May 06, 2009

Which Designs Should We Take to the Maker Faire?

Help us decide which of these designs to print as temporary tattoos. We'll be taking the top designs to the Maker Faire.

Which is your favorite? Which are your kids favorites? Help us decide.

Tell us what you think on our facebook page

March 20, 2009

Gearing Up For The Maker Faire 2009!

It's official! GalaxyGoo is taking The Cell Project to the Maker Faire again! We got our acceptance notice today.

So, now the planning and preparations begin! We had so much fun last year!

Would like to get involved? If so, please contact me at galaxygoo -at- gmail -dot- com, with "GalaxyGoo Cell Project" in the subject line. We're getting ready to move to a new web hosting company, so please use our gmail account until we're all settled into the new server.

Some of the things we need help with:

  • Volunteers to help set up and take down the booth
  • Volunteers to help staff the booth and help with the activity. We were very busy last year, and had a hard time keeping up with all the visitors to our booth.
  • photography during the event
  • Have you done the activity yourself? Take pictures of your cells and share your photos with us on flickr.
  • Donations are always welcome
  • Give the Cell Project to a teacher or a whole classroom!
  • Got an idea? Tell us about it!

February 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Darwin!

Tomorrow, February 12th, is Darwin's Birthday! In fact, it's the 200th anniversary of his birth.

My husband and I are going to our daughter's class to talk about Darwin and evolution. What are you doing to celebrate?

August 17, 2008

What does a stroke feel like?

Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. It's incredible. And while you're there, check out the other content on, it's a really cool site.

"Jill Bolte Taylor got a research opportunity few brain scientists would wish for: She had a massive stroke, and watched as her brain functions -- motion, speech, self-awareness –- shut down one by one. An astonishing story."

February 25, 2008

GalaxyGoo goes to The Maker Faire

That's right, GalaxyGoo's Cell Project was accepted to the Maker Faire! WooHooo! We just got official notice.

See me at Maker Faire!

February 19, 2008

Along for the Ride, with Neil de Grasse Tyson

Here in San Francisco, Neil deGrasse Tyson was "interviewed" at the Herbst Theatre tonight. I just got back from the theatre, and I'm completely jazzed! The man is a major inspiration to me, and an incomparable science communicator.

Some highlights:

--Sound Bites...after his first and unfortunate experience with news media, he studied and conquered the sound bite. And yes, he has conquered it! If you ask me, all scientists should learn this skill. It's as important as writing a good abstract, which is really an academic sound bite. I'm guessing that better public communication of current science would lead to more funding for science research.

--How to raise science literate children ...don't get in the way. During the evening he mentioned a book he's planning to write; on raising science literate children. Yeah! That would be fantastic! He talked about how, as parents, we need to stop interfering with our children's curiosity and intuitive experimentation. When the toddler bangs on the pots and pans, they're studying sound.

--Funding the Hubble ...the Hubble telescope recently was funded for repairs, not because of scientists but because the American people rallied for it. So many of us have images from the Hubble telescope, we love them. We want more. Tyson used this story to show how powerful a people can be, to make sure that science is funded.

--On a depressing note, he talked about the recently de-funded super conductive super collider (not sure if I got that name right). The project was shut down because it's value wasn't appreciated by congress. It wasn't directly related to national, the US is no longer leading particle physics. As a side note, we really don't need to worry about a project like this creating a black whole that will destroy the earth.

-- John Stewart and Stephen Colbert ... he described his experiences on these shows as challenging, and unpredictable. But he keeps going back. I think this reflects well on Dr. Tyson.

--Apophis -- scary, but manageable. We just have to approach the problem thoughtfully. There are very smart people doing this, let's just be sure we don't let the "shoot it out of the sky" folks take charge of the problem. Cool phrase: gravitational tether. And warning: don't let Dr Tyson near the batteries of a clock you need to tell time with.

October 25, 2007

Moo Cards! Flash on the Beach! and Mathematica!

The moo cards I ordered, to take to FOTB, arrived today! Yeah!


Looks like the conference is completely sold out! Wow! Really looking forward to it! I just hope my presentation stands up to all the other great sessions on the schedule. I'm having a great time preparing it! Atoms, and fractals, and algorithms...oh my!

Thanks to a temp license from Wolfram Research, I now have a copy of Mathematica installed on my laptop. Yeah! If you're going to FOTB, and you're curious, look for me at the conference.

October 04, 2007

Happy Sputnik Day!

Fifty year ago, today, Sputnik went into orbit!


Inside Sputnik:

Check out some history here.

August 09, 2007

Keep It Simple -- Building Complexity From Simple Structures

My session description for Flash on the Beach is up. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this one!

The complexity of the universe and all of life is based on simple building blocks. A metal is a metal, no matter how many times you melt or pound it. It's the sub-atomic particles of each atom that determine its character, and how it interacts with others.

Computational objects can be modeled on this simplicity, and in this session we will explore examples from nature
and computational art, including the atom and fractals.

We'll look at some basic objects (both visual and code) and ask "what are it's sub-atomic particles?" Starting with these objects, we'll build up models of increasing complexity.

Attendees will get:

  • Inspirational examples from nature and science,
  • Confidence to jump in and start playing with AS3,
  • An appreciation for well encapsulated code and simplicity in code and design,
  • An introduction/overview of AS3 code samples that will be available online.

July 30, 2007

About the Blue Marble


While it looks a lot like the photo taken by Apollo astronauts, you may be surprised to know that this popular image of Earth is not actually a snapshot. Robert Simmon, who worked on this for NASA's Earth Observatory, was kind enough to answer a few quick questions about this image from the Blue Marble project.

KH: What's different from the picture that the astronauts did take?

RS: Instead of being a snapshot, this picture is a composite: one month of images taken from a satellite were combined together into a single map.

KH: How did you create that image?

RS: I used a 3D program (Electric Image) to render out separate "layers" (surface, clouds, fake atmosphere, and a fake specular highlight (the shiny spot)). I then combined the separate layers in Photoshop, which gave me individual control over opacity, brightness, contrast, color, and saturation. Source imagery and the high-resolution final results are here:

KH: How much science goes on before you do your part?

RS: Lots! The raw data--collected as individual pixels from 440 miles above the Earth--need to be processed to account for everything from the curvature of the Earth to influence of the atmosphere and optical properties of the instrument. These are then stored in a data archive as thousands of individual images, called scenes. Literally hundreds of NASA workers are involved in this part of the process, which is automated and goes on continuously, day and night (about a terabyte a day of data are processed for a single instrument). A colleague of mine, Reto Stckli, then processed one season's worth of these scenes to remove clouds, snow, and other things blocking the satellite's view of the surface, and built a single composite image of the surface. He also made an image of the clouds from two days of data. We've subsequently developed a series of even more detailed maps for each month of 2004:

KH: Why are clouds hard to get right?

RS: The hardest part (for me) of creating the image was getting the cloud to look realistic. The color and brightness of a real cloud is due to a combination of its thickness and the angle of the surface to the sun. Unfortunately our cloud map is only a two-dimensional approximation of the cloud's opacity. It took many hours of experimenting with brightness curves and layer transfer modes in Photoshop to get clouds that looked right, and I'm still not happy with the final result.

KH: Why didn't you get credit for it?

RS: I work (through a contracting company) for NASA--part of the federal government, so the image is in the public domain.

KH: What does it mean that the image is in the public domain?

RS: Anyone can use it however they like, with the exception of using an image form NASA to imply that NASA endorses your product or service.

KH: What other images have you worked on?

RS: The most widely-seen is probably an image of the Earth's city lights at night. I also create images on a daily basis for the NASA Earth Observatory.


For more information on the Blue Marble, visit the History of Blue Marble: BlueMarble_2002 and BlueMarble_history.

July 11, 2007

Galaxy Zoo

This morning, the GalaxyGoo mailbox had a few more emails than usual. I was beginning to wonder why, when one of them suggested that we'd missed an opportunity with our radio spot and not having registration ready. That certainly got my attention, since we haven't been on the my knowledge.

With a little detective work, I discover Galaxy Zoo! The fascinating destination that these lovely people had been looking for. With one miss-typed letter, they ended up here at instead of

The Galaxy Zoo is a fantastic project! It's a fine example of citizen science. The goal is to classify galaxies. According to their website, they need help because

"... the human brain is much better at recognising patterns than a computer can ever be. Any computer program we write to sort our galaxies into categories would do a reasonable job, but it would also inevitably throw out the unusual, the weird and the wonderful... "

So, get over there and start recognizing patterns...and tell them GalaxyGoo sent you :-)

Continue reading "Galaxy Zoo" »

June 13, 2007

GalaxyGoo Flash-a-thon?

GalaxyGoo has participated in the Blogathon twice now. It's been a lot of fun and we posted some great experimental Flash projects.

It's time for us to spin off on our own, with a less hectic schedule and more community participation. I'm thinking that we should spread the posts out over a few weeks and encourage the community to post links to their adaptations. Perhaps we should arrange some nice prizes.

We need a name! Current candidates are "GalaxyGoo-a-thon" and "Flash-a-thon". Obviously, we need more ideas.

June 04, 2007

Adobe needs a Science and Education Evangelist!

The scientific and education communities use Adobe products extensively. Does Adobe have an evangelist that serves their needs? If not, why?

I'd like to see Adobe doing more to meet the needs of scientists and educators. I'd like to see Adobe at the next AAAS national meeting, as exhibitors--a big booth with demonstrations of the current releases of Photoshop, Flash, and the rest. Introduce them to AS3 in'd be surprised how often I meet scientists/programmers who have no idea that Flash has a scripting language, let alone one with the capabilities of AS3!

Why do I want Adobe to do this? Because it will make my life a lot easier! Adobe now owns most of the software that I use in my work. The more scientists and educators know about Flash, the sooner I can get to the project brainstorming and development aspects of my work. We will all start to build even more compelling and useful learning tools.

March 16, 2007

Photos from Family Science Days

Some photos of our booth, from the professional photographer who covered the whole conference. The kids were really into it. I think some of the parents wished there was enough room for them to play, too.

GalaxyGoo at AAAS Family Science Days ( photo1 | photo2 | photo3 )

We've also started a Cell Project Flickr group, and we're hoping to see a whole bunch of cell models showing up.

February 15, 2007

Stage Show Schedule at Family Science Days

The Stage Show Schedule is posted for the Family Science Days, and the Mythbusters are first up on Saturday! I think I have a view of the stage from the GalaxyGoo booth, and I'm looking forward to their show. It would be cool if they'd stop by our booth, and pose for a photo with me. Even better, wearing GalaxyGoo T-shirts :-)

GalaxyGoo's booth is sponsored by Adobe. Also, thanks to the generosity of Friends of Ed, we have some great books to give away. Peter was kind enough to send some copies of New Masters of Flash 3 and LEGO Mindstorms NXT: The Mayan Adventure.

Stage Show Schedule

AAAS Family Science Days
San Francisco Hilton
11:00 AM — 5:00 PM

Saturday, 17 February
11:00 AM "The Mythbusters: Jamie Savage and Adam Hyneman" — The Science Channel
Noon "BioBug: Field to Fuel" — University of Idaho
12:45 PM "Iron Science" — The Exploratorium
1:30 PM "Fun with Science and Astronomy" — The Zula Patrol and KQED Kids!
2:15 PM AAAS/Subaru SB&F Prize for Excellence in Science Books: Awards ceremony
3:15 PM "Waves in Nature: Lasers to Tsunamis and Beyond" — Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
4:00 PM "The Outreach Roadshow" — Women@SCS Outreach Roadshow, Carnegie Mellon University

Sunday, 18 February
11:00 AM "Name that Mammal!" — Platypus Media
11:45 AM "The Science Hour of Power" — Sikes Science
12:30 PM "Global Warming Discovery" — ClimateChangeEducation.Org
1:15 PM "The Science of Yo-Yos" — Yomega Corp.
2:00 PM "BioBug: Field to Fuel" — The University of Idaho
2:45 PM "Cloud Nine" — How The Weatherworks™
3:30 PM "Robotics: The Next 10 Years" — The Robotics Society of America and San Francisco State University
4:15 PM "Kinetic City" — AAAS

February 05, 2007

Reflecting on IM2.3 at Apple

I'm still recovering from the Image and Meaning workshop I attended last week. Gotta say that our hosts at Apple took wonderful care of us. It's very heartening to know that a big company like Apple, is taking an active role in supporting this work. But then, with a visionary leader like Felice Frankel, it's only natural that Image and Meaning is attracting such support.

The Image and Meaning phenomenon is unlike anything I've ever experienced. My brain will continue percolating this intense, and extremely positive collaborative experience for quite some time. I think it's safe to say that all of the participants are passionate about visually communicating scientific information, and that we are equally concerned with the accuracy of that communication.

The workshop was remarkably interdisciplinary. What does that mean? In my workshop group, we had physicists, artists, biologists, computer scientists, and more. Many of us fell into multiple disciplines, as individuals. To me, "interdisciplinary" also means that I rarely got the "I have a PhD" dropped on me, when someone wanted me to take their words as more heavily weighted than anyone else's (including my own). We were all participants, and were not segregated into groups of "speakers" and "listeners".

It doesn't seem possible that it all took place in under two full days, and I can't wait to do it again! I'm all fired up and eager to take on new challenges.

January 29, 2007

GalaxyGoo at AAAS Family Science Days

GalaxyGoo will be at the AAAS - Annual Meeting Family Science Days! Feb 17-18. Exhibit Hall at the AAAS Annual Meeting, San Francisco Hilton.

We'll be demonstrating some of the off-screen activities from our Cell Project. My favorite is building Cell models out of clay, and looking at the cross-sections. So bring your family along and play! Admission is free!

I hope our booth has a view of the stage, because there are a number of presentations I want to see, espcially by the Mythbusters and Iron Science (from the Exploratorium).

GalaxyGoo's participation in this exciting event was made possible by the efforts of Simon Conlin and the support of Adobe. Thank you!

January 22, 2007


I'm researching Parkinson's, and I thought I'd share some of my initial finds. These are resources I plan to start with:

Michael J. Fox Foundation
NINDS Parkinson's Disease Information Page

January 11, 2007

Family Science Days at the AAAS Annual Meeting in San Francisco

The AAAS - Annual Meeting is being held right here in San Francisco this year.

Admission for Family Science Days is free, and they encourage bringing the whole family. The Exploratorium and the Mythbusters will be there! Lot's of great exhibits and demonstrations, from science groups from the Bay Area and beyond.

GalaxyGoo would be there too, if we had a sponsor for our booth.

January 02, 2007

Image and Meaning Workshop

Next month, I head down to Cupertino for a great workshop: Image and Meaning, A collaborative exploration to discover new visual expressions in science and technology.

If you saw me typing this, you might get the impression that I'm very calm about's just that I'm thrilled, beyond excitement and into calm, about getting accepted to the workshop. In case you're curious, for my application, I submitted my bird flu project.

December 19, 2006

Budgeting for Animators, Illustrators, and Video Experts

We're working on a budget for an upcoming with funding that will allow us to hire outside talent for the first time, and where we'll be working with scientists from different fields.

We need to get an idea of the current commercial ranges, and are surveying firms and independent contractors on how they currently budget for the following positions:

  • Head animator/illustrator who will work with me to develop the overall style of the visuals, and help manage production.

  • Illustrators/animators with a solid understanding of animation, user interaction, and Flash.

  • A photographer/videographer who understands challenging lighting situations and can work with glass and liquids.

  • Copy editor (science/technical).

If you'd like to help us out, please use our on-line form to contact us. At this time, we're just looking for budget information. It will be some time before we start looking at portfolios.

October 02, 2006

How Many Cells Are In Your Body?

The PlumpJack Group is running a promotion, benefiting GalaxyGoo, at their Noe Valley shop.

"PlumpJack Wines Noe Valley and GalaxyGoo are working together to increase science literacy. GalaxyGoo is science, art, and discovery. The educational resources GalaxyGoo develops are free to teachers, students, and the general public.

Guess how many cells are in your body to be entered to win dinner for two at Balboa Cafe San Francisco, our PumpJack restaurant at the corner of Fillmore and Greenwich in historic Cow Hollow.

Your $1 donation will benefit science education, and give you the chance to win a great night out!"

The poster was designed by Matt Wood, of Visual Goodness, using elements from GalaxyGoo's Cell Project and my kaleidoscopic cell piece.


Beneath the poster are coaster sized disks, with kaleidoscopic cell patterns printed on them. They sort of remind me of sand dollars on a beach.

I've uploaded some photos of the window display to flickr.