ECU's Dr. Stan Riggs (at left) at October's Carolina Science Cafe

In true 2012 spirit, we officially kicked off our DOOMSDAY SERIES. Last night, we hosted the first of three science cafes focusing on dire issues and what Science has to say about them. Dr. Stan Riggs, a geologist from ECU, gave a passionate talk about the ways barrier islands are supposed to work when money isn’t a concern. Long story short: they’re supposed to move and get wrecked by storms and then they’ll rebuild (on their own tends to be best) and move again. This makes putting houses on them and planning for big-time tourism kind of tricky. Add climate change science and sea level rise to the equation and you get a recipe for unsustainable planning and constant (read: expensive) damage control.

But Dr. Riggs wasn’t all doom and gloom. There are workable solutions out there. (I personally enjoyed his discussion of people being miserable on Highway 12 until they get onto the ferries where they start to relax and have fun. So why not stop worrying about highways and make hi-tech ferries the way to get around?) His take home message: To find the best solutions, we have to be open to what scientists are telling us and use that info to work the problem. We can’t hide from the data.

Tough to argue with that.

Next month, the DOOMSDAY SERIES continues with a look into how

You probably won't have to dress like this for November's Plague & Bioterrorism science cafe

scientists are tackling our concerns relating to bioterrorism. Dr. Bill Goldman, chair of the department of microbiology and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine, will be talking about his research into the Black Plague and how understanding this sneaky contagion can help us be better prepared for deadly outbreaks. He received funding from a National Institutes of Health grant to the Southeast Regional Center of Excellence for Emerging Infections and Biodefense, which is headquartered at UNC-Chapel Hill.

See you on Thursday, November 1, 6 p.m. at Back Bar (part of Top of the Hill Restaurant). Get there a little early to enjoy free appetizers courtesy of our gracious sponsor, Sigma Xi. As always: bring a friend, bring questions, and enjoy.

–Jonathan

Jonathan Frederick is the director of the North Carolina Science Festival, a statewide initiative of Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

Will you be up before dawn tomorrow morning (Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012)? If you have clear skies, step outside for two interesting sights:

1) In the east, Venus will appear to lie practically on top of the bright star Regulus.  Venus will be easy to spot, as it’s the brightest thing in the night sky other than the Moon. (Don’t confuse it with Jupiter, which will be higher in the sky and not as bright.) Regulus is a bright star in the constellation Leo the Lion, but the star may be hard to pick out from Venus’s glare—binoculars will help.

2) As a bonus, the International Space Station makes a visible pass over the Eastern United States on Wednesday morning. Starting at 6:12 (nearly 6:13) a.m. until 6:18 a.m., the ISS will travel from northwest to southeast, getting fairly high above the horizon along the way. It’ll look like a very bright star that is noticeably moving across the sky.Times and directions may vary a bit if you’re outside the Triangle area in North Carolina.

We’d love to hear from anyone who saw either of these sights. You can reply to this post.