Allan Lasser

Co-founder and CTO, Massive Science

I'm an publisher and digital designer. I truly believe the web can be a beautiful place where people use computers to do better, more often, with less.

In 2017, I co-founded of Massive Science to make scientific knowledge more accessible and actionable for everyone.

Before that, between 2014 and 2016, I was the senior designer and lead developer at MuckRock. There, I helped ordinary people make sense of public records and led the top-to-bottom redesign of the platform. As as part of this, I also hunted for the oldest computer in the federal government. I found it at the IRS.

Allan has contributed to 3 reports

Massive Science Report № 3

You Are What You Meat

We worked with scientists in the field to explain how we’re growing meats in labs—and when you can eat them. It's your introduction to the next agricultural revolution.

Massive Science Report № 2

Opening Our Minds

Join five scientists as they explain the research behind new psychedelic treatments for mental illnesses

Massive Science Report № 1

You Don't Know GMOs

We've gathered a team of geneticists, biologists, and environmental scientists to bring you the most up-to-date report on the science, history, and safety of genetically-modified organisms.

Allan has authored 2 articles

After you march for science, we'll help you keep up the cause

Read now →

Join Massive and support our mission to make science and scientists an important part of society, politics, and culture

Allan has shared 5 notes

The science of colors and the colors of science

I was delighted to learn about Werner's Nomenclature of Colours, a fascinating intersection of art and science. It's a book, first published in 1814, that orders, classifies, and names 110 colors and provides examples of where they can be found in the natural world.

The Public Domain Review shares a short history of origins of the book:

The book is based on the work of the German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner who, in his 1774 book Treatise on the External Characters of Fossils (translated into English in 1805), developed a nomenclature of colors so as to offer a standard with which to describe the visual characteristics of minerals. Clearly taken by the idea, some three decades later the Scottish painter of flowers Patrick Syme amended and extended Werner’s system. In addition to the mineral referent, for each of Werner’s colors Syme added an example from the animal and vegetable kingdom, as well as providing an actual patch of color on the page to accompany the words. While Werner found a suite of 79 tints enough for his geological purpose, now opened up to other realms of nature, Syme added 31 extra colors to bring the total to 110.

I love how this book dances back and forth between science and art. At the same time that it's trying to order and classify colors in a rigorous way, it's also making subjective associations between those colors and the natural world. I think it also tells a larger story about the close relationship between science and art, and how our ordered scientific knowledge emerges out of our subjective observations.

You can see the entire original book on the Internet Archive, or purchase a copy of the book for yourself from the Smithsonian.

The Massive Science Shop is now open!

We've spent the last few months getting our Kickstarter rewards shipping out to backers and prepping our tarot cards for production. Now that we've figured out the basics of order fulfillment—and let me tell you, international shipping is like opening twenty cans of worms—we're excited to take the next step forward and open the Massive Science Shop.

The first things we're putting up for sale are the Kickstarter rewards that weren't claimed by our backers. If you missed backing our campaign back in October, this is your second (and last!) chance to get one of our limited edition Women of Science Tarot Decks. We're only making 500, and over half have already been claimed by our backers. Make sure to pre-order yours before they're all gone.

In addition, we've got a regular edition of our tarot card deck, our sticker packs, and our postcard set up for sale right now. We'll put up our Women of Science posters for sale once they're ready.

But, most importantly, we want to know what you want to see in our shop. We've got a bunch of different ideas so far—books we've reviewed, oh-so-trendy enameled pins, all manners of swag sporting the Massive Science logo—and we want to know what we should focus on. Fill out the poll on our shop page to let us know what you want to see!

Finally, all of this wouldn't be possible without the incredible support of our Kickstarter backers. They proved that people really want to see more imaginative representations of science exist in the world. Their support has not only helped us not just bring this one project into existence, but also helped us lay the groundwork to continue realizing new projects like it in the future. To all of our backers: thank you!

Meet Margaret Hamilton, who established "software engineering" and powered astronauts

Hamilton was a software engineer before the position was even existed—in fact, she's the one who coined the term. She was one of the first people who distinguished software engineering as a legitimate field worthy of respect.

In the 1960s, she led the team that developed the in-flight software for the Apollo missions. Her team's hand-written software played a critical role in landing the astronauts of Apollo 11 on the moon, one of the first times a computer was trusted with the real-time execution of a mission-critical task.

The government shutdown is going to destroy ongoing research

We asked our community whether or not the partial shutdown of the federal government, which has stretched into its second month, was having an impact on their research. One of our members is a former USDA researcher and helped illustrate the consequences of the shutdown on the government's scientific research. They asked to remain anonymous, citing limits on unauthorized statements imposed on scientists by the administration.

When it comes to agriculture research conducted by the USDA, they told us how a shutdown means the living things are not getting regular care. Plant research is often seasonal and so certain experiments need to be done at set seasonal times. If the few personnel allowed on station aren't capable of watering everything. Plants and insect colonies which aren't cared for could die. As a result, year-long projects could be irreparably lost.

Cephalopalooza!

Last month the scientific exploration ship Nautilus has discovered the largest deep-sea octopus nursery, with over 1,000 octopus. 

"We went down the eastern flank of this small hill, and that's when - boom - we just started seeing pockets of dozens here, dozens there, dozens everywhere," King told National Geographic.

It's wonderful to hear the un-self-conscious enthusiasm of these researchers as they discover the nursery.

Follow along with the Nautilus on Twitter and their ship's ongoing livestream.