American Institute of Physics announces the winners of the 2009 AIP Science Communication Awards

News Release

WASHINGTON, DC, 10 February 2010 —The American Institute of Physics (AIP) announced the three winning entries in the 2009 Science Communication Awards today. The winning authors -- a freelance science journalist, a TV and film director, an author and screenwriter, and two children's book authors -- will split three prizes of $3,000. They will each also get engraved Windsor chairs and certificates of recognition.

"These outstanding science communicators have each improved the general public's appreciation of physics, astronomy, and related sciences through their wonderfully creative endeavors," says Catherine O'Riordan, AIP Vice President, Physics Resources. "We are pleased to be able to recognize such excellent work."

The winners and their award-winning pieces are:

- DAN FALK, a science writer, broadcaster and author based in Toronto, has won the 2009 AIP Science Communication Award in the SCIENCE WRITING CATEGORY for his feature article "End of days: a universe in ruins," which was published in COSMOS magazine in 2008. Bringing to bear some of the latest research in astrophysics and cosmology, the article examines the long-term fate of our solar system, the universe, and life itself.

- Producer/director DAVID DUGAN, a British filmmaker, and screenwriter TOM SHACHTMAN, an author, filmmaker and educator, are the winners of the 2009 AIP Science Communication Award in the BROADCAST CATEGORY for their two-part NOVA documentary, "Absolute Zero," which was produced for PBS by Windfall Films out of London in collaboration with Meridian Productions in Washington, D.C. "Absolute Zero" was broadcast on WGBH/NOVA in association with TPT/Twin Cities Public Television. Airing on PBS stations across the country in 2008, the program takes the viewers on an extraordinary historical journey in which the secrets of cold are teased apart and mastered.

- CORA LEE and GILLIAN O'REILLY, writers based respectively in Vancouver and Toronto, Canada, have won the 2009 AIP Science Communication Award in the CHILDREN'S CATEGORY for their book "The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places" (Annick Press, 2007). The story focuses on math-loving Sam, who sets out to prove that life isn't half as fun without mathematics by taking the reader through logical proof, introducing mathematician heroes, and wrestling with strange ideas such as never-ending numbers and dogs doing calculus.

Brief bios and more information about the award-winning children's book, magazine article, and television documentary are pasted below.

More about "End of Days: A Universe in Ruins" 
Woody Allen once quipped, "Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?" In a 2008 feature article for COSMOS magazine, Toronto-based science journalist Dan Falk offers both. In his article "End of days: a universe in ruins," Falk spells out a distant future for our cosmic habitat, examining the long-term fate of our solar system, the universe, and life itself.

Based on the latest research in astrophysics and cosmology, "End of Days" stares into a frozen, featureless cosmic void of the far, far future and asks whether the final apocalypse will arrive with a whimper or a bang. To some, the answer may appear even bleaker than Woody Allen could have imagined it -- a universe destined to expand forever and doomed to drift into an endless eternal prison of cold and darkness.

But what makes Falk's story so compelling is not just his look into this looming abyss but his treatment of the creative human imagination that can conceive of it in the first place.

"[It] is quite impressive," he says, "that with our finite hominid brains we have been able to peer so far ahead, with at least some degree of confidence."

"It is also rather intriguing, he adds, "that the fate of the universe billions upon billions of years from now is actually clearer to us that the fate of our own civilization just a few centuries ahead."

His award-winning piece may be read on the COSMOS magazine site.

About Dan Falk
Dan Falk is a science writer, broadcaster, and author, based in Toronto. Falk's writing credits include COSMOS, Astronomy, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist, the Boston Globe, and many other publications. He has also written and presented nearly a dozen radio documentaries and has been a regular contributor the CBC Radio series Ideas. He is the author of two books, "Universe on a T-Shirt: The Quest for the Theory of Everything" (2002), and "In Search of Time: The Science of a Curious Dimension" (2008). He is a previous winner of the AIP Science Writing Award in Physics and Astronomy for his radio documentary "From Empedocles to Einstein" (1999).

Falk has also worked to bring science to a live audience. He recently organized and moderated “The Great Time Debate,” in which two physicists and a philosopher debated the nature of time. The event drew a sell-out crowd of more than 600 people to a Toronto auditorium.

Falk's award will be presented at a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Monday, February 15, 2010 at the joint American Physical Society/American Association of Physics Teachers Meeting in Washington, D.C. The reception is in room Wilson A of the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel. For more information, contact Jason Bardi ([email protected]).

More about "Absolute Zero"
Air-conditioning, refrigeration, and superconductivity are just some of the ways technology has put cold to use. But what is cold, how do you achieve it, and how cold can it get? NOVA explores these and other facets of the frigid in ABSOLUTE ZERO: THE CONQUEST OF COLD and THE RACE FOR ABSOLUTE ZERO, a two-part special based on the definitive book on cold -- "Absolute Zero and the Conquest of Cold" by Tom Shachtman -- and directed and produced by David Dugan. The executive producer was Meredith Burch.

The documentary follows the quest for cold from the unlikely father of air-conditioning, the court magician of King James I of England in the 17th century, to today's scientists pioneering superfast computing in the quantum chill near absolute zero -- the ultimate extreme of cold at minus 273.15 C (minus 460 F).

Along the way, viewers learn about the invention of thermometers, the origin of the ice business in 19th-century New England, Clarence Birdseye's fishing trip that led to the invention of frozen food, and the cold-inspired scientific races towards absolute zero that ended in Nobel prizes.

This frosty subject is brought to life with historical recreations of great moments in low-temperature research and interviews with noted historians and scientists, including Simon Schaffer of the University of Cambridge, Nobel laureates Eric Cornell and Carl Wieman of the University of Colorado and JILA at Boulder, and Wolfgang Ketterle of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Major funding for Absolute Zero was provided by the National Science Foundation, with additional funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Russell P. Donnelly was principal science advisor and chaired the advisory committee.

More information about the program can be viewed at:

A screening of ABSOLUTE ZERO will take place at 7:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 13, 2010 in room Thurgood East of the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel at the joint American Physical Society/American Association of Physics Teachers Meeting in Washington, D.C.

About David Dugan
David Dugan founded Windfall Films with Oliver Morse and Ian Duncan in 1987. His strong narrative approach to science and history documentaries has won him many awards, including three Emmys, a Royal Television Society Award and two British Science Writers Awards. His recent productions include "Inside Nature's Giants" for Channel 4 and National Geographic Channel International and National Geographic US, and "The Operation: Surgery Live" for Channel Four. He is also executive producer on "Race and Intelligence: Science's Last Taboo," Rageh Omaar's journey into the dangerous territory of race and I.Q.

Dugan likes the challenge of turning difficult subjects into engaging films. He created and produced the Emmy-award-winning series DNA to mark the 50th anniversary of the double helix, which featured most of the key players in the history of this molecule. He has also tackled fundamental physics in Reality on the Rocks, a trilogy of films in which the comic actor Ken Campbell tries to get to grips with Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time." His Royal Television Society-nominated six part series "The Day the World Took Off" unraveled the underlying causes of the industrial revolution by going backwards in time from a single day in 1830 to 10,000 years ago. This innovative approach to history followed five free-thinking intellectuals as they explored the roots of the modern world.

 Dugan has directed many NOVA documentaries, most recently "Lord of the Ants" (PBS/NOVA), a profile of the inspirational Harvard biologist, E.O. Wilson.

About Tom Shachtman
Tom Shachtman is an author, filmmaker and educator. He has written or co-authored thirty-three books and several dozen televised documentaries. The ABSOLUTE ZERO documentary is based on his 1999 book, ABSOLUTE ZERO AND THE CONQUEST OF COLD, recipient of a grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Two of his books were published in 2009, AIRLIFT TO AMERICA: HOW BARACK OBAMA, SR., JOHN F. KENNEDY, TOM MBOYA AND 800 EAST AFRICAN STUDENTS CHANGED THEIR WORLD AND OURS, and THE FORTY YEARS WAR: THE RISE AND FALL OF THE NEOCONS, FROM NIXON TO OBAMA, co-written with Len Colodny. RUMSPRINGA: TO BE OR NOT TO BE AMISH (2006) is a sociological exploration of the Anabaptist sect.

Shachtman holds a B.S. degree from Tufts University. He began science writing with the CBS science and technology series THE 21st CENTURY and continued with such documentaries as THE MASKS WE WEAR (ABC) in conjunction with Psychology Today), THE EVERGLADES (ABC), CANCER IS THE NEXT FRONTIER (NBC), and others. He was assistant chief of the television division of the National Geographic Society and has contributed articles to environmental and technology magazines as well as to Smithsonian Magazine and has taught writing at New York University and Harvard University's Extension School.

Dugan and Shachtman will be presented with their award at a reception taking place from 5:30-7:30 p.m. on Monday, February 15, 2010 at the joint American Physical Society/ American Association of Physics Teachers Meeting in Washington, D.C. The reception is in room Wilson A of the Marriot Wardman Park Hotel. For more information, contact Jason Bardi (
[email protected]).

More about "The Great Number Rumble"
When math gets banned at school, chaos rules as kids toss their textbooks. But count on math-loving Sam to be the odd one out. He bets he can turn everyone's thinking 180 degrees within 24 hours. His strategy: prove that life isn't half as fun without mathematics.

After all, biking is just geometry in motion. Combinations and permutations? Nothing more than ice cream options and mix-and-match fashions. No computer calculations, no MP3 players. Can Sam win this bet? The odds aren't bad, with a probability better than 0.5. Hey, school minus math can only equal trouble.

"The Great Number Rumble: A Story of Math in Surprising Places" takes the reader through Sam's logical proof, introduces his mathematician heroes and gives voice to Sam's friend Jeremy as he wrestles with the weird stuff -- such as never-ending numbers and dogs doing calculus.

Delivering cool and intriguing facts to young readers, "The Great Number Rumble" has also been published in Korean and Chinese editions.

More information about the book can also be found on Annick Press's website.

About Cora Lee
Cora Lee is a scientific writer for the pharmaceutical, medical device and biotechnology industries. She is also the author of many articles in children's science magazines and recently had her second book for children published, "The Great Motion Mission: a Surprising Story of Physics in Everyday Life" (September 2009). She believes that children are the perfect audience -- willing to accept impossible answers and open to the most bizarre concepts that scientists can throw at them.

Cora was born in Cache Creek but lived most of her life in Vancouver, Canada, where she studied biochemistry and biotechnology at the University of British Columbia and technical writing at Simon Fraser University. Her early career revolved around the research laboratory. Currently, she works as a consultant, creating medical, regulatory and other technical documentation for the life sciences industry.

When not working, Cora volunteers as coordinator for CAGIS (Canadian Association for Girls in Science), an organization that supports girls interested in science. She escapes busy Vancouver for Mayne Island with her family as often as she can.

About Gillian O'Reilly
Gillian O'Reilly has been interested in words ever since she ate the dust jacket off the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary when she was 11 months old. She has a B.A. in History and has worked in the book industry for over 30 years. Editor of "Canadian Children's Book News," she is also the author of "Slangalicious: Where We Got That Crazy Lingo" (2004). Her goal in writing non-fiction for children is to intrigue, entertain, and educate.

While no mathematician herself, Gillian enjoys the unusual and the "cool" in the world of numbers and shapes. She has become fascinated by the history of mathematics and sciences and the development of our modern understanding of these disciplines. She is always pleased to see mathematical and scientific concepts conveyed to young people (and adults) in a fun, imaginative and memorable way.

O'Reilly lives in Toronto, Canada, with her husband. Their two sons have provided much inspiration for her writing.

Lee and O'Reilly will receive their award this July at the American Association of Physics Teachers' summer meeting in Portland, OR.

About the AIP Science Writing Awards
The purpose of the AIP Science Writing Awards is to promote effective science communication in print and broadcast media in order to improve the general public's appreciation of physics, astronomy, and allied science fields. 

For more information, please contact: Jason Bardi ([email protected]) or visit the AIP website:

For more information, please contact
Media Services
American Institute of Physics
+1 301-209-3090
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