Category Archives: Uncategorized

Nanotechnology and water sustainability webinar, Oct. 19, 2016

An upcoming (Oct. 19, 2016) webinar from the US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) is the first of a new series (from an Oct. 7, 2016 news item on Nanowerk),

“Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology: A Federal Perspective” – This webinar is the first in a series exploring the confluence of nanotechnology and water. This event will introduce the Nanotechnology Signature Initiative (NSI): Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology and highlight the activities of several participating Federal agencies. …

The NNI event page for the Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology webinar provides more detail,

Panelists include Nora Savage (National Science Foundation), Daniel Barta (National Aeronautics and Space Adminstration), Paul Shapiro (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency), Jim Dobrowolski (USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture), and Hongda Chen (USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture).

Webinar viewers will be able to submit questions for the panelists to answer during the Q&A period. Submitted questions will be considered in the order received and may be posted on the NNI website. A moderator will identify relevant questions and pose them to the speakers. Due to time constraints, not all questions may be addressed during the webinar. The moderator reserves the right to group similar questions and to skip questions, as appropriate.

There will be more in this series according to the webinar event page,

  • Increase water availability.
  • Improve the efficiency of water delivery and use.
  • Enable next-generation water monitoring systems.

You can register here to participate.

The NNI has a webpage dedicated to Water Sustainability through Nanotechnology: Nanoscale solutions for a Global-Scale Challenge, which explains their perspective on the matter,

Water is essential to all life, and its significance bridges many critical areas for society: food, energy, security, and the environment. Projected population growth in the coming decades and associated increases in demands for water exacerbate the mounting pressure to address water sustainability. Yet, only 2.5% of the world’s water is fresh water, and some of the most severe impacts of climate change are on our country’s water resources. For example, in 2012, droughts affected about two-thirds of the continental United States, impacting water supplies, tourism, transportation, energy, and fisheries – costing the agricultural sector alone $30 billion. In addition, the ground water in many of the Nation’s aquifers is being depleted at unsustainable rates, which necessitates drilling ever deeper to tap groundwater resources. Finally, water infrastructure is a critically important but sometimes overlooked aspect of water treatment and distribution. Both technological and sociopolitical solutions are required to address these problems.

The text also goes on to describe how nanotechnology could  assist with this challenge.

Ars Electronica and gender

A Sept. 12, 2016 essay in the Guardian by Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Addie Wagenknecht, Camilla Mørk Røstvik, and Kathy High discusses the festival’s top prizes and the preponderance of male winners (Note: Links have been removed),

Today [Sept. 12, 2016] is the last day of the annual Ars Electronica festival, held in Linz Austria. Over the past 37 years it has aimed to provide an environment of “experimentation, evaluation and reinvention” in the area broadly defined as art, technology and society. Its top award, the Golden Nica, honours forward-thinking work with broad cultural impact, in an effort to “spotlight the ideas of tomorrow.” However, the prize, hailed by many in the field as the top honour for artists working with science and technology, has a gender problem.

This was uncovered by artist Heather Dewey-Hagborg after she received an honourable mention in the Hybrid Arts Category last year. The prize’s online archive showed that throughout its 29-year history, 9 out of 10 Golden Nica have been awarded to men.

It was only weeks before the festival and her work was already shipped. Unable to withdraw, Heather began discussing the problem with other artists to develop a plan. A painstaking review of the statistics confirmed that more than 90% of winners self-identified as male. Although fewer women had applied, there was no shortage of great female artists among the applicants: the archive included internationally recognized women such as Rebecca Gomperts, Lillian Schwartz, Mariam Ghani, Pinar Yoldas, Daisy Ginsberg, Holly Herndon, Kaho Abe, and Ai Hasegawa. In response, Heather and the other artists developed a social media campaign: #KissMyArs.

There was an interesting response to the campaign (Note: Links have been removed),

… While many were supportive, some voiced disagreement, including 2013 Golden Nica winner Memo Atken. He commented on what he viewed as the campaigners’ misrepresentation of statistics, focusing only on the winners rather than diversity of submissions. After being confronted with a significant backlash to these comments on social media, pointing out among other things that the prize was not a lottery and there was no shortage of impressive female applicants, Atken apologised.

On the flip side artists Golan Levin and Mushon Zer-Aviv critiqued the campaign as not being radical enough for their liking and calling for a “feminist revolution across media arts.”

The two artists criticizing the campaign are both male and far less likely to suffer the kind of repercussions that women do. From the Sept. 12, 2016 essay,

In an insular field like art and technology, making a statement means that you risk your career. Heather Dewey-Hagborg writes, “My participation in this campaign stemmed from a frustration that this highly esteemed prize was one designed for men, and others need not apply. As women in art and tech we are consistently under-recognised, under-funded, and written out of history. We are made to feel that our work must simply not be as good as that of our male peers, and if only we made better work we would attain the same accolades and accomplishments as they did. Last year I finally realised that this was bullshit.”

Addie Wagenknecht, a collaborator on the campaign, became aware of issues of gender bias in the tech industry when she joined a game development company out of college. Constantly surrounded by “a few thousand men” at game conferences started to feel suffocating, although a decade later she felt a shift in attitudes, not only toward women but also people of colour and from LGBTQ communities.

Nevertheless, Addie sees Ars Electronica’s top prize, as “the perfect metaphor of how women are represented”. It is a golden sculpture of an idealised female form, with her head cut off: “I find the irony in the ‘award’ being of a headless woman, to speak volumes towards how we commodify women within the communities in which we claim to be honouring.” She sees the male-bias of the prize as connected to a larger systemic problem which excludes women from exhibitions, under-cuts and discounts women’s work in galleries, and ultimately cuts women out of the larger canon of contemporary art.

The systemic issues mentioned by Dewey-Hagborg and Wagenknecht can also be seen in the world of film. A July 12, 2016 article by Nico Lang for discusses film criticism in the context of the ‘all women Ghostbuster’ reboot (Note: Links have been removed),

After months of fanboys arguing over a movie no one has even seen, critics finally got a peek at Paul Feig’s “Ghostbusters” reboot, in which comedians Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Kristen Wiig, and Melissa McCarthy suit up to fight the supernatural. And much to the relief of everyone who has spent months preparing themselves for the worst, the consensus is mainly positive: The film currently holds a 77 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

There is, however, a growing gender divide over the film’s reception. As of the time of writing, the film’s scores from female reviewers are considerably higher, with 84 percent of women giving the movie a thumbs up. Time’s Stephanie Zacharek comments, “The movie glows with vitality, thanks largely to the performers, who revel in one another’s company.” Meanwhile, the New York Times’ Manohla Dargis writes that it’s “cheerfully silly” and Kate Muir of U.K.’s The Times says it’s a “rollickingly funny delight.”

On the flip side, 77 percent of the critics who gave the film a thumbs down are male.

Roger Ebert’s one-time sidekick, Richard Roeper, called it a “horror from start to finish,” while David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter referred to “Ghostbusters” as a “bust.” That disparity has hampered the film’s reception: Currently, there’s a 10 percentage point difference between male and female opinion on the movie. If reviewing were left up to male critics alone, “Ghostbusters” would have a 74 percent approval rating.

What gives? As Meryl Streep pointed out in a 2015 speech, this discrepancy is likely due to the fact that in a way, these critics are watching two different movies.

“Women are so used to that active empathizing with the active protagonist of a male-driven plot,” Meryl Streep said during a 2015 panel. “That’s what we’ve done all our lives. You read history, you read great literature, Shakespeare, it’s all fellas. But they’ve never had to do the other thing. And the hardest thing for me, as an actor, is to have a story that men in the audience feel like they know what I feel like. That’s a really hard thing. It’s very hard thing for them to put themselves in the shoes of female protagonist.”

Because men are commonly treated as the default in movies—the everyman who stands in for the audience—they rarely are forced to empathize with others’ perspectives. If cinema does not reflect men’s experiences, it can, thus, be difficult for male audience members to see themselves in the picture in the way women are forced to. That affects not only the way that men interact with movies but also how they review them.

I wonder if this same type of bias, the man’s perspective and approach to art and technology as the default might also affect the Ars Electronica prize system?

In any event, there’s much food for thought in both the Guardian piece (which offers some suggestions for positive change) and the Salon piece (which has some fascinating statistical information on how female critics and male critics differ in their judgments).

D-PLACE: an open access database of places, language, culture, and enviroment

In an attempt to be a bit more broad in my interpretation of the ‘society’ part of my commentary I’m including this July 8, 2016 news item on ScienceDaily (Note: A link has been removed),

An international team of researchers has developed a website at to help answer long-standing questions about the forces that shaped human cultural diversity.

D-PLACE — the Database of Places, Language, Culture and Environment — is an expandable, open access database that brings together a dispersed body of information on the language, geography, culture and environment of more than 1,400 human societies. It comprises information mainly on pre-industrial societies that were described by ethnographers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

A July 8, 2016 University of Toronto news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

“Human cultural diversity is expressed in numerous ways: from the foods we eat and the houses we build, to our religious practices and political organisation, to who we marry and the types of games we teach our children,” said Kathryn Kirby, a postdoctoral fellow in the Departments of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Geography at the University of Toronto and lead author of the study. “Cultural practices vary across space and time, but the factors and processes that drive cultural change and shape patterns of diversity remain largely unknown.

“D-PLACE will enable a whole new generation of scholars to answer these long-standing questions about the forces that have shaped human cultural diversity.”

Co-author Fiona Jordan, senior lecturer in anthropology at the University of Bristol and one of the project leads said, “Comparative research is critical for understanding the processes behind cultural diversity. Over a century of anthropological research around the globe has given us a rich resource for understanding the diversity of humanity – but bringing different resources and datasets together has been a huge challenge in the past.

“We’ve drawn on the emerging big data sets from ecology, and combined these with cultural and linguistic data so researchers can visualise diversity at a glance, and download data to analyse in their own projects.”

D-PLACE allows users to search by cultural practice (e.g., monogamy vs. polygamy), environmental variable (e.g. elevation, mean annual temperature), language family (e.g. Indo-European, Austronesian), or region (e.g. Siberia). The search results can be displayed on a map, a language tree or in a table, and can also be downloaded for further analysis.

It aims to enable researchers to investigate the extent to which patterns in cultural diversity are shaped by different forces, including shared history, demographics, migration/diffusion, cultural innovations, and environmental and ecological conditions.

D-PLACE was developed by an international team of scientists interested in cross-cultural research. It includes researchers from Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human history in Jena Germany, University of Auckland, Colorado State University, University of Toronto, University of Bristol, Yale, Human Relations Area Files, Washington University in Saint Louis, University of Michigan, American Museum of Natural History, and City University of New York.

The diverse team included: linguists; anthropologists; biogeographers; data scientists; ethnobiologists; and evolutionary ecologists, who employ a variety of research methods including field-based primary data collection; compilation of cross-cultural data sources; and analyses of existing cross-cultural datasets.

“The team’s diversity is reflected in D-PLACE, which is designed to appeal to a broad user base,” said Kirby. “Envisioned users range from members of the public world-wide interested in comparing their cultural practices with those of other groups, to cross-cultural researchers interested in pushing the boundaries of existing research into the drivers of cultural change.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

D-PLACE: A Global Database of Cultural, Linguistic and Environmental Diversity by Kathryn R. Kirby, Russell D. Gray, Simon J. Greenhill, Fiona M. Jordan, Stephanie Gomes-Ng, Hans-Jörg Bibiko, Damián E. Blasi, Carlos A. Botero, Claire Bowern, Carol R. Ember, Dan Leehr, Bobbi S. Low, Joe McCarter, William Divale, Michael C. Gavin.  PLOS ONE, 2016; 11 (7): e0158391 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0158391 Published July 8, 2016.

This paper is open access.

You can find D-PLACE here.

While it might not seem like that there would be a close link between anthropology and physics in the 19th and early 20th centuries, that information can be mined for more contemporary applications. For example, someone who wants to make a case for a more diverse scientific community may want to develop a social science approach to the discussion. The situation in my June 16, 2016 post titled: Science literacy, science advice, the US Supreme Court, and Britain’s House of Commons, could  be extended into a discussion and educational process using data from D-Place and other sources to make the point,

Science literacy may not be just for the public, it would seem that US Supreme Court judges may not have a basic understanding of how science works. David Bruggeman’s March 24, 2016 posting (on his Pasco Phronesis blog) describes a then current case before the Supreme Court (Justice Antonin Scalia has since died), Note: Links have been removed,

It’s a case concerning aspects of the University of Texas admissions process for undergraduates and the case is seen as a possible means of restricting race-based considerations for admission.  While I think the arguments in the case will likely revolve around factors far removed from science and or technology, there were comments raised by two Justices that struck a nerve with many scientists and engineers.

Both Justice Antonin Scalia and Chief Justice John Roberts raised questions about the validity of having diversity where science and scientists are concerned [emphasis mine].  Justice Scalia seemed to imply that diversity wasn’t esential for the University of Texas as most African-American scientists didn’t come from schools at the level of the University of Texas (considered the best university in Texas).  Chief Justice Roberts was a bit more plain about not understanding the benefits of diversity.  He stated, “What unique perspective does a black student bring to a class in physics?”

To that end, Dr. S. James Gates, theoretical physicist at the University of Maryland, and member of the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (and commercial actor) has an editorial in the March 25 [2016] issue of Science explaining that the value of having diversity in science does not accrue *just* to those who are underrepresented.

Dr. Gates relates his personal experience as a researcher and teacher of how people’s background inform their practice of science, and that two different people may use the same scientific method, but think about the problem differently.

I’m guessing that both Scalia and Roberts and possibly others believe that science is the discovery and accumulation of facts. In this worldview science facts such as gravity are waiting for discovery and formulation into a ‘law’. They do not recognize that most science is a collection of beliefs and may be influenced by personal beliefs. For example, we believe we’ve proved the existence of the Higgs boson but no one associated with the research has ever stated unequivocally that it exists.

More generally, with D-PLACE and the recently announced Trans-Atlantic Platform (see my July 15, 2016 post about it), it seems Canada’s humanities and social sciences communities are taking strides toward greater international collaboration and a more profound investment in digital scholarship.

A new Shrinky Dinks story: super-wrinkled and super-crumpled graphene for self-cleaning surfaces and other applications

Caption: Wrinkles and crumples, introduced by placing graphene on shrinky polymers, can enhance graphene's properties. Credit: Hurt and Wong Labs / Brown University

Caption: Wrinkles and crumples, introduced by placing graphene on shrinky polymers, can enhance graphene’s properties. Credit: Hurt and Wong Labs / Brown University

A March 21, 2016 news item on ScienceDaily describes how Brown University (US) researchers developed super-wrinkled and super-crumpled graphene,

Crumple a piece of paper and it’s probably destined for the trash can, but new research shows that repeatedly crumpling sheets of the nanomaterial graphene can actually enhance some of its properties. In some cases, the more crumpled the better.

The research by engineers from Brown University shows that graphene, wrinkled and crumpled in a multi-step process, becomes significantly better at repelling water–a property that could be useful in making self-cleaning surfaces. Crumpled graphene also has enhanced electrochemical properties, which could make it more useful as electrodes in batteries and fuel cells.

A March 21, 2016 Brown University news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, provides more detail about the current and previous research,

This new research builds on previous work done by Robert Hurt and Ian Wong, from Brown’s School of Engineering. The team had previously showed that by introducing wrinkles into graphene, they could make substrates for culturing cells that were more similar to the complex environments in which cells grow in the body. For this latest work, the researchers led by Po-Yen Chen, a Hibbit postdoctoral fellow, wanted to build more complex architectures incorporating both wrinkles and crumples. “I wanted to see if there was a way to create higher-generational structures,” Chen said.

To do that, the researchers deposited layers of graphene oxide onto shrink films–polymer membranes that shrink when heated (kids may know these as Shrinky Dinks [emphasis mine]). As the films shrink, the graphene on top is compressed, causing it to wrinkle and crumple. To see what kind of structures they could create, the researchers compressed same graphene sheets multiple times. After the first shrink, the film was dissolved away, and the graphene was placed in a new film to be shrunk again.

The researchers experimented with different configurations in the successive generations of shrinking. For example, sometimes they clamped opposite ends of the films, which caused them to shrink only along one axis. Clamped films yielded graphene sheets with periodic, basically parallel wrinkles across its surface. Unclamped films shrank in two dimensions, both length- and width-wise, creating a graphene surface that was crumpled in random shapes.

The team experimented with those different modes of shrinking over three successive generations. For example, they might shrink the same graphene sheet on a clamped film, then an unclamped film, then clamped again; or unclamped, clamped, unclamped. They also rotated the graphene in different configurations between shrinkings, sometimes placing the sheet perpendicular to its original orientation.

The team found that the multi-generational approach could substantially compress the graphene sheets, making them as small as one-fortieth their original size. They also showed that successive generations could create interesting patterns along the surface–wrinkles and crumples that were superimposed onto each other, for example.

“As you go deeper into the generations you tend to get larger wavelength structures with the original, smaller wavelength structure from earlier generations built into them,” said Robert Hurt, a professor of engineering at Brown and one of the paper’s corresponding authors.

A sheet that was shrunk clamped, unclamped, and then clamped looked different from ones that were unclamped, clamped, unclamped, for example.

“The sequence matters,” said Wong, also a corresponding author on the paper. “It’s not like multiplication where 2 times 3 is the same as 3 times 2. The material has a ‘memory’ and we get different results when we wrinkle or crumple in a different order.”

The researchers generated a kind of taxonomy of structures born from different shrinking configurations. They then tested several of those structures to see how they altered the properties of the graphene sheets.

Enhanced properties

They showed that a highly crumpled graphene surface becomes superhydrophobic–able to resist wetting by water. When water touches a hydrophobic surface, it beads up and rolls off. When the contact angle of those water beads with an underlying surface exceeds 160 degrees–meaning very little of the water bead’s surface touches the material–the material is said to be superhydrophobic. The researchers showed that they could make superhydrophobic graphene with three unclamped shrinks.

The team also showed that crumpling could enhance the electrochemical behaviors of graphene, which could be useful in next-generation energy storage and generation. The research showed that crumpled graphene used as a battery electrode had as much as a 400 percent increase in electrochemical current density over flat graphene sheets. That increase in current density could make for vastly more efficient batteries.

“You don’t need a new material to do it,” Chen said. “You just need to crumple the graphene.”

In additional to batteries and water resistant coatings, graphene compressed in this manner might also be useful in stretchable electronics–a wearable sensor, for example.

The group plans to continue experimenting with different ways of generating structures on graphene and other nanomaterials.

“There are many new two-dimensional nanomaterials that have interesting properties, not just graphene,” Wong said. “So other materials or combinations of materials may also organize into interesting structures with unexpected functionalities.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Multiscale Graphene Topographies Programmed by Sequential Mechanical Deformation by Po-Yen Chen, Jaskiranjeet Sodhi, Yang Qiu, Thomas M. Valentin, Ruben Spitz Steinberg, Zhongying Wang, Robert H. Hurt, and Ian Y. Wong. Advanced Materials DOI: 10.1002/adma.201506194 Article first published online: 21 MAR 2016

© 2016 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim

This paper is behind a paywall.

As for Shrinky Dinks, I first featured this material and its use in science research in an Aug. 16, 2010 posting about Shrinky Dinks and nanopatterning. It was originally developed by Betty J. Morris as craft material for children. Both she and the scientist kindly answered some followup questions inspired by the original news release and published in the 2010 post.

The Weyl fermion and new electronics

This story concerns a quasiparticle (Weyl fermion) which is a different kind of particle than the nanoparticles usually mentioned here. A March 17, 2016 news item on Nanowerk profiles research that suggests the Weyl fermion may find applications in the field of electronics,

The Weyl fermion, just discovered in the past year, moves through materials practically without resistance. Now researchers are showing how it could be put to use in electronic components.

Today electronic devices consume a lot of energy and require elaborate cooling mechanisms. One approach for the development of future energy-saving electronics is to use special particles that exist only in the interior of materials but can move there practically undisturbed. Electronic components based on these so-called Weyl fermions would consume considerably less energy than present-day chips. That’s because up to now devices have relied on the movement of electrons, which is inhibited by resistance and thus wastes energy.

Evidence for Weyl fermions was discovered only in the past year, by several research teams including scientists from the Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI). Now PSI researchers have shown — within the framework of an international collaboration with two research institutions in China and the two Swiss technical universities, ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne — that there are materials in which only one kind of Weyl fermion exists. That could prove decisive for applications in electronic components, because it makes it possible to guide the particles’ flow in the material.

A March 17, 2016 Paul Scherrer Institute (PSI) press release by Paul Piwnicki, which originated the news item, describes the work in more detail (Note: There is some redundancy),

In the past year, researchers of the Paul Scherrer Institute PSI were among those who found experimental evidence for a particle whose existence had been predicted in the 1920s — the Weyl fermion. One of the particle’s peculiarities is that it can only exist in the interior of materials. Now the PSI researchers, together with colleagues at two Chinese research institutions as well as at ETH Zurich and EPF Lausanne, have made a subsequent discovery that opens the possibility of using the movement of Weyl fermions in future electronic devices. …

Today’s computer chips use the flow of electrons that move through the device’s conductive channels. Because, along the way, electrons are always colliding with each other or with other particles in the material, a relatively high amount of energy is needed to maintain the flow. That means not only that the device wastes a lot of energy, but also that it heats itself up enough to necessitate an elaborate cooling mechanism, which in turn requires additional space and energy.

In contrast, Weyl fermions move virtually undisturbed through the material and thus encounter practically no resistance. “You can compare it to driving on a highway where all of the cars are moving freely in the same direction,” explains Ming Shi, a senior scientist at the PSI. “The electron flow in present-day chips is more comparable to driving in congested city traffic, with cars coming from all directions and getting in each other’s way.”

Important for electronics: only one kind of particle

While in the materials examined last year there were always several kinds of Weyl fermions, all moving in different ways, the PSI researchers and their colleagues have now produced a material in which only one kind of Weyl fermion occurs. “This is important for applications in electronics, because here you must be able to precisely steer the particle flow,” explains Nan Xu, a postdoctoral researcher at the PSI.

Weyl fermions are named for the German mathematician Hermann Weyl, who predicted their existence in 1929. These particles have some striking characteristics, such as having no mass and moving at the speed of light. Weyl fermions were observed as quasiparticles in so-called Weyl semimetals. In contrast to “real” particles, quasiparticles can only exist inside materials. Weyl fermions are generated through the collective motion of electrons in suitable materials. In general, quasiparticles can be compared to waves on the surface of a body of water — without the water, the waves would not exist. At the same time, their movement is independent of the water’s motion.

The material that the researchers have now investigated is a compound of the chemical elements tantalum and phosphorus, with the chemical formula TaP. The crucial experiments were carried out with X-rays at the Swiss Light Source (SLS) of the Paul Scherrer Institute.

Studying novel materials with properties that could make them useful in future electronic devices is a central research area of the Paul Scherrer Institute. In the process, the researchers pursue a variety of approaches and use many different experimental methods.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Observation of Weyl nodes and Fermi arcs in tantalum phosphide by N. Xu, H. M. Weng, B. Q. Lv, C. E. Matt, J. Park, F. Bisti, V. N. Strocov, D. Gawryluk, E. Pomjakushina, K. Conder, N. C. Plumb, M. Radovic, G. Autès, O. V. Yazyev, Z. Fang, X. Dai, T. Qian, J. Mesot, H. Ding & M. Shi. Nature Communications 7, Article number: 11006  doi:10.1038/ncomms11006 Published 17 March 2016

This paper is open access.

Job at Sense about Science

Sense about Science is advertising for a Campaigns Manager. From the job posting webpage on the website,

Sense about Science is an independent campaigning charity that monitors and challenges the misrepresentation of science and scientific evidence in public life. We advocate for openness and honesty about scientific claims and findings, and mobilise the public to ask questions about science and evidence.

We are recruiting for this post to run the AllTrials campaign and parts of other Sense About Science campaigns and responsive work, reporting to the campaigns director. The AllTrials campaign for clinical trials transparency has already resulted in new regulations, commitments from organisations and support from thousands of people. We now need to build a vibrant international campaign, coordinating activity across the many groups championing trial reporting to change the culture of clinical trial reporting forever.

The role will include:

  • Day to day running of the AllTrials campaign:
    • Developing publicity and communications on the need for clinical trial transparency, including in the media, for supporters, in fundraising appeals and grant applications
    • Coordinating campaign responses to public and political consultations
    • Building and maintaining networks of organisations and experts, in the UK and globally, and coordinating activity
    • Liaising with the team at Sense About Science USA and helping to coordinate AllTrials work in the US
    • Organising and running meetings and communications with the AllTrials campaign steering group
    • Managing Campaign Support Officer, campaign interns and campaign volunteers
  • Supporting the Director of Campaigns in devising and implementing campaign strategies, deputising for the Director of Campaigns
  • Initiating responsive campaigns to new issues and linking our body of work to new discussions
  • Representing Sense About Science at meetings, giving talks, chairing sessions and writing articles

The successful candidate will be articulate, motivated and ambitious about social change. It is a busy office and no two days are the same so you need to be able to plan well but adapt quickly. The ideal candidate will need:

  • a higher degree in a related subject and a background in research
  • experience of building and maintaining networks
  • experience coordinating and delivering projects and a well-tested ability to prioritise
  • the ability to analyse situations and act when in uncertain territory
  • confident and personable communication and a demonstrable ability to produce good written material which is suited to public awareness campaigns
  • good judgment and negotiating skills

Salary c. £28K – £32K. Holiday: 28 days (inc public holidays), 1 additional day after each year in post, and discretionary Christmas break days. Central London (EC1R). Will include some international travel and out of hours activity.

Email a CV and cover letter to the assistant director Emily Jesper by midnight on Friday 18th March 2016 [emphasis mine]. Please call Emily if you want to discuss the post and your suitability: 020 7490 9590.

If you don’t have a CV that matches the requirements but you are absolutely convinced you are right for us and this role, feel free to write to us to make the case.

Good luck and don’t forget the deadline is March 18, 2016.

January 31, 2016 deadlines for early bird tickets (ESOF) and conference abstracts (emerging technologies)

ESOF 2016 (EuroScience Open Forum)

Early bird tickets for this biennial science conference are available until Jan.  31, 2016 according to a Jan. 18, 2016 email notice,

Our most affordable tickets are available to purchase until the end of the month, so make sure you get yours before they disappear. Prices start from only £75 for a full four-day pass for early careers researchers (up to 5 years post doc), and £225 for a full delegate pass. All registrations are entitled to a year long complimentary subscription to Nature at this time.

You can also book your accommodation when you register to attend ESOF. We have worked hard with our city partners to bring you the best deals for your stay in Manchester. With the summer set to be busy with not only ESOF but major international sporting events, make sure you take advantage of these deals.

To register to attend please click here

You can find out more about the event which takes place from July 23 – 27, 2016 in Manchester, England here and/or you can watch this video,

For any interested journalists, media registration has opened (from the Jan. 18, 2016 notice),

Media registration opens

We are delighted to announce our ESOF press accreditation is available for journalists and science communications professionals to register for the conference. Accreditation provides complimentary access to the full ESOF programme, social events and a range of exclusive press only activities. Further details of the eligibility criteria and registration process can be found here.

Nature Publishing Group offers journalists a travel grant which will cover most if not all the expenses associated with attending 2016 ESOF (from the ESOF Nature Travel Grant webpage),

The Nature Travel Grant Scheme offers journalists and members of media organisations from around the world the opportunity to attend ESOF for free. The grant offers complimentary registration as well as help covering travel and accommodation costs.

1. Purpose

Created by EuroScience, the biennial ESOF – EuroScience Open Forum – meeting is the largest pan-European general science conference dedicated to scientific research and innovation. At ESOF meetings leading scientists, researchers, journalists, business people, policy makers and the general public from all over the world discuss new discoveries and debate the direction that research is taking in the sciences, humanities and social sciences.

Springer Nature is a leading global research, educational and professional publisher, home to an array of respected and trusted brands providing quality content through a range of innovative products and services, including the journal Nature. Springer Nature was formed in 2015 through the merger of Nature Publishing Group, Palgrave Macmillan, Macmillan Education and Springer Science+Business Media. Nature Publishing Group has supported ESOF since its very first meeting in 2004.

Similar to the 2012 and 2014 edition of meeting, Springer Nature is funding the Nature Travel Grant Scheme for journalists to attend ESOF2016 with the aim to increase the impact of ESOF.

2. The Scheme

In addition to free registration, the Nature Travel Grant Scheme offers a lump sum of £450 for UK based journalists, £600 for journalists based in Europe and £800 for journalists based outside of Europe, to help cover the costs of travel and accommodation to attend ESOF2016.

3. Who can apply?

All journalists irrespective of their gender, age, nationality, place of residence and media type (paper, radio, TV, web) are welcome to apply. Media accreditation will be required.

4. Application procedure

To submit an application sign into the EuroScience Conference and Membership Platform (ESCMP) and click on “Apply for a Grant”. Follow the application procedure.

On submitting the application form for travel grants, you agree to the full acceptance of the rules and to the decision taken by the Selection Committee.

The deadline for submitting an application is February 29th 2016, 12:00 pm CET.

Good luck!

4th Annual Governance of Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy and Ethics Conference

Here’s more about the conference (deadline for abstracts is Jan. 31, 2016) from the conference’s Call for Abstract’s webpage,

Fourth Annual Conference on
Governance of Emerging Technologies: Law, Policy, and Ethics

May 24-26, 2016, Tempe, Arizona

Call for abstracts:

The co-sponsors invite submission of abstracts for proposed presentations.  Submitters of abstracts need not provide a written paper, although provision will be made for posting and possible post-conference publication of papers for those presenters interested in such options.  Although abstracts are invited for any aspect or topic relating to the governance of emerging technologies, some particular themes that will be emphasized at this year’s conference include existential or catastrophic risks, governance implications of algorithms, resilience and emerging technologies, artificial intelligence, military technologies, and gene editing.

Abstracts should not exceed 500 words.
Abstracts must be submitted by January 31, 2016 to be considered.
Decisions on abstracts will be made by the program committee and communicated by February 29 [2016]. 

Funding: The sponsors will pay for the conference registration (including all conference meals) for one presenter for each accepted abstract.  In addition, we will have limited funds available for travel subsidies in whole or in part.  After completing your abstract online, you will be asked if you wish to apply for a travel subsidy.  Any such additional funding will be awarded based on the strength of the abstract, demonstration of financial need, and/or the potential to encourage student authors and early-career scholars.  Accepted presenters for whom conference funding is not available will need to pay their own transportation and hotel costs.

For more information, please contact Lauren Burkhart at

You don’t often see conference organizers offering to pay registration and meals for a single presenter from each accepted submission. Good luck!

Origami and our pop-up future

They should have declared Jan. 25, 2016 ‘L. Mahadevan Day’ at Harvard University. The researcher was listed as an author on two major papers. I covered the first piece of research, 4D printed hydrogels, in this Jan. 26, 2016 posting. Now for Mahadevan’s other work, from a Jan. 27, 2016 news item on Nanotechnology Now,

What if you could make any object out of a flat sheet of paper?

That future is on the horizon thanks to new research by L. Mahadevan, the Lola England de Valpine Professor of Applied Mathematics, Organismic and Evolutionary Biology, and Physics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS). He is also a core faculty member of the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, and member of the Kavli Institute for Bionano Science and Technology, at Harvard University.

Mahadevan and his team have characterized a fundamental origami fold, or tessellation, that could be used as a building block to create almost any three-dimensional shape, from nanostructures to buildings. …

A Jan. 26, 2016 Harvard University news release by Leah Burrows, which originated the news item, provides more detail about the specific fold the team has been investigating,

The folding pattern, known as the Miura-ori, is a periodic way to tile the plane using the simplest mountain-valley fold in origami. It was used as a decorative item in clothing at least as long ago as the 15th century. A folded Miura can be packed into a flat, compact shape and unfolded in one continuous motion, making it ideal for packing rigid structures like solar panels.  It also occurs in nature in a variety of situations, such as in insect wings and certain leaves.

“Could this simple folding pattern serve as a template for more complicated shapes, such as saddles, spheres, cylinders, and helices?” asked Mahadevan.

“We found an incredible amount of flexibility hidden inside the geometry of the Miura-ori,” said Levi Dudte, graduate student in the Mahadevan lab and first author of the paper. “As it turns out, this fold is capable of creating many more shapes than we imagined.”

Think surgical stents that can be packed flat and pop-up into three-dimensional structures once inside the body or dining room tables that can lean flat against the wall until they are ready to be used.

“The collapsibility, transportability and deployability of Miura-ori folded objects makes it a potentially attractive design for everything from space-bound payloads to small-space living to laparoscopic surgery and soft robotics,” said Dudte.

Here’s a .gif demonstrating the fold,

This spiral folds rigidly from flat pattern through the target surface and onto the flat-folded plane (Image courtesy of Mahadevan Lab) Harvard University

This spiral folds rigidly from flat pattern through the target surface and onto the flat-folded plane (Image courtesy of Mahadevan Lab) Harvard University

The news release offers some details about the research,

To explore the potential of the tessellation, the team developed an algorithm that can create certain shapes using the Miura-ori fold, repeated with small variations. Given the specifications of the target shape, the program lays out the folds needed to create the design, which can then be laser printed for folding.

The program takes into account several factors, including the stiffness of the folded material and the trade-off between the accuracy of the pattern and the effort associated with creating finer folds – an important characterization because, as of now, these shapes are all folded by hand.

“Essentially, we would like to be able to tailor any shape by using an appropriate folding pattern,” said Mahadevan. “Starting with the basic mountain-valley fold, our algorithm determines how to vary it by gently tweaking it from one location to the other to make a vase, a hat, a saddle, or to stitch them together to make more and more complex structures.”

“This is a step in the direction of being able to solve the inverse problem – given a functional shape, how can we design the folds on a sheet to achieve it,” Dudte said.

“The really exciting thing about this fold is it is completely scalable,” said Mahadevan. “You can do this with graphene, which is one atom thick, or you can do it on the architectural scale.”

Co-authors on the study include Etienne Vouga, currently at the University of Texas at Austin, and Tomohiro Tachi from the University of Tokyo. …

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Programming curvature using origami tessellations by Levi H. Dudte, Etienne Vouga, Tomohiro Tachi, & L. Mahadevan. Nature Materials (2016) doi:10.1038/nmat4540 Published online 25 January 2016

This paper is behind a paywall.

Star Trek, Schrödinger’s cat, quantum entanglement, and more in memory teleportation scheme

A Jan. 13, 2016 news item on Nanowerk introduces Star Trek and Schrödinger’s cat as means to explain a quantum teleportation theory (Note: A link has been removed),

In “Star Trek”, a transporter can teleport a person from one location to a remote location without actually making the journey along the way. Such a transporter has fascinated many people. Quantum teleportation shares several features of the transporter and is one of the most important protocols in quantum information.

In a recent study (“Quantum superposition, entanglement, and state teleportation of a microorganism on an electromechanical oscillator”), Prof. Tongcang Li at Purdue University [US] and Dr. Zhang-qi Yin at Tsinghua University [China] proposed the first scheme to use electromechanical oscillators and superconducting circuits to teleport the internal quantum state (memory) and center-of-mass motion state of a microorganism.

They also proposed a scheme to create a Schrödinger’s cat state in which a microorganism can be in two places at the same time. This is an important step towards potentially teleporting an organism in future.

A Jan. 13, 2016 Science China Press news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

In 1935, Erwin Schrödinger proposed a famous thought experiment to prepare a cat in a superposition of both alive and dead states. The possibility of an organism to be in a superposition state dramatically reveals the profound consequences of quantum mechanics, and has attracted broad interests. Physicists have made great efforts in many decades to investigate macroscopic quantum phenomena. So far, matter-wave interference of electrons, atoms, and molecules (such as C60) have been observed. Recently, quantum ground state cooling and the creation of superposition states of mechanical oscillators have been realized. For example, a group in Colorado, US has cooled the vibration of a 15-micrometer-diameter aluminum membrane to quantum ground state, and entangled its motion with microwave photons. However, quantum superposition of an entire organism has not been realized. Meanwhile, there have been many breakthroughs in quantum teleportation since its first experimental realization in 1997 with a single photon. Besides photons, quantum teleportation with atoms, ions, and superconducting circuits have been demonstrated. In 2015, a group at University of Science and Technology of China demonstrated the quantum teleportation of multiple degrees of freedom of a single photon. However, existing experiments are still far away from teleporting an organism or the state of an organism.

In a recent study, Tongcang Li and Zhang-qi Yin propose to put a bacterium on top of an electromechanical membrane oscillator integrated with a superconducting circuit to prepare quantum superposition state of a microorganism and teleport its quantum state. A microorganism with a mass much smaller than the mass of the electromechanical membrane will not significantly affect the quality factor of the membrane and can be cooled to the quantum ground state together with the membrane. Quantum superposition and teleportation of its center-of-mass motion state can be realized with the help of superconducting microwave circuits. With a strong magnetic field gradient, the internal states of a microorganism, such as the electron spin of a glycine radical, can be entangled with its center-of-mass motion and be teleported to a remote microorganism. Since internal states of an organism contain information, this proposal provides a scheme for teleporting information or memories between two remote organisms.

The proposed setup is also a quantum-limited magnetic resonance force microscope. It not only can detect the existence of single electron spins (associated to protein defects or DNA defects) like conventional MRFM, but also can coherently manipulate and detect the quantum states of electron spins. It enables some isolated electron spins that could not be read out with optical or electrical methods to be used as quantum memory for quantum information.

Li says “We propose a straightforward method to put a microorganism in two places at the same time, and provide a scheme to teleport the quantum state of a microorganism. I hope our unconventional work will inspire more people to think seriously about quantum teleportation of a microorganism and its potential applications in future.” Yin says “Our work also provides insights for future studies about the effects of biochemical reactions in the wave function collapses of quantum superposition states of an organism.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the researchers’ latest paper,

Quantum superposition, entanglement, and state teleportation of a microorganism on an electromechanical oscillator by Tongcang Li and Zhang-Qi Yin. Science Bulletin pp 1-9 DOI: 10.1007/s11434-015-0990-x First online: 11 January 2016

This paper is behind a paywall.

Cell Press and its first ever science writing internships

Cell Press is offering three rounds of internships. I believe the first round has ended but there are opportunities to enter the second round, from the Cell Press Newsroom webpage,

Science Writing Internship @ Cell Press

In 2016, the Press Office of Cell Press is offering its first science writing internship program. Three paid positions will be available:

+ Winter (16 weeks, Feb-May, M-F, $15/hr) for grads/post-grads
+ Summer (10 weeks, June-August, M-Th, $12/hr) for undergrads; recent college graduates are also eligible
+ Fall (16 weeks, September-December, M-F, $15/hr) for grads/post-grads

The internships willl be extremely hands-on, giving interns the full experience of being a press officer at a major publishing operation. In addition to public relations experience, interns will also be assigned journalism-type pieces to be published on and in the print issues of Cell. Interns will also learn about the entire production process of how a scientific paper goes from the laboratory to a story in a major media outlet and have the opportunity to collaborate with other business teams, including marketing, commercial sales, editorial, and production.

Summer internship application available in March
Finalists will be asked to take a short editorial test and to provide three writing samples, and the contact information for two references.

Summer Internship
Meant for an individual who is looking to explore science communications as a career. Experience not necessary, just a proven interest in writing/public relations/science .

The undergraduate Science Writing Intern will report to Media Relations Manager Joseph Caputo and will be located in the Elsevier Cambridge, MA office. This will be a 10-week internship over the summer of 2016. The internship will be 4 days per week, Monday through Thursday, 9-5, and will be paid at an hourly rate of $12. The internship spans Monday, June 6, 2016 – Thursday, August 11, 2016.

The Internship will provide the intern with 10+ clips including press releases, news blurbs, blog posts, and original reporting. Tasks will include:

+ Responding to inquiries in the press inbox.
+ Writing press releases about research published in Cell Press journals, distributing press releases, and pitching to relevant journalists.
+ Pitching and developing Cell Press news, CrossTalk blog, podcast, and Elsevier Connect content.
+ Developing and posting Cell Press social media content.
+ Completing miscellaneous projects as assigned by Media Relations Manager.

At the end of the internship, the intern should add to their working knowledge of how to strategize, develop, and execute PR campaigns for various audience segments, write compelling PR content for the web/social media, and measure and analyze campaign outcomes.


The ideal candidate for the internship will:

+ Be studying for or have completed a Bachelor’s in Public Relations, Journalism, or Biology.
+ Have experience preparing and telling a story (specifically pitching, conducting interviews, and writing pieces of journalism or public relations materials).
+ Have proficiency with Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, Outlook).
+ Have work experience within an office environment.

Be comfortable working alone as well as with a team, know how to juggle many time-sensitive tasks, be able to proactively seek information to complete a project, and maintain a friendly attitude while dealing with the high number of requests received from journalists and institutions from around the world.

Internship Position and Timing

Location: Cell Press’s office at 50 Hampshire Street, Cambridge, MA. No housing or relocation assistance will be provided.
Timing: Start date June 6th, end date August 11th.
Hours/Schedule: 7 hours per day, 4 days per week, Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Internship Supervisor: Joseph Caputo, Media Relations Manager
Remuneration: Paid – $12/hr – Contractor

No permanent position is available at the end of the internship, although candidates will be considered for available positions should they apply and performance/circumstances warrant it.

In case you missed it in that welter of information, an application for the second round will be available in March 2016.  I imagine you could use the following contact information although they don’t seem to be encouraging questions,

Joseph Caputo
Media Relations Manager
Phone: +1 (617) 397-2802
Cambridge, MA, USA

There is no word yet as to when the third and final round will be opened up but it is intended for graduate students.