SciFoo 2012

At Google this weekend. On display here is one of the early production servers, with four motherboards jammed on each shelf and cork sheets inserted in between. It overheated quite easily, so they built a wall of fans on the backside.


Here is today’s agenda. I have removed all of the names of the cool people leading these talks since there are Chatham House rules in effect.


So many sessions I want to see... I am in this session now: "What if extinction is not forever?"

It is quickly becoming feasible to reconstitute the genomes of vanished species using genetic material from preserved specimens and archaeological artifacts. Three different techniques are being deployed. Revivals already under way include mammoths, aurochs, and passenger pigeons. Candidate species include the dodo, the Carolina parakeet, the thylacine (Tasmanian tiger), and the Xerces blue butterfly. If we can actually revive an extinct species, should we? If so, why bother? Are some species more desirable, valuable, or ethical to bring back than others? Is it ethical to “improve” a revived species—for example to make a formerly extinct bird resistant to avian malaria? Do revived species have a “right” to be returned to the wild? Should revived species be treated as genetically modified organisms? In this session we can discuss the rapidly evolving science making all this possible and the downstream implications and opportunities.


Here is the lineup… So many great ones overlap. Sadly, right now, I’m missing the trillion-fps camera imaging the movement of light. Decisions, decisions…



•What happens if we don't do anything about climate change? and what do we do about it if things go horribly awry?

•Robots (nanotechnological, synthetical biological, intelligent, for control) To Solve The Brain (understanding, fixing)

•Experiments in (informal) education: what can one magazine do?

•The coming war on general purpose computing and the civil war that comes after.

•Impostor Syndrome (and the culture of science)

•Spidersilk using silk worms.

•Smartphones to save lives, prevent disaster

•Open access commoditizing science - what next?

•What is Time



•Neuroprediction: Does your brain predict if you will do bad things? p.s. all about psychopaths

•Optogenetics & Neural Imaging & Dynamics of the single cell

•Reversing climate change, land, air, ocean.

•What can new imaging hardware and software solve next? Trillion frames per second. Look around corners

•A fundamental problem in digital systems.

•De-Extinction: Practices and Prospects

•What I learned by doing capitalism and what you need to know

•Future of music

•Funding Science



•Will the human race cause its own extinction

•Discovering new materials by computation.

•Data driven societies.

•Grand challenges in neuroscience.

•Long tails and big heads: Big data in science.


•Consumer biotechnology ie tissue engineering meat, leather, and other daily needs.

•What can we invent to raise the level of public discourse even slightly? A face to face debate platform on the internet

•Information that lives - digital lives and intelligent agents

•Detecting asteroids before they hit us.





•Starshade show & Tell. Hunting Exo-Earths and aliens

•Can "big data" solve healthcare?

•Art/Science Collaborations. Visualizing biology, conservation, innovative data exploration, and more.

•Internet education for teachers.

•City science.

•Open Science FTW - Oopen access, open data.

•Visual Music Brain Synesthesia;

•Stealth diagnostics Hidden biosignals & communicity health.

•The brain's flaws as a computational device. How they shape our lives.

•Fighting against anti-science and winning - new strategies.



•Your genome, your health. How long will we just kick the tyres of your car?

•Ocean acidification.

•Do we have free will and why does it matter?

•Big data sets and using them intelligently e.g. climate data,

•Storytelling vs the whole truth and nothing but the truth. Also, comics

•DIY and makers as international policy. Jose Gomez-Marquesz TH Culhane (fuel from garbage electricity , aluminum demo)

•What Microbes are on you your phone.

•a new artificial intelligence Brains Minds Machines

•Revolutionizing Education.

•The reproducibility crisis in biology.



•Tenure from Tweets? evaluation beyond citations

•African floating communities.

•Large-scale learning on the internet & Talking to the brain in its own language. Making prosthetic devices that work.

•Role of the ocean in carbon and climate.

•Biohacking and citizen synthetic biology How far can we go?

•Visual Tools for Science and Engineering.

•Do or should humans have an off world future?

•Ignorance - can we admit it and keep credibility?

•Demo SharkFinder Citizen Science Kits



•Emotions in motion. Get acquainted in nonverbal communication

•Post Natural History and the Future of Evolution.

•The technology and politics of spectrum ( the invisible resource you need) Why you need to understand more.

•Science Diplomacy

•Cheap energy, growth, global change.

•Build a puzzle/sculpture. I brought the parts, can you assemble them?

•Nature Porn - pollination, mushrooms etc. How beauty and seduction is nature's tool for survival. Film shorts & brief talks.

•Haploid stem cells and the future of disease genetics

•Smartphone science. Primary v suppport v citizen .

•Grand challenges in biology.

•"Scientific analysis on all the world's satellite images. Earth engine demo.



•Organizational Manipulation: how to social engineer your company, university, grantor, or colleagues

•fMRI Brain Reaction so what?

•IP & patents in biotech/education/community labs etc. What are the issues? What needs fixing? What's the future?

•Economics Comedy with stand-up economist + open-mic if desired

•Imagining post capitalism: a call for help.

•Of course Mars has life, but does Europa?

•Automating science to Accelerate Discovery with Demo

•The coming age of brain decoding.

•Images & Anecdotes from 17 years of astronomy picture of the day.

•Scaling research up - moving outside the lab with demo of smartphone brain scanner.

•Will the microbiome and inflammation explain all diseases?


  • Steve Jurvetson 3y

    P.S. fans in back
  • solerena 3y

    Amazing about extinct species...I would start with something relatively small, like a butterfly... Fascinating that so many topics are combined..a lot to learn from cross talk, art, science interaction...more towards idea mating-exchange...interesting to see how something incredible can emerge from these brainy exercises...renaissance in action!
  • scleroplex 3y

    all the talks are brain candy :-)
  • Steve Jurvetson 3y

    and some want to make Jurassic Park real...

    Screen shot 2011-06-07 at 12.34.12 PM
  • scleroplex 3y

    watching Independent Lens right now on WGBH - Revenge of the Electric Car!
  • FAndrey 3y

    that the switches with LEDs with a bunch of wires?
  • Stephen Bové 3y

    Does google record these sessions and post for linear consumption?
  • Steve Jurvetson 3y

    there was not video... sorry!
  • Josh Thompson 3y

    "•What happens if we don't do anything about climate change? and what do we do about it if things go horribly awry? " sounds interesting, because I don't see any real action coming for the foreseeable future (at least 10 years). It's getting more and more likely that we will wait too long and then have to cope. It would be interesting to hear what somebody who has really thought about this would have to say.
  • Amit Patel 2y

    (About the Google rack, unrelated to SciFoo:)

    This is the "hh" rack, with machines hh1 through hh80. Originally they were in order, with hh1–4 on the top rack and hh77–80 on the bottom rack. However, looking at the photo, they've been shuffled a bit. Not sure why.

    "hh" was an early generation Google rack. Originally there was a1–a25 and c1–c4, and then they went through the alphabet, then started using double letters. Back then, machines were individually assigned to projects. I had been assigned hh4, and it treated me well — it was much better behaved than the other machines I had been assigned. They ran out of double letters and switched to two letters, then four (using the datacenter for two of them). As the number of machines grew, Google built systems to automate machine allocation and deallocation, so Googlers no longer grow attached to specific machines as I did to hh4.

    The "hh" rack was in the lobby of B42 for many years, and I guess it's now gone nomadic. The public can see its cousin, the "jj" rack, at The Computer History Museum.
  • Steve Jurvetson 2y

    Amit Patel — Thanks for this fantastic historical detail! I wonder if they also changed the naming scheme when they became paranoid about letting others know exactly how many servers Google had, and the growth rate.

    I have a photo of jj too, and I'll cross-post your commentary there:

    Google’s First Production Server
  • Amit Patel 2y

    Steve Jurvetson Other than the "a" rack, the names weren't externally visible; it was more scalability than paranoia that led to new naming schemes. :)
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