Monthly Archives: October 2012

A new standard (in Canada) for occupational exposure to engineered nanomaterials

The Oct. 31, 2012 announcement from the CSA (Canadian Standards Association?) Group (H/T to the Canadian Safety Reporter) is a bit skimpy on details but here goes,

CSA Group, a leading standards development, testing and certification organization officially announces Canada’s first adopted International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standard on nanotechnologies. CSA Z12885, Nanotechnologies – Exposure control program for engineered nanomaterials in occupational settings provides guidance for the safe use of nanomaterials in the workplace.

“The development of standards is crucial for effective and responsible commercialization of nanotechnologies,” said Brian Haydon, Senior Project Manager, Standards, CSA Group. “CSA Z12885 is the first in a series of standards on nanotechnologies being adopted in Canada, resulting from international and Canadian contributions to the continued activity of ISO/TC 229, the ISO Technical Committee on nanotechnologies.”

CSA Z12885, Nanotechnologies – Exposure control program for engineered nanomaterials in occupational settings provides guidance to establish and implement a comprehensive managed program to control exposure to nanomaterials in the workplace. This follows recognized approaches to risk management with a focus on information and issues specific to nanotechnologies including hazard identification, risk assessment procedures, training requirements and worker engagement. CSA Z12885 contains revisions to ISO/TR 12885 and additional guidance to reflect Canadian practices and safety considerations.

It’s interesting to note which agencies offered financial support to develop this CSA Z12885 standard,

This standard was announced to industry and research stakeholders at the recent Nano Ontario 2012 Conference in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. The development of this Standard was made possible, in part, by the financial support of Alberta Innovates Technology Futures – nanoAlberta, Health Canada, MDEIE (Developpement economique, Innovation et Exportation – Gouvernement du Quebec) and the National Research Council Canada – Industrial Research Assistance Program.

I first mentioned this standard in my June 12, 2012 posting about the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) and Canada’s report regarding its nanotechnology initiatives,

4. Information on any Developments Related to Good Practice Documents.

A. The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Technical Committee on Nanotechnologies – Occupational Health and Safety has completed a draft national standard (CSA Z12885) to provide guidance for workers, entitled “Nanotechnologies — Exposure control program for engineered nanomaterials in occupational settings” This document is largely based on the published international ISO Technical Report, ISO/TR 12885:2008 entitled “Health & Safety Practices in Occupational Settings relevant to Nanotechnologies”. The CSA Z12885 standard has completed the public review process and is proceeding to ballot, with completion anticipated in mid-2012.

B. Government, industry, research, user, and consumer interests are participating as designated experts from Canada on international standards development through the Canadian Advisory Committee to International Organization for Standardization/Technical Committee 229 (ISO/TC229) Nanotechnologies, facilitated by CSA Standards. This includes active participation on terminology, nomenclature, measurement, characterization, material specification and health, safety, environmental aspects of nanotechnologies standards under development.

They’ve been working on this standard for at least two years as I first mentioned it in a Sept. 24, 2012 posting about earlier OECD report on Canada’s nanotechnology initiatives.

Honey, could you please unzip my electronics?

The UK’s National Physical Laboratory has been proceeding with an interesting project on reusable electronics, ReUSE (Reuseable, Unzippable, Sustainable Electronics), according to the Oct. 30, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The National Physical Laboratory (NPL), along with partners In2Tec Ltd (UK) and Gwent Electronic Materials Ltd, have developed a printed circuit board (PCB) whose components can be easily separated by immersion in hot water. …

The electronics industry has a waste problem – currently over 100 million electronic units are discarded annually in the UK alone, making it one of the fastest growing waste streams.

 

It was estimated in a DTI [Dept. of Trade and Industry]-funded report, that around 85% of all PCB scrap board waste goes to landfill. Around 70% of this being of non-metallic content with little opportunity for recycling. This amounts to around 1 million tonnes in the UK annually equivalent to 81 x HMS Belfasts [ships]

This revolutionary materials technology allows a staggering 90% of the original structure to be re-used. For comparison, less than 2% of traditional PCB material can be re-used. The developed technology lends itself readily to rigid, flexible and 3D structures, which will enable the electronics industry to pursue new design philosophies – with the emphasis on using less materials and improving sustainability.

Here’s a video demonstrating the technology, from the ReUSE project news page,

I had to look at this twice to confirm what I was seeing. (I worked for a company that manufactured circuit boards for its products and the idea of immersing one of those in hot water is pretty shocking to me [pun intended].)

Help, please! 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference in Calgary, Canada

The 2012 Canadian Science Policy Conference is going to be held next week (Nov. 5-7, 2012) and I’m supposed to be there to moderate a 3:30 – 5 pm session on Nov. 6, 2012 “Thinking big: Canadian science culture.” Unfortunately, I’m experiencing some budgetary issues and might not be able to attend. If you can help with air miles or points, please do contact me: [email protected]

I usually (always) say thank you by posting something on the blog (if you prefer not to be mentioned by name, please do let me know). In fact, I have a new page to add thanking all the agencies and folks who helped me with S.NET 2012 conference I just attended in Holland (more about that in the next few days).

ETA Nov. 1, 2012: Here are more details about the panel which I organized and would dearly love to moderate, from my Oct. 1, 2012 posting,

As for the Thinking big panel, here’s the description,

Science culture is more than encouraging kids to become scientists to insure our economic future; more than having people visit a science museum or centre and having fun; more than reading an interesting article in a newspaper or magazine about the latest whizbang breakthrough; more than educating people so they become scientifically literate and encourage ‘good’ science policies; it is a comprehensive approach to community- and society-building.

We live in a grand (in English, magnificent and en francais, big) country, the 2nd largest in the world and it behooves us all to be engaged in developing a vibrant science culture which includes

  • artists (performing and visual),
  • writers,
  • scientists,
  • children,
  • seniors,
  • games developers,
  • doctors,
  • business people,
  • elected officials,
  • philosophers,
  • government bureaucrats,
  • educators,
  • social scientists,
  • and others

as we grapple with 21st century scientific and technical developments.

As scientists work on prosthetic neurons for repair in people with Parkinsons and other neurological diseases, techniques for tissue engineering, self-cleaning windows, exponentially increased tracking capabilities for devices and goods tagged with RFID devices, engineered bacteria that produce petroleum and other products (US Defense Advanced Research Projects Living Foundries project), and more, Canadians will be challenged to understand and adapt to a future that can be only dimly imagined.

Composed of provocative thinkers from the worlds of science writing, science education, art/science work, and scientific endeavour, during this panel discussion they will offer their ideas and visions for a Canadian science culture and invite you to share yours. In addition to answering questions, each panelist will prepare their own question for audience members to answer.

The panelists are:

Marie-Claire Shanahan

Marie-Claire Shanahan is a professor of science education and science communication at the University of Alberta. She is interested in how and why students make decisions to pursue their interests science, in high schools, post-secondary education and informal science education. She also conducts research on interactions between readers and writers in online science communications.

Stephen Strauss

Stephen Strauss, Canadian Science Writers’ Association president, has been writing about science for 30 years. After receiving a B.A. (history) from the University of Colorado, he worked as an English teacher, a social worker, an editor before joining the Globe and Mail in 1979. He began writing about science there.

Since leaving the newspaper in 2004 he has written for the CBC.ca, Nature, New Scientist, The Canadian Medical Association Journal as well as authored books and book chapters. He has written for organizations such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Government of Ontario and has won numerous awards.

Amber Didow

Amber Didow is the Executive Director for the Canadian Association of Science Centres. She has over 20 years experience in the non-profit sector and advancing informal education. She has worked within the Science Centre field for many years including the Saskatchewan Science Centre and Science World British Columbia.  Amber’s background includes new business development; educational outreach; programming with at-risk youth; creating community based science events; melding science with art and overseeing the creation and development of both permanent and travelling exhibitions. Amber has a strong passion for community development within the sector.

Maryse de la Giroday (moderator)

Maryse de la Giroday currently runs one of the largest and longest running Canadian science blogs (frogheart.ca) where she writes commentary on  nanotechnology, science policy, science communication, society, and the arts. With a BA in Communication (Simon Fraser University, Canada) and an MA in Creative Writing and New Media (De Montfort University, UK), she combines education and training in the social sciences and humanities with her commitment as an informed member of the science public. An independent scholar, she has presented at international conferences on topics of nanotechnology, storytelling, and memristors.

Dr. Moira Stilwell, MLA

Dr. Moira Stilwell was appointed Minister of Social Development  for the province of British Columbia in September 2012. Elected MLA for Vancouver-Langara in the 2009 provincial general election. She previously served as Parliamentary Secretary for Industry, Research and Innovation to the Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health with a focus on Health Innovation. She also served as Vice Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Jobs and Economic Growth. In her first cabinet appointment, she served as Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development from June 2009 to October 2010.

Prior to her political career, Stilwell graduated from the University of Calgary Medical School. She received further training in nuclear medicine at the University of British Columbia and in radiology at the University of Toronto after that. She served for several years as the Head of Nuclear Medicine at St. Paul’s Hospital, Vancouver, Surrey Memorial Hospital, and Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Clinic but left all those positions in 2009 to run for public office.

The driving force behind the province’s Year of Science in BC (2010-11) initiative for schools, Stilwell has a passionate interest and commitment to integrating science awareness and culture in government, education, and society.

Rob Annan

Rob is the Director of Policy, Research and Evaluation at Mitacs, a leading Canadian not-for-profit that supports innovation through skills development, research, and collaboration between students, researchers, and industry. Mitacs supports research across sciences, humanities and social sciences and understands that innovation often occurs at the intersection of science and culture. Mitacs’ approach to innovation is reflected in our outreach activities, most notably Math Out Loud – a theatre musical designed to inspire Canadian students to understand and appreciate the mathematics that surround them. Inspired by Laval University’s renowned Professor of Mathematics Jean-Marie De Koninck and produced by Academy Award winner Dale Hartleben, Math Out Loud explores the relationships between math and culture as an effective outreach tool.

Prior to joining Mitacs, Rob worked as a consultant to universities, researchers and non-profit agencies for strategic planning and policy, and was active as a blogger on science policy issues in Canada. Rob embodies the intersection of arts and science, with a PhD in Biochemistry from McGill University, a BSc in Biology from UVic and a BA in English from Queen’s University.

European consultation on Future and Emerging Technologies

I’ve checked this out and it seems to be open to people from all countries even though it’s a consultation about European research according to the Oct. 30, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,

The European Commission is launching a public consultation to identify promising and potentially game-changing directions for future technological research.

The research directions for future and emerging technologies will shape our economy for decades to come. The right strategic choices will mean a better future for all, from protecting our environments to providing better healthcare to Europeans. Therefore the Commission is inviting scientists, researchers, engineers, innovators, artists, entrepreneurs and individuals to submit their ideas before November 30th 2012. Do you have a big idea for the future? Then let us know!

The consultation is structured under two themes: research direction in FET and arguments for the importance of this research. All interested parties can submit their ideas on what this research should be and its expected impact. The contributors to the public consultation are invited to answer a series of concrete questions on FET research and its contribution to some of the great societal challenges of our age, like global warming, energy supply, pollution, ageing of society, global crises, peace or democratic deficit.

I have mentioned the Future and Emerging Technologies (FET) funding initiatives previously in my Feb. 13, 2012 posting. This news item mentions a few FET projects I haven’t encountered before,

Examples of how FET is changing the face of European research include:

In 2000, FET launched a major initiative on NEURO-ICT, bringing together for the first time scientists from life sciences and neurophysiology, and computer scientists and engineers to co-develop understanding about the human brain. This work has resulted in a number of new research directions and industrial spin-off companies, for example, in the areas of “machines that think”, or the development of novel clinical tools that can help in the diagnosis and treatment of brain disease.

FET launched ‘Proactive Initiatives’ on Nano technology and Quantum ICT, involving researchers who went on to win two Nobel Prizes for Physics. The initiatives bring together physicists and software and hardware engineers to develop new forms of computer technology.

FET launched a Proactive Initiative on Bio-chemistry-based information technology which has created since 2009 the first research union at the intersection of biology, chemistry and information technologies.

A related FET program, “FET Flagships” is offering €1billion in funding to two projects looking to solve “grand challenges” faced by Europe, with winners to be decided in 2013.

Looking blue? Maybe it’s silver nanoparticles

Looking blue can mean feeling sad or it can indicate that you have argyria, a condition caused by ingesting too much silver. An Oct. 29, 2012 news item on Nanowerk about research on argyria taking place at Brown University reveals the latest insight on the cause for this condition,

Researchers from Brown University have shown for the first time how ingesting too much silver can cause argyria, a rare condition in which patients’ skin turns a striking shade of grayish blue.

“It’s the first conceptual model giving the whole picture of how one develops this condition,” said Robert Hurt, professor of engineering at Brown and part of the research team. “What’s interesting here is that the particles someone ingests aren’t the particles that ultimately cause the disorder.”

Scientists have known for years argyria had something to do with silver. The condition has been documented in people who (ill advisedly) drink antimicrobial health tonics containing silver nanoparticles and in people who have had extensive medical treatments involving silver. Tissue samples from patients showed silver particles actually lodged deep in the skin, but it wasn’t clear how they got there.

As it turns out, argyria is caused by a complex series of chemical reactions, Hurt said. His paper on the subject, authored with Brown colleagues Jingyu Liu, Zhongying Wang, Frances Liu, and Agnes Kane, is published in the journal ACS Nano (“Chemical Transformations of Nanosilver in Biological Environments” [behind a paywall]).

The Oct. 25, 2012 Brown University news release (which originated the news item) provides more detail,

Hurt and his team have been studying the environmental impact of silver, specifically silver nanoparticles, for years. They’ve found that nanosilver tends to corrode in acidic environments, giving off charged ions — silver salts — that can be toxic in large amounts. Hurt’s graduate student, Jingyu Liu (now a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Standards and Technology), thought those same toxic ions might also be produced when silver enters the body, and could play a role in argyria.

To find out, the researchers mixed a series chemical treatments that could simulate what might happen to silver inside the body. One treatment simulated the acidic environment in the gastrointestinal tract; one mimicked the protein content of the bloodstream; and a collagen gel replicated the base membranes of the skin.

They found that nanosilver corrodes in stomach acid in much the same way it does in other acidic environments. Corrosion strips silver atoms of electrons, forming positively charged silver salt ions. Those ions can easily be taken into the bloodstream through channels that absorb other types of salt. That’s a crucial step, Hurt said. Silver metal particles themselves aren’t terribly likely to make it from the GI tract to the blood, but when they’re transformed into a salt, they’re ushered right through.

From there, Hurt and his team showed that silver ions bind easily with sulfur present in blood proteins, which would give them a free ride through the bloodstream. Some of those ions would eventually end up in the skin, where they’d be exposed to light.

To re-create this end stage, the researchers shined ultraviolet light on collagen gel containing silver ions. The light caused electrons from the surrounding materials to jump onto the unstable ions, returning them to their original state — elemental silver. This final reaction is ultimately what turns patients’ skin blue. The photoreaction is similar to the way silver is used in black and white photography [emphasis mine]. When exposed to light, silver salts on a photographic film reduce to elemental silver and darken, creating an image.

While I find the notion that the body’s reaction to silver is similar to the processing of silver in black and white photography, it’s the discussion about toxicity that most interests me. The scientists at Brown are suggesting that   standard ‘ingestable’ silver could be more dangerous than silver nanoparticles when they are consumed in the body,

This research, however, “would be one piece of evidence that you could treat nanoparticles in the same way as other forms of silver,” Hurt says.

That’s because the bioavailable form of silver — the form that is absorbed into the bloodstream — is the silver salt that’s made in the stomach. Any elemental silver that’s ingested is just the raw material to make that bioavailable salt. So ingesting silver in any form, be it nano or not, would have basically the same effect, Hurt said.

“The concern in this case is the total dose of silver, not what form it’s in,” Hurt said. “This study implies that silver nanoparticles will be less toxic than an equivalent amount of silver salt, at least in this exposure scenario [emphasis mine].”

This research provides more evidence supporting Dr. Andrew Maynard’s contention that creating definitions and regulations for nanomaterials based on size may not be the best approach. Here’s his response to my question (in an Oct. 24, 2011 posting) about the then newly adopted Health Canada definition (which includes size) for nanomaterials,

The problem is that, while the Health Canada is a valiant attempt to craft a definition based on the current state of science, it is still based on a premise – that size within a well defined range is a robust indicator of novel risk – that is questionable [emphasis mine].  Granted, they try to compensate for the limitations of this premise, but the result still smacks of trying to shoehorn the science into an assumption of what is important.

One can only wait as the evidence continues to mount on one side or the other. In the meantime, I don’t one can ever go wrong with BB King, one of the great blues guitar players (Blues Boys Tune),

Evelyn Fox Keller’s address: “Paradigm Shifts And Revolutions in Contemporary Biology” being livestreamed on Oct. 30, 2012 at 3 pm PDT

Mentioned in my Oct. 3, 2012 posting (mortifyingly, I listed the wrong date in the headline), Evelyn Fox Keller’s talk is accessible to anyone who has an internet connection. Before giving you details about where to go for a link, here’s more about the talk and about Keller,

Fifty years ago, Thomas Kuhn irrevocably transformed our thinking about the sciences with the publication of The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. For all his success, debate about the adequacy and applicability of his formulation persists to this day. Are there scientific revolutions in biology? Molecular genetics, for example, is currently undergoing a major transformation in its understanding of what genes are and of what role they play in an organism’s development and evolution. Is this a revolution? More specifically, is this a revolution of the sort that Kuhn had in mind? How is language used? What implications can we draw from this?

Dr. Keller is the recipient of the prestigious MacArthur ‘Genius’ Award and author of many influential works on science, society and modern biology such as: A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1983), Reflections on Gender and Science (1985), Secrets of Life, Secrets of Death: Essays on Language, Gender, and Science (1992), The Century of the Gene (2000), Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors and Machines (2002) and The Mirage of a Space Between Nature and Nurture (2010).

You can go here tomorrow (Oct. 30, 2012) to watch Dr. Keller at 3 pm PDT. She is being hosted by,

The Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and its partners are pleased to announce Dr. Evelyn Fox Keller as the Situating Science Visiting Scholar in Halifax Oct. 15th-Nov.7th. During her stay, Dr. Keller will participate in a series of public events (below), including a special public evening lecture on Tuesday, Oct. 30th.

THIS EVENT AND HALIFAX VISIT ARE GENEROUSLY SUPPORTED BY:
Situating Science Strategic Knowledge Cluster; Evolution Studies Group (funded with assistance from Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, CIFAR); Canadian Institutes of Health Research Institute of Genetics Community Support Program, Dalhousie University Department of Biology, Department of Philosophy and Health Law Institute; University of King’s College President’s Office, History of Science and Technology Programme, Contemporary Studies Programme, and Centre for Interdisciplinary Research; Nova Scotia Institute of Science; Saint Mary’s University Department of Philosophy and Faculty of Science;  Mount Saint-Vincent NSERC Atlantic Chair for Women in Science and Engineering, Dean of Arts, and Science and Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice.

Theranostics (nanomedicine) in Israel

There’s a very intriguing nanomedicine project in Tel Aviv, Israel. Called Nanomedicines for Personalized Theranostics, the project combines diagnostics and therapeutics for a personalized medical experience. From the Oct. 19, 2012 news item on Nanowerk (Note: I have removed a link),

Tel Aviv University [TAU] has been appointed by the Israel National Nanotechnology Initiative (INNI) to lead a consortium on “Nanomedicines for Personalized Theranostics”, a combined system of diagnostics and therapeutic treatments. This consortium of 11 laboratories will be dedicated to developing nano-sized drug delivery systems for the detection and treatment of various diseases. Eight of the labs are TAU-led, with additional participation from Hebrew University Jerusalem, Bar-Ilan University and Ben Gurion University of the Negev.

The ultimate goal is to design a new class of drugs that can destroy faulty proteins in angiogenesis-dependent diseases that involve the growth of new blood vessels from existing vessels — including cancer, infectious diseases and heart diseases — and deliver these drugs safely into the body. Beyond the academic realm, the group aims to create spin-off companies based on licensed technologies they develop, creating the basis for a thriving biotechnology industry within Israel.

The news item provides some insight into the situation in Israel,

Although considered a beacon of research and development, the field of biotechnology in Israel has suffered drawbacks, both in academia and industry. Higher salaries lure the best minds abroad, and international companies have more private capital with which to sustain businesses.

“Israel has amazing intellectual resources, but we are constantly combating budget constraints. With this project, the idea is to create future technologies built on Israeli creativity that also allow us to bring in the brightest people and better funding,” says Prof. Peer [Scientific Director Prof. Dan Peer]. While many great biotechnology ideas were born in Israel, the economic situation stymied the establishment of many more successful companies within the country, he observes. “We want to maintain the advantages that we have in the life sciences while boosting this lagging industry. Our research as part of the FTA [the Focal Technology Area within the INNI] will be a starting engine.”

Prof. Peer hopes that in two years, researchers will be able to start translating their research into practical applications.

The INNI is also working to combat “brain drain” in the academic world by giving TAU and other institutions the means to attract outstanding young researchers back home to Israel, both with funding and with the prestige of the project.

Is there a country in the world that isn’t concerned about ‘brain drain’?

Using microwaves to test for carbon nanotube toxicity in soil

It’s been a while since I’ve mentioned soil or environmental testing for this this Oct. 19, 2012 news item by Karen Slyker on physorg.com, which highlights some research on environmental testing of carbon nanotubes, lets me redress the situation,

Industrial uses are growing, as are concerns that these novel nanomaterials may have negative or unintended effects on organisms and the environment. With this in mind, environmental toxicologists at Texas Tech are exploring the fate of CNTs in biological environments and their ability to accumulate in soil, plants or other organisms.

One recurring question has slowed these studies: How can anyone be certain the tiny CNTs are present in the given sample?

“It’s like a needle in a haystack,” Green said [Micah Green, assistant professor of chemical engineering]. “How can you prove the effects of the needle, if you’re not sure that it’s really in there?”

The impetus for the work initially began with a conversation between Green and Jaclyn Cañas, associate professor of environmental toxicology at The Institute for Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech. Cañas described the problem of detecting CNTs in crop samples. Green suggested that exposing samples to microwaves could reveal the presence of even trace quantities of nanotubes.

The Texas Technical University Oct. 19, 2012 news release (which originated the news item) provides more detail about the approach,

CNTs have the unusual property of evolving extreme amounts of heat upon exposure to microwaves, much more so than typical materials. In fact, nanotube powder will quickly and spontaneously ignite if placed in a conventional kitchen microwave. Green’s idea was to expose the sample to low-power microwaves and measure the resulting increase in temperature.

Mohammad Saed, an associate professor in electrical and computer engineering, joined the team to contribute his expertise in the area of microwave physics.

Together, the three research groups successfully built a testing apparatus and proved the concepts that microwave-based heating can quantify CNT loading inside a plant sample.

The team has refined its testing protocols and extended the scope from soil testing only to including earthworms,

Continued development of the device led to a double-blind test, where a student was given samples of a specified CNT loading but was not told what the concentration was. Graduate student Fahmida Irin was principally responsible for applying the method. The double-blind test successfully duplicated the true values, and was then applied to studying the uptake of nanotubes into alfalfa plant roots grown in soil spiked with nanotubes.

“Since we started the method, we have started collaborating with other groups as well to look at the presence of nanotubes in organisms like earthworms,” Green said.

The method was recently published in a paper entitled “Detection of carbon nanotubes in biological samples through microwave-induced heating” by Irin et al. in the journal Carbon.

I’m not quite sure how to take this research. They do mention that nanotube powder will ignite in a kitchen microwave. Here’s hoping the researchers have designed an apparatus that cannot accidentally ignite carbon nanotubes in soil, plants, or earthworms.

Laughing and other citizen science projects at ScienceStarter

Thanks to David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis blog) and his Oct. 18, 2012 posting for alerting me to SciStarter (Note: I have removed some links),

SciStarter, a clearinghouse for scientists and interested civilians to find each other for projects has noted that some of their projects run into trouble.  With limited time and resources, help is not always available.  So they would like to enlist the crowd.

Next month SciStarter will run a contest to help find solutions for these problems. …

I wasn’t able to find any more information about the contest on the SciStarter website but the organization’s blog offers an Oct. 18, 2012 posting by John Ohab which lists ten items from its project list (Note: I have removed pictures),

The Royal Society Laughter Project: The Royal Society has put together a playlist of different laughs that you can listen to. The tricky part is that some are real and some are fake. See if you can guess which laugh is real and which is posed. The results will help researchers at the University College of London learn how people react to different sounds. This is science that will make you LOL!

Age Guess: AgeGuess is a simple project in which you guess the age of other people by looking at their pictures. In just a few minutes, you can help create a first of its kind research data set for the study of human aging. The project is studying the differences between how old you look to others and your actual age.

EyeWire: Scientists need your help mapping the neural connections of the retina. All you have to do is color brain images! EyeWire is a fun way to learn about the brain and help scientist understand how the nervous system works.

Digital Fishers: Are you one of those people who loves the ocean but doesn’t want to deal with the sunburns, parking, or other unpleasant aspects that come with the territory? Here’s a project that puts you in touch with the ocean and saves you the extra costs in suntan lotion. Digital Fishers allows you to help scientists identify different species of fish. You can assist with research by watching 15-second videos from the comfort of your own computer and click on simple responses.

Musical Moods:  Musical Moods is a sound experiment that aims to find out how viewers categorize the mood of certain TV theme tunes. The goal is to find out whether there are new ways of classifying online TV content through the mood of the music rather than the program genre itself. The whole experiment takes about ten minutes and is incredibly easy. You listen to themes and answer a few questions about each theme afterward.

Citizen Sort: Video games have the potential to do more than entertain. Citizen Sort is taking advantage of this potential by designing video games that make doing science fun. Citizen Sort is a research project at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University in New York.

Project Implicit:  Project Implicit offers the opportunity to assess your conscious and unconscious preferences for over 90 different topics ranging from pets to ethnic groups to sports team. In 10-15 minutes, you’ll report attitudes toward or beliefs about these topics. It’s that easy! The experience is both educational and engaging, and you get the chance to assist psychological research on thoughts and feelings.

Be A Martian: NASA’s Be A Martian is an interactive Mars science laboratory that allows visitors to help scientists learn about the red planet. You can help identify important features in images returned from previous Mars rovers, ask and vote on questions for NASA Mars experts in a virtual town hall, explore a Mars atlas to learn more about the planet’s terrain, send postcards to Spirit (another Mars rover), and watch educational videos in the Two Moons theater.

Clumpy: When plants experience bacterial infections, the chloroplasts inside the plant cells appear to “clump” together. This can be a bad sign for plants. To help understand these bacterial infections, scientists need help classify images of clumpy chloroplasts. All yo have to do is arrange the images from least clumpy on the left to most clumpy on the right.

MAPPER: Help NASA find life on Mars by exploring the bottom of the lakes of British Columbia, Canada. The Pavilion Lake Research Project has been investigating the underwater environment with DeepWorker submersible vehicles since 2008. Now with MAPPER, you can work side-by-side with NASA scientists to explore the bottom of these lakes from the perspective of a DeepWorker pilot.

I did take a closer look at the MAPPER project since the research takes place in my home province,

Photo: getmapper.com (downloaded SciStarter.com)

Help NASA find life on Mars by exploring the bottom of the lakes of British Columbia, Canada.

The Pavilion Lake Research Project (PLRP) has been investigating the underwater environment with DeepWorker submersible vehicles since 2008. Now with MAPPER, you can work side-by-side with NASA scientists to explore the bottom of these lakes from the perspective of a DeepWorker pilot.

The PLRP team makes use of DeepWorker subs to explore and document freshwater carbonate formations known as microbialites that thrive in Pavilion and Kelly Lake. Many scientists believe that a better understanding of how and where these rare microbialite formations develop will lead to deeper insights into where signs of life may be found on Mars and beyond. To investigate microbialite formation in detail, terabytes of video footage and photos of the lake bottom are recorded by PLRP’s DeepWorker sub pilots. This data must be analyzed to determine what types of features can be found in different parts of the lake. Ultimately, detailed maps can be generated to help answer questions like “how does microbialite texture and size vary with depth?” and “why do microbialites grow in certain parts of the lake but not in others?”. But before these questions can be answered, all the data must be analyzed.

Participation fee          $0

Expenses                     $0

Spend the time          outdoors

Location                      online

Children                      yes

Primary school         yes

Secondary school     yes

Teaching materials    no

I notice this is another of Darlene Cavalier’s initiatives (who also runs the Science Cheerleader website [my May 14, 2012 posting features a profile of Darlene]).