Category Archives: science

American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) 2015 meeting in San Jose, CA from Feb. 12 -16, 2014

The theme for the 2015 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting is Innovations, Information, and Imaging and you can find the program here. A few of the talks and presentations caught my eye and I’m starting with the plenary lectures as these reflect, more or less, the interpretation of the theme and set the tone for the meeting.

Plenary lectures

President’s Address
Thursday, 12 February 2015: 6:00 PM-7:30 PM

Dr. Gerald Fink’s work in genetics, biochemistry, and molecular biology has advanced our understanding of gene regulation, mutation, and recombination. He developed a technique for transforming yeast that allowed researchers to introduce a foreign piece of genetic material into yeast cells and study the inheritance and expression of that DNA. [emphasis mine] The technique, fundamental to genetic engineering, laid the groundwork for the commercial use of yeast as biological factories for manufacturing vaccines and other drugs, and set the stage for genetic engineering in all organisms. Fink chaired a National Research Council Committee that produced the 2003 report Biotechnology Research in an Age of Terrorism: Confronting the Dual Use Dilemma, recommending practices to prevent the potentially destructive application of biotechnology research while enabling legitimate research. …

I did not include Dr.Fink’s many, many professional attributes but rest assured Dr. Fink has founded at least one research group, received many professional honours, and has multiple degrees.

Back to the plenary lectures,

Daphne Koller: The Online Revolution: Learning Without Limits
Plenary Lecture
Friday, 13 February 2015: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Dr. Daphne Koller is the Rajeev Motwani Professor in the Department of Computer Science at Stanford University and president and co-founder of Coursera, an online education platform. Her research focus is artificial intelligence and its applications in the biomedical sciences. She received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Koller completed her Ph.D. at Stanford under the supervision of Joseph Halpern and performed postdoctoral research at University of California, Berkeley. She was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2004 and was awarded the first ACM-Infosys Foundation Award in Computing Sciences. She co-authored, with Nir Friedman, a textbook on probabilistic graphical models and offered a free online course on the subject. She and Andrew Ng, a fellow Stanford computer science professor, launched Coursera in 2012. Koller and Ng were recognized on the 2013 Time 100 list of the most influential people in the world.

David Baker: Post-Evolutionary Biology: Design of Novel Protein Structures, Functions, and Assemblies

Plenary Lecture

Saturday, 14 February 2015: 5:00 PM-6:00 PM

Dr. David Baker is a biochemist and computational biologist whose research focuses on the prediction and design of macromolecular structures and functions. He is the director of the Rosetta Commons, a consortium of labs and researchers that develop the Rosetta biomolecular structure prediction and design program, which has been extended to the distributed computing project Rosetta@Home and the online computer game Foldit. He received his Ph.D. in biochemistry at the University of California, Berkeley and completed postdoctoral work in biophysics at University of California, San Francisco. Baker has received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including the AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize; the Sackler International Prize in Biophysics; the Overton Prize from the International Society of Computational Biology; the Feynman Prize from the Foresight Institute; and the Centenary Award from the Biochemical Society. He is an investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.[emphasis mine]

I found the mention of the Foresight Institute (a nanotechnology organization founded by Eric Drexler and Christine Petersen) quite interesting. The title of Baker’s presentation certainly brings to mind, synthetic biology.

Back to the plenary lectures,

Neil Shubin: Finding Your Inner Fish
Plenary Lecture
Monday, 16 February 2015: 8:30 AM-9:30 AM

Dr. Neil Shubin is a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist who researches the origin of animal anatomical features. He has done field work in Greenland, Africa, Asia, and North America. One of his discoveries, Tiktaalik roseae, has been described as the “missing link” between fish and land animals. He has also done important work on the developmental biology of limbs, and he uses his diverse fossil findings to devise hypotheses on how anatomical transformations occurred by way of genetic and morphogenetic processes. He is a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. He earned a Ph.D. in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University. Shubin’s popular science book Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body was adapted for a PBS documentary series in 2014.

Here are a few presentations from the main program; this first one is a ‘conference within a conference’,

Citizen Science 2015, Day One
Pre-registration required
Wednesday, 11 February 2015: 8:30 AM-5:00 PM

Citizen science is a partnership between everyday people and professional scientists to investigate pressing questions about the world. Citizen Science 2015 invites anyone interested in such collaborations to participate in a two-day pre-conference before the AAAS Annual Meeting. All involved in any aspect of citizen science are welcome, including researchers, project leaders, educators, evaluators, designers and makers, volunteers, and more–representing a wide variety of disciplines. Join people from across the field of citizen science to discuss designing, implementing, sustaining, evaluating, and participating in projects. Share your project innovations and questions. Citizen Science 2015 is the inaugural conference and gathering of the newly formed Citizen Science Association (CSA). For additional information, including Citizen Science Conference registration, visit www.citizenscienceassociation.org.

Revolutionary Vision: Implants, Prosthetics, Smart Glasses, and the Telescopic Contact Lens
Friday, 13 February 2015: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM

According to the World Health Organization, 285 million people are estimated to be visually impaired worldwide. Age-related macular degeneration alone is the leading cause of blindness among older adults in the western world. These facts leave no question as to why the brightest minds in science and engineering are setting their sights on vision through new electronics, retinal prosthesis, wearable technologies, and even telescopic contact lenses. Researchers are bringing into focus novel electronics such as systems on plastic, which are deformable and implantable, zero-power, and wireless and have numerous applications for sight and vision. Retinal prosthesis combined with video goggles pulsing near-infrared light, meanwhile, have restored up to half of normal acuity in rats. This symposium showcases and demos the latest prototypes tackling form as well as function: smart glasses with novel display architecture that make them small and light while maintaining an optimal field of view. These breakthroughs not only help subjects see but also hold promise for noninvasive continuous monitoring of eye health. Scientists will reveal the first-ever telescopic contact lens, which magnifies 2.8 times and offers hope for millions suffering from macular degeneration and seeking alternatives to bulky glasses and invasive surgery. These advances reveal the great promise that science holds for the visually impaired — truly a sight to behold.
Organizer:
Megan Williams, swissnex
Co-organizers:
Christian Simm, swissnex
and Melanie Picard, swissnex
Moderator:
Christian Simm, swissnex
Speakers:
Daniel Palanker, Stanford University
Restoration of Sight with Photovoltaic Subretinal Prosthesis
Eric Tremblay, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL)
Smart Glasses and Telescopic Contact Lenses for Macular Degeneration
Giovanni Antonio Salvatore, ETH Zurich
The Next Technological Leap in Electronics

Celebration of 2015: The International Year of Light
Friday, 13 February 2015: 8:30 AM-11:30 AM

In recognition that light-based science and technologies play a critical role in our daily lives, the United Nations passed a resolution declaring 2015 the International Year of Light. The UN resolution states that “applications of light science and technology are vital for existing and future advances in medicine, energy, information and communications, fiber optics, astronomy, agriculture, archaeology, entertainment, and culture.” Hundreds of science and engineering organizations across the globe signed on in support of the International Year of Light 2015 and will be raising awareness of light-based science and technology throughout the year. This symposium brings together speakers from diverse fields to illustrate the many sectors that are influenced by optics and photonics.
Organizer:
Martha Paterson, The Optical Society (OSA)
Co-organizers:
Anthony Johnson, University of Maryland
and Phil Bucksbaum, Stanford University
Moderator:
Anthony Johnson, University of Maryland
Speakers:
Elizabeth Hillman, Columbia University
Optics in Neuroscience
Warren Warren, Duke University
Applying Nonlinear Laser Microscopy to Melanoma Diagnosis and Renaissance Art Imaging
Uwe Bergmann, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
X-Ray Laser Research: Lighting Our Future
Alan Eli Willner, University of Southern California
Optical Communications
Christopher Stratas , Flextronics
LED Lighting and Energy Efficiency
R. Rox Anderson, Harvard Medical School
Lasers in Medicine

I last mentioned the upcoming International Year of Light in a Nov. 7, 2014 post about the Nanoscale Informal Science Education Network (NISENet) newsletter. For anyone who has difficulty connecting nano with light, remember the Lycurgus Cup (Sept. 21, 2010 post) infused with gold and silver nanoparticles and which appears either green or red depending on how the light is shone?

Back to the programme,

The Future of the Internet: Meaning and Names or Numbers?
The Future of Computing
Friday, 13 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM

Information-centric networking (ICN) is a new, disruptive technology that holds the promise of eliminating many of the internet’s current technical shortcomings. The idea is based on two simple concepts: addressing information by its name rather than by its location, and adding computation and memory to the network, especially at the edge. The implications for network architects are far reaching and offer both elegant solutions and perplexing implementation challenges. The field of ICN research is active, including hundreds of projects at leading academic, industrial, and government laboratories around the world. This session will explore the motivations and current state-of-the-art in ICN research from multiple perspectives and approaches. The speakers in this session have contributed to every facet of the internet’s evolution since its inception.
Organizer:
Glenn T. Edens, PARC Xerox
Co-Organizer:
J.J. Garcia-Luna-Aceves, University of California, Santa Cruz
Speakers:
Vinton Cerf, Google Inc.
Digital Vellum
David Oran, Cisco Systems
Information-Centric Networking: Is It Ready for Prime Time? Will It Ever Be?
Glenn T. Edens, PARC Xerox
Information-Centric Networking: Towards a Reliable and Robust 21st Century Internet

It seems odd that the speakers come from industry/business exclusively.

Comics, Zombies, and Hip-Hop: Leveraging Pop Culture for Science Engagement
Friday, 13 February 2015: 1:00 PM-2:30 PM

Access to quality scientific information is progressively more important in society today. The critical ways information can be used range from increasing scientific literacy and developing the public’s understanding of behaviors that promote health and well-being, to increasing interest in careers in science and success in school — particularly among students traditionally underrepresented in the sciences. Traditional forms of scientific communication — textbooks, talks, and articles in the lay press — succeed at reaching some, but leave many others in the dark. Recent research also indicates that scientists have a narrow view of outreach, mostly considering it as simply giving a talk at a school. However, new forms of culturally relevant engagement for K-12 students are emerging — comic books with rich scientific content that have been demonstrated to increase student engagement, novel workshops (for settings in and out of school) that interweave STEM  exploration with creative writing to build students’ scientific and written literacy, and connecting hip-hop culture and the classroom through rap — while engaging students as co-teachers and translators to help their peers learn science.
Organizer:
Rebecca L. Smith, University of California
Co-Organizer:
Kishore Hari, University of California
Moderator:
Rebecca L. Smith, University of California
Speakers:
Judy Diamond, University of Nebraska State Museum
Engaging Teenagers with Science Through Comics
Julius Diaz Panoriñgan, 826LA
Developing Multiple Literacies with Zombies, Space Exploration, and Superheroes
Tom McFadden, Nueva School
Science Rapping from Auckland to Oakland

Tom McFadden, one of the speakers, has been mentioned here on more than one occasion (most recently in a May 30, 2014 post).

Back to the program,

Citizen Science from the Zooniverse: Cutting-Edge Research with 1 Million Scientists
Friday, 13 February 2015: 1:30 PM-4:30 PM

Citizen science (CS) involves public participation and engagement in scientific research in a way that makes it possible to perform tasks that a small number of researchers could not accomplish alone, makes the research more democratic, and potentially educates the participants. Volunteers simply need access to a computer or tablet to become involved and assist research activities. The presence of massive online datasets and the availability of high-speed internet access provide many opportunities for citizen scientists to work on projects analyzing and interpreting data — especially images — in astronomy, biology, climate science, and other fields. The growing phenomenon of CS has drawn the interest of social scientists who study the efficacy of CS projects, motivations of participants, and applications to industry and policymaking. CS clearly has considerable potential in the era of big data. Galaxy Zoo is an example of a successful CS project; it invites volunteers to visually classify the shapes and structures of galaxies seen in images from optical surveys. The project resulted in catalogs of hundreds of thousands of classified galaxies, allowing for novel statistical analyses and the identification of rare objects. Its popularity led to the Zooniverse, a suite of projects in a diverse and interdisciplinary range of fields. This symposium will demonstrate how CS is becoming a vital tool and highlight the work of a variety of researchers.
Organizer:
Ramin A. Skibba, University of California
Speakers:
Laura Whyte, Adler Planetarium
Introduction to Citizen Science and the Zooniverse
Brooke Simmons, University of Oxford
The Scientific Impact of Galaxy Zoo
Alexandra Swanson, University of Minnesota
Photographing Carnivores with Snapshot Serengeti
Kevin Wood, University of Washington
Old Weather: Studying Historical Weather Patterns with Ship Logbooks
Paul Pharoah, University of Cambridge
Contributing to Cancer Research with Cell Slider
Philip Marshall, Stanford University
Using Space Warps To Find Gravitational Lenses

The Zooniverse has been mentioned here before, most recently in a March 17, 2014 post about the TED 2014 conference held in Vancouver (Canada),

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]

Here’s the last presentation I’m featuring in this post and it has a ‘nano’ flavour,

Beyond Silicon: New Materials for 21st Century Electronics
Saturday, 14 February 2015: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM

Silicon Valley gets its name from the element found at the heart of all microelectronics. For decades, pure silicon single crystals have been the basis for computer chips. But as chips become smaller and faster, doubling the number of transistors on integrated circuits every two years in accordance with Moore’s law, silicon is nearing its practical limits. Scientists are exploring radical new materials and approaches to take over where silicon leaves off — from graphene, a honeycombed sheet of carbon just one atom thick, to topological insulators that conduct electricity perfectly on their surfaces and materials that use the electron’s spin, rather than its charge, to store information. Beyond graphene, scientists are investigating relatively new types of two-dimensional materials that have graphene-like structures and are also semiconducting, making them a natural fit for advanced electronics. This session will describe theoretical and experimental progress in materials beyond silicon that hold promise for continued improvement in computer performance.
Organizer:
Glennda Chui, SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory
Discussant:
Shoucheng Zhang, Stanford University
Speakers:
Stuart S.P. Parkin, IBM Research
Spintronic and Ionitronic Materials and Devices
Joshua Goldberger, Ohio State University
Beyond Graphene: Making New Two-Dimensional Materials for Future Electronics
Elsa Reichmanis, Georgia Institute of Technology
Active Organic and Polymer Materials for Flexible Electronics

There are some very intriguing presentations and one theme not featured here: data visualization (several presentations about visualizing data and/or science can be found). you can explore for yourself, here’s the online program.

High-order Brownian motion observed

A Nov. 17, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily highlights a new technique for observing Brownian motion,

For the first time, scientists have vividly mapped the shapes and textures of high-order modes of Brownian motions–in this case, the collective macroscopic movement of molecules in microdisk resonators–researchers at Case Western Reserve University report.

To do this, they used a record-setting scanning optical interferometry technique, described in a study published today in the journal Nature Communications.

The new technology holds promise for multimodal sensing and signal processing, and to develop optical coding for computing and other information-processing functions by exploiting the spatially resolved multimode Brownian resonances and their splitting pairs of modes.

A Nov. 17, 2014 Case Western Reserve University news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides more information about the technique and the research,

Interferometry uses the interference of light waves reflected off a surface to measure distances, a technique invented by Case School of Applied Science physicist Albert A. Michelson (who won the Nobel prize in science in 1907). Michelson and Western Reserve University chemist Edward Morley used the instrument to famously disprove that light traveled through “luminous ether” in 1887, setting the groundwork for Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.

The technology has evolved since then. The keys to Feng’s new interferometry technique are focusing a tighter-than-standard laser spot on the surface of novel silicon carbide microdisks.

The microdisks, which sit atop pedestals of silicon oxide like cymbals on stands, are extremely sensitive to the smallest fluctuations arising from Brownian motions, even at thermodynamic equilibrium. Hence, they exhibit very small oscillations without external driving forces. These oscillations include fundamental and higher modes, called thermomechanical resonances.

Some of the light from the laser reflects back to a sensor after striking the top surface of the silicon dioxide film. And some of the light is refracted through the film and reflected back on a different path, causing interference in the light waves.

The narrow laser spot scans the disk surface and measures movement, or displacement, of the disk with a sensitivity of about 7 femtometers per square-root of a hertz at room temperature, which researchers believe is a record for interferometric systems. To put that in perspective, the width of a hair is about 40 microns, and a femtometer is 100 million times smaller than a micron.

Although higher frequency modes have small motion amplitudes, the technology enabled the group to spatially map and clearly visualize the first through ninth Brownian modes in the high frequency band, ranging from 5.78 to 26.41 megahertz.

In addition to detecting the shapes and textures of Brownian motions, multimode mapping identified subtle structural imperfections and defects, which are ubiquitous but otherwise invisible, or can’t be quantified most of the time. This capability may be useful for probing the dynamics and propagation of defects and defect arrays in nanodevices, as well as for future engineering of controllable defects to manipulate information in silicon carbide nanostructures

The high sensitivity and spatial resolution also enabled them to identify mode splitting, crossing and degeneracy, spatial asymmetry and other effects that may be used to encode information with increasing complexity. The researchers are continuing to explore the capabilities of the technology.

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

Spatial mapping of multimode Brownian motions in high-frequency ​silicon carbide microdisk resonators by Zenghui Wang, Jaesung Lee & Philip X. -L. Feng. Nature Communications 5, Article number: 5158 doi:10.1038/ncomms6158 Published 17 November 2014

This paper is behind a paywall.

For those who would like a little more information about Brownian motion, there’s this from its Wikipedia entry,

Brownian motion or pedesis (from Greek: πήδησις /pɛ̌ːdɛːsis/ “leaping”) is the random motion of particles suspended in a fluid (a liquid or a gas) resulting from their collision with the quick atoms or molecules in the gas or liquid. The term “Brownian motion” can also refer to the mathematical model used to describe such random movements, which is often called a particle theory.

The Wikipedia entry also includes this gif

This is a simulation of Brownian motion of a big particle (dust particle) that collides with a large set of smaller particles (molecules of a gas) which move with different velocities in different random directions. http://weelookang.blogspot.com/2010/06/ejs-open-source-brownian-motion-gas.html Lookang Author of computer model: Francisco Esquembre, Fu-Kwun and lookang - Own work

This is a simulation of Brownian motion of a big particle (dust particle) that collides with a large set of smaller particles (molecules of a gas) which move with different velocities in different random directions. http://weelookang.blogspot.com/2010/06/ejs-open-source-brownian-motion-gas.html
Lookang Author of computer model: Francisco Esquembre, Fu-Kwun and lookang – Own work

On a tangential and amusing note, Brown University celebrating its 250th anniversary this year (2014) commissioned a Brownian Motion composition as part of its commemoration activities (from a Feb. 21, 2014 Brown University news release),

While Brown University and its neighbors celebrate the University’s first 250 years during the Opening Celebration Friday and Saturday, March 7-8, 2014, some new history will be made as well. On Friday night, the Brown University Wind Symphony will present the world premier of Brownian Motion, a piece commissioned for the semiquincentenary.

Written by the composer and saxophonist Patrick Zimmerli, the commission was funded by Edward Guiliano, a 1972 Brown graduate who was president of the Brown Band and founded the Brown Wind Ensemble during his time on College Hill.

Zimmerli admits to feeling excitement when approached with the commission. “I didn’t go to Brown but I have many connections to people who did, and I was really looking forward to the challenge of writing for an undergraduate wind ensemble, something I’d never done before.”

McGarrell [Matthew McGarrell, director of bands at Brown] and Zimmerli met last summer to talk about the commission for the first time. Aside from sending Zimmerli a few pieces to use as models, McGarrell gave the composer free reign over over everything from the feel to the length of the piece.

The resulting composition, which Zimmerli presented to McGarrell at the beginning of January, is dominated by jazz rhythms, with some nods to vernacular musics, including Caribbean and calypso, mixed in.

“The piece has several different moods but overall it is celebratory,” Zimmerli said. “After all it’s a birthday piece. It’s meant to be challenging but fun for the players.”

Listeners with a link to Brown may also find parts of the work familiar. Zimmerli subtly weaves an early melody known as “Araby’s Daughter” — Brown’s Alma Mater — throughout the piece, building on it until it’s played in its full glory by the French horns toward the end.

For inspiration, Zimmerli did extensive research on Brown’s early history and was intrigued to learn that Brown’s founding was initially opposed by a group of preachers who had a mistrust for those who had been formally educated. The result is a theme — “learning is evil,” a nod to those early roots — that winds its way throughout the song.

“Brown is an amazing example of an institution that has been able to evolve and transform itself from within, and I thought that fact should be celebrated,” said Zimmerli.

Other parts of the song inspired the Brownian Motion name.

“There’s a jagged theme toward the beginning of the piece that is a bit cheeky, even subversive. The way it moves and darts around through the instruments unexpectedly is what eventually led me to the actual title of the piece,” Zimmerli said.

“We knew we wanted to make it special concert,” said McGarrell of the program selections. “We wanted to reach both the Brown community in history, through the alumni, through musical representation, and we wanted to reach out to the extended Brown community in Rhode Island and southeastern New England, through history and intercultural outreach.”

The Brown musicians have been hard at work since the end of January learning Brownian Motion. While technically challenging, McGarrell said the students have been appreciating the skill level required and that “morale has remained high within the group.” Zimmerli arrives on campus on Wednesday, March 5, to help put the finishing touches on the performance.

There is a youtube video (over 60 mins.) of the Brownian Motion March 2014 performance.

Quantum; the dance performance about physics in Vancouver, Canada (2 of 2)

Gilles Jobin kindly made time to talk about his arts residency at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory) prior to the performances of Quantum (a dance piece resulting from the residency) from Oct. 16 -18, 2014 at Vancouver’s Dance Centre.

Jobin was the first individual to be selected as an artist-in-residence for three months in the CERN/Geneva programme (there is another artist-in-residence programme at the laboratory which is the CERN/Ars Electronica programme). Both these artist-in-residence programmes were announced in the same year, 2011. (You can find out more about the CERN artist-in-residence programmes on the Collide@CERN webpage,

As a main strategy of CERN’s Cultural Policy for Engaging with the Arts, Collide@CERN is a 3-year artist’s residency programme initiated by Arts@CERN in 2011.

By bringing world-class artists and scientists together in a free exchange of ideas, the Collide@CERN residency programme explores elements even more elusive than the Higgs boson: human ingenuity, creativity and imagination.

See below for more information about the Collide@CERN artist residency programmes:

Collide@CERN Geneva Residency

Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN Residency

The Collide@CERN prize – an open call to artists working in different art forms to win a fully funded residency – will be awarded annually in two strands (Collide@CERN Geneva and Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN) until 2013. It comprises prize money and a residency grant for up to 3 months at CERN.

The winning artists will interact and engage with CERN scientists in order to take their artistic work to new creative dimensions.

The awards are made following two annual international open calls and the jury comprises the cultural partners as well as representatives from Arts@CERN, including scientists.

Planned engagement with artists at CERN is a relatively new concept according to an August 4, 2011 CERN press release,

Today CERN1 launches its cultural policy for engaging with the arts. Called ‘Great Arts for Great Science’, this new cultural policy has a central strategy – a selection process for arts engagement at the level of one of the world’s leading research organizations.

“This puts CERN’s engagement with the arts on a similar level as the excellence of its science,” said Ariane Koek, CERN’s cultural specialist.

CERN’s newly appointed Cultural Board for the Arts will be the advisers and guardians of quality. It is made up of renowned cultural leaders in the arts from CERN’s host-state countries: Beatrix Ruf, Director of the Kunsthalle Zurich; Serge Dorny, Director General of the Lyon Opera House; Franck Madlener, Director of the music institute IRCAM in Paris. Geneva and CERN are represented by Christoph Bollman of ArtbyGenève and Michael Doser, an antimatter scientist. Membership of the board is an honorary position that will change every three years.

The Cultural Board will select one or two art projects a year to receive a CERN letter of approval, enabling these projects to seek external funding for their particle-physics inspired work. This will also build up an international portfolio of CERN-inspired work over the years to come, in conjunction with the Collide@CERN (link sends e-mail) Artists Residency Programme, details of which will be announced in the coming month.

To date, Jobin is the only choreographer to become, so to speak, a member of the CERN community. It was a position that was treated like a job. Jobin went to his office at CERN every day for three months to research particle physics. He had two science advisors, Nicholas Chanon and Michael Doser to help him gain an understanding of the physics being studied in the facility. Here’s Jobin describing his first experiences at CERN (from Jobin’s Collide Nov. 13, 2012 posting),

When I first arrived at Cern, I was captivated by the place and overwhelmed by the hugeness of the subject: Partical [sic] physics… And I had some serious catch up to do… Impressed by the two introduction days in which I had the opportunity to meet many different scientists, Ariane Koeck told me “not to panic” and “to spend my first month following my instinct and not my head…”. …

I found out about the 4 fundamental forces and the fact that gravity was the weakest of all the forces. For a contemporary dancer formed basically around the question of gravity and “groundness” that came as a total shock! I was not a “pile of stuff”, but particles bound together by the strong force and “floating” on the surface of the earth… Me, the earth, you readers, the LHC flying at incredible speed through space, without any of us, (including the physicists!) noticing anything…  Stardust flying into space… I was baffled…

Jobin was required deliver two public lectures, one at the beginning of his residency and the other at the end, as well as, a series of ‘interventions’. He instituted four ‘interventions’, one each in CERN’s library, data centre, anti-matter hall, and cafeteria. Here’s an image and a description of what Jobin was attempting with his library intervention (from his Nov. 13, 2012 posting),

CERN library dance intervention Credit: Gilles Jobin

CERN library dance intervention Credit: Gilles Jobin

 My idea was to “melt” our bodies into the timeline of the library. Like time chameleons, we were to adapt our movements and presence to the quiet and studious atmosphere of the library and be practically unnoticed. My postulate was to imagine that the perception of time is relative; there was a special texture to “time” inside the library. How long is an afternoon in a library? Never ending or passing by too quickly? It is a shared space, with the unique density you can feel in studious atmosphere and its user’s different virtual timelines. We melted into the element of the library and as we guessed, our “unusual” presence and actions did not create conflicts with our surroundings and the students at work. It was a bit like entering slowly into water and becoming part of the element without disturbing its balance. The time hypothesis worked… I wanted to do more site specific interventions in Cern because I was learning things differently. Some understanding was going through my body. Being in action into the labs…

It was only after the residency was completed that he started work on Quantum (producing a dance piece was not a requirement of the residency). After the residency, he did bring his science advisors, Chanon and Doser to his studio and brought his studio to CERN. Jobin managed to get rehearsal time in one of the halls that is 100 metres directly above the large hadron collider (LHC) during the time period when scientists were working to confirm the existence of the Higgs Boson). There were a number of announcements ‘confirming’ the Higgs. They started in July 2012 and continued, as scientists refined their tests, to March 2013 (Wikipedia entry)  when a definitive statement was issued. The definitive statement was recently followed with more confirmation as a June, 25, 2014 article by Amir Aczel for Discover declares Confirmed: That Was Definitely the Higgs Boson Found at LHC [large hadron collider].

As scientists continue to check and doublecheck, Jobin presented Quantum in October 2013 for the first time in public, fittingly, at CERN (from Jobin’s Oct. 3, 2013 blog posting),

QUANTUM @ CERN OPEN DAYS CMS-POINT5-CESSY. Credit: Gilles Jobin

QUANTUM @ CERN OPEN DAYS CMS-POINT5-CESSY. Credit: Gilles Jobin

Jobin was greatly influenced by encounters at CERN with Julius von Bismarck who won the 2012 Prix Ars Electronica Collide@CERN Residency and with his science advisors, Dosen and Chanon. Surprisingly, Jobin was also deeply influenced by Richard Feynman (American physicist; 1918 – 1988). “I loved his approach and his humour,” says Jobin while referring to a book Feynman wrote, then adding,  “I used Feynman diagrams, learning to draw them for my research and for my choreographic work on Quantum.”

For those unfamiliar with Feynman diagrams, from the Wikipedia entry (Note: Links have been removed),

In theoretical physics, Feynman diagrams are pictorial representations of the mathematical expressions describing the behavior of subatomic particles. The scheme is named for its inventor, American physicist Richard Feynman, and was first introduced in 1948. The interaction of sub-atomic particles can be complex and difficult to understand intuitively, and the Feynman diagrams allow for a simple visualization of what would otherwise be a rather arcane and abstract formula.

There’s also an engaging Feb. 14, 2010 post by Flip Tanedo on Quantum Diaries with this title, Let’s draw Feynman diagrams! and there’s this paper, by David Kaiser on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology website, Physics and Feynman’s Diagrams; In the hands of a postwar generation, a tool intended to lead quantum electrodynamics out of a decades-long morass helped transform physics. In the spirit of Richard Feynman, both the Tanedo post and Kaiser paper are quite readable. Also, here’s an example (simplified) of what a diagram (from the Quantum Diaries website) can look like,

[downloaded from http://www.quantumdiaries.org/2010/02/14/lets-draw-feynman-diagams/]

[downloaded from http://www.quantumdiaries.org/2010/02/14/lets-draw-feynman-diagams/]

Getting back to Quantum (dance), Jobin describes this choreography as a type of collaboration where the dancers have responsibility for the overall look and feel of the piece. (For more details, Jobin describes his ‘momement generators’ in the radio interview embedded in part 1 of this piece on Quantum.)

In common with most contemporary dance pieces, there is no narrative structure or narrative element to the piece although Jobin does note that there is one bit that could be described as a ‘Higgs moment’ where a dancer is held still by his or her feet, signifying the Higgs boson giving mass to the universe.

As to why Vancouver, Canada is being treated to a performance of Quantum, Jobin has this to say, “When I knew the company was traveling to New York City and then San Francisco, I contacted my friend and colleague, Mirna Zagar, who I met at a Croatian Dance Week Festival that she founded and produces every year.”  She’s also the executive director for Vancouver’s Dance Centre. “After that it was easy.”

Performances are Oct. 16 – 18, 2014 at 8 pm with a Post-show artist talkback on October 17, 2014.

Compagnie Gilles Jobin

$30/$22 students, seniors, CADA members/$20 Dance Centre members
Buy tickets online or call Tickets Tonight: 604.684.2787 (service charges apply to telephone bookings)

You can find part 1 of this piece about Quantum in my Oct. 15, 2014 posting. which includes a video, a listing of the rest of the 2014 tour stops, a link to an interview featuring Jobin and his science advisor, Michael Doser, on a US radio show, and more.

Finally, company dancers are posting video interviews (the What’s Up project mentioned in part 1) with dancers they meet in the cities where the tour is stopping will be looking for someone or multiple someones in Vancouver. These are random acts of interviewing within the context of the city’s dance community.

Vancouver’s Georgia Straight has featured an Oct. 15, 2014 article by Janet Smith about Jobin and his particle physics inspiration for Quantum.

The Higgs boson on its own has inspired other creativity as noted in my Aug. 1, 2012 posting (Playing and singing the Higgs Boson).

As noted in my Oct. 8, 2013 post, Peter Higgs (UK) after whom the particle was named  and François Englert (Belgium) were both awarded the 2013 Nobel Prize in Physics for their contributions to the theory of the Higgs boson and its role in the universe.

Quantum; an upcoming dance performance in Vancouver, Canada (1 of 2)

Oct. 16 – 18, 2014 are the Vancouver (Canada) dates when you can catch Compagnie Gilles Jobin performing its piece, Quantum, based on choreographer Gilles Jobin’s residency CERN (Europe’s particle physics laboratory). The Vancouver stop is part of a world tour which seems to have started in New York City (US) and San Francisco (US).

News flash: There is a special lecture by Gilles Jobin at TRIUMF, Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics at 11 am on Oct. 15, 2014 in the auditorium. Instructions for getting to TRIUMF can be found here.

Back to the tour, here’s what the dance company has planned for the rest of October and November (Chile is Chili, Brazil is Brésil, Switzerland is Suisse and Peru is Pérou in French), from the gillesjobin.com Tour webpage,

- 21 octobre
QUANTUM
Festival Danzalborde – Centro Cultural Matucana 100 – Santiago de Chile – Chili

– 23 octobre
QUANTUM
Festival Danzalborde – Parque Cultural de Valparaiso, Valparaiso – Chili

– 26 octobre
QUANTUM
Bienal Internacional de dança do Ceará – Fortaleza – Brésil

– 29 et 30 octobre
En collaboration avec swissnex Brésil au Forum Internacional de dança FID, Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil – Belo Horizonte – Brésil

– 2 novembre
En collaboration avec swissnex Brésil au Festival Panorama, Teatro Carlos Gomes – Rio de Janeiro – Brésil

– Du 6 au 9 novembre
QUANTUM
Arsenic – Lausanne – Suisse

– Du 13 au 15 novembre
A+B=X
Arsenic – Lausanne – Suisse

– 21 et 22 novembre
QUANTUM
Festival de Artes Escenicas de Lima FAEL – Teatro Municipal, Lima – Pérou

As ambitious as this touring programme seems, it can’t be any more ambitious than trying to represent modern physics in dance. Here’s more about Quantum from the (Vancouver) Dance Centre’s events page,

Art and science collide in QUANTUM, the result of Gilles Jobin’s artistic residency at the largest particle physics laboratory in the world – CERN in Geneva, where he worked with scientists to investigate principles of matter, gravity, time and space in relation to the body. Six dancers power through densely textured, sculptural choreography, to evoke the subtle balance of forces that shape our world. Illuminated by Julius von Bismarck’s light-activated kinetic installation built from industrial lamps, and accompanied by an electronic score by Carla Scaletti which incorporates data from the Large Hadron Collider, QUANTUM epitomizes the adventurous, searching spirit of artistic and scientific inquiry.

Response to the performances in New York City were interesting, that is to say, not rapturous but intriguing nonetheless. From an Oct. 3, 2014 review by Gia Kourlas for the New York Times,

Performed Thursday night [Oct. 2, 2014] at the Fishman Space at BAM Fisher — and included in the French Institute Alliance Française’s Crossing the Line festival — this spare 45-minute work is a duet of movement and light. Instead of dramaturges, there are scientific advisers. Jean-Paul Lespagnard’s jumpsuits reimagine particles as a densely patterned uniform of green, purple and white. (They’re cute in a space-camp kind of way.) Carla Scaletti’s crackling, shimmering score incorporates data from the Large Hadron Collider, CERN’s powerful particle accelerator.

But in “Quantum,” translating scientific ideas, however loosely, into dance vocabulary is where the trouble starts. A lunge is still a lunge.

Robert P Crease in an Oct. 7, 2014 posting (for Physics World on the Institute of Physics website) about one of the performances in New York City revealed something about his relationship to art/science and about Gilles Jobin’s work,

I’m fascinated by the interactions between science and culture, which is what led me to the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), which was hosting the US première of a dance piece called Quantum that had previously debuted where it had been created, at CERN. …

I ran into Gilles Jobin, who had choreographed Quantum during an artist’s residency at CERN. I asked him the following question: “If a fellow choreographer who knew nothing about the piece were to watch it, is there anything in the movement or structure of the work that might cause that person to say ‘That choreographer must have spent several months at a physics lab!’?” Gilles paused, then said “No.” The influence of the laboratory environment, he said, was in inspiring him to come up with certain kinds of what he called “movement generators”, or inspirations for the dancers to create their own movements. “For instance, all those symmetries – like ghost symmetries – that I didn’t even know existed!” he said. I asked him why he had chosen the work’s title. “I considered other names,” he said. “Basically, Quantum was just a convenient tag that referred to the context – the CERN laboratory environment – in which I had created the work.”

Jobin and Michael Doser (Senior research physicist at CERN) talked to Ira Flatow host of US National Public Radio’s (NPR) Science Friday programme in an Oct. 3, 2014 broadcast which is available as a podcast on the Dance and Physics Collide in ‘Quantum’ webpage. It’s fascinating to hear both the choreographer and one of the CERN scientists discussing Jobin’s arts residency and how they had to learn to talk to each other.

NPR also produced a short video highlighting moments from one of the performances and showcasing Jobin’s commentary,

Produced by Alexa Lim, Associate Producer (NPR, Science Friday)

The Dance Centre (Vancouver) has an Oct. 7, 2014 post featuring Jobin on its blog,

How did you get involved with dance?

I wanted to be an actor and thought it was a good idea to take dance classes. Later, back at acting classes I realized how comfortable I was with movement and uncomfortable with words. I must admit that I was a teenager at the time and the large majority of girls in the dance classes was also a great motivation…

Have you always been interested in science?

I was an arty kid that did not have any interest in science. I was raised in an artistic family – my father was a geometrical painter – I thought science was not for me. Art, literature, “soft” science, theatre, that was my thing. It was only at the age of 48, in one of the greatest laboratories there is, that I started to see that I could become “science able”. I realized that particle physics was not only about math, but also had great philosophical questions: that I could get the general sense of what was going down there and follow with passion the discovery. Science is like contemporary art, you need to find the door, but when you get in you can take everything on and make up your own mind about it without being a specialist or a geek.

If you didn’t have a career in dance, what might you be doing?

Ski instructor!

Adding their own measure of excitement to this world tour of Quantum, the company’s dancers are producing videos of interviews with choreographers and dancers local to the city the company is visiting (from the What’s Up project page or the gillesjobin.com website),

WHAT’S UP est un projet des danseurs de la Cie Gilles Jobin : Catarina Barbosa, Ruth Childs, Susana Panadés Díaz, Bruno Cezario, Stanislas Charré et Denis Terrasse .

Dans chaque ville visitée pendant la tournée mondiale de QUANTUM, ils partent à la rencontre des danseurs/chorégraphes pour connaître le contexte de la danse contemporaine locale et partager leurs différentes réalités.

Retrouvez ici toutes les interviews

The latest interview is an Oct. 10, 2014 video (approximate 2 mins.) focusing on Katherine Hawthorne who in addition to being a dancer trained as a physicist.

Part 2 is based on an interview I had with Gilles Jobin on Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014 an hour or so after his and his company’s flight landed in Vancouver.

Ada Lovelace Day tomorrow: Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2014

Tomorrow you can celebrate Ada Lovelace Day 2014. A remarkable thinker, Lovelace (1815 – 1852) suggested computers could be used to create music and art, as well as, other practical activities. By the way, Her father was the ‘mad, bad, and dangerous to know’ poet, Lord Byron who called her mother, Anna Isabelle Millbank (she had a complex set of names and titles), the ‘princess of parallelograms’ due to her (Millbank’s) interest in mathematics.

Thanks to David Bruggeman and an Oct. 8, 2014 post on his Pasco Phronesis blog, I’ve found out about some events planned for this year’s Ada Lovelace Day before the fact rather than the ‘day of’ as I did last year (Oct. 15, 2013 post).

Here’s more from David’s Oct. 8, 2014 post (Note: Links have been removed),

In New York City, one of the commemorations of Ada Lovelace Day involves an opera on her life.  Called Ada, selections will be performed on October 14 [2014].

You can find out more about the opera and the performance on David’s blog post, which also includes video clips from a rehearsal for the opera and comments from the librettist and the composer.

Ada Lovelace Day was founded in 2009 by Suw Charman-Anderson and it’s been gaining momentum ever since. While Charman-Anderson’s Ada Lovelace website doesn’t offer an up-to-date history of the event, there is this about the 2012 celebration (from the History of Ada Lovelace Day page),

… In all, there were 25 independently-organised grassroots events in the UK, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Italy, Slovenia, Sweden and the USA, as well as online.

This year’s event includes:

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Ada Lovelace Day is an international celebration of the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Write about an inspiring woman in STEM

Every year we encourage you to take part, no matter where you are, by writing something about a woman, or women, in STEM whose achievements you admire. When your blog post is ready, you can add it to our list, and once we’re properly underway, you’ll be able to browse our list to see who inspires other people!

Ada Lovelace Day Live!

Tickets are now on sale for our amazing evening event [in London, England], featuring mathematician Dr Hannah Fry, musician Caro C, structural engineer Roma Agrawal, geneticist Dr Turi King, TV presenter Konnie Huq, artist Naomi Kashiwagi, technologists Steph Troeth, physicist Dr Helen Czerski and hosted by our inimitable ALD [Ada Lovelace Day] Live producer, Helen Arney!

This event is free for Ri  [Royal Institution] Members and Fellows, £6 for Ri Associates, £8 for Concessions and £12 for everyone else. Buy your tickets nowfind out more about the event or see accessibility information for the venue.

Ada Lovelace Day for Schools

The support of the Ri has this year allowed us to put together an afternoon event for 11 – 16 year olds, exploring the role and work of women in STEM. Speakers include sustainability innovator Rachel Armstrong, neuroscientist Sophie Scott, mathematician Hannah Fry, roboticist and theremin player Sarah Angliss, engineer Roma Agrawal, and dwarf mammoth expert Victoria Herridge, and is hosted by our very own Helen Arney! Tickets cost £3 per person, and are on sale now! [London, England] Find out more about the event or see accessibility information for the venue.

The organizers are currently running an indiegogo crowdfunding campaign (Ada Lovelace Day Live! 2014) to raise £2,000 to cover costs for videography and photography of the events in London, England. They have progressed to a little over 1/2 way towards their goal. The last day to contribute is Oct. 27, 2014.

One last tidbit, James Essinger’s book, Ada’s Algorithm, is being released on Oct. 14, 2014 in the US. The book was published last year in the UK. Sophia Stuart, in an Oct. 10, 2014 article for PC Magazine about the upcoming US release of Essinger’s book, wrote this,

A natural affinity for computer programming requires an unusual blend of arts and sciences; from appreciating the beauty of mathematics and the architectural composition of language via a vision for engineering, coupled with a meticulous attention to detail (and an ability to subsist on little sleep).

Ada Lovelace, considered to be the world’s first computer programmer, fits the profile perfectly, and is the subject of James Essinger’s book Ada’s Algorithm. Ada’s mother was a gifted mathematician and her father was the poet Lord Byron. In 1828, at the age of 12, Ada was multi-lingual while also teaching herself geometry, sketching plans for self-powered flight by studying birds and their wingspan, and imagining the future of aviation 75 years before the Wright Brothers’ first flight.

“In the form of a horse with a steamengine in the inside so contrived as to move an immense pair of wings,” she wrote in an April 7, 1828 letter to her mother.

Don’t forget, Ada Lovelace Day is tomorrow and perhaps in honour of her you can give your imagination permission to fly free for at least a moment or two.

Happy Thanksgiving today, Oct. 13, 2014 for Canadians of all stripes, those who were born here, those who are citizens (past and present), and those who choose to be Canadian in spirit for a day.

Fun Palaces for artists, scientists, and everyone in the UK, Oct. 4 – 5, 2014

The Fun Palace project is a celebration of UK theatre visionary and director, Joan Littlewood’s centenary in Oct. 2014. Stella Duffy, one of the project organizer’s provides some  insight into why Littlewood is considered an important influence, the origin of the ‘Fun Palace’, and the genesis of the upcoming celebration in a Sept. 18, 2013 posting on the Guardian newspaper website (Note: Links have been removed),,

In January, at Improbable’s annual Devoted and Disgruntled event, I called one session: “Who wants to do something for Joan Littlewood’s centenary in October 2014, that isn’t another revival of Oh! What a Lovely War?”

Oh! What a Lovely War, which Joan developed, is brilliant, but with the first world war anniversary next year, there will be many revivals and Joan was more than a director. She was one of the few British directors (before or since) to work fully with an ensemble, from training to performance. She made “immersive” theatre long before immersive was cool. She kick-started improvisation in the UK. She was political, formidable, inspiring, and far ahead of her time.

In 1961, Joan and the architect Cedric Price came up with the idea of the fun palace. Their blueprint says:

“Choose what you want to do – or watch someone else doing it. Learn how to handle tools, paint, babies, machinery, or just listen to your favourite tune. Dance, talk or be lifted up to where you can see how other people make things work. Sit out over space with a drink and tune in to what’s happening elsewhere in the city. Try starting a riot or beginning a painting – or just lie back and stare at the sky.”

An idea descended from pleasure gardens, the fun palace was designed to link arts and sciences, entertainment and education, in a space welcoming to all – especially children and young people.

A year later, the idea has not only taken root, it has grown. Here’s more about Fun Palaces from co-organizers Stella Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings in a Sept. 25, 2014 interview with Eleanor Turney of The Space (a digital arts museum in the UK ).

At Devoted&Disgruntled in 2013, Stella Duffy called a session asking if anyone wanted to do “a thing” to celebrate Joan Littlewood’s centenary. It quickly became apparent that the “thing” was going to be reviving Littlewood’s idea of a ‘Fun Palace’, a community-run, free space for people to explore the arts and sciences. Several people responded, a small GfA grant followed and Fun Palaces snowballed, as more and more people got involved, and Duffy and Sarah-Jane Rawlings started to articulate exactly what they wanted the project to be. This was followed by an Arts Council England Exceptional Award – which Duffy describes as “astonishing… It’s all becoming real now, but it’s still astonishing to me that they gave us this grant. I’m not the kind of person who always gets funding, but this is too fucking good an idea. Also, it’s not about us. It’s about the whole thing, which they [ACE] quite bravely saw.”

Rawlings continues: “The idea has developed so much, it’s always changing, we’re learning all the time. Our relationship with the site that The Space is making has changed – it’s now really key to how all of this develops. If we don’t get any money next year, [Fun Palaces] can still can go forward, because at the centre of it is this communication tool. It’s about people talking to each other, about showing their art on it, being able to say ‘I am making a Fun Palace,’ being able to access other avenues. It’s absolutely huge.”

“My favourite new phrase is ‘equality of online presence’,’ says Duffy, ‘and the point is that everyone has the same platform. It’s got nothing to do with what an organisation’s own resources are; on this site, everyone’s got the same profile, the same start, which is amazing.” The site, which The Space has commissioned, offers a page to each of the participating Fun Palaces: “You can put photos on it, videos, art work, links etc.,’ explains Rawlings. Over the weekend and in the run-up to it, says Duffy, “there’ll be a scrolling banner which has the Instagram and Twitter feeds. It’s not just about the weekend itself, it’s about the process. Some of the organisations that have never shown their process before have started sharing photos, writing blogs, talking about their process. The idea is, during the weekend when lots of people are sharing, that the scrolling banner will pull through the Instragram feed and it’ll look ‘live’ with stuff happening all the time. And afterwards, it’s not getting archived and put away – we’ll make a collage of the photos, and an infographic of stats from the weekend, which will ‘hold’ 2014, but it’s also all ready for people to sign up for 2015.”

The emphasis in this interview is on the project’s digital presence which is understandable given that the interview is being conducted by someone associated with a digital arts museum but there are many real life ‘Fun Palaces’ designed for this coming weekend, Oct. 4 – 5, 2014.

You can find the Fun Palace website here and if you should choose to create a Fun Palace, the organizers have provided this nugget of information/inspiration on the FAQs (frequently asked questions) page amongst many other nuggets on the website,

How do I find people in arts and science to make a Fun Palace with me?

Go beyond the usual suspects: the people who make school dinners know about the science of cooking, the person who mends your car knows a lot about the science of mechanics; your local librarian knows about arts and sciences and where to find out more.

Think about where you might be able to approach people in your locality: makerspaces, tech meet-ups, universities, schools, children’s centres, theatres, arts spaces, galleries, museums, music venues, community centres, co-working spaces. Places where people are meeting and sharing regularly, or where there’s a strong grassroots support network.

Also, you can talk to other members of the Fun Palace community on our Discussion Boards. If you’re stuck for ideas, then contact our Digital Champion Hannah on [email protected] (she works part time).  

Remember that even if there isn’t a Fun Palace near you in real life, there will be an online version.

For anyone interested in The Space, it was first featured here in a June 16, 2014 posting.

Pushing molecular gastronomy boundaries to create new cooking techniques

Researchers are hoping to develop new cooking techniques eventually by looking closely at how chefs practice molecular gastronomy, From an Oct. 1, 2014 news item on phys.org,

One of the most iconic forms of avant-garde cuisine, also known as molecular gastronomy, involves the presentation of flavorful, edible liquids—like cocktails or olive oil—packaged into spheres. Now a team of scientists, in collaboration with world-renowned chef Ferran Adriá, is getting to the bottom of what makes these delectable morsels possible. Their findings appear in ACS’ The Journal of Physical Chemistry B.

For anyone who wants to see these edible liquids, there’s this demonstration by Ferran Adriá

An Oct. 1, 2014 American Chemical Society news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides a few more details about the research,

Christophe Chipot, Wensheng Cai and colleagues explain that the technique of “spherification” was invented 70 years ago but was popularized in avant-garde cuisine more recently by Adriá. The process of making the spheres involves packaging juice or other liquid ingredients in envelopes of calcium alginate, a gelatinous substance made mostly out of molecules extracted from brown seaweed. Although spherification has become a prominent technique in molecular gastronomy, no one had investigated the formation and stability of the alginates at the atomic level. Chipot’s team wanted to change that.

The researchers used classical molecular dynamics techniques to probe how alginate spheres form. Among other discoveries, they found that alginate chains spontaneously wrap like a net around liquid droplets and that calcium ions were key. They concluded that studies such as these, which bridge the gap between material science and avant-garde cuisine, could help chefs and food scientists rationally design the next generation of innovative cooking techniques.

The funds for this work came from a number of institutions (from the news release),

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China, the Natural Science Foundation of Tianjin, China and the Cai Yuanpei program of the  [France?] Ministère des Affaires Étrangères et du Développement International.

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

From Material Science to Avant-Garde Cuisine. The Art of Shaping Liquids into Spheres by Haohao Fu, Yingzhe Liu, Ferran Adrià, Xueguang Shao, Wensheng Cai, and Christophe Chipot. J. Phys. Chem. B, Article ASAP DOI: 10.1021/jp508841p Publication Date (Web): September 15, 2014

Copyright © 2014 American Chemical Society

The researchers have also made this image illustrating the transformation of a bowl of peas into a chemical mass and finally into a reconstructed, liquid pea available.

PeaMolecularGastronomy

FrogHeart returns from the 9th World Congress on alternatives to animal testing

I’m back never having once posted during the 9th World Congress on ‘Alternatives to Animal Testing in the Life Sciences‘. After this experience, I have one piece of advice, never bring a computer with which you are unfamiliar to an event and expect to be able to post.

In any event, there will be a series of five articles published in the fairly near future about alternatives to animal testing. In the meantime, here are a few tidbits about the congress and from the congress sessions:

  • it was big (I estimate at least 1000), with scientists and teams from Japan, UK, Korea, US, Brazil, the Czech republic, and China in particularly high relief although there were representatives from many other countries as well
  • with the March 2013 ban on animal testing for cosmetics, only cruelty-free cosmetics can be sold in Europe (none of the sessions I attended provided information on how one might be certain that a company’s cosmetics were in fact cruelty-free, presumably there is some sort of certification process)
  • human-on-a-chip/organ-on-a-chip work was first attempted by Uwe Marx in Germany in the early 1990s
  • while fewer animals are used for testing in some areas (Europe’s cosmetics ban eliminated some tests), overall use is rising according to Roman Kolar, Animal Welfare Academy, Germany

There will be more over the next few weeks as I prepare the articles.

FrogHeart goes to the 9th World Congress on alternatives to animal testing

Also known as ‘Humane Science in the 21st Century’, the 9th World Congress on ‘Alternatives to Animal Testing in the Life Sciences‘ is being held next week (Aug. 24 – 28, 2014) and FrogHeart will be reporting on various aspects of the work. These posts are sponsored. I realize some folks don’t approve of the practice, which seems odd given that all writing, ultimately, is paid for and sponsored in one fashion or another. While direct sponsorship of a piece of writing can make objectivity (such as it is) more of challenge; it is not beyond the realms of possibility. Conversely, salaried writers can also become compromised due to friendships and loyalties built up over the years or, possibly, due to graft.

All of the posts generated as a consequence of the sponsorship will be identified with the sponsoring agency (SEURAT-1).

For anyone who wishes analyze and compare the posts for bias, here are a few pieces written prior to any contact about the congress:

  • Reducing animal testing for nanotoxicity—PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) presentation at NanoTox 2014 (April 24, 2014)
  • Nanomaterials, toxicology, and alternatives to animal testing (Aug. 22. 2013)
  • Animal love and nanotechnology (Jan. 12, 2012)
  • Global TV (national edition) and nanotechnology; EPA develops a ‘kinder to animals’ nanomaterials research strategy (Oct. 8, 2009); scroll down 25% of the way)

Should you detect undue bias in any of the sponsored pieces, please do let me know.

Science and the arts: a science rap promotes civil discussion about science and religion; a science movie and a play; and a chemistry article about authenticating a Lawren Harris painting

Canadian-born rapper of science and many other topics, Baba Brinkman sent me an update about his current doings (first mentioned in an Aug. 1, 2014 posting featuring his appearances at the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, his Rap Guide to Religion being debuted at the Fringe, and his Kickstarter campaign to raise money for the creation of an animated rap album of his news Rap Guide to Religion), Note: Links have been removed,

Greetings from Edinburgh! In the past two and half weeks I’ve done fifteen performances of The Rap Guide to Religion for a steadily building audience here at the Fringe, and we recently had a whole pile of awesome reviews published, which I will excerpt below, but first a funny story.

Yesterday [August 14, 2014] BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] Sunday Morning TV was in to film my performance. They had a scheme to send a right wing conservative Christian to the show and then film us having an argument afterwards. The man they sent certainly has the credentials. Reverend George Hargreaves is a Pentecostal Minister and former leader of the UK Christian Party, as well as a young earth creationist and strong opponent of abortion and homosexuality. He led the protests that got “Jerry Springer the Opera” shut down in London a few years back, and is on record as saying that religion is not an appropriate subject for comedy. Before he converted to Christianity, the man was also a DJ and producer of pop music for the London gay scene, interesting background.

So after an hour of cracking jokes at religion’s expense, declaring myself an unapologetic atheist, and explaining why evolutionary science gives a perfectly satisfying naturalistic account of where religion comes from, I sat down with Reverend George and was gobsmacked when he started the interview with: “I don’t know if we’re going to have anything to debate about… I LOVED your show!” We talked for half an hour with the cameras rolling and at one point George said “I don’t know what we disagree about,” so I asked him: “Do you think one of your ancestors was a fish?” He declared that statement a fishy story and denied it, and then we found much to disagree about.

I honestly thought I had written a hard-hitting, provocative and controversial show, but it turns out the religious are loving it as much as the nonbelievers – and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I asked Reverend George why he wasn’t offended, even though he’s officially against comedy that targets religion, and he told me it’s because I take the religious worldview seriously, instead of lazily dismissing it as delusional. The key word here is “lazily” rather than “delusional” because I don’t pull punches about religion being a series of delusions, but I don’t think those delusions are pointless. I think they have evolved (culturally and genetically) to solve adaptive problems in the past, and for religious people accustomed to atheists being derisive and dismissive that’s a (semi) validating perspective.

To listen to songs from The Rap Guide to Religion, you need to back my Kickstarter campaign so I can raise the money to produce a proper record. To check out what the critics here in Edinburgh have to say about my take on religion, read on. And if you want to help organize a gig somewhere, just let me know. The show is open for bookings.

On Sunday Morning [August 17, 2014 GMT] my segment with Reverend George will air on BBC One, so we’ll see what a million British people think of the debate.

All the best from the religious fringe,

Baba

Here’s a link to the BBC One Sunday Morning Live show, where hopefully you’ll be able to catch the segment featuring Baba and Reverend George Hargreaves either livestreamed or shortly thereafter.

A science movie and a science play

Onto the science movie and the play: David Bruggeman on his Pasco Phronesis blog writes about two upcoming movie biopics featuring Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking respectively, in an Aug. 8, 2014 posting. Having covered the Turing movie here (at length) in a July 22, 2014 posting here’s the new information about the Hawking movie from David’s Aug, 8, 2014 posting,

Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking are noted British scientists, well recognized for their work and for having faced significant challenges in their lives.  While they were in different fields and productive in different parts of the 20th century (Hawking is still with us), their stories will compete in movieplexes (at least in the U.S.) this November.

The Theory of Everything is scheduled for release on November 7 and focuses on the early career and life of Hawking.  He’s portrayed by Eddie Redmayne, and the film is directed by James Marsh.  Marsh has several documentaries to his credit, including the Oscar-winning Man on Wire.  Theory is the third film project on Hawking since 2004, but the first to get much attention outside of the United Kingdom (this might explain why it won’t debut in the U.K. until New Year’s Day).  It premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival next month [Sept. 2014].

David features some trailers for both movies and additional information.

Interestingly the science play focuses on the friendship between a female UK scientist and her former student, Margaret Thatcher (a UK Prime Minister). From an Aug. 13, 2014 Alice Bell posting on the Guardian science blog network (Note: Links have been removed),

Adam Ganz’s new play – The Chemistry Between Them, to be broadcast on Radio 4 this month – explores one of the most intriguing friendships in the history of science and politics: Margaret Thatcher and Dorothy Hodgkin.

As well as winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for her pioneering scientific work on the structures of proteins, Hodgkin was a left-wing peace campaigner who was awarded the Soviet equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Order of Lenin. Hardly Thatcher’s type, you might think. But Hodgkin was Thatcher’s tutor at university, and the relationships between science, politics and women in high office are anything but straightforward.

I spoke to Ganz about his interest in the subject, and started by asking him to tell us more about the play.

… they stayed friends throughout Dorothy’s life. Margaret Thatcher apparently had a photo of Dorothy Hodgkin in Downing Street, and they maintained a kind of warm relationship. The play happens in two timescales – one is a meeting in 1983 in Chequers where Dorothy came to plead with Margaret to take nuclear disarmament more seriously at a time when Cruise missiles and SS20s were being stationed in Europe. In fact I’ve set it – I’m not sure of the exact date – shortly after the Korean airliner was shot down, when the Russians feared Nato were possibly planning a first strike. And that is intercut with the time when Margaret is studying chemistry and looking at her journey; what she learned at Somerville, but especially what she learned from Dorothy.

Here’s a link to the BBC 4 webpage for The Chemistry Between Them. I gather the broadcast will be Weds., Aug. 20, 2014 at 1415 hours GMT.

Chemistry and authentication of a Lawren Harris painting

The final item for this posting concerns Canadian art, chemistry, and the quest to prove the authenticity of a painting. Roberta Staley, editor of Canadian Chemical News (ACCN), has written a concise technical story about David Robertson’s quest to authenticate a painting he purchased some years ago,

Fourteen years ago, David Robertson of Delta, British Columbia was holidaying in Ontario when he stopped at a small antique shop in the community of Bala, two hours north of Toronto in cottage country. An unsigned 1912 oil painting caught his attention. Thinking it evocative of a Group of Seven painting, Robertson paid the asking price of $280 and took it home to hang above his fireplace.

Roberta has very kindly made it available as a PDF: ChemistryNews_Art.Mystery.Group.7. It will also be available online at the Canadian Chemical News website soon. (It’s not in the July/August 2014 issue.)

For anyone who might recognize the topic, I wrote a sprawling five-part series (over 5000 words) on the story starting with part one. Roberta’s piece is 800 words and offers her  account of the tests for both Autumn Harbour and the authentic Harris painting, Hurdy Gurdy. I was able to attend only one of them (Autumn Harbour).

David William Robertson, Autumn Harbour’s owner has recently (I received a notice on Aug. 13, 2014) updated his website with all of the scientific material and points of authentication that he feels prove his case.

Have a very nice weekend!