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Archive for May, 2011

Carolina (Cemile) Avalos Interviewed by Henderson

Carolina Avalos, a local painter, talks with MASI about her re-emergence into the Chicago art-scene. A spiritual creative, her works seek to unearth the purest connections between us.

In the throes of creativity, the mind becomes trance-like and still.  Experiences and relationships converge to a razor-sharp focus clearing away distractions and leaving only the pure intent of the spirit.  Here, a brush-stroke connects common paths and colors signify mood and the passage of time.

Carolina Avalos’ mind has never been more still than when she is in the process of creating.  Whether painting, writing, or drawing, in this place where she is most calm, a busy mind can be disconnected, material desires can be cast-away, and purpose can be defined through deep spiritual practice which open doors to an observant spirit.  In the past two years, Carolina has been practicing this stillness of and searching for her artistic voice through the philosophy known as oneness.

Oneness defines everything in the universe as being connected; from the energies that cause the movements of galaxies to the winds carrying seeds across continents to the interpersonal experiences we share.  Inherent in the philosophy of oneness is the idea that all living things experience a “belonging and not a separation from” things within this existence.

Carolina’s art makes her viewers aware of this oneness and depicts a world free of a “separation anxiety” of the soul.  In the end, she is painting an existence that can be.

Only One by Carolina Avalos.

Q:  What is oneness?

A:  That connection to one another.  We all come from one source and that one source experiences itself through multiplicity, we are the multiplicity.  When you are able to look at the soul of a person, then you can experience that oneness.

Q:  Explain to me your practice of Qigong and how it helps you focus?

A:  It keeps me aware of my thoughts, where they are coming from and which ones come from my internal voice and which ones come from an external influence.  Two years ago, I couldn’t concentrate on one thing.  [Qigong] helps me to discipline my awareness of my body.  It is moving meditation [that helps me] focus internally on my body movement.  You have to experience everything that is going on in your body.

Q:  How has society become fragmented?

A:  [Because of our] ego, we see with our eyes and not our hearts.  We are more than this external form.  Our behavior is what makes us.  Everything you do, it affects somebody..

The Cycles by Carolina Avalos.

Q:  What is spirituality and is this something that we all share?

A:  It is, essentially, our soul.  We are part of that oneness that is that one pure light of energy, and that is how we connect to one another.  I believe that we are all born knowing our purpose for being in this world, but along our life’s journey distractions blur and almost erase that knowingness.

Sharing?  There’s tons of ways, acceptance of the individual, tolerance, looking beyond the societal conditions we’ve been raised in…  Art, communication with music, science, writing etc…

Q:  How do you observe?

A:  I observe through my art.  The knowledge I’ve gained is what I am sharing  about acceptance, tolerance, understanding, whatever it is that I am observing.

Q:  Why is it important to be mindful?

A:  You have to be conscious of what you do.  Being mindful keeps you from being irrational, in a negative sense.

Q:  How would you describe your art?

A:  I am a maker of things, I create things.  I’m not someone who just has something show from my own emotions.  I have an intention and a mission to accomplish [that includes raising issues in] tolerance, education, etc…

But, I don’t want to make art that shows you what you are already living.  I want to show you what you could be living, beyond that.

What type [of creator] am I?  Whatever someone who is looking at my creation thinks, I suppose.

I don’t do realistic pictures of people, but I can.  I want to stray away from specific identifications of certain things.  I don’t have a specific color of skin.  There’s no identity, [the figures] all kind of look the same.  They may look different in proportion.  I don’t want to show a division between any one of them.  Because we should look beyond that.  Everything is kind of abstracted.  I want my art to be accessible to everyone.

I don’t really categorize myself, but I would describe my art as a progression, one piece leads to the next.  Currently I am focusing on tightening up my skill level and technique so that I can speak to the viewer of oneness, tolerance, spirit, and energy… that we are not what we see but how we behave and  that there are limitless possibilities if you so choose to take them.

Q:  What is your artistic mission?

A:  To speak to the viewer, provoke open-mindedness, awareness, and curiosity and have the viewer come out of their box and explore their own conditioning.  I don’t want to inflict my views on others, I want people to use the Socratic method of questioning and see the world through their own light.

Q:  How are you different than you were two years ago?

A:  I’m more aware of myself and why I tended to do certain things in the past.  Now I can deal with situations with mindfulness and know my true intentions from random thoughts.

Extended Out To You by Carolina Avalos

Q:  What has changed about your art since leaving art education?

A:  I read a lot spend much time outside observing, writing, and exploring people’s behavior.  I meditate and realize that I’m not this outside person, I’m a soul.  So I concentrate on getting to know myself better.  Been doing that for the past two years.  You can say my art has grown with me and I am not attached to making art just about me.

Q:  What types of societal divisions are you exploring?

A:  Classicism, racism, prejudice.  The same ones that have existed for years and add to our own duality, or separation, within our soul.  [I want to show people that] there’s no limit to what you can do.  We’re not the carnal superficial being.  We’re more than that.

Q:  Why is art important?

A:  Because it it’s a tool we can communicate with and describe what is external and internal.  It is an internal expression of the external, or vice versa, to bring about change.  With positive intention can bring about awareness.

Q:  In the last two months, what have you seen or had an experience of that makes you think your are justified in how you see the world?

A:  Synchronicity .  My grandfathers passing and my sister’s pregnancy.  Everything happens for a reason.

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Post by Minna Krejci

As we blast through this information age, the ease and speed with which we can acquire, process, modify, and contribute to available information continues to accelerate.  Through blogs, wikis, and other social media entities, information becomes dynamic rather than static, creating a conversation.

Visualization of the various routes through a portion of the internet, as connections between IP addresses (via Wikipedia).

The creators of the website Science 2.0 envisioned the concept of Science 2.0 as collaboration, communication, participation and publication.  Science could be communicated directly from the source instead of filtered by various limitations (such as size, or the opinion of an editor).  Scientists and non-scientists could have the opportunity to write freely about science topics that they enjoy discussing and improve their writing and communication skills.

The idea of “open science” emerged as an important element of Science 2.0, where scientific research becomes more transparent, and research results are shared openly amongst scientific and non-scientific audiences.

The merits of this approach are fairly obvious — knowledge and information can drive progress.  But there are several hitches that may need to be addressed:

Information overload:

If all information is freely available, how do you know what’s relevant and what’s not?  How much time do you spend reading websites and articles that weren’t exactly what you were looking for, possibly being led farther and farther off track?  If you’re like me, this can be known as the “where on earth did 5 hours of my day just go?” syndrome — more popularly, this is the “rabbit hole risk” of information overload.

The “spigot risk” is that information is growing exponentially, while our reading and filtering abilities are not.

Particularly due to the spigot risk, we tend to rely on external forces to do our searching, collecting, and filtering of information for us (like google searches or possibly social networks).  How is this influencing what information we end up receiving?

Quality control: 

In terms of primary scientific research and publication, there is the possibility that allowing more people to publish more data more frequently may result in a general decrease in the quality of the work published.  Or at least a perceived decrease, if researchers are making unpolished documents like lab notebooks freely available.

Potentially more important is the fact that open access to scientific results is likely to correlate with greater media sensationalism.  If the results of a preliminary experiment point to a certain conclusion, then the release of this information before the results are verified might lead to unjustified hype.  (How many times has the discovery of the Higgs boson been reported?)  This argues for continued control over what results get leaked to the blogosphere and to journalists.

$$$:

If a research group spends five years and millions of dollars to find out that something doesn’t work, do they want to share that information with other groups?  Ideally, yes… but in the process, they may be saving time for their competitors and losing their own competitive advantage in the race for grant money.  It’s worth mentioning here the concept of open innovation, a sort of intermediate level of information-sharing that is increasing in popularity in the business world, where companies buy or license processes or inventions from other companies instead of developing everything in-house.

Open access to scientific journals seems to be something that scientists want when they’re reading papers but not when they’re publishing papers.  Some of this has to do with money.  No one wants to pay to read a paper; however, open access journals need to cover costs somehow, so they often ask authors to pay a fee to publish.  The result?  Authors don’t want to publish there.  (Another part of this is prestige: if you publish your work in an open-access journal like PLoS ONE that doesn’t judge papers based on perceived merit, does this mean that your work has less merit than that published elsewhere?)

I’m by no means trying to discourage the sharing of information — that would defeat the purpose of this blog!  I just wanted to point out a few of the most popular discussion topics I’ve seen regarding Science 2.0 and open science.

At least, these are the most popular discussion topics according to my google searches and trips down rabbit holes…

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Post by Henderson

We’ve got a busy week in store.  We’re talking about communicating science in a 2.0 world.  Heading over to the Adler Planetarium and checking out the Bailey-Salgado Project’s Sidereal Motion, and gearing up for NEIU’s S.T.E.A.M. conference this weekend.

Suffice it to say, we’re getting a fill of science communication.

Science communication, like many things, is coming into its own in a quickly changing world where technology and access to information reign.

So what’s in a name?

Well, communicating science in a 1.0 world is static.  Sure, the information is accessible.  It’s in your scholarly journals and books, it’s in the college classes and workshops.  But it’s a one-way street.  The information is there, but there is little to no interaction.  You’ll remember this scene from the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:

Communicating in a 2.0 world is more dynamic.  It’s social media, it’s blogging, interactive articles in your online newspapers, and the merging of information from different specialties.  It’s presented in a way that you, as the learner, want to see it.  And if you don’t like what you’re given, you interact.  Sometimes the information changes, sometimes it doesn’t.

But changing something, in itself, is not the point of communicating in a 2.0 world.  The point is to be more socially interactive and present subject matter in a way that different types of learners can “get it.”

Sidereal Motion – Trailer from Jose Francisco Salgado on Vimeo.

Sidereal Motion is a wonderful example of communicating science 2.0.  “The Bailey-Salgado Project is an audiovisual ensemble formed in 2010 by musician and composer Tom Bailey (Thompson Twins/Babble, International Observer) and Adler Planetarium astronomer and visual artist José Francisco Salgado. They combine music with photography, video, and motion graphics to create multimedia works that have as subject the physical world.

For me, this is a boon.  As a kid, I learned a lot through personal observations using photography.  The time lapse photography that Salgado uses to explain sometimes challenging celestial concepts is just what we’re talking about when communicating in a 2.0 world.

Another great example of how to communicate science is in this video narrated by none other than Neil Degrasse Tyson.  It beautifully blends the latest in computer graphics with the best science available (reminiscent of the beginning scene of the movie Contact).

Zooming out from Earth, the video takes you on a serene journey to what we know as the known universe.

More of this needs to be done.  And it doesn’t take a big production company to do it.

Know any novel ways to get across information in a 2.0 world?  Let us know!

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Post by Ruthanna Gordon

Humans have often speculated about the possibility of extraterrestrial life.  As our ability to detect conditions on other worlds has improved, we have both narrowed and expanded the set of possibilities for what’s out there.

In the early years of the twentieth century, many believed that intelligences not too different from our own existed within the solar system.  These hopes, and fears, have long since been laid to rest: Martian canals turn out to have been the product of an overenthusiastic imagination, and Venus harbors no dinosaurs.  However, recent research suggests that relatively primitive life forms may be more abundant than we thought.

Life on earth depends on a few basic requirements.  Carbon is needed as a building block for organic molecules.  And liquid water is its necessary complement.  Even in the most extreme conditions, terrestrial life flourishes wherever these two things can be found.  And they seem to be surprisingly common elsewhere.

One way to get liquid water is to have your planet orbit in the “Goldilocks Zone”—the temperate band not so far from a star that water freezes, and not so close that it boils.  But other factors can have the same effect.  Molten rock or radioactivity can melt ice.  The presence of salt or ammonia can prevent freezing, just as they do on a highway or in your car.  We’ve found evidence for liquid water in the clouds of Venus, in the asteroid belt, and on moons orbiting Jupiter and Saturn.  We may even have taken pictures of it on Mars.

The next step is a more direct search.  The Curiosity Rover is scheduled to land on Mars in 2012, where it will analyze the rocks for chemicals characteristic of life.

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New research shows that people prone to depression have less specific memories.  What else might our memories tell us about our personalities and predispositions?

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Post by Minna Krejci

100 years after Marie Curie won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her work with radioactivity, the world is still benefiting from her knowledge and wisdom — and that of “Zombie Marie Curie,” as depicted yesterday by the webcomic xkcd:

She does deliver a solid universal piece of advice here: “You become great by wanting to do something, and then doing it so hard that you become great in the process.”  Thanks, Zombie Marie Curie!

Ok, enough zombies – let’s look back at the real person.  She surely knew a thing or two about becoming great, as the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the only woman to win in two fields, and the first person to win or share two prizes.  She is credited with developing the theory of radioactivity (and coining the term), as well as techniques for isolating radioisotopes and the discovery of the elements polonium and radium.

Curie had been known to deliver a few one-liner gems herself back in her day.  When frustrated by endless attention from reporters who reported scandal every time she initiated a new relationship, she quipped, “In science we must be interested in things, not people.”  (I imagine that she was referring to the media, since she certainly had been interested in people and had been devastated by the sudden death of her husband and scientific collaborator Pierre.)

She delivered another zinger directed at members of the scientific community who insisted on being involved in quarrels and feuds: “There are sadistic scientists who hurry to hunt down errors instead of establishing the truth.”

The work of Madame Curie and her husband had a lasting impact across nearly all areas of science: it forced a reconsideration of the foundations of physics, provided sources of radioactivity (radium) for others such as Ernest Rutherford to go on and probe the structure of the atom, and presented a new way to attack cancer using radiation.  She managed to accomplish all of this while constantly facing barriers placed in her path for being a woman.  She also made the unusual decision to not patent her process for radium isolation, to allow other researchers to use this knowledge freely to progress their own research.

The International Year of Chemistry 2011 coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize awarded to Madame Marie Curie, providing an opportunity to celebrate the achievements of women in science in addition to generating worldwide enthusiasm about chemistry and its creative future.

Alan Alda is doing his part to spread this enthusiasm.  On June 1, at the opening of the World Science Festival in New York, an all-star cast (including such names as Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Allison Janney, Liev Schreiber, David Morse and Bill Camp) will read a new play written by Alda about Madame Curie.  Alda apparently loves the story of Marie Curie, which “is so important and dramatic, I wanted to explore it and write a play about it.”

The New York Public Library just finished an exhibit called Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie, A Tale of Love and FalloutThe exhibit focused on the story of Marie Curie and her husband as told by the artist and writer Lauren Redniss, who recently published a book of images and narrative nonfiction by the same name.  Redniss explored the use of cyanotype images to capture the essence of the Curie’s work:

“Cyanotype is a camera-less photographic technique. You expose chemically coated paper to the sun’s UV rays and the prints come out in shades of blue. The brighter the sunlight, the deeper the shade of blue–and the faster the print develops. I chose to make the book’s images as cyanotypes because I thought it added other layers of meaning: concentrated radium–one of the radioactive elements discovered by the Curies–glows a light blue color. In addition, Marie Curie described radium as having ‘spontaneous luminosity,’ and I think cyanotypes capture this feeling of internal glow. Finally, photographic imaging was critical to both the discovery of X-rays and of radioactivity, so it made sense to me that the book’s images would be made with a process based on the idea of exposure.” (via www.nypl.org)

Unfortunately, that blue-green glow that so fascinated Madame Curie led to her death from leukemia contracted from exposure to radiation — the health effects of radiation just weren’t known at the time.  Yet another important discovery given to us by Marie Curie (and a reminder by Zombie Marie Curie):

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Post by Henderson

With the narrow escape of a government shutdown, the death of Osama Bin Laden, and the news that giant ants once roamed Wyoming, stem cells may have seemed a little less-sexy of a topic.

On April 29, a three-member panel of the U. S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. ruled that the government can continue to fund embryonic stem cell research.

Mouse embryonic stem cells. Photograph courtesy of the National Science Foundation

The panel “ruled that opponents are not likely to succeed in their lawsuit to stop federal financing of stem cell research and overturned a district judge’s order that would have blocked the funding. The panel reversed an opinion issued last August by U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who said the research likely violates the law against federal funding of embryo destruction.

In other news, stem cell therapy may get a boost, however indirectly, with a new method created by University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers.

Disease in a dish, anyone?

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