School of Economics), Anke te Heesen (Museum of University of Tubingen), Wolfgang Knapp (Institut für Künst im Kontext, Universität der Künste in Berlin), Sharon MacDonald (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Manchester), Natasha S. Myers (MIT), Arthur Olson (Molecular Graphics Laboratory, Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla), Paolo Palladino (Dept of History, Lancaster University), Claire Pentecost (School of the Arts Institute Chicago), Paulo Periera (Institute for Biomedical Research in Light and Image, University of Coimbra), Ingeborg Reichle (Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities), Hans Jörg Rheinberger (Max Planck Institute für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin), Miriam van Rijsingen (University of Amsterdam), Calum Storrie (London), Herwig Turk (Lisbon), Stephen Wilson (Conceptual / Information Arts Program, San Francisco State University), Richard Wingate (Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, King’s College, London), and Susanne Bauer, Martha Fleming, Hanne Jessen, Camilla Mordhorst, Jan Eric Olsén, and Thomas Söderqvist (all Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen).
Organizing Committee: Martha Fleming, Jan Eric Olsén, and Thomas Söderqvist, all Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen.
Program Advisory Group: Ken Arnold (Wellcome Trust, London), Steve Kurtz (State University of New York, Buffalo), Ingeborg Reichle (Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Berlin), Miriam van Rijsingen (Centre for Art and Genomics, Universities of Amsterdam and Leiden), Hans-Jörg Rheinberger (Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin), Eugene Thacker (Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta), Richard Wingate (King’s College, London).
Couldn’t sleep last night. Giorgio Agamben‘s books use to be the perfect over-the-counter remedy against insomnia, so I began reading his latest collection of essays (Profanations, Zone Books, 2007) and was just about to fall asleep when my eyes fell on this line (on p. 83):
The museification of the world is today an accomplshed fact.
which made me wide-awake again. So here it goes:
The ‘Museum’ in Agamben’s vocabulary is not just a physical place (building) with collections and exhibitions, but “the separate dimension to which what was once — but is no longer — felt as true and decisive has moved” (p. 84). Agamben’s ‘Museum’ thus also includes the hundreds of properties on Unesco’s World Heritage List, national parks and other nature reserves (like Grand Canyon), protected ethnic groups, and so forth.
The ‘Museum’ pace Agamben is “the exhibition of an impossibility of using, of dwelling, of experiencing”, and as such it “occupies exactly the space and function once reserved for the Temple”. Once pilgrims travelled to sacred sites; today tourists “restlessly travel in a world that has been abstracted into a Museum”.
This contemporary mass pilgrimage involves a separation from the world of everyday practice:
the tourists celebrate on themselves a sacrificial act that consists in the anguishing experience of the destruction of all possible use,
Agamben says, and adds (p. 85) that “nothing is so astonishing” as the fact that the 650 million people who visit the ‘Museum’ each year
are able to carry out on their own flesh what is perhaps the most desparate experience that one can have: the irrevocable loss of all use, the absolute impossibility of profaning
Needless to say, Agamben’s analysis of the ‘Museum’ (including museums) is quite different from that of the museum and tourism industry. But this shouldn’t keep us from asking if Agamben is right in suggesting that “the profanation of the unprofanable is the political task of the coming generation” (p. 92)
And if this is the case, what are the implications for museum politics in general? And for Medical Museion in particular? And what would ‘profanation’ imply in the contemporary medical (history) museum field?
The post The museification of the world (reading Agamben’s Profanations) appeared first on Corporeality.net.
Mia Ridge, a database developer for the Museum of London, asks some interesting questions on her blog Open Objects about how museums and cultural heritage institutions relate to the ’participatory web’ (web 2.0, social networking sites, user-generated content etc).
Mia’s (perhaps not very unsurprising) impression from speaking with colleagues is that museums are pretty conservative in this respect. But also that there may be differences depending on what kind of institution we’re talking about. (Maybe art historians are more resistant than social historians?) She also wonders how the resistance to the participatory web is expressed. Is it active or passive? And a lot of other interesting questions: “At this point all I have is a lot of questions”.
Note that the resistance Mia has found doesn’t seem to be against the digitalisation of collections or web-presence as such, but specifically against the participatory web.
These are interesting observations, and I wonder: Can this resistance perhaps be understood in terms of an opposition among curators against a perceived profanation of the sacred character of the museum? In the same way as Wikipedia and other user-generated content websites have been viewed with skepticism from the side of many academics — not just because they may contain errors (which encyclopedia doesn’t?), but also because it is a preceived profanation of Academia. (For earlier posts about profanation of the museum as a sacred institution, see here and here.). Any ideas?
The post How can the resistance of museums to the participatory web be explained? appeared first on Corporeality.net.
Dutch designer Joep Van Lieshout’s website displays quite a few interesting works of interest for medical museum designers, like CasAnus (2007), a house which is (reasonably anatomically accurately) shaped like the human digestive system. It’s made to function as a small hotel, with bed- and bathroom. I thought it would be great to enter it through the inflated anus, but there seems to be a door behind the appendix.
Placed in our museum backyard, CasAnus would be a perfect B&B for our guest curators. Or maybe we could convince the Faculty of Health Sciences to purchase 10 different organ systems and put them together as a faculty hotel for guest researchers. (I doubt the National Hospital would like to use them for patient hotel, its probably too provoking for their core users.)
One of the most famous images from the dawn of the nuclear era is back in the news: it is no longer seven minutes to midnight, but five, according to the board of directors of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who announced that they were moving the hands of their famed "Doomsday Clock" closer to Armageddon. The "Doomsday Clock" first made its appearance on the cover of the Bulletin in June of 1947, a kind of visual shorthand that expressed the anxiety of many nuclear scientists about the arms race that had made the world a more dangerous place through scientific progress.
In the last 60 years the hands of the timepiece now have been moved back and forth a total of eighteen times -- the extremes of the timeline have been when the hands of the clock stood at two minutes to midnight in 1953, after the Soviet Union had followed the United States in successfully testing a new level of nuclear weaponry, the hydrogen bomb; at the other end, in 1991, the hands then slipped below the fatal last quarter, when they retreated to seventeen minutes to the final hour, due to the end of the Cold War and movement toward disarmament through the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.
It's always news when the Bulletin changes the clock's timing, but there was an additional news hook in this 2007 decision: the increasing threat to world survival was pegged as coming not only from nuclear events, but from such phenomena as global warming. As reported in the Chicago Tribune -- "Doomsday Clock to Start New Era" (Jeremy Manier, 1.17.07) --
. . . when the Chicago-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists unveils the first change to the Doomsday Clock in four years, the risk of a nuclear holocaust will be just one among many threats that nudge the position of the clock's portentous minute hand. The keepers of the clock have expanded its purview to include the threat of global warming, the genetic engineering of diseases and other "threats to global survival."
It may be a stretch to put nuclear weapons and climate change in the same category, but that's one way the organization is trying to keep its 60-year-old clock relevant at a time when bioterrorism and radical groups can threaten the largest nations.
Indeed, this novel aspect of the nuclear experts reaching beyond the mushroom cloud to anoint climate change as a comparable danger, was duly noted and clearly highlighted by most outlets, as in this Canadian Broadcasting Corporation news story ("The Doomsday Clock Advances Two Minutes" 1.17.07):
Add a new crop of countries dazzled by nuclear technology to other global threats such as climate change and environmental degradation and the result, according to the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, is almost toxic.
"We stand at the brink of a second nuclear age," the board said in a statement.
The move from seven to five minutes from midnight was decided upon after scientists reviewed the current nuclear situation in combination with expected climate change, marking the first time the Doomsday Clock has ever reflected a separate world threat in addition to the bomb.
Even if, as Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg remarked, "The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists' Doomsday Clock has to be one of the most successful magazine public relations gimmicks of all time, right up there with Time's Person of the Year and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue" (1.17.07), the roll-out of the 2007 model was newer, bigger, and better, apocalyptically-speaking. Even still-newsworthy icons need a brush-up, it seems, whether design-wise, or content-wise, to garner sufficient attention. An added kick was gained by bypassing the traditional site for Doomsday announcements: as noted by the Chicago Tribune, "in an added bid to influence policymakers and draw an international audience, the Bulletin is moving this year's announcement from its customary place in Chicago to a dual event held in London and Washington."
The bi-lateral press events did indeed seem to generate substantial coverage in the English language world, but even with all the "doomsday clock enters a new era" emphases, it seemed to me as if the stories would have fit relatively easily within the past world of a bygone time. Yes, the emphasis on climate science was new, but the key educational lesson seemed to fit comfortably within the venerable scientific organizational chart that places nuclear physics at the top, with what physicists have to say counting for more than the words of scientists from other disciplines -- there was a literal sense in which physicists were speaking for their other colleagues, graciously deigning to share their authority and the stage (metaphorically at least).
I found most fascinating the pictures of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking from the London event, where photographers sought to couple Hawking the icon with the Bulletin's icon. Climate science may have been the newsworthy angle, but physics as arbiter was definitely a controlling visual metaphor. The photo at the left is one version, with the clock floating above somewhat like a heavenly image of doom; at the right is a different take, which very nearly manages to juxtapose the two, tightly framing the machine-bound thinker and the message that we have but five minutes of future to go before time expires and our brief history along with it. The third photograph, which accompanied an online bbc news article ("Climate Resets the 'Doomsday Clock' " by Molly Bentley, 1.17.07) manages to get the shot that everyone must have been after, whether conscious of it or not: the physicist's face and the timepiece's face, melded together in a doubly powerful dose of symbolism, his head held at nearly the same angle of incidence (so to speak) as the minute hand as it closes the gap counting down to the zero hour, literally overshadowing the scientific mind in the foreground.
Rather like nuclear physicist announcements of decades past, men appeared to dominate the photographic spotlight, whether through pictures of Hawking from London or by pulling old file photos featuring a male hand on the clock (for example, to the left; from Alaska Report, using a Reuters file image). In Washington, Bulletin Executive Editor and political scientist Kennette Benedict was also part of the stage presence, along with Ambassador Thomas Pickering and physicist Lawrence Krauss. These pictures tended to feature her rather awkwardly, as with this one that peers at her off in the distance fussing with unveiling the new time, with the men looking on as she finishes with the stagecraft. It looks somewhat like every tedious office meeting with middle management that you've ever had to sit through as they fuss with the flow charts. It just doesn't have the same authoritative impact as the others, diffusing the visual warning that the end of the world is nigh.
But the black-and-white analog 1950s feel to this news event also stems from the endless reiteration of the "doomsday" theme. Now the idea of doomsday has a long lineage -- one of my favorite examinations of the cultural resonance of this theme is Daniel Wojcik's The End of the World as We Know It: Faith, Fatalism, and Apocalypse in America (which includes discussions of secular apocalyptic themes in the nuclear era as well), and of course the idea of doomsday stretches back millennia -- but in the years after World War II, the growing awareness of the unprecedented destructive power created through atomic science -- especially with the H-bomb -- gave the doomsday scenario a new grasp on life (so to speak). As Wojcik argues:
The concept of a meaningless apocalypse brought about by human or natural causes is a relatively recent phenomenon, differing dramatically from religious apocalyptic cosmologies. Instead of faith in a redemptive new realm to be established after the present world is annihilated, secular doomsday visions are usually characterized by a sense of pessimism, absurdity, and nihilism. (p. 97)
The Doomsday Clock was an apt image for scientists to reach for in a Doomsday world circa 1947 / 1953 in which scientists saw it as their responsibility to blast the populace (and the policy-makers) out of what they saw as a complacent response of willful ignorance in the face of daily emergency; to the extent that scientists still address the public in such stark and urgent terms when informing them of scientific opinion on matters such as nuclear proliferation or global warming, then the Doomsday Clock certainly remains a relevant symbol. But if the Doomsday Clock is an accurate visual shorthand for the longer, more complex scientific arguments that undergird it, this does not necessarily mean it is (or was?) an effective communication device, in terms, at least, of engaging the public in a meaningful discussion of risk assessment, scientific expertise, political realities, and democratic decision-making.
A few years back I opened a discussion with the students in my history of modern science course about the continuing relevance of nuclear issues as a political matter by taking them through the timeline of the Doomsday Clock, and asking them to draw a picture of their own clock, and then write about what they thought the time should be and why. I was surprised to learn that many students resented what they saw as the manipulative nature of physicists choosing the last 15 minutes before midnight as their starting point. Many of them argued for placing the hands at 9:00 or 10:00 or 11:00 -- not because they were insisting that nuclear weapons were of little importance, but because they believed that their own starting points placed more faith in the power of human beings to maneuver within difficult straits. It might still be night, but we had been pushing back against the darkness and we were not at the last gasps before a total loss of control, of options, of hope. They were looking to be empowered, not diminished, as a motivation toward action.
In the eyes of the Bulletin scientists, no doubt my students would seem naive in rejecting the "minutes to midnight" framework. The Bulletin has an incredible amount of international political experience at their fingertips and intellectual mindpower at their disposal -- as the Bulletin's press release notes, the decision of the "BAS Board of Directors was made in consultation with the Bulletin’s Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel Laureates." It is true that there were no Nobel Laureates on my class roll that year. But I believe that these students were articulating an important reality, one that places the thinking of their generation at odds with the cold war mechanics out of which the "Doomsday Clock" is constructed, and where the "two cultures" norm holds sway [the expression itself a cold war era contribution by C.P. Snow]: brilliant scientific minds needing to get the attention of inattentive or lesser minds (such as those with a shaky grasp of the second law of thermodynamics as Snow suggested) by prophesying immediate doom. In a recent article, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists called their symbol "The People's Clock." After listening to my students, I don't think I would agree.
In his book Mad, Bad and Dangerous? The Scientist and the Cinema, author Christopher Frayling contends that:
Up until quite recently, real-life senior scientists have tended to present themselves like bewigged judges in court -- remote, out of touch, unconsultative, much given to pontificating and immune from criticism. And senior scientists have wondered why the public does not follow them every step of the way! Now there is much more consultation and much more emphasis on communications skills, but these tend to be confined to set-piece platforms or media debates in which the rhetoric of horror films -- on both sides -- takes over from serious discussion. 'Seeing into the mind of God' or 'destroying the planet' or 'my statistics are better than your statistics' or dismissive comments about lay people in the name of public understanding of science, tend to be the resulting headlines. (p. 226)
It is easier to re-animate old patterns of discourse, rather than to try, in a later phrase of Frayling's, to "break the flow" and find new forms of engagement. But if the public is truly to be a partner in a scientific conversation about pressing issues, then new strategies of discursive detente need to be deployed. In fact it may be time -- it may be past time -- to do so.
For more: The Jan/Feb 2007 issue of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has a very nice two-page layout on the history of the clock (even if I take exception with the title of the article), including a reminiscence from the artist, Martyl, who first created the image. There's an interesting historical artifact from Time Magazine online: a 1964 article entitled "Turning Back the Clock," which states that since "now there is less concern about Armageddon and less shock value to the power of the atom, the clock is ticking mostly for the Bulletin. Its funds low, the magazine is once more passing the hat." And speaking of whether or not the clock is outdated, Dood Abides at Unconfirmed Sources plays with the file photo of the Doomsday Clock to present, a new, shiny digital version for the 21st century :-) For more of Stephen Hawking's dire pronouncements about the fate of the human race, see "Prophet of Doomsday: Stephen Hawking, Eco-Warrior" by Geoffrey Lean in the Independent, 1.27.07. For an interesting undergraduate conversation by students from different majors about the "two cultures" idea, see this panel discussion, "The Two Cultures: Students Speak their Minds," from the University of Colorado.
Images: The very first image is from the homepage of the Bulletin, at http://www.thebulletin.org/; the original 1947 cover is from the Los Alamos National Laboratory Research Library, online at http://library.lanl.gov/libinfo/news/images/BulletinAS-cover.jpg. The first Hawking image is from the Telegraph ("Hawking: Doomsday Clock Closer to Midnight" 1.18.07) at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/01/17/nclock117.xml; the second Hawking image is from the CBC article at http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/nuclearweapons/doomsday-clock.html; and the third image from the BBC is at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/6270871.stm. The file photo shown on the Alaska Report is at http://www.alaskareport.com/reu77351.htm while the trio photo from the DC press conference was carried on an msnbc.com article "Doomsday Clock Moves Closer to Midnight" http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16670369/.
From Melissa and Twitter a great visualization of London Lives on the Line. It shows life expectancy and poverty by the tube stops of London. It shows the rhetorical power of visualization to connect data to our lives.
Gartner has an interesting Hype Cycle Research methodology that is based on a visualization.
When new technologies make bold promises, how do you discern the hype from what’s commercially viable? And when will such claims pay off, if at all? Gartner Hype Cycles provide a graphic representation of the maturity and adoption of technologies and applications, and how they are potentially relevant to solving real business problems and exploiting new opportunities.
The method assumes a cycle that new technologies take from:
Here is an example from the Wikipedia: