Call for abstracts: Seventh annual conference on governance of emerging technologies & science (GETS)

The conference itself will be held from May 22 – 24, 2019 at Arizona State University (ASU) and the deadline for abstracts is January 31, 2019. Here’s the news straight from the January 8, 2019 email announcement,

The Seventh Annual Conference on Governance of Emerging Technologies & Science (GETS)

May 22-24, 2019 / ASU / Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law
111 E. Taylor St., Phoenix, AZ
 
The conference will consist of plenary and session presentations and discussions on regulatory, governance, legal, policy, social and ethical aspects of emerging technologies, including nanotechnology, synthetic biology, gene editing, biotechnology, genomics, personalized medicine, digital health, human enhancement, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, internet of things (IoT), blockchain and much, much more!
 
Submit Your Abstract Here: 2019 Abstract
or
Conference Website
 
Call for abstracts:
 
The co-sponsors invite submission of abstracts for proposed presentations. Submitters of abstracts need not provide a written paper, although provision will be made for posting and possible post-conference publication of papers for those who are interested. 
Abstracts are invited for any aspect or topic relating to the governance of emerging technologies, including any of the technologies listed above.
 
·         Abstracts should not exceed 500 words and must contain your name and email address.
·         Abstracts must be submitted by January 31, 2019 to be considered. 
·         The sponsors will pay for the conference registration (including all conference meals and events) for one presenter for each accepted abstract. In addition, we will have limited funds available for travel subsidies (application included in submission form).
For more informationcontact our Executive Director Josh Abbott at Josh.Abbott@asu.edu.

Good luck on your submission!

Celebrate the 150th anniversary and International Year of the Periodic Table of Elements in 2019

The 150th anniversary of the Periodic Table of Elements has occasioned its own International Year as declared by the United Nations (UN) and, hopefully, a revival of the ‘elements cupcake’ craze which seems to have had its heyday in 2011/12. (I wrote about the cupcakes here in a March 21, 2012 posting ‘Periodic table of cupcakes, a new subculture?‘)

As for IYPT 2019, let’s get started with Mark Lorch’s (professor of Science, Communication, and Chemistry at the University of Hull) January 2, 2019 essay for The Conversation (h/t phys.org), Note: Links have been removed,

The periodic table stares down from the walls of just about every chemistry lab. The credit for its creation generally goes to Dimitri Mendeleev, a Russian chemist who in 1869 wrote out the known elements (of which there were 63 at the time) on cards and then arranged them in columns and rows according to their chemical and physical properties. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of this pivotal moment in science, the UN has proclaimed 2019 to be the International year of the Periodic Table

But the periodic table didn’t actually start with Mendeleev. Many had tinkered with arranging the elements. Decades before, chemist John Dalton tried to create a table as well as some rather interesting symbols for the elements (they didn’t catch on). And just a few years before Mendeleev sat down with his deck of homemade cards, John Newlands also created a table sorting the elements by their properties.

Mendeleev’s genius was in what he left out of his table. He recognised that certain elements were missing, yet to be discovered. So where Dalton, Newlands and others had laid out what was known, Mendeleev left space for the unknown. Even more amazingly, he accurately predicted the properties of the missing elements.

You can find the website for the International Year of the Periodic Table here and it’s still possible to attend the Opening Ceremony in Paris (from the Announcement for the Opening Ceremony Registration page),

November 14, 2018 | Today the registration opened for the launch of the 2019 International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements (IYPT2019). This Opening Ceremomy will take place on Tuesday the 29th of January 2019 from 10 a.m. till 7 p.m. in Paris, France at the UNESCO House. It promises to be an exciting day with inspiring speakers and exhibitions.

Some of the speakers will be Professor Ben Feringa (Nobel Laureate in Chemistry 2016), Professor Youri Oganessian (Author of the Element 118 – Oganesson) and sir Martyn Poliakoff (Lead presenter of the Periodic Table of Videos).

More information about the programme and a link for registration can be found here.

International Year of the Periodic Table
The United Nations General Assembly during its 74th Plenary Meeting proclaimed 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table of Chemical Elements. The IYPT2019 was adopted by the UNESCO General Conference at its 39th Session (39 C/decision 60) to highlight the contributions of chemistry and other basic sciences to the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The IYPT2019 is an IUPAC initiative and administered by a Management Committee consisting of representatives of the initiating organizations, UNESCO and a number of other supporting international organizations.

The founding partners of IYPT2019 are the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry, the European Chemical Society (EuChemS), the International Science Council (ISC), the International Astronomical Union (IAU), the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) and the International Union of History and Philosophy of Science and Technology (IUHPST).

I checked and registration still seems to be open. Plus, they have listings for the events taking place all over the world.

On other fronts, the American Chemical Society (ACS) has a dedicated page for the IYPT 2019, which includes, amonst other things, a section on the Latest News,


Latest News
How far does the periodic table go?
First IYPT Event took place in India on January 2
Join the IUPAC periodic table challenge quiz! Which element will you choose?
Nature Chemistry‘s January 2019 issue celebrates the periodic table

As for what Canadians might be doing, I have contacted the Chemical Institute of Canada [CIC], (an umbrella organization representing the Canadian Society for Chemistry [CSC]; the Canadian Society for Chemical Engineering [CSChE]; and the Canadian Society for Chemical Technology [CSCT]) and they’re busily preparing to highlight the 2019 IYPT according to one of Peter Mirtchev, one of the organizers (Conference Technical Programs Officer) for the 102nd Canadian Chemistry conference,

… at the 2019 Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition (CCCE2019), we will organize an event called Chemistry Across the Periodic Table, whereby we will highlight a single element from every abstract submitted. We’re printing the highlighted elements on the
name badges of our attendees in the hope of facilitating conversation and networking throughout the conference.

Since things can change, I suggest that you keep an eye on the CCCE 2019 website to track the progress of their plans. I’m sure they hope to organize more 2019 IYPT celebratory moments at the conference, which will be held in Québec City, Québec from Monday, June 3, 2019 to Friday, June 7, 2019. You might also want to keep an eye on the
Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC} and its affiliated organizations for other 2019 IYPT events in Canada.

Carbon nanotube optics and the quantum

A US-France-Germany collaboration has led to some intriguing work with carbon nanotubes. From a June 18, 2018 news item on ScienceDaily,

Researchers at Los Alamos and partners in France and Germany are exploring the enhanced potential of carbon nanotubes as single-photon emitters for quantum information processing. Their analysis of progress in the field is published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature Materials.

“We are particularly interested in advances in nanotube integration into photonic cavities for manipulating and optimizing light-emission properties,” said Stephen Doorn, one of the authors, and a scientist with the Los Alamos National Laboratory site of the Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies (CINT). “In addition, nanotubes integrated into electroluminescent devices can provide greater control over timing of light emission and they can be feasibly integrated into photonic structures. We are highlighting the development and photophysical probing of carbon nanotube defect states as routes to room-temperature single photon emitters at telecom wavelengths.”

A June 18, 2018 Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, expands on the theme,

The team’s overview was produced in collaboration with colleagues in Paris (Christophe Voisin [Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris (ENS)]) who are advancing the integration of nanotubes into photonic cavities for modifying their emission rates, and at Karlsruhe (Ralph Krupke [Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT]) where they are integrating nanotube-based electroluminescent devices with photonic waveguide structures. The Los Alamos focus is the analysis of nanotube defects for pushing quantum emission to room temperature and telecom wavelengths, he said.

As the paper notes, “With the advent of high-speed information networks, light has become the main worldwide information carrier. . . . Single-photon sources are a key building block for a variety of technologies, in secure quantum communications metrology or quantum computing schemes.”

The use of single-walled carbon nanotubes in this area has been a focus for the Los Alamos CINT team, where they developed the ability to chemically modify the nanotube structure to create deliberate defects, localizing excitons and controlling their release. Next steps, Doorn notes, involve integration of the nanotubes into photonic resonators, to provide increased source brightness and to generate indistinguishable photons. “We need to create single photons that are indistinguishable from one another, and that relies on our ability to functionalize tubes that are well-suited for device integration and to minimize environmental interactions with the defect sites,” he said.

“In addition to defining the state of the art, we wanted to highlight where the challenges are for future progress and lay out some of what may be the most promising future directions for moving forward in this area. Ultimately, we hope to draw more researchers into this field,” Doorn said.

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

Carbon nanotubes as emerging quantum-light sources by X. He, H. Htoon, S. K. Doorn, W. H. P. Pernice, F. Pyatkov, R. Krupke, A. Jeantet, Y. Chassagneux & C. Voisin. Nature Materials (2018) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41563-018-0109-2 Published online June 18, 2018

This paper is behind a paywall.

Metcalf Institute Science Immersion Fellowship 2019 for journalists: applications open

I received this January 4, 2018 announcement from the Metcalf Institute at the University of Rhode Island (URI; US) in my email this morning. In other words, this is fresh off the email,

Get Science Tools to Break Stories
About Global Change & Water Resources

Apply for Metcalf Institute’s Career-Changing Science Immersion Fellowship
tuition, room and board, and travel support included

Global Change Impacts and Water
According to the United Nations, water is the “primary medium through which we will feel the effects of climate change” and water scarcity alone affects nearly half the global population.

Do you have the science tools to make the connection between shrinking water supplies, water quality, food production and climate change? Are you looking for story ideas to convey these global change impacts to your news audience? Would you like to build your confidence in discerning the credibility of scientific sources?

Call for Applications
The University of Rhode Island’s Metcalf Institute is accepting applications for its 21th Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists, June 2-7, 2019. Ten journalists will be awarded Workshop fellowships, which include tuition, room and board, and travel support, thanks to the generosity of private donors and Metcalf Institute’s endowment. Two of the ten slots will be awarded to journalists based outside of the U.S.

Apply for the Workshop here.

About the Workshop
The Metcalf Institute Annual Science Immersion Workshop provides professional journalists with hands-on experience in field and laboratory science with expertise from leading scientists and policymakers who are working to project the impacts of global change, identify adaptation measures, and investigate the most effective ways to communicate these challenges. The workshop will address water resource and climate change topics of global significance while focusing on local and regional case studies in and around Narragansett Bay, among the world’s best studied estuaries. Held at the URI Graduate School of Oceanography, one of the nation’s premier oceanographic research institutions, the Metcalf Workshop provides an intense week of learning in the field, classroom and lecture hall.

Metcalf Fellows will:

  • Receive a comprehensive overview of climate science and global change
  • Gain a deeper understanding of how scientists conduct research and handle scientific uncertainty
  • Develop the skills and confidence to interpret and translate the language of scientific journals for news audiences
  • Build confidence in their abilities to discern the credibility of scientific sources
  • Board a research vessel to study the impacts of rising water temperatures and ocean acidification on coastal ecosystems
  • Explore the study of “emerging contaminants” such as PFAS that affect freshwater and marine ecosystems and public health
  • Visit wetlands, shorelines, and coastal communities to better understand adaptive management efforts and solutions in response to sea level rise and coastal storms
  • Discover new ways to write about global change to build audience understanding and engagement
  • Cultivate new sources by interacting with leading researchers and policy experts in an informal, off-deadline atmosphere
  • Network and develop lasting relationships with journalists from around the globe

Metcalf Alumni
Metcalf Institute has helped nearly 900 journalists cover the environment with greater accuracy and nuance since its first program in 1999. Metcalf alumni represent all media types and a wide variety of large and small news organizations ranging from local and regional newspapers and broadcast outlets to online and national/international outlets such as the Los Angeles Times, Reuters, National Geographic, China Global Television Network, Marketplace, Politico and PBS NewsHour. Metcalf Institute alumni hail from the U.S. and around the world, including Pakistan, Brazil, Nigeria, Israel, Egypt, Italy, South Africa, and China.

“This experience has changed my entire outlook on covering the environment and climate science. I may have only been in Rhode Island for a week, but the tools I gained during my Metcalf fellowship will stay with me for the entirety of my career.” Tony Briscoe, Chicago Tribune reporter and 2018 Annual Workshop alumnus.
                                                    
“Metcalf has greatly enhanced my ability to break down complex issues for my audience. Not only am I headed back home with a bunch of great story ideas, but the ability to set them against an international background and draw broader connections between issues in my region and the rest of the world.” Tegan Wendland, New Orleans Public Radio interim news director, lead coastal reporter, and 2017 Annual Workshop alumna.

Note for journalists applying from outside of the U.S.
While the Workshop addresses environmental topics of global significance, it focuses on U.S. case studies and a U.S. perspective on environmental policies. Metcalf Institute receives applications from journalists worldwide. However, due to funding limitations, only two of the ten fellowships will be awarded to journalists based outside of the U.S.

Eligibility
The Fellowship is designed for early- to mid-career, full-time journalists from all media who are looking to start or expand their coverage of the environment. Applicants must demonstrate a clear need for scientific training in topics relating to global change in coastal environments, specifically related to climate change and water resources. The fellowship includes room, board, tuition, and travel reimbursement paid after the program in the amount of up to US$500 for U.S.-based journalists and up to US$1,000 for journalists based outside of the U.S. Journalists applying from outside the U.S. must provide written assurance that they have full travel funds and can obtain the appropriate visa. Applications for the 2019 Annual Science Immersion Workshop for Journalists must be submitted by February 18, 2019.

Apply for the Workshop here.

About Metcalf Institute
Metcalf Institute is a global leader in environmental science training for journalists and communication training for scientists and other science communicators, as well as provider of science resources for journalists and free public programs and webinars on environmental topics. Metcalf Institute was established at the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography in 1997 with funding from three media foundations: the Belo Corporation, the Providence Journal Charitable Foundation and the Philip L. Graham Fund, with additional support from the Telaka Foundation. In 2017, the Institute joined the URI College of the Environment and Life Sciences.

Metcalf Institute Funding
Metcalf programming is underwritten by federal and foundation grants, as well as donations from individuals and an endowment managed by the University of Rhode Island Foundation.

I headed off to the Metcalf Institute Fellowship application webpage and decided to include a few details here,

Email Stamp/Postmark Deadline: February 18, 2019

This application has two parts – an online form and a set of required inclusions. Read thoroughly before applying for the workshop below.

Application packages (online form and required enclosures together) will be used to evaluate applicants. Any hard copies of application materials will not be returned.

All application forms and required enclosures must be submitted in English. Application packages in languages other than English will not be reviewed.

Application packages that are not complete by midnight, U.S. Eastern Time, on February 18, 2019, will not be reviewed. …

Good luck!

Talking about brains in Vancouver, Canada

I have two items, one featuring past events and one featuring an upcoming January 2019 event.

Brain Talks

The Brain Talks series folks featuring a bunch of Dept. of Psychiatry types and their ilk at the School of Medicine at the University of British Columbia sent me a December 21, 2018 announcement (via email) about videos featuring past talks,

Haven’t been able to make one of the last severals BrainTalks? Luckily,
we’ve been filming!

HAVE YOU MISSED ONE OF THE LAST SEVERAL BRAINTALKS?

Luckily, we’ve been filming the recent talks and several are now
accessible! Follow our Facebook page @UBCBraintalks to stay up-to-date
with the most recent videos. Our October series on Epigenetics and Early
Life Experiences is now live.

Otherwise, video content will be uploaded to our website at
braintalks.ubc.ca as made available, under the ‘past events’ tab.

Event announcements for 2019 coming soon!

Before leaping off to the video of past events (A Christmas Carol, anyone?), here’s more about Brain Talks from their homepage,

BrainTalks is a series of talks inviting you to contemplate emerging research about the brain. Researchers studying the brain, from various disciplines including psychiatry, neuroscience, neuroimaging, and neurology, gather to discuss current leading edge topics on the mind.

As an audience member, you join the discussion at the end of the talk, both in the presence of the entire audience, and with an opportunity afterwards to talk with the speaker more informally in a catered networking session. The talks also serve as a connecting place for those interested in similar topics, potentially launching new endeavours or simply connecting people in discussions on how to approach their research, their knowledge, or their clinical practice.

For the general public, these talks serve as a channel where by knowledge usually sequestered in inaccessible journals or university classrooms, is now available, potentially allowing people to better understand their brains and minds, how they work, and how to optimize brain health.

Here’s a partial list of what you’ll find on the past events video page,

Trauma Recovery and the Nervous System
… Leslie Wilkin, MSW – The Importance of Engaging Social-Relational Systems in Trauma Treatment Edward Dangerfield – Trauma and Subconscious Breathing Patterns November 27, 2018 Speakers: Dr. Lynn Alden // Current Treatment Perspectives of PTSD PTSD has been described as a […

How to Prevent Burnout
… Dr. Maia Love – Preventing Burnout Dr. Marlon Danilewitz – Burnout in Health Care Professionals Speakers: Dr. Maia Love – Burnout prevention Dr. Marlon Danilewitz – Burnout in Health Care Professionals Tuesday, April 24th at 6pm at Paetzold Auditorium, VGH

Epigenetics and Early Life Experiences
… Dr. Michael Kobor – Epigenetic Consequences for Chronic Disease and Mental Health Dr. Liisa Galea – Maternal Adversity: different effects on sons and daughters Dr. Adele Diamond – Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Brain October 22, 2018 Speakers: Dr. Michael […

Pain: The Mind Body Connection
Mar 24, 2016 @ 6pm Speakers: Dr Tim Oberlander, Dr Theresa Newlove, Dr Elizabeth Stanford, & Dr Murat Aydede

Enjoy these videos and more here

Shaping the brain

Israeli research Amir Amedi is coming to town for a Wednesday, January 16, 2019 talk according to a poster on the Congregation Schara Tzedeck website,

I found a little more information about Amedi on his Hebrew University of Jerusalem profile page,


Short bio sketch:

Amir is an internationally acclaimed brain scientist with 15 years of experience in the field of brain plasticity and multisensory integration. He has a particular interest in visual rehabilitation. He is an Associate Professor at the Department of Medical Neurobiology at the Hebrew University and the ELSC brain center, He is an Adjoint research Professor in the Sorbonne Universités UPMC Univ Paris 06, Institut de la Vision. He holds a PhD in Computational Neuroscience (ICNC, Hebrew University) and Postdoctoral and Instructor of Neurology (Harvard Medical School). He won several international awards and fellowships such as The Krill Prize for Excellence in Scientific Research, the Wolf Foundation (2011), The international Human Frontiers Science Program Organization Post docatoral fellowship and later a Career Development award (2004, 2009), the JSMF Scholar Award in Understanding Human Cognition (2011),  and was recently selected as a European Research Council (ERC) fellow (2013).

If you want to get a sense of what type of speaker he is, Amedi’s profile page also hosts his (circa 2012) TED X jerusalem talk. Enjoy!

Moths with sound absorption stealth technology

The cabbage tree emperor moth (Thomas Neil) [downloaded from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/quirks/nov-17-2018-greenland-asteroid-impact-short-people-in-the-rain-forest-reef-islands-and-sea-level-and-more-1.4906857/how-moths-evolved-a-kind-of-stealth-jet-technology-to-sneak-past-bats-1.4906866]

I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more gorgeous moth and it seems a perfect way to enter 2019, from a November 16, 2018 news item on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation),

A species of silk moth has evolved special sound absorbing scales on its wings to absorb the sonar pulses from hunting bats. This is analogous to the special coatings on stealth aircraft that allow them to be nearly invisible to radar.

“It’s a battle out there every night, insects flying for their lives trying to avoid becoming a bat’s next dinner,” said Dr. Marc Holderied, the senior author on the paper and an associate professor in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Bristol.

“If you manage to absorb some of these sound energies, it would make you look smaller and let you be detectable over a shorter distance because echoe isn’t strong enough outside the detection bubble.”

Many moths have ears that warn them when a bat is nearby. But not the big and juicy cabbage tree emperor moths which would ordinarily make the perfect meal for bats.

The researchers prepared a brief animated feature illustrating the research,

Prior to publication of the study, the scientists made a presentation at the Acoustical Society of America’s 176th Meeting, held in conjunction with the Canadian Acoustical Association’s 2018 Acoustics Week, Nov. 5-9 at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, Canada according to a November 7, 2018 University of Bristol press release (also on EurekAlert but submitted by the Acoustical Society of America on November 6, 2018),

Moths are a mainstay food source for bats, which use echolocation (biological sonar) to hunt their prey. Scientists such as Thomas Neil, from the University of Bristol in the U.K., are studying how moths have evolved passive defenses over millions of years to resist their primary predators.

While some moths have evolved ears that detect the ultrasonic calls of bats, many types of moths remain deaf. In those moths, Neil has found that the insects developed types of “stealth coating” that serve as acoustic camouflage to evade hungry bats.

Neil will describe his work during the Acoustical Society of America’s 176th Meeting, held in conjunction with the Canadian Acoustical Association’s 2018 Acoustics Week, Nov. 5-9 at the Victoria Conference Centre in Victoria, Canada.

In his presentation, Neil will focus on how fur on a moth’s thorax and wing joints provide acoustic stealth by reducing the echoes of these body parts from bat calls.

“Thoracic fur provides substantial acoustic stealth at all ecologically relevant ultrasonic frequencies,” said Neil, a researcher at Bristol University. “The thorax fur of moths acts as a lightweight porous sound absorber, facilitating acoustic camouflage and offering a significant survival advantage against bats.” Removing the fur from the moth’s thorax increased its detection risk by as much as 38 percent.

Neil used acoustic tomography to quantify echo strength in the spatial and frequency domains of two deaf moth species that are subject to bat predation and two butterfly species that are not.

In comparing the effects of removing thorax fur from insects that serve as food for bats to those that don’t, Neil’s research team found that thoracic fur determines acoustic camouflage of moths but not butterflies.

“We found that the fur on moths was both thicker and denser than that of the butterflies, and these parameters seem to be linked with the absorptive performance of their respective furs,” Neil said. “The thorax fur of the moths was able to absorb up to 85 percent of the impinging sound energy. The maximum absorption we found in butterflies was just 20 percent.”

Neil’s research could contribute to the development of biomimetic materials for ultrathin sound absorbers and other noise-control devices.

“Moth fur is thin and lightweight,” said Neil, “and acts as a broadband and multidirectional ultrasound absorber that is on par with the performance of current porous sound-absorbing foams.”

Moth fur? This has changed my view of moths although I reserve the right to get cranky when local moths chew through my wool sweaters. Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Biomechanics of a moth scale at ultrasonic frequencies by Zhiyuan Shen, Thomas R. Neil, Daniel Robert, Bruce W. Drinkwater, and Marc W. Holderied. PNAS [Proccedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America] November 27, 2018 115 (48) 12200-12205; published ahead of print November 12, 2018 https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1810025115

This paper is behind a paywall.

Unusually I’m going to include the paper’s abstract here,

The wings of moths and butterflies are densely covered in scales that exhibit intricate shapes and sculptured nanostructures. While certain butterfly scales create nanoscale photonic effects [emphasis mine], moth scales show different nanostructures suggesting different functionality. Here we investigate moth-scale vibrodynamics to understand their role in creating acoustic camouflage against bat echolocation, where scales on wings provide ultrasound absorber functionality. For this, individual scales can be considered as building blocks with adapted biomechanical properties at ultrasonic frequencies. The 3D nanostructure of a full Bunaea alcinoe moth forewing scale was characterized using confocal microscopy. Structurally, this scale is double layered and endowed with different perforation rates on the upper and lower laminae, which are interconnected by trabeculae pillars. From these observations a parameterized model of the scale’s nanostructure was formed and its effective elastic stiffness matrix extracted. Macroscale numerical modeling of scale vibrodynamics showed close qualitative and quantitative agreement with scanning laser Doppler vibrometry measurement of this scale’s oscillations, suggesting that the governing biomechanics have been captured accurately. Importantly, this scale of B. alcinoe exhibits its first three resonances in the typical echolocation frequency range of bats, suggesting it has evolved as a resonant absorber. Damping coefficients of the moth-scale resonator and ultrasonic absorption of a scaled wing were estimated using numerical modeling. The calculated absorption coefficient of 0.50 agrees with the published maximum acoustic effect of wing scaling. Understanding scale vibroacoustic behavior helps create macroscopic structures with the capacity for broadband acoustic camouflage.

Those nanoscale photonic effects caused by butterfly scales are something I’d usually describe as optical effects due to the nanoscale structures on some butterfly wings, notably those of the Blue Morpho butterfly. In fact there’s a whole field of study on what’s known as structural colo(u)r. Strictly speaking I’m not sure you could describe the nanostructures on Glasswing butterflies as an example of structure colour since those structures make that butterfly’s wings transparent but they are definitely an optical effect. For the curious, you can use ‘blue morpho butterfly’, ‘glasswing butterfly’ or ‘structural colo(u)r’ to search for more on this blog or pursue bigger fish with an internet search.

FrogHeart and the year ending/beginning—2018 into 2019

I’m not sure I’m ready to take another look at my Friday, December 28, 2018 posting; at this point, I’m feeling embarrassed at being so cranky that I forgot to note how much I have appreciated WordPress software over the years. It should also be noted that the updated ‘linki’ function in WordPress 5.0 is easier to use. Unfortunately, that’s all I can find to praise but my fingers are crossed in hope that the issues I’ve identified are resolved or on the way to resolution at some point in the next six months or so. Meanwhile, I’m going to change things here and my first thought is: less frequent posting.

To be fair, I have been considering a change in frequency for some months now and this WordPress 5.0 imbroglio may be just what I needed to kickstart my vague plan into action.

2018 in review

Rough roundup of site statistics

For some reason readership from the Ukraine has skyrocketed into one of my top five countries for readers in December 2018. Over the last few years, Canadian readership has finally cracked into the top five although it doesn’t happen every month. The French have shown an unprecedented level of interest by creeping into my top five and the Brits after being a mainstay in my top five have become a little less interested thereby sliding out of a regular spot in the top five but remaining in the top 10. China and the US readerships after intermittently competing for the top position for several months have been overtaken, as noted earlier, by the Ukrainians with the Russians in second place. Meanwhile, China has slipped to the 10th spot in this last month of 2018.

Musings on the Canadian scene

I don’t have a lot to say about the Canadian science scene other than we seem to be getting better about making news about research more publicly available. Also, the Canadian art/science (also known as sciart) community taking form. Perhaps would be that there’s a nascent community that appears to be reaching a critical mass.

  • A Dec. 10, 2018 posting on the Science Borealis blog lists residencies for artists who want to work with scientists.
  • Beakerhead is an art/science/engineering festival held in Calgary, Alberta.
  • ArtSci Salon at the University of Toronto has organized a number of art/sci events.
  • Tech Art Fair being held at the Ontario Science Centre (see my December 20, 2018 posting about the call for submissions)
  • Curiosity Collider in Vancouver regularly holds art/sci events and they have a calendar of other local art/sci events. They are planning a larger than usual event, Collisions Festival (see more about the proposed festivel in my November 14, 2018 posting; scroll down)

There’s a lot more too. You can try ‘art/sci’ as a search term on this blog and there’s always Duck Duck, Bing, Google, etc. where I’d also use ‘art/sci’, ‘art/science’, ‘sciart’, and any other variant that I could imagine along with ‘Canada’ to find other Canadian organizations and events.

Happy New Year 2019!

WordPress 5.0—Worse Christmas gift ever!

Without checking to see the reaction to this latest version, I updated this blog to the latest version of WordPress (WP). After using WP for over ten years and never having had a big problem, there was a surprise in store for me. There have been glitches in the past but for the most part, I have written, edited, and published my pieces with relative ease. This is no longer true.

First, I’m going to show some of the response from WordPress and from other users, then, I’m going to mention my specific issues with this ‘upgrade’, and finish with my sadder but wiser thoughts.

Shoulda, woulda, coulda

I should have … if only, I’d known, I would have … I could have … Only after days of struggling did I check for comments about this latest WordPress. First, I had to contend with a lot of ‘tech’ analysis. I don’t care about blocks, themes, ease of coding/programming, etc. All I wanted and still want to do is write and post my work. (sigh)

My first stop was wordpress.org and their forums. It was quite educational although perhaps not in the way that the developers might have hoped. Published in early December (probably Dec. 5 or 6, 2018), the ‘READ This First WordPress 5.0 Master List‘ by Marius L. J. starts out relatively well and then devolves to this (Note: Links have been removed),

Also keep in mind that not liking the direction of WordPress’s design is a not a bug. If you don’t like a feature, please don’t make a series of posts complaining about it. Look and see if someone already did, and post there, or consider joining the process earlier on (like in Beta or even test via SVN). What you’re seeing today is the result of thousands of hours of work and testing, and unless something is outright broken, it’s highly unlikely to be changed

Again, before you post

Make sure you’ve read this entire thread and New Features in 5.0 Article.
Go to your own install’s about page – example.com/wp-admin/about.php (or click the WordPress logo in the top corner) – to see what’s new.

Developers I once worked with used to joke bitterly that “there are no bugs just features,” meaning that developers can justify almost anything.

Getting back to the excerpt, the attitude seems a little less than welcoming . So, thank you, Marius L. J. for the gently scolding tone you’ve taken to address those of us who did not participate in beta or other testing. and for refusing to listen to anything other that reports on ‘bugs’.

Three other responses (Hint: they’re not happy either)

The first piece I’m highlighting is from a company that both provides a plug-in for the WordPress community and has a business based on their free product. From a December 4, 2018 posting on the Yoast SEO (search engine optimization) blog (Note: Links have been removed),

WordPress 5.0 is coming out December 6th [2018], or, as I’m writing this, the day after tomorrow. This came as a surprise to us, as this release date has only been communicated to the community today. Given this short notice, we thought it would be wise to give you advice on what you should do. Note that Yoast SEO has been ready for this release for a few weeks. [emphases mine]

If there is no compelling reason for you to update, our suggestion is going to be: wait. WordPress 5.0 will probably be more stable in January than it is now. Let’s be clear: we absolutely love Gutenberg and what Yoast SEO looks like in Gutenberg. The Schema blocks we’ve added are very cool. Yoast SEO is ready. We don’t think WordPress 5.0 is as stable as it should be.

Surprise? only? today? short notice? All of this conveys a less than happy response to the news from WordPress from people who know WordPress and likely did participate in beta testing and all the rest of it.

Sarah Gooding’s December 5, 2018 posting on WP Tavern provides some insight into some of the battles taking place amongst the hardcore WordPress community,


Official feedback channels and social media erupted with largely negative feedback on the decision, as the new release date has 5.0 landing the day before WordCamp US begins. This is a travel day for many attending the conference. It also means both of the planned follow-up releases will be expected during the upcoming weeks when many have scheduled time off for major world holidays

Yoast CEO Joost de Valk, one of the most vocal critics of the 5.0 timelime, posted a public message of dissent that resonated with many on Twitter

“We vehemently disagree with the decision to release WordPress 5.0 on December 6th, and think it’s irresponsible and disrespectful towards the community.

However, we’re now going to try and support the community as well as possible and we hope to show everyone that Gutenberg is indeed a huge step forward.”

There’s more in Goodings’s article,

“This decision was made in disregard to earlier specific timelines and promises, and does not take the realities on the ground into account,” Morten Rand-Hendricksen said. “I agree with @yoast it is both irresponsible and disrespectful.

Although reactions on Twitter run the gamut from unbridled optimism to full on outrage, many of those commenting on the schedule have fallen into resignation, convinced that community feedback never really mattered when it came to scheduling the release

Mullenweg’s [Matt Mullenweg, WordPress big cheese] rationale behind announcing the release date with three days notice is that Gutenberg and/or the Classic Editor are already active on more than 1.3 million sites. Users do not have to upgrade to WordPress 5.0 until they are ready. If they opt for the Classic Editor, the editing experience “will be indistinguishable from 4.9.8.”

Users who are informed enough to make this choice will be well-prepared when they see that 5.0 update in their dashboards. However, one of the chief concerns is that millions of WordPress users will update without testing. …

As noted, I am one of those millions who did “update without testing.”

Gooding finishes with this,

“I so want to be supportive of this release,” Teague [John Teague] said. “But between the top down, heavily Automattic managed process, poor release communication, super short RC2, RC3, punting on accessibility, and now this two-day notice to 5.0 release – it reminds me of an old Air Force saying when instructors sent barely trained pilots up for their first solo:

“Send em up and let God grade em.’”

Finally, there’s a December 7, 2018 posting on The Mud Room blog (from the Mudflower Media website) where you are warned specifically about the editor (Gutenberg), Note: Links have been removed,

Today I excitedly downloaded WordPress 5.0 with the much-touted Gutenberg Post Editor, and really looking forward to using what I was sure was going to be a massive upgrade to the classic WordPress editor. Well…trust me when I tell you it was massive, but an upgrade? Hardly.

Prince Charles was talking with some people many years ago, and the subject of the “king of books” the King James Bible was brought up. The prince and the men discussed at length the glorious history of the King James, and the impact it has had upon the world. All agreed it was something quite special.

  Then one of the men turned to Prince Charles and asked him what he thought about the new versions, written in “modern English”. The prince thought for a moment and then he said

“I think they’ve improved it worse”

I can think of no better description of the new WordPress Gutenberg Editor than to say “they’ve improved it worse”. Gutenberg was designed by people who design responsive websites, and it utilizes something called a “drag-and-drop” interface. This is a great feature when found living inside a WordPress theme. It makes new page creating and updating old ones a breeze.

But what drag-and-drop offers in benefits for theme builds, it takes that away inside an editor where a writer or an author is trying to compose something. As I type what you are reading right now, I am using WordPress 5.0, but have added the Classic plugin to restore the post editor to it’s previous glory. So as I create this article, the layout is nearly identical to how it will look on the front end when view online. This is not what Gutenberg provides.


The WordPress developers are just that, developers. They are not content creators and writers, as it is obvious in this new editor design. I have spend the better part of 20 years as a UI/UX [user interface/user experience] expert, working on huge multi-million dollar projects at the highest level of the Fortune 500 world. And the first thing that jumps out at me when I look at Gutenberg is how nothing makes sense, nothing is where you would expect it to be.

I am now a ‘sadder but wiser’ users. Next, specific issues

WordPress 5.0 editor issues from a writer’s perspective

A few things before I launch into my list, first, I waited almost a week before downloading the new version. Also, I work on a PC (personal computer as opposed to an Apple product). It’s a desktop system and I’m running it on Windows 7.0. Two plug-ins are currently enabled: Akismet and UpDraftPlus; I have the latest versions of both, which are supposedly compatible with WordPress 5.0 and I use the Twenty Twelve theme.

Invisibility

So, the almost invisible lines around the blocks are a feature? Also, does making some of my editing choices a slightly darker grey and disappearing some of those choices from the block when I make a decision about what I want to do in that text block also count as a feature?

Vocabulary

Seriously, is near invisibility a bug or a feature? Or, is it something the developers don’t care about consequently, it’s neither and not to be discussed?

Disappearing options

There’s one more than one kind of invisibility, things disappear. For example, if I write some text in a block and, then, change my mind, delete my text, and decide I’d like to embed image? I can’t.) Plus, the instant I put my cursor into the block, the options fade to a difficult-to-see grey. Not quite as hard to see as the lines around the blocks but making options harder to see seems like an odd choice to me. Is this another feature or dare I call it a bug?

Tags

I use the tagging function extensively and it is now broken. First, where there was once an ‘add tag’ box and a field below showing tags already added or not, there is now only an ‘add new tag’ box. What this means functionally (for me, if no one else) is that removing a tag has become too easy. in fact, this part of the feature could be described as designed for failure. I can guarantee that you will at some point inadvertently remove one or more of your tags without noticing.

Second, I have great difficulty saving my tags which I prepare in a group. (I put all of my post into a text file and then trim away most of the text leaving only the words that I want to use as tags and then copy into the ‘add new tag’ box. The new ‘save draft/saved’ function on the top right hand side of my screen doesn’t always register the addition of any tags. I can take many attempts before the system allows me to ‘save’. And, if I am allowed to save tags, they may disappear from my ‘add tag’ box anyway. Plus, if they don’t disappear in my now ‘saved’ draft, they may disappear when I ‘preview’ my post.

I have tried a few tactics to overcome this problem/bug/feature. (1) I have tried to add tags in groups and then saving, when and if I’m allowed to. (failure, most of the time) (2) I have tried to add each tag individually. (failure most of the time) (3) I have persisted in my efforts to add my tags by repeating the save over and over. (failure most of the time)

I have on occasion managed to force the system into accepting my tags using one or more of the above tactics. Weirdly, I have occasionally not had to use any of my tactics because the function worked. BTW, typing each tag individually seems to work best but it is the least efficient method for me.

Save Draft function

In addition to the problems noted previously with ‘Save Draft’, I have occasionally noted that the system doesn’t sense when I’ve made a change in my text and, in this latest WordPress, I can no longer override the system and force it to save.

One more thing, saving tags takes a much longer time even when the system fails to save them.

Talking with developers

Guess what? I don’t ‘beta test’. I don’t want to load software onto my system until I’m reasonably certain it won’t break anything. I don’t have the technical skills to fix the problems.

By the way, I worked with developers for years (I was the writer). At the best of times it can be difficult as we don’t use the same vocabulary or share a perspective on the problem. It’s easiest to do this in person. Second best, is the phone. However, writing it up is almost always a misery.

Even in person, I have found the inevitable questions from a developer difficult to understand and no matter how simply I describe my problem, the developer doesn’t understand me. Should we successfully pass that stage, I’m then presented with a solution that may require my intervention into the code. As I noted earlier, I don’t have the technical skills (or confidence, for that matter).

There is no one to blame for this communication problem; it’s a function of perspective and vocabulary. However, I do blame developers who don’t recognize there is a gap and/or arrogantly dismiss users’ concerns. Marius L.J.’s posting brought back memories.

Finding a fix, breaking faith, and moving on (maybe)

After struggling with this new WordPress for two and a half weeks (I think I downloaded it on Dec. 10, 2018), I’m ready to try the Classic Editor plug-in although I may wait until after the New Year to see if anything that matters to me has been fixed. Sadly, I don’t think the situation with the tags will be affected.

As for WordPress itself, my faith is shaken. I have depended on it and even taken it for granted but i can’t anymore. This build was not ready to be released and the person or persons who made the decision knew it and didn’t care. WordPress: Once you’ve shaken someone’s faith in your product or in you, it’s very hard to regain.

As a consequence of all this, I’m looking at the possibility of replacing WordPress. I’m not saying I’m going to do it but it is no longer unthinkable as it would have been at the beginning of December 2018.

Sound-absorbing nanofoam

In these increasingly noisy days (there’s construction going on around me), news of a cheaper, easier way to dull the noise is very attractive. From a June 25, 2018 Far Eastern Federal University (Russia) press release on EurekAlert,

The breakthrough material reduces a noise level by 100% more efficient comparing to standard analogs, cutting the level of noise transmission by 20-22 dB. The new foam reacts to sound waves not only of high but also of low frequencies, which can damage human health. A young scientist from the Far Eastern Federal University (FEFU) took part in the development.

PARTNERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

Alexey Zavjalov, postdoc, researcher at the Academic Department of Nuclear Technologies School of Natural Science, FEFU, worked as a part of the international team of Russian and South Korean scientists under professor S.P. Bardakhanov. Alexey’s research performance led to the creation of nanofoam – the new noise-absorbing composite material. The results of the work are published in ‘Applied Acoustics’.

‘The problem of noise is the problem of modern technogenic civilization. In South Korea, cities are equipped with round-the-clock working stationary and mobile networks for noise levels monitoring. The urbanization level of such territorially small countries as South Korea is much higher than in Russia. However, in our country this problem is still crucial for big cities,’ – explained Alexey Zavjalov. – ‘The development of new noise-absorbing materials is especially interesting for the automotive industry. Modern people spend a lot of time driving cars and the noise level inside the vehicles’ directly determines the quality of life. For East Asian countries, the issue of noise control is relevant for high-speed rail lines.’ Porous materials are excellent sound absorbers but their noise-absorbing properties can be significantly enhanced by nanoporous grit injected into the foam structure and formed internal channels in it. Alexey Zavjalov has developed approaches for saturation of macroporous foam material with nanoporous grit.

HARMFULNESS OF THE LOW FREQUENCIES NOISES.

Along with the rapid development of nanotechnology, there have been many attempts to mix nano- and microsized materials to create a modified material with enhanced strength, elastic, dynamical and vibrational properties. The acoustic parameters of such materials could not be fundamentally enhanced thus far.

Foam materials are most often used for soundproofing purposes. They provide the proper quality at a reasonable cost, but until today have been effective against high-frequency noise only. At the same time, low frequencies can be much more harmful to human health.

Infra- and low-frequency vibrations and noise (less than 0.4 kHz) are most harmful and dangerous for human health and life. Especially unfavorable is their long-lasting impact, since leads to serious diseases and pathologies. Complaints on such oppressions exceed 35% of the sum total of complaints on harmful environmental conditions.

The foam material, developed by Russian and Korean scientists, demonstrated promising results at medium frequencies and, therefore, more specialized low-frequency noise tests are needed.

CHEAPER AND EASIER FOR APPLICATION THAN AEROGEL.

The improved acoustic characteristics of the newest hybrid nanofoam were obtained by additional impregnation of the standard off-the-shelf sound-absorbing foam with porous granules of silica and magnetite nanoparticles. The porous foam was immersed in nanopowder suspensions in the liquid, subjected to ultrasonic treatment and dried.

The nanoparticles granules formed in the result can be compared structurally to a widely known class of materials – aerogel. It has not only excellent thermal insulation properties but also has a good noise-proof. However, aerogels are quite expensive and complex when used in structures. The new material, created according to the scheme developed by the FEFU researcher, is structurally similar to aerogel but is free of such shortcomings as a high price and engineering problems.

COMPOSITE TECHNOLOGY

The mechanism of sound absorption of a new foam is based on the fact that its sound-absorbing surface is significantly scaled due to the presence of a large number of nanopores in the particles injected, as well as the location of these particles in the foam matrix in the form of distinct channels. Nanoparticles dissipate the energy of a sound wave transforming it into heat. The soundproof properties of the material increase.

Scientists found out that the composite structure is most effective for noise reduction. Thin layers of foam impregnated with nanoparticles are connected to each other in a “sandwich”-construction. This design significantly improves the soundproof properties of the resulting material. The outcome of the study also suggests that the more foamy material is impregnated with nanoparticles, the better it’s sound absorption is.

‘In some approximation, any material can be represented as a network of weights connected by springs. Such a mechanical system always has its own frequency bands, in which the oscillations propagate in the system relatively freely. There are also forbidden frequency bands in which the oscillations rapidly fade out in the system. To effectively extinguish the transmission of oscillations, including sound waves, the materials should be alternated in such a way that the fluctuations that propagate freely in the first material would be in the forbidden band for the second layer,’- commented Alexey Zavjalov. – ‘Of course, for our foam material, this idealization is too crude. However, it allows us to clearly illustrate the fundamentally conditioned necessity of creating a “sandwich” structure.’

RESEARCH OUTCOME

The study showed the effectiveness of the method of foams impregnation with nanosilica or nanomagnetite, which form granules up to several hundred micrometers (in accordance with the pore sizes of the modified foam material) and having pores about 15 nm. This small addition provided a more complex and branched 3D network of nanochannels which led to an additional absorption of noise energy.

Due to the method used, the noise absorption efficiency was achieved in the range of 2.0-6.3 kHz and at lower frequencies 0.5-1.6 kHz. The degree of absorption was increased by 60-100% and the sound transmission was reduced by 20-22 dB, regardless of the type of nanofiller.

‘There is room to further improve the sound absorbing properties of the new material for medium and low frequencies using the” active control” strategy’. – Alexey Zavjalov comments on the plans for further development of such an important scientific topic. – ‘First of all, this refers to the materials obtained by using a magnetite nanopowder. Active noise protection systems have long been used in the world. The main idea is to detect the noise acoustic fields “online” and to generate sound waves in antiphase by means of loudspeakers. That allows achieving a significant reduction of noise in a given area. Concerning the nanofoam, it’s proposed to adapt this approach and to actively exert on a material saturated with granules of magnetite nanoparticles by magnetic fields. This will achieve even better noise reduction.’

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

Hybrid sound-absorbing foam materials with nanostructured grit-impregnated pores by S.P.Bardakhanov, C.M.Lee, V.N.Goverdovskiy, A.P.Zavjalov, K.V.Zobov, M.Chen, Z.H.Xu, I.K.Chakin, D.Yu.Trufanov. Applied Acoustics Volume 139, October 2018, Pages 69-74
https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apacoust.2018.04.024 Available online 23 April 2018.

This paper is behind a paywall.

If you have difficulty seeing the press release on EurekAlert, there is a June 26, 2018 news item on a Russian news site, RSF News and there is an edited version in a June 26, 2018 news item on Azonano.

Joyeux Noël! Science raps for Christmas 2018!

I received a December 17, 2018 email from Baba Brinkman, a Canadian rapper who lives in New York City these days and who has often graced this blog. He has an offer for those of us lucky enough to be in New York City from December 27, 2018 to mid-February 2019 ,

If you’re looking for a last minute present for someone you know in New York, get them the gift of thought-provoking entertainment with a Rap Guide Gift Card, good for any one of my three off-Broadway shows set to open on December 27th at the Soho Playhouse. Don’t know if you have any friends in New York? Just type “my friends who live in new york” into a Facebook search and be enlightened.

To recap, in 2011 I moved to NYC to perform Rap Guide to Evolution off-Broadway. The show was a hit, nominated for a Drama Desk Award with a glowing review in the New York Times, and I started working with Soho Playhouse artistic director Darren Lee Cole to develop several new hip-hop theatre productions that tackle major topics in science. A series was born.

In 2015 I had the opportunity to perform Rap Guide to Climate Chaos at the UN Paris Climate Conference, followed by a six month off-Broadway run, and earlier this year we presented Rap Guide to Consciousness for an eight-month run, exploring the latest neuroscience research on human thoughts and experiences. This year alone I have performed Consciousness more than 90 times, so I’m ready for a break!

Too bad. The Soho Playhouse recently offered me the chance to present three of my shows in rotation, with 32 performances scheduled through late February. How could I say no?

So all this week I’m in rehearsals, then a brief respite for Christmas cheer, and then next Thursday [Dec. 27, 2018] it’s off to the races. This three show assembly is a grand experiment, designed around the principle that my overall project is more than the sum of its parts. What project is that? Simply the challenge of creatively sharing the findings of science that help us answer the big questions: who are we, where did we come from, and where might we go?

Got any friends who might be interested in that? Send them my way!

Enjoy and to all, a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Solstice, Happy Saturnalia, Happy Kwanzaa, and all other winter celebrations!