Read & Meet / Popular Science: 2019 National Book Festival

Read & Meet / Popular Science: 2019 National Book Festival


>>Nanette Gibbs: Good afternoon
and thank you for coming to this presentation today. I realize it’s at
the end of the day, but sometimes we save
the best for last. Little bit down. Good. My name is Nanette Gibbs, and I’m a Business
Reference Librarian at the Library of Congress. And, you might say, “Do I
have the right presentation?” You do. I happen to write on business applications
of technology. I write about artificial
intelligence. I write about autonomous
trucking, and I write about drones. And, every once in a while,
I get to do something else, and that’s popular science. So, the slide that you see
right now is our reading room. This is the Adams Building. It’s the building behind
the Jefferson Building. This building was built in
the 1920s, actually the 1920s, opened in 1939 and has one of
the most beautiful reading rooms that you could possibly imagine. Here, we have the
Thomas Jefferson murals. On the other side
of the building, we have the “Canterbury Tales”. Please come and visit us
in the Adams Building. We’re up on the fifth floor, but I guarantee you you’ll
have a wonderful time there. So, what I do, again, I’m
a Reference Librarian, but today’s presentation
is on popular science. And, there are tremendous
connections, now, between business and science. It’s all over the place. There’s innovation. There are companies. All sorts of things like that. So, I’m looking at
that all the time. But, the first slide
you’re going to see is of my friend the octopus. And, he’s right up
here on stage, and he stays rather
close to me all the time. And, I decided one day, gee,
I’d like to see what the Library of Congress has on the octopus. Also, there were a
couple of books that came out at the time on the octopus. But, then people started
giving me octopus presents, like mousepads, like copies
of the New York Times articles on the octopus, a
coaster, another article from the Washington Post, a
poster, little glass octopus, and then, I decided
to take the time to write something
about the octopus. There were two books that
came out during one summer, and one was Godfrey-Smith’s
“Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep
Origins of Consciousness” and also Sy Montgomery’s
“The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into
the Wonder of Consciousness”. Now, as I began reading, I found out that the octopus
is the most intelligent of all invertebrates,
and the fact is, the octopus can get to know you. It can get to like you,
or it can dislike you. For if he shoots
out some blue ink, you’ll know that he
does not like you. He can actually invite you to
walk on the ocean floor with him by extending one of his arms. He has three hearts. He has a beak. He can bite you, okay? He’s known to escape in labs where he can actually push
off the top of a tank and walk around the lab and then also
go down the drainage holes. He’s really quite intelligent. They can walk and run and can
propel themselves at speeds of up to 25 miles an hour. Rapid camouflage and ink is
used to harm its enemies. It can taste and it can grab, and they have been observed
returning your gaze. And, they invite you to
explore the ocean floor. Yes, they can get to know
you, but what happens when you write something
like this and it gets up on a blog post at
the Library of Congress, other people do read this. One day, knocking at my
door, Naval Intelligence. Why would they be
interested in the octopus? Well, they don’t exactly
tell you, but they ask you, “What do you know
about the octopus?” And, you sit in your chair, and
they stand right at the door, you know, and that
kind of thing. So, it’s really interesting. But, you know, this
is biomimicry. What can we learn from animals,
and how can they help us with solutions to
everyday problems? And, as you look into the
subject of biomimicry, you would find out that
the Japanese bullet train, for example, is modeled
after the kingfisher. You know, if you look at
the front of that train, you would see, wow, that is
the beak of a kingfisher. So, we can learn,
again, so much. Popular science is it? I don’t know. The next thing I’m going to show
you if we go on, and that’s, actually that was a really
great picture gift to me. I happened to be
at the hairdresser and noticed this
picture up on the wall. Of course, at that time, I
was looking anything octopus. And, I said, “Where
did you get that?” And, she said, “My brother-in-law
is a photographer, an underwater photographer.” And, I said, “Can you ask him
if I can use that picture?” and he said yes. And, that’s in my blog post,
which is entitled, actually, it’s an everyday
mystery series entitled “Can an Octopus Get
to Know You?” Oh, I forgot to mention, I even went down to the
southwest waterfront, and I asked someone to
hold up an octopus for me. And, that’s when
I was really able to examine those
suckers on the octopus. And, from that, do you
know that we have a patent that was filed to
make suction cups. Again, another interesting
contribution of our friend the octopus. So, again, the books I had
were inspiration for me. “The Soul of the Octopus” and also Godfrey-Smit’s
books “Other Minds”. And then, that’s just a
representation of a small number of books we have at the Library
of Congress on octopuses. That’s the everyday
mystery series we have, and I encourage you,
young and old. To look at this series, we have
99 of them posted on our site for science and technology. That’s a wonderful
way to start the day. Just click on that, and you’ll
find out why do you yawn. You know, things like that,
and they’re lots of fun. They’re great with kids because
it could be motivator every day to get them to read, or
you can read with them. Use everything that we
have from our webpages, and it can greatly enhance your
lives, you can guarantee you. Well, the next thing
I came across, I’m easily distracted,
was the disco ball. Anyone growing up in the ’70s
remember a certain John Travolta and a disco room? And, I said, “I bet this
thing has a patent.” And, again, one of the
wonderful things at the library, you can kind of always have
that feeling that you’re going to ask why, what,
where, and you know it’s in your building someplace. And, that’s what you do. You take the elevator to the
stacks, and you start looking. And, at one point, it’s
really interesting, they were called
Myriad Reflectors. And, they date back
to the early 1900s. And, they used to be used
on stages in bars in England to just illuminate the, you
know, make a different affect, as we all know them to do
because they can deflect light. And, that was fascinating
when I found this. There’s the patent for it. So, we often don’t think
of things such as standards and patents that
govern our daily lives and ensure our safety. After all, that ball
has to go around, and there better be some
standards and safety for it. We even had a celebration
at the Library of Congress a few
years back for disco. Gloria Gaynor came and sang. And, the woman to the far right of the slide is the best
disco ball maker in the world, and I got to meet her. But, I called her first,
and she said to me, “I don’t know why the Library
of Congress wants to meet me.” And, I said, “You’re
really important.” And, she said, “But, you’re
also much smarter than me.” And, I said, “No,” I said,
“You’re really important. You really need to come to the
Library, and we need to hear about how you make disco balls.” And, in fact, she made
that beautiful one for us for that celebration, but it
was never hung that night. Instead, we had to
use an emergency ball that would actually turn
around a little bit easier. But, what a wonderful
individual, and when she’s putting these
mirrors on these balls, she’s standing on a ladder. So, she’s over 70 years old now, and she’s still our
best disco ball maker in the United States,
and likely the world. The next thing we’re
going to show you, and that was the celebration. It was called Bibliodiscotheque
by the way. Imagine that. The Library of Congress, sure. It was quite a night. I’ll never forget it. There’s dancing in
the Great Hall, and there were all sorts
of special effects. And, a wonderful celebration. The next thing. I was asked to be on a committee for the Baseball
Americana Celebration that just closed
this year in June. And, we all sat around
and tried to figure out how we would be able
to contribute division by division for this exhibit. And, I sat there, and I
was like, “Ummm,” you know, “I know what’s in my
building on baseballs.” So, you can see the baseballs,
and after we’re finished today, you’re welcome to come
up and look at them. But, if we advance the
next slide, there it is. I decided to go to a
local hardware store with my Major League
baseball and ask them to do something I
always wanted to do is to cut a baseball in half. You see, science is
very important to me. Ever since I was a little
kid, I’ve been making things, and I’ve been fixing
things, and I look at things, and I like to know
the way they work. So, what you see
there is what happens when a somewhat imprecise
cut is made of a baseball. Please don’t do this at home. I’ll tell you the hardware
store you need to go to. I can’t do it as an endorsement
but come up here afterwards. So, in fact, the
first cut did explode. There’s a tremendous amount
of compressibility that goes into baseballs, but
then, I also looked into what are called the
ASTM standards for baseballs, and trust me, baseball players
want to make sure their, these balls are right. And, they have an inner
core followed by two rounds of rubber, and then you have
this wall binding that’s in there. And, they get it all in there
somehow, and to this day, all Major League baseballs
are handsewn, okay? These guys won’t
tolerate anything but a handsewn baseball. They also have a shield in
them for humidity issues, and it makes the baseball one
of the most perfect things, I think, to present to
anybody to just, you know, spark your imagination or,
most importantly, a child. We take things for
granted, and not realizing that things have a standard. That very chair you’re
sitting on have standards. The lights in this
room have standards, and at the Adams Building, we have over probably 60,000
standards that you can look at. And, they really can transform
your thinking about how we get where we do, how we
innovate, and how things come out the right way
in terms of safety. Just an interesting thing. The other balls I have on
display, one is a softball. I’ve been hit with a softball, and it looks quite
innocent here. It’s just cork, but
it really hurts. You know? And, we do know the
dangers involved with baseballs and being hit by those as well. Next one. So, a few
more things that we see. I couldn’t stop, but I said,
“What about a baseball bat? What about a baseball glove? What about the catcher’s
shield there?” And, this is the one I love. I hope you can see
really good that. That’s the catcher there. Imagine in the early days
they wore these big boxes around them, and baseball,
I don’t know how many of you know this
or realize this, but it actually is a
fairly dangerous game. The most serious injuries
being eye injuries. All Major League baseball teams
actually have an ophthalmologist at every game in the event
there’s an eye injury. So, as we know, that can
be just a devastating, devastating injury. So, I wrote a piece on
baseballs entitled “Baseballs, the Heart of the Matter”, and
we have a wonderful collection of photographs at the
Library of Congress from our prints and photographs. All you have to do is
type in “baseballs”, and here are the guys
testing the baseballs and their compressibility. And, you notice they do that
with suits on, you know. I don’t think we
have that anymore. Next one. That’s a real
good close up of it. Now, take for a moment and
take a look at that owl that you’ve probably
been seeing. And, I’m not going to have
a trick question at the end and say, “How many owls did you
see by the time I’m finished?” But, we have a lot of owls
in the Adams Reading Room. They’re beautiful. They were done, again,
when the building, for the building’s
opening in 1939. They were all done
out of aluminum. I don’t think we
would see that today. So, these are the ASTM
standards that I referred to. Very, very important. They’re all the American
Standards for Testing Materials, and again, baseballs as well as many other things
actually fall under that. There they are. Okay. So, there’s that one on
the left, and it appears again, and you can just see and appreciate all those
fibers that go in there. And, the one that came out
perfectly was on the right. I really hit the big time
that day when I walked into that hardware store. You know, there are a few
of them left, you know, that can actually solve
the problems in your home. You might have an old fixture
or something like that, and unlike Home Depot
or the others. Oops, I shouldn’t
have mentioned that. [chuckles]. They just don’t have that. And, I so appreciated them
taking the time to become part of our presentation to be
able to do that for us. So, there are blog
posts, as I said, on the baseball,
and the next one. The next one I’m coming
to is the American Flag. We found out in our collections
as a result of a question about the American Flag. Are there standards
for the American Flag? Now, you may immediately think
of, well, you can’t fly it at certain, you can’t
fly it when, you know, it’s dark out and
things like that. But, there are actual
guidelines, very specific guidelines
about how they’re made. And, some of this is actually
governed by the same set of standards that
govern baseballs. And, these are some
of the standards, and fabric, of course. That’s another standard
that goes into it. But, one of the things
I learned from this was that if you have a flag that’s
solely being displayed inside, it has to be embroidered. Okay? So, of course, this flag
here is something that’s just, you know, convenience sake,
and people can hold it and wave it and what have you. And, it’s a different
standard, of course, but flags that are flown in
official government buildings for the President, etc. all come up with really serious
standards. So, there’s also a
national aerospace standard, and that one’s done
for the flagpoles. Can you imagine that? And, there’s another one
for the National Association of Architectural Metal
Manufacturers specification for design of metal flagpoles. Okay. So, again, we think of all
of these specifications, maybe. Could be an annoyance to you,
but again, if you see that and you look at these documents, it can actually make
for a safer world. And, other countries
actually follow our standards. I often think people
say, you know, I don’t know what I’m
going to write my paper on. This is a common
thing with students. Where do I begin? And, I say begin at the
Library of Congress. Maybe you can’t come in, but we
certainly have enough materials on the web that are absolutely
incredible, whether it’s a film, whether it’s a photograph. Our Manuscript Division
has incredible resources. Of course, where I
work, we have some of the most expensive business
databases you’re ever going to find. Yes, we do have guidelines. Some of them can only
be accessed on site, but we’re there to help you. And, we have tools
that even if it’s only, you have a chance
for a brief visit. You can actually
maximize it with some of the tools that we have. Book to net machines and
things of that nature. I’ll end by saying the Library of Congress this year
has embraced a new theme, and it says “Engage,
Inspire, and Inform”. And, recently, I was thinking
about this because, you know, we all have to memorize it. And, I said, I don’t know
whether that’s right. I really think it’s you
by coming into the Library of Congress, you who write to
us, you who call us engage, inspire, and inform us. Because if we didn’t get
some of your questions, and this might be hard
for you to understand. We really wouldn’t
know what we have. Remember, we get
things, we catalog them, we get them on the shelves. And, until you come to us with
the question, we’re not going to know just what we have. It’s impossible. It’s 165 million items plus,
and we invite you to come in and engage with us. Inspire us and inform us with what you know
so far about a topic. Because I can tell
you what I do. It becomes part of me,
and I’ll remember you. And, I will write to you. I will answer your questions, and I’ll just keep
reading for you. And, I so enjoy that
aspect of my job from the bottom of my heart. So, please, come to us, engage
us, inspire us, and inform us. And, we’ll only make
the place better. So, if you have any questions. Question? Good.>>Thank you for this. This is supposed to be about
science, and I’m so curious to hear about the Library
of Congress’s standards. Because I think of NIST,
the National Institutes of Standards and Technology.>>Nanette Gibbs: Right.>>And, rather than folks
all coming to the Library of Congress, either
online or in person, could you distinguish what the
Library of Congress provides in terms of standards
and what NIST or other federal
agencies might offer?>>Nanette Gibbs: Right. We do have all the hard
copies of all of these. So, and other agencies
would have that as well. The standards come
under copyright because of the way
they’re published, but we consider the
fair use principle in force at that point. So, you can use them that way. So.>>So, if someone’s
looking for information, should they always
start with you even if they were propagated
elsewhere?>>Nanette Gibbs:
Exactly – you know, that is a very good question. Should they start with us? Of course, I love [inaudible]. I would say yes because
we can actually map out your whole rationale for
your research and what have you. Just show you, we have
tremendous amount of directories that we can link you with, and
we often find people confuse us, for example, with the
National Archives. And, we can show you where
the distinctions are there. So, I’m always very
happy to show you which direction we think
that would be the best way. And, also, I need to tell you that some federal libraries
actually have closed, and they’re actually
coming to us now. So, that could really
hamper somebody’s research if you didn’t know that. And, we are in receipt of other
libraries’ collections as well. So, it’s an excellent question.>>Thank you.>>Nanette Gibbs: Yeah. Anybody else? Please.>>Oh, hello.>>Nanette Gibbs: Yes. Oh, hello over there. Yes.>>Thank you for the talk.>>Nanette Gibbs:
You’re welcome.>>I have a question about,
I guess, access to scientific or engineering research
articles, primarily like journals. Can they be accessed off
site through a portal of some sort, or
is it all on site?>>Nanette Gibbs:
Excellent question. Can you access everything,
you know, through a portal? And, the answer is no. Okay. And, what you want to do
is look at our eResources page, and you’ll see where we have it
designated all free materials, all free access, and that’s
off to the right on that page. I wish I could have
brought it up here for you, but just go on that
eResources page. So, that is about, as I
understand it, right now, maybe 700 free access
to journals. The others are on site,
and the reason for that is that we pay a lot of
money for these, and so, the contractual agreements,
although I’m not in on that, but it’s been simply
explained to me this way. That they, the providers
say that you have to be on site to use them. You can, most of them have
options where you can email, okay, or get pdfs and
things of that nature. Also, if it’s the most
recent article, we have book to net machines that
are all free, and also, our photocopy machines are
scanners, which means then, you can email them
to yourselves. Okay, sometimes, you know, you
have to put a package together. How am I going to
get this all done? But, again, like with
the other question, I think we can get you
going in the right direction and get what you need. Also, I would advise, if you are
looking for a journal article, say, that’s older,
give us a call. And, you know, it’s, we just
get out of wherever we are, and we go look for
it for you, okay?>>Now, should I assume that you
guys should have access to say, at least, like, 99% of
all journals if I’m?>>Nanette Gibbs:
Wow, he’s getting me with the numbers, yeah.>>Like, if I run into a
problem like I have to.>>Nanette Gibbs: Yeah,
we’ll get it for you. I mean, we have enough access
in terms of saying where is it in the world, where is it in
the United States, of course, and fortunately, there
are wonderful other links that we can get things. I mean, I’ve had
people call me and say, “I can’t get this anywhere.” And, you know, from the
convenience of my office, I can just look that up,
really, pretty quickly. So, don’t ever give up. Remember, if one of the
best people who trained me at the Library 43
years ago said to me, “Remember if somebody
walks in here and asks the question,
the answer is here.”>>Okay. All right. Thank you.>>Nanette Gibbs: Okay. It’s true. I’ve had this happen
numerous times. I’ve had, I had a gentleman
come who was doing his doctoral, you know, thesis, and he came
all the way from Scotland. And, it was an economic
report from Nigeria, and he went all over the world. He listed all the libraries he
had been to, and he came in. He said, “I don’t think I’m
going to find this here.” I love that. I don’t think I’m going
to find this here. And, I just went
downstairs, and I got it. You should have seen his face. Should have seen his face. You just never know. We have moved things off site,
and actually, that allows us for greater retrieval because
all of this is barcoded and specifically put in
boxes over in Fort Meade, and our retrieval rate on
items requested is at 100%. So, you know, do
libraries misshelve things and what have you? This, of course, happens,
but in our remote locations, it doesn’t happen, okay. Journal articles, by the way,
incredibly important in science. And, as well as in business. So, we can gain access
for you, and please. You just come in. But, we need another
question, please. I may have finished too soon. Yes.>>This is the just an addition from my own experience
in life sciences. I know that whenever you find
an article on the internet and your institution is not
subscribed to that journal, they ask you for the
little price of $40 or so, so that you can download
the pdf. More often than not, did they
just accept the credentials from my library card. So, I saved an awful
lot of money for that.>>Nanette Gibbs: Yes. What she’s referring to
is you get all excited and you can find this article,
and then this little, you know, banner comes across
you need to pay for it. And, it can be very frustrating. No, we can get that for you. That’s not a problem. Okay. So, please,
everyone gets frustrated at some point in their research. Now, why can’t I find something. It’s got to be there. I find this particularly
true in proceedings where I’m looking at, you know,
I want this paper I’m working on right now on autonomous
trucking. You know, we have a statement in library work called
a blind reference, and it means it doesn’t
go anywhere. It’s very frustrating. So, no, we, there are a
number of errors that occur when people are referring to
articles and things like that, and you know, that’s 43
years I’ve watched it all, and I’ve seen it all. And, I usually can put
it together somehow where the error might be. So, that’s why it’s important to always approach a reference
librarian for that kind of help. We don’t give up. I never give up. You know, a book
doesn’t just go missing. It’s got to be someplace. An article just doesn’t
go missing. It has to be someplace. But, what’s happening in this
electronic world, I think, you know, links expire. All sorts of things
start to happen, and I do have some
serious concerns about good stuff going
missing at some point. It can happen. Any other questions? So, if you would
like to believe more in “Can the Octopus
Get to Know You?” that’s absolutely true. It can. Can the disco ball be
a mirror ball at the same time? How many people here ever
thought of it as a mirror ball? Anybody? Okay. It has little mirrors on it. Matter of fact, on this one, we
lost one of the little mirrors, but I have to say after
this work, I can’t look at an octopus the same way. As a matter of fact, I’ve asked
for funding to go to a lab in Brooklyn that has a
whole bunch of these, but I’ve been turned down. So, I have to go
there on my own time. But, just fascinating, you know. They can actually
unscrew the lids on jars. Can you imagine that? I mean, they’re pretty smart. They really are. Anyone here know the other
animal that’s very good at facial recognition? Sheep. Oh, wow. Sheep can really
get to know you. And, one of the things you can
try, this is pretty interesting. The New Yorker Magazine ran
an article on the intelligence and facial recognition
capabilities of sheep. In the printed edition
of the New Yorker, at the end of the article,
this link isn’t there. But, if you go online
and you go New Yorker, sheep, facial recognition. There is a link there, and
you can go to Scotland Yard and take their facial
recognition test. Am I going off topic, but
this is really interesting. So, I figured, okay,
I’ll take this. I mean, I’m really
interested in this. You know, octopuses
can get to know you. Sheep can get to know you. And so, the test starts off
pretty nice, you know, faces. All right. We can all remember
a face, right? And then, at the very end, it
gets down to corner of the eye, and you feel like you’re
going to lose your mind because the test is an hour. But, at the beginning, they
tell you if you do really well, we’ll keep a record
of your score. Well, you know, really
motivation, you know. Try it some time. Everyone I’ve told to try
it, they’ve come back to me and said, “How did
you do that to me?” But, if you score 85%, they
put you in the list of people. So, what is facial
recognition important for and why are we looking at that. Why did we discover
the octopus doing that, and why did we discover,
and why are we looking at these, and why are sheep? Because in crowd control
situations where we’re worried about rogue individuals, we need to have people there
who can spot them. Do we have these facial
recognition technologies out there, and we’re
all reading about this. You know, they know who we are. But, we still need
people to look at people. And, whether we’re going to
recognize somebody from a corner of their eye or something,
we need that skill. We absolutely do need that skill
to ensure safety for everyone. And so, just as we have
these ASTM standards, we can have people who
can exercise standards, too, standards for safety. You know, if you see
something, say something. But, please take
that test tonight. [laughs] It’s an hour long,
and I, if you ever see me again or come over to the
Adams Building, you know, I’ll give you a Moon
Pie or something. I keep those in my office. That’s lots of fun. Any other questions? But, please, I hope to
see you all someday. I’m out on the reference
desk almost every day. We’re open in the evenings, the Library of Congress,
both buildings. And, all the Madison
Building, too, until 9:30 at night Mondays,
Wednesdays, and Thursdays. We open up all day Saturdays, and this year particularly
dedicated and my intern from this summer who’s sitting
here advancing the slides. Zach, stand up. He has to go back
to college tomorrow. I’m particularly dedicated
to students writing papers and really good papers. And, coming to the Library
of Congress to do their work, and Zach wrote a brilliant
paper this summer on how to do your extended essay for the International
Baccalaureate program in two weeks. Imagine that. Anybody who has to do a paper
has to look at his diagrams and what have you on how
to do a paper in two weeks. So, if you’re a parent
of a student, please come and take a look at this. We hope to get it posted
online pretty soon, and it’s absolutely magical
to think that somebody came to us this summer, and we
gave him this task, of course, to really show people
how they could use, particularly younger people,
how they could use the Library of Congress to have such
an enhanced experience. Even though it’s a pretty
difficult assignment for these students
in their senior year, how they could really get
a good start by coming to the Library of Congress. After all, we can tell them
what books to look at, you know, and which direction to
take with their subject. We have language specialists and subject specialists
all the time ready to help anybody about anything. The last thing I’ll
mention, I can keep talking about how wonderful
it is where I am. But, we have the largest
cookbook collection in the world. So, if you’re looking
for a recipe, okay, or looking to enhance, you know,
a rather dull cooking life, come to us, and we have
certainly all the books there. And, we also have two, two culinary specialists
on board at any time. And, one of the most interesting
questions I ever had was a Congressman had received a
wonderful gift of a boar’s head, and did we have a recipe for Brunswick Stew
using a boar’s head? Well, that was the days
before, you know, internet and everything else or
electronic databases to be able to get at this stuff. So, we were all deployed
to this building looking through every single book,
every, and we only came up with a recipe for
squirrels in Brunswick Stew. So, I always mark that as my
only failure in all my years. And, I didn’t find the
one with the boar’s head. So, thank you for coming. Come and engage,
inspire, and inform us, and we’ll help you
along the way. Thank you very much. [ Applause ]

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