Tag Archives: National Film Board of Canada

#BCTECH: preview of Summit 2017

The 2017 (2nd annual) version of the BC (British Columvai) Tech Summit will take place March 14 -15, 2017 in Vancouver, BC,  Canada. A Nov. 25, 2016 BC Innovation Council (BCIC), one of the producing partners, news release made the announcement,

Technology is transforming key industries in B.C. and around the globe at an unprecedented pace.

 From natural resources and agriculture to health and digital media, the second #BCTECH Summit returns with Microsoft as title sponsor, and will explore how tech is impacting every part of B.C.’s economy and changing lives.

Presented by the Province and the BC Innovation Council, B.C.͛s largest tech event will arm attendees with the tools to propel their companies to the next level, establish valuable business connections and inspire students to pursue careers in technology. From innovations in precision health, autonomous vehicles and customer experience, to emerging ideas in cleantech, agritech and aerospace, the #BCTECH Summit will showcase high-tech solutions to important local and global challenges.

New to the summit this year is the Future Realities Room, presented by Microsoft. It will be a dedicated space for B.C. companies to showcase their innovative augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality applications. From artificial intelligence to the internet-of-things, emerging technologies are disrupting industries and reshaping the path for future generations.

What attendees can expect at #BCTECH Summit 2017:

  •  Keynotes from thought leaders including Shahrzad Rafati of BroadbandTV, Ben Parr, author of Captivology, Microsoft and IBM.
  • Sector-specific deep dives from experts exploring the innovations transforming their industries and every part of B.C’s economy.
  • Opportunities to connect with tech buyers, scouts and investors through B2B meetings and the Investment Showcase.
  • Expanded Marketplace, Technology Showcase including Startup Square and Research Runway, and the Future Realities Room presented by Microsoft.
  • Youth Innovation Day to expose grades 10-12 students to diverse career paths in the technology sector.
  • Evening networking receptions and Techfest by Techvibes, a recruiting event that connects hiring companies with tech talent.

The two-day event is attracting regional, national and international attendees seeking solutions for their business, investment opportunities and talent in the province. The summit builds on the success of the inaugural summit this past January, which attracted global attention and exceeded its goal of 1,000 attendees with more than 3,500 people in attendance.

There is a special deal at the moment where you can save $300 off your $899 registration.  According to the site, the deal expires on Feb. 14, 2017. For the undecided, here’s a listing of a few of the speakers (from the #BCTECH Summit speakers page),

Thomas Tannert
BC Leadership Chair in Tall Wood Construction
University of Northern British Columbia

Thomas joined the University of Northern British Columbia in 2016 as BC Leadership Chair in Tall Wood Construction. He received his PhD from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, a Master’s degree in Wood Science and Technology from the University of Bio-Bio in Chile, and a Civil Engineering degree from the Bauhaus-University Weimar in Germany.

Before coming to UNBC, Thomas worked on multi-disciplinary teams in Germany, Chile, and Switzerland and was Associate Chair in Wood Building Design and Construction at UBC. He is an expert in the development of design methods for timber joints and structures and the assessment and monitoring of timber structures.

Thomas is actively involved in fostering collaboration among timber design experts in industry and academia, and is a member on multiple international committees as well as the Canadian Standard Association technical committee CSA-O86 “Engineering design in wood”.

Sarah Applebaum
Director, Pangea Spark
Pangea Ventures

Sarah Applebaum is the Director of Pangaea Spark at Pangaea Ventures. Sarah is a member of the Young Private Capitalist Committee of the CVCA, advisory board member for the CIX Cleantech Conference, start up showcase review board for SXSW Eco and mentor to the Singularity University Labs Accelerator. She is the co-founder of TNT Events, a Vancouver-based organization that strives to create a more interconnected and multi-disciplinary innovation ecosystem.

Sarah holds an MBA from the Schulich School of Business and a BSc. from Dalhousie University.

Natalie Cartwright
Co-founder
Finn.ai

Nat is a co-founder of Finn.ai, a white-label virtual banking assistance, powered by artificial intelligence. Nat holds a Master of Public Health from Lund University and a Masters of Business Administration from IE Business School.

Before founding Finn.ai in 2014, Nat worked at the Global Fund, the largest global financing institution for HIV, tuberculosis and malaria programs, where she managed $250 million USD in investment to countries like Djibouti, South Sudan and Tajikistan.

Whether working in international development or in financial technology, Nat likes to act on the potential she sees for improvement and innovation.

Martin Monkman
Provincial Statistician & Director, BC Stats
Province of British Columbia

Since first joining BC Stats (British Columbia’s statistics bureau) in 1993, Martin has built a wide range of experience using data science to support evidence-based policy and business management decisions. Now the Provincial Statistician & Director at BC Stats, Martin leads a dynamic and innovative team of professional researchers in analyzing statistical information about the economic and social conditions of British Columbia and measuring public sector organizational performance.

Martin holds Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts degrees in Geography from the University of Victoria. He is a member of the Statistical Analysis Committee of the Society for American Baseball Research (SABR), and blogs about baseball statistics and data science using the statistical software R at bayesball.blogspot.com.

Loc Dao
Chief Digital Officer
National Film Board of Canada

Loc is a Canadian digital media creator and co-founder of the groundbreaking NFB Digital and CBC Radio 3 studios and their industry shifting bodies of work.

Loc recently became the chief digital officer (CDO) of the National Film Board of Canada, after serving as executive producer and creative technologist for the NFB Digital Studio in Vancouver since 2011. His NFB credits include the interactive documentaries Bear 71, Welcome to Pine Point, Circa 1948, Waterlife, The Last Hunt and Cardboard Crash VR which have been credited with inventing the new form of the interactive documentary.

In December 2011, Loc was named Canada’s Top Digital Producer for 2011 at the Digi Awards in Toronto. In addition, his CBC Radio 3 was one of the world’s first cross media success stories combining the award-winning CBC Radio 3 web magazine, terrestrial and satellite radio, podcasts and 3 user generated content sites that preceded MySpace and YouTube.

Janice Cheam
Co-founder, President & CEO
Neurio Technology Inc.

Janice is an entrepreneurial executive whose vision, commitment, and passion has been the driving force behind Neurio. Coming from over 7 years of utility experience, as the CEO of Neurio Technology, Janice has been working to help businesses promote energy efficiency and engagement among users for over a decade. Having seen a huge unmet need in the smart home market, she and her co-founders answered it by creating Neurio, a smart energy monitoring platform used by over 100,000 homes.

George Rubin
Vice-President, Business Development
General Fusion

George is the Vice-President of Business Development at General Fusion, a company transforming the world’s energy supply by developing the world’s first fusion power plant based on commercially viable technology.

Previously, George was a co-founder, Vice-President and subsequently President of Day4 Energy Inc., where he was instrumental to developing the solar company’s strategic vision and was directly responsible for execution of the corporate development plan. Following his time at Day4, George founded Pacific Surf Partners and served as its Managing Director. In 2016 he joined General Fusion to develop and coordinate relationships in the business and research communities.

A graduate of Moscow State University with a Masters Degree in Quantum Radio Physics, and a British Columbia Institute of Technology graduate with a Diploma in Financial Management and a Bachelor Degree in Accounting, George combines his knowledge of science and business with the experience of over a decade in the cleantech industry.

Gareth Manderson
General Manager, BC Works
Rio Tinto

Gareth is the General Manager of Rio Tinto’s  BC Works. In this role, he leads Rio Tinto Aluminium’s business in British Columbia, incorporating the operations of the Kitimat Smelter, Kemano Power Generation Facility and the Nechako Watershed. Prior to this, he led the Weipa Bauxite Business in Australia comprising of two mining operations, a port and the local town of Weipa.

Gareth has lived and worked in Australia, Canada, the USA and Italy, and completed assignments in a number of other countries. He has held accountability for business and operational leadership, consulting services, administrative and function support, and taken part in strategy development and due diligence work.

Gareth lives in Kitimat, British Columbia, with his wife and two children. He holds an Engineering Degree, a Master of Business Administration and is a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

Stephanie Simmons
Canada Research Chair in Quantum Nanoelectronics & Assistant Professor
Simon Fraser University

Stephanie is an assistant professor in the Department of Physics at Simon Fraser University (SFU), where she leads the Silicon Quantum Technology research group. Stephanie earned a Ph.D. in Materials Science at Oxford University in 2011 as a Clarendon Scholar and a B.Math (Pure Mathematics and Mathematical Physics) from the University of Waterloo. She was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Electrical Engineering Department at UNSW, Australia, and completed her Junior Research Fellowship from St. John’s College, Oxford University.

Stephanie joined SFU as a Canada Research Chair in Quantum Nanoelectronics in fall 2015 and is working to build a silicon-based quantum computer. Her work on silicon quantum technologies was awarded a Physics World Top Ten Breakthrough of the Year of 2013 and again in 2015, and has been covered by the New York Times, CBC, BBC, Scientific American, the New Scientist, and others.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Simmons speak at the SFU President’s Faculty Lecture on Nov. 30, 2016. You can watch her talk here (the talk is approximately 1 hr. in length).

Getting back to #BCTECH Summit 2017, I’ve provided a small sample of the speakers. By my count there are 103 in total. BTW, kudos to the organizers’ skills and commitment as approximately 35% of the speakers are women. Yes, it could be better but compared to a lot of the meetings I’ve mentioned here, this statistic is a significant improvement. As for diversity, it seems to me that they could probably do a bit better there too.

Digital life in Estonia and the National Film Board of Canada’s ‘reclaim control of your online identity’ series

Internet access is considered a human right in Estonia (according to a July 1, 2008 story by Colin Woodard for the Christian Science Monitor). That commitment has led to some very interesting developments in Estonia which are being noticed internationally. The Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (Wilson Center) is hosting the president of Estonia, Toomas Hendrik Ilves at an April 21, 2015 event (from the April 15, 2015 event invitation),

The Estonia Model: Why a Free and Secure Internet Matters
After regaining independence in 1991, the Republic of Estonia built a new government from the ground up. The result was the world’s most comprehensive and efficient ‘e-government’: a digital administration with online IDs for every citizen, empowered by a free nationwide Wi-Fi network and a successful school program–called Tiger Leap–that boosts tech competence at every age level. While most nations still struggle to provide comprehensive Internet access, Estonia has made major progress towards a strong digital economy, along with robust protections for citizen rights. E-government services have made Estonia one of the world’s most attractive environments for tech firms and start-ups, incubating online powerhouses like Skype and Transferwise.

An early adopter of information technology, Estonia was also one of the first victims of a cyber attack. In 2007, large-scale Distributed Denial of Service attacks took place, mostly against government websites and financial services. The damages of these attacks were not remarkable, but they did give the country’s security experts  valuable experience and information in dealing with such incidents. Eight years on, the Wilson Center is pleased to welcome Estonia’s President Toomas Hendrik Ilves for a keynote address on the state of cybersecurity, privacy, and the digital economy. [emphasis mine]

Introduction
The Honorable Jane Harman
Director, President and CEO, The Wilson Center

Keynote
His Excellency Toomas Hendrik Ilves
President of the Republic of Estonia

The event is being held in Washington, DC from 1 – 2 pm EST on April 21, 2015. There does not seem to be a webcast option for viewing the presentation online (a little ironic, non?). You can register here, should you be able to attend.

I did find a little more information about Estonia and its digital adventures, much of it focused on digital economy, in an Oct. 8, 2014 article by Lily Hay Newman for Slate,

Estonia is planning to be the first country to offer a status called e-residency. The program’s website says, “You can become an e-Estonian!” …

The website says that anyone can apply to become an e-resident and receive an e-Estonian online identity “in order to get secure access to world-leading digital services from wherever you might be.” …

You can’t deny that the program has a compelling marketing pitch, though. It’s “for anybody who wants to run their business and life in the most convenient aka digital way!”

You can find the Estonian e-residency website here. There’s also a brochure describing the benefits,

It is especially useful for entrepreneurs and others who already have some relationship to Estonia: who do business, work, study or visit here but have not become a resident. However, e-residency is also launched as a platform to offer digital services to a global audience with no prior Estonian affiliation – for  anybody  who  wants  to  run their  business  and  life in  the  most convenient aka digital way! We plan to keep adding new useful services from early 2015 onwards.

I also found an Oct. 31, 2013 blog post by Peter Herlihy on the gov.uk website for the UK’s Government Digital Service (GDS). Herlihy offers the perspective of a government bureaucrat (Note: A link has been removed),

I’ve just got back from a few days in the Republic of Estonia, looking at how they deliver their digital services and sharing stories of some of the work we are up to here in the UK. We have an ongoing agreement with the Estonian government to work together and share knowledge and expertise, and that is what brought me to the beautiful city of Tallinn.

I knew they were digitally sophisticated. But even so, I wasn’t remotely prepared for what I learned.

Estonia has probably the most joined up digital government in the world. Its citizens can complete just about every municipal or state service online and in minutes. You can formally register a company and start trading within 18 minutes, all of it from a coffee shop in the town square. You can view your educational record, medical record, address, employment history and traffic offences online – and even change things that are wrong (or at least directly request changes). The citizen is in control of their data.

So we should do whatever they’re doing then, right? Well, maybe. …

National Film Board of Canada

There’s a new series being debuted this week about reclaiming control of your life online and titled: Do Not Track according to an April 14, 2015 post on the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) blog (Note: Links have been removed),

An eye-opening personalized look at how online data is being tracked and sold.

Starting April 14 [2015], the online interactive documentary series Do Not Track will show you just how much the web knows about you―and the results may astonish you.

Conceived and directed by acclaimed Canadian documentary filmmaker and web producer Brett Gaylor, the 7-part series Do Not Track is an eye-opening look at how online behaviour is being tracked, analyzed and sold―an issue affecting each of us, and billions of web users around the world.

Created with the goal of helping users learn how to take back control of their digital identity, Do Not Track goes beyond a traditional documentary film experience: viewers who agree to share their personal data are offered an astounding real-time look at how their online ID is being tracked.

Do Not Track is a collective investigation, bringing together public media broadcasters, writers, developers, thinkers and independent media makers, including Gaylor, Vincent Glad, Zineb Dryef, Richard Gutjahr, Sandra Rodriguez, Virginie Raisson and the digital studio Akufen.

Do Not Track episodes launch every 2 weeks, from April 14 to June 9, 2015, in English, French and German. Roughly 7 minutes in length, each episode has a different focus―from our mobile phones to social networks, targeted advertising to big data with a different voice and a different look, all coupled with sharp and varied humour. Episodes are designed to be clear and accessible to all.

You can find Do Not Track here, episode descriptions from the April 14, 2015 posting,

April 14 | Episode 1: Morning Rituals
This episode introduces viewers to Brett Gaylor and offers a call to action: let’s track the trackers together.

Written and directed by Brett Gaylor

Interviews: danah boyd, principal researcher, Microsoft Research; Nathan Freitas, founder, and Harlo Holmes, software developer, The Guardian Project; Ethan Zuckerman, director, MIT Center for Civic Media*

April 14 | Episode 2: Breaking Ad
We meet the man who invented the Internet pop-up ad―and a woman who’s spent nearly a decade reporting on the web’s original sin: advertising.

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Vincent Glad

Interviews: Ethan Zuckerman; Julia Angwin, journalist and author of Dragnet Nation: A Quest for Privacy, Security, and Freedom in a World of Relentless Surveillance*

April 28 | Episode 3: The Harmless Data We Leave on Social Media
This episode reveals how users can be tracked from Facebook activity and how far-reaching the data trail is.

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Sandra Marsh | Hosted by Richard Gutjahr

Interviews: Constanze Kurz, writer and computer scientist, Chaos Computer Club

May 12 | Episode 4: Your Mobile Phone, the Spy
Your smartphone is spying on you—where does all this data go, what becomes of it, and how is it used?

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written and hosted by Zineb Dryef

Interviews: Harlo Holmes; Rand Hindi, data scientist and founder of Snips*

May 26 | Episode 5: Big Data and Its Algorithms
There’s an astronomical quantity of data that may or may not be used against us. Based on the information collected since the start of this documentary, users discover the algorithmic interpretation game and its absurdity.

Directed by Sandra Rodriguez and Akufen | Written by Sandra Rodriguez

Interviews: Kate Crawford, principal researcher, Microsoft Research New York City; Matthieu Dejardins, e-commerce entrepreneur and CEO, NextUser; Tyler Vigen, founder, Spurious Correlations, and Joint Degree Candidate, Harvard Law School; Cory Doctorow, science fiction novelist, blogger and technology activist; Alicia Garza, community organizer and co-founder, #BlackLivesMatter; Yves-Alexandre De Montjoye, computational privacy researcher, Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab*

June 9 | Episode 6: Filter Bubble
The Internet uses filters based on your browsing history, narrowing down the information you get―until you’re painted into a digital corner.

Written and directed by Brett Gaylor*

June 9 | Episode 7:  The Future of Tracking
Choosing to protect our privacy online today will dramatically shape our digital future. What are our options?

Directed by Brett Gaylor | Written by Virginie Raisson

Interviews: Cory Doctorow

Enjoy!

Canadian filmmaker Chris Landreth’s Subconscious Password explores the uncanny valley

I gather Chris Landreth’s short animation, Subconscious Password, hasn’t been officially released yet by the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada but there are clips and trailers which hint at some of the filmmaker’s themes. Landreth in a May 23, 2013 guest post for the NFB.ca blog spells out one of them,

Subconscious Password, my latest short film, travels to the inner mind of a fellow named Charles Langford, as he struggles to remember the name of his friend at a party. In his subconscious, he encounters a game show, populated with special guest stars:  archetypes, icons, distant memories, who try to help him find the connection he needs: His friend’s name.

The film is a psychological romp into a person’s inner mind where (I hope) you will see something of your own mind working, thinking, feeling. Even during a mundane act like remembering the name of an acquaintance at a party, someone you only vaguely remember. To me, mundane accomplishments like these are miracles we all experience many times each day.

Landreth also discusses the ‘uncanny valley’ and how he deliberately cast his film into that valley. For anyone who’s unfamiliar with the ‘uncanny valley’ I wrote about it in a Mar. 10, 2011 posting concerning Geminoid robots,

It seems that researchers believe that the ‘uncanny valley’ doesn’t necessarily have to exist forever and at some point, people will accept humanoid robots without hesitation. In the meantime, here’s a diagram of the ‘uncanny valley’,

From the article on Android Science by Masahiro Mori (translated by Karl F. MacDorman and Takashi Minato)

Here’s what Mori (the person who coined the term) had to say about the ‘uncanny valley’ (from Android Science),

Recently there are many industrial robots, and as we know the robots do not have a face or legs, and just rotate or extend or contract their arms, and they bear no resemblance to human beings. Certainly the policy for designing these kinds of robots is based on functionality. From this standpoint, the robots must perform functions similar to those of human factory workers, but their appearance is not evaluated. If we plot these industrial robots on a graph of familiarity versus appearance, they lie near the origin (see Figure 1 [above]). So they bear little resemblance to a human being, and in general people do not find them to be familiar. But if the designer of a toy robot puts importance on a robot’s appearance rather than its function, the robot will have a somewhat humanlike appearance with a face, two arms, two legs, and a torso. This design lets children enjoy a sense of familiarity with the humanoid toy. So the toy robot is approaching the top of the first peak.

Of course, human beings themselves lie at the final goal of robotics, which is why we make an effort to build humanlike robots. For example, a robot’s arms may be composed of a metal cylinder with many bolts, but to achieve a more humanlike appearance, we paint over the metal in skin tones. These cosmetic efforts cause a resultant increase in our sense of the robot’s familiarity. Some readers may have felt sympathy for handicapped people they have seen who attach a prosthetic arm or leg to replace a missing limb. But recently prosthetic hands have improved greatly, and we cannot distinguish them from real hands at a glance. Some prosthetic hands attempt to simulate veins, muscles, tendons, finger nails, and finger prints, and their color resembles human pigmentation. So maybe the prosthetic arm has achieved a degree of human verisimilitude on par with false teeth. But this kind of prosthetic hand is too real and when we notice it is prosthetic, we have a sense of strangeness. So if we shake the hand, we are surprised by the lack of soft tissue and cold temperature. In this case, there is no longer a sense of familiarity. It is uncanny. In mathematical terms, strangeness can be represented by negative familiarity, so the prosthetic hand is at the bottom of the valley. So in this case, the appearance is quite human like, but the familiarity is negative. This is the uncanny valley.

Landreth discusses the ‘uncanny valley’ in relation to animated characters,

Many of you know what this is. The Uncanny Valley describes a common problem that audiences have with CG-animated characters. Here’s a graph that shows this:

Follow the curvy line from the lower left. If a character is simple (like a stick figure) we have little or no empathy with it. A more complex character, like Snow White orPixar’s Mr. Incredible, gives us more human-like mannerisms for us to identify with.

But then the Uncanny Valley kicks in. That curvy line changes direction, plunging downwards. This is the pit into which many characters from The Polar Express, Final Fantasy and Mars Needs Moms fall. We stop empathizing with these characters. They are unintentionally disturbing, like moving corpses. This is a big problem with realistic CGI characters: that unshakable perception that they are animated zombies. [zombie emphasis mine]

You’ll notice that the diagram from my posting features a zombie at the very bottom of the curve.

Landreth goes on to compare the ‘land’ in the uncanny valley to real estate,

… The value of land in the Uncanny Valley has plunged to zero. There are no buyers.

Well, except perhaps me.

Some of you know that my films have a certain obsession with visual realism with their human characters. I like doing this. I find value in this realism that goes beyond simply copying what humans look and act like. If used intelligently and with imagination, realism can capture something deeper, something weird and emotional and psychological about our collective experience on this planet. But it has to be honest. That’s hard.

He also explains what he’s hoping to accomplish by inhabiting the uncanny valley,

When making this film, we knew we were going into the Uncanny Valley. We did it because your subconscious processes, and mine, are like this valley. We project our waking world into our subconscious minds. The ‘characters’ in this inner world are realistic approximations of actual people, without actually being real. This is the miracle of how we get by. My protagonist, Charles, has a mixture of both realistic approximations and crazy warped versions of the people and icons in his life. He is indeed a bit off-kilter. But he gets by, like most of us do. As you probably have guessed, both Charles and the Host are self-portraits. I want to be honest in showing you this world. My own Uncanny Valley. You have one too. It’s something to celebrate.

On the that note, here’s a clip from Subconscious Password,

Subconscious Password (Clip) by Chris Landreth, National Film Board of Canada

 I last wrote about Landreth and his work in an April 14, 2010 posting (scroll down about 1/4 of the way) regarding mathematics and the arts. This post features excerpts from an interview with the University of Toronto (Ontario, Canada) mathematician, Karan Singh who worked with Landreth on their award-winning, Ryan.

Canada’s National Film Board launches Space School for 11 – 15 year olds and TRIUMF celebrates award-winning photo

Exciting news from the National Film Board of Canada arrived in my mailbox this morning (Monday, Apr. 22, 2013),

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) have teamed up to create NFB Space School, a free and fun interactive learning experience for families and classes alike that engages young Canadians in the wonders of space exploration by giving them their own front-row seat to CSA Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s historic mission aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Designed for youth between the ages of 11 and 15, NFB Space School helps kids discover more about space, science, technology and leadership, reigniting a wonder about our universe through cutting-edge interactive features.

The out-of-this-world new website will blast off with an online launch from Halifax’s Discovery Centre, featuring a 20-minute Q&A with Commander Hadfield, the first Canadian to command the ISS, via a live downlink from 12:10 p.m. to 12:30 p.m., Atlantic Time [8:10 – 8:30 am PDT]. Commander Hadfield will answer questions from Halifax-area school children and media while he orbits the Earth aboard the ISS. [This event has occurred.]

NFB Space School is launching with two modules, Mission and Leadership, featuring exclusive footage of Hadfield training for his historic mission, along with interactive videos and quizzes. The site will be updated with new modules on such subjects as astronomy, history and astrobiology.

Available in both English and French, NFB Space School is also ideal for classroom use, with additional educational resources available through the NFB’s subscription-based educational portal, CAMPUS, in September 2013.

NFB Space School is a unique partnership between the NFB, one of the world’s leading digital content hubs and Canadian pioneer in online streaming for educators, and the CSA, committed to leading the development and application of space knowledge for the benefit of Canadians and humanity. Paul McNeill is the creative lead and producer of NFB Space School. Graham MacDougall is the interactive strategist, with interactive design, development and programming by Halifax-based web developers theREDspace. Ravida Din is the executive producer for the NFB. NFB Space School was developed and produced by the NFB’s Atlantic Centre in collaboration with the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).

To learn more about the Expedition 34/35 mission and the CSA’s activities, visit Chris Hadfield’s Astronaut Mission page. For up-to-the-minute updates, follow the Canadian Space Agency and Chris Hadfield on social media.

I was a little disappointed I didn’t receive the announcement a little sooner as I would have liked to view the livestream interview with Hadfield. It’s easy to forget just how big Canada is and that four hour time difference really has an impact when you’re on the ‘wrong’ end of the country.

It was a great idea to launch the school with a live event with Hadfield communicating from the space station. Unfortunately, there’s no follow through on the rest of the website.  For two suggestions/examples. (a) An ‘explorer’  doesn’t get to amass enough points answering the quizzes to perhaps get a special session with Hadfield or someone else on the space station. (b) There aren’t any projects where a student could create their own space film and submit it for a contest. In all, this interactive site is curiously unidirectional. Information is pumped out and the participant/student answers quizzes, very much like school.  In the end, the Space School seems to be designed more for teachers than explorers of all ages (but especially those from the ages of  11 to 15). Anyway, it’s early days yet for the school and hopefully there are already some changes being planned.

Now, here’s a bit of news from the pacific end of the country. TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for nuclear and particle physics, has been recognized with a second place standing in an international photography exhibition, the second Global Particle Physics Photowalk. From the TRIUMF Apr. 19, 2013 news release,

TRIUMF is pleased to announce and congratulate local contestant Andy White, a 3rd year Visual Arts student at UBC from North Vancouver, who was awarded 2nd place in the juried competition for his winning photo of TIGRESS.

Along with studying art and photography at school, Andy is also a competitive Javelin thrower on the varsity track & field team. His spirited nature served him well in this competition. “I come from quite an Arts-based background and really don’t have much involvement with science, yet I have always been fascinated by technology so I was eager to get involved. This would be my first time visiting TRIUMF and I had no idea what to expect,” explained Andy.

What he found during his visit to TRIUMF was TIGRESS, a nuclear physics spectrometer, in the ISAC-II building. This equipment allows researchers to study the structure of the nucleus and the forces that hold it together by analyzing rare nuclear reactions.

“What drew me to TIGRESS was its element of fine craftsmanship, colour and shape. I chose to photograph it symmetrically and end-on to reveal these features as they were best presented,” said Andy.

Greg Hackman, research scientist at TRIUMF, is responsible for the operation and maintenance of TIGRESS. “This is a gamma-ray detector designed for nuclear structure experiments and specifically to make optimal use of ISAC,” says Greg. “The function entirely drove the form.”

Andy muses, “It was great connecting the arts with science, and this photowalk offered me a unique challenge to present technology in a creative way. What is most fascinating is our human capability to create such instruments, and this is what I intended to bring forward in my images.”

To decipher the science behind TIGRESS, as displayed in Andy’s photo, Science Division Head Reiner Kruecken explains, “Instruments like TIGRESS allow us to peak into the femto-world of the atomic nucleus and deduce what is happening in this otherwise invisible world which is only the size of one millionth of a millionth of a millimeter. What you see in the photo from inside to outside are Germanium crystals and two layers of so-called BGO shield detectors. These shield detectors look toward the center of the array where we induce nuclear reactions and show us something about the structure and dynamics in atomic nuclei.”

Just as physicists are enticed by symmetries in nature as they unleash mysteries of the universe, photographers are drawn to symmetries in their subjects as they create alluring images to captivate their audience.

Here’s White’s award-winning photograph,

Credit: Andy White

Credit: Andy White

Interactions.org, one of the event organizers, has provided more detail about this international event in an Apr. 18, 2013 news release,

In September 2012, hundreds of amateur and professional photographers had the rare opportunity to explore and photograph accelerators and detectors at particle physics laboratories around the world.

In the InterActions Physics Photowalk, ten of the world’s leading particle physics laboratories offered special behind-the-scenes access to their scientific facilities:

Brookhaven National Laboratory
 (New York, USA)
Catania National Laboratory
 (Catania, Italy)
Chilbolton Observatory
 (Hampshire, UK)
Daresbury Laboratory
 (Cheshire, UK)
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
 (Illinois, USA)
Frascati National Laboratory
 (Frascati, Italy)
Gran Sasso National Laboratory
 (Gran Sasso, Italy)
Rutherford Appleton Laboratory
 (Oxfordshire, UK)
TRIUMF
 (Vancouver, Canada)
United Kingdom Astronomy Technology Centre
 (Edinburgh, UK)

Participating photographers submitted thousands of photos for local competitions. Each laboratory selected local winners, and advanced these top photographs to two global competitions. [emphasis mine]

More than 1,250 photography enthusiasts voted online to name the global people’s choice winners. [emphasis mine] Nino Bruno’s photograph of a tunnel connecting the underground halls of INFN’s Gran Sasso National Laboratory garnered the most votes, followed closely by Enrique Diaz’s side view of the STAR detector at Brookhaven National Laboratory, and Steve Zimic’s photograph of the tunnel that houses Brookhaven’s RHIC accelerator.

A panel of international judges also selected three winners. [emphasis mine] The judges—photographers Stanley Greenberg from the United States, Roy Robertson from the United Kingdom, Andrew Haw from Canada and Luca Casonato from Italy—awarded the top prize to Joseph Paul Boccio’s detailed photograph of the KLOE detector at INFN’s Frascati National Laboratory, second prize to Andy White’s photo capturing the color and symmetry of the TIGRESS detector at the Canadian laboratory TRIUMF, and third prize to Helen Trist’s photograph of data storage at the UK’s Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. [emphasis mine]

There are prizes for the winners,

The winning photographs will be featured in upcoming issues of the particle physics publications the CERN Courier and symmetry and the Italian popular science magazine Le Scienze. The participating laboratories will also feature the global winners and their local Photowalk selections in temporary exhibits.

I wonder if White and other local contestants will be have their photos displayed not just in Vancouver (Canada) where TRIUMF is located but perhaps also at some of the member institutions across the country.

Meditating and neuroscience: Canada National Film Board movie and a Dalai Lama talk

These documentaries are usually focused on Buddhism and its meditation practices but in The Mystical Brain, Isabelle Raynaud starts with some archival footage of brain work, paintings of brains through history, and a Buddhist monk  before segueing to a neuroscientist trying to talk some Carmelite nuns into a research experiment he wants to run. I haven’t seen the whole film yet but The Mystical Brain, a National Film Board (NFB) of Canada production, by  Raynaud offers a fresh and neuroscientific approach to the age old question, ‘Is there really such a thing as a mystical experience and, if so, can we measure it?’

Carolyn Weldon in her Apr. 9, 2013 posting about The Mystical Brain on the NFB.ca blog describes it thusly (Note  a link has been removed),

First, the film follows a team of Université de Montréal researchers studying, through electroencephalography (or EEG), the brains of Carmelite nuns asked to remember a moment of divine communion they experienced in the past. This was as close to the “real deal” as they could study as Carmelite nuns, like most of us, apparently can’t trigger mystical experiences on command.

Nine nuns later, the 2 scientists were able to demonstrate that prayer increased the brain’s Theta activity, or Theta waves. Theta waves (4-7.5 Hz) are some of the slowest waves our brains emits. These waves are associated with REM sleep, daydreaming, super learning, and increased memory and creativity. For most people, Theta activity is only experienced momentarily, as one drifts off to sleep from Alpha, or wakes from deep sleep, from Delta. For nuns, especially cloistered ones, like Carmelite [sic], this is a state they spend hours in – consciously – every day.

Next, the film takes us to the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where a different team is studying the meditating brain of Matthieu Ricard, a French-born Buddhist monk who also happens to be the French interpreter to the Dalai Lama [and holds a PhD in molecular genetics]. Ricard, the author of numerous bestselling books on meditation and happiness, is a natural at explaining what meditation is and isn’t, and his on-camera sequences are some of the film’s strongest.

Buddhist monks and long-time meditation practitioners, on the other hands, are like the Olympic athletes of the mind. Their minds are clear, serene, and less vulnerable to the vagaries of external events. At Wiconsin-Madison U. [sic], the neuroscientists found that meditation has a robust impact on brain function…. and not only for Ricard and his kind. Positive physical and psychological changes can already be observed in new practitioners, as early as 2 months into their practice.

The documentary, for those who are interested,  is embedded in Weldon’s posting. As she notes, meditation has gone mainstream in a very big way. And not only with the general public, it sometimes seems that I come across at least one new research study about meditation and the brain on a daily basis.

Raynaud’s film about meditation and neuroscience reminded me of my Aug. 21, 2012 posting where I mentioned an upcoming dialogue with the Dalai Lama about science. At the time I was under the impression that it was to be his third such dialogue with Natasha Mitchell in an Australia Broadcasting Corporation series but I’m no longer sure about that.  Yesterday, I searched and found the Happiness & its causes event (June 19 – 20, 2013 in Melbourne, Australia) which features Natasha Mitchell and the Dalai Lama in two presentations, from the Day 2 Conference page, (Note: Links have been removed)

9.15am     In conversation with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Be inspired by words of wisdom and compassion from one of the world’s most revered spiritual leaders. In this intimate conversation with the Dalai Lama, Natasha Mitchell delves for practical advice on how we can lead a happy and meaningful life.

9.45am     Science of Mind Forum

Isn’t the mind amazing? Science is only just beginning to glimpse the extraordinary workings of the mind and how it governs everything. Witness a  unique dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a panel of world renowned scientists.

› His Holiness the Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Australia
› Dr Mario Beauregard, Associate Researcher, Departments of Psychology and Radiology, Neuroscience Research Center; author: Brain Wars, University of Montreal, Canada
› Professor Jayashri Kulkarni, Professor of Psychiatry, The Alfred and Monash University, Australia
› Professor Lorimer Moseley, Professor of Clinical Neuroscience, University of South Australia, Australia
› Natasha Mitchell, Presenter, Life Matters, ABC Radio National, Australia

I could not find any information about a third dialogue for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Science Please! part 2 from Canada’s National Film Board

I wrote about part 1 of this series which ran both as 1 minute snippets which were then compiled into a 30 min. DVD and two 15 minute online compilations (Parts 1 and 2), in my April 1, 2010 posting but didn’t include any excerpts from the interview with the series producer, Marc Bertrand. On the occasion of tripping across part 2 of the series compilation, here’s a little information about it from Bertrand’s interview in Carolyn Weldon’s March 26, 2010 posting on Canada’s National Film Board (NFB) blog,

Marc Bertrand, a producer with the NFB’s French Program, looks back on the time he spent working on Science Please! with great fondness. It was his first job at the NFB, and he’d been given a clear mandate with 3 objectives: to focus on science, incorporate archival footage, and use animation. The target audience: 9 – 12 year olds.

“It’s kind of amazing,” says Marc, “there’s a certain pride in knowing that we managed to explain electricity in a minute. Just one minute. That’s not a long time.”

Marc attributes his success to the creative freedom he was given.

Because he wasn’t tied to any particular pedagogical program, he and his team were able to choose whatever subjects they wanted to take on.

“You’ll notice, for example, that most of the video clips are about subjects in physics rather than biology. We made this choice because knowledge in the area of physics is the most stable. There’s not much chance that new discoveries are going to put into question Archimedes’ Principle,” Marc explains.

The huge success of the series is also attributable to the quality of the visual elements. The NFB has some outstanding animators who agreed to illustrate one or two of these video clips in between their work on larger projects.

At the end of the interview, Bertrand mentions that he’s working on a new project, one about the brain. I did search but have not found any indication that this project has been released or completed yet.

Getting back to Science Please!, I’m not sure when part 2 was released but you can find it here now. It runs for approximately 15 minutes.

Canada’s National Film Board and the Webby’s

Canada’s National Film Board (NFB) has seven nominations for Webby Awards according to the April 12, 2012 posting by Carolyne Weldon on the NFB blog,

What do a bear, a parable on human language, a Northern reserve, and a brother in the army have in common?

Why, they’re the subjects of the 4 NFB/interactive projects nominated for 2012 Webby Awards, of course!

The Webby Awards, which people sometimes refer to as the “Oscars of the Web”, are international awards presented annually by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS) for excellence on the Internet. Saluting greatness in Websites, Interactive Advertising, Online Film & Video and Mobile & Apps, they are, in short, a huge honour.

This year, 4 of our interactive projects have been nominated for a grand total of 7 awards. (Lucky 7! We’re tickled pink!)

Weldon goes on to describe and provide links to the four nominees for interactive projects and notes that the Webbys will have two winners in each category, one selected by the critics and the other by the public. You have until April 26, 2012 to vote here where you can view all the nominees. You do have to sign up/register to vote.

For anyone not familiar with the Webbys, 2012 marks the 16th year the event has been held. This year, the awards will be given out on May 21, 2012 in New York, New York. The night is the culmination of the May 14-21, 2012 Internet Week.

http://pv.webbyawards.com/ballot/88

Thoughts on part 4 of (PBS) Nova’s Making Stuff series

Last night (Feb.9.11) PBS aired the final part of the Making Stuff  series as part of its Nova tv programming. It was titled Making Stuff Smarter and did not feature a single bot of any kind or any nanoscale computers or labs on chips thereby frustrating (not in a bad way) some of my expectations but I should have become accustomed to that by now.

There was a focus on something called biomimicry, a term I did not hear used while I was watching (confession: I didn’t watch every single minute of the show), where researchers try to make materials that mimic a process or ability observed in nature. They used sharkskin as an example for making a ‘smarter’ material. Scientists have observed that nanoscale structures on a shark’s skin have antibacterial properties. This is especially important when we have a growing problem with bacteria that are antibiotic resistant. David Pogue’s (the program host) interviewed scientists at Sharklet and highlighted their work producing a plastic with nanostructures similar to those found on sharkskin for use in hospitals, restaurants, etc.  I found this on the Sharklet website (from a rotating graphic on the home page),

The World Health Organization calls antibiotic resistance a leading threat to human health.

Sharkjet provides a non-toxic approach to bacterial control and doesn’t create resistance.

The reason that the material does not create resistance is that it doesn’t kill the bacteria (antibiotics kill most bacteria but cannot kill all of them with the consequence that only the resistant survive and reproduce). Excerpted from Sharklet’s technology page,

While the Sharklet pattern holds great promise to improve the way humans co-exist with microorganisms, the pattern was developed far outside of a laboratory. In fact, Sharklet was discovered via a seemingly unrelated problem: how to keep algae from coating the hulls of submarines and ships. In 2002, Dr. Anthony Brennan, a materials science and engineering professor at the University of Florida, was visiting the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Oahu as part of Navy-sponsored research. The U.S. Office of Naval Research solicited Dr. Brennan to find new antifouling strategies to reduce use of toxic antifouling paints and trim costs associated with dry dock and drag.

Dr. Brennan was convinced that using an engineered topography could be a key to new antifouling technologies. Clarity struck as he and several colleagues watched an algae-coated nuclear submarine return to port. Dr. Brennan remarked that the submarine looked like a whale lumbering into the harbor. In turn, he asked which slow moving marine animals don’t foul. The only one? The shark.

Dr. Brennan was inspired to take an actual impression of shark skin, or more specifically, its dermal denticles. Examining the impression with scanning electron microscopy, Dr. Brennan confirmed his theory. Shark skin denticles are arranged in a distinct diamond pattern with tiny riblets. Dr. Brennan measured the ribs’ width-to-height ratios which corresponded to his mathematical model for roughness – one that would discourage microorganisms from settling. The first test of Sharklet yielded impressive results. Sharklet reduced green algae settlement by 85 percent compared to smooth surfaces.

There’s more to the story so I encourage you to take a look at the page. What I find compelling about biomimicry is that we are learning from nature and mimicking it rather than try to control or destroy what we view as dangerous to us or, in some cases, not valuable. Interestingly, this program featured the military quite prominently in other segments while, as far as I’m aware, failing to mention biomimcry  which suggests (I’m putting on my semiotic hat) that our ideas about controlling nature and using warlike metaphors to describe scientific and medical efforts are still dominant socially and being reproduced.

I enjoyed (with qualifications regarding some of the subtext) the program series (all three of the shows I managed to watch) but, as I’ve noted previously, I’m not the target market so some of it was a bit too fluffy for me.

I found this fourth installment the most interesting and I was delighted to see that they featured climbing robots (based on geckos and mentioned in my Aug. 2, 2010 posting) and invisibility (mentioned most recently in my Jan. 26, 2011 posting although that features a different approach than the one mentioned in the program) along with a few items that were new to me.

Coincidentally the National Film Board of Canada is featuring a film short titled, Magic Molecule in its Feb. 9, 2011 newsletter. Produced in 1964, it introduces us to the fabulous world of plastics. In some ways, it’s very similar to the Making Stuff series. The tone is upbeat and very much pro plastics and its wonders.

National convo on science, technology, and engineering

There’s a new science outreach ‘kid on the block’. Canada’s Honorable Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, announced plans for an online HUB for science and technology in Canada. From the news release via the Canadian Science Policy Centre website,

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) announced today plans for the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation to build an online HUB for the Pan-Canadian science, technology and engineering community. [emphasis mine]

“Canada is, and will remain, among the best countries in the world for scientists and researchers to pursue their discoveries while we strengthen our capacity to make their innovations available to the market here at home and around the world,” said Minister of State Goodyear. “Our government supports science and technology to improve the quality of life of Canadians, create jobs and strengthen the economy.”

The vision is for the HUB (www.connexscience.ca) to serve as an open collaborative space for everyone involved or interested in science, engineering and technology, as well as their historical and broader dimensions. The HUB will greatly contribute to the promotion of a science and technology culture in Canada.

The Museums Corporation wants the hub to be “owned” by a broad cross section of the Canadian science, technology and engineering community, and to create the digital conditions that will support the HUB in becoming a living, thriving online community.

“All Canadians have a role to play in helping shape Canada’s science, technology and engineering future,” said Denise Amyot, President and CEO of the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation. “We invite people to share this with their friends and colleagues. All perspectives, suggestions, ideas and submissions will be important inputs in the creation of the HUB.”

The idea for this online forum stems from a cross-Canada consultation held by the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation in 2009 to seek national partners and information on local initiatives, as well as ways for the Museums Corporation to enhance its outreach across the country. Many expressed the interest having a place where they could come together to collaborate.

The announcement was made from the Canadian Science Policy Conference in Montreal during National Science and Technology Week. NSTW is a celebration of the significance of Canada’s science and technology heritage, the importance of science and technology in today’s world, and Canada’s ongoing role as a world leader in innovation.

I’m a little puzzled as it seems to me that they have moved passed the planning and have built an online HUB; there just aren’t many people on it yet. (Quite understandbly given that it’s still early days.)

On balance, I’m happy to say after all of my criticisms about science outreach that this seems like an encouraging move and I hope it leads to a more vibrant national conversation about science and technology. You can go to Canada’s Museum of Science and Technology online HUB, called Connex Science, here to find a welcome video from Denise Amyot, the museum’s President and Chief Executive Officer and to participate in forums.

I see in the museum’s latest newsletter that Connex Science isn’t their only science outreach initiative, they also have an agreement with the National Film Board (from the newsletter),

The National Film Board of Canada and the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation have announced the beginning of a four-year partnership during which both institutions will share their respective expertise in order to create a closer working relationship between the world of audiovisual production and that of sciences and technology.

According to this news release,

Many collaborations are planned, the first of which will begin this weekend at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. The exhibition Echoes in the Ice: History, Mystery and Frozen Corpses [mentioned here in an Oct.7, 2010 posting) will include the screening of the documentary Passage by John Walker on Saturday, October 16 and Sunday, October 17 at 1 p.m. Winner of numerous awards including Best Film at the Reel to Reel International Film Festival for Youth, Grand Prize for Best Television Production at the Banff World Television Awards, Best Director and Best Cinematography at the Atlantic Film Festival, the film tells the story of John Rae, a Victorian‐era Scottish explorer who discovers the tragic fate of Sir John Franklin and his 128 crew members who perished in the Arctic ice, overcome by insanity and cannibalism, while attempting to find the Northwest Passage. The story quickly became tainted with scandal when John Rae tried to make it public.

One last bit from the newsletter,

TEDxKids at the Canada Agriculture Museum

November 9

The Canada Agriculture Museum is thrilled to be welcoming this internationally renowned not-for-profit group to its venue for a full day event that will bring attention to new projects benefitting children and youth.

Yes, TED (for kids) is coming to Canada. You can find out more about TEDxKids here.

(Thanks to a CSWA [Canadian Science Writers Assn.] tweet, I found all this info. about Connex Science and Canada’s Museum of Science and Technology.)

ETA October 29, 2010: The Pasco Phroneis blog (David Bruggeman) has a an insightful take on the museum’s initiative (excerpted from the October 28, 2010 posting),

Based on my attendance at last year’s Canadian Science Policy Conference, an effort like this could well fill a need for more communication within science and science policy circles across the country. A very large country with a comparatively small population, networking is not going to be as easy as it might be in the United States, where people who would benefit from hearing what others are doing in science and science policy stand a better chance of going to the same meetings or otherwise being in the same place.

That said, an online collaborative space is a fair amount of work. Otherwise you just have yet another discussion board (or, heaven forbid, a group blog).