Category Archives: science communication

Science-themed scriptwriting competition for Google (call for submissions)

David Bruggeman writes about a Google-sponsored scriptwriting competition in an April 28, 2016 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog (Note: Links have been removed),

At the Tribeca Film Festival last week [the festival ran from April 13 – 24, 2016] Google announced that its CS Education in Media Program is partnering with the website The Black List for a fellowship competition to support the image of computer science and computer scientists in media (H/T STEMDaily).  The Black List is a screenwriting site known for hosting the best unproduced screenplays in Hollywood.

The fellowship could award up to $15,000 for as many as three scripts (one film script and two episodic television pilots).  The writers would use the money to support their work on new materials for six months.  At the end of that period the writer(s) would present that work to Google along with a summary of how the grant helped advance that work and/or affected their career.

Here’s more about the competition from The Black list website’s The Google Computer Science Education in Media Fellowship Call for Submissions webpage,

The Black List is pleased to partner with Google’s Computer Science Education in Media program to offer financial grants in support of the development of three scripts with a focus on changing the image in popular culture of computer science and computer scientists.

REQUIREMENTS

  • The candidate must host a script on www.blcklst.com for a least one week during the opt-in period.
  • Such script must be original to the candidate.
  • The candidate must be competent to contract.
  • If selected for the fellowship, writers must develop a feature screenplay or episodic pilot that changes the image of computer science or computer scientists, particular as it applies to women and minorities, in popular culture.
  • Further, selected writers must agree that six months following receipt of the fellowship that they will provide a designated representative of Google with a sample of his/her new work along with a report addressing how the grant has been used to advance his/her work and/or impacted his/her career.

SELECTION PROCESS

Beginning April 20, 2016, users of the Black List website can opt into consideration for this fellowship.

On July 15 [2016], the Black List will short list ten writers based on all data available on the Black List website about their opted in feature screenplays and teleplays.

These ten short listed candidates will be asked to submit one-page biographies, which will be sent to Google along with the screenplays/teleplays.

Google will review these 10 scripts and choose the Fellowship recipients. Google reserves the right to grant no fellowships if, in Google’s opinion, no entry is of sufficient merit.

DEADLINES OF NOTE (ALL TIMES 11:59 PM PT)

Evaluation purchase deadline* June 15, 2016

Opt in deadline July 15, 2016

* In order for new script evaluations to guarantee consideration for this opportunity, they must be purchased by midnight on the Evaluation deadline.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ABOUT GOOGLE’S COMPUTER SCIENCE EDUCATION IN MEDIA PROGRAM

Why is Google working with Hollywood? 

Google aims to inspire young people around the world not just to use technology, but to create it.  To do so, we need more students pursuing an education in CS, particularly girls and minorities, who have historically been underrepresented in the field. Google wants to prepare the next generation for the workplace of the future, and expand access to CS education that engages and retains students from all backgrounds.

  • Moreover, Google’s research shows that perceptions of CS and computer scientists are primary drivers that motivate girls to pursue CS. “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it,” as our friend Geena Davis notes.
  • Google’s hope is that by dispelling stereotypes and identifying positive portrayals of women in tech it can do for CS what CSI did for the field of forensic science, changing its gender make-up and increasing its appeal to a wider audience.
  • Media is part of the ecosystem that needs to change in conjunction with the other areas of work where Google has invested including increasing access to curriculum, non-profit grants, and policy support. If we don’t address the perceptions piece for both young people and adults through mainstream media, we run the risk of undermining our other efforts in CS education.

Background stats on perceptions of CS: 

Google’s research shows that perceptions of careers in computer science really matter.  Girls who feel that television portrays programmers negatively or who don’t see other students like them taking CS are significantly less likely to get into computing. Interestingly, girls who want a career with social impact are also less likely to go into CS.

Google conducted a research study to identify the factors that most influence girls to study computer science, and the second most important category of factors was Career Perceptions.

  • Girls who felt that television portrays programmers in a negative light were less likely to pursue CS.
  • If a girl didn’t see the right social crowd in a class — that is, if there weren’t enough students like her — she was less likely to go into CS.
  • Girls who want careers with social impact are less likely to go into CS. (It’s clear we need to do a better job of showing how CS can be used to develop solutions to some of the world’s most challenging problems.)
  • Perception accounts for 27% of the decision making for girls to pursue CS.. #1 factor is parent/adult encouragement which is also influenced by media.

Stats on representation in media:

  • Blacks & Hispanics are already underrepresented on-screen 14.1% and 4.9%, respectively.
  • Combine this with lack of / misrepresentation of STEM/CS characters in family movies and prime TV, you get STEM characters < 18% women; CS characters <13%.

Proven Success with other Fields:

  • Forensic Science – CSI increased the number of forensic science majors in nationally recognized programs by at least 50% in 5 years – a majority being women.
  • Law – UCLA claimed a 16.5% increase in law school applicants 1 year after LA Law premiered.  Justice Sotomayor credits her interest in law from watching Perry Mason at 10 years old.
 …

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

FAQ & Answers

Go here to register (there is a cost associated with registering but there don’t appear to be any citizenship or residency restrictions, e.g., must be US citizen or must reside in the US. Good Luck!

Results in for Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes contest

The Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroes contest last mentioned in my March 31, 2016 posting has ended and the placement of the winners, in a field of three finalists, announced at the 2016 USA Science and Engineering Festival according to an April 18, 2016 US National Science Foundation news release,

On behalf of the National Science Foundation (NSF), actor Wil Wheaton and legendary superhero creator Stan Lee yesterday announced the winners of the Generation Nano: Small Science, Superheroescompetition, sponsored by NSF and the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI).

The competition challenged high school students to think big — or, in this case, small — to create superheroes that harness their powers from nanotechnology.

Wheaton applauded the students’ creative storylines, noting that when he was Wesley Crusher on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, such plots were only imaginary. “It is amazing what is today plausible due to the power of nanotechnonlogy,” he said.

In a video introduction before Wheaton announced top prize winners, Stan Lee said it was “great that I can virtually join you today.” He remarked on the winners’ “creativity, ingenuity and initiative.”

“From one superhero storyteller to the next, congratulations,” Lee said.

The winners

  • First Prize: Eric Liu from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Virginia, for his “Nanoman,” who fights the malignant crab-monster “Cancer.”
  • Second Prize and the People’s Choice Award: Madeleine Chang from Bergen County Academies in New Jersey, for her superhero “Radio Blitz,” who disposes of local waste.
  • Third Prize: Vuong Mai from Martha Ellen Stilwell School of the Arts in Georgia, for her protector “Nine,” who dons a nanosuit for strength to save a kidnapping victim.

All weekend, the students displayed their superheroes and described the nanoscience behind them to thousands of attendees at the 2016 USA Science & Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C.

“All three finalists immersed themselves in the worlds of nanotechnology and art, told a great story, entertained and educated — all at the same time,” said Lisa Friedersdorf, deputy director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office. “Their creations will surely motivate additional students to imagine and learn more about what is possible with nanotechnology.”

Top award winners in this competition show that with imagination and nanotechnology, possibilities abound, said Mihail C. Roco, NSF senior advisor for science and engineering and a key architect of NNI.

“These school students have aimed higher than ever in their lives, pushing their abilities in novel domains where seeds for their high-tech future may germinate,” Roco said. “We need a constant regeneration of new talent to exploit this general purpose science and technology field to its outstanding potential. These students are well on their way.”

Competition details

NSF and NNI challenges students to submit written entries explaining their superhero and nanotechnology-driven gear, along with a one-page comic or 90-second video. A panel of judges from academia and multimedia platforms selected semifinalists and finalists, from which the public selected Madeline Chang as its People’s Choice winner.

Top prizes were determined by judges Elise Lemle, director of special projects at Two Bit Circus; Lizabeth Fogel, director of Education for the Walt Disney Company and Chair of the Board for the Partnership for 21st Century Learning; and James Murday, director of physical sciences at the University of Southern California’s Washington, D.C., office of research advancement.

Visit the Generation Nano competition website for competition details such as eligibility criteria, entry guidelines, timeline, prizes and videos/comics from the finalists and semifinalists. And stay tuned for information on next year’s competition.

Here’s a photo of Wil Wheaton officiating at the ceremony,

Actor, writer and blogger Wil Wheaton hosted the Gen Nano competition award ceremony.

Actor, writer and blogger Wil Wheaton hosted the Gen Nano competition award ceremony. Courtesy of the NSF.

Honestly, this could be anyone but there are videos of the ceremony featuring Wil Wheaton, each of the winner’s pieces, and Stan Lee attending the ceremony virtually (five videos in all).

New ABCs of research: seminars and a book

David Bruggeman has featured a new book and mentioned its attendant seminars in an April 19, 2016 post on his Pasco Phronesis blog (Note: A link has been removed),

Ben Shneiderman, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Maryland at College Park, recently published The New ABCs of Research: Achieving Breakthrough Collaborations.  It’s meant to be a guide for students and researchers about the various efforts to better integrate different kinds of research and design to improve research outputs and outcomes. …

David has an embedded a video of Schneiderman discussing the principles espoused in his book. There are some upcoming seminars including one on Thursday, April 21, 2016 (today) at New York University (NYU) at 12:30 pm at 44 West 4th St, Kaufman Management Center, Room 3-50. From the description on the NYU event page,

Solving the immense problems of the 21st century will require ambitious research teams that are skilled at producing practical solutions and foundational theories simultaneously – that is the ABC Principle: Applied & Basic Combined.  Then these research teams can deliver high-impact outcomes by applying the SED Principle: Blend Science, Engineering and Design Thinking, which encourages use of the methods from all three disciplines.  These guiding principles (ABC & SED) are meant to replace Vannevar Bush’s flawed linear model from 1945 that has misled researchers for 70+ years.  These new guiding principles will enable students, researchers, business leaders, and government policy makers to accelerate discovery and innovation.

Oxford University Press:  http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780198758839.do

Book website:  http://www.cs.umd.edu/hcil/newabcs

There is another seminar on Wednesday, April 27, 2016 at 3:00 pm in the Pepco Room, #1105 Kim Engineering Building at the University of Maryland which is handy for anyone in the Washington, DC area.

NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration), one of the world’s largest hackathons, and women

Elizabeth Segran’s April 19, 2016 article for Fast Company profiles some work being done at NASA (US National Aeronautics and Space Administration) to encourage more women to participate in their hackathons (Note: A link has been removed),

For the past four years, NASA has hosted the Space Apps Challenge, one of the biggest hackathons on the planet. Last year, 14,264 people gathered in 133 locations for 48 to 72 hours to create apps using NASA’s data. A team in Lome, Togo, built a clean water mapping app; one in Bangalore, India, created a desktop planetarium; another in Pasadena, California, created a pocket assistant for astronauts. This year’s hackathon happens this upcoming weekend [April 22 – 24, 2016].

While NASA has been able to attract participants from all corners of the globe, it has consistently struggled to get women involved. NASA is working very hard to change this. “The attendance is generally 80% male,” says Beth Beck, NASA’s open innovation project manager, who runs the Space Apps Hackathon. “It’s more everyman than everywoman.”

There is a mention of a 2015 Canadian hackathon and an observation Beth Beck made at the time (from the Segran article),

Beck noticed that female participation in hackathons seemed to drop after the middle school years. At last year’s hackathon in Toronto, for instance, there were two sections: one for students and one for adults. Girls made up at least half of the student participants. “The middle school girls looked like honey bees, running around in little packs to learn about the technology,” she says. “But in the main hacking area, it was all guys. I wanted to know what happens that makes them lose their curiosity and enthusiasm.”

Beck’s further observations led to these conclusions,

It turns out that women are not significantly more interested in certain subjects than others. What they cared about most was being able to explore these topics in a space that felt friendly and supportive. “They are looking for signals that they will be in a safe space where they feel like they belong,” Beck says. Often, these signals are very straightforward: they seek out pictures of women on the event’s webpage and look for women’s names on the speaker panels and planning committees. …

Another interesting thing that Beck discovered is that women who are brave enough to attend these events want to go a day early to get the lay of the land and perhaps form a team in advance. They want to become more comfortable with the physical space where the hackathon will take place and learn as much as possible about the topics. “When the hackathon then becomes flooded with men, they feel ready for it,” she says.

While men described hacking as something that they did in their spare time, the research showed that many women often had many other family responsibilities and couldn’t just attend a hackathon for fun. And this wasn’t just true in developing countries, where girls were often tasked with childcare and chores, while boys could focus on science. In the U.S., events where there was childcare provided were much more highly attended by women than those that did not have that option. …

NASA’s hackathons are open to people with diverse skill sets—not just people who know code. Beck has found that men are more likely to participate because they are interested in space; they simply show up with ideas. Women, on the other hand, need to feel like they have the appropriate battery of skills to contribute. With this knowledge, Beck has found it helpful to make it clear that each team needs strong storytellers who can explain the value of the app. …

The folks at NASA are still working at implementing these ideas and Segran’s article describes the initiatives and includes this story (Note: A link has been removed),

Last year [2015], for instance, two female students in Cairo noticed that the hackathon has specifically called out to women and they wanted to host a local chapter of the hackathon. Their professor, however, told them that women could not host the event. The women reached out to NASA themselves and Beck wrote to them personally, saying that she highly encouraged them to create their own event. That Cairo event ended up being the largest Space Apps hackathon in the world, with 700 participants and a wait list of 300. …

Kudos to Beth Beck, NASA, and those two women in Cairo.

For anyone (male/female) interested in the 2016 hackathon, it’s being held this weekend (April 22 – 24, 2016), from the NASA Space Apps Challenge homepage,

For 48-72 hours across the world, problem solvers like you join us for NASA’s International Space Apps Challenge, one of the largest hackathons in the universe. Empowered by open data, you collaborate with strangers, colleagues, friends, and family to solve perplexing challenges in new and unexpected ways — from designing an interactive space glove to natural language processing to clean water mapping. Join us on our open data mission, and show us how you innovate.

Not Just For Coders

Beginners, students, experts, engineers, makers, artists, storytellers — Space Apps is for you! We welcome all passionate problem solvers to join our community of innovators. Citizens like you have already created thousands of open-source solutions together through code, data visualizations, hardware and design. How will you make your global impact?

It’s too late to become a host for the hackathon but you may be able to find a location for one somewhere near you on the hackathon website’s Locations page. There are three locations in Canada for the 2016 edition: Toronto (waitlist), Winnipeg (still open), and Waterloo (waitlist).

Café Scientifique (Vancouver, Canada) April 26, 2016 talk about why food security is contentious and TEDx East Van has some science speakers for April 23, 2016

Café Scientifique

It seems Vancouver’s (Canada) Café Scientifique has found a new venue after having to cancel last month’s (March 2016) talk when their previous venue, The Railway Club, abruptly closed its doors after some 80 years. The Big Rock Urban Brewery (310 West Fourth Avenue, just east of Cambie St.) is hosting the next Café Scientifique talk, from the April 6, 2016 notice received via email,

Our next café will happen on Tuesday April 26th, 7:30pm at Big Rock Urban Brewery. Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Navin Ramankutty, a Professor of Global Food Security and Sustainability at UBC [University of British Columbia]. The title of his talk is:

A Framework for Understanding Why Food Security Discussions are Contentious

There is a contentious debate regarding the best approach to achieving food security in an environmentally sustainable and socially just manner. Some advocate for new technological systems, such as genetic modification or vertical farming, while others argue for organic agricuture or local food systems. Still others argue that agriculture does not need a revolution and that we simply need to improve current farming practices. Even the overall objectives are unclear, with some arguing that we need to double food production by 2050 while others suggest that we already have enough food on this planet to feed 10 billion. In this talk, I will use an assessment framework to explore the available evidence supporting or opposing the various claims about the most sustainable way to farm on our planet. The broad assessment offers some insights on why we argue about food security.

You can find out more about Dr. Ramankutty here,

Navin Ramankutty is Professor in Global Food Security and Sustainability, Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at the University of British Columbia Vancouver campus. His research addresses the overarching question of how to improve food security for 9-10 billion people while reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.  To address this challenge, he develops global data sets of agricultural land use practices, conducts global analysis of the environmental outcomes of agriculture (using statistical analysis and agroecosystem models), and identifies solutions and leverage points.

There is more about Raminkutty on his UBC Liu Institute profile page,

Navin Ramankutty is Professor in Global Food Security and Sustainability, Liu Institute for Global Issues and Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability (IRES) at the University of British Columbia Vancouver campus. His research addresses the overarching question of how to improve food security for 9-10 billion people while reducing agriculture’s environmental footprint.  To address this challenge, he develops global data sets of agricultural land use practices, conducts global analysis of the environmental outcomes of agriculture (using statistical analysis and agroecosystem models), and identifies solutions and leverage points.

TEDxEastVan 2016

This event is taking place Sunday, April 23, 2016 at the York Theatre from 9 am to 4:30 pm with an after party at the Big Rock Urban Brewery. For science types, two speakers are of particular interest, assuming they will be talking about science and not their personal life journeys From the TEDxEastVan 2016 Speakers page,

Dr. Sam Wadsworth

Sam is a scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur. He completed his Ph.D. in respiratory cell biology in the UK before relocating to Vancouver in 2007 to work as an academic researcher at St. Paul’s Hospital. In 2013, Sam co-founded a biotechnology company that uses a unique bioprinting technology that has the potential to revolutionise how we treat disease and the ageing process. He sees a future where human tissues can be provided on demand, where donor organs are built, not harvested, and where drugs are tested on bioprinted artificial tissues, not animals.

Dominic Walliman

Dominic Walliman is a physicist, and award-winning science writer. He received his PhD in quantum device physics from the University of Birmingham and currently works at D-Wave Systems Inc., a quantum computing company in Vancouver. Dominic grew up reading science books and remembers vividly the excitement of discovering the mind-boggling explanations that science gives us about the Universe. If he can pass on this wonder and enjoyment to the next generation, he will consider it a job well done.

There are 12 speakers in total and they are hoping for 250 audience members. The TEDxEastVan 2016 ticket page notes this,

TEDxEastVan is a day-long event that brings together creators, catalysts, designers, and thinkers to share their ideas on the TEDx stage. A day of listening that invites thought, discussion, and play — the TEDx talks are interspersed with activities, performances, and food worth eating. Our theme this year is “MOVE.”

TEDxEastVan is dedicated to discovering great ideas and sharing them with the rest of the world. Acting as a hub of energy and inspiration, the TEDxEastVan stage will bring unique thinkers together in a platform for sharing wisdom and experiences. It is a chance to welcome interesting people into the community and to showcase and celebrate the dynamic ideas which exist in East Vancouver.

WHAT’S INCLUDED IN YOUR TICKET?

  • Morning coffee/tea and light snack at the York Theatre during registration
  • SESSION ONE Talks and Performances inside the York Theatre
  • Lunchtime meal and drink at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre
  • Lunchtime activities at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre
  • SESSION TWO Talks and Performances inside the York Theatre
  • Afternoon break with coffee/tea and light snack at the Aboriginal Friendship Centre
  • SESSION THREE Talks and Performances inside the York Theatre

Your ticket will also include a free ticket to the Taste of East Van TEDxEastVan exclusive AFTER-PARTY at Big Rock Urban Brewery ( 310 W 4th Ave.). Ticket includes beer tastings from 13 East Van breweries that have partnered with the event, live musical and dance performances and plenty of snacks! Keep the conversation going with a chance to mingle directly with speakers, brewers, partners and the conference organizers.

We’re so looking forward to meeting you all! 🙂

ALL TICKET SALES END APRIL 15, 2016 AT 11:30PM PST.  << Updated
ALL TICKET SALES ARE FINAL. NO REFUNDS AT ANYTIME.

Tickets are $67.88 (student) and $83.40, respectively. I imagine taxes will be added.

Hopefully one or other of these events will appeal.

Prime Minister Trudeau, the quantum physicist

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparently extemporaneous response to a joking (non)question about quantum computing by a journalist during an April 15, 2016 press conference at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada has created a buzz online, made international news, and caused Canadians to sit taller.

For anyone who missed the moment, here’s a video clip from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC),

Aaron Hutchins in an April 15, 2016 article for Maclean’s magazine digs deeper to find out more about Trudeau and quantum physics (Note: A link has been removed),

Raymond Laflamme knows the drill when politicians visit the Perimeter Institute. A photo op here, a few handshakes there and a tour with “really basic, basic, basic facts” about the field of quantum mechanics.

But when the self-described “geek” Justin Trudeau showed up for a funding announcement on Friday [April 15, 2016], the co-founder and director of the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo wasn’t met with simple nods of the Prime Minister pretending to understand. Trudeau immediately started talking about things being waves and particles at the same time, like cats being dead and alive at the same time. It wasn’t just nonsense—Trudeau was referencing the famous thought experiment of the late legendary physicist Erwin Schrödinger.

“I don’t know where he learned all that stuff, but we were all surprised,” Laflamme says. Soon afterwards, as Trudeau met with one student talking about superconductivity, the Prime Minister asked her, “Why don’t we have high-temperature superconducting systems?” something Laflamme describes as the institute’s “Holy Grail” quest.

“I was flabbergasted,” Laflamme says. “I don’t know how he does in other subjects, but in quantum physics, he knows the basic pieces and the important questions.”

Strangely, Laflamme was not nearly as excited (tongue in cheek) when I demonstrated my understanding of quantum physics during our interview (see my May 11, 2015 posting; scroll down about 40% of the way to the Ramond Laflamme subhead).

As Jon Butterworth comments in his April 16, 2016 posting on the Guardian science blog, the response says something about our expectations regarding politicians,

This seems to have enhanced Trudeau’s reputation no end, and quite right too. But it is worth thinking a bit about why.

The explanation he gives is clear, brief, and understandable to a non-specialist. It is the kind of thing any sufficiently engaged politician could pick up from a decent briefing, given expert help. …

Butterworth also goes on to mention journalists’ expectations,

The reporter asked the question in a joking fashion, not unkindly as far as I can tell, but not expecting an answer either. If this had been an announcement about almost any other government investment, wouldn’t the reporter have expected a brief explanation of the basic ideas behind it? …

As for the announcement being made by Trudeau, there is this April 15, 2016 Perimeter Institute press release (Note: Links have been removed),

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the work being done at Perimeter and in Canada’s “Quantum Valley” [emphasis mine] is vital to the future of the country and the world.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau became both teacher and student when he visited Perimeter Institute today to officially announce the federal government’s commitment to support fundamental scientific research at Perimeter.

Joined by Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan and Small Business and Tourism Minister Bardish Chagger, the self-described “geek prime minister” listened intensely as he received brief overviews of Perimeter research in areas spanning from quantum science to condensed matter physics and cosmology.

“You don’t have to be a geek like me to appreciate how important this work is,” he then told a packed audience of scientists, students, and community leaders in Perimeter’s atrium.

The Prime Minister was also welcomed by 200 teenagers attending the Institute’s annual Inspiring Future Women in Science conference, and via video greetings from cosmologist Stephen Hawking [he was Laflamme’s PhD supervisor], who is a Perimeter Distinguished Visiting Research Chair. The Prime Minister said he was “incredibly overwhelmed” by Hawking’s message.

“Canada is a wonderful, huge country, full of people with big hearts and forward-looking minds,” Hawking said in his message. “It’s an ideal place for an institute dedicated to the frontiers of physics. In supporting Perimeter, Canada sets an example for the world.”

The visit reiterated the Government of Canada’s pledge of $50 million over five years announced in last month’s [March 2016] budget [emphasis mine] to support Perimeter research, training, and outreach.

It was the Prime Minister’s second trip to the Region of Waterloo this year. In January [2016], he toured the region’s tech sector and universities, and praised the area’s innovation ecosystem.

This time, the focus was on the first link of the innovation chain: fundamental science that could unlock important discoveries, advance human understanding, and underpin the groundbreaking technologies of tomorrow.

As for the “quantum valley’ in Ontario, I think there might be some competition here in British Columbia with D-Wave Systems (first commercially available quantum computing, of a sort; my Dec. 16, 2015 post is the most recent one featuring the company) and the University of British Columbia’s Stewart Blusson Quantum Matter Institute.

Getting back to Trudeau, it’s exciting to have someone who seems so interested in at least some aspects of science that he can talk about it with a degree of understanding. I knew he had an interest in literature but there is also this (from his Wikipedia entry; Note: Links have been removed),

Trudeau has a bachelor of arts degree in literature from McGill University and a bachelor of education degree from the University of British Columbia…. After graduation, he stayed in Vancouver and he found substitute work at several local schools and permanent work as a French and math teacher at the private West Point Grey Academy … . From 2002 to 2004, he studied engineering at the École Polytechnique de Montréal, a part of the Université de Montréal.[67] He also started a master’s degree in environmental geography at McGill University, before suspending his program to seek public office.[68] [emphases mine]

Trudeau is not the only political leader to have a strong interest in science. In our neighbour to the south, there’s President Barack Obama who has done much to promote science since he was elected in 2008. David Bruggeman in an April 15, 2016  post (Obama hosts DNews segments for Science Channel week of April 11-15, 2016) and an April 17, 2016 post (Obama hosts White House Science Fair) describes two of Obama’s most recent efforts.

ETA April 19, 2016: I’ve found confirmation that this Q&A was somewhat staged as I hinted in the opening with “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparently extemporaneous response … .” Will Oremus’s April 19, 2016 article for Slate.com breaks the whole news cycle down and points out (Note: A link has been removed),

Over the weekend, even as latecomers continued to dine on the story’s rapidly decaying scraps, a somewhat different picture began to emerge. A Canadian blogger pointed out that Trudeau himself had suggested to reporters at the event that they lob him a question about quantum computing so that he could knock it out of the park with the newfound knowledge he had gleaned on his tour.

The Canadian blogger who tracked this down is J. J. McCullough (Jim McCullough) and you can read his Oct. 16, 2016 posting on the affair here. McCullough has a rather harsh view of the media response to Trudeau’s lecture. Oremus is a bit more measured,

… Monday brought the countertake parade—smaller and less pompous, if no less righteous—led by Gawker with the headline, “Justin Trudeau’s Quantum Computing Explanation Was Likely Staged for Publicity.”

But few of us in the media today are immune to the forces that incentivize timeliness and catchiness over subtlety, and even Gawker’s valuable corrective ended up meriting a corrective of its own. Author J.K. Trotter soon updated his post with comments from Trudeau’s press secretary, who maintained (rather convincingly, I think) that nothing in the episode was “staged”—at least, not in the sinister way that the word implies. Rather, Trudeau had joked that he was looking forward to someone asking him about quantum computing; a reporter at the press conference jokingly complied, without really expecting a response (he quickly moved on to his real question before Trudeau could answer); Trudeau responded anyway, because he really did want to show off his knowledge.

Trotter deserves credit, regardless, for following up and getting a fuller picture of what transpired. He did what those who initially jumped on the story did not, which was to contact the principals for context and comment.

But my point here is not to criticize any particular writer or publication. The too-tidy Trudeau narrative was not the deliberate work of any bad actor or fabricator. Rather, it was the inevitable product of today’s inexorable social-media machine, in which shareable content fuels the traffic-referral engines that pay online media’s bills.

I suggest reading both McCullough’s and Oremus’s posts in their entirety should you find debates about the role of media compelling.

100 free daypasses for European Science Open Forum in July 2016

This contest is open to students and early career researchers for the European Science Open Forum (ESOF) 2016, which is going to be held in Manchester, UK from July 23 – 27, 2016. Here are more details from an April 15, 2016 ESOF announcement (received via email),

#ESOF100Days

Today we have reached an important milestone – with 100 days to go until ESOF rolls into Manchester. To celebrate this we will be giving away 100 free conference (day) passes via Twitter to those who follow us @ESOF2016 and tweet us an interesting science fact using the hashtag #ESOF100days.  The best tweet each day, as judged by the Delivery Team, will be announced in our week tweet round-up.

The competition is open to all early career researchers and higher education students and will run from today (15 April) to Friday 1 July, or until we have given away all 100 passes!

Winners of the #ESOF100days competition will be able to choose which day they would like to attend the conference.

For more information on the competition and how to enter, please see our latest news item. For the up-to-date conference programme see here.

If you are unlucky this time round and don’t manage to get your hands on a ticket through our competition, there are still ways to attend the conference for free. We have just launched our call to recruit 100 local volunteers to assist with delivery of ESOF. Those interested in offering their services in welcoming ESOF delegates to the city in July should visit our volunteer page for information on how to apply.

Good luck!

Canadian science: a new writing guide and a new open access journal

The book
The Scientist’s Guide to Writing: How to Write More Easily and Effectively Throughout Your Scientific Career by Stephen Heard (professor at the University of New Brunswick, Canada) was published today, April 12, 2016. Heard has written up his book and experiences in an April 12, 2016 posting on his blog, Scientist Sees Squirrel,

It’s been almost five years since I started work on what became The Scientist’s Guide to Writing. I’m absolutely thrilled to announce that as of today, the book is officially published!  The Scientist’s Guide is now available from your local or internet bookseller (links below) or, of course, from your local library. …

All scientists are writers – we have to be, or our work will be lost.  But many of us don’t find writing easy.  I wrote The Scientist’s Guide to tell you some of things I wish someone had told me when I was beginning to practice the craft.  Actually (and somewhat to my surprise), in writing it I learned new things that are helping me even this late in my career.  I think the book can help any writer; as of today, you can grab a copy and see whether I’m right.

I have taken a look at the Table of Contents, as usual with Amazon’s previews (thank you for the preview but sigh), I can’t copy and paste it here. Briefly, the book has 28 chapters and is split into seven parts: What Writing Is, Behavior, Content and Structure, Style, Revision, Some Loose Threads, and Final Thoughts. Should this whet your appetite, the paperback book is priced at $27.67 CAD.

The open access journal

An April 12, 2016 post by Dr. Jules Blais on the Canadian Science Publishing blog announces a new journal,

It is my distinct pleasure to introduce FACETS, an open access, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary science journal that will offer new approaches to publishing original research and perspectives, with a focus on multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary science and engineering.

… It is widely recognized that multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches will be increasingly required to face the challenges of the twenty-first century. Developments to improve and sustain essential aspects of modern society, such as health, energy, environment, and technology, will require a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary perspective. Although the two terms are often used interchangeably, multidisciplinary approaches refer to independent research leading to a common goal, whereas interdisciplinary research refers to a sharing of methods or concepts among participants. FACETS intends to promote both of these approaches. We believe FACETS is timely because we anticipate that the major research breakthroughs in the coming decades will be made at the interfaces of traditional fields of inquiry. …

Blais goes on to discuss whys of the open access policy, the types of manuscripts they will be accepting, and the journal’s bilingual language policy,

… Open access is still a relatively new concept and online journals have only existed for 20 years. Before this time, research was printed on paper and hand delivered to libraries, making it an exclusive enterprise accessible to the privileged few. There has now been a seismic shift in the research landscape with open access becoming more prevalent in publishing spheres, and in a growing number of cases, a requirement of funding agencies. Open access can serve to expand the reach, influence, and openness of research, making research accessible to those whose public funds have largely paid for it. Funding agency requirements for publishing open access research are now being seen across much of the world, which should put to rest any questions about the future of open access publishing – it is here to stay.

… We will accept a wide variety of paper types that represent the full coverage of research communication, including Research Articles, Review Articles, Perspectives, Communications, Notes, Comments, Editorials, and Science Applications Forum articles focusing on sound science that advances knowledge. An exciting aspect of our journal will be its Integrative Sciences section, which will feature topics at the interface between science and the humanities, including Science Communication, Science and Policy, Science Education, Science and Society, Conservation and Sustainability, Science and Ethics, and Public Health. … Another novel feature of FACETS is that we will accept submissions in either English or French to serve the research landscape in Canada and other francophone countries. …

You can find FACETS here and there’s a special deal available until June 30, 2016 where you can submit your piece free-of-processing-charge until then.

Science blogging: The Essential Guide published March 2016

Peter Janiszewski announced in the blog (Obesity Panacea on the PLOS [Public Library of Science blog network) he co-owns and co-writes with Travis Saunders the launch of a book about science blogging.  (Coincidentally he and Saunders started their blog in 2008 the same year I started FrogHeart.) From a March 31, 2016 posting (Note: A link has been removed),

Back in the fall of 2008 when Travis and I first decided to emulate Yoni Freedhoff [Canadian physician at the University of Ottawa] and start our very own science blog, we had no idea what we were doing. I recall writing my first post while sitting in our shared office at Queen’s University [Ontario, Canada], agonizing over the tone of the writing. I spent the better part of an afternoon on that first post, and if you were to go back and read it today (please don’t – even I’m too embarrassed to read it) you might be surprised that it took that long to write something that uninspired.

We had countless questions, and few resources from which to draw answers.

I’m happy to report that such a resource has finally become available. For all the readers of Obesity Panacea who have thought about starting their very own blog but simply didn’t know where to begin or where to find answers to the many questions surrounding the practice, fret no more.

… Science Blogging: The Essential Guide has just been published.

First, this book is not aimed at Canadian science bloggers, most of the contributors are from the US. The publisher is Yale University Press and the publication date was March 1, 2016 with the paperback version being listed for under $20 (not sure if that’s US or Canadian currency). From the Amazon website Science Blogging: The Essential Guide page,

Here is the essential how-to guide for communicating scientific research and discoveries online, ideal for journalists, researchers, and public information officers looking to reach a wide lay audience. Drawing on the cumulative experience of twenty-seven of the greatest minds in scientific communication, this invaluable handbook targets the specific questions and concerns of the scientific community, offering help in a wide range of digital areas, including blogging, creating podcasts, tweeting, and more. With step-by-step guidance and one-stop expertise, this is the book every scientist, science writer, and practitioner needs to approach the Wild West of the Web with knowledge and confidence.

You can get a look at the Table of Contents (ToC) which allows you to assess what topics have been broached. Unfortunately, I cannot copy and paste the ToC here. (I’m not sure why it’s considered copyright material given that no one in their right mind would plagairize a ToC, especially one featuring over 20 essays from different authors.) Anyway, to take a look for yourself, just click on the book’s cover image. In addition to the ToC, there’s the foreword, the first chapter, and the afterword in the Amazon preview.

For someone who’s looking for a ‘Dummies’ or ‘Idiot’s’ style guide, this book doesn’t seem to be organized to get you started right this minute.

$1.4B for US National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) in 2017 budget

According to an April 1, 2016 news item on Nanowerk, the US National Nanotechnology (NNI) has released its 2017 budget supplement,

The President’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 provides $1.4 billion for the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), affirming the important role that nanotechnology continues to play in the Administration’s innovation agenda. NNI
Cumulatively totaling nearly $24 billion since the inception of the NNI in 2001, the President’s 2017 Budget supports nanoscale science, engineering, and technology R&D at 11 agencies.

Another 9 agencies have nanotechnology-related mission interests or regulatory responsibilities.

An April 1, 2016 NNI news release, which originated the news item, affirms the Obama administration’s commitment to the NNI and notes the supplement serves as an annual report amongst other functions,

Throughout its two terms, the Obama Administration has maintained strong fiscal support for the NNI and has implemented new programs and activities to engage the broader nanotechnology community to support the NNI’s vision that the ability to understand and control matter at the nanoscale will lead to new innovations that will improve our quality of life and benefit society.

This Budget Supplement documents progress of these participating agencies in addressing the goals and objectives of the NNI. It also serves as the Annual Report for the NNI called for under the provisions of the 21st Century Nanotechnology Research and Development Act of 2003 (Public Law 108-153, 15 USC §7501). The report also addresses the requirement for Department of Defense reporting on its nanotechnology investments, per 10 USC §2358.

For additional details and to view the full document, visit www.nano.gov/2017BudgetSupplement.

I don’t seem to have posted about the 2016 NNI budget allotment but 2017’s $1.4B represents a drop of $100M since 2015’s $1.5 allotment.

The 2017 NNI budget supplement describes the NNI’s main focus,

Over the past year, the NNI participating agencies, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) have been charting the future directions of the NNI, including putting greater focus on promoting commercialization and increasing education and outreach efforts to the broader nanotechnology community. As part of this effort, and in keeping with recommendations from the 2014 review of the NNI by the President’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology, the NNI has been working to establish Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenges, ambitious but achievable goals that will harness nanotechnology to solve National or global problems and that have the potential to capture the public’s imagination. Based upon inputs from NNI agencies and the broader community, the first Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenge (for future computing) was announced by OSTP on October 20, 2015, calling for a collaborative effort to “create a new type of computer that can proactively interpret and learn from data, solve unfamiliar problems using what it has learned, and operate with the energy efficiency of the human brain.” This Grand Challenge has generated broad interest within the nanotechnology community—not only NNI agencies, but also industry, technical societies, and private foundations—and planning is underway to address how the agencies and the community will work together to achieve this goal. Topics for additional Nanotechnology-Inspired Grand Challenges are under review.

Interestingly, it also offers an explanation of the images on its cover (Note: Links have been removed),

US_NNI_2017_budget_cover

About the cover

Each year’s National Nanotechnology Initiative Supplement to the President’s Budget features cover images illustrating recent developments in nanotechnology stemming from NNI activities that have the potential to make major contributions to National priorities. The text below explains the significance of each of the featured images on this year’s cover.

US_NNI_2017_front_cover_CloseUp

Front cover featured images (above): Images illustrating three novel nanomedicine applications. Center: microneedle array for glucose-responsive insulin delivery imaged using fluorescence microscopy. This “smart insulin patch” is based on painless microneedles loaded with hypoxia-sensitive vesicles ~100 nm in diameter that release insulin in response to high glucose levels. Dr. Zhen Gu and colleagues at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill and North Carolina State University have demonstrated that this patch effectively regulates the blood glucose of type 1 diabetic mice with faster response than current pH-sensitive formulations. The inset image on the lower right shows the structure of the nanovesicles; each microneedle contains more than 100 million of these vesicles. The research was supported by the American Diabetes Association, the State of North Carolina, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Left: colorized rendering of a candidate universal flu vaccine nanoparticle. The vaccine molecule, developed at the NIH Vaccine Research Center, displays only the conserved part of the viral spike and stimulates the production of antibodies to fight against the ever-changing flu virus. The vaccine is engineered from a ~13 nm ferritin core (blue) combined with a 7 nm influenza antigen (green). Image credit: NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID). Right: colorized scanning electron micrograph of Ebola virus particles on an infected VERO E6 cell. Blue represents individual Ebola virus particles. The image was produced by John Bernbaum and Jiro Wada at NIAID. When the Ebola outbreak struck in 2014, the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of lateral flow immunoassays for Ebola detection that use gold nanoparticles for visual interpretation of the tests.

US_NNI_2017_back_cover._CloseUp

Back cover featured images (above): Images illustrating examples of NNI educational outreach activities. Center: Comic from the NSF/NNI competition Generation Nano: Small Science Superheroes. Illustration by Amina Khan, NSF. Left of Center: Polymer Nanocone Array (biomimetic of antimicrobial insect surface) by Kyle Nowlin, UNC-Greensboro, winner from the first cycle of the NNI’s student image contest, EnvisioNano. Right of Center: Gelatin Nanoparticles in Brain (nasal delivery of stroke medication to the brain) by Elizabeth Sawicki, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, winner from the second cycle of EnvisioNano. Outside right: still photo from the video Chlorination-less (water treatment method using reusable nanodiamond powder) by Abelardo Colon and Jennifer Gill, University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras, the winning video from the NNI’s Student Video Contest. Outside left: Society of Emerging NanoTechnologies (SENT) student group at the University of Central Florida, one of the initial nodes in the developing U.S. Nano and Emerging Technologies Student Network; photo by Alexis Vilaboy.