Tag Archives: Black Holes Beakers and Books

Black Holes and Gadgets

Are you interested in discussing the mysteries of the human mind? Do you have questions about the latest eReader technology? If so, mark your calendars for these two upcoming library events.

The first is Black Holes, Beakers, and Books, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s popular science book club. The book club’s theme for Spring 2011 is Best Science Books of 2010. Black Holes members chose three of the most highly esteemed science books of 2010 to read and discuss. The second book, The Mind’s Eye by Oliver Sacks, will be discussed this Sunday, March 20th, 2011 from 3:30-4:30pm in the Director’s Conference Room at CLP – Main.

Oliver Sacks is well-known for his terrific books on abnormal psychology, including The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Musicophilia. His latest explores the connection between vision and mind, focusing on six clinical tales that demonstrate how vision impairment influences the way we perceive reality. It’s worth mentioning, too, that someone new will be taking over the club, and you’ll have an opportunity to meet her at the next meeting.

Also, on Saturday, April 2nd from 12:00-2:00pm, my colleague Sarah and I will be hosting a Gadget Lab in the Quiet Reading Room of the First Floor: New and Featured Department. The Gadget Lab will give you the opportunity to stop by and get your hands on some eReaders, tablet computers, and MP3 players. You’re also welcome to bring your own gadget so we can help you understand how it works. And, we’ll be able to give you a tour of the Library’s eResources, including Overdrive, where you can borrow free eBooks, eAudio, and eVideo.

I hope you can make it out to both of these programs!


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Black Holes, Beakers, and Books, Fall 2010

Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s Black Holes, Beakers, and Books: Popular Science Book Club returns this fall with our fourth discussion series of three recent books about science. This series is entitled Brains & Behavior, and features the following books:

Sunday, October 17, 2010
Proust Was a Neuroscientist
by Jonah Lehrer
Can science and the arts be reconciled? Neuroscientist and Wired blogger Jonah Lehrer claims they can because artists, such as the writer Marcel Proust, often stumble upon scientific truths independently of scientists.

Sunday, November 21, 2010
Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind
by Gary Marcus
The human mind is rightfully held up as an amazing product of evolution, but it is also flawed in numerous ways. Kluge explores why, and offers tips for identifying and working around the errors our minds produce.

Sunday, December 19, 2010
Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us
by Daniel H. Pink
Bestselling author Daniel Pink (A Whole New Mind) moves beyond simplistic notions of human motivation by exploring the latest science about what drives us, and how this science is being implemented by individuals and organizations. This series of books will come to an exciting conclusion when Daniel Pink joins us via teleconference to discuss his book!

I hope to see you there!


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The Return of Black Holes, Beakers, and Books

This spring, CLP’s popular science book club Black Holes, Beakers, and Books returns with three book selections about nature and climate change. What’s most exciting about the upcoming meetings is that employees of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be joining us with exhibit objects to supplement our first two discussions, and the author of our third book selection will be joining our discussion via telephone. Check out the selections and discussion dates below. Each meeting will be from 3:00 to 4:00pm in the Director’s Conference Room on the First Floor:

Sunday, March 21, 2010
Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet
by Mark Lynas
What will happen to the earth and human civilization if the planet warms by one-to-six degrees Celsius? Mark Lynas tries to answer this question by looking at warming data past and present, concluding that, depending on the level of warming, the consequences range from the loss of mountain glaciers and coral reefs to the total destruction of life on the planet. An employee of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be joining us with objects from the Polar World exhibit to discuss the impact of climate change on arctic life!

Sunday, April 18, 2010
The World is Blue: How Our Fate and the Ocean’s Are One
by Sylvia A. Earle
Described by some as “a Silent Spring for our era,” The World is Blue is Sylvia Earle’s depiction of Earth’s oceans in crisis, as overfishing, pollution, and climate change drive species into extinction and throw off the delicate balance of the entire planet’s ecosystem. An employee of the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be joining us with objects from the Whales/Tohora exhibit to supplement our discussion of Sylvia Earle’s book!

Sunday, May 16, 2010
Chasing Spring: An American Journey Through a Changing Season
by Bruce Stutz
Part science, part travelogue, Chasing Spring follows Bruce Stutz’s journey across America to “see spring in various phases.” What he discovers on his trip is both fascinating and disturbing: climate change is causing spring to arrive earlier, resulting in altered migration patterns for animals, glaciers that melt more quickly, and unbalanced relationships between plants and pollinators. Bruce Stutz will be joining our discuss via teleconference!

I hope to see you there!


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The Emotion Machine

On Sunday, December 13th, the Black Holes, Beakers, and Books: Popular Science Book Club will conclude its Fall 2009 Mortals & Machines series with the book The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky. The Emotion Machine is a call for a “back to basics” approach to using the human mind as a model for artificial intelligence. Marvin Minsky finds his academic home at MIT, where he is a scholar of cognitive psychology, robotics and artificial intelligence, among many other things. He is tentatively scheduled to speak to the book club in a teleconference on the day of our meeting.

Our meetings are always free and open to the public, so feel free to stop by!


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Greetings From Roboburgh

robotsPittsburgh, once a city of soot and steel mills, is now a city of transistors and automatons, a virtual “Silicon Valley of droid design.”

Indeed, within the last several decades Pittsburgh’s numerous knowledge institutions and industries have made the city a central player in the world of robotics. The Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Institute, for instance, is the world’s premier institution for robotics research and training. Recently, the Robotics Institute helped form The Robotics Corridor, a collaboration between local colleges and universities that has developed robotics certification and associate’s degree programs in anticipation of an increased need for robotics specialists in the near future. And local robotics companies, such as Seegrid Corporation, Automatika, Bossa Nova RoboticsAmerican Robot Corporation, and RedZone Robotics, all contribute significantly to the development of robotics technologies locally and worldwide.

If you’re not training in robotics or working in the industry, you can still enjoy developments in the field by visiting a number of fun robot friendly organizations throughout Pittsburgh. First, stop by the Carnegie Science Center’s latest robot exhibit, RoboWorld. Then, visit Carnegie Mellon University’s interesting Robot Hall of Fame. From there it’s just a short walk to the Library to talk science with the Black Holes, Beakers, and Books: Popular Science Book Club. This fall we’ll be reading and discussing the following three books about robotics in a series called Mortals & Machines:

August 9th, 2009 — The Singularity is Near by Ray Kurzweil — Featuring Ph.D robotics student Mark Palatucci of the CMU Robotics Institute as a guest discussant.

October 11th, 2009 — Almost Human by Lee Gutkind — Featuring author Lee Gutkind as a guest speaker.

December 13th, 2009 — The Emotion Machine by Marvin Minsky — Guest discussant/speaker to be announced.

And now, for your pleasure, a robot violinist:



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A Weekend in the Life of CLP Programming

In case you haven’t noticed, there’s always something interesting happening at the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. While those of us at Eleventh Stack are often writing about an upcoming event that we’d like our readers to know about, we seldom write about events that have already happened. So, I’ve put together a little summary of some of the great programs that were hosted by the First Floor: New and Featured Department this past weekend:

bobby-womack1On Saturday we began our five-part personal finance speaker series, Money Matters, and  Bobby Womack (left) of Neighborworks Western Pennsylvania gave an excellent talk on the ins and outs of buying versus renting a home.  The second presentation in this series is Wednesday, April 29th at 6pm, and Jada Grandy of Fifth Third Bank and Iris Valentin of FDIC will be here to speak about understanding credit and debt.

Our Sunday afternoon programmideborah-bogen3ng featured poetry and science back to back. As part of our Sunday Poetry and Reading Series, local prizewinning poet Deborah Bogen (right) joined us to read from her books Landscape With Silos and Living by the Children’s Cemetery.  CM Burroughs, a professor of poetry at the University of Pittsburgh, will be here to read on Sunday, May 17th at 2pm.

Sunday afternoon closed with local science writer Ann Gibbons’s (left) lecture ann-gibbons1at the Black Holes, Beakers, and Books: Popular Science Book Club.  Ann talked about the research she did for her book, The First Human, and made many insightful remarks about human evolution.  Black Holes will discuss Neil Shubin’s Your Inner Fish on Sunday, June 21st at 3:30pm, and a scientist from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History will be bringing fossils to demonstrate some of the points Shubin makes about tetrapod evolution.

For a full listing of a lot more amazing programs, you should visit our events page. And to be certain you don’t miss any events in the future, be sure to sign up for our various e-newsletters


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