Tag Archives: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Updates on a Canadian election science debate and the 2015 Canadian Science Policy Conference (blog session) plus a protest song

I have some good news on a couple of fronts. First, it seems increasingly likely that we will see a 2015 election science debate.

Canadian election 2015 science debate

The debate will be, according to Jim Handman, senior producer, held in early October 2015 on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio’s Quirks and Quarks program. Here’s what Mr. Handman had to say after I tweeted and contacted them about holding an election science debate,

… Quirks has approached all the parties at the national
level to provide candidates for a radio panel on science to be
broadcast in early October. They have all expressed interest and we are waiting to hear about specific candidates. It is up to the parties to choose the participants.

Not realizing something was in the works at Quirks and Quarks and following on a suggestion from David Bruggeman at Pasco Phronesis (noted in my Aug. 17, 2015 posting), I contacted Lynne Quarmby (Green shadow science minister), Ted Hsu (Liberal shadow science minister), Kennedy Stewart (NDP [New Democratic Party] shadow science minister), and Ed Holder (Conservative science minister) about their willingness to participate in a debate. As of this writing, both Lynne Quarmby and Ted Hsu have shown interest.

While I was busy tweeting, this was brought to my attention,

UVic2015electonScienceDebate

You can see, if you look carefully at the bottom of the poster, the Evidence for Democracy logo. Those folks kicked off a proposal for science debate for this election in an Aug. 12, 2015 opinion piece for the Toronto Star.

Plus, CBC is reporting a new call for a science debate in a Sept. 3, 2015 news item by Julie Ireton,

Members of Canada’s long-silent scientific research community are increasingly speaking out during this year’s federal campaign as they desperately try to make science an election issue.

Jules  Blais, a biology professor at the University of Ottawa, calls cuts to science-related jobs “targeted strikes.”

Like many Canadian scientists, Blais considers himself non-partisan and said he’s not campaigning for any particular party, but that he and others are speaking out for the need to protect independent scientific research.

“Science has always been apolitical by its nature, but in recent years because of the dramatic changes that we’re seeing in the way science is being done, and science is being conducted, it’s increasingly a political issue,” said Blais.

To sum it up, it all looks quite promising for 2015 although I hope any national debate will be more broad-ranging and nuanced than a simple Conservative science policy bashing.

For anyone interested in ancient history, there’s my Aug. 17, 2015 posting which provides a view of previous efforts to get a science debate during an election in English-speaking Canada and notes like efforts have taken place in French-speaking Canada. Happily for anyone wanting a more complete history, Pascal Lapointe and Josh Silberg have written an Aug. 31, 2015 posting on Science Borealis detailing efforts in Québec.

Canadian Science Policy Conference blogging session

In an Aug. 18, 2015 posting, I highlighted and critiqued the blogging session offered at the upcoming 2015 Canadian Science Policy Conference. One of the blog panel members, Chris Buddle kindly contacted me via Twitter to answer a few of the questions I’d posed and to tell me that he’d contacted the organizers and suggested some changes be made to the descriptions based on my comments. You can find the changed descriptions here.

They’ve added one person to the panel, Lisa Willemse, who’s billed as Senior Communications Advisor, Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

One final comment about the science blogging panel descriptions, I wish they’d added links to the blogs. Perhaps that wasn’t technical feasible?

Protest song

Part of what has mobilized scientists and a discussion of science in Canada has been the Conservative government’s policy of ‘muzzling scientists’. Glyn Moody in a Sept. 1, 2015 posting on Techdirt profiles an incident where Environment Canada scientist, Tony Turner, has been put on leave while charges that he violated conflict-of-interest rules are being investigated. His sin: he wrote a protest song, got a group of friends and supporters to sing it with him, and then posted it to Youtube. From Moody’s posting (Note: A link has been removed),

Turner’s song, with its opening lines “Who controls our parliament? Harperman, Harperman. Who squashes all dissent? Harperman, Harperman,” and a refrain of “It’s time for you to go,” is pretty mild stuff. …

Of course, the great thing about the Canadian government’s absurd overreaction to this gentlest of private protests is that many more people will now learn that Turner is an environmental scientist who is being muzzled by a bunch of desperate control freaks who are frightened that the Canadian people might be told the truth about important scientific issues. Thank goodness for the Streisand Effect…. [As I understand it, Barbra Streisand once responded to criticism or commentary about herself that she found offensive. Her response, given her star power, drew a great of attention to the commentary. Techdirt folks have dubbed this the ‘Streisand’ effect, i.e. drawing attention to something no one would have noticed otherwise.]

An Aug. 28, 2015 article by Madeline Smith for the Globe and Mail provides details about the protest song and government response,

An Environment Canada scientist is under investigation for allegedly breaching the public service code of ethics by writing and performing a political song that criticizes the Harper government.

Andrew Hall, who filmed the Harperman video – a singalong with a backup choir that had almost 60,000 views as of Friday [Aug. 28, 2015] evening – said the song is a “joyful” expression of protest. [emphasis mine] He said Mr. Turner wasn’t acting as a public servant, so there should be a reasonable expectation “to be able to engage in democracy.”

As of Thurs., Sept. 3, 2015 at 10 am PDT the number of views is 525,823. So, from June 2015 when it was first posted to Aug. 28, 2015, there were almost 60,000 views. The Streisand effect in operation!

According to Smith’s article, Turner, after working for the government for 20 years, is months from retirement.

Finally, the song,

Rousing, isn’t it? That said, there is a fine line to be tread here. Civil servants are required to be neutral and, assuming you’re not dealing with noxious forces, you need to be respectful of the agreements you’ve made. As a civil servant for a number of years, that freedom of speech vs. neutrality ethics divide always bothered me. I believe that people are entitled to speak their opinions in private but I do see the point of insisting on neutrality professionally and privately. Most times, neutrality is the way to go for civil servants. However, there are times when one must speak out. The question is: what is the tipping point?

Simon Fraser University’s (Vancouver, Canada) Feb. 19, 2013 Café Scientifique

There are two very different descriptions of this upcoming event, first from Simon Fraser University’s Café Scientifique webpage description,

Tuesday, February 19
Café Scientifique

Time: 7-8:30pm

Place: CBC, 700 Hamilton St.

Cost: Free, email cafesci@sfu.ca to reserve your spot

The Chemistry behind how Bird’s Nest soup led to Influenza drugs Influenza type A viral infection continues to be a serious health problem facing the human population as it continually changes how it is seen by the immune system by making modifications to the proteins that cover its surface. Dr. Andrew Bennet of SFU’s Chemistry Dept. will discuss how inhibition of one of the viral surface proteins that is called neuraminidase (the N in H5N1) is proving to be a suitable approach in the design of anti-viral drugs. Moderated by Stephen Quinn, CBC Radio. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] Everyone welcome, refreshments served. Please email cafesci@sfu.ca to reserve your free seat. 7:00 – 8:30 pm, CBC, 700 Hamilton St. Vancouver

Then there’s this from SFU’s Café Scientifique 2012 – 2013 List of Speakers webpage,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Chemistry Behind How Bird’s Nest Soup Led to Influenza Drugs

Speaker:  Dr. Andy Bennett, Department of Chemistry, SFU

Influenza type A viral infection continues to be a serious health problem facing the human population worldwide as it continually changes how it is seen by the immune system by making modifications to the proteins that cover its surface.  Inhibition of one of the viral surface proteins that is called neuraminidase (the N in H5N1) has proved to be a suitable approach in the design of anti-viral drugs.

Note the location is the CBC Studio at 700 Hamilton Street, Vancouver

Please RSVP to cafe_sci@sfu.ca

Frankly, this seems like less fun that a talk at the Railway Club, which is where one of the other Cafe Scientifique groups usually meets. The Railway Club has a casual informal atmosphere; you can get a beer and some very interesting science conversation and, yes, someone does speak but the whole dynamic changes when you’ve got that beer in hand.  This SFU/CBC setup reminds me too much of sitting in lecture halls.

A brainwave computer controller named Muse

Toronto-based (Canada) company, InteraXon has just presented a portable brainwave controller at the ParisLeWeb 2012 meeting according to a Dec. 5, 2012 article by Nancy Owano for phys.org,

A Canadian company is talking about having a window, aka computer screen, into your mind. Another of the many ways to put it—they believe your computer can be so into you. And vice-versa. InteraXon, a Canadian company, is focused on making a business out of mind-control technology via a headband device, and they are planning to launch this as a $199 brainwave computer controller called Muse. The company is running an Indiegogo campaign to obtain needed funds. Muse is a Bluetooth-connected headset with four electroencephalography sensors, communicating with the person’s computer via the Bluetooth connection.

Here’s more about the technology from InteraXon’s How It Works webpage,

Your brain generates electrical patterns that resonate outside your head, which accumulate into brainwaves detectable by an Electroencephalograph (EEG). The EEG can’t read your thoughts, just your brain’s overall pattern of activity, like how relaxed or alert you are. With practice you can learn to manipulate your brainwave pattern, like flexing a muscle you’ve never used before.

InteraXon’s interface works by turning brainwaves into binary (ones and zeros). We’re like interpreters fluent in the language of the mind: our system analyses the frequency of your brainwaves and then translates them into a control signal for the computer to understand.

Just like a button or switch can activate whatever it’s connected to, your translated brainwaves can now control anything electric. InteraXon designers and engineers make the experience so seamless, the connected technology seems like an extension of your own body.

It would be nice to have found a little more technical detail.

InteraXon is currently featuring its work at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver (Canada) as an example of past work,

When visitors arrive at Bright Ideas, InteraXon’s thought-controlled computing experience custom designed and built for the 2010 Olympics, they are lead to their own pod. In front of each pod is a large projection screen as well as a small training screen. Once seated, a trained host hands them a headset that will measure their brain’s electrical signals.

With help from the host, the participants learn to deliberately alter their brainwaves. By focusing or relaxing their mind, they learn to change the display on their training screen; music and seat vibrations provide immediate feedback to speed the learning process to five minutes or less. Now they are ready for the main event.

Thoughts are turned into light patterns instantaneously as their brain’s digital signal is beamed over the Rocky Mountains, across vast prairies all the way to three major Ontario icons – a distance of 3000 km.

This project – a first at this grand scale – allows each participant to experience a very personal connection with these massive Ontario landmarks, and with every Canadian watching the lightshow, whether online, or in-person.

As for Muse, InteraXon’s latest project, the company has a campaign on Indiegogo to raise money. Here’s the video on the campaign website,

They seem very excited about it all, don’t they? The question that arises is whether or not you actually need a device to let you know when you’re concentrating or when your thoughts are wandering.  Apparently, the answer is yes. The campaign has raised over $240,000 (they asked for $150,000) and it’s open until Dec. 7, 2012.  If you go today, you will find that in addition to the other pledge inducements there’s a special ParisLeWeb $149 pledge for one day only (Dec. 5, 2012). Here’s where you go.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Spark radio programme featured an interview (either in Nov. or Dec. 2012) with Ariel Garten, Chief Executive Office of InteraXon discussing her company’s work. You can find podcast no. 197 here (it is approximately 55 mins. and there are other interviews bundled with Garten’s). Thanks to Richard Boyer for the tip about the Spark interview.

I have mentioned brain-computer interfaces previously. There’s the Brain-controlled robotic arm means drinking coffee by yourself for the first time in 15 years May 17, 2012 posting and the Advertising for the 21st Century: B-Reel, ‘storytelling’, and mind control Oct. 6, 2011 posting amongst others.

Plans to spend more on Canadian R&D in 2011

The Dec. 9, 2011 news item on CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) News provides a hint of relief in what has become a rather dismal performance in industrial R&D spending. Canadian companies planned to spend more on R&D in 2011 than they had for years. From the news item,

Research and development spending by industry is expected to increase in 2011 — the first time in four years that has happened in Canada.

“The 2011 industrial R&D spending intentions suggest that recovery is underway after three consecutive years of declining R&D spending that occurred across almost all industrial sectors,” said a Statistics Canada report Friday.

If you look at the CBC’s news item today (Dec. 12, 2011), you’ll see this correction,

Canada’s R & D spending-to-GDP ratio in 2009 fell to the level it was in 1994, not 2004 as originally reported.

If I understand things correctly, there was a precipitous fall in 2009 and now in 2011, we’re enjoying a modest increase in plans for R&D spending.

From the Statistics Canada Daily, Dec. 9, 2011 issue,

2011 (intentions)

Businesses in Canada anticipated spending just over $15.6 billion on industrial research and development (R&D) in 2011, up 5.0% from 2010.

Almost half (49%) of this industrial R&D spending is anticipated to be spent in the manufacturing sector ($7.7 billion), an 8.0% increase from 2010. In 2011, about 43% of industrial R&D is anticipated to be spent in the services sector ($6.8 billion), up 3.1% from the previous year. The remaining 8% of R&D spending is anticipated to be spent in primary industries, utilities and construction.

The 2011 industrial R&D spending intentions suggest that recovery is underway after three consecutive years of declining R&D spending that occurred across almost all industrial sectors. However, total R&D spending intentions are still below the $16.8 billion spent in 2007. [emphasis mine]

You can read the bulletin and article,

The article, “Industrial research and development, 2007 to 2011,” is now available in the service bulletin Science Statistics, Vol. 35, no. 4 (88-001-X, free), from the Key resource module of our website under Publications.

Having seen some very questionable definitions of R&D, I checked one of the descriptions that Statistics Canada used, from the Data quality, concepts and methodology: Data quality, concepts and methodology page,

Generally speaking, industrial R&D is intended to result in an invention which may subsequently become a technological innovation. An essential requirement is that the outcome of the work is uncertain, i.e., that the possibility of obtaining a given technical objective cannot be known in advance on the basis of current knowledge or experience. Hence much of the work done by scientists and engineers is not R&D, since they are primarily engaged in “routine” production, engineering, quality control or testing. Although they apply scientific or engineering principles their work is not directed towards the discovery of new knowledge or the development of new products and processes. However, work elements which are not considered R&D by themselves but which directly support R&D projects, should be included with R&D in these cases. Examples of such work elements are design and engineering, shop work, computer programming, and secretarial work.

If the primary objective is to make further technical improvements to the product or process, then the work comes within the definition of R&D. If however, the product, process or approach is substantially set and the primary objective is to develop markets, to do pre-production planning or to get a production or control system working smoothly, then the activity can no longer be considered as part of R&D even though it could be regarded as an important part of the total innovation process. Thus, the design, construction and testing of prototypes, models and pilot plants are part of R&D. But, when necessary modifications have been made and testing has been satisfactorily completed, the boundary of R&D has been reached. Hence, the costs of tooling (design and try-out), construction drawings and manufacturing blueprints, and production start-up are not included in development costs.

Pilot plants may be included in development only if the main purpose is to acquire experience and compile data. As soon as they begin operating as normal production units, their costs can no longer be attributed to R&D. Similarly, once the original prototype has been found satisfactory, the cost of other “prototypes” built to meet a special need or fill a very small order are not to be considered as part of R&D.

Here’s what they specifically will not include,

Research and development should be considered to be “Scientific Research and Experimental Development” as defined in Section 37, Regulation 2900 of the Income Tax Act; this section specifically excludes the following:

  1. market research, sales promotion,
  2. quality control or routine analysis and testing of materials, devices or products,
  3. research in the social sciences or the humanities,
  4. prospecting, exploring or drilling for or producing minerals, petroleum or natural gas,
  5. the commercial production of a new or improved material, device or product or the commercial use of a new or improved process,
  6. style changes, or routine data collection

My fingers are crossed that these good intentions became reality.

Grey water and a short story from a GG winner

I mentioned Kate Pullinger when she won Canada’s 2009 Governor General’s (GG) award for fiction (Nov. 20, 2009 posting) and it seems a GG winner never gets to rest on her laurels. Last summer she was asked to write a short story celebrating the 75th anniversary of the GG awards. From the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) Canada Writes web space (from the Nov. 24, 2011 posting about Kate Pullinger’s story, Grey Water Lady),

Last summer, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Governor General’s Awards and the CBC, we asked ten GG-winning authors write a story about winter.

Kate Pullinger tells the story of a jet-lagged and heartbroken waste-water specialist who seeks to inject some colour back in her life.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Kate’s story,

Domestic grey water – the recycling of waste water from the bath, sink, shower, washing machine, etc – had become her area of expertise almost by default. In the industry she was known as Grey Water Lady. Fondly.  But still. She’d been flown over by the government to have a look at Melbourne’s controversial desalination plant project, but as soon as she got off the plane she realised the clothes she’d packed were completely inappropriate and that she’d have to wear everything in her suitcase all at the same time in order to stay warm.

In addition to writing a story, Kate was asked to do something else,

We asked Kate to recommend a writer who she thinks is not as well known as they deserve to be. Come back on Tuesday [Nov. 29, 2011] to find out who she has chosen as her writer to watch.

As for Canada Writes, here’s more from the About Us page,

Canada Writes is Canada’s home for original writing of all kinds, including the CBC Literary Prizes. It’s a meeting place for writers- a place where you come to showcase your work through an ongoing series of writing challenges and competitions, and a resource to help you connect with other writers across the country. We also feature original stories from writers across the country, editorials, writing news and recommendations and writing workshops.

It is also home to the CBC Short Story Prize, the CBC Poetry Prize and the CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize.

Kate now lives in the UK but was born in British Columbia and grew up on Vancouver Island.

Nature of Things’ series: The Nano Revolution (Episode 3); Will Nano Save the Planet?

I’m never thrilled with titles of this ilk, Will Nano Save the Planet? Refreshingly, this episode featured some work being done by Canadian scientists (two of them) although the average Canadian could be forgiven for thinking that it’s the only nanotechnology research taking place in Canada.

It’s a little puzzling that they chose this final episode for a description of the term nanoscale. David Suzuki, the host, mentioned the ridges of skin on your fingers and noted that a nanoparticle is 80,000 times smaller than the distance between the ridges. (If you want a really good description of scale, I recommend listening to Professor Ravi Silva’s audio interview with Alok Jha on the (UK) Guardian’s Oct. 14, 2011 Science Weekly podcast.)

In general, I found the descriptions of the science in this episode were not of the same standard as the previous two, which were very good.

The vignettes, as always, were problematic largely since they were internal monologues of some character who’s grappling with ethical issues and other social impacts of these technologies. Interestingly, men starred in the vignettes where the ‘big’ issues are covered: ethics of health care; longer life; access to energy sources; pollution from nanotechnology-enabled products; etc. The woman who starred in the vignettes from episode one (as I noted in my review) was concerned with cleanliness, tidiness, shopping, and privacy. I guess things don’t change that much in our future, especially in 2050 where nanotechnology protestors are putting up banners, spraypainting, and leafletting (almost as if it were 1968) to express their opposition (in episode three).

There was some interesting work being covered. They profiled Professor Ted Sargent, based at the University of Toronto, who’s doing some exciting work with solar cells (he wants to make them flexible and, even, paintable). His latest breakthrough is mentioned in my Sept. 20, 2011 posting.

Professor Vicki Colvin, Rice University in Texas, is working to purify water. The project is in Mexico and highlights the difficulties when water supplies are contaminated, in this case, with arsenic. (Here in the Pacific Northwest we tend to forget that access to fresh clean water is not easy in many parts of the world.) Colvin and her colleagues are working on a simple solution that can be implemented with some sand, gravel, a tube, and active nanoparticles. (Her work with the Environmental Nanoscience Initiative; a UK/US collaboration was mentioned in my Jan. 28, 2011 posting.)

The third project was focussed on soil remediation and a team from the University of Western Ontario headed by Professor Dennis O’Carroll. I have not come across O’Carroll’s work previously so this was a find for me. As you may or may not know, there are many sites with contaminated soil throughout North America and elsewhere. If successful, O’Carroll’s technique promises to remediate (rehabiltate) the soil without having to move massive amounts of soil and use big  equipment.

This episode featured more discussion about the risks and uncertainties associated with nanotechnology and its use. Unfortunately, I did not recognize the names and (one of my major pet peeves with this series) they either didn’t write out the names on screen or they flashed them briefly which meant that unless I recognized the names it was difficult to find out more about the experts.

I did recognize the mesocosm project at Duke University, which was featured here in my August 15, 2011 posting. The researchers are trying to understand what impact silver nanoparticles have on life. They spray silver nanoparticles in various mesocosms (they look like raised plant beds) and then track what happens to the plant, the soil, and the water supply as the silver nanoparticles cycle through.

There’s work in the UK examining air and the nanoparticles released through the use of internal combustion engines (cars/trucks) as well as our newly engineered nanoparticles. I’m glad to see this material in the episode, perhaps it will finally motivate some public discussion in Canada.

Nature of Things’ The Nano Revolution part 2: More than Human

More than Human (the episode can be seen here), part of 2 of a special Nature of Things series, The Nano Revolution, was aired by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation on Oct. 20, 2011; one might be forgiven for thinking this episode concerned robots but that wasn’t the case.  The focus was on nanomedicine, specifically cancer and aging, along with a few scenarios hinting at social impacts of the ‘new’ medicine.

This episode, like the last one (Welcome to Nano City), presents the science in an understandable fashion without overexplaining basic concepts. A skill I much appreciate since watching a video of an engineer explain at length that the eye has a cornea and a retina to an audience of adults who were attending a talk about retinal implants.

More coherent than the first one, (Welcome to Nano City reviewed in my Oct. 17, 2011 posting), which featured three topics (one was totally unrelated to any city) both episodes,  convey excitement about the possibilities being suggested by nanotechnology.

As for this episode, More than human, it certainly told a compelling story of a future where there will be no cancer (or it will be easily treated if it does occur) and we won’t age as we can make perfect tissues to replace whatever has been broken. There were also hints of a few social issues as illustrated by future oriented vignettes interspersed through the programme.

I want to c0mmend the script writer for pulling together a story using disparate materials and videos (which I’m guessing are being repurposed, i.e., created for broadcast elsewhere and reused here). Given the broad range of nanomedicine research worldwide, this was a very difficult job.

Featured at some length was Dr. Chad Mirkin at Northwestern University. Here’s a description from Mirkin’s profile page on the Mirkin Group webspace,

Professor Mirkin is a chemist and a world renowned nanoscience expert, who is known for his development of nanoparticle-based biodetection schemes, the invention of Dip-Pen Nanolithography, and contributions to supramolecular chemistry, nanoelectronics, and nanooptics. [emphasis mine] He is the author of over 430 manuscripts and over 370 patents and applications, and the founder of three companies, Nanosphere, NanoInk, and Aurasense which are commercializing nanotechnology applications in the life science and semiconductor industries. Currently, he is listed as the most cited (based on total citations) chemist in the world with the second highest impact factor and the top most cited nanomedicine researcher in the world. At present, he is a member of President Obama’s Council of Advisors for Science and Technology.

Mirkin talked extensively about his work on biomarker sensing and its applications for diagnostic procedures that cut laboratory testing down from weeks to hours. This new equipment arising from Mirkin’s work is installed in some US hospital laboratories.

Dr. Silvano Dragonieri of Leiden University in The Netherlands discussed his e-nose technology which offers another approach to diagnostics. Here’s a description of Dragonieri’s (and another team’s) work in this area from an April 27, 2009 news item on physorg.com,

In 2006 researchers established that dogs could detect cancer by sniffing the exhaled breath of cancer patients. Now, using nanoscale arrays of detectors, two groups of investigators have shown that a compact mechanical device also can sniff out lung cancer in humans.

Hossam Haick, Ph.D., and his colleagues at the Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa, used a network of 10 sets of chemically modified carbon nanotubes to create a multicomponent sensor capable of discriminating between a healthy breath and one characteristic of lung cancer patients. This work appears in the journal Nano News. Meanwhile, Silvano Dragonieri, M.D., University of Bari, Italy, and his colleagues used a commercial nanoarray-based electronic “nose” to discriminate between the breath of patients with non-small cell lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). These results appear in the journal Lung Cancer. [emphasis mine]

Nanomedicine is fascinating, which is why it’s easy to lose perspective. Thankfully there was Dr. Philip Kantoff  (also very enthused and a major figure in this area) to provide the voice of reason. Here’s more are about Kantoff from the profile page on the WEBMD website,

Dr. Kantoff has published more than 100 research articles on a variety of topics, including the molecular basis of genitourinary cancers and improved treatments for patients afflicted with prostate cancer, kidney cancer, bladder cancer, and testicular cancer. His laboratory research involves understanding the genetics of prostate cancer. His clinical research involves clinical trials of novel therapeutic treatments for the genitourinary cancers. He teaches at Harvard Medical School, and lectures internationally to both medical and lay audiences. Dr. Kantoff has written nearly 100 reviews and monographs on cancer and has edited numerous books, including Prostate Cancer, A Multi-Disciplinary Guide published by Blackwell, and Prostate Cancer: Principles and Practice, a definitive text on prostate cancer, published in December 2001 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. He has also written a popular book, Prostate Cancer, a Family Consultation, published by Houghton Mifflin.

As Kantoff counsels against over-hyping he notes that much of the work in the area of nanomedicine is in the laboratory; there are still animal trials and human clinical trials to be convened for further testing.

Building on Kantoff’s observations: let’s consider the difference between research and clinical practice. Even after the human clinical trials have taken place, there’s still uncertainty about how this new procedure or medication, no matter how personalized, will affect an individual. Would aspirin be available over-the-counter today if we’d known all of the side effects which many people suffer from? No, not a chance. How long did it take to find out that aspirin was a problem? Several years.

The idea that this new ‘personalized’ medicine that Mirkin refers to will provide a perfect solution to any disease is based on the belief that we understand disease processes. We do not. Yes, we’ve catalogued any number of genomes, etc. but at least one question remains. Why do some people who have one or more biomarker for a disease never experience it while others with fewer biomarkers do?

While that question wasn’t raised in the episode I was impressed with the fact that they did mention patent issues (innovation and, in this care, care can be stifled by patents and this seems to be increasingly the case); some larger philosophical issues, just how long do you want to live?, and who gets to enjoy these new benefits (if  such they be)?

I do have a few quibbles, there was no Canadian content other than David Suzuki reading a script as narration for the episode (this was true of the first episode too). The title, More than human, suggests not just robots but human enhancement too and that topic was barely discussed.

In future, I’d like to suggest a little more humility in programmes about nanotechnology. I found the constant references to ‘controlling’ atoms, matter, disease, etc. to be disconcerting. As far as I’m concerned, we don’t control an atom, we try to understand it and based on that understanding find better ways to exist in this universe.

Canada’s National Science and Technology Week 2011

October 14 – 23, 2011 has been designated as Canada’s National Science and Technology ‘week‘. From the October 7, 2011 newsletter from the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation,

We are proud to provide national coordination for Canada’s National Science and Technology Week (NSTW). Launch ceremony will coincide with the opening of CBC ]Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]-Radio Canada exhibition. Locally, our museums will mark the week with lots of lectures, events, demonstrations and exhibitions.

Here’s a video of Dr. Rashmi Venkateswaran from the University of Ottawa promoting National Science and Technology Week and talking about why she believes understanding science is so important for everyone,

There’s a listing of this year’s events across the country, here. I notice that in the province of British Columbia (where I’m located), there are a total of 11 listed, most of them in Vancouver or Victoria. Here are a few that caught my attention,

Girl Guides

Name of Event: All about Science
Location: Chilliwack, BC
Date of Event: Oct 18 2011
Event Details: We are going to do some science experiments, talk about Canadian inventors, and do activities from the Activity Book 3.

British Columbia Innovation Council [BCIC]

Name of Event: BCIC’s Innovation Exploration
Location: Victoria, BC
Date: October 24th and 25th 2011
Event Details: Closed event: Established in 1990, BCIC’s Innovation Exploration program recognizes British Columbia and the Yukon’s leading secondary students who represent their regions at the Canada-Wide Science Fair. The program provides top students with an opportunity to explore post-secondary education and career opportunities available to them in science and technology in BC. This year, for the first time ever, BCIC is hosting the Innovation Exploration program in Victoria, and will welcome 66 accomplished students for two days of activities and meetings with members of Victoria’s tech community including the Victoria Advanced Technology Council (VIATeC), Vancouver Island Technology Park (VITP), Centre of the Universe (Astronomy Interpretive Centre), the University of Victoria (UVic), and the Institute for Ocean Sciences (IOS). The event will culminate at the Opening Dinner held at Royal BC Museum with members of government, industry and academia in attendance and a keynote presentation delivered by Astronomer Dr. Doug Johnstone.

TRIUMF

Name of Event: TRIUMF Saturday Morning Lectures
Location: TRIUMF Auditorium [University of British Columbia]
Date of Event: October 15, 2011
Event Details: TRIUMF, UBC, and SFU present a series of lectures on the frontiers of modern physics at a level suitable for high school students or the general public. This lecture will cover “The Future of Nuclear Medicine” by TRIUMF scientist Dr. Paul Schaffer, and “Scanning Tunnelling Microscopy: In Touch with Atoms” by Dr. Yan Pennec of UBC.

Vancouver Women’s Club and SCWIST – Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology

Name of Event: Climbing the Ladder
Location: Hycroft University Women’s Club of Vancouver 1489 McRae Avenue, Vancouver, BC
Date of Event: October 20, 2011
Event Details: Networking event hosted by the Vancouver Women’s Club and SCWIST – Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology- promoting women in science, technology and management positions. Panel discussion with the following renowned individuals:
Anne Naser — Chief Information Officer (CIO)
Pamela Cohen — Vice President — Human Resources & Facilities
Joo Choon — Manager — Systems Development & Support
Andrea Goddard — Manager — HR Operations & IT Specialist
Izabella Wieckowski — Manager — IT Solutions
Zorana (Ana) Ostojic – Senior Engineer

$20 – non members free – SCWIST members (become a member today!)

Richmond Public Library

Name of Event: 5th Annual Brighouse Science Celebration
Location: Main branch of the Richmond Public Library
Date of Event: Friday, October 21st, 2011
Event Details: Join us October 21st (10:00 – 4:00) in celebrating the diverse sciences used in the classroom and workplace here in B.C. Building upon the huge success of previous years we hope to make this Pro-D event the biggest of them all by hosting the largest number of government and non-government groups. Bring your children for some hands-on science fun!

The Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation lists these events for their celebration of Canada’s National Science and Technology Week. Unfortunately, I could not find any additional information about the CBC-Radio Canada 75th Anniversary exhibition on the museum website.