Monday, June 01, 2009

Big Science

A big win for OMSI tonight, as well as McMenamins, for hosting another Science Pub, the first at The Bagdad. What a delightful evening, despite the sobering topic: crime scenes in Oregon and the work of our state police to solve them, using the top talents and technology available.

Given the huge lay audience interest in the three CSI shows, Bones, NCIS, Forensic Files and more, the premise of Kori Barnum's talk was easy: how is reality different from what's on TV? In one respect it's the same: she was absolutely as cute and endearing as any character a screenwriter has ever come up with, bar none. Otherwise, there're quite a few differences.

She was brutally non-censoring, in yakking about semen and underware, blood spatter patterns, decaying corpses (not to be retrieved while scantily clad, a difference from television), her love of shooting guns (a convert, initially skeptical), despite terrible aim. She was exactly the right person to be representing OSP (Oregon State Police), with colleagues and a husband in the audience (their eighth wedding anniversary).

Derek joined me, plus I randomly sat next to a PPS employee, a math teacher with her family, obviously talented, and yet they're talking budget cuts for people like her, unimaginable, even as they rake it over to greedy banks. I'm amazed by the talent and competence in our public sector, even though I'm an entrepreneur. I've spent my career working with these public spirited citizens; don't let anyone tell you they're second banana.

Anyway, I learned a ton, said so on my evaluation form. Thank you OMSI and McMenamins for this very wise choice of presenters, someone from our own community. A Charlotte Bronte lit major who fell in love with the human skeleton, and the beautiful words for it, and now studies for the courts -- you can't beat it, I'm sorry, though I'm looking forward to more. May I suggest George Heuston? I don't know if he still works for HPD, but he's got a lot of forensics experience on the data side, is a dynamite presenter I already know.

The final amazing feature of this evening: dear Barbara Stross, an apparition, as I'd just been gabbing with her through the Wanderers list, imagining her in California. But she's hurt her shoulder, was checking in with the doc. She won't make it Wednesday, but it was wonderful to squeeze the real deal, another wonderful teacher in my life.

So Browning was a practicing polygamist, didn't know that, which means his wives were that too. He invented a lot of weapons. Was that in defense of their Mormon compound? I don't think he was Mormon, I should check Wikipedia (I learn he converted).

The venue was packed, as many women as men, maybe more, with some children, lots of middle aged, people in my bracket. The Q&A was fantastic. Bravo once again.

A main lesson from Kori's talk: this will never be an AI game. Human intelligence rules, get over it. That being said, we really appreciate what computers can do for us, IBIS and all the rest. Another lesson was to study science and follow your heart even as you test the waters.

Another thing I learned, from the multiple choice questions (slides) -- I had two hours to just sit. Oregon's official state saying: "She flies with her own wings." I was praying that would be the answer, and it was!