Monday, August 29, 2011

Decatur Book Festival adds science track

Meet Bookzilla, below, your host for the AJC Decatur Book Festival Sept. 2-4. The literary sci-fi monster is the perfect mascot for what has grown into the largest independent book festival in the country. This year, the festival aligned with Atlanta Science Tavern to offer its first science track.

AJC Decatur Book Fest graphic

“An enormous number of great science books are coming out,” says Marc Merlin, a lead organizer of Atlanta Science Tavern and an Emory alum who majored in physics. “The book festival was looking for new ways to extend its program and didn’t have a particular expertise in selecting science authors, so this is a wonderful overlapping of interests.”

Emory physicist Sidney Perkowitz kicks off the science track on Saturday, Sept. 3 at 12:30 p.m. He’ll discuss his new book “Slow Light: Invisibility, Teleportation and Other Mysteries of Light.” Perkowitz will be followed by medical historian Holly Tucker from Vanderbilt University, author of “Blood Work: A Tale of Murder and Medicine in the Scientific Revolution.”

The science track continues on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. with a panel discussion “From Page to Pub to Podcast: Science Writers Address New Venues and New Media.” Panelists include Holly Tucker; Emory paleontologist Anthony Martin, whose book “Life Traces of the Georgia Coast” will be published this fall; and Maryn McKenna, author of Superbug and a blogger at

“They’ll share their experiences of being science educators in a world in which public communication about science now routinely takes place in bars and cafes and on Facebook and Twitter,” says Merlin, who will moderate the discussion.

Atlanta Science Tavern is a great example of the "social science" trend. The Meet-Up group, which gathers regularly at Manuel’s Tavern to hear scientists discuss their research, has grown to more than 1,300 members. “A lot of people are interested in finding out more about science, while also meeting like-minded people who share their wonder and excitement about the natural world,” Merlin says.

On Sunday at 5 p.m., Emory neuroscientist Karen Rommelfanger, who has a special interest in bioethics, will introduce the final speaker in the science track, neuroscientist David Eagleman. He’ll be discussing “Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain.” In the book, Eagleman argues that “all brains are not created equal. “ He imagines a future where neuroscience improves the ability to zero in on neural inequality, to the point where criminals could be sentenced based on a spectrum of neural “modifiability.”

Other Decatur Book Festival genres of interest to science lovers:

Nature, including Georgia author Janisse Ray.

Science fiction, including best-selling authors Beth Revis and Lee Gimenez.

Graphic novels, with Kyle Puttkammer, author of Galaxy Man.

Health and wellness, including a talk by Norman Rosenthal on transcendental meditation.

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