Groton Public Library in Groton New York is pleased to announce that we have been chosen to be a part of a National Science Foundation initiative called Pushing the Limits. It is a four part program which we plan to bring to the public on a monthly basis in 2014 — February 20, March 20, April 17 and May 15 — on a Thursday evening at 7:00 p.m. Each session involves a book discussion, and 2 video clips based on a common STEM theme. This is a casual evening of discussion with free refreshments.
Pushing the Limits brings programming to rural libraries around the country and consists of four one-hour events designed to be co-hosted by a librarian and “science advocate.” Each session will be something of a science café and book club hybrid. Each event is organized around a different theme – nature, survival, connection, and knowledge – that permeates a moderated discussion based on a recommended reading of popular fiction and the viewing of two short feature-film quality videos produced specifically for the project. Each theme will provide a context for showing how the story of humankind is a story of people pushing their own limits everyday and the ways in which science is a part of that effort.
Each recommended book, which is by a well-known author, has a scientific theme, but is not a “science book.” The book leads us directly to the first video segment, an interview with the book’s author, who reflects on the subject of the book and touches on the creative process, the subject matter of the book, and the way in which the author used science in writing his/her work. The second video is what one might call, “real people, real stories, real science,” and provides a look at an individual or family using scientific ideas, principles, or technologies to push limits in their own lives.
These stories have been chosen for their general appeal and potential relevance to rural adult audiences and, unlike a NOVA-style documentary, the science mainly comes out in the conversations of the people for whom the ideas and technologies are making a difference. Intentional efforts have been taken to integrate the science as part of a larger human story rather than the focus. The presence of the local advocate at these library events, working with the librarian, will allow the conversations before, after, and in between the video segments, to move in such a way that the scientific ideas can be discussed in a thoughtful, interactive, and non-threatening environment. In short, we are aiming to pique the interests of our audience, and then encourage them to express their curiosity, with the hope that they leave the event engaged and open to exploring further and possibly deeper science stories and ideas.
Program Themes: Videos and Books
Survival – Book – Arctic Drift
Author Video: Clive Cussler
Fans know Clive Cussler’s character Dirk Pitt as a sea-going engineer-adventurer, but not all of them know that Cussler is a marine archeologist. Cussler’s works often find his hero in extreme conditions—stranded on an arctic ice flow, adrift in a raft, or even trapped in a sunken wreck. The author’s loving attention to the scientific detail of cutting edge marine technologies woven seamlessly into speculative fiction keeps readers transfixed through to the triumphant end.
Book: Arctic Drift
Human Interest Video: Julie and Cory Shrum, Combine Demolition Derby Competitors
Husband and wife Cory and Julie Shrum, work hard and play hard. Farming is in their blood, but believe it or not, so are combine demolition derbies. Growing up as multigenerational cattle, wheat, and alfalfa farmers, this newlywed couple also engineers, decorates, and competes with their combines. Only the strong survive.
Knowledge – Book – Clan of the Cave Bear
Author Video: Jean Auel
Author of the best-seller Earth’s Children series (most recently, Land of the Painted Caves), Jean Auel’s long-time love has been the intersection of the Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon during the Paleolithic era. Her works build from more than thirty years of consultation with experts around the world, visits to numerous sites, and her own research. In her speculative worlds, genetic memory and experiential knowledge are combined to question which of the branches on the human tree will survive.
Book: The Land of Painted Caves
Human Interest Video: Sean Brock, Celebrity Chef
Sean Brock is a successful chef who has two Charleston, South Carolina restaurants and two James Beard awards to his credit, but he’s not satisfied. His restaurants are a means to pursue his ambition of revitalizing the culinary knowledge of the golden age of Southern Cuisine by reviving heirloom crops, recovering rare livestock, and applying his knowledge of molecular gastronomy in his recipes.
Connection – Book – Thunderstruck
Author Video: Erik Larson
Erik Larson, author of the widely acclaimed Devil in the White City, combines painstaking research into technology history with compelling characterizations and murderous twists. His novel Thunderstruck fictionalizes Guglielmo Marconi’s struggle to generate enough electricity for a reliable trans-Atlantic transmission, which also parallels the true-life search for one of Britain’s most notorious serial killers. Marconi’s technology eventually allows people on both sides of the pond to listen in as Scotland Yard tracks and captures the villain.
Human Interest Video: Roxanne Swentzell
Roxanne Swentzell was born with a speech impediment that made it hard to communicate with the world around her, until the first time she began to work in clay. She is now a prominent ceramic sculptor whose works are represented in museums around the world, and she is a founder of the Flowering Tree Permaculture Institute in New Mexico. She and her now grown children (Rose and Porter) constantly endeavor to listen to the past and to leave an important message for the future, connecting generations across time.
Nature – Book – When the Killing’s Done
Author Video: T.C. Boyle
Author of numerous highly acclaimed books including his 2011 work, When the Killing’s Done, T.C. Boyle’s fiction often focuses on complex questions where culture, ethics, and science intersect. This most recent work fictionalizes a conflict between the National Park Service’s efforts to destroy an invasive species and radical animal rights activists’ endeavors to save an island’s non-native population of black rats.
Book: When the Killing’s Done
Human Interest Video: Cameron Clapp, Triple Amputee Tri-Athlete
Cameron Clapp is an adrenaline junkie and risk taker who is trying to meld his nature to more useful pursuits. He is also a triple amputee, with one prosthetic arm and two prosthetic legs. Losing his limbs in a train accident as a teenager, Cameron has never let his injuries stand in the way of his dreams to compete in a triathlon – a feat not easily undertaken when he can’t feel the pedals strapped to his shoes.