Neuroscientist will detail how humans pay attention; entomologist will discuss bees

JOE KLAMAR/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE VIA GETTY IMAGES - A talk at the Koshland Science Musweum will shed light on the ecology of bees and their declining population.

This Week

Get your nerd on at science events


ONE-TIME ONLY USE. Scanning electron micrograph of a kidney stone (nephrolithiasis). Kidney stones form when salts, minerals and chemicals in the urine (for example calcium, oxalate and uric acid) crystallise and solidify. Small kidney stones are often passed naturally but larger stones can sometimes get lodged in the kidney or other parts of the urinary tract. Size of stone is 2 mm.

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“Pay Attention!” at Busboys and Poets; “Beespotter” at Koshland Science Museum

Local science buffs may be interested in two events this week.

The D.C. Science Cafe convenes at the 1025 Fifth St. NW location of Busboys and Poets on April 23 to hear George Washington University neuroscientist Sarah Shomstein describe what it means to pay attention and how humans do it.

Science Cafe organizers present the following situation: “There you are in the supermarket, tracking down the ingredients for making your famous chocolate-bottomed creme brulee, when your cellphone rings and stops you in your tracks.”

Shomstein’s talk will dissect what’s happening in our brains when that cellphone rings and how people are able to stay focused on a task amid “utter sensory cacophony.”

Of course, distracting stimuli are present beyond the baking aisle of the local grocery; Shomstein’s advice can be applied at work and in our personal lives, organizers say. For more information about the free event, visit or call 202-789-2227.

On April 25, the Koshland Science Museum, at 525 E. Street NW, will host entomologist May Berenbaum, who will shed light on the ecology of bees and their declining populations.

Since 2006, when colony collapse disorder was identified, the abrupt disappearance of honeybees across the country has confounded researchers and beekeepers. The die-offs have been blamed on a variety of factors such as pesticide use, but no one knows for certain what’s causing the decline.

Berenbaum will also discuss the BeeSpotter program, in which nonscientists collect and share bee data. Snacks are included in the $10 ticket price ($7 for students). For more information, visit or call 202-334-1201.

Marine Life

Meet evolution’s ‘perfect fish’

“Swordfish: A Biography of the Ocean Gladiator” by Richard Ellis

Fast. Strong. Fearless. Not words one would normally associate with a swordfish, an animal that many people prize only on a dinner plate or at the end of a fishing line. But Richard Ellis, a marine biologist and the author of more than 20 books on marine life, has written an ode to the long-billed creature, casting the swordfish in a majestic light.

Swordfish: A Biography of the Ocean Gladiator” looks at the evolution, biology and ecology of what it calls “one of the most spectacularly beautiful animals on earth; one of the largest and fastest, as well as the most heavily armed of all fishes . . . [and] one of the ocean realm’s most powerful hunters,” according to the book.

Ellis describes a pugnacious creature that evolved from prehistoric predators with a willingness to fight anything and everything, be it another fish, a human or a boat. The book also looks at the effect of climate change on the swordfish’s range, efforts to restore the animal’s populations, and reports of high mercury levels in its meat.

The book features illustrations by the author, depicting what Ellis describes as “one of the most efficient swimming, hunting, eating, and attacking machines ever to swim the sea.”

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