It’s been a bit quiet around these parts since I posted on the Haiti earthquake. Those of you following me on Twitter know that at that point I was actually spending a few days exploring New York: its parks, its almost stupidly tall buildings, and its rather nifty natural history museum.
Central Park, in which I was a lone stroller in a sea of joggers.
From the Empire State Building, the rest of Manhattan looks like a model village.
Very cool rocks on display at the American Museum of Natural History: samples of the 4 billion year-old Acasta Gneiss (oldest known bit of Earth’s crust) and Jack Hills Conglomerate (contains oldest known, 4.4 billion year-old zircon crystals).
A fair amount of artistic license has gone into this particular fossil exhibit…
After that, I headed onwards to North Carolina. The chief purpose of my US visit was to attend the ScienceOnline 2010 conference, of course, but it was also a chance to catch up in person with my talented hydro-coblogger Anne Jefferson, who hails from Charlotte. I spent Friday in her department (probably totally confusing her hydrologist and geographer colleagues with a talk about the wonders of palaeomagnetism), before she drove me over to Raleigh-Durham and Sigma Xi for the conference itself.
Last year, I indulged in some conference blogging; this year Twitter served as my primary means of online note-taking. Whatever the wider value of conference tweeting, I find that two or three 140 character points from a session is enough to distil the major points, without distracting me too much from events at the podium. I also had my own Sunday morning session discussing geospatial data and other geoscience web applications to prepare for, although I fully confess that my co-convenor Jacqueline Floyd was more responsible for the coherence and value of the session than I was (and I must also give a special shout out to Cameron, Christina and the other participants for what turned out to be a good discussion in the unconferenced part of the session).
I had a good time at the conference: I especially enjoyed the sessions on promoting diversity in science (which Anne expertly helmed, and drew upon the very interesting results of the woman geoscientists and blogs survey), rebooting science journalism, reporting from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and Web Science (study of the web, rather than with the web). It was also nice to share a room, and great conversations, with so many online friends and colleagues: Ed, Arikia, Janet, Zuska, Brian (whose promise to send me a copy of his book I will remember!), Scicurious, Pal, KevinZ, Miriam, Bora (of course), and many, many others. However, in the aftermath Anne and I both mused over the fact that just as the boundary between new and old media (or bloggers and journalists) becomes ever more blurry, so this conference has become less of a blogger meet-up and more of a media conference, with the requisite evolution in feel and focus. I’m not passing judgement on this, although part of me (with my little niche geology blog) feels a bit left behind by this mainstreaming of the online science community. Nonetheless, this will not stop me doing my best to return next year.
The end of the conference did not mark the end of my time in North Carolina, as I persuaded Anne to spend her Martin Luther King Day on a little field trip into the foothills of the Appalachians. Fortunately our chosen destination, Caesar’s Head State Park, was well furnished with both rocks (a granitic gneiss, if you must know) to divert me, and waterfalls to appease her. Also, as the park is perched on the edge of the Blue Ridge escarpment, there were some rather fabulous views for us both to enjoy, particularly as our excursion coincided with a fabulous mini-warm spell.
Raven Cliff Falls
The view from Caesar’s Head
Sadly, my fun could not last, and by Wednesday I was back in a somewhat less sunny UK. But at least this means that some more posts may appear in the not to distant future.