I received this Café Scientifique April 30, 2018 notice (received via email),
Our next café will happen on TUESDAY, MAY 29TH at 7:30PM in the back
room at YAGGER'S DOWNTOWN (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the
evening will be DR. MICHELLE TSENG, Assistant Professor in the Zoology
department at UBC. Her topic will be:
INSECTS IN THE CITY: SHRINKING BEETLES AND DISAPPEARING BEES. HOW BUGS
HELP US LEARN ABOUT THE ECOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF URBANIZATION AND CLIMATE
Living in the city, we don’t always see the good bugs amongst the
pesky ones. In this presentation, I’ll take you on a trip down insect
lane and share with you the incredible diversity of insects that have
lived in Vancouver over the last 100 years. Many of these bugs have been
collected and preserved in museums and these collections provide us with
a historical snapshot of insect communities from the past. My students
and I have made some remarkable discoveries using museum insect
collections, and these findings help us understand how these fascinating
creatures are changing in response to warming climates and increased
Michelle Tseng is a professor of insect ecology at the UBC Biodiversity
Research Centre. She and her students study the impacts of habitat and
climate change on plankton and insects. Her group’s work has been
featured in national and international media, and on CBC’s Quirks and
Quarks. Michelle is also the zoologist on the award-winning CBC kids
show Scout and the Gumboot Kids.
The Tseng lab investigates ecological and evolutionary responses of populations and communities to novel environments. We test and refine theory related to predator-prey dynamics, body size variation, intra- and interspecific competition, and the maintenance of genetic variation, using laboratory and field experiments with freshwater plant and animal communities. We also use museum collections to investigate long term patterns in organism phenotype.
These days it’s all about artificial intelligence (AI) or robots and often, it’s both. They’re everywhere and they will take everyone’s jobs, or not, depending on how you view them. Today, I’ve got two artificial intelligence items, the first of which may provoke writers’ anxieties.
The Princess and the Fox is a new fairytale by the Brothers Grimm or rather, their artificially intelligent surrogate according to an April 18, 2018 article on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s online news website,
It was recently reported that the meditation app Calm had published a “new” fairytale by the Brothers Grimm.
However, The Princess and the Fox was written not by the brothers, who died over 150 years ago, but by humans using an artificial intelligence (AI) tool.
It’s the first fairy tale written by an AI, claims Calm, and is the result of a collaboration with Botnik Studios – a community of writers, artists and developers. Calm says the technique could be referred to as “literary cloning”.
Botnik employees used a predictive-text program to generate words and phrases that might be found in the original Grimm fairytales. Human writers then pieced together sentences to form “the rough shape of a story”, according to Jamie Brew, chief executive of Botnik.
The full version is available to paying customers of Calm, but here’s a short extract:
“Once upon a time, there was a golden horse with a golden saddle and a beautiful purple flower in its hair. The horse would carry the flower to the village where the princess danced for joy at the thought of looking so beautiful and good.
Advertising for a meditation app?
Of course, it’s advertising and it’s ‘smart’ advertising (wordplay intended). Here’s a preview/trailer,
“You might call it a form of literary cloning,” said Calm co-founder Michael Acton Smith. Calm commissioned Botnik to use its predictive text program, Voicebox, to create a new Brothers Grimm story. But first, Voicebox was given the entire collected works of the Brothers Grimm to analyze, before it suggested phrases and sentences based upon those stories. Of course, human writers gave the program an assist when it came to laying out the plot. …
“The Brothers Grimm definitely have a reputation for darkness and many of their best-known tales are undoubtedly scary,” Peter Freedman told SYFY WIRE. Freedman is a spokesperson for Calm who was a part of the team behind the creation of this story. “In the process of machine-human collaboration that generated The Princess and The Fox, we did gently steer the story towards something with a more soothing, calm plot and vibe, that would make it work both as a new Grimm fairy tale and simultaneously as a Sleep Story on Calm.” [emphasis mine]
If Marnell’s article is to be believed, Peter Freedman doesn’t hold much hope for writers in the long-term future although we don’t need to start ‘battening down the hatches’ yet.
Invited speakers from industry leaders Google, Facebook, Element AI and Deepmind will explore the intersection of artificial intelligence with robotics, arts, social impact and healthcare. The session will end with a panel discussion and question-and-answer period. Following the event, there will be a reception along with light refreshments and networking opportunities.
The event will be simultaneously translated into both official languages as well as available via livestream from the Museum’s YouTube channel.
Seating is limited
THIS EVENT IS NOW SOLD OUT. Please join us for the livestream from the Museum’s YouTube channel.https://www.youtube.com/cstmweb *** April 25, 2018: I received corrective information about the link for the livestream: https://youtu.be/jG84BIno5J4 from someone at Ingenium.***
David Usher (Moderator)
David Usher is an artist, best-selling author, entrepreneur and keynote speaker. As a musician he has sold more than 1.4 million albums, won 4 Junos and has had #1 singles singing in English, French and Thai. When David is not making music, he is equally passionate about his other life, as a Geek. He is the founder of Reimagine AI, an artificial intelligence creative studio working at the intersection of art and artificial intelligence. David is also the founder and creative director of the non-profit, the Human Impact Lab at Concordia University [located in Montréal, Québec]. The Lab uses interactive storytelling to revisualize the story of climate change. David is the co-creator, with Dr. Damon Matthews, of the Climate Clock. Climate Clock has been presented all over the world including the United Nations COP 23 Climate Conference and is presently on a three-year tour with the Canada Museum of Science and Innovation’s Climate Change Exhibit.
Joelle Pineau (Facebook)
The AI Revolution: From Ideas and Models to Building Smart Robots Joelle Pineau is head of the Facebook AI Research Lab Montreal, and an Associate Professor and William Dawson Scholar at McGill University. Dr. Pineau’s research focuses on developing new models and algorithms for automatic planning and learning in partially-observable domains. She also applies these algorithms to complex problems in robotics, health-care, games and conversational agents. She serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research and the Journal of Machine Learning Research and is currently President of the International Machine Learning Society. She is a AAAI Fellow, a Senior Fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) and in 2016 was named a member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists by the Royal Society of Canada.
Pablo Samuel Castro (Google)
Building an Intelligent Assistant for Music Creators Pablo was born and raised in Quito, Ecuador, and moved to Montreal after high school to study at McGill. He stayed in Montreal for the next 10 years, finished his bachelors, worked at a flight simulator company, and then eventually obtained his masters and PhD at McGill, focusing on Reinforcement Learning. After his PhD Pablo did a 10-month postdoc in Paris before moving to Pittsburgh to join Google. He has worked at Google for almost 6 years, and is currently a research Software Engineer in Google Brain in Montreal, focusing on fundamental Reinforcement Learning research, as well as Machine Learning and Music. Aside from his interest in coding/AI/math, Pablo is an active musician (https://www.psctrio.com), loves running (5 marathons so far, including Boston!), and discussing politics and activism.
Philippe Beaudoin (Element AI)
Concrete AI-for-Good initiatives at Element AI Philippe cofounded Element AI in 2016 and currently leads its applied lab and AI-for-Good initiatives. His team has helped tackle some of the biggest and most interesting business challenges using machine learning. Philippe holds a Ph.D in Computer Science and taught virtual bipeds to walk by themselves during his postdoc at UBC. He spent five years at Google as a Senior Developer and Technical Lead Manager, partly with the Chrome Machine Learning team. Philippe also founded ArcBees, specializing in cloud-based development. Prior to that he worked in the videogame and graphics hardware industries. When he has some free time, Philippe likes to invent new boardgames — the kind of games where he can still beat the AI!
Doina Precup (Deepmind)
Challenges and opportunities for the AI revolution in health care
Doina Precup splits her time between McGill University, where she co-directs the Reasoning and Learning Lab in the School of Computer Science, and DeepMind Montreal, where she leads the newly formed research team since October 2017. She got her BSc degree in computer science form the Technical University Cluj-Napoca, Romania, and her MSc and PhD degrees from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, where she was a Fulbright fellow. Her research interests are in the areas of reinforcement learning, deep learning, time series analysis, and diverse applications of machine learning in health care, automated control and other fields. She became a senior member of AAAI in 2015, a Canada Research Chair in Machine Learning in 2016 and a Senior Fellow of CIFAR in 2017.
Interesting, oui? Not a single expert from Ottawa or Toronto. Well, Element AI has an office in Toronto. Still, I wonder why this singular focus on AI in Montréal. After all, one of the current darlings of AI, machine learning, was developed at the University of Toronto which houses the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), the institution in charge of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy and the Vector Institutes (more about that in my March 31,2017 posting).
Enough with my musing: For those of us on the West Coast, there’s an opportunity to attend via livestream from 4 pm to 7 pm on April 25, 2018 on xxxxxxxxx. *** April 25, 2018: I received corrective information about the link for the livestream: https://youtu.be/jG84BIno5J4 and clarification as the relationship between Ingenium and the Canada Science and Technology Museum from someone at Ingenium.***
I have news about two April 2018 events in the US.
It’s been a while since I’ve featured a Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars event. I’d forgotten about this one but, since it was postponed due to weather issues, I’ve gotten another chance (from a March 28, 2018 Woodrow Wilson Center announcement received via email),
For over thirty years, women have remained noticeably underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. Women make up more than half of college-educated workers but only 25% of college-educated STEM workers – in some fields, such as computer science, women make up only 18.1% of earned bachelor’s degrees. Missing half of the talent pool impacts our potential competitiveness and innovation in a technology-driven economy. But the real problems may begin once women enter a STEM career.
Once in a STEM career, women continue to face obstacles that prevent them from advancing in their career at the same rate as their male colleagues. From hiring practices to workplace culture, multiple factors create barriers that prevent women from achieving fulfilling and successful careers. The capacity of women in STEM to excel in their chosen careers impacts the pipeline for emerging women leaders in these fields, and if these barriers persist, the number of women in the pipeline will not be able to grow.
In order to open up pathways to leadership for more women in STEM, we must ask the question: What are those barriers? And more importantly, what can we do about them?
In honor of Women’s History Month, please join the Wilson Center’s Science and Technology Innovation Program, Women in Public Service Project and Serious Game Initiative for a conversation with women leaders in STEM on the barriers and opportunities for women in STEM, and the actions that can be taken to achieve true gender parity in these fields.
Elizabeth Newbury is the Director and Program Associate for the Serious Games Initiative for the Wilson Center, leading Wilson’s use of games in engaging the public around policy research. She has a PhD and Masters degree from the Department of Communication at Cornell University, where her research interests revolved around understanding multiple dimensions of gaming audiences and the surrounding culture of those who play video games. Her dissertation was a multi-method, cross-discplinary interrogation of the public consumption of games and the use of gaming in day-to-day practices, specifically in the context of esports. She has presented her research before both academic audiences and public audiences, ranging from the International Communication Association and the Association of Internet Researchers to the Serious Play Conference.
As lead of the Serious Games Initiative, she leverages games as a tool for the public communication of science and policy research. Current projects include the Fiscal Ship, a game about the federal budget developed and maintained in collaboration with the Hutchins Center on Fiscal and Monetary Policy with the Brookings Institute. Collaborating across the Wilson Institution, her current works in progress include games pertaining to cybsercurity to the history of nuclear proliferation to polar initiatives. Under her leadership, SGI is pursuing how public policy and science can come together in an interactive platform to increase public dialogue and engagement around timely and critical issues of today.
Onto the second event,
New York City
Every once in a while I get an unexpected email and this one was a delightful surprise as it combines an art installation, intellectual property law, and a legal performance piece (from a March 30, 2018 galeplstonpc.com announcement),
I Speak for the Trees:
A Mock Trial
Wednesday, April 25, 2018 | 6:00 PM
Location: Jacob Burns Moot Court Room, Cardozo School of Law
2018 A Blade of Grass Fellow Aviva Rahmani is creating Blued Trees Symphony, an ecological artwork made with the intention of using copyright law (VARA) to defend land in New York, Virginia, and West Virginia that is subject to eminent domain because of proposed natural gas pipelines.
The Cardozo School of Law Environmental Law Society; Art Law Society; and Intellectual Property Student Association welcome us to the Jacob Burns Moot Court Room for a mock trial that will explore whether the status of the artwork under VARA trumps eminent domain takings by corporations. Experienced VARA litigator Gale Elston (Cardozo alumna) will represent the artist.
This program is free and open to the public, but space is limited! Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re unable to join us in person, stay tuned to our Facebook page for a live stream of the event!
Ecological artist Aviva Rahmani is the inaugural ABOG Fellow for Contemplative Practice, in partnership with the Hemera Foundation. This targeted fellowship supports artists who work with the intersection of social practice and contemplative practice. Rahmani’s The Blued Trees and The Blued Trees Symphony projects have been installed and copyrighted in the path of natural gas pipelines across miles of North America. The work has gained international attention and support, including Fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts and A Blade of Grass. Rahmani holds a PhD from Plymouth University, UK in environmental sciences, technology and studio art and has produced over twenty one-hour raw Gulf to Gulf sessions on climate change viewed from eighty-five countries. “Trigger Points/ Tipping Points,” a precursor to Gulf to Gulf,premiered at the 2007 Venice Biennale.
Gale P. Elston is an art attorney who has represented artists, art institutes, and non-profits for over twenty-five years as an advocate for artists’ rights. Three of her cases are featured in the Art Law Handbook, including a VARA based case establishing new law for the rights of artists. She has litigated many VARA cases in the Federal Southern District Court of New York. Her cases have obtained monetary awards for artists whose work has been damaged, modified or harmed. She has served on the board of numerous art related non-profits, including WhiteBox, (Re)Create Artist In Residency Program, and Faith Ringgold’s Any Child Can Fly Foundation, and as a Trustee for the Marin Headlands Artist in Residency Program. She has served to promote numerous artists’ rights pro bono, and represented notable artists including Carolee Schneeman, Phillip Pavia, Faith Ringgold, Ida Applebroog, and Hans Van de Bovenkamp, among others.
We’re grateful that this program is made possible in part by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; the support of the American Chai Trust; and, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council.
I’m particularly interested in this approach to pipeline protests as my home province (British Columbia, Canada) i s currently in a fight with two other provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan), as well as, our federal government where the usual tactics (protests, jail the time and interprovincial trade wars [see: March 29, 2018 Financial Post article by Geoffrey Morgan], etc.) are being used. Maybe it’s time to apply a little more imagination to the protests in British Columbia.
*’property’ added to title of blog posting on April 5, 2018 3:30 pm PDT.
A team at the National University of Singapore (NUS) is looking for industry partners to help take their air-conditioning technology from the laboratory to the marketplace. First, here’s more about the technology from a January 8, 2018 news item on ScienceDaily,
A team of researchers from the National University of Singapore (NUS) has pioneered a new water-based air-conditioning system that cools air to as low as 18 degrees Celsius without the use of energy-intensive compressors and environmentally harmful chemical refrigerants. This game-changing technology could potentially replace the century-old air-cooling principle that is still being used in our modern-day air-conditioners. Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, the novel system is portable and it can also be customised for all types of weather conditions.
NUS Engineering researchers developed a novel air cooling technology that could redefine the future of air-conditioning.
Led by Associate Professor Ernest Chua from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at NUS Faculty of Engineering, the team’s novel air-conditioning system is cost-effective to produce, and it is also more eco-friendly and sustainable. The system consumes about 40 per cent less electricity than current compressor-based air-conditioners used in homes and commercial buildings. This translates into more than 40 per cent reduction in carbon emissions. In addition, it adopts a water-based cooling technology instead of using chemical refrigerants such as chlorofluorocarbon and hydrochlorofluorocarbon for cooling, thus making it safer and more environmentally-friendly.
To add another feather to its eco-friendliness cap, the novel system generates potable drinking water while it cools ambient air.
Assoc Prof Chua said, “For buildings located in the tropics, more than 40 per cent of the building’s energy consumption is attributed to air-conditioning. We expect this rate to increase dramatically, adding an extra punch to global warming. First invented by Willis Carrier in 1902, vapour compression air-conditioning is the most widely used air-conditioning technology today. This approach is very energy-intensive and environmentally harmful. In contrast, our novel membrane and water-based cooling technology is very eco-friendly – it can provide cool and dry air without using a compressor and chemical refrigerants. This is a new starting point for the next generation of air-conditioners, and our technology has immense potential to disrupt how air-conditioning has traditionally been provided.”
Innovative membrane and water-based cooling technology
Current air-conditioning systems require a large amount of energy to remove moisture and to cool the dehumidified air. By developing two systems to perform these two processes separately, the NUS Engineering team can better control each process and hence achieve greater energy efficiency.
The novel air-conditioning system first uses an innovative membrane technology – a paper-like material – to remove moisture from humid outdoor air. The dehumidified air is then cooled via a dew-point cooling system that uses water as the cooling medium instead of harmful chemical refrigerants. Unlike vapour compression air-conditioners, the novel system does not release hot air to the environment. Instead, a cool air stream that is comparatively less humid than environmental humidity is discharged – negating the effect of micro-climate. About 12 to 15 litres of potable drinking water can also be harvested after operating the air-conditioning system for a day.
“Our cooling technology can be easily tailored for all types of weather conditions, from humid climate in the tropics to arid climate in the deserts. While it can be used for indoor living and commercial spaces, it can also be easily scaled up to provide air-conditioning for clusters of buildings in an energy-efficient manner. This novel technology is also highly suitable for confined spaces such as bomb shelters or bunkers, where removing moisture from the air is critical for human comfort, as well as for sustainable operation of delicate equipment in areas such as field hospitals, armoured personnel carriers, and operation decks of navy ships as well as aircrafts,” explained Assoc Prof Chua.
The research team is currently refining the design of the air-conditioning system to further improve its user-friendliness. The NUS researchers are also working to incorporate smart features such as pre-programmed thermal settings based on human occupancy and real-time tracking of its energy efficiency. The team hopes to work with industry partners to commercialise the technology. [emphasis mine]
This project is supported by the Building and Construction Authority and National Research Foundation Singapore.
I’m sorry they didn’t include a link to a published paper but I gather that at this time there’s more focus on commercializing the technology than on published papers. I wish the researchers good luck as this cooling technology affords some exciting possibilities in a world that is heating and growing more parched as the NUS press release.notes
These days, climate is the most likely topic to bring up charges of having anti-science views and/or ‘right wing’ thinking but according to a Sept. 19, 2017 news item on phys.org ‘left wing’ thinkers can also reject science,
In the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, many claims have been made that science denial, particularly as it relates to climate change, is primarily a problem of the political right.
But what happens when scientific conclusions challenge liberals’ attitudes on public policy issues, such as gun control, nuclear power or immigration?
A new study from social psychologists at the University of Illinois at Chicago [UIC] and published online in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests people of all political backgrounds can be motivated to participate in science denial.
UIC researchers Anthony Washburn, a graduate student in psychology, and Linda Skitka, professor of psychology, had participants indicate their political orientation, evaluate fabricated scientific results, and, based on the data, decide what the studies concluded.
Once they were informed of the correct interpretations of the data, participants were then asked to rate how much they agreed with, found knowledgeable, and trusted the researchers’ correct interpretation.
“Not only were both sides equally likely to seek out attitude confirming scientific conclusions, both were also willing to work harder and longer when doing so got them to a conclusion that fit with their existing attitudes,” says Washburn, the lead author of the study. “And when the correct interpretation of the results did not confirm participants’ attitudes, they were more likely to view the researchers involved with the study as less trustworthy, less knowledgeable, and disagreed with their conclusions more.”
These effects were constant no matter what issue was under consideration, which included six social issues — immigration, gun control, climate change, health care reform, nuclear power and same sex marriage — and one control issue — skin rash treatment.
Rather than strictly a conservative phenomenon, science denial may be a result of a more basic desire of people wanting to see the world in ways that fit with their personal preferences, political or otherwise, according to the researchers.
The results also shed light on science denial in public discourse, Skitka added.
“Before assuming that one group of people or another are anti-science because they disagree with one scientific conclusion, we should make an effort to consider different motivations that are likely at play, which might have nothing to do with science per se,” she said.
This research fits into a larger body of work where researchers are examining what we believe and how we use or dismiss science and fact to support our positions. Chris Mooney’s article “The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science” for the May/June 2011 issue of Mother Jones examines the issue although it is strongly weighted with examples of research into intransigent opinion associated with right wing politics (climate change, etc.).
Getting back to more recent work, here’s link to and a citation for the paper,
On the first day of the 2017 Canadian Science Policy Conference (Nov. 1 -3, 2017 in Ottawa, Ontario), Governor General Julie Payette’s speech encouraged listeners to grapple with science deniers, fake news, and more (from a Nov. 2, 2017 article by Mia Rabson in the Huffington Post, Canada edition),
Payette was the keynote speaker at the ninth annual Canadian Science Policy Convention in Ottawa Wednesday night [Nov. 1, 2017] where she urged her friends and former colleagues to take responsibility to shut down the misinformation about everything from health and medicine to climate change and even horoscopes that has flourished with the explosion of digital media.
“Can you believe that still today in learned society, in houses of government, unfortunately, we’re still debating and still questioning whether humans have a role in the Earth warming up or whether even the Earth is warming up, period,” she asked, her voice incredulous.
She generated giggles and even some guffaws from the audience when she said too many people still believe “taking a sugar pill will cure cancer if you will it good enough and that your future and every single one of the people here’s personalities can be determined by looking at planets coming in front of invented constellations.”
Payette was trained as a computer engineer and later became an astronaut and licensed pilot and in 1999 was the first Canadian to board the International Space Station.
Mia Rabson in another Nov. 2, 2017 article (this time for 680news.com) presents responses to the speech from various interested parties,
According to popular Canadian astrologer Georgia Nicols, Canada’s Governor General should be doing what she can to “keep the peace” with loved ones today and avoid the “planetary vibe” that is urging people to engage in power struggles and disputes.
The advice, contained in Julie Payette’s Nov. 2  horoscope on Nicols’ website, might have come a day late, though Payette likely wouldn’t have listened to it anyway.
The Governor General made clear in a speech to scientists at an Ottawa convention Wednesday she has a very low opinion of the validity of horoscopes, people who believe in creationism or those who don’t believe in climate change.
Emmett Macfarlane, a political professor at the University of Waterloo said nothing stops a governor general from stating opinions and while there have been unwritten traditions against it, Payette’s most recent predecessors did not always hold their tongues.
Conservative political strategist Alise Mills said Payette went way over the line with her speech, which she characterized as not only political but “mean-spirited.”
“I definitely agree science is key but I think there is a better way to do that without making fun of other people,” Mills said.
There isn’t a lot of data on horoscope and astrology beliefs in Canada but a 2005 Gallup poll suggested around one in four Canadians believed in astrology.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau didn’t seem to have any issue with what Payette said, saying his government and Canadians understand the value of science.
Mills said Payette wasn’t just promoting science, she was mocking people with religious beliefs, and specifically, evangelical Christians who don’t believe evolutionary science.
Astrologer Nicols said she had “no wish to take on a woman who is as accomplished as Julie Payette,” whom she notes is a “feisty Libra with three planets in Scorpio.”
But she did suggest Payette would be better to stick to what she knows.
“Astrology is not the stuff of horoscopes in newspapers, albeit I do write them,” wrote Nicols in an e-mail. “It is actually a complex study based on mathematics. Not fairy dust falling from the stars.”
There is one thing I find a bit surprising, Payette doesn’t seem to have taken on the vaccination issue. In any event, it looks like the conference had an exciting start.
The proposed use of graphene membranes for water purification and remediation isn’t new (I have a July 20, 2015 posting which covers some of this field of interest). However, there’s this April 3, 2017 news item on ScienceDaily announcing some new work on graphene and desalination at the University of Manchester,
Graphene-oxide membranes have attracted considerable attention as promising candidates for new filtration technologies. Now the much sought-after development of making membranes capable of sieving common salts has been achieved.
New research demonstrates the real-world potential of providing clean drinking water for millions of people who struggle to access adequate clean water sources.
The new findings from a group of scientists at The University of Manchester were published today in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. Previously graphene-oxide membranes have shown exciting potential for gas separation and water filtration.
Graphene-oxide membranes developed at the National Graphene Institute have already demonstrated the potential of filtering out small nanoparticles, organic molecules, and even large salts. Until now, however, they couldn’t be used for sieving common salts used in desalination technologies, which require even smaller sieves.
Previous research at The University of Manchester found that if immersed in water, graphene-oxide membranes become slightly swollen and smaller salts flow through the membrane along with water, but larger ions or molecules are blocked.
The Manchester-based group have now further developed these graphene membranes and found a strategy to avoid the swelling of the membrane when exposed to water. The pore size in the membrane can be precisely controlled which can sieve common salts out of salty water and make it safe to drink.
As the effects of climate change continue to reduce modern city’s water supplies, wealthy modern countries are also investing in desalination technologies. Following the severe floods in California major wealthy cities are also looking increasingly to alternative water solutions.
When the common salts are dissolved in water, they always form a ‘shell’ of water molecules around the salts molecules. This allows the tiny capillaries of the graphene-oxide membranes to block the salt from flowing along with the water. Water molecules are able to pass through the membrane barrier and flow anomalously fast which is ideal for application of these membranes for desalination.
Professor Rahul Nair, at The University of Manchester said: “Realisation of scalable membranes with uniform pore size down to atomic scale is a significant step forward and will open new possibilities for improving the efficiency of desalination technology.
“This is the first clear-cut experiment in this regime. We also demonstrate that there are realistic possibilities to scale up the described approach and mass produce graphene-based membranes with required sieve sizes.”
Mr. Jijo Abraham and Dr. Vasu Siddeswara Kalangi were the joint-lead authors on the research paper: “The developed membranes are not only useful for desalination, but the atomic scale tunability of the pore size also opens new opportunity to fabricate membranes with on-demand filtration capable of filtering out ions according to their sizes.” said Mr. Abraham.
By 2025 the UN expects that 14% of the world’s population will encounter water scarcity. This technology has the potential to revolutionise water filtration across the world, in particular in countries which cannot afford large scale desalination plants.
It is hoped that graphene-oxide membrane systems can be built on smaller scales making this technology accessible to countries which do not have the financial infrastructure to fund large plants without compromising the yield of fresh water produced.
Courtesy of the University of Manchester
I believe the previous image is an artist’s rendering of the graphene-oxide membrane trapping salt as water moves through it.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Tunable sieving of ions using graphene oxide membranes by Jijo Abraham, Kalangi S. Vasu, Christopher D. Williams, Kalon Gopinadhan, Yang Su, Christie T. Cherian, James Dix, Eric Prestat, Sarah J. Haigh, Irina V. Grigorieva, Paola Carbone, Andre K. Geim, & Rahul R. Nair. Nature Nanotechnology (2017) doi:10.1038/nnano.2017.21 Published online 03 April 2017
The Cultural Cognition Project is a group of scholars interested in studying how cultural values shape public risk perceptions and related policy beliefs. Cultural cognition refers to the tendency of individuals to conform their beliefs about disputed matters of fact (e.g., whether global warming is a serious threat; whether the death penalty deters murder; whether gun control makes society more safe or less) to values that define their cultural identities.Project members are using the methods of various disciplines — including social psychology, anthropology, communications, and political science — to chart the impact of this phenomenon and to identify the mechanisms through which it operates. The Project also has an explicit normative objective: to identify processes of democratic decisionmaking by which society can resolve culturally grounded differences in belief in a manner that is both congenial to persons of diverse cultural outlooks and consistent with sound public policymaking.
Disputes over science-related policy issues such as climate change or fracking often seem as intractable as other politically charged debates. But in science, at least, simple curiosity might help bridge that partisan divide, according to new research.
In a study slated for publication in the journal Advances in Political Psychology, a Yale-led research team found that people who are curious about science are less polarized in their views on contentious issues than less-curious peers.
In an experiment, they found out why: Science-curious individuals are more willing to engage with surprising information that runs counter to their political predispositions.
“It’s a well-established finding that most people prefer to read or otherwise be exposed to information that fits rather than challenges their political preconceptions,” said research team leader Dan Kahan, Elizabeth K. Dollard Professor of Law and professor of psychology at Yale Law School. “This is called the echo-chamber effect.”
But science-curious individuals are more likely to venture out of that chamber, he said.
“When they are offered the choice to read news articles that support their views or challenge them on the basis of new evidence, science-curious individuals opt for the challenging information,” Kahan said. “For them, surprising pieces of evidence are bright shiny objects — they can’t help but grab at them.”
Kahan and other social scientists previously have shown that information based on scientific evidence can actually intensify — rather than moderate — political polarization on contentious topics such as gun control, climate change, fracking, or the safety of certain vaccines. The new study, which assessed science knowledge among subjects, reiterates the gaping divide separating how conservatives and liberals view science.
Republicans and Democrats with limited knowledge of science were equally likely to agree or disagree with the statement that “there is solid evidence that global warming is caused by human activity. However, the most science-literate conservatives were much more likely to disagree with the statement than less-knowledgeable peers. The most knowledgeable liberals almost universally agreed with the statement.
“Whatever measure of critical reasoning we used, we always observed this depressing pattern: The members of the public most able to make sense of scientific evidence are in fact the most polarized,” Kahan said.
But knowledge of science, and curiosity about science, are not the same thing, the study shows.
The team became interested in curiosity because of its ongoing collaborative research project to improve public engagement with science documentaries involving the Cultural Cognition Project at Yale Law School, the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, and Tangled Bank Studios at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.
They noticed that the curious — those who sought out science stories for personal pleasure — not only were more interested in viewing science films on a variety of topics but also did not display political polarization associated with contentious science issues.
The new study found, for instance, that a much higher percentage of curious liberals and conservatives chose to read stories that ran counter to their political beliefs than did their non-curious peers.
“As their science curiosity goes up, the polarizing effects of higher science comprehension dissipate, and people move the same direction on contentious policies like climate change and fracking,” Kahan said.
It is unclear whether curiosity applied to other controversial issues can minimize the partisan rancor that infects other areas of society. But Kahan believes that the curious from both sides of the political and cultural divide should make good ambassadors to the more doctrinaire members of their own groups.
“Politically curious people are a resource who can promote enlightened self-government by sharing scientific information they are naturally inclined to learn and share,” he said.
Here’s my standard link to and citation for the paper,
Science Curiosity and Political Information Processing by Dan M. Kahan, Asheley R Landrum, Katie Carpenter, Laura Helft, and Kathleen Hall Jamieson. Political Psychology Volume 38, Issue Supplement S1 February 2017 Pages 179–199 DOI: 10.1111/pops.12396View First published: 26 January 2017
This paper is open and it can also be accessed here.
I last mentioned Kahan and The Cultural Cognition Project in an April 10, 2014 posting (scroll down about 45% of the way) about responsible science.
Vancouver (Canada) Café Scientifique’s next talk is at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W. Pender). From the November 19, 2016 notice received via email,
Our next café will happen on Tuesday November 29th, 7:30pm in the back room at Yagger’s Downtown (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be Dr. Michèle Koppes, from the Department of Geography at UBC. The title of her talk is:
Can climate change move mountains?
Climate change is causing more than warmer oceans and erratic weather. It can also change the shape of the planet. Glaciers are a fundamental link between climate and the tectonic and surface processes that create topography. Mountain ranges worldwide have undergone large-scale modification due the erosive action of ice, yet the mechanisms that control the timing of this modification and the rate by which ice erodes remain poorly understood. We find a wide range of erosion rates from individual ice masses over varying timescales, suggesting that modern erosion rates exceed long-term averages by two to three orders of magnitude. We also see that glaciers in Patagonia erode 1000 times faster than they do in Antarctica today. These modern rates are likely due to the dynamic acceleration of these ice masses as air and ocean temperatures warmed and they retreated over the past few decades. The repercussions of this erosion add to the already complex effects of climate change in polar and high mountain regions. Shrinking and accelerating glaciers destabilize slopes upstream, increasing the risk of landslides, and deposit more sediment in downstream basins, potentially impacting fisheries, dams and access to clean freshwater in mountain communities. And the dramatic increase in modern erosion rates suggest that glaciers in the Canadian Arctic, one of the most rapidly warming regions in the world, are on the brink of a major shift that will see them speeding up and eroding faster as temperatures warm above 0ºC.
Michele Koppes is an Assistant Professor in Geography at UBC, a Canada Research Chair Tier II in Landscapes of Climate Change, a faculty affiliate at IRES and a Senior TED Fellow. Her passion is forensic geomorphology: the art of reading landscapes to decipher the forces that shaped them. Her particular expertise is in glaciers, and their impact in shaping mountains and polar regions at a variety of time scales, from last year to the last million years. Her research focus is two-fold: to determine the efficacy of glaciers as agents of erosion, and to determine the climatic and oceanic drivers of glaciations in high mountains and coastal settings. She has current field projects in high places all over the world, from BC to Patagonia, Alaska, the Himalayas, Greenland and Antarctica, where her team combines detailed field observations with numerical modeling of ice-ocean dynamics and glacier mass balance.
These ‘robomussels’ are not voting but they are being used to monitor mussel bed habitats according to an Oct. 17, 2016 news item on ScienceDaily,
Tiny robots have been helping researchers study how climate change affects biodiversity. Developed by Northeastern University scientist Brian Helmuth, the “robomussels” have the shape, size, and color of actual mussels, with miniature built-in sensors that track temperatures inside the mussel beds.
Caption: This is a robomussel, seen among living mussels and other sea creatures. Credit: Allison Matzelle
For the past 18 years, every 10 to 15 minutes, Helmuth and a global research team of 48 scientists have used robomussels to track internal body temperature, which is determined by the temperature of the surrounding air or water, and the amount of solar radiation the devices absorb. They place the robots inside mussel beds in oceans around the globe and record temperatures. The researchers have built a database of nearly two decades worth of data enabling scientists to pinpoint areas of unusual warming, intervene to help curb damage to vital marine ecosystems, and develop strategies that could prevent extinction of certain species.
Housed at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center in Nahant, Massachusetts, this largest-ever database is not only a remarkable way to track the effects of climate change, the findings can also reveal emerging hotspots so policymakers and scientists can step in and relieve stressors such as erosion and water acidification before it’s too late.
“They look exactly like mussels but they have little green blinking lights in them,” says Helmuth. “You basically pluck out a mussel and then glue the device to the rock right inside the mussel bed. They enable us to link our field observations with the physiological impact of global climate change on these ecologically and economically important animals.”
For ecological forecasters such as Helmuth, mussels act as a barometer of climate change. That’s because they rely on external sources of heat such as air temperature and sun exposure for their body heat and thrive, or not, depending on those conditions. Using fieldwork along with mathematical and computational models, Helmuth forecasts the patterns of growth, reproduction, and survival of mussels in intertidal zones.
Over the years, he and his colleagues have found surprises: “Our expectations of where to look for the effects of climate change in nature are more complex than anticipated,” says Helmuth. For example, in an earlier paper in the journal Science, his team found that hotspots existed not only at the southern end of the species’ distribution, in this case, southern California; they also existed at sites up north, in Oregon and Washington state.
“These datasets tell us when and where to look for the effects of climate change,” he says. “Without them we could miss early warning signs of trouble.”
The robomussels’ near-continuous measurements serve as an early warning system. “If we start to see sites where the animals are regularly getting to temperatures that are right below what kills them, we know that any slight increase is likely to send them over the edge, and we can act,” says Helmuth.
It’s not only the mussels that may be pulled back from the brink. The advance notice could inform everything from maintaining the biodiversity of coastal systems to determining the best–and worst–places to locate mussel farms.
“Losing mussel beds is essentially like clearing a forest,” says Helmuth. “If they go, everything that’s living in them will go. They are a major food supply for many species, including lobsters and crabs. They also function as filters along near-shore waters, clearing huge amounts of particulates. So losing them can affect everything from the growth of species we care about because we want to eat them to water clarity to biodiversity of all the tiny animals that live on the insides of the beds.”