Category Archives: science communication

From the quantum to the cosmos; an event at Vancouver’s (Canada) Science World

ARPICO (Society of Italian Researchers & Professionals in Western Canada) sent out an April 9, 2014 announcement,

FROM THE QUANTUM TO THE COSMOS

May 7 [2014] “Unveiling the Universe” lecture registration now open:

Join Science World and TRIUMF on Wednesday, May 7, at Science World at TELUS World of Science in welcoming Professor Edward “Rocky” Kolb, the Arthur Holly Compton Distinguished Service Professor of Astronomy and Astrophysics at the University of Chicago, for his lecture on how the laws of quantum physics at the tiniest distances relate to structures in the universe at the largest scales. He also will highlight recent spectacular results into the nature of the Big Bang from the orbiting Planck satellite and the South Pole-based BICEP2 telescope.

Doors open at 6:15pm and lecture starts at 7pm. It will be followed by an audience Q&A session.

Tickets are free but registration is required. Details on the registration page (link below)
See http://www.eventbrite.ca/o/unveiling-the-universe-lecture-series-2882137721?s=23658359 for more information.

You can go here to the Science World website for more details and another link for tickets,

Join Science World, TRIUMF and guest speaker Dr Rocky Kolb on Wednesday, May 7 [2014], for another free Unveiling the Universe public lecture about the inner space/outer space connection that may hold the key to understanding the nature of dark matter, dark energy and the mysterious seeds of structure that grew to produce everything we see in the cosmos.

I notice Kolb is associated with the Fermi Lab, which coincidentally is where TRIUMF’s former director, Nigel Lockyer is currently located. You can find out more about Kolb on his personal webpage, where I found this description from his repertoire of talks,

Mysteries of the Dark Universe
Ninety-five percent of the universe is missing! Astronomical observations suggest that most of the mass of the universe is in a mysterious form called dark matter and most of the energy in the universe is in an even more mysterious form called dark energy. Unlocking the secrets of dark matter and dark energy will illuminate the nature of space and time and connect the quantum with the cosmos.

Perhaps this along with the next bit gives you a clearer idea of what Kolb will be discussing. He will also be speaking at TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory of particle and nuclear physics, from the events page,

Wed ,2014-05-07    14:00    Colloquium    Rocky Kolb, Fermilab     Auditorium    The Decade of the WIMP
Abstract:    The bulk of the matter in the present universe is dark. The most attractive possibility for the nature of the dark matter is a new species of elementary particle known as a WIMP (a Weakly Interacting Massive Particle). After a discussion of how a WIMP might fit into models of particle physics, I will review the current situation with respect to direct detection, indirect detection, and collider production of WIMPs. Rapid advances in the field should enable us to answer by the end of the decade whether our universe is dominated by WIMPs.

You may want to get your tickets soon as other lectures in the Unveiling the Universe series have gone quickly.

Is Stephen Colbert’s love of science compatible with his new job (host of the Late Show) on US network television?

For those not familiar with Stephen Colbert and his body of work, here’s a brief description from David Shiffman’s April 11, 2014 article (Stephen Colbert Is the Best Source of Science on TV; Will he be stuck interviewing dingbat celebrities at CBS [Columbia Broadcasting System]?) for Slate.com (Note: Links have been removed),

David Letterman announced last week that he will soon be retiring from The Late Show after hosting for more than 30 years, and CBS has confirmed that Stephen Colbert will replace him. While switching from The Colbert Report to The Late Show will be a huge career advancement for the comedian and TV show host, it could be a big loss for television coverage of science.

Stephen Colbert is one of the only news or faux-news anchors to regularly cover scientific discoveries and interview scientists. “The Colbert Report has certainly been one of the best television programs ever for showcasing scientists—and I don’t just mean ‘for a comedy talk show,’” says science comedian Brian Malow. He points out that the guest who has made the most appearances is Neil deGrasse Tyson. “More than any movie star! And Tyson isn’t even the only physicist he’s featured!”

Among the other physicists Colbert has interviewed are Brian Greene, Michio Kaku, and Lawrence Krauss. He has hosted oceanographer Robert Ballard, neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland, surgeon Atul Gawande, and evolutionary biologist Neil Shubin as well as experts in science policy such as then–Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson and National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins. The online archive of interview guests includes separate categories for “academic,” “medical,” and “scientist.”

Shiffman provides a description of the current situation regarding science coverage in the mainstream media (Note: Links have been removed),

Colbert’s transition comes at a terrible time for coverage of science. “Traditional science journalism has been gutted in recent years due to the economic downturn,” says Sheril Kirshenbaum, the co-author of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future. …

The consequences were clear most recently in CNN’s horrifically bad coverage of the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370. CNN cut its science, technology, and environment team in 2008. When host Don Lemon was covering the lost plane, he speculated on air that there could be some supernatural explanation, or perhaps the airliner could have disappeared into a black hole.

Meanwhile, Animal Planet is airing fake documentaries about mermaids.

I hadn’t realized until reading Shiffman’s article that Colbert covers science news in addition to interviewing scientists (Note: Links have been removed),

Colbert features science in many of his show’s segments, not just in his interviews. Colbert’s recurring series “The Craziest F#?king Thing I’ve Ever Heard” is often about interesting new scientific discoveries. He has discussed neuroscience, insect reproduction, and the Large Hadron Collider. He put the scientific Journal of Paleolimnology “on notice” for proposing an explanation for walking on water that differed from the biblical account.

The Colbert Report covered a mishap in University of Maine Ph.D. student Skylar Bayer’s research in marine biology. A bucket of her samples—scallop gonads—was accidentally taken by someone else. A Colbert Report producer saw her blog post and thought it would make a fun segment for the show; they turned it into a mock crime drama. …

I recommend reading Shiffman’s piece which is lively and interesting. One observation though, while he decries the loss of science journalism in mainstream media, he makes no mention of science blogs as a source of increasing popularity, It’s odd since he himself is a science blogger on Southern Fried Science.

If you have the time, follow the links in Shiffman’s article, in particular the one leading to the faux documentary about mermaids.

I wish Mr. Colbert all the best as he takes on his new job and I hope that he is able to include a science presence on the new show.

Evidence: Wanted, Dead or Alive lecture reprised (more or less) at the University of Toronto (Canada) and livestreamed on April 16, 2014

I announced (in a March 26, 2014 posting) a lecture earlier in April (From the ‘Bankruptcy of Science’ to the ‘Death of Evidence’: Science and its Value) by Stathis Psillos being held as part of the Situating Science (humanities research cluster) Lives of Evidence lecture series in Ottawa. The upcoming April 16, 2014 talk features a somewhat different title and a panel discussion at the University of Toronto and is the last in the series. From the April 14, 2014 announcement,

Don’t miss the final part in the national lecture series on The Lives of Evidence. Come one, come all!

Evidence: Wanted, Dead or Alive
Stathis Psillos, Rotman Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Science, Department of Philosophy, Western University
Wed. April 16 2014, 5 PM [EDT; 2 pm PDT]
Room 001, Emmanuel College,
University of Toronto, 75 Queen’s Park Crescent, Toronto, Ont.
Free.
Reception to follow.

Panel discussion with:
Helena Likwornik, Legal counsel, Ontario Court of Appeal; and Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Law, The University of Toronto
Maya Goldenberg, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Guelph
Brian Baigrie, Professor, The Institute for History and Philosophy of Science and Technology, The University of Toronto

One other thing makes this Psillos lecture different, you can,

Watch live online:
http://mediacast.ic.utoronto.ca/20140416-HPST/index.htm

Chemists wish us all a Happy April Fool’s Day with puns!

The American Chemical Society (ACS) has produced a video of chemistry jokes/puns,

From the March 31, 2014 ACS news release on EurekAlert,

… the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Reactions video series is celebrating with an episode featuring our favorite chemistry jokes. Which two elements look cute together? Why is father water concerned about his “iced out” son? What do you get when you combine sulfur, tungsten and silver? Get all the punchlines in the latest Reactions episode, available at: http://youtu.be/C5RZRkhk0OM.

Subscribe to the series at Reactions YouTube, and follow us on Twitter @ACSreactions.

Happy April Fool’s Day1

 

Wilkinson Prize for numerical software: call for 2015 submissions

The Wilkinson Prize is not meant to recognize a nice, shiny new algorithm, rather it’s meant for the implementation phase and, as anyone who have ever been involved in that phase of a project can tell you, that phase is often sadly neglected. So, bravo for the Wilkinson Prize!

From the March 27, 2014 Numerical Algorithms Group (NAG) news release, here’s a brief history of the Wilkinson Prize,

Every four years the Numerical Algorithms Group (NAG), the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) and Argonne National Laboratory award the prestigious Wilkinson Prize in honour of the outstanding contributions of Dr James Hardy Wilkinson to the field of numerical software. The next Wilkinson Prize will be awarded at the [2015] International Congress on Industrial and Applied Mathematics in Beijing, and will consist of a $3000 cash prize.

NAG, NPL [UK National Physical Laboratory] and Argonne [US Dept. of Energy, Argonne National Laboratory] are committed to encouraging innovative, insightful and original work in numerical software in the same way that Wilkinson inspired many throughout his career. Wilkinson worked on the Automatic Computing Engine (ACE) while at NPL and later authored numerous papers on his speciality, numerical analysis. He also authored many of the routines for matrix computation in the early marks of the NAG Library.

The most recent Wilkinson Prize was awarded in 2011 to Andreas Waechter and Carl D. Laird for IPOPT. Commenting on winning the Wilkinson Prize Carl D. Laird, Associate Professor at the School of Chemical Engineering, Purdue University, said “I love writing software, and working with Andreas on IPOPT was a highlight of my career. From the beginning, our goal was to produce great software that would be used by other researchers and provide solutions to real engineering and scientific problems.

The Wilkinson Prize is one of the few awards that recognises the importance of implementation – that you need more than a great algorithm to produce high-impact numerical software. It rewards the tremendous effort required to ensure reliability, efficiency, and usability of the software.

Here’s more about the prize (list of previous winners, eligibility, etc.), from the Wilkinson Prize for Numerical Software call for submissions webpage,

Previous Prize winners:

  • 2011: Andreas Waechter and Carl D. Laird for Ipopt
  • 2007: Wolfgang Bangerth for deal.II
  • 2003: Jonathan Shewchuch for Triangle
  • 1999: Matteo Frigo and Steven Johnson for FFTW.
  • 1995: Chris Bischof and Alan Carle for ADIFOR 2.0.
  • 1991: Linda Petzold for DASSL.

Eligibility

The prize will be awarded to the authors of an outstanding piece of numerical software, or to individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to an existing piece of numerical software. In the latter case applicants must clearly be able to distinguish their personal contribution and to have that contribution authenticated, and the submission must be written in terms of that personal contribution and not of the software as a whole. To encourage researchers in the earlier stages of their career all applicants must be at most 40 years of age on January 1, 2014.
Rules for Submission

Each entry must contain the following:

Software written in a widely available high-level programming language.
A two-page summary of the main features of the algorithm and software implementation.
A paper describing the algorithm and the software implementation. The paper should give an analysis of the algorithm and indicate any special programming features.
Documentation of the software which describes its purpose and method of use.
Examples of use of the software, including a test program and data.

Submissions

The preferred format for submissions is a gzipped, tar archive or a zip file. Please contact us if you would like to use a different submission mechanism. Submissions should include a README file describing the contents of the archive and scripts for executing the test programs. Submissions can be sent by email to [email protected]. Contact this address for further information.

The closing date for submissions is July 1, 2014.

Good luck to you all!

National (Canada) livestreamed science events from Situating Science (two events) and the Perimeter Institute (one event)

The Situating Science (humanities research cluster) is preparing for a couple of events both of which will take place on April 10, 2014 as part of their Lives of Evidence lecture series . The series has been mentioned here before in a couple of previous posts (my Jan. 31, 2014 posting titled: The Press and the Press Release: Inventing the Crystal Meth-HIV Connection and my March 19, 2014 posting titled Patents, Progress, and Commercialized Medicine).

The next Lives of Evidence lectures are (from the March 25, 2014 announcement),

From the ‘Bankruptcy of Science’ to the ‘Death of Evidence’: Science and its Value
Stathis Psillos, Rotman Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Science, Department of Philosophy, Western University
Thursday, April 10 2014, 5 PM [EST; 2 pm PST]
Room 4101, 4th floor, Desmarais Building , University of Ottawa, 55 Laurier Ave. East, Ottawa, ON
Free. Reception to follow.
“Join” our Facebook event
https://www.facebook.com/events/819874048026027/
U. Ottawa ISSP Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series.
Supported by the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Science and University of Ottawa Departments of Philosophy and History.

Those Who Have the Gold Make the Evidence: The Pharmaceutical Industry and Clinical Trials
Joel Lexchin, Professor, School of Health Policy and Management, York University
Thursday, April 10 2014, 7pm [EST; 4 pm PST]
Room 2130, David Chu Centre, Western Student Services Building, Western University. 1151 Richmond St., London, ON.
Free. Reception beforehand.
“Join” our Facebook Event:

https://www.facebook.com/events/252408878265465/

Watch live online here!
Supported by the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Western University

While it doesn’t appear that the April 10, 2014 Psillos lecture, ‘Bankruptcy of Science’ to the ‘Death of Evidence’, will be livestreamed, he will be reprising it on April 16, 2014 at the University of Toronto and, according to the chatter on the event’s Facebook page, there appears to be a possibility that one will be livestreamed and I will try to confirm that information. I expect they can’t or are having difficulties arranging two livestreamed events on one day and, for some reason, the second of the April 10, 2014 lectures, Lexchin’s ‘Those Who Have the Gold Make the Evidence’ is the one being livestreamed.

Onto the Perimeter Institute and their livestreamed Future of Physics event,on April 2, 2014 (from the March 25, 2014 announcement),

The Future of Physics: Kate Lunau of maclean’s magazine in Conversation with Emerging Talent at Perimeter Institute
Kate Lunau, Science Journalist
WEDNESDAY, April 2, 2014 AT 7:00PM
Perimeter INSTITUTE
31 Caroline STREET North, WATERLOO
The late astronomer and science popularizer Carl Sagan once said: “The great discoveries are almost entirely made by youngsters.” Sagan understood the power of youthful awe and curiosity, unbounded by established ways of thinking.

Exceptional young physicists will discuss what fascinates and motivates them during Perimeter Institute’s April 2 public lecture. A panel of top early-career scientists, moderated by journalist Kate Lunau of Maclean’s magazine, will share their unique perspectives on the big questions and the types of discoveries they believe may shape the future.

Participants will walk the audience through the “typical” day of a theoretical physicist, describe the path that brought them to the Perimeter, and explore the unprecedented challenges and opportunities that face their generation — and the generations of new scientists to follow — through the 21st century.

If you are thinking of attending the event live in Waterloo, it’s too late to get tickets which were awarded via lottery!

Douglas College (Vancouver, Canada) hosts April 2, 2014 talk “How Do We Know? Scientific information and public policy: GMOs, pesticides and the demise of bees?”

I gather the audience for this event is the Douglas College staff, students, and faculty since it’s being held from 1 – 2:30 pm. There’s more from the March 21, 2014 announcement on the Douglas College website (Note: A link has been removed),

A public talk at Douglas College will seek to unravel the complex and contentious debates surrounding genetically modified crops, pesticide use and declining bee populations. Mark Winston, a Simon Fraser University insect [bees] expert and public commentator, will focus on these issues as he examines how to improve the way science is communicated to the public.

“We are pleased to welcome Dr. Winston to share his insights on the important issue of making scientific communication more effective. He is a great communicator, an expert in his field and an innovator around issues in dialogue,” says Rob McGregor, Executive Director of the Institute of Urban Ecology at Douglas College.

The upcoming talk is titled “How Do We Know? Scientific information and public policy: GMOs, pesticides and the demise of bees.” [emphasis mine] The free, public event takes place on Wednesday, April 2 from 1-2:30pm in the Laura C. Muir Performing Arts Theatre on the Douglas College New Westminster campus (700 Royal Ave., New Westminster).

For those who are not familiar with local geography, the word Vancouver can refer to the city or to the metro area, which includes the municipality of New Westminster where this particular Douglas College campus is located.

One final note, according to the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Centre for Dialogue (where Winston works) notice, a reception will follow.

Cancer as a fashion statement at the University of British Columbia (Canada) and a Marimekko dress made of birch in Finland

The ‘Fashioning Cancer Project’ at the University of British Columbia (UBC) bears some resemblance to the types of outreach projects supported by the UK’s Wellcome Trust (for an example see my June 21, 2011 posting) where fashion designers are inspired by some aspect of science. Here’s more about the ‘Fashioning Cancer Project’ and its upcoming fashion show (on March 25, 2014). From the March 12, 2014 UBC news release (Note: Links have been removed),

A UBC costume design professor has created a collection of ball gowns inspired by microscopic photos of cancer cells and cellular systems to get people talking about the disease, beauty and body image.

The project aims to create alternative imagery for discussions of cancer, to complement existing examples such as the pink ribbon, which is an important symbol of cancer awareness, but may not accurately represent women’s experience with the disease.

“Many women who have battled cancer express a disconnect with the fashion imagery that commonly represents the disease,” says Jacqueline Firkins, an assistant professor in UBC’s Dept. of Theatre and Film, who designed the collection of 10 dresses and dubbed the work ‘Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty.’

Inspired by cellular images captured by researchers in the lab of UBC scientist Christian Naus, a Peter Wall Distinguished Scholar in Residence, the project seeks to create artistic imagery based on the disease itself.

“My hope is that somehow through fashion, I more closely tap into what a woman might be feeling about her body as she undergoes the disease, but simultaneously reflect a strength, beauty, and resilience,” says Firkins, who will use the collection to raise money for cancer research, patients and survivors.

“This will be an opportunity for people to share their thoughts about the gowns,” says Firkins. “Are they too pretty to reflect something as destructive as cancer? Do they encourage you to tell your own story? Do they evoke any emotions related to your own experience?”

Before giving you where and when, here are two images (a cell and a dress based on the cell),

http://news.ubc.ca/2014/03/12/prof-challenges-cancer-fashion/

Cell7_brain_cells_in_a_dish; Astrocytes from the brain growing in a culture dish. Green colour indicates the cytoskeleton of these cells, red colour shows specific membrance [sic] channels (gap junctions), blue colour indicates the cell nuclei (DNA). The ability to grow cells in a dish has contributed to our understand of the changes these cells undergo when they become channels. Photo credit: John Bechberger, MSc., Christian Naus, PhD.

Cell7_Mercedes_de_la_Zerda: Dress modeled by BFA Acting student Mercedes de la Zerda.Black organza cap sleeve w/ sheer top and multicolour organza diagonal trim. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Cell7_Mercedes_de_la_Zerda: Dress modeled by BFA Acting student Mercedes de la Zerda.Black organza cap sleeve w/ sheer top and multicolour organza diagonal trim. Photo credit: Tim Matheson

Details about the show (from the UBC event description webpage where you can also find a slide show more pictures),

  • Event: Fashioning Cancer: The Correlation between Destruction and Beauty
  • Date: Tue. March 25, 2014 | Time: 12-1pm
  • Location: UBC’s Frederic Wood Theatre, 6354 Crescent Rd.
  • MAP: http://bit.ly/1fZ4bC8

On a more or less related note, Aalto University (Finland) has announced a dress made of birch cellulose fibre, from a March 13, 2014 news item on ScienceDaily,

The first garment made out of birch cellulose fibre using the Ioncell method is displayed at a fashion show in Finland on 13 March [2014]. The Ioncell method, which was developed by researchers at Aalto University, is an environmentally friendly alternative to cotton in textile production. The dress produced for Marimekko is a significant step forward in the development of fibre for industrial production.

Researchers were looking for new alternatives to cotton, because demand for textile fibres is expected to nearly double by 2030. The raw material for the Ioncell fibre is a birch-based pulp from Finnish pulp mills. Growing birch wood does not require artificial irrigation in its native habitat, for instance.

The Aalto University March 12, 2014 news release, which originated the news item, describes the new Ioncell fibre and its relationship with Finnish clothing company Marimekko,

The production method for Ioncell has been developed by Professor Herbert Sixta’s research group. The method is based on a liquid salt (ionic liquid) developed under the guidance of Professor Ilkka Kilpeläinen which is a very efficient cellulose solvent. The fibres derived from it are carded and spun to yarns at the Textile University of Börås in Sweden.

‒ We made a breakthrough in the development of the method about a year ago. Progress has been rapid since then. [see my Oct. 3, 2013 posting for another Finnish team's work with wood cellulose to create fabric]  Production of the fibre and the thread is still a cumbersome process, but we have managed to triple the amount of fibre that is produced in six months. The quality has also improved: the fibers are stronger and of more even quality, Professor Sixta says with satisfaction.

The surface of the ready textile has a dim glow and it is pleasing to the touch. According to Sixta, because of its strength, the strength properties of the Ioncell fibre are equal or even better than other pulp-based fibres on the market. The fibres are even stronger than cotton and viscose.

The Finnish textile and clothing design company Marimekko became inspired by the new fibre at an event organised by the Finnish Bioeconomy Cluster FIBIC, which coordinates bioeconomy research, and immediately got in touch with Professor Herbert Sixta at Aalto University.

‒ We monitor product development for materials closely in order to be able to offer our customers new and more ecological alternatives. It was a wonderful opportunity to be able to join this Aalto University development project at such an early stage. Fibre made from birch pulp seems to be a promising material by virtue of its durability and other characteristics, and we hope that we will soon be able to utilise this new material in our collections, says Noora Niinikoski, Head of Fashion at Marimekko.

Here’s the birch cellulose dress,

Marimekko Birch Dress Courtesy: Aalto University

Let’s all have a fashionable day!