Tag Archives: Kickstarter

Ora Sound, a Montréal-based startup, and its ‘graphene’ headphones

For all the excitement about graphene there aren’t that many products as Glenn Zorpette notes in a June 20, 2017 posting about Ora Sound and its headphones on the Nanoclast blog (on the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] website; Note: Links have been removed),

Graphene has long been touted as a miracle material that would deliver everything from tiny, ultralow-power transistors to the vastly long and ultrastrong cable [PDF] needed for a space elevator. And yet, 13 years of graphene development, and R&D expenditures well in the tens of billions of dollars have so far yielded just a handful of niche products. The most notable by far is a line of tennis racquets in which relatively small amounts of graphene are used to stiffen parts of the frame.

Ora Sound, a Montreal-based [Québec, Canada] startup, hopes to change all that. On 20 June [2017], it unveiled a Kickstarter campaign for a new audiophile-grade headphone that uses cones, also known as membranes, made of a form of graphene. “To the best of our knowledge, we are the first company to find a significant, commercially viable application for graphene,” says Ora cofounder Ari Pinkas, noting that the cones in the headphones are 95 percent graphene.

Kickstarter

It should be noted that participating in a Kickstarter campaign is an investment/gamble. I am not endorsing Ora Sound or its products. That said, this does look interesting (from the ORA: The World’s First Graphene Headphones Kickstarter campaign webpage),

ORA GQ Headphones uses nanotechnology to deliver the most groundbreaking audio listening experience. Scientists have long promised that one day Graphene will find its way into many facets of our lives including displays, electronic circuits and sensors. ORA’s Graphene technology makes it one of the first companies to have created a commercially viable application for this Nobel-prize winning material, a major scientific achievement.

The GQ Headphones come equipped with ORA’s patented GrapheneQ™ membranes, providing unparalleled fidelity. The headphones also offer all the features you would expect from a high-end audio product: wired/wireless operation, a gesture control track-pad, a digital MEMS microphone, breathable lambskin leather and an ear-shaped design optimized for sound quality and isolated comfort.

They have produced a slick video to promote their campaign,

At the time of publishing this post, the campaign will run for another eight days and has raised $650,949 CAD. This is more than $500,000 dollars over the company’s original goal of $135,000. I’m sure they’re ecstatic but this success can be a mixed blessing. They have many more people expecting a set of headphones than they anticipated and that can mean production issues.

Further, there appears to be only one member of the team with business experience and his (Ari Pinkas) experience includes marketing strategy for a few years and then founding an online marketplace for teachers. I would imagine Pinkas will be experiencing a very steep learning curve. Hopefully, Helge Seetzen, a member of the company’s advisory board will be able to offer assistance. According to Seetzen’s Wikipedia entry, he is a “… German technologist and businessman known for imaging & multimedia research and commercialization,” as well as, having a Canadian educational background and business experience. The rest of the team and advisory board appear to be academics.

The technology

A March 14, 2017 article by Andy Riga for the Montréal Gazette gives a general description of the technology,

A Montreal startup is counting on technology sparked by a casual conversation between two brothers pursuing PhDs at McGill University.

They were chatting about their disparate research areas — one, in engineering, was working on using graphene, a form of carbon, in batteries; the other, in music, was looking at the impact of electronics on the perception of audio quality.

At first glance, the invention that ensued sounds humdrum.

It’s a replacement for an item you use every day. It’s paper thin, you probably don’t realize it’s there and its design has not changed much in more than a century. Called a membrane or diaphragm, it’s the part of a loudspeaker that vibrates to create the sound from the headphones over your ears, the wireless speaker on your desk, the cellphone in your hand.

Membranes are normally made of paper, Mylar or aluminum.

Ora’s innovation uses graphene, a remarkable material whose discovery garnered two scientists the 2010 Nobel Prize in physics but which has yet to fulfill its promise.

“Because it’s so stiff, our membrane gets better sound quality,” said Robert-Eric Gaskell, who obtained his PhD in sound recording in 2015. “It can produce more sound with less distortion, and the sound that you hear is more true to the original sound intended by the artist.

“And because it’s so light, we get better efficiency — the lighter it is, the less energy it takes.”

In January, the company demonstrated its membrane in headphones at the Consumer Electronics Show, a big trade convention in Las Vegas.

Six cellphone manufacturers expressed interest in Ora’s technology, some of which are now trying prototypes, said Ari Pinkas, in charge of product marketing at Ora. “We’re talking about big cellphone manufacturers — big, recognizable names,” he said.

Technology companies are intrigued by the idea of using Ora’s technology to make smaller speakers so they can squeeze other things, such as bigger batteries, into the limited space in electronic devices, Pinkas said. Others might want to use Ora’s membrane to allow their devices to play music louder, he added.

Makers of regular speakers, hearing aids and virtual-reality headsets have also expressed interest, Pinkas said.

Ora is still working on headphones.

Riga’s article offers a good overview for people who are not familiar with graphene.

Zorpette’s June 20, 2017 posting (on Nanoclast) offers a few more technical details (Note: Links have been removed),

During an interview and demonstration in the IEEE Spectrum offices, Pinkas and Robert-Eric Gaskell, another of the company’s cofounders, explained graphene’s allure to audiophiles. “Graphene has the ideal properties for a membrane,” Gaskell says. “It’s incredibly stiff, very lightweight—a rare combination—and it’s well damped,” which means it tends to quell spurious vibrations. By those metrics, graphene soundly beats all the usual choices: mylar, paper, aluminum, or even beryllium, Gaskell adds.

The problem is making it in sheets large enough to fashion into cones. So-called “pristine” graphene exists as flakes, [emphasis mine] perhaps 10 micrometers across, and a single atom thick. To make larger, strong sheets of graphene, researchers attach oxygen atoms to the flakes, and then other elements to the oxygen atoms to cross-link the flakes and hold them together strongly in what materials scientists call a laminate structure. The intellectual property behind Ora’s advance came from figuring out how to make these structures suitably thick and in the proper shape to function as speaker cones, Gaskell says. In short, he explains, the breakthrough was, “being able to manufacture” in large numbers, “and in any geometery we want.”

Much of the R&D work that led to Ora’s process was done at nearby McGill University, by professor Thomas Szkopek of the Electrical and Computer Engineering department. Szkopek worked with Peter Gaskell, Robert-Eric’s younger brother. Ora is also making use of patents that arose from work done on graphene by the Nguyen Group at Northwestern University, in Evanston, Ill.

Robert-Eric Gaskell and Pinkas arrived at Spectrum with a preproduction model of their headphones, as well as some other headphones for the sake of comparison. The Ora prototype is clearly superior to the comparison models, but that’s not much of a surprise. …

… In the 20 minutes or so I had to audition Ora’s preproduction model, I listened to an assortment of classical and jazz standards and I came away impressed. The sound is precise, with fine details sharply rendered. To my surprise, I was reminded of planar-magnetic type headphones that are now surging in popularity in the upper reaches of the audiophile headphone market. Bass is smooth and tight. Overall, the unit holds up quite well against closed-back models in the $400 to $500 range I’ve listened to from Grado, Bowers & Wilkins, and Audeze.

Ora’s Kickstarter campaign page (Graphene vs GrapheneQ subsection) offers some information about their unique graphene composite,

A TECHNICAL INTRODUCTION TO GRAPHENE

Graphene is a new material, first isolated only 13 years ago. Formed from a single layer of carbon atoms, Graphene is a hexagonal crystal lattice in a perfect honeycomb structure. This fundamental geometry makes Graphene ridiculously strong and lightweight. In its pure form, Graphene is a single atomic layer of carbon. It can be very expensive and difficult to produce in sizes any bigger than small flakes. These challenges have prevented pristine Graphene from being integrated into consumer technologies.

THE GRAPHENEQ™ SOLUTION

At ORA, we’ve spent the last few years creating GrapheneQ, our own, proprietary Graphene-based nanocomposite formulation. We’ve specifically designed and optimized it for use in acoustic transducers. GrapheneQ is a composite material which is over 95% Graphene by weight. It is formed by depositing flakes of Graphene into thousands of layers that are bonded together with proprietary cross-linking agents. Rather than trying to form one, continuous layer of Graphene, GrapheneQ stacks flakes of Graphene together into a laminate material that preserves the benefits of Graphene while allowing the material to be formed into loudspeaker cones.

Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Comparison
Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM) Comparison

If you’re interested in more technical information on sound, acoustics, soundspeakers, and Ora’s graphene-based headphones, it’s all there on Ora’s Kickstarter campaign page.

The Québec nanotechnology scene in context and graphite flakes for graphene

There are two Canadian provinces that are heavily invested in nanotechnology research and commercialization efforts. The province of Québec has poured money into their nanotechnology efforts, while the province of Alberta has also invested heavily in nanotechnology, it has also managed to snare additional federal funds to host Canada’s National Institute of Nanotechnology (NINT). (This appears to be a current NINT website or you can try this one on the National Research Council website). I’d rank Ontario as being a third centre with the other provinces being considerably less invested. As for the North, I’ve not come across any nanotechnology research from that region. Finally, as I stumble more material about nanotechnology in Québec than I do for any other province, that’s the reason I rate Québec as the most successful in its efforts.

Regarding graphene, Canada seems to have an advantage. We have great graphite flakes for making graphene. With mines in at least two provinces, Ontario and Québec, we have a ready source of supply. In my first posting (July 25, 2011) about graphite mines here, I had this,

Who knew large flakes could be this exciting? From the July 25, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,

Northern Graphite Corporation has announced that graphene has been successfully made on a test basis using large flake graphite from the Company’s Bissett Creek project in Northern Ontario. Northern’s standard 95%C, large flake graphite was evaluated as a source material for making graphene by an eminent professor in the field at the Chinese Academy of Sciences who is doing research making graphene sheets larger than 30cm2 in size using the graphene oxide methodology. The tests indicated that graphene made from Northern’s jumbo flake is superior to Chinese powder and large flake graphite in terms of size, higher electrical conductivity, lower resistance and greater transparency.

Approximately 70% of production from the Bissett Creek property will be large flake (+80 mesh) and almost all of this will in fact be +48 mesh jumbo flake which is expected to attract premium pricing and be a better source material for the potential manufacture of graphene. The very high percentage of large flakes makes Bissett Creek unique compared to most graphite deposits worldwide which produce a blend of large, medium and small flakes, as well as a large percentage of low value -150 mesh flake and amorphous powder which are not suitable for graphene, Li ion batteries or other high end, high growth applications.

Since then I’ve stumbled across more information about Québec’s mines than Ontario’s  as can be seen:

There are some other mentions of graphite mines in other postings but they are tangential to what’s being featured:

  • (my Oct. 26, 2015 posting about St. Jean Carbon and its superconducting graphene and
  • my Feb. 20, 2015 posting about Nanoxplore and graphene production in Québec; and
  • this Feb. 23, 2015 posting about Grafoid and its sister company, Focus Graphite which gets its graphite flakes from a deposit in the northeastern part of Québec).

 

After reviewing these posts, I’ve begun to wonder where Ora’s graphite flakes come from? In any event, I wish the folks at Ora and their Kickstarter funders the best of luck.

Early Christmas shopping? Science sabotage for fun game: a Kickstarter campaign

David Bruggeman has written a July 5, 2016 posting about the Lab Wars board game, his second one in support of the UK scientists and creators, Caezar Al-Jassar and Kuly Heer,

… The game (set for 2-4 people ages 12 and up, with gameplay of 30-60 minutes) has players building up their own labs and reputations while sabotaging their…colleagues(?).  Some of these sabotages are based on actual events, and if your version of the game includes the “Legends of Science” expansion pack, you will have the chance to play with famous scientists and their lab equipment.

David has embedded a video showing how the game is played in his July 5, 2016 posting (Pasco Phronesis blog).

There is a Kickstarter campaign for the game which has 28 hours left to it. Their goal was £5,000 and they now have £45,269. Don’t be scared away by the £, pledges, it is possible to pledge in other currencies.

On going to the Lab Wars website, I was thrilled to find this,

LabWarsBox

Canada-friendly shipping? Thank you for including a Canuck flavour to your campaigning.

From the Kickstarter campaign page,

What's in the box!
What’s in the box!

 Box components

  • 1 two part box made of 128gsm paper stock and 1.5mm cardboard
  • 1 glossy rulebook 128gsm paper stock
  • 137 cards at 300gsm card stock (as above)
  • 50 flask shaped research points from punchboard/cardboard chits
  • 1 legendary scientist meeple as the first player marker – (artwork of Marie Curie coming soon!) – unlocked at £7500 as a stretch goal
  • Cardboard divider to easily separate decks

There are also German, French, and/or Spanish language print versions available too according to the Kickstarter page.

Pledges start at £1 (you get a thank you and a PDF of the experiments and historical sabotage that form the base of the game. £19 (approx. $27 USD, €24, or $35 CAD) will get you a game.

I found out more about the UK scientists behind the game on the Lab Wars About Us page,

We’ve played board games for many many years but found that there was nothing out there that represented the fun and wacky aspects of scientific research. The game was originally inspired by the book “The Secret Anarchy of Science” by Michael Brooks and our own personal experiences. Being a difficult and laborious industry, some famous and/or dodgy scientists have often led to underhanded tactics to get ahead of their peers. Using this as the driving force we decided that  we should create a game around this concept so that players could be devious against one another with a science theme.

So while on holiday in Spain the summer of 2015 we came up with the original concept of Lab Wars. We immediately sourced card, pens and scissors so that we could playtest it and pretty much spent our entire holiday playing it for hours trying to perfect it.

We purposefully made the game with non-scientists in mind and have playtested it for many many hours with people who are not familiar with science. We feel we have created a game that is fun, unique with mechanisms that allow replayability. …

If you’re interested, there isn’t much time left.

Note: Kickstarters can be chancey. Even people with the best of intentions can find they have difficulty following through. If you think about it, someone who planned to produce and ship 500 widgets is likely to find that producing and shipping 10,000 widgets (due to the success of their Kickstarter campaign) is an entirely different affair.

Keeping your chef’s jackets clean and a prize for Teijin Aramid/Rice University

Australian start-up company, Fabricor Workwear launched a Kickstarter campaign on Sept. 18, 2014 to raise funds for a stain-proof and water-repellent chef’s jacket according to a Sept. 25, 2014 news item on Azonano,

An Australian startup is using a patented nanotechnology to create ‘hydrophobic’ chef jackets and aprons. Fabricor says this means uniforms that stay clean for longer, and saving time and money.

The company was started because cofounder and MasterChef mentor Adrian Li, was frustrated with keeping his chef jackets and aprons clean.

“As a chef I find it really difficult to keep my chef jacket white, and we like our jackets white,” Li said. …

The nanotechnology application works by modifying the fabric at a molecular level by permanently attaching hydrophobic ‘whiskers’ to individual fibres which elevate liquids, causing them to bead up and roll off.

The Fabricor: Stain-proof workwear for the hospitality industry Kickstarter campaign has this to say on its homepage (Note: Links have been removed),

Hi Kickstarters,

Thanks for taking the time check out our campaign.

Traditional chef jackets date back to the mid 19th century and since then haven’t changed much.

We’re tired of poor quality hospitality workwear that doesn’t last and hate spending our spare time and money washing or replacing our uniforms.

So we designed a range of stain-resistant Chef Jackets and Aprons using the world’s leading patented hydrophobic nanotechnology that repels water, dirt and oil.

Most stains either run off by themselves or can easily be rinsed off with a little water. This means they don’t need to be washed as often saving you time and money.

We’re really proud of what we’ve created and we hope you you’ll support us.

Adrian Li

Head Chef at Saigon Sally
Mentor on MasterChef Australia – Asian Street Food Challenge
Cofounder at Fabricor Workwear

At this point (Sept. 24, 2014), the campaign has raised approximately $2700US towards a $5000US goal and there are 22 days left to the campaign.

I did find more information at the Fabricor Workwear website in this Sept. 13, 2014 press release,

The fabric’s patented technology can extend the life of the apparel is because the apparel doesn’t have to be washed as often and can be washed in cooler temperatures, the company stated.

Fabricor’s products are not made with spray-application like many on the market which can destroy fabrics and contain carcinogenic chemical. Its hydrophobic properties are embedded into the weave during the production of the fabric.

Li said chefs spend too much money on chef jackets that are poorly designed and don’t last. The long-lasting fabric in Fabricor’s chef’s apparel retains its natural softness and breathability.

It seems to me that the claim about fewer washes can be made for all superhydrophobic textiles. As for carcinogenic chemicals in other superhydrophobic textiles, it’s the first I’ve heard of it, which may or may not be significant. I.e., I look at a lot of material but don’t focus on superhydrophobic textiles here and do not seek out research on risks specific to these textiles.

Teijin Aramid/Rice University

Still talking about textile fibres but on a completely different track, I received a news release this morning (Sept. 25, 2014) from Teijin Aramid about carbon nanotubes and fibres,

Researchers of Teijin Aramid, based in the Netherlands, and Rice University in the USA are awarded with the honorary ‘Paul Schlack Man-Made Fibers Prize’ for corporate-academic partnerships in fiber research. Their new super fibers are now driving innovation in aerospace, healthcare, automotive, and (smart) clothing.

The honorary Paul Schlack prize was granted by the European Man-made Fibers Association to Dr. Marcin Otto, Business Development Manager at Teijin Aramid and Prof. Dr. Matteo Pasquali from Rice University Texas, for the development of a new generation super fibers using carbon nanotubes (CNT). The new super fibers combine high thermal and electrical conductivity, as seen in metals, with the flexibility, robust handling and strength of textile fibers.

“The introduction of carbon nanotube fibers marked the beginning of a series of innovations in various industries”, says Marcin Otto, Business Development Manager at Teijin Aramid. “For example, CNT fibers can be lifesaving for heart patients: one string of CNT fiber in the cardiac muscle suffices to transmit vital electrical pulses to the heart. Or by replacing copper in data cables and light power cables by CNT fibers it’s possible to make satellites, aircraft and high end cars lighter and more robust at the same time.”

Since 1971, the Paul Schlack foundation annually grants one monetary prize to an individual young researcher for outstanding research in the field of fiber research, and an honorary prize to the leader(s) of excellent academic and corporate research partnerships to promote research at universities and research institutes.

For several years, leading researchers at Rice University and Teijin Aramid worked together on the development of CNT production. Teijin Aramid and Rice University published their research findings on carbon nanotubes fibers in the leading scientific journal, Science, beginning of 2013.

Teijin Aramid and some of its carbon nanotube projects have been mentioned here before, notably, in a Jan. 11, 2013 posting and in a Feb. 17, 2014.

Good luck on the Kickstarter campaign and congratulations on the award!

British Columbia Day (in Canada) kickoff with Baba Brinkman’s Kickstarter campaign and a science rap

This year’s BC (British Columbia) Day is today, Aug. 4, 2014*. In celebration I am posting a number of fun items, all to do with science and none with nanotechnology, although one item does feature ‘nano’ in the title.

First off, BC-born, Baba Brinkman reports back from the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe Festival where he is previewing his new ‘science’ rap,

Greetings from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival! Today I performed my second Rap Guide to Religion preview at the Gilded Balloon, and this afternoon I launched my Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of an animated rap album by the same name. I already have eight songs written and recorded, and I want to create another 6-8 for the full album, and then commission animators to produce a series of animated shorts to bring the story to life. The campaign will run for precisely 40 days and 40 nights, and I’m excited to see that we’re over $1K already, just 12 hours in!

The Rap Guide to Religion is my latest “peer reviewed rap” album and show, detailing the story of how religion and human evolution coincide. I’m summarizing work from the field of “evolutionary religious studies” in rap form both because I find it fascinating and also because I think an appreciation of how and why religion evolves can help to rebuild some burnt bridges between religious groups and between believers and nonbelievers.

You can stream three of the first eight songs from my site at music.bababrinkman.com, and all eight comprise a short “album preview” EP I put together for the fringe, which will be exclusively available to Kickstarter backers. The opening track “Religion Evolves” offers a pretty good overview of my personal perspective as well as the questions I want to explore with the record. …

Before moving on to the Kickstarter information, here’s what David Bruggeman had to say about the new work and about supporting Baba’s projects in a July 31, 2014 posting on his Pasco Phronesis blog,

… You can also listen to two tracks from the album (if you contribute, you will receive downloads of all eight tracks).  My favorite of the two is “Religion Evolves”.

The usual assortment of rewards (copies of the album, t-shirts, custom raps) is available for whatever you’d be willing to contribute.  My past experience with supporting his projects allows me to say that he will deliver.  If you want proof, look for me at 2:53 in his video for “Artificial Selection”

Baba’s Kickstarter campaign titled: The Rap Guide to Religion (Animated Rap Album) has a goal of $20,000,

An animated rap album about the evolutionary origins of religion. It’s time to eff with the ineffable!

Have you ever helped to crowdfund a rap album? How about a rap album that communicates SCIENCE? Or an ANIMATED rap album about the scientific study of RELIGION? Well, that’s what I’m working on right now, with the help of some friends.

Theologians and philosophers have sought the meaning and purpose of life for thousands of years, often finding it in religion. Then Darwin’s theory of evolution turned the world upside down. The supernatural was discarded as the source of answers to the natural world and replaced by the blind force of evolution. And now, with decades of scientific research on hand, we can finally make sense of religion using the tools of evolutionary thinking.

The field is called “Evolutionary Religious Studies” and I’m using my talent and love of rap and science to share this research with a wide audience by recording a rap album on the subject. I’m also teaming up with an amazing group of animators and illustrators led by Dave Anderson from http://bloodsausage.co.uk to create a series of animated shorts (approximately 20 minutes long in total) based on the album, so we can make the songs maximally entertaining and accessible.

There is a nine second sample of an animated music rap from the Rap Guide to Religion Album on the campaign page. Surprisngly, Baba and his colleague have not made the sample available for embedding elsewhere so you’ll have to go there to see it.

* I failed to properly schedule publication (I forgot to change the date) of this post and so it bears an Aug. 1, 2014 publication date. Today is Aug. 15, 2014.

Franky Shaw speaks out about the Lexis design on his nanotechnology-enabled men’s swim trunks

In a May 29, 2014 posting I featured a Kickstarter project for nanotechnology-enabled men’s swim trunks/shorts,

It seems like a pretty good idea, swimwear that doesn’t get wet, as noted in the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign (the comments about the design are after the technology descriptions),

We were tired of having to change shorts every time you leave the beach, having car seats soaked and not being able to go from the beach to a restaurant.

I then went on to comment about one of the designs (there are several others), the Lexis desiign, which I’m not going to reproduce here (you can see it in the May 29, 2014 posting) but here’s a description,

I’m trying to imagine who’d wear this with an image placed so the model appears to be staring into his (the wearer’s) crotch, mouth held invitingly open.

I next related this example to a culture that regularly demeans women and included an extreme example of then recent mass killings in Isla Vista, California, where the shooter who committed suicide had produced a number of videos and a manifesto claiming that women owed him. A commenter for the May 29, 2014 posting later attempted to suggest that I had correlated shorts and a mass shooting. I guess that’s one way to look at it (I replied at some length to that comment).

In any event Mr. Shaw sent me a couple of emails outlining his position and with his permission I am reproducing them here. The first was dated June 2, 2014,

Hi Maryse,

I read your post with regards to my nanotechnology startup swimwear company based out of Toronto, Canada. It was a very interesting read and most of the things within the first few paragraphs I felt displayed what we’re trying to achieve as a company.

After reading your response with regards to objectifying women and relating our ‘Lexis’ shorts towards the mass murder which took place in Isla Vista, California I thought that an explanation was needed to be given.

The Lexis garment was never supposed to be taken as objectifying women in any way. The model is a very beautiful woman who is simply posing for an artistic photograph. I would be lying if I did infact say I didn’t position her on the garment to appear as if she was looking upwards towards the wearer but it was never intended to be taken as “sexually explicit”.

At Frank Anthony swimwear we believe in beauty, whether you are a male or a female we believe that you should embrace your inner sexuality and not be afraid of those who question it. This design is simply showcasing the beauty of a woman and capturing her admiring expression towards our wearer.

We understand it is a “risky” design but then again we are in the fashion industry. There are allot more sexually thought provoking advertisements shown which display both males and females as sexual objects in fashion, because in the end its fun to break the barriers of society once and awhile. It is not  meant to be taken as objectifying or disrespect, it is simply just pointing towards a direction that our users have to fill in the blanks mentally to conclude.

My thoughts go out to the victims of the attack in Isla Vista, California. Mental illness isn’t a funny subject nor should it be taken lightly. It was an extreme case of an untreated illness and we are sorry for the families of the victims.

Thank you for your article.

Regards,
Franky Shaw
CEO, Frank Anthony

Note: The man who killed those people in Isla Vista had been treated for mental illness for many years and was under treatment at the time of the killings.

I received later on June 2, 2014,

Hi Maryse,
At this time I would appreciate that our conversation remains respectful of both parties and that you kindly release my statement with regards to the Lexis design in a separate article.
I am not doing this for publicity nor do I expect anything in return, but I just really don’t tolerate when people call me out for something I don’t stand for such as sexism.

Regards,
Franky

Not having used the word ‘sexism’ in the May 29, 2014  posting, I’m not sure what he’s referring to but perhaps it’s this,

McDonough’s May 27, 2014 posting about Rodger has a title that allows me to take my commentary on the Lexis design from one of mere bad taste to an indication of something far more disturbing, “Rebecca Solnit on Elliot Rodger: “He fits into a culture of rage,” “a culture that considers women tools and playthings and property.”  Getting back to Lexis, she’s on a pair of swim shorts where she looks as if she’s perpetually ready to perform a sexual act. She is at once a tool, a plaything, and a piece of property.

The design sits there on the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign webpage and, at this time (June 13, 2014 1040 hours PDT), the company (Canadian, by the way) has raised over $61,000 ($51,000 more than the original goal) with 11 days still left before the campaign is ended. Many news outlets have featured the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign along with images of the designs. For example, Olivia Fleming’s June 9, 2014 article for the Daily Mail online focuses on the technology aspect, mentioning that Shaw is 19-year-old, while showcasing some of the designs but omitting the Lexis,

A high school graduate tired of having his car seats soaked after a day at the beach has created swimming shorts that stay dry – even while in the water.

Frank Shaw, from Toronto, Canada, is funding his Frank Anthony swimwear line through Kickstarter, and after 15 days he has already surpassed his $10,000 goal to raise $45,000.

‘We wanted to create a garment that could transition from a day at the beach, to a workout at the gym and a night on the town all without having to change,’ the 19-year-old told MailOnline.

As I understand it, the Daily Mail (a UK newspaper) is not known for its highbrow taste. In fact, I have not seen a single news outlet reproduce the Lexis design as an example of the product line. My guess is that I’m not the only one who thinks the design crosses a line.

Forever dry, nanotechnology-enabled swim shorts for men and a design that intentionally or not is demeaning

It seems like a pretty good idea, swimwear that doesn’t get wet, as noted in the Frank Anthony Kickstarter campaign (the comments about the design are after the technology descriptions),

We were tired of having to change shorts every time you leave the beach, having car seats soaked and not being able to go from the beach to a restaurant. We decided to look at different topical applications for use but shortly found out they changed the texture of the fabric and had no way of being used on garments. We decided to scrap the idea and look for the perfect alternative. We found the leading textile manufacturer who specializes in high performance nanotechnology fabrics operating out of Switzerland, and focused extensively on creating the most visually appealing and scientifically advanced pair of swim shorts in the world.

The technical description leaves a little to be desired, from the campaign page,

The fabric we use has a hydrophobic nanostructure inside the actual fabric itself, making it breathable and completely safe for use. We are currently the only swimwear company on the market using this hydrophobic nanotechnology fabric. This fabric has proven to drastically reduce dry-times by up to 95% in contrast to regular 100% polyester swim shorts.

The shorts are manufactured in Italy with Swiss Fabric.

What is Swiss fabric? There are synthetics, cotton, linen, etc.  There’s even a ‘dotted Swiss’ but that’s a sheer cotton. Perhaps the writer meant Swiss-made fabric. As for the “hydrophobic nanostructure [i.e., water-repelling like a lotus leaf],” does this mean some Swiss manufacturer has developed a new technique? This is possible, Teijin, a Japanese multinational, claimed they’d produced a fabric having nanoscale properties that were carried over to the macroscale in a July 19, 2010 about a fabric based on the nanostructures found on a Morpho butterfly’s wing.

Getting back to the swimshorts, they can be washed (how do you clean something with water when it repels water?),

Yes, they should be washed with like colours and there is no need to iron or dry clean them. The Hydrophobic Nanotechnology is not affected by any form of washing and will not deteriorate.

I found a possible answer to the ‘washing question from the comments section of this Kickstarter campaign,

… our shorts are made up of billions of nanoscale whisker like barriers preventing any water based liquid from absorption. When the shorts are fully submerged underwater you will see a silver appearance on the exterior. This is [sic] the air bubbles the nanotechnology is creating around the garment protecting it from the water surrounding the short. When you come out of the water, the most our users will experience are droplets on the exterior of the short, there will be no actual water absorbed within the fabric itself due to it’s nano structure. We’ve found this makes our shorts dry on average 95% faster then any other swim short on the market using polyester or nylon. I hope this helps clear things up. Thanks for your support!

So, the shorts do get wet but dry very, very quickly.

There is a May 23, 2014 article by Amanda Kooser for CNET.com which features an interview with Franky Shaw, CEO (chief executive officer) of the start-up company producing the swim shorts,

“We have created a unique polyester blend that incorporates hydrophobic nanotechnology within the fabric, making it completely free of any hazardous effects topical nanotechnology coatings may possess. With the nanotechnology inside the fabric preventing all water-based substances from absorption, you are able to freely wash our shorts just like any other clothing item, without the fear of reducing its hydrophobic capabilities,” says Shaw.

Interestingly, while this news is making a bit of splash and is being featured on a number of site along with pictures, no one is including this Lexis design,

[downloaded from http://www.frankanthonyshorts.com/collections/all]

[downloaded from http://www.frankanthonyshorts.com/collections/all]

I’m trying to imagine who’d wear this with an image placed so the model appears to be staring into his (the wearer’s) crotch, mouth held invitingly open.

Given the May 23, 2014 killings in Isla Vista, California (you can find an accounting of this extended killing spree in a May 25, 2014 article in the National Post), the Lexis design provides an unexpected (I don’t usually see this sort of thing in nanotechnology-enabled product marketing) example of the pervasive nature of the disrespect offered to women.

From a May 25, 2014 essay by Katie McDonough on Salon.com, Note: Links have been removed,

We don’t yet know much about the six innocent women and men who were killed in Isla Vista, California late Friday night [May 23, 2014], but we have come to know a few things about the man who is alleged to have murdered them. Hours before he is believed to have fatally stabbed and shot six people and wounded 13 others in that coastal college town, Elliot Rodger filmed a video of himself — palm trees behind him, the glow of an orange sun highlighting his young face — and vowed to get “revenge against humanity.”

There’s a lot more in the video, and the 140-page “manifesto” he left in his apartment. Rodger felt victimized by women, whom he appeared to desire and loathe simultaneously. He expressed anger and resentment toward other men, often because of their relationships with women. …

It would be irresponsible to lay this violence at the feet of the men’s rights activists with whom Rodger seemed to find support for his rage. Rodger is alleged to have murdered six women and men. No amount of Internet vitriol — no unfulfilled threats of violence — can equal that. But it also denies reality to pretend that Rodger’s sense of masculine entitlement and views about women didn’t matter or somehow existed in a vacuum. The horror of Rodger’s alleged crimes is unique, but the distorted way he understood himself as a man and the violence with which he discussed women — the bleak and dehumanizing way he judged them — is not. Just as we examine our culture of guns once again in the wake of yet another mass shooting, we must also examine our culture of misogyny and toxic masculinity, which devalues both women’s and men’s lives and worth, and inflicts real and daily harm. We must examine the dangerous normative values that treat women as less than human, and that make them — according to Elliot Rodger — deserving of death. [emphasis mine]

McDonough’s May 27, 2014 posting about Rodger has a title that allows me to take my commentary on the Lexis design from one of mere bad taste to an indication of something far more disturbing, “Rebecca Solnit on Elliot Rodger: “He fits into a culture of rage,” “a culture that considers women tools and playthings and property.”  Getting back to Lexis, she’s on a pair of swim shorts where she looks as if she’s perpetually ready to perform a sexual act. She is at once a tool, a plaything, and a piece of property.

This is a Canadian (based in Toronto, Ontario according to the Kickstarter page) company and their Frank Anthony swim short Kickstarter campaign is doing well having achieved over $20,000 in pledges towards at $10,000 goal and with 26 days left.

Final questions, did the model know how her image was going to be used? Is the company getting orders for the Lexis design? If so, how many? And, why in God’s name hasn’t the company removed that design from its marketing collateral and from production?

I think that bit in McDonough’s essay where she notes that both men’s and women’s lives are devalued by misogyny and objectification is in that category of observations that is least understood by the people who most need it. I offer my sympathies to all those affected by the killings and injuries in Isla Vista.

To Be Or Not To Be; a book publishing Kickstarter project

There’s not much time left if you want to participate in this Kickstarter project (20 hours and counting when I accessed it at 0930 PST Dec. 20, 2012) but I want to feature it here because it illustrates how writers can succeed with new publishing models and because of the intellectual property nonissues.

Ryan North, writer and self-publisher, asked for $20,000 to publish his “To Be Or Not To Be; A chooseable-path adventure” book allowing you to “be” Hamlet, Ophelia, or King Hamlet and, at this time, has raised over $480,000.

Prototype cover with art by Noelle Stevenson, she is the best [downloaded from http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/breadpig/to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-adventure]

Prototype cover with art by Noelle Stevenson, she is the best [downloaded from http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/breadpig/to-be-or-not-to-be-that-is-the-adventure]

Here’s a link to the Kickstarter “To Be Or Not To Be” book project and if you’re not ready to go there quite yet, here’s a bit more about the project (from the title webpage),

The greatest work IN English literature, now in the greatest format OF English literature: a chooseable-path adventure!

Now the #1 most funded publishing project on Kickstarter ever!

To Be Or Not To Be is an illustrated, chooseable-path book version of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, written by me, Ryan North:

  • “William Shakespeare” you may know from single-handedly giving us some of our most evocative phrases, such as “all that glitters is not gold”, “too much of a good thing”, and “the game is afoot” (Sherlock Holmes said this too I guess.)
  • “Ryan North” you may know from my work on the critically-acclaimed comic Dinosaur Comics, writing the incredibly popular Adventure Time comic book series, or from co-editing the #1 Amazon bestselling short story anthology Machine of Death.
  • “Chooseable-path” you may recognize as a trademark-skirting version of a phrase and book series you remember from childhood.  Remember?  Books in which… an adventure is chosen??

These three things got mashed up together into one BASICALLY AMAZING BOOK full of JOKES and also SWORDFIGHTS and GHOSTS and AWESOME AS A MASS NOUN …

UPDATE: TO BE OR NOT TO BE IS NOW THE PERFECT GIFT!

While we won’t be delivering the books in time for Christmas, if you pledge $30 or more, you unlock a Kickstarter-exclusive Holiday Hamlet ecard that can be sent directly to your gift recipient.  You can read about that here!  It’s the perfect last-minute gift for anyone on your list (assuming they are good at waiting for things) (and also like to read)!  Also we’ve unlocked lots of new prizes at each reward level: be sure to check the updated list!

H/T to Mike Masnick’s Dec. 19, 2012 posting at Techdirt for the  pointer to this project and for noting some interesting non copyright and trademark issues,

…  how does that hit on copyright and trademark issues?

  • Copyright: Even if the head of the Author’s Guild doesn’t seem to know this, Shakespeare’s works are in the public domain, meaning that anyone can use them however they want — whether it’s to make an exact copy (and, yes, there are plenty of those on the market) or to do a derivative work. There have been tons of remakes and updates on Shakespeare’s work, and many of them are super creative, such as this one. Kinda demonstrates just how ridiculous it is for copyright maximalists to argue that without strong copyright protection, creativity gets killed off. Just the opposite, it seems. The ability to build on the works of the past quite frequently inspires amazing new creativity.
  • Trademark: North refers to this as a “choosable path adventure” because:

“Chooseable-path” you may recognize as a trademark-skirting version of a phrase and book series you remember from childhood. Remember? Books in which… an adventure is chosen??

Yes, they’re not using the widely known phrase “choose your own adventure,” because it’s trademarked, and the owner of the mark has sued before. Of course, the story of the mark is interesting in its own right. Apparently, Bantam Books who helped popularize the original choose your own adventure books let the trademark lapse, and it was bought up by Ray Montgomery, who had run the small press that published the original books, but had not held the original trademark on it.

So we have examples of how a lack of a common “intellectual property” law enabled greater creativity, and how a current “intellectual property” law stupidly limits the option of using the most reasonable description of the work. …

Congratulations to North!

Free the nano—stop patenting publicly funded research

Joshua Pearce, a professor at Michigan Technological University, has written a commentary on patents and nanotechnology for Nature magazine which claims the current patent regimes strangle rather than encourage innovation. From the free article,  Physics: Make nanotechnology research open-source by Joshua Pearce in Nature 491, 519–521 (22 November 2012) doi:10.1038/491519a (Note: I have removed footnotes),

Any innovator wishing to work on or sell products based on single-walled carbon nanotubes in the United States must wade through more than 1,600 US patents that mention them. He or she must obtain a fistful of licences just to use this tubular form of naturally occurring graphite rolled from a one-atom-thick sheet. This is because many patents lay broad claims: one nanotube example covers “a composition of matter comprising at least about 99% by weight of single-wall carbon molecules”. Tens of others make overlapping claims.

Patent thickets occur in other high-tech fields, but the consequences for nanotechnology are dire because of the potential power and immaturity of the field. Advances are being stifled at birth because downstream innovation almost always infringes some early broad patents. By contrast, computing, lasers and software grew up without overzealous patenting at the outset.

Nanotechnology is big business. According to a 2011 report by technology consultants Cientifica, governments around the world have invested more than US$65 billion in nanotechnology in the past 11 years [my July 15, 2011 posting features an interview with Tim Harper, Cientfica CEO and founder, about the then newly released report]. The sector contributed more than $250 billion to the global economy in 2009 and is expected to reach $2.4 trillion a year by 2015, according to business analysts Lux Research. Since 2001, the United States has invested $18 billion in the National Nanotechnology Initiative; the 2013 US federal budget will add $1.8 billion more.

This investment is spurring intense patent filing by industry and academia. The number of nanotechnology patent applications to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is rising each year and is projected to exceed 4,000 in 2012. Anyone who discovers a new and useful process, machine, manufacture or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof, may obtain a patent that prevents others from using that development unless they have the patent owner’s permission.

Pearce makes some convincing points (Note: I have removed a footnote),

Examples of patents that cover basic components include one owned by the multinational chip manufacturer Intel, which covers a method for making almost any nanostructure with a diameter less than 50 nm; another, held by nanotechnology company NanoSys of Palo Alto, California, covers composites consisting of a matrix and any form of nanostructure. And Rice University in Houston, Texas, has a patent covering “composition of matter comprising at least about 99% by weight of fullerene nanotubes”.

The vast majority of publicly announced IP licence agreements are now exclusive, meaning that only a single person or entity may use the technology or any other technology dependent on it. This cripples competition and technological development, because all other would-be innovators are shut out of the market. Exclusive licence agreements for building-block patents can restrict entire swathes of future innovation.

Pearce’s argument for open source,

This IP rush assumes that a financial incentive is necessary to innovate, and that without the market exclusivity (monopoly) offered by a patent, development of commercially viable products will be hampered. But there is another way, as decades of innovation for free and open-source software show. Large Internet-based companies such as Google and Facebook use this type of software. Others, such as Red Hat, make more than $1 billion a year from selling services for products that they give away for free, like Red Hat’s version of the computer operating system Linux.

An open-source model would leave nanotechnology companies free to use the best tools, materials and devices available. Costs would be cut because most licence fees would no longer be necessary. Without the shelter of an IP monopoly, innovation would be a necessity for a company to survive. Openness reduces the barrier for small, nimble entities entering the market.

John Timmer in his Nov. 23, 2012 article for Wired.co.uk expresses both support and criticism,

Some of Pearce’s solutions are perfectly reasonable. He argues that the National Science Foundation adopt the NIH model of making all research it funds open access after a one-year time limit. But he also calls for an end of patents derived from any publicly funded research: “Congress should alter the Bayh-Dole Act to exclude private IP lockdown of publicly funded innovations.” There are certainly some indications that Bayh-Dole hasn’t fostered as much innovation as it might (Pearce notes that his own institution brings in 100 times more money as grants than it does from licensing patents derived from past grants), but what he’s calling for is not so much a reform of Bayh-Dole as its elimination.

Pearce wants changes in patenting to extend well beyond the academic world, too. He argues that the USPTO should put a moratorium on patents for “nanotechnology-related fundamental science, materials, and concepts.” As we described above, the difference between a process innovation and the fundamental properties resulting in nanomaterial is a very difficult thing to define. The USPTO has struggled to manage far simpler distinctions; it’s unrealistic to expect it to manage a moratorium effectively.

While Pearce points to the 3-D printing sector admiringly, there are some issues even there, as per Mike Masnick’s Nov.  21, 2012 posting on Techdirt.com (Note:  I have removed links),

We’ve been pointing out for a while that one of the reasons why advancements in 3D printing have been relatively slow is because of patents holding back the market. However, a bunch of key patents have started expiring, leading to new opportunities. One, in particular, that has received a fair bit of attention was the Formlabs 3D printer, which raised nearly $3 million on Kickstarter earlier this year. It got a ton of well-deserved attention for being one of the first “low end” (sub ~$3,000) 3D printers with very impressive quality levels.

Part of the reason the company said it could offer such a high quality printer at a such a low price, relative to competitors, was because some of the key patents had expired, allowing it to build key components without having to pay astronomical licensing fees. A company called 3D Systems, however, claims that Formlabs missed one patent. It holds US Patent 5,597,520 on a “Simultaneous multiple layer curing in stereolithography.” While I find it ridiculous that 3D Systems is going legal, rather than competing in the marketplace, it’s entirely possible that the patent is valid. It just highlights how the system holds back competition that drives important innovation, though.

3D Systems claims that Formlabs “took deliberate acts to avoid learning” about 3D Systems’ live patents. The lawsuit claims that Formlabs looked only for expired patents — which seems like a very odd claim. Why would they only seek expired patents? …

I strongly suggest reading both Pearce’s and Timmer’s articles as they both provide some very interesting perspectives about nanotechnology IP (intellectual property) open access issues. I also recommend Mike Masnick’s piece for exposure to a rather odd but unfortunately not uncommon legal suit designed to limit competition in a relatively new technology (3-D printers).

Take control of a 17th century scientific genius (Newton, Galileo, Keppler, Liebniz, or Kircher) in The New Science board game

Thank you to David Bruggeman (Pasco Phronesis) for the Sept. 16, 2012 posting (by way of Twitter and @JeanLucPiquant) about The New Science Game currently listed on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site. From the description of The New Science board game on Kickstarter,

The New Science gives you control of one of five legendary geniuses from the scientific revolution in a race to research, successfully experiment on, and finally publish some of the critical early advances that shaped modern science.

This fun, fast, easy-to-learn worker placement game for 2-5 players is ideal for casual and serious gamers alike. The rules are easy to learn and teach, but the many layers of shifting strategy make each game a new challenge that tests your mind and gets your competitive juices flowing.

Each scientist has their own unique strengths and weaknesses. No two scientists play the same way, so each time you try someone new it provides a different and satisfying play experience. Your scientist’s mat also serves as a player aid, repeating all of the key technology information from the game board for your easy reference.

The “five legendary geniuses’ are Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Gottfried Liebniz, and Athanasius Kircher. The Kickstarter campaign to take control of the five has raised $5,058 US of the $16,000 requested and it ends on Oct. 17, 2012.

The game is listed on boardgamegeek.com with additional details such as this,

Designer: Dirk Knemeyer

Artist: Heiko Günther

Publisher: Conquistador Games

# of players: 2-5

User suggested ages: 12 and up

Description:

Players control one of the great scientists during the 17th century Scientific Revolution in Europe. Use your limited time and energy to make discoveries, test hypotheses, publish papers, correspond with other famous scientists, hire assistants into your laboratory and network with other people who can help your progress. ’emphasis mine] Discoveries follow historical tech trees in the key sciences of the age: Astronomy, Mathematics, Physics, Biology and Chemistry. The scientist who accumulates the most prestige will be appointed the first President of the Royal Society.

The activities listed in the game description “make discoveries, test hypotheses,” etc. must sound very familiar to a contemporary scientist.

There’s also an explanatory video as seen on the Kickstarter campaign page and embedded here below,

David notes this about game quality in his Sept. 16, 2012 posting (Note: I have removed a link),

The game was heavily tested by the folks at Game Salute, and comes with the kind of quality details you might expect from games like Ticket to Ride or the various version of Catan.  If you’re interested in getting a copy of the game, it will run $49 U.S., plus shipping for destinations outside the U.S.  See the Kickstarter page for more details.

You can find out more about Conquistador Games here.

Particle Man and Marian Call at CERN

I like to collect (desultorily) items about science-themed music and Marian Call’s recently completed (very successful) Kickstarter campaign (she received $63,0000 in pledges having asked for $11,000 originally) fits that bill, more or less.  Here’s an excerpt from Mike Masnick’s, July 24, 2012 posting on Techdirt describing Call’s campaign approach,

… she created Marian Call’s European Adventure Quest, in which she effectively “gamified” Kickstarter, such that the more she earned, the more levels would be “unlocked.” The main idea was that she would tour Europe and record a live album, but the more she raised, the more places she would visit and the more cover songs she would do (she usually does originals, but people have requested covers, and she was worried about the licensing fees if she didn’t raise money in support).

At the $55,000 level, she offered a cover of ‘Particle Man’ by They Might Be Giants to be recorded live at CERN (European Particle Physics Laboratory).

Here’s Particle Man by They Might Be Giants as found on YouTube,

By the way, at $44,000 level she offered ‘The Elements Song’ by Tom Lehrer. Even though the campaign has ended, it’s well worth checking out.