Tag Archives: Nova Scotia

Governing in the Dark; a March 5, 2014 national (Canada) lecture

I think it’s pretty easy to guess the perspective from the title of the lecture, Governing in the Dark: Evidence, Accountability and the Future of Canadian Science (the third in a series titled, The Lives of Evidence) being offered by the Situating Science project on March 5,2014. Here’s more about it from the event page,

The national Situating Science project and partners are pleased to present the third talk in the national lecture series:

The Lives of Evidence
A multi-part national lecture series examining the cultural, ethical, political, and scientific role of evidence in our world.

Part 3:
Governing in the Dark: Evidence, Accountability and the Future of Canadian Science

Scott Findlay, Co-founder of Evidence for Democracy and Associate Professor of Biology, University of Ottawa.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014, 7:30 PM
Ondaatje Hall, McCain Building, Dalhousie University, 6135 University Ave.,
Halifax, NS

Free.                                    
Watch live online here! (7:30 PM Atlantic / 6:30 PM ET)

Scientists are becoming increasingly concerned about the Canadian government’s attitude towards science. They are concerned about declining federal investment in public interest science; a shift away from federal funding of basic research to business-oriented research; policies that restrict the communication of scientific information among government scientists and to the public; and – despite assurances to the contrary from federal ministers – an increasingly cavalier attitude towards science-informed decision-making. Are these symptoms of an ongoing erosion of basic democratic principles? What are some possible therapeutic and preventative interventions?

Supported by:
Dalhousie University Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Evidence for Democracy, and Canadian Centre for Ethics in Public Affairs

I last mentioned the speaker, Scott Findlay, in an Oct. 4, 2013 posting in the context of a series of protests (Stand up for Science) organized for Fall 2013.

Carbon Management Canada announces research for an affordable CO2 nanosensor

Researchers at the University of Toronto (Ontario) and St. Francis Xavier University (Nova Scotia) have received funding from Carbon Management Canada (a Network Centre for Excellence [NCE]) to develop an ultra-sensitive and affordable CO2 nanosensor. From the Feb. 4, 2013 news item on Nanowerk,

Researchers at the Universities of Toronto and St. Francis Xavier are developing an affordable, energy efficient and ultra-sensitive nano-sensor that has the potential to detect even one molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2).

Current sensors used to detect CO2 at surface sites are either very expensive or they use a lot of energy. And they’re not as accurate as they could be. Improving the accuracy of measuring and monitoring stored CO2 is seen as key to winning public acceptance of carbon capture and storage as a greenhouse gas mitigation method.

With funding from Carbon Management Canada (CMC), Dr. Harry Ruda of the Centre for Nanotechnology at the University of Toronto and Dr. David Risk of St. Francis Xavier are working on single nanowire transistors that should have unprecedented sensitivity for detecting CO2 emissions.

The Carbon Management Canada (CMC) Feb. 4, 2013 news release, which originated the news item, provides  details about the funding and reasons for the research,

CMC, a national network that supports game-changing research to reduce CO2 emissions in the fossil energy industry as well as from other large stationary emitters, is providing Ruda and his team $350,000 over three years. [emphasis mine] The grant is part of CMC’s third round of funding which saw the network award $3.75 million to Canadian researchers working on eight different projects.

The sensor technology needed to monitor and validate the amount of CO2 being emitted has not kept pace with the development of other technologies required for carbon capture and storage (CCS), says Ruda.

“This is especially true when it comes to surface monitoring verification and accounting (MVA),” he says. “Improving MVA is essential to meet the potential of carbon capture and storage.”

And that’s where the ultra-sensitive sensor comes in. “It’s good for sounding the alarm but it’s also good from a regulatory point of view because you want to able to tell people to keep things to a certain level and you need sensors to ensure accurate monitoring of industrial and subsurface environments,” Ruda says.

Given CMC’s vision for ‘game-changing research to reduce carbon emissions’, it bears noting that this organization is located in Calgary (the street address ‘EEEL 403, 2500 University Drive NW Calgary‘ as per my search today [Feb.4.13] on Google [https://www.google.ca/search?q=CMC+address+Calgary&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a] suggests the University of Calgary houses the organization). Calgary is the home of the Canadian fossil fuel industry and a centre boasting many US-based fossil fuel-based companies due to its size and relative proximity to the Alberta oil sands (aka, Athabaska oil sands). From the Wikipedia essay (Note: Links and footnotes have been removed),

The Athabasca oil sands or Athabasca tar sands are large deposits of bitumen or extremely heavy crude oil, located in northeastern Alberta, Canada – roughly centred on the boomtown of Fort McMurray. These oil sands, hosted in the McMurray Formation, consist of a mixture of crude bitumen (a semi-solid form of crude oil), silica sand, clay minerals, and water. The Athabasca deposit is the largest known reservoir of crude bitumen in the world and the largest of three major oil sands deposits in Alberta, along with the nearby Peace River and Cold Lake deposits.

Together, these oil sand deposits lie under 141,000 square kilometres (54,000 sq mi) of boreal forest and muskeg (peat bogs) and contain about 1.7 trillion barrels (270×109 m3) of bitumen in-place, comparable in magnitude to the world’s total proven reserves of conventional petroleum. Although the former CEO of Shell Canada, Clive Mather, estimated Canada’s reserves to be 2 trillion barrels (320 km3) or more, the International Energy Agency (IEA) lists Canada’s reserves as being 178 billion barrels (2.83×1010 m3).

As for locating a carbon management organization in Calgary, it does make sense of a sort. Here’s a somewhat calmer description of Carbon Management Canada on the website’s About CMC page,

Carbon Management Canada CMC-NCE [Network Centre for Escellence] is a national network of academic researchers working with experts in the fossil energy industry, government, and the not-for-profit sector. Together, we are developing the technologies, the knowledge and the human capacity to radically reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the fossil energy industry and other large stationary emitters.

Carbon emissions and the growing global concern about its effects present a unique opportunity for innovation and collaboration, especially in the fossil energy industry. Rapidly increasing global complexity demands robust, responsive innovation that can only develop in a highly collaborative context involving industry, scientists, policy makers, politicians and industry leaders in concert with an informed, supportive public.

Carbon Management Canada is the national body charged with harnessing the collective energy of this diverse group in order to push forward an ambitious agenda of innovation and commercialization to bring research from the lab into the world of practice.

Funding

Funding for CMC was provided through the federal Networks of Centres of Excellence ($25 million) and the Province of Alberta through Alberta Environment ($25 million). Industry has also provided $5.7 million in contributions.

The Network has over 160 investigators at 27 Canadian academic institutions and close to 300 graduate and postdoctoral students working on research projects. CMC currently has invested $22 million in 44 research projects.

Our Themes

CMC is an interdisciplinary network with scientists working in fields that range from engineering to nanotechnology to geoscience to business to political science and communications. These investigators work in 4 themes: Recovery, Processing and Capture; Enabling and Emerging Technologies; Secure Carbon Storage; and Accelerating Appropriate Deployment of Low Carbon Emission Technologies.

Given that CMC is largely government-funded, it seems odd (almost as if they don’t want anyone to know) that the website does not feature a street address. In addition to trying  a web search, you can find the information on the last page of the 2012 annual/financial report. One final note, the chair of CMC’s board is Gordon Lambert who is also Vice President, Sustainable Development, Suncor Energy. From Suncor’s About Us webpage,

n 1967, we pioneered commercial development of Canada’s oil sands — one of the largest petroleum resource basins in the world. Since then, Suncor has grown to become a globally competitive integrated energy company with a balanced portfolio of high-quality assets, a strong balance sheet and significant growth prospects. Across our operations, we intend to achieve production of one million barrels of oil equivalent per day.

Then, there’s this on the company’s home page,

We create energy for a better world

Suncor’s vision is to be trusted stewards of valuable natural resources. Guided by our values, we will lead the way to deliver economic prosperity, improved social well-being and a healthy environment for today and tomorrow.

The difficulty I’m highlighting is the number of competing interests. Governments which are dependent on industry for producing jobs and tax dollars are also funding ‘carbon management’. The fossil fuel-dependent industry make a great deal money from fossil fuels and doesn’t have much incentive to explore carbon management as that costs money and doesn’t add to profit. Regardless of how enlightened any individuals within that industry may be they have a fundamental problem similar to an asthmatic who’s being poisoned by the medication they need to breathe. Do you get immediate relief from the medication, i.e., breathe, or do you refuse the medication which causes damage years in the future and continue struggling for air?

All of these institutions (CMC, Suncor, etc.) would have more credibility if they addressed the difficulties rather than ignoring them.

Simon Fraser University completes a successful mating dance while TRIUMF (Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics) gets its groove on

The Federal Government of Canada in the guise of the Canada Foundation for Innovation has just awarded $7.7M to Simon Fraser University (SFU) and its partners for a global innovation hub. From the Jan. 15, 2013 Canada Foundation for Innovation news release,

British Columbia’s research-intensive universities are coming together to create a global hub for materials science and engineering. Simon Fraser University, the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia and the British Columbia Institute of Technology have received $7.7 million in funding from the Canada Foundation of Innovation to create the Prometheus Project — a research hub for materials science and engineering innovation and commercialization.

“Our goal with the Prometheus Project is to turn our world-class research capacity into jobs and growth for the people of British Columbia,” said Neil Branda, Canada Research Chair in Materials Science at Simon Fraser University and leader of the Prometheus Project. “We know that materials science is changing the way we create energy and fight disease. We think it can also help B.C.’s economy evolve.”

This project builds on a strong collective legacy of collaborating with industry. Researchers involved in the Prometheus Project have created 13 spin-off companies, filed 67 patents and have generated 243 new processes and products. [emphasis mine] Branda himself has founded a company called Switch Materials that seizes the power of advanced chemistry to create smarter and more efficient window coatings.

This funding will allow members of the research team to build their capacity in fabrication, device testing and advanced manufacturing, ensuring that they have the resources and expertise they need to compete globally.

There’s a bit more information about the Prometheus project in a Jan.15, 2013 backgrounder supplied by SFU,

Led by Neil Branda, a Canada Research Chair in Materials Science and SFU chemistry professor, The Prometheus Project is destined to become a research hub for materials science and engineering innovation, and commercialization globally.

It brings together 10 principal researchers, including Branda, co-founder of SFU’s 4D LABS (a materials research facility with capabilities at the nanoscale], and 20 other scientists at SFU, University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. They will create new materials science and engineering (MS&E) technology innovations, which will trigger and support sustained economic growth by creating, transforming and making obsolete entire industries.

Working with internationally recognized industrial, government, hospital and academic collaborators, scientists at the Prometheus partners’ labs, including 4D LABS, a $40 million materials science research institute, will deliver innovations in three areas. The labs will:

  • Develop new solar-industry related materials and devices, including novel organic polymers, nanoparticles, and quantum dots, which will be integrated in low cost, high efficiency solar cell devices. The goal is to create a new generation of efficient solar cells that can compete in terms of cost with non-renewable technologies, surpassing older ones in terms of miniaturization and flexibility.
  • Develop miniaturized biosensors that can be used by individuals in clinical settings or at home to allow early detection of disease and treatment monitoring. They will be integrated into flexible electronic skins, allowing health conditions to be monitored in real-time.
  • Develop spintronics (magnetic devices) and quantum computing and information devices that will enable new approaches to significantly improve encrypted communication and security in financial transactions.

“This project will allow B.C.’s four most research intensive institutes to collaborate on fundamental materials research projects with a wide range of potential commercial applications,” notes Branda. “By engaging with a large community of industry, government and NGO partners, we will move this research out of the lab and into society to solve current and future challenges in important areas such as energy, health and communications.”

The Prometheus team already has a strong network of potential end users of resulting technologies. It is based on its members’ relationships with many of more than 25 companies in BC commercializing solar, biomedical and quantum computing devices.

Researchers and industries worldwide will be able to access Prometheus’s new capabilities on an open-access basis. [emphasis mine]

There are a few things I’d like to point out (a) 13 spin-off companies? There’s no mention as to whether they were successful, i.e., created jobs or managed a life beyond government funding. (b) Patents as an indicator for innovation? As I’ve noted many, many times that’s a very problematic argument to make. (c) New processes and products? Sounds good but there are no substantiating details.  (d) Given the emphasis on commercializing discoveries and business, can I assume that open-access to Prometheus’ capabilities means that anyone willing and able to pay can have access?

In other exciting SFU news which also affects TRIUMF, an additional $1M is being awarded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation to upgrade the ATLAS Tier-1 Data Analysis Centre. From the SFU backgrounder,

Led by Mike Vetterli, a physics professor at SFU and TRIUMF, this project involves collaborating with scientists internationally to upgrade a component of a global network of always-on computing centres. Collectively, they form the Worldwide Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid (WLCG).

The Canadian scientists collaborating with Vetterli on this project are at several research-intensive universities. They include Carleton University, McGill University, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, Université de Montréal, and York University, as well as TRIUMF. It’s Canada’s national lab for particle and nuclear physics research.

The grid, which has 10 Tier-1 centres internationally, is essentially a gigantic storage and processing facility for data collected from the ATLAS  experiment. The new CFI funding will enable Vetterli and his research partners to purchase equipment to upgrade the Tier-1 centre at TRIUMF in Vancouver, where the equipment will remain.

ATLAS is a multi-purpose particle detector inside a massive atom-smashing collider housed at CERN, the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics in Geneva, Switzerland.

More than 3,000 scientists internationally, including Vetterli and many others at SFU, use ATLAS to conduct experiments aimed at furthering global understanding of how the universe was physically formed and operates.

The detector’s fame for being a window into nature’s true inner workings was redoubled last year. It helped scientists, including Vetterli and others at SFU, discover a particle that has properties consistent with the Higgs boson.

Peter Higgs, a Scottish physicist, and other scientists theorized in 1964 about the existence of the long-sought-after particle that is central to the mechanism that gives subatomic particles their mass.

Scientists now need to upgrade the WLCG to accommodate the massive volume of data they’re reviewing to confirm that the newly discovered particle is the Higgs boson. If it is, it will revolutionize the way we see mass in physics.

“This project will enable Canadian scientists to continue to play a leading role in ATLAS physics analysis projects such as the Higgs boson discovery,” says Vetterli. “Much more work and data are required to learn more about the Higgs-like particle and show that it is indeed the missing link to our understanding of the fundamental structure of matter.

There is one more Canada Foundation for Innovation grant to be announced here, it’s a $1.6M grant for research that will be performed at TRIUMF, according to the Jan. 13, 2013 news release from St. Mary’s University (Halifax, Nova Scotia),

Dr. Rituparna Kanungo’s newest research collaboration has some lofty goals: improve cancer research, stimulate the manufacturing of high-tech Canadian-made instrumentation and help explain the origin of the cosmos.

The Saint Mary’s nuclear physicist’s goal moved one step closer to reality today when the federal government announced $1.6 million in support for an advanced research facility that will allow her to recreate, purify, and condition rare isotopes that haven’t existed on the planet for millions of years.

The federal fiscal support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation together with additional provincial and private sector investment will allow the $4.5 million project to be operational in 2015.

“The facility will dramatically advance Canada’s capabilities for isolating, purifying, and studying short-lived isotopes that hold the key not only for understanding the rules that govern the basic ingredients of our everyday lives but also for crafting new therapies that could target and annihilate cancers cell-by-cell within the human body, “ said Dr Kanungo.

The CANadian Rare-isotope facility with Electron-Beam ion source (CANREB) project is led by Saint Mary’s University partnering with the University of Manitoba and Advanced Applied Physics Solutions, Inc. in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, the University of Guelph, Simon Fraser University, and TRIUMF. TRIUMF is Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics. It is owned and operated as a joint venture by a consortium of Canadian universities that includes Saint Mary’s University.

As one of the nation’s top nuclear researchers (she was one of only two Canadians invited to speak at a Nobel Symposium last June about exotic isotopes), Dr. Kanungo has been conducting research at the TRIUMF facility for many years, carrying out analyses from her office at Saint Mary’s University together with teams of students. Her students also often spend semesters at the Vancouver facility.

As the project leader for the new initiative, she said TRIUMF is the ideal location because of its world leading isotope-production capabilities and its ability to produce clean, precise, controlled beams of selected exotic isotopes not readily available anywhere else in the world.

In recent studies in the U.S., some of these isotopes have been shown to have dramatic impact in treating types of cancer, by delivering radioactive payloads directly to the cancerous cells. Canada’s mastery of the technology to isolate, study, and control these isotopes will change the course of healthcare.

An integral part of the project is the creation of a new generation of high resolution spectrometer using precision magnets. Advanced Cyclotron Systems, Inc. a company in British Columbia, has been selected for the work with the hope that the expertise it develops during the venture will empower it to design and build precision-magnet technology products for cutting-edge projects all around the world.

Exciting stuff although it does seem odd that the federal government is spreading largesse when there’s no election in sight. In any case, bravo!

There’s one last piece of news, TRIUMF is welcoming a new member to its board, from its Jan. 14, 2013 news release,

Dr. Sylvain Lévesque, Vice-President of Corporate Strategy at Bombardier Inc., a world-leading manufacturer of innovative transportation solutions, has joined the Board of Management for TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics, for a three-year term.  Owned and operated by a consortium of 17 Canadian universities with core operating funds administered via a contribution agreement through National Research Council Canada, TRIUMF is guided by a Board that includes university vice-presidents of research, prestigious scientists, and leading members of Canada’s private sector.

Paul Young, Chair of TRIUMF’s Board and Vice President, Research at the University of Toronto, said, “We welcome the participation of Sylvain and his extensive experience at Bombardier.  TRIUMF is a national resource for basic research and yet we also fulfill a technological innovation mission for Canada.  Dr. Lévesque will be a valuable addition to the Board.”

Dr. Sylvain Lévesque earned his Ph.D. from MIT in Engineering and worked at McKinsey & Company before joining Bombardier in 1999.  He brings deep experience with large, technical organizations and a passion for science and engineering. [emphasis mine]  He said, “I am excited to work more closely with TRIUMF.  It has a track record of excellence and I am eager to provide guidance on where Canada’s industrial sector might draw greater strength from the laboratory.”

TRIUMF’s Board of Management reflects the unique status of TRIUMF, a laboratory operating for more than forty years as a joint venture from Canada’s leading research universities.  The consortium includes universities from Halifax to Victoria.

Is deep experience like wide experience or is it a whole new kind of experience helpful for ‘getting one’s groove on’? For anyone who’s curious, ‘getting one’s groove on’ involves dancing.

A sciences and humanities in Canada spring update from Situating Science

For anyone unfamiliar with the Situating Science ‘cluster’ which brings together the sciences and the humanities in Canada, here’s a self-description from the Spring 2012 newsletter,

Created in 2007 with the generous funding of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant, Situating Science is a seven-year project promoting communication and collaboration among humanists and social scientists that are engaged in the study of science and technology. We operate on a hub and spoke model of six nodes spread across the country and explore a set of four interrelated themes. These are: “Science and its Publics”; “Historical Epistemology and Ontology” (including philosophy of science); “Material Culture and Scientific/ Technological Practices”; and “Geography and Sites of Knowing”.

For more information on your local “Network Node” events, video recordings and podcasts, research themes and network, please visit: www.situsci.ca.

I think the most interesting part of the newsletter was the list of upcoming events,

HOPOS 2012

The University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, institutions of the Atlantic Node, are hosting the 9th Biennial Meeting of the International Society for the History of Philosophy of Science occurring in Halifax, June 21-24th, 2012.
Link:  http://hopos2012.philosophy.dal.ca/ 

VISITING SCHOLAR

The Cluster is pleased to announce Dr. Evelyn Fox Keller as the Cluster Visiting Scholar for 2012-13. Details will be available in coming weeks on our website.

WORKSHOPS

Two major Cluster workshops are planned for early summer 2013. The University of British Columbia will host “Translating Early Modern Science” while the University of Calgary will host “Where is the Laboratory Now?: ‘Representation’, ‘Intervention’ and ‘Realism’ in 19th and 20th Century Biomedical Sciences”.

CONFERENCES

York University will host the Cluster conference on the theme of Material Culture and Scientific / Technological Practices in the summer of 2013. Details will be available in coming months on our website.  

A conference on the theme of “Scientific Communication and its Publics” is being planned in Ottawa for the fall of 2013. The event, co-organized with the Institute of Science, Society and Policy at the University of Ottawa (ISSP) and the Professional Institute of the Public Service of Canada (PIPSC) will provide a unique opportunity and platform on which to follow up Cluster activities over the years.  Details will be available in coming months on our website.

I imagine Evelyn Fox Keller’s impending visit is causing great excitement. She is a professor emerita in MIT ‘s (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Science, Technology, and Society Program and considered a groundbreaking academic. From her webpage on the MIT website,

Professor of the History and Philosophy of Science, Emerita (STS)

Evelyn Fox Keller received her B.A. from Brandeis University (Physics, 1957) and her Ph.D. from Harvard University (Physics, 1963). She came to MIT from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was Professor in the Departments of Rhetoric, History, and Women’s Studies (1988-1992). Professor Keller has taught at Northeastern University, S.U.N.Y. at Purchase, and New York University. She has been awarded numerous academic and professional honors, including most recently the Blaise Pascal Research Chair by the Préfecture de la Région D’Ile-de-France for 2005–07, which she spent in Paris, and elected membership in the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Arts and Science. In addition, Professor Keller serves on the editorial boards of various journals including the Journal of the History of Biology and Biology and Philosophy.

Keller’s research focuses on the history and philosophy of modern biology and on gender and science. She is the author of several books, including A Feeling for the Organism: The Life and Work of Barbara McClintock (1983), Reflections on Gender and Science (1985), The Century of the Gene (2000), and Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors and Machines(2002). Her most recent book, The Mirage of a Space Between Nature and Nurture, is now in press.

That listing of upcoming events gives you a sense of the Situating Science cluster’s scope. Luckily, there are many podcasts and blogs of previous events so you can catch up on anything you may have missed. Here’s a listing of some of the latest presentations which have been made available,

Isabelle Stenger’s “Cosmopolitics: Learning to Think with Sciences, Peoples and Natures”:
Link:
Paul Thompson’s “Ethical Issues in Agriculture: Organic, Locavore and Genetic Modification”
Link:
Gordon McOuat’s keynote address in India for “Sciences and Narratives of Nature: East and West” workshop entitled “Orientalism in Science Studies: Should We Worry?”  (podcast in process)
Link:

Owen Flanagan Jr’s “The Bodhisattva’s Brain: Buddhism Naturalized”
Link:
Charis Thompson’s keynote for the “Politics of Care in Technoscience” workshop entitled “The Politics of Care: Beyond Altruism and Anonymity in Biomedical Donation”
Link:

Bernie Lightman’s NS Institute of Science address “Communicating Knowledge to New Audiences: Victorian Popularizers of Science”
Link:

Enjoy!

Cosmopolitics and Isabelle Stengers on March 5, 2012

Lucky us tfor living in an age where we can ‘attend’ a live keynote talk by Isabelle Stengers, a renowned philosopher and trained chemist, taking place thousands of miles away (for most of us) in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Here’s the notice about the talk from the Situating Science Cluster announcement,

COSMOPOLITICS: LEARNING TO THINK WITH SCIENCES, PEOPLES AND NATURES

Keynote presentation of the “To See Where It Takes Us” conversation series …
MONDAY MARCH 5, 2012
7:30PM AST (6:30PM EST)
SCOTIABANK THEATRE, SOBEY BUILDING, SAINT MARY’S UNIVERSITY
903 ROBIE ST. HALIFAX, NS


Professor Stengers’ keynote address will examine sciences and the consequences of what has been called progress. Is it possible to reclaim modern practices, to have them actively taking into account what they felt entitled to ignore in the name of progress? Or else, can they learn to “think with” instead of define and judge?

Trained as a chemist, Professor Stengers received the grand prize for philosophy from the Académie Française and has collaborated and published with, among others, Nobel Prize winning chemist Ilya Prigogine and renowned sociologist of science Bruno Latour. Her books include: Order out of Chaos (with I. Prigogine), A History of Chemistry (with B. Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent), Power and Invention, The Invention of Modern Science, Cosmopolitics I & II, Capitalist Sorcery (with Philipple Pignarre), and Thinking with Whitehead.

For those of us on the west coast of North America, the talk will be taking place at 3:30 pm PST (11:30 pm GMT) and we can watch the event in real time here: http://www.livestream.com/SITUSCI on Monday, March 5, 2012.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in Halifax next week (March 5 – 9, 2012), Stengers will be involved in a series of ‘conversations’. From the Situating Science Stengers events page here’s a little more about Stengers and the event titled, To See Where It Takes Us,

Professor of Philosophy of Science at the Université libre de Bruxelles, Dr. Stengers has for some 30 years offered one of the most thorough and tenacious reconsiderations of the history and practice of sciences. For Stengers, the sciences and their objects (or their natures), and our human involvements with these are situated in a continuously fluid relationship or “ecology”. Sciences, natures and peoples, therefore, should be seen as engaged in “conversations with” one another rather than as wholly separated. Hence the allusion to “cosmopolitics” in Stengers’ work.

These conversations raise crucial questions about the status of our obligations with knowledges of “the world” as we variously know it and participate in it.  The week of colloquia is set up, therefore, as a series of conversations, “to see where it takes us”.

The schedule and locations for the conversations are on the Stengers events page.

Three sciencetype jobs: two in Canada and one in Australia

The Situating Science Cluster (an academic project connecting social scientists and humanists focused on the study of science and technology mentioned in my Aug. 16, 2011 posting) has a couple of announcements for postdoctoral positions.

The first science job is at the University of Saskatchewan,

Post-doctoral Fellowship in the Philosophy and History of Science and Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan

The Departments of Philosophy and History at the University of Saskatchewan invite candidates for a one-year (renewable for a second year) post-doctoral fellowship. This award is associated with the SSHRC Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant, “Situating Science”, a national cluster promoting communication and networking between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology.

The successful candidate should have completed a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2011. (ETA Feb. 7, 2010: The qualifications have been changed so that candidates are required to complete a PhD in History, Philosophy or Science, Technology and Studies by September 2012 and not by September 2011.) Applicants exploring sub-themes of epistemology and/or history of experimentation are preferred.

The successful candidate will work closely with faculty and graduate students at the University of Saskatchewan associated with the Situating Science Cluster.  In particular, the post-doctoral fellow will help coordinate an international conference and a smaller workshop associated with the Cluster’s activities.  Salary and benefits to $35,000 with the possibility of teaching opportunities that may be negotiated.  Office space will be provided.

More information on the objectives and themes of the Situating Science Cluster can be found on the website: www.situsci.ca/project-summary

More information on the University of Saskatchewan Node can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-saskatchewan-0

More details about the job such as the deadline for applications (April 1, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The other job is in Halifax,

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Science and Technology Studies/History and Philosophy of Science at the University of King’s College and Dalhousie University, Halifax.

King’s and Dalhousie announce a postdoctoral fellowship award in science and technology studies(STS)/history and philosophy of science, technology and medicine (HPS), associated with the SSHRC Cluster Grant, “Situating Science,” a national research cluster promoting communication between humanists and social scientists studying science and technology. The award provides a base salary (stipend) equivalent to $35,000, with the possibility of augmenting the salary through teaching or other awards, depending on the host department.

The successful applicant is expected to have completed a Ph.D. in an STS/HPS-related field, within the last five years and before taking up the fellowship. The candidate will be associated with the University of King’s College and housed in one of the departments associated with STS/HPS. In addition to carrying out independent or collaborative research under the supervision of one or more faculty members on campus, the successful candidate will be expected to take a leadership role in the Cluster, to actively participate in the development of Situating Science activities held on campus, supporting the networking and outreach activities of the local Node.

While the research topic is entirely open, we are particularly interested in projects concerning the history and philosophy of scientific instruments. A candidate with this interest could participate in the collection of an important number of instruments found around Halifax with the long-term goal of establishing a small museum in the new Life Sciences building on campus.

Full applications will contain a cover letter that includes a description of current research projects, an academic CV, a writing sample, and the names and contact information of three referees. Applicants must articulate how their research projects fit within one or more of the four themes of the cluster (these themes can be found at www.situsci.ca/en/aboutus.html), and should indicate which faculty members and departments they intend to work with at Dal/Kings. Applications (hardcopies only please) should be sent to:

A detailed description of the Cluster grant behind “Situating Science” can be found here: http://www.situsci.ca/project-summary.

Faculty members and activities in the “Atlantic Node” of Situating Science can be found at http://www.situsci.ca/node/university-kings-college-0.

More details such as the deadline for applications (Feb. 15, 2012) and who to contact are here.

The next job is in Australia (I assume) with the Friends of the Earth (FoE) who are looking for a Nanotechnology Project Coordinator. Here is more information from the posting on the Pro Bono Australia website,

Are you an environment or social justice campaigner who’s passionate about science and technology issues? Friends of the Earth is looking for a new Coordinator for our nanotechnology work.

Friends of the Earth Australia (FoEA) is a decentralised, volunteer-driven organisation committed to achieving ecological sustainability and social justice. The FoEA Nanotechnology Project has existed since 2005. Its aim is to achieve precautionary management of nanotechnology’s environment and health risks, just oversight of social and economic dimensions, and to ensure that public participation guides nanotechnology decision making (see http://nano.foe.org.au).

The Nanotechnology Project coordinator’s primary responsibility is to facilitate the development, and ensure implementation, of the strategic plan agreed on an annual basis by the Nanotechnology Project collective. The coordinator maintains an overarching view of the political, commercial and scientific landscapes, and supports other members of the collective to contribute effectively to achieve the project’s aims.

Details such as salary and the deadline for applications (Feb. 14, 2012) are in the Pro Bono Australia posting or here on the FoE website.

Canadians and ‘smart’ Christmas trees

This isn’t my usual kind of thing but since it does involve Christmas trees, some science, and Canadians, why not? David Zax in his article, Scientists Build “Smart” Christmas Tree With Long-Lasting Needles and Fragrance (on the Fast Company website) writes,

We live in the era of smart grids, smart phones, smart entrepreneurs, and all other manners of smartness. It may be no surprise to learn, then, that we’re on our way towards having a “smart” Christmas tree–one capable of retaining its needles for twice the normal length of time.

That’s according to Dr. Raj Lada [Dr. Rajasekaran Lada], a plant physiologist at the Christmas Tree Research Centre at Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Truro. “The cutting edge is that we should have to have a tree,” Dr. Lada said on NPR, “which I call a smart tree.”

The idea came a few years ago when a devastated small-business owner called on Lada. The man was ruined: his entire crop of Christmas trees had already lost their needles. As Lada began to investigate, he learned that it wasn’t a blight or a disease that was likely to have caused this crop’s loss. Rather, it was a disorder common to many Christmas tree producers: trees often shed their needles quickly, and there was no consensus over how to fix the problem.

You can find the original interview (audio and transcript) on US National Public Radio here. From the transcript of the interview,

FLATOW [Ira Flatow, Science Friday, radio program host]: Raj, you have a new study that’s out now in the journal Trees, where you were able to make trees keep their needles twice as long as usual. How did you do that?

Dr. LADA: That’s true. We started with – I think the problem itself is widespread, basically. Some people talk about it, some people don’t. And it started with the producer, who sent a shipment of trees to Vancouver, B.C., and turned out to be all the needless dropped, and he has not even paid the check. So that is a severe problem.

And we looked at it as a scientific approach. And any of these physiological things now, any of these abscission or flowering, everything is regulated by hormonal changes in plants or trees, basically. And this is one of it, basically. But nobody knows about it. We didn’t even know that there is such a regulatory process.

FLATOW: Right.

Dr. LADA: We from our other herbaceous plants, like cotton and cut flowers and banana ripening, we know that there is a hormone that triggers and – that ages the cell and triggers the hormone level. And once the hormone level reaches to a certain point, that induces the organ shed, basically, the leaves or the fruits or flower petals or whatever it is that can abscise from their tree or plant.

FLATOW: So this is a natural hormone in the tree that sort of signals the tree to shed its needles.

Dr. LADA: Exactly. This is a natural hormone. We just call it the gaseous hormone. It’s (unintelligible) natural gaseous hormone that is produced by the plant cells, basically, in response to various factors. It could be environment. It could be physical, mechanical manipulations, or any abuse, basically.

FLATOW: What’s the name of the hormone?

Dr. LADA: It’s called ethylene.

The interview is quite interesting but the work has yet to move from the laboratory into the field, i.e., you can’t get a ‘smart’ Christmas tree this year. Still, Dr. Lada does have a tip for this year’s Christmas trees,

FLATOW: I see. And you have studied the effect of Christmas lights on trees?

Dr. LADA: Exactly. And that’s another very interesting story to tell about, especially in the Christmas time. The lights, what we used, you know, people think – sometimes, we turn off the lights, and we put on all kinds of lights, sometimes incandescent lights and sometimes fluorescent lights just on top, sometimes halogen lights beaming on the trees. It looks great, but they – each one of those light spectrum is so different physiologically, and they could alter these metabolic functions critically.

So what we identified was we tried to use the recent technology, which is the LED technology, which people use it on Christmas trees all the time. We tested different spectrums – white, blue, red spectrums. And also, we had a control, which were sitting in dark, and also one other control, which were sitting in the gentle, fluorescent light and incandescent light situations.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Dr. LADA: And we found that the white light has got nearly 30, 35 days better needle retention capacity compared to the dark-retained ones, or the controls with the normal lighting.

FLATOW: Wow. So did you get a whole extra month?

Dr. LADA: Oh, we have a whole extra month, basically. Significant…

FLATOW: With the white – with white – would that be like a full-spectrum light?

Dr. LADA: It is a full-spectrum LED, I would say

FLATOW: Wow. And that’s the is that part of the lights you would string on the trees?

Dr. LADA: That’s important to spring, keep that white light in there, basically, especially from the LEDs. You should put more of the white lights in there, basically, rather than the other spectrum.

FLATOW: And so…

Dr. LADA: In fact, the worst performer in our experiment was the blue.

FLATOW: Wow. And so that would seem to say to me that you don’t want to turn your lights off at night. You want to keep them…

Dr. LADA: Absolutely. You should not turn your lights off at night, basically. Because the reason why I’m suggesting is, as you keep them in dark, it started respiring more. And then it’ll use all its carbohydrates that are in the trees, basically. And then it’s – it can be starved to death, (unintelligible).

There you have it.