Now: July/August 2010

Events and conferences from the July/August 2010.

Now: July/August 2010
Illustration by Kate Slater Illustration by Kate Slater




Week 1

Sat, July 03

Microsoft’s Imagine Cup

A mobile app for diagnosing disease. A video game aimed at fighting poverty. A “robo nanny” that assists teachers in the classroom. Sort of puts your high-school science project to shame, huh? Short on years but long on vision, more than 300,000 student inventors tackled global problems for Microsoft’s international competition. Some 500 of them will descend on Warsaw, Poland, for the finals. “So many young students are being innovative and bringing new ideas to market,” says Helena Xu, 22, a U.S. team member. “The future is going to be shaped by young adults like us.” — Suzy Evans

Sat, July 03

Tour de France

When this grueling race began in 1903, the 20,000-franc prize ($4,000 in today’s dollars) wasn’t enough to entice entrants, and its organizers had to also offer a five-franc daily allowance. Fast-forward a century: The top prize is 450,000 euros and everyone’s clamoring to get in, though the sport’s increasingly international appeal has some bikeophiles grousing that the Tour de France is becoming, well, less French. This year, the event starts in Rotterdam, with as many American teams (a record-setting four, for sponsors such as RadioShack and Garmin) as French teams. Sacré bleu! — Kate Rockwood

Week 2

Mon, July 05

Tread Lightly
Sustainable Tourism 2010


Tue, July 06

What Women Want: The Global Marketplace Turns Female Friendly

Women control the majority of household income in the U.S., but catering to their specific desires (and thus creating a better shopping experience for both genders) is still a novel concept for some retailers. In this book, eagle-eyed retail wonk Paco Underhill muses his way through strip malls, pharmacies, and big-box electronics shops. Among his conclusions: Women like stores as they like their wine — light, bright, and white. — KR

Week 3

Tue, July 13

Collaboration, Electronic Messaging, Anti-Abuse, and Spam Conference

“There are few things more bothersome than junk email,” says conference president Gordon Cormack. Last year, spam — roughly 90% of all emails — cost businesses $130 billion in lost productivity, up 30% from 2007. Scientists in Redmond, Washington, will talk prevention tech, from the Bayesian filter (assigns each word a “spam score” and deletes high-score emails) to support-vector machines (homes in on specific spam triggers, such as “Viagra”). Until then, can you wire us $3,000? We’re Nigerian royalty, honest. — Dan Macsai

Wed, July 14

Bastille Day


This Bastille Day, toast a different sort of French revolution: “grower champagne,” the underdog out to mount a coup d’état against the monarchy of big champagne houses. Of the 15,000 grape growers in the region, historically few have bottled their own elixirs — the majority sell grapes to négoçiants, such as Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot, which blend and bottle, and capture 97% of U.S. sales. But now, more growers are storming the figurative Bastille and crafting their own artisanal bubbly. So far, they’ve taken only a sip of the $291 million U.S. market, but it’s a start. Vive la révolution. — Lillian Cunningham

Fri, July 16

15th Anniversary of Amazon

Fifteen years after Amazon sold its first book — Fluid Concepts & Creative Analogies — it’s locked in a pricing war with Penguin, in an attempt to give its Kindle e-reader an edge over the iPad and Nook. How to resolve the dispute peacefully? Christopher Voss, a veteran FBI hostage negotiator, points to Macmillan’s January open letter to Amazon, which helped the bookseller agree to higher prices by explaining why $9.99 can’t fairly compensate e-book creators. “Macmillan appealed to the readers sitting on the sidelines,” Voss says. “That’s who Amazon is really worried about.” Even if bookworms aren’t known for combat skills. — DM

Week 4

Sat, July 24

National Drive-Thru Day

Week 5

Wed, July 28

10th World Congress of Bioethics

“In a way, bioethics is sort of a catch-up game,” says Lee Hin Peng, chair of this biennial meet-up, which draws the field’s top academics, researchers, and policy advisers. “Every time there’s a new development in science, you stretch the boundaries a little bit more.” Held in Singapore, this year’s event aims to hash out pressing ethical concerns in science and public health in a globalized world, such as organ trafficking; stem-cell therapies; even the May announcement of the creation of the first “synthetic cell,” which has the potential to kick open the doors to full-blown genetic engineering. The goal, says Lee, is to come up with universal principles whose applications in a specific locality take into consideration the history, culture, and religious background of that country. — Jennifer Vilaga


Thu, July 29

Jersey Shore Season 2 Premiere

“We are pioneers of an ugly age,” said casting director Doron Ofir, after his pièce de résistance, MTV’s Jersey Shore, was picked up for another season. To wit: Now that Shore, chronicling the lives of self-proclaimed guidos and guidettes, has parlayed an Italian-American stereotype into a national phenomenon, no subculture is safe from the reality-TV treatment. New shows in the works include Iranians (The Persian Version), Massachusetts dwellers (Wicked Summer), and Latino gay men (Chongas). Godspeed, advocacy groups. — DM



Week 1

Sun, August 01
5oth Anniversary of Benin’s Independence

August 1960 was a bumper month for African independence: Benin kicked off the sovereignty streak and seven more colonies followed suit. Alas, civil strife, corruption, and gross mismanagement have stifled economic growth. Today, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Central African Republic — all sons of August — boast some of the most dismal per capita GDPs in the world (Benin, the Ivory Coast, and Chad fare only slightly better). But abundant minerals and foreign investment paint a brightening economic picture. The IMF projects sub-Saharan GDPs will grow 4.7% this year, compared to a 2.3% bump in developed nations. — Clay Dillow


Week 2

Mon, August 02

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void

What happens when you vomit in a space suit? Or can’t shower for two weeks? Or break the space-shuttle toilet? (Pressurized air pushes the vomit from your mouth to prevent drowning; your body odor peaks at two weeks and your clothes begin to disintegrate; and you really, really don’t want to know … except you sort of do.) Journalist Mary Roach furthers her obsessive charting of the human body during sex (Bonk), death (Stiff), the afterlife (Spook), and now in space, in this hilarious, graphic, and thorough look at space exploration and the decidedly surreal simulations that happen here on Earth to make it possible. — KR

Fri, August 06

Twins Days Festival

Today, one in 90 U.S. births are twins, and multiple births have doubled since the 1970s, largely due to advancements in fertility drugs and treatments. From science comes science: In addition to the 2,500 sets of twins and multiples — from infants to octogenarians — who flock to Twinsburg, Ohio, for the 34th annual festival of three-legged races and cutest-twins contests, a dozen scientists are invited to use the fairgrounds as recruiting grounds for genetics studies. How’s that for a two-for-one deal? — Emilia Benton

Week 3

Mon, August 09

Patent Races

Tue, August 10

Coal-Gen 2010


The coal industry is begging for new rules and fighting existing ones. Eight years of inconsistent oversight by the Bush administration left a cobweb regulatory framework neither companies nor courts can decipher. But while the current administration sorts out next steps for regulation, industry giants head to Pittsburgh to debate direction in coal tech. Some are still banking on carbon capture (Powerspan’s new solvent promises to capture 90% of carbon dioxide from burning coal, dry it, and compress it for storage), while others argue for burning renewable biomass along with carbon (sort of like blending Coke with Diet Coke to halve the calories). Only time — and maybe Obama — will tell which tech prevails. — Damian Joseph

Fri, August 13


Eat Pray Love

Let’s hear it for second chances. Ryan Murphy, the award-winning creator of Glee and Nip/Tuck, takes another stab at translating a best-selling memoir into film (his first was the poorly received Running With Scissors). This time, he’s upping the star quotient with Julia Roberts playing the writer Elizabeth Gilbert, who, in a bid to overcome existential angst, gorges her way through Rome, seeks the divine in an Indian ashram, and finds her future husband in Bali — an experience she recorded in a 2006 travelogue that has since been translated into 38 languages and sold more than 7.5 million copies. Gilbert herself is no stranger to the big screen: EPL may be the penance needed to atone for Coyote Ugly, which originated as an article she wrote for GQ. — JV

Fri, August 13

Living Walls, the City Speaks

Long a symptom of urban decay, graffiti has been co-opted into presidential campaigns, fashion, even dinnerware, yet no one has dared promote it as a crucial factor for vibrant community building. Monica Campana and Blacki Li Rudi Migliozzi, an artist and a grad student, respectively, propose just that with a free conference on street art and urbanism. The end goal is to blanket Atlanta with posters submitted by street artists from all over the world on walls “donated” by businesses. In soliciting canvases, the sell was easy once Migliozzi showed artists’ work samples. “People see the artistic value,” he says. “They see it as good work, not just tagging on a wall.” A lecture series and artist presentations are planned, as well as a night in which participants can crochet “graffiti” onto light posts and other fixtures. A tight-knit community never got so literal. — JV


Sat, August 14

Youth Olympic Games

We’re all for promoting cultural exchange among 14- to 18-year-olds and spreading the Olympic values of excellence, friendship, and respect, but is this inaugural Youth Olympic Games really necessary? A 15-year-old Tara Lipinski took figure-skating gold at Nagano, Kerri Strug landed her gold-clinching vault at 18, and Michael Phelps collected eight medals before his 20th birthday (the youngest gold medalist ever: 13-year-old American diver Marjorie Gestring in 1936). Of course, 12 days filled with 3,600 competitors, 370,000 spectators, and sponsors ranging from Samsung to McDonald’s means that while athletes compete for gold, silver, and bronze, Games host Singapore is a lock to bring home the green. — CD