Who will be the next “Chemistry Champion”?

The American Chemical Society recently hosted an online video contest, where contestants were to describe their research in 3 minutes or less to a non-science audience. This comes at a perfect time when our society needs effective science communicators more than ever.

I entered this contest and was amazingly picked as a semifinalist, allowing me to travel to San Francisco, CA to the American Chemical Society National Meeting and compete in the semifinals (and hopefully finals). Not only do us semifinalists get to compete, but we also get a day full of training on how to become more effective science communicators (including improv training). What a great opportunity!

I will be updating on my progress and live-tweeting as much as I can from the event. Follow me on Twitter @shannonwoodruff or view my latest tweets in the widget to the right of this post.

For those of you who are curious, here is my video entry:

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The Circuit Surfers

As I mentioned before, my friend Brian and I had begun to dive into the world of the Raspberry Pi. Well since that post, we really dove in head-first and have had a blast so far. We decided to make a collaborative YouTube site, where we will be posting videos of our latest projects. I will of course repost them on here, but for a direct link, you can always visit us at thecircuitsurfers.com.

For our first project, we decided to reconstruct an old TI-99/4A computer and turn it into a Raspberry Pi gaming machine with the help of the RetroPie project. I will write another post next week outlining our process as soon as our article submission with MAKE Magazine is cleared.

But for now, have a look at our video! Props go to Brian for the amazing audio, video, and narration work!

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Making footnotes more elegant on WordPress

Since I’m going to start including more footnotes in my posts as I get deeper into topics,1 I figured that I might as well try and at least make them more user-friendly on the site. I first learned about a great plug-in by Chris Suave called Bigfoot from Macdrifter’s mention of the topic. However, at the time there was not a way to implement this on WordPress (or at least not to my limited knowledge).

As I was looking for a decent footnote plug-in tonight, I stumbled upon WP-Bigfoot. The installation was easy and even played nicely with my Markdown plug-ins. However, the typical footer components of my footnotes were still there (Bigfoot eliminates the need for this with a very smooth and beautiful pop-over feature).

After some searching, I found a nice and simple fix2 to this using a small snippet of JavaScript that can be added to the header template (in the case of the Genesis Framework, it can be done from the WordPress Dashboard by dropping it under “Genesis” >> “Theme Settings” >> “Header and Footer Scripts”).

If you are under a standard theme, the place to go is usually the header.php file within the <head>...</head> element. The only caution here is to include the snippet after wp_head(); so that jQuery is sure to be loaded.

To summarize the rationale, footnotes are displayed according to a consistent set of classes, which can be easily manipulated by either adding a couple of rules to the stylesheet, or by adding a couple of lines of JavaScript to the template header. JavaScript is best because the bubble presence and behavior both depend on JS; meaning that if the bottom footnotes from the stylesheet are hidden, people with JS off won’t have any way to see them at all. But if they are hidden using JS, then the footnotes will still appear for people who can’t get the bubbles, and disappear for people who can get the bubbles.

I would like incorporation of the “Numeric” style that exists in the original rendition of Bigfoot, but this will do just fine for now.

  1. — particularly when I start making tutorials — 
  2. — even simpler for those of us on the Genesis Framework — 
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Life, holidays, and Pi

Life has been a little hectic over here as one would expect during the holiday season. Too many papers to write at once, too many reactions to complete, and too much tutoring to be done before traveling to visit my family for Christmas. One of these days, my wife and I will be able to have Christmas in our own home… one of these days…

However, amongst all the chaos, I have made a very exciting decision. With the enthusiastic like-mindedness of a couple of friends, I am about to start exploring something that I have wanted to for over a year now: the Raspberry Pi. I will post more about this awesome, low-cost computer and the vast number of possibilities for its use that exist.

With this and the inspiration of my wife’s growing success on YouTube,1 I have decided to casually start a YouTube channel of my own, which will serve as a type of open “video lab notebook” for my projects and other things that make up the educational portion of this site. More on this soon as well!

  1. She’s pretty much a YouTube celebrity. 

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If you truly loved science… [LINK]

This article pretty much sums up my feelings about how much our country needs to sort out its priorities.

If you really love science, you’ll start making noise about this issue. You’ll start asking why the US is shooting itself—and the world—in the foot, by putting science on the back burner. We can spend as much as we want on other things, but in the end, if we’re not funding science, we’re moving backwards.

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