Category Archives: science

Richard Van Duyne solves mystery of Renoir’s red with surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) and Canadian scientists uncover forgeries

The only things these two items have in common is that they are concerned with visual art. and with solving mysteries The first item concerns research by Richard Van Duyne into the nature of the red paint used in one of Renoir’s paintings. A February 14, 2014 news item on Azonano describes some of the art conservation work that Van Duyne’s (nanoish) technology has made possible along with details about this most recent work,

Scientists are using powerful analytical and imaging tools to study artworks from all ages, delving deep below the surface to reveal the process and materials used by some of the world’s greatest artists.

Northwestern University chemist Richard P. Van Duyne, in collaboration with conservation scientists at the Art Institute of Chicago, has been using a scientific method he discovered nearly four decades ago to investigate masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Winslow Homer and Mary Cassatt.

Van Duyne recently identified the chemical components of paint, now partially faded, used by Renoir in his oil painting “Madame Léon Clapisson.” Van Duyne discovered the artist used carmine lake, a brilliant but light-sensitive red pigment, on this colorful canvas. The scientific investigation is the cornerstone of a new exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago.

The Art Institute of Chicago’s exhibition is called, Renoir’s True Colors: Science Solves a Mystery. being held from Feb. 12, 2014 – April 27, 2014. Here is an image of the Renoir painting in question and an image featuring the equipment being used,

Renoir-Madame-Leon-Clapisson.Art Institute of Chicago.

Renoir-Madame-Leon-Clapisson.Art Institute of Chicago.

Renoir and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Art Institute of Chicago

Renoir and surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS). Art Institute of Chicago

The Feb. 13, 2014 Northwestern University news release (also on EurekAlert) by Megan Fellman, which originated the news item, gives a brief description of Van Duyne’s technique and its impact on conservation at the Art Institute of Chicago (Note: A link has been removed),

To see what the naked eye cannot see, Van Duyne used surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy (SERS) to uncover details of Renoir’s paint. SERS, discovered by Van Duyne in 1977, is widely recognized as the most sensitive form of spectroscopy capable of identifying molecules.

Van Duyne and his colleagues’ detective work informed the production of a new digital visualization of the painting’s original colors by the Art Institute’s conservation department. The re-colorized reproduction and the original painting (presented in a case that offers 360-degree views) can be viewed side by side at the exhibition “Renoir’s True Colors: Science Solves a Mystery” through April 27 [2014] at the Art Institute.

I first wrote about Van Duyne’s technique in my wiki, The NanoTech Mysteries. From the Scientists get artful page (Note: A footnote was removed),

Richard Van Duyne, then a chemist at Northwestern University, developed the technique in 1977. Van Duyne’s technology, based on Raman spectroscopy which has been around since the 1920s, is called surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy’ or SERS “[and] uses laser light and nanoparticles of precious metals to interact with molecules to show the chemical make-up of a particular dye.”

This next item is about forgery detection. A March 5, 2014 news release on EurekAlert describes the latest developments,

Gallery owners, private collectors, conservators, museums and art dealers face many problems in protecting and evaluating their collections such as determining origin, authenticity and discovery of forgery, as well as conservation issues. Today these problems are more accurately addressed through the application of modern, non-destructive, “hi-tech” techniques.

Dmitry Gavrilov, a PhD student in the Department of Physics at the University of Windsor (Windsor, Canada), along with Dr. Roman Gr. Maev, the Department of Physics Professor at the University of Windsor (Windsor, Canada) and Professor Dr. Darryl Almond of the University of Bath (Bath, UK) have been busy applying modern techniques to this age-old field. Infrared imaging, thermography, spectroscopy, UV fluorescence analysis, and acoustic microscopy are among the innovative approaches they are using to conduct pre-restoration analysis of works of art. Some fascinating results from their applications are published today in the Canadian Journal of Physics.

Since the early 1900s, using infrared imaging in various wave bands, scientists have been able to see what parts of artworks have been retouched or altered and sometimes even reveal the artist’s original sketches beneath layers of the paint. Thermography is a relatively new approach in art analysis that allows for deep subsurface investigation to find defects and past reparations. To a conservator these new methods are key in saving priceless works from further damage.

Gavrilov explains, “We applied new approaches in processing thermographic data, materials spectra data, and also the technique referred to as craquelure pattern analysis. The latter is based on advanced morphological processing of images of surface cracks. These cracks, caused by a number of factors such as structure of canvas, paints and binders used, can uncover important clues on the origins of a painting.”

“Air-coupled acoustic imaging and acoustic microscopy are other innovative approaches which have been developed and introduced into art analysis by our team under supervision of Dr. Roman Gr. Maev. The technique has proven to be extremely sensitive to small layer detachments and allows for the detection of early stages of degradation. It is based on the same principles as medical and industrial ultrasound, namely, the sending a sound wave to the sample and receiving it back. ”

Spectroscopy is a technique that has been useful in the fight against art fraud. It can determine chemical composition of pigments and binders, which is essential information in the hands of an art specialist in revealing fakes. As described in the paper, “…according to the FBI, the value of art fraud, forgery and theft is up to $6 billion per year, which makes it the third most lucrative crime in the world after drug trafficking and the illegal weapons trade.”

One might wonder how these modern applications can be safe for delicate works of art when even flash photography is banned in art galleries. The authors discuss this and other safety concerns, describing both historic and modern-day implications of flash bulbs and exhibit illumination and scientific methods. As the paper concludes, the authors suggest that we can expect that the number of “hi-tech” techniques will only increase. In the future, art experts will likely have a variety of tools to help them solve many of the mysteries hiding beneath the layers.

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

A review of imaging methods in analysis of works of art: Thermographic imaging method in art analysis by D. Gavrilov, R.Gr. Maev, and D.P. Almond. Canadian Journal of Physics, 10.1139/cjp-2013-0128

This paper is open access.

The Pantheon and technology, history of the world from Big Bang to the end, and architecture evolving into a dynamic, interactive process at TED 2014′s Session 2: Retrospect

Now to Retrospect, session two of the TED 2014. As the first scheduled speaker, Bran Ferren kicked off the session. From Ferren’s TED biography,

After dropping out of MIT in 1970, Bran Ferren became a designer and engineer for theater, touring rock bands, and dozens of movies, including Altered States and Little Shop of Horrors, before joining Disney as a lead Imagineer, then becoming president of R&D for the Walt Disney Company.

In 2000, Ferren and partner Danny Hillis left Disney to found Applied Minds, a playful design and invention firm dedicated to distilling game-changing inventions from an eclectic stew of the brightest creative minds culled from every imaginable discipline.

Ferren used a standard storytelling technique as do many of the TED speakers. (Note: Techniques become standard because they work.) He started with personal stories of his childhood which apparently included exposure to art and engineering. His family of origin was heavily involved in the visual arts while other family members were engineers. His moment of truth was during childhood when he was taken to view the Pantheon and its occulus (from its Wikipedia entry; Note: Links have been removed),

The Pantheon (/ˈpænθiən/ or US /ˈpænθiɒn/;[1] Latin: Pantheon,[nb 1] [pantʰewn] from Greek: Πάνθεον [ἱερόν], an adjective understood as “[temple consecrated] to all gods”) is a building in Rome, Italy, commissioned by Marcus Agrippa during the reign of Augustus (27 BC – 14 AD) as a temple to all the gods of ancient Rome, and rebuilt by the emperor Hadrian about 126 AD.[2]

The building is circular with a portico of large granite Corinthian columns (eight in the first rank and two groups of four behind) under a pediment. A rectangular vestibule links the porch to the rotunda, which is under a coffered concrete dome, with a central opening (oculus) to the sky. Almost two thousand years after it was built, the Pantheon’s dome is still the world’s largest unreinforced concrete dome.[3] The height to the oculus and the diameter of the interior circle are the same, 43.3 metres (142 ft).[4]

It is one of the best-preserved of all Roman buildings. It has been in continuous use throughout its history, and since the 7th century, the Pantheon has been used as a Roman Catholic church dedicated to “St. Mary and the Martyrs” but informally known as “Santa Maria Rotonda.”[5] The square in front of the Pantheon is called Piazza della Rotonda.

I cannot adequately convey Ferren’s appreciation and moment of inspiration where all in a moment he understood how engineering and art could be one and he also understood something new about light; it can have ‘weight’. He then describes the engineering feat in more detail and notes that we are barely able to achieve a structure like the Pantheon with today’s battery of technological innovations and understanding. He talked about what the ‘miracles’ need to achieve similar feats today and then he segued into autonomous cars and that’s where he lost me. Call me a peasant and an ignoramus (perhaps once these talks are made public it will be obvious I misunderstood his point)  but I am never going to view an autonomous car as being an engineering feat similar to the Pantheon. As I see it, Ferren left out the emotional/spiritual (not religious) aspect that great work can inspire in someone. While the light bulb was an extraordinary achievement in its own right, as is electricity for that matter, neither will are likely to take your breath away in an inspirational fashion.

Brian Greene (not listed on the programme) was introduced next. Greene’s Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),

Brian Randolph Greene [1] (born February 9, 1963) is an American theoretical physicist and string theorist. He has been a professor at Columbia University since 1996 and chairman of the World Science Festival since co-founding it in 2008. Greene has worked on mirror symmetry, relating two different Calabi–Yau manifolds (concretely, relating the conifold to one of its orbifolds). He also described the flop transition, a mild form of topology change, showing that topology in string theory can change at the conifold point. He has become known to a wider audience through his books for the general public, The Elegant Universe, Icarus at the Edge of Time, The Fabric of the Cosmos, The Hidden Reality, and related PBS television specials. Greene also appeared on The Big Bang Theory episode “The Herb Garden Germination”, as well as the films Frequency and The Last Mimzy.

He also recently launched World Science U (free science classes online) as per a Feb. 26, 2014 post by David Bruggeman on his Pasco Phronesis blog.

The presentation was a history of the world from Big Bang to the end of the world. It’s the fastest 18 minutes I’ve experienced so far and it provided a cosmic view of history. Briefly, everything disintegrates, the sun, the galaxy and, eventually, photons.

The last speaker I’m mentioning is Marc Kushner, architect. from his TED biography (Note: Links have been removed),

Marc Kushner is a practicing architect who splits his time between designing buildings at HWKN, the architecture firm he cofounded, and amassing the world’s architecture on the website he runs, Architizer.com. Both have the same mission: to reconnect the public with architecture.

Kushner’s core belief is that architecture touches everyone — and everyone is a fan of architecture, even if they don’t know it yet. New forms of media empower people to shape the built environment, and that means better buildings, which make better cities, which make a better world.

Kushner, too, started with a childhood story where he confessed he didn’t like the architecture of the home where he and his family lived. This loathing inspired him to pursue architecture and he then segued into a history of architecture from the 1970′s to present day. Apparently the 1970s spawned something called ‘brutalism’ which is very much about concrete. (Arthur Erickson a local, Vancouver (Canada) architect who was internationally lauded for his work loved concrete; I do not.) According to Kushner, I’m not the only one who doesn’t like ‘brutalism’ and so by the 1980s architects fell back on tried and true structures and symbols. Kushner noted a back and forth movement between architects attempting to push the limits of technology and alienating the populace and then attempting to please the populace and going overboard in their efforts with exaggerated and ornate forms which eventually become offputting. Kushner then pointed to Guggenheim Bilbao as an architecture game-changer (from the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao Wikipedia entry; Note: Links have been removed),

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a museum of modern and contemporary art, designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, and located in Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. The museum was inaugurated on 18 October 1997 by King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

One of the most admired works of contemporary architecture, the building has been hailed as a “signal moment in the architectural culture”, because it represents “one of those rare moments when critics, academics, and the general public were all completely united about something.”[3] The museum was the building most frequently named as one of the most important works completed since 1980 in the 2010 World Architecture Survey among architecture experts.[3]

Kushner’s own work has clearly been influenced by Gehry and others who changed architecture in the 1990s but his approach is focused on attempting to integrate the community into the process and he described how he and his team have released architectural illustrations onto the internet years before a building is constructed to make the process more accessible.

TED 2014 ‘pre’ opening with reclaimed river, reforesting the world, open source molecular animation software, and a quantum butterfly

Today, March 17, 2014 TED opened with the first of two sessions devoted to the 2014 TED fellows. The ones I’m choosing to describe in brief detail are those who most closely fall within this blog’s purview. My choices are not a reflection of my opinion about the speaker or the speaker’s topic or the importance of the topic.

First, here’s a list of the fellows* along with a link to their TED 2014 biography (list and links from the TED 2014 schedule),

Usman Riaz Percussive guitarist
Ziyah Gafić photographer + storyteller
Alexander McLean african prison activist
Dan Visconti composer + concert presenter
Aziza Chaouni architect + ecotourism specialist
Shubhendu Sharma reforestation expert
Bora Yoon Experimental musician
Aziz Abu Sarah entrepreneur + educator
Gabriella Gomez-Mont Creativity Officer, Guest Host
Jorge Mañes Rubio conceptual artist
Bora Yoon Experimental musician
Janet Iwasa molecular animator
Robert Simpson astronomer + web developer
Shohini Ghose quantum physicist + educator
Sergei Lupashin aerial robotics researcher + entrepreneur
Lars Jan director + media artist
Sarah Parcak Space archaeologist, TED Fellow [part of group presentation]
Tom Rielly Satirist [received a 5th anniversary gift, a muppet of himself from group]
Susie Ibarra composer + improviser + percussionist educator
Usman Riaz

Aziza Chaouni is an architect based in Morocco. From Fez (and I think she was born there), she is currently working to reclaim the Fez River, which she described as the ‘soul of the city’. As urbanization has taken over Fez, the river has been paved over as it has become more polluted with raw sewage being dumped into it along with industrial byproducts from tanning and other industries. As part of the project to reclaim the river, i.e., clean it and uncover it, Chaouni and her collaborators have created public spaces such as a playground which both cleanses the river and gives children a place to play which uncovering part of the city’s ‘soul’.

Shubhendu Sharma founded Afforestt with the intention of bringing forests which have been decimated not only in India but around the world. An engineer by training, he has adapted an industrial model used for car production to his forest-making endeavours. Working with his reforestation model, you can develop a forest with 300 trees in the space needed to park six cars and for less money than you need to buy an iPhone. The Afforestt project is about to go open-source meaning that anyone in the world can download the information necessary to create a forest.

Jorge Mañes Rubio spoke about his art project where he creates travel souvenirs, e.g., water from the near a submerged city in China. The city was submerged in the Three Gorges hydro dam project. For anyone not familiar with the project, from the Wikipedia Three Gorges Dam entry (Note: Links removed),

The Three Gorges Dam is a hydroelectric dam that spans the Yangtze River by the town of Sandouping, located in Yiling District, Yichang, Hubei province, China. The Three Gorges Dam is the world’s largest power station in terms of installed capacity (22,500 MW). In 2012, the amount of electricity the dam generated was similar to the amount generated by the Itaipu Dam. [2][3]

Except for a ship lift, the dam project was completed and fully functional as of July 4, 2012,[4][5] when the last of the main turbines in the underground plant began production. Each main turbine has a capacity of 700 MW.[3][6] The dam body was completed in 2006. Coupling the dam’s 32 main turbines with two smaller generators (50 MW each) to power the plant itself, the total electric generating capacity of the dam is 22,500 MW.[3][7][8]

The one souvenir he showed from that project featured symbols from traditional Chinese art festooned around the edges of white plastic bottle containing water from above a submerged Chinese city.

Janet Iwasa, a PhD in biochemistry, professor at the University of Utah and a molecular animator, talked about the animating molecular movement in and around cells. She showed an animation of a clathrin cage (there’s more about clathrin, a protein in a Wikipedia entry; looks a lot like a buckyball or buckminster fullerene except it’s not carbon) which provides a completely different understanding of how these are formed than is possible from still illustrations. She, along with her team, has created an open source software, Molecular Flipbook, which is available in in beta as of today, March 17, 2014.

The next session is starting. I’ll try and get back here to include more about Robert Simpson and Shohini Ghose.

ETa March 17, 2014 at 1521 PST:

Robert Simpson talked about citizen science, the Zooniverse project, and astronomy.  I have mentioned Zooniverse here (a Jan. 17, 2012 posting titled: Champagne galaxy, drawing bubbles for science and a Sept. 17, 2013 posting titled: Volunteer on the Plankton Portal and help scientists figure out ways to keep the ocean healthy.  Simpson says there are 1 million people participating in various Zooniverse projects and he mentioned that in addition to getting clicks and time from people, they’ve also gotten curiosity. That might seem obvious but he went on to describe a project (the Galaxy Zoo project) where the citizen scientists became curious about certain phenomena they were observing and as a consequence of their curiosity an entirely new type of galaxy was discovered, a pea galaxy. From the Pea Galaxy Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),

A Pea galaxy, also referred to as a Pea or Green Pea, might be a type of Luminous Blue Compact Galaxy which is undergoing very high rates of star formation.[1] Pea galaxies are so-named because of their small size and greenish appearance in the images taken by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS).

Pea Galaxies were first discovered in 2007 by the volunteer users within the forum section of the online astronomy project Galaxy Zoo (GZ).[2]

My final entry for this first TED fellow session is about Shohini Ghose, as associate professor of physics, at Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Canada). She spoke beautifully and iyou think you understand while the person’s speaking but aren’t all that sure afterwards. She was talking about chaos at the macro and at the quantum levels. The butterfly effect (a butterfly beats its wings in one part of the world and eventually that disturbance which is repeated is felt as a hurricane in another part of the world) can also occur at the quantum level. In fact, quantum entanglement is generated by chaos at the quantum scale. She was accompanied by a video representing chaos and movement at the quantum scale.

* ‘fellow’ changed to ‘fellows’ March 17, 2013 1606 hours PST

Ahoy me hearties! A new theory for Damascus steel

I hope I got that right. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a pirate movie but talk of Damascus steel meant that I had to have at least one movie pirate-type phrase in this piece.

I first came across Damascus steel outside the pirate movie domain in 2007 about the time that researchers declared blades made of Damascus steel sported carbon nanotubes giving  the blades their legendary qualities. From a Nov. 16, 2006 National Geographic article by Mason Inman,

New studies of Damascus swords are revealing that the legendary blades contain nanowires, carbon nanotubes, and other extremely small, intricate structures that might explain their unique features.

Damascus swords, first made in the eighth century A.D., are renowned for their complex surface patterns and sharpness. According to legend, the blades can cut a piece of silk in half as it falls to the ground and maintain their edge after cleaving through stone, metal, or even other swords.

Now studies of the swords’ molecular structure are uncovering the tiny structures that may explain these properties.

Peter Paufler, a crystallographer at Technical University in Dresden, Germany, and his colleagues had previously found tiny nanowires and nanotubes when they used an electron microscope to examine samples from a Damascus blade made in the 17th century.

It seems that while researchers were able to answer some questions about the blade’s qualities, researchers in China believe they may have answered the question about the blade’s unique patterns, from a March 12, 2014 news release on EurekAlert,

Blacksmiths and metallurgists in the West have been puzzled for centuries as to how the unique patterns on the famous Damascus steel blades were formed. Different mechanisms for the formation of the patterns and many methods for making the swords have been suggested and attempted, but none has produced blades with patterns matching those of the Damascus swords in the museums. The debate over the mechanism of formation of the Damascus patterns is still ongoing today. Using modern metallurgical computational software (Thermo-Calc, Stockholm, Sweden), Professor Haiwen Luo of the Central Iron and Steel Research Institute in Beijing, together with his collaborator, have analyzed the relevant published data relevant to the Damascus blades, and present a new explanation that is different from other proposed mechanisms.

Before the development of tanks, guns, and cannons, humans fought with swords, and there was one type of sword in particular that everyone wanted, a Damascus sword. Western Europeans first encountered these swords in the hands of Muslim warriors in Damascus about a thousand years ago. Damascus swords were prized for their strength and sharpness. They were famous for being so sharp that they could cut a silk scarf in half as it fell to ground, something that European swords could not do. Both Mediterranean and European blacksmiths believed that the outstanding strength and sharpness of the swords resulted from their beauty, i.e., the Damascus pattern. This presents as a wavy pattern like a rose and ladder on the surface of Damascus blades, as shown in Fig. 1. It was recorded that blacksmiths in Persia made the best Damascus steel swords by hammering a small cake of Wootz steel, which was a high-quality steel ingot imported from ancient India. The best European blade smiths from the Middle Ages onwards were not able to fabricate similar blades, even though they carefully studied examples made in the East. Damascus blades became even more mysterious when the art of making them actually died out. Despite all the knowledge and technological advances of the 21st century, people are still debating the mechanism through which such beautiful patterns were formed on Damascus blades.

Here’s the figure showing a blade and its pattern,

Caption: This is an example of a Damascus sword with a typical Damascus pattern of Muhammad ladder and rose. Microstructural examination of the blade indicates that rows of cementite particles (in black) form the Damascus patterns[11]. Credit: ©Science China Press

Caption: This is an example of a Damascus sword with a typical Damascus pattern of Muhammad ladder and rose. Microstructural examination of the blade indicates that rows of cementite particles (in black) form the Damascus patterns[11].
Credit: ©Science China Press

The news release goes on,

The compositions and microstructures of many existing Damascus steel blades have been examined previously. Their C contents are within the range of 1 wt.%, and often around 1.6 wt.%. It is also known that the Damascus pattern results from the band-like formation of coarse cementite particles. The high C content leads to a large amount of cementite particles being precipitated during hot hammering. After proper etching, the coarse cementite bands appear white within the dark matrix, such that they form a visible pattern on the surface. After the 1970s, the mechanism for the formation of the Damascus pattern was revisited and debated, particularly by Professors Verhoeven from Iowa State University and Sherby from Stanford University. Sherby and his co-workers[1-4] thought that a coarse cementite network was formed around the large austenite grains, when the Wootz steel cake was cooled slowly in crucibles for several days after melting. Later, the continuous cementite network was broken into spheroidal particles during extensive hammering at relatively low temperatures between cherry (850 °C) and blood red (650 °C), rather than the white heat customarily used by European blacksmiths. Furthermore, Wootz steel cake must be used in the manufacture of genuine Damascus blades. The low-temperature hammering was also a key technology, by which Wootz steels were easily hot deformed without cracking, and finer carbide particles precipitated to make the steel stronger and tougher. However, Verhoeven et al. though that the Damascus pattern was related to the microsegregation of solutes during solidification. They carried out experiments on two genuine Damascus blades during which the carbides were removed completely by dissolution treatment, followed by quenching. It was shown that the planar arrays of carbide particles could be made to return, together with the surface pattern, by thermal cycling, whereas the Sherby mechanism requires the cementite particles formed on the boundaries of the large austenite grains to be retained during deformation. Hence, they argued strongly that the surface patterns formed on genuine Damascus steel blades should result from a type of microsegregation-induced carbide banding that requires thermal cycling[5-10]. In particular, the dendritic segregation of V was considered the most likely reason for carbide banding[11].

However, compositional examinations of some existing Damascus steel blades revealed that many of them contain almost no V or any other carbide-forming elements. Moreover, it is apparent that the ancient craftsmen making Wootz steels had no concept of alloying with particular elements such as V. As Wootz steel cakes have been discovered in many parts of the ancient Indian region, it is unlikely that the iron ores in all those places happened to contain V or other certain types of carbide-forming elements. Therefore, the explanation proposed by Verhoeven et al. is also less than convincing.

Luo et al. adopted a new method to approach this puzzle. Using an advanced metallurgical computational software package (Thermo-Calc), all possible factors, such as the influence of S, P, and V elements on the Fe-C phase diagram, precipitation of V(CN), diffusion of V in austenite, and the dendritic segregation of S and P during solidification were quantified, because they have all been considered as possible prerequisites for forming Damascus patterns. The calculations indicated that V(CN) particles precipitate or dissolve at temperatures much lower than cementite in cases with a low content of V, as is commonly found in Damascus steels (see Fig. 2a). Instead, the sulfide and phosphide could precipitate at the dendritic zone because of the severe segregation during slow solidification. In particular, the remaining P-rich liquid at the end of solidification might transform to a eutectic product of phosphide and cementite (Fig. 2b), which cannot be distinguished from cementite under an optical microscope. The high concentration of P will not be homogenized by diffusion after a short dissolution treatment, such that cementite might re-precipitate in the P-segregated regions. Therefore, the dendritic segregation of P influences the spatial distribution of cementite in Damascus blades and thus, the patterns are formed.

Luo et al. also suggested that their method could be widely employed to tackle other puzzles similar to that of the Damascus patterns, because today’s knowledge is so well developed that reliable theoretical computations are now possible. Although people were capable of making Damascus steel swords containing ultrahigh carbon contents (1 wt.%) a long time ago, it is surprising that almost all modern steels in use contain C contents below 1 wt.%. However, with future developments of knowledge and technology, it is expected that ultrahigh carbon steels. e.g., Wootz steels, will once again find important applications, because the best of the new is often the long-forgotten past.

I want to draw attention to two elements that distinguish this news release, the request from the authors and the bibliographic notes (I don’t recall seeing bibliographies appended to a news release before),

Note from the authors: It would be much appreciated if anyone would like to donate a piece of genuine Damascus blade for our research.

Corresponding Author:

LUO Haiwen
Email: [email protected]

References

1. Sherby O D, Wadsworth J. Damascus Steels. Sci Amer, 1985,252:112-118

2. Wadsworth J, Sherby O D. On the Bulat Damascus steels revisited. Prog Mater Sci, 1980,25:35-68

3. Sherby O D, Wadsworth J. Ancient blacksmiths, the Iron Age, Damascus steels, and modern metallurgy. J of Mater Processing Techno, 2001,117:347-352

4. Wadsworth J, Sherby O D. Response to Verhoeven comments on Damascus steel. Mater Charact, 2001, 47: 163

5. Verhoeven J D, Pendary A H. Origin of the Damask pattern in Damascus steel blades. Mater Charact, 2001, 47: 423

6. Verhoeven J D, Pendary A H. On the origin of the Damask pattern of Damascus steels. Mater Charact, 2001, 47: 79

7. Verhoeven J D, Baker H H, Peterson D T, et al. Damascus Steel, Part III—The Wadsworth-Sherby mechanism. Mater Charact, 1990, 24:205

8. Verhoeven J D, Pendary A H, Gibson E D. Wootz Damascus steel blades. Mater Charact, 1996, 37: 9

9. Verhoeven J D, Pendary A H. Studies of Damascus steel blades: Part I—Experiments on reconstructed blades. Mater Charact, 1993, 30:175

10. Verhoeven J D, Pendary A H, Berge P M. Studies of Damascus steel blades: Part II—Destruction and reformation of the patterns. Mater Charact, 1993, 30: 187

11. Verhoeven J D, Pendray A. The mystery of the Damascus sword. Muse, 1998, 2: 35

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper (you will likely need Chinese language skills to read it, although there is an English language abstract on the page),

Theoretic analysis on the mechanism of particular pattern formed on the ancient Damascus steel blades by LUO HaiWen, QIAN Wei, and DONG Han. Chinese Science Bulletin, 2014(9)

I believe the paper is behind a paywall. Finally, I hope the researchers are able to obtain a piece of genuine Damascus steel blade for their studies.

Call for abstracts; Volume 2 of the International Handbook of Internet Research

This call for abstracts (received from my Writing and the Digital Life list) has a deadline of June 1, 2014. From the call,

Call for Abstracts for Chapters
Volume 2 of the International Handbook of Internet Research
(editors Jeremy Hunsinger, Lisbeth Klastrup, and Matthew Allen)

Abstracts due June 1 2014; full chapters due Sept. 1 2015

After the remarkable success of the first International Handbook of Internet Research (2010), Springer has contracted with its editors to produce a second volume. This new volume will be arranged in three sections, that address one of three different aspects of internet research: foundations, futures, and critiques. Each of these meta-themes will have its own section of the new handbook.

Foundations will approach a method, a theory, a perspective, a topic or field that has been and is still a location of significant internet research. These chapters will engage with the current and historical scholarly literature through extended reviews and also as a way of developing insights into the internet and internet research. Futures will engage with the directions the field of internet research might take over the next five years. These chapters will engage current methods, topics, perspectives, or fields that will expand and re-invent the field of internet research, particularly in light of emerging social and technological trends. The material for these chapters will define the topic they describe within the framework of internet research so that it can be understand as a place of future inquiry. Critique chapters will define and develop critical positions in the field of internet research. They can engage a theoretical perspective, a methodological perspective, a historical trend or topic in internet research and provide a critical perspective. These chapters might also define one type of critical perspective, tradition, or field in the field of internet research.

We value the way in which this call for papers will itself shape the contents, themes, and coverage of the Handbook. We encourage potential authors to present abstracts that will consolidate current internet research, critically analyse its directions past and future, and re-invent the field for the decade to come. Contributions about the internet and internet research are sought from scholars in any discipline, and from many points of view. We therefore invite internet researchers working within the fields of communication, culture, politics, sociology, law and privacy, aesthetics, games and play, surveillance and mobility, amongst others, to consider contributing to the volume.

Initially, we ask scholars and researchers to submit an 500 word abstract detailing their own chapter for one of the three sections outlined above. The abstract must follow the format presented below. After the initial round of submissions, there may be a further call for papers and/or approaches to individuals to complete the volume. The final chapters will be chosen from the submitted abstracts by the editors or invited by the editors. The chapter writers will be notified of acceptance by January 1st, 2015. The chapters will be due September 2015, should be between 6,000 and 10,000 words (inclusive of references, biographical statement and all other text).

Each abstract needs to be presented in the following form:

· Section (Either Foundations, Futures, or Critiques)

· Title of chapter

· Author name/s, institutional details

· Corresponding author’s email address

· Keywords (no more than 5)

· Abstract (no more than 500 words)

· References

Please e-mail your abstract/s to: [email protected]

We look forward to your submissions and working with you to produce another definitive collection of thought-provoking internet research. Please feel free to distribute this CfP widely.

As I recall (accurately I hope), I met Jeremy Hunsinger some years ago at an Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR) conference held in Vancouver in 2007 with the theme, Let’s Play. He’s an academic based at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.

Good luck with your submission!

International Women’s Day March 8, 2014: women bridging ‘the valley of death’; celebrating the Year of Crystallography; describing success; and righting a wrong

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2014 and to thank Carla Caprioli (@carlacap) for reminding me of the date, here are a few stories about women and science that I find uplifting in one fashion or another, First, I have an excerpt from a piece written by Australian, Cathy Foley where she describes how women could be instrumental in bridging the scientific/technical ‘valley of death’, from a Feb. 20, 2014 news item on phys.org,

As International Women’s Day approaches on March 8 [2014] and my time as NSW [Australia's state of New South Wales] Premier’s Woman of the Year draws to a close, I have been thinking about diversity in the workplace, and in particular, the relationship between diversity and innovation.

Science and technology that lead to innovation are critical for the changes that lead to a better quality of life, greater business opportunities and a happier, healthier and more equitable society.

There is strong evidence that companies operating with a gender-balance actually enhance their innovation quotient and gain a competitive advantage.

Reports also suggest that advances in gender equality correlate positively with higher Gross National Product (GNP) and that increasing women’s labour force participation and earnings generates greater economic benefits for a family’s health and education. Surely this can only be a good thing.

Foley then goes on to present her case that women can be instrumental in bridging the ‘valley of death’, that gap between laboratory research and commercialization.

Next up, Georgina Ferry’s Jan. 29, 2014 article for Nature (magazine) about women, crystallography, and the International Year of Crystallograpy,

Georgina Ferry celebrates the egalitarian, collaborative culture that has so far produced two female Nobel prizewinners.

“It takes a very special breed of scientist to do this work … it is an area of science in which women dominate.” So said the professor introducing distinguished British crystallographer Judith Howard in 2004 as she received an honorary degree from the University of Bristol, UK.

Some 15 years previously, Howard had received an invitation to apply for a new chair in structural chemistry at Durham University, UK, framed in similarly irksome terms: “because aren’t women supposed to be good at that sort of thing?” Her former PhD supervisor, the Nobel prizewinner Dorothy Hodgkin, encouraged Howard not to let such comments get in her way. Howard got the job, established one of the world’s leading laboratories for low- and variable-temperature structural chemistry, served as head of the department of chemistry, was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and became the founding director of Durham’s interdepartmental Biophysical Sciences Institute.

Whatever their level of distinction, female crystallographers have always in fact been in the minority. But there is a relationship between the outstanding achievements of some of them and the reputation and culture of the field that is worth examining as we celebrate the International Year of Crystallography.

Ferry goes on to present a fascinating history of the contribution women have made to the field of crystallography.

Next up is a March 7, 2014 posting about women and success written by Athene Donald for the Guardian science blogs (Note: Links have been removed),

At the more everyday level of academic science, how should success be measured? As part of its work on gender equality, and to coincide with International Women’s Day, the University of Cambridge is publishing a book entitled The Meaning of Success containing a fascinating series of 26 interviews with women identified as “successful” by their colleagues, plus an accompanying narrative written by Jo Bostock. These women aren’t only scientists, they aren’t only academics, but through them come some loud and clear messages about how they collectively view success, with the issues highlighted not necessarily the obvious ones.

The stories revealed in the interviews in The Meaning of Success suggest that women take a very broad view of success, how they achieved it and what it means to them. Take chemistry professor Jane Clarke, who only started research in her 40s after a career as a schoolteacher. She says:

I am one of the world leaders in my field and I’m tremendously proud of that. And I’ve done it in such a way that I can hold my head up and say that I never trampled on anybody. I’ve also done it starting late, in an unusual way, and I think that’s something to be proud of. It shows that there’s more than one way of having a successful scientific career, and you should never be told otherwise.

Or plant scientist and Director of the Sainsbury Laboratory, Professor Ottoline Leyser, who says:

I want to break the mould of what you need to be like to be successful. I think success needs to be about collegiality and recognising that the whole should be far more than the sum of the parts. Of course it’s nice if you’re elected to the Royal Society, but it’s a byproduct, not the object of the exercise.

From the University of Cambridge’s perspective this book is meant to start an internal dialogue about how we measure and value success to ensure that we truly do recruit and reward the best wherever that is to be found, not just facilitate the progression of lookalikes to those already in post.

The quote from Ottoline Leyser in the excerpt from Donald’s posting reminded me of some research about reference letters and how the words used to describe the candidates affect their applications (from a Nov. 9, 2010 piece by Jessica Stark on phys.org),

A recommendation letter could be the chute in a woman’s career ladder, according to ongoing research at Rice University. The comprehensive study shows that qualities mentioned in recommendation letters for women differ sharply from those for men, and those differences may be costing women jobs and promotions in academia and medicine.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, Rice University professors Michelle Hebl and Randi Martin and graduate student Juan Madera, now an assistant professor at the University of Houston, reviewed 624 letters of recommendation for 194 applicants for eight junior faculty positions at a U.S. university. They found that letter writers conformed to traditional gender schemas when describing candidates. Female candidates were described in more communal (social or emotive) terms and male candidates in more agentic (active or assertive) terms. [emphasis mine]

Thematically, we have Foley suggesting that women’s communal qualities can be an advantage for bridging the ‘valley of death’, Ferry noting that while women are a minority in the field of crystallography , their success has been due to “a collaborative ethos,” and Donald’s suggestion that we redefine success.

Finally, here’s an excerpt from Rosie Redfield’s Feb. 6, 2014 post on her RRResearch blog where she attempts to redress an old wrong,

A few days ago a French student in my Useful Genetics Coursera course posted a link to an article in Le Monde (sorry, it’s both in French and behind a paywall, but this link might get you a translation).  It reported that a Jan. 31 award ceremony for the discovery of the cause of Down syndrome, part of the 7th Human and Medical Genetics Congress  in Bordeaux, had been blocked by a Down syndrome support organization (Fondation Jerome-Lejeune).  The back story is very depressing, an egregious example of a woman scientist being denied credit for her discovery.

The woman is Dr. Marthe Gautier, now 88 years old.  In 1956 she was a young physician, returning to Paris from a year’s study of pediatric cardiology at Harvard.  She was given a clinical/teaching position at a local hospital, with no funds for research.  The Head of the Pediatric Unit, Raymond Turpin, was interested in mongolism (as Down syndrome was then called); years earlier he had proposed that it might be caused by a chromosome abnormality.  Human cytogenetics was not well understood, but a big breakthrough came this same year, when the true chromosome number was finally established as 46 (not 48).  When Turpin complained that nobody was investigating his hypothesis, Gautier proposed that she take this problem on, since her Harvard training had introduced her to both cell culture and histology.  Turpin agreed to provide a tissue sample from a patient.

For this work she was given a disused laboratory with a fridge, a centrifuge, and a poor quality microscope, but no funding.  And of course she still had her other responsibilities.  But she was keen and resourceful, so she took out a personal loan to buy glassware, kept a live cockerel as a source of serum, and used her own blood when she needed human serum.

By the end of 1957 she had everything working with normal human cells, and could clearly distinguish the 46 chromosomes.  So she asked Prof. Turpin for the patient sample.  After 6 months wait it arrived, and she quickly was able to prepare slides showing that it had not 46 but 47 chromosomes, with three copies of a small chromosome.  But her microscope was very poor, and she could not identify the chromosome or take the photographs of her slides that a publication would need.

All this time Prof. Turpin had never visited her lab, but she’d had frequent visits from a protege of his, Jerome Lejeune.  When she showed Lejeune her discovery, he offered to take the slides to another laboratory where they could be photographed.  …

You may be able to partially guess where this story is going (it bears some similarity to Rosalind Franklin’s which is briefly described in Ferry’s article) but you may want to check out Redfield’s Gautier for at least one twist. In any event, the good part of the story is that Redfield wrote that post and she’s working on a Wikiipedia entry as part of an informal collaborative movement to ensure that Gautier finally gets credit for her work. On that theme, one of my favourite sites, Grandma Got STEM [science, technology, engineering,mathematics] does something similar by soliciting posts that recognize all kinds of contributions women have made. Happy International Women’s Day 2014.

ETA March 10, 2014: Here’s one more article I’d like to add by Maia Weinstock for Scientific American, 15 Works of Art Depicting Women in Science [Photo Essay].  This art piece by Orlando Leibovitz is one of the 15 featured in the article,

 Lise Meitner and Nuclear Fission, 2009 Acrylic on Jute, 54 x 48 inches Credit: Orlando Leibovitz. [downloaded from http://www.orlandoleibovitz.com/Lise_Meitner_and_Nuclear_Fission.html]


Lise Meitner and Nuclear Fission, 2009
Acrylic on Jute, 54 x 48 inches
Credit: Orlando Leibovitz. [downloaded from http://www.orlandoleibovitz.com/Lise_Meitner_and_Nuclear_Fission.html]

Leibovitz has a series titled, ‘Painted Physics‘ where you can find the Meitner piece and others. From the Weinstock article in Scientific American (Note: Links have been removed),

Both Marie Curie and German-born physicist Lise Meitner were responsible for some of the most important advances in physics of the 20th century. Meitner’s contribution was the discovery of nuclear fission, the splitting of atoms that led to the development of nuclear energy and atomic weapons.  Unlike Curie, who was showered with two Nobel Prizes, Meitner was snubbed when her collaborator, Otto Hahn, took home a solo Nobel in physics for their work. But Meitner’s accomplishments eventually earned her something even more enduring: a place on the periodic table of elements. She is the namesake of meitnerium, element 109.

I was pleasantly surprised by the whimsy with which Orlando Leibovitz, a self-taught artist based in Santa Fe, N.M., represented Meitner’s signature work. …

Leibovitz adds: “Lise Meitner’s discoveries continue to have a monumental impact on our lives. The way she overcame the discrimination she faced as a woman, as a physicist and as a Jew in Nazi Germany is a dramatic story. Meitner wrote, ‘Science makes people reach selflessly for truth and objectivity. It teaches people to accept reality with wonder and admiration….’ She lived that sentiment every day of her life. That is a story worth painting.”

The Weinstock article appears to be a review of sorts for an art exhibit that Weinstock is curating, from the Scientific American article (Note: A link has been removed),

… The artists in the following collection of works featuring women in science have contributed boldly to the dual goals of celebrating women in the STEM fields and portraying them positively through the lens of visual media. A selection of these will be featured at a women-in-STEM art exhibit that I will guest curate at the Art.Science.Gallery. in Austin, Texas, from September 13 through October 15, 2014.

While the Art.Science.Gallery doesn’t yet list Weinstock’s show as an upcoming event, there are some intriguing exhibits and images being featured currently.

Glass is a challenge to measure but scientists at Canada’s University of Waterloo have figured out how

Glass, as many folks know, has a dual nature, being simultaneously both liquid and solid, making truly accurate measurement a bit of a challenge.  A March 3, 2014 news item on Azonano notes that scientists at Canada’s Waterloo University have solved the surface measurement problems with glass,

University of Waterloo physicists have succeeded in measuring how the surfaces of glassy materials flow like a liquid, even when they should be solid.

Understanding the mobility of glassy surfaces has implications for the design and manufacture of thin-film coatings and also sets practical limits on how small we can make nanoscale devices and circuitry.

The work is the culmination of a project carried out by a research team led by Professor James Forrest and doctoral student Yu Chai from the University of Waterloo as well as researchers from École Superieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles in France and McMaster University [Canada].

A Feb. 28  2014 University of Waterloo news release (also on EurekAlert) by Katharine Tuerke, which originated the news item, describes the research in further detail,

“Common sense would tell you that if a material is solid, it’s solid everywhere. But we’ve shown that a solid isn’t a solid everywhere,” says James Forrest, a professor in Waterloo’s Department of Physics and Astronomy.  “It’s almost solid everywhere -  except a few nanometers at the surface.”

A series of simple and elegant experiments were the solution to a problem that has been plaguing condensed matter physicists for the past 20 years. The experiments revealed that at a certain temperature range, solid glassy materials actually have a very thin liquid-like layer at the surface.

Glass is much more than the material in bottles and windows. In fact, any solid without an ordered, crystalline structure is considered a glassy material, so metals, small molecules, and polymers can all be made into glassy materials.

Polymers, the building block of all plastics, are almost always glassy rather than crystalline. These materials undergo a transition between a brittle solid and a molten liquid in a narrow temperature range, which encompasses the so-called glass transition temperature.

In a series of experiments, Forrest and colleagues started with very thin slices of polystyrene stacked to create tiny staircase-like steps about 100-nanometres high – less than 0.001 per cent the thickness of a human hair. They then measured these steps as they became shorter, wider and less defined over time.

The simple 2-dimensional profile of this surface step allowed the physicists to numerically model the changes to the surface’s geometry above and below the glass transition temperature.

Results show that above the transition temperature, polystyrene flows entirely like a liquid; but below this temperature the polymer becomes a solid with a thin liquid-like layer at the surface.

Forrest is also a University Research Chair, a member of the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and an associate faculty member at the Perimeter Institute.

The project team also includes Kari Dalnoki-Veress and J.D. McGraw from McMaster University and Thomas Salez, Michael Benzaquen and Elie Raphael of the École Superieure de Physique et de Chimie Industrielles in Paris.

The researchers have provided a 21 second animation to illustrate their work,

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

A Direct Quantitative Measure of Surface Mobility in a Glassy Polymer by Y. Chai, T. Salez, J. D. McGraw, M. Benzaquen, K. Dalnoki-Veress, E. Raphaël, & J. A. Forrest. Science 28 February 2014: Vol. 343 no. 6174 pp. 994-999 DOI: 10.1126/science.1244845

This paper is behind a paywall.

Science publishing, ‘high impact’, reliability, and the practice of science

Konstantin Kakaes has written a provocative and astute article (Feb. 27, 2014 on Slate) about science and publishing, in particular about ‘high impact’ journals.

In 2005, a group of MIT graduate students decided to goof off in a very MIT graduate student way: They created a program called SCIgen that randomly generated fake scientific papers. Thanks to SCIgen, for the last several years, computer-written gobbledygook has been routinely published in scientific journals and conference proceedings. [emphasis mine]

Apparently some well known science publishers have been caught (from the Kakaes article; Note: A link has been removed),

According to Nature News, Cyril Labbé, a French computer scientist, recently informed Springer and the IEEE, two major scientific publishers, that between them, they had published more than 120 algorithmically-generated articles. In 2012, Labbé had told the IEEE of another batch of 85 fake articles. He’s been playing with SCIgen for a few years—in 2010 a fake researcher he created, Ike Antkare, briefly became the 21st most highly cited scientist in Google Scholar’s database.

Kakaes goes on to explain at least in part why this problem has arisen,

Over the course of the second half of the 20th century, two things took place. First, academic publishing became an enormously lucrative business. And second, because administrators erroneously believed it to be a means of objective measurement, the advancement of academic careers became conditional on contributions to the business of academic publishing.

As Peter Higgs said after he won last year’s Nobel Prize in physics, “Today I wouldn’t get an academic job. It’s as simple as that. I don’t think I would be regarded as productive enough.” Jens Skou, a 1997 Nobel Laureate, put it this way in his Nobel biographical statement: today’s system puts pressure on scientists for, “too fast publication, and to publish too short papers, and the evaluation process use[s] a lot of manpower. It does not give time to become absorbed in a problem as the previous system [did].”

Today, the most critical measure of an academic article’s importance is the “impact factor” of the journal it is published in. The impact factor, which was created by a librarian named Eugene Garfield in the early 1950s, measures how often articles published in a journal are cited. Creating the impact factor helped make Garfield a multimillionaire—not a normal occurrence for librarians.

The concern about ‘impact factors’ high or low with regard to science publishing is a discussion I first stumbled across and mentioned in an April 22, 2010 posting where I noted the concern with metrics extends beyond an individual career or university’s reputation but also affects national reputations. Kostas Kostarelos in a Jan. 24, 2014 posting on the Guardian science blogs notes this in his discussion of how China’s policies could affect the practice of science (Note: Links have been removed),

…  For example, if a Chinese colleague publishes an article in a highly regarded scientific journal they will be financially rewarded by the government – yes, a bonus! – on the basis of an official academic reward structure. Publication in one of the highest impact journals is currently rewarded with bonuses in excess of $30,000 – which is surely more than the annual salary of a starting staff member in any lab in China.

Such practices are disfiguring the fundamental principles of ethical integrity in scientific reporting and publishing, agreed and accepted by the scientific community worldwide. They introduce motives that have the potential to seriously corrupt the triangular relationship between scientist or clinician, publisher or editor and the public (taxpayer) funding agency. They exacerbate the damage caused by journal quality rankings based on “impact factor”, which is already recognised by the scientific community in the west as problematic.

Such measures also do nothing to help Chinese journals gain recognition by the rest of the world, as has been described by two colleagues from Zhejiang University in an article entitled “The outflow of academic articles from China: why is it happening and can it be stemmed?”.

At this point we have a system that rewards (with jobs, bonuses, etc.) prolific publication of one’s science achieved either by the sweat of one’s brow (and/or possibly beleaguered students’ brows) or from a clever algorithm. It’s a system that encourages cheating and distorts any picture we might have of scientific achievement on a planetary, national, regional, university, or individual basis.

Clearly we need to do something differently. Kakaes mentions an initiative designed for that purpose, the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). Please do let me know in the Comments section if there are any other such efforts.

Apply for media travel grant to attend EuroScience Open Forum (ESOF) 2014

The deadline for applications is Friday March 14, 2014 at 13:00 CET. For those who like a little more information or are unfamiliar with the EuroScience Open Forum, here’s a description from the ESOF hub homepage along with a description of the parent organization, EuroScience,

ESOF – EuroScience Open Forum – is the biennial pan-European meeting dedicated to scientific research and innovation. At ESOF meetings leading scientists, researchers, young researchers, business people, entrepreneurs and innovators, policy makers, science and technology communicators and the general public from all over Europe discuss new discoveries and debate the direction that research is taking in the sciences, humanities and social sciences.

EuroScience (ES) is a European non-profit grassroots association open to research professionals, teachers, students, science administrators, policy-makers, etc. and generally to any citizen interested in science and technology and its links with society. EuroScience represents not only European scientists of all ages, disciplines and nationalities but also from the business sector and public institutions such as universities and research institutes.

The 2014 ESOF is being held in Copenhagen, Denmark from June 21 – 26, 2014 with the general theme of ‘Science Building Bridges’ and following on that theme there are eight scientific themes (from the Scientific Themes page),

The Healthy Society

In recent years, scientific and technological developments have contributed to major progress in the health of individuals and for societies at large. What are the future roads to increased health in the world? How will science, technology and innovation contribute to this development? Where are the major challenges and possibilities?

Possible issues: Epidemology; Holistic Medicine; Healthy Workforces and Public Budgets; Ageing; Personalized Medicine; Telemedicine; Obesity; The Globalization of Disease; Diet, Physical Activity and
Health; Biomarkers; Gene Therapy; etc.

A Revolution of the Mind

Brain research and cognitive neuroscience have opened our understanding of the human mind. What should we use the knowledge for? What are the consequences for thinking and practice in academic, political and commercial life? And should new knowledge of the brain change our conception of human beings?

Possible issues: Neurobiology of Disease; Therapeutic Interventions; Mental Health; Arts and Pleasure; Behaviour and Marketing; Cognition and Computation; Animal Modelling; Ageing; Degeneration and
Regeneration; Physical Exercise and Mind; Development of Brain and Learning; etc.

Global Resource Management

Natural resources are essential for sustaining basic human welfare, e.g. drinking water and food. Moreover, for most industries some natural resources are necessary to manufacture products, e.g. metals, rare earths, water and bio-materials. The need for resources is stressing ecosystems and economic development. How can scientific and technological developments secure an effective and timely response for the global need for resources? How can resilience be built in?

Possible issues: Deep Sea Mining; Food Security; Geopolitics; Recycling; Oceanography; Environmental Administration; Ecosystem Services; Space Informatics; Geology; Water Management; Global Engineering; Global Justice; Efficient transport; Etc.

Learning in the 21st Century

Well-educated and knowledgeable citizens are essential for inclusive and vibrant societies. But what are the skills and knowledge needed in the future? And how should we learn them – are the days of national,
educational systems over and does science and technology offer ways to improve our ways of learning?

Possible themes: Early Childhood Learning; Life Long Learning; Assessment and Evaluation; Educational Organization and Leadership; Literacies; Science, Mathematics and Technology; Informal Learning; Mass education; Globalization; Higher Education; New Devices for Learning; Brain Development and Learning; Epigenetics and Learning; etc.

Green Economy

According to key parameters, the climate system is already moving beyond the patterns of natural variability. Many researchers, politicians, businesses and interest groups have responded with a call for a green economy that bridges continued economy growth and a sustainable, global ecosystem. Can science and technology deliver on this transition?

Possible themes: Fossil-based Energy; Forecasting; Future Energy Solutions; Economic Modelling; Renewable Energy; Transportation; Climate change; Climate Adaptation; Public-driven Transformation;
Eco-building; etc.

Material and Virtual World

The fundamental understanding of materials has shifted the borders of engineering and production. Moreover, the breakthroughs in information and communication technologies have altered our perceptions of what constitutes reality. Where will the next scientific breakthroughs take us?

Possible themes: Engineering; Surveillance, Nanotechnologies; Quantum computation; Industrial Virtual Reality; Simulation; Industrial Technologies; Manufacturing, Robotics; Human Enhancement; etc.

Urbanization, Design and Liveability

Forecasts claim that the future will be urbanized. So the grand challenges need to be faced in an urban setting. Moreover, the cities need to sustain and enhance urban areas as a place of vitality, liveability and accessibility – how can science, technology and innovation support the design of solutions?

Possible themes: Migration; Governance; Economic Growth; Rural-urban Transformations; Healthy Cities; Liveability; Demography; Water Management; Urban Planning, Security; Transportation, Welfare Design; Poverty; Regionalization; Waste Management; Sharing Economy; etc.

Science, Democracy & Citizenship

Science and scientists can facilitate, interrupt or enrich democratic decision making. When should science be the privileged provider of knowledge and when are scientists citizens? What should be the division of labour between facts and norms; between science and democracy?

Possible themes: Ethics; GMOs; Knowledge Society; Evidence-based Policy; Policy for Science; Climate Change; Authority; Social Choice; Deliberative Democracy; Trust; Institutionalism; Democratization; etc.

The ESOF 2014 website is easy to navigate and you can find out who has already signed up as a participant and/or speaker, as well as, many other details.

Getting back to the media travel grants,

1. – Purpose

The organisers of Europe’s largest general science event, EuroScience Open Forum, invite journalists from around the world to apply for media travel grants. It is expected that 250 media representatives will be at the science forum in Copenhagen from 21-26 June 2014.

The slogan of EuroScience Open Forum 2014 in Copenhagen (ESOF2014) is ‘Science Building Bridges’. One of the main objectives of the event is to build links between the media and the research community by providing a platform where journalists can discuss and report on the latest scientific developments.

To secure that journalists from a broad range of news organisations take part, EuroScience Open Forum 2014 in Copenhagen has announced its Media Travel Grant Scheme.

2. – The scheme

The ESOF2014 Secretariat offers a lump sum of €750 to help cover the costs of travel and accommodation for journalists who wish to report from ESOF2014.

Please note that all expenses covered must be in accordance with the travel guidelines issued by the Danish Agency for Science and Innovation. This means that all travel must be on economy class only and that accommodation expenses must not exceed €135 per night (February 2014).

3. – Who can apply?

Journalists irrespective of their gender, age, nationality, place of residence and media (newspaper, news agency, magazine, radio, TV or New Media) are welcome to apply. [emphasis mine]

4. – Application procedure

To submit an application, please follow the application procedure here

On submitting the application form for the travel grant, you agree to the full acceptance of the rules and to the decisions taken by the ESOF2014 Media Travel Grant Selection Committee.

The deadline for submitting an application is Friday 14 March 2014 at 13:00 CET.

5. – Selection Committee and decision

The Selection Committee is composed of members of the ESOF2014 Secretariat and the ESOF2014 International Media and Marketing Committee.

The selection of candidates will be based on the applicant’s CV and motivation statement. The Selection Committee will also strive to secure that various countries and types of media are represented in the group of successful applicants.

An e-mail with the decision will be sent in early April 2014 to all applicants stating whether or not their application has been successful.

6. – Payment conditions

Money will be transferred to the grantees after ESOF2014, subject to:

  • Mandatory participation at EuroScience Open Forum 2014 in Copenhagen.
  • Provision of documentation for travel and accommodation expenses up to a total of €750*
  • Completion of a feedback questionnaire regarding the scheme.

Good luck and one final comment. The ‘building bridges’ theme reminded me of an Oct. 21, 2010 posting where I was discussing Copenhagen, creativity, and science within the context of then recent research into what makes some cities attractive to scientists,

When the Øresund bridge connecting Copenhagen, Denmark, with Malmö, Sweden, opened in 2000, both sides had much to gain. Sweden would get a physical connection to the rest of mainland Europe; residents of Copenhagen would have access to cheaper homes close to the city; and economic cooperation would increase. But Christian Matthiessen, a geographer at the University of Copenhagen, saw another benefit — the joining of two burgeoning research areas. “Everyone was talking about the transport of goods and business connections,” he says, “and we argued that another benefit would be to establish links between researchers.”

Ten years later, those links seem to be strong. The bridge encouraged the establishment of the ‘Øresund region’, a loose confederation of nine universities, 165,000 students and 12,000 researchers. Co-authorship between Copenhagen and the southernmost province of Sweden has doubled, says Matthiessen. The collaborations have attracted multinational funds from the European Union. And the European Spallation Source, a €1.4-billion (US$2-billion) neutron facility, is on track to begin construction in Lund, Sweden, in 2013.

The region’s promoters claim that it is emerging as a research hub of northern Europe, aided in part by construction of the bridge. For Matthiessen, the bridge also inspired the start of a unique research project — to catalogue the growth and connections of geographical clusters of scientific productivity all over the world. [emphases mine]

You can find the Nature article by Richard Van Noorden describing research about cities and why they are or aren’t attractive to scientists here.