The ‘Nano Nails’ from Tech Tips (based in Helena Montana) have more in common with the Tata Nano (a car), i.e., nano in name rather than a nanotechnology-enabled product but they did garner some attention at the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES, Jan. 8 -11, 2013). Here’s more about Nano Nails and Tech Tips from the company’s About page,
Tech Tips, LLC was founded by Cleveland Clinic trained dermatologist, “Sri” Vellanki. She wanted to be more accurate with her smartphone. A mobile touchscreen device is not the same as a piece of paper. Steve Jobs revolutionized the smartphone by creating the iPhone touch interface. Panning, pinching, and scrolling multi-touch gestures are all needed to work with touchscreens. Instead of trying to replicate a fingerpad on a writing utensil, Tech Tips brand styluses were developed to work with your hand on a touchscreen. Multi-touch gestures are unimpeded. Selections are accurate since the touchscreen display is more fully visualized. Frustration and errors are reduced for individuals that find touchscreens difficult to use.
There are 2 products that Tech Tips, LLC has developed. The first is the Tech Tips brand precision stylus, the other is a [sic] an artificial fingernail stylus branded as Nano Nails that replicates the motion of tapping on an object with your fingernails. As many women are aware, longer fingernails do not work on most currently available touchscreens. This makes it difficult to be quick and accurate. Nano Nails solve this problem in an aesthetic and ergonomic way.
Both will be introduced at Eureka Park at the Consumer Electronic Show 2013.
Here’s a video which was taken at the 2013 CES demonstrating how one of Tech Tips’ stylus products can be used for drawing,
Over at the Scientific American website, Larry Greenemeir has posted (Jan. 14, 2013) a CES 2013 slide show of various interesting gadgets including the Nano Nails stylus (slide no. 9 of 10).
Canatu Ltd. is a Finnish company that’s trying to crowdfund its foldable, soft keyboard, Qii, on indiegogo. Here’s more about Canatu’s keyboard project from the Nov. 24, 2012 news item on Nanowerk,
Canatu Ltd., a developer of a new class of versatile carbon nanomaterial based custom films and sensors for flexible and formable touch devices, is launching Qii – the world’s first, truly mobile, rollable touch accessory.
The company appears to be creating a new class of product under the Qii brand name. From the indiegogo campaign description,
With Qii, your smartphone and your imagination, any surface can be effectively turned into a touch surface and any “dumb” object can be turned into a “smart” object. Nanotechnology and organic electronics make it possible. The idea is simple, but the applications are endless.
As our first Qii product, we’re offering a full QWERTY computer keyboard, including a number pad and function keys, wirelessly connected to your smartphone. Because its ultra thin and flexible, Qii is both full sized and pocket sized, so you’ll be able to effortlessly type and surf anywhere you go, be it in a café, the woods, or a car, train, bus or plane. It has an anti fingerprint coating to keep it clean and a textured surface for easy touch typing. It’s dirt and water resistant, so you don’t have to worry about spilling and it’s easily washable with soap and water. And, since Qii’s rollable electronics are printed, it’s tough.
Qii’s case is also a touchpad, allowing you to point, tap and scroll for easy surfing and graphical editing. You can use Qii on most any surface, so you can check your email on your friend’s belly, update your Facebook on your pet, or write your next novel on your pillow.
Some keyboards claim to be rollable, but you can’t roll them up and fit them in your pocket. We use a new kind of flexible transparent electronic film together with a new kind of touch sensing technology that can sense both position and force to create a compact and portable and programmable touch surface.
Qii will work with iPhone, iPod, iPad, Android, iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Phone, and Palm phones according to each platform’s available QWERTY keyboard and pointer standards.
Intriguing, non? You might want to watch this video for a demonstration,
There is a very brief description of the technology in the campaign material,
Our team has been working for years with our partners to bring Qii to life. Together we have developed new carbon based nanomaterials, new dry printing manufacturing techniques and now new, ultra-high transparency, flexible, bendable, stretchable, rollable and foldable touch technologies and unique touch algorithms to make Qii possible. It starts with our flexible, transparent, electrically conductive film made with a new carbon nanomaterial connected to state-of-the art sensing electronics to make a flexible, transparent touch sensing surface that determines both your finger’s position and force.
We’ll introduce the Qii in pliable hard coated plastic, but, in the future, the sensor can be printed on most anything, even paper, rubber or fabric.
I took a look at the Canatu website and found this information about a material they’ve developed and named, NanoBuds® and which I believe forms the basis for the company’s proposed Qii keyboard,
Canatu has developed a new material, the Carbon NanoBud®, which is a hybrid of Carbon Nanotubes and fullerenes. The hybridization is achieved directly in the material synthesis process and the resulting material combines the best features of both fullerenes and nanotubes.
Canatu’s first products focus on taking advantage of the high conductivity, high aspect ratio, low work function, chemical stability and mechanical flexibility of NanoBuds® to make the world’s highest performance carbon based transparent conductive film for transparent conductors in touch, haptics, displays and photovoltaics. These films, consisting of randomly oriented deposits of NanoBuds on polymer or glass substrates, are flexible, bendable, stretchable and have excellent transparency conductivity performance as shown below. [emphasis mine]
David Brown, the company’s Chief Technical Officer (CTO) originally announced the crowdfunding Qii campaign would take place on Kickstarter in Dan Rogers’s Oct. 10, 2012 article for Plastic Electronics,
An accessory using a novel nanomaterial touchscreen will be launched via the Kickstarter project in the coming weeks, according to nanotechnology developer Canatu.
Based in Finland, Canatu supplies carbon NanoBuds that can be used as a conductive layer alternative to indium tin oxide, which is considered too brittle for flexible electronics.
I’m not sure what happened with the ‘Kickstarter’ plans but the indiegogo campaign has 41 days left as Canatu tries to raise $1,850,000 by Jan. 6, 2013. The company must raise the entire amount requested or it receives nothing.
Good luck to the folks at Canatu. Qii looks like a product which would make moving around much easier. Imagine not having to lug your laptop or tablet around while enjoying the benefits of a full size keyboard.
The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) patent summit being held today (Oct. 10, 2012) in Geneva, Switzerland was announced in July 2012 as noted in this July 6, 2012 news item on the BBC News website,
A rash of patent lawsuits has prompted the UN to call smartphone makers and others mobile industry bodies together.
It said the parties needed to address the “innovation-stifling use of intellectual property” which had led to several devices being banned from sale.
It said innovations deemed essential to industry standards, such as 3G or Jpeg photos, would be the meeting’s focus.
It noted that if just one patent holder demanded unreasonable compensation the cost of a device could “skyrocket”.
Microsoft and Apple are among firms that have called on others not to enforce sales bans on the basis of such standards-essential patents.
However, lawyers have noted that doing so would deprive other companies of way to counter-attacking other types of patent lawsuits pursued by the two companies.
Here’s a sample of the activity that has led to convening this summit (excerpted from the BBC news item),
“We are seeing an unwelcome trend in today’s marketplace to use standards-essential patents to block markets,” said the ITU secretary general Dr Hamadoun Toure.
Motorola Mobility – now owned by Google – managed to impose a brief sales ban of iPhone and iPads in Germany last year after Apple refused to pay it a licence fee. The dispute centred on a patent deemed crucial to the GPRS data transmission standard used by GSM cellular networks.
Samsung has also attempted to use its 3G patents to bar Apple from selling products in Europe, Japan and the US.
However, industry watchers note that Apple has used lawsuits to ban Samsung products in both the US and Australia and attempted to restrict sales of other companies’ devices powered by Android.
The UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) — the same unit looking at very questionable plans concerning taxing the internet — has apparently decided that it also needs to step in over the massive patent thicket around smartphones. It’s convening a summit … it looks like they’re only inviting the big companies who make products, and leaving the many trolls out of it. Also, it’s unclear from the description if the ITU really grasps the root causes of the problem: the system itself. …
This Roundtable will assess the effectiveness of RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) – based patent policies. The purpose of this initiative is to provide a neutral venue for industry, standards bodies and regulators to exchange innovative ideas that can guide future discussions on whether current patent policies and existing industry practices adequately respond to the needs of the various stakeholders.
They raise my hopes then dash them to the ground; still, this is very exciting news for anyone wanting self-cleaning windows. The April 26, 2012 news item on Nanowerk features some of the latest work from MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) on nanotextures and ‘multifunctional’ glass,
One of the most instantly recognizable features of glass is the way it reflects light. But a new way of creating surface textures on glass, developed by researchers at MIT, virtually eliminates reflections, producing glass that is almost unrecognizable because of its absence of glare — and whose surface causes water droplets to bounce right off, like tiny rubber balls.
The new “multifunctional” glass, based on surface nanotextures that produce an array of conical features, is self-cleaning and resists fogging and glare, the researchers say. Ultimately, they hope it can be made using an inexpensive manufacturing process that could be applied to optical devices, the screens of smartphones and televisions, solar panels, car windshields and even windows in buildings.
Here’s what they mean by ‘conical features’,
Through a process involving thin layers of material deposited on a surface and then selectively etched away, the MIT team produced a surface covered with tiny cones, each five times taller than their width. This pattern prevents reflections, while at the same time repelling water from the surface. Image: Hyungryul Choi and Kyoo-Chul Park
The surface pattern — consisting of an array of nanoscale cones that are five times as tall as their base width of 200 nanometers — is based on a new fabrication approach the MIT team developed using coating and etching techniques adapted from the semiconductor industry. Fabrication begins by coating a glass surface with several thin layers, including a photoresist layer, which is then illuminated with a grid pattern and etched away; successive etchings produce the conical shapes. The team has already applied for a patent on the process.
Since it is the shape of the nanotextured surface — rather than any particular method of achieving that shape — that provides the unique characteristics, Park and Choi [MIT mechanical engineering graduate students Kyoo-Chul Park and Hyungryul Choi] say that in the future glass or transparent polymer films might be manufactured with such surface features simply by passing them through a pair of textured rollers while still partially molten; such a process would add minimally to the cost of manufacture.
If you’re guessing that nature inspired some of this, read on (from Chandler’s MIT news release),
The researchers say they drew their inspiration from nature, where textured surfaces ranging from lotus leaves to desert-beetle carapaces and moth eyes have developed in ways that often fulfill multiple purposes at once. Although the arrays of pointed nanocones on the surface appear fragile when viewed microscopically, the researchers say their calculations show they should be resistant to a wide range of forces, ranging from impact by raindrops in a strong downpour or wind-driven pollen and grit to direct poking with a finger. Further testing will be needed to demonstrate how well the nanotextured surfaces hold up over time in practical applications.
The chief excitement seems to centre around applications with solar panels (from Chandler’s MIT news release),
Photovoltaic panels, Park explains, can lose as much as 40 percent of their efficiency within six months as dust and dirt accumulate on their surfaces. But a solar panel protected by the new self-cleaning glass, he says, would have much less of a problem. In addition, the panel would be more efficient because more light would be transmitted through its surface, instead of being reflected away — especially when the sun’s rays are inclined at a sharp angle to the panel. At such times, such as early mornings and late afternoons, conventional glass might reflect away more than 50 percent of the light, whereas an anti-reflection surface would reduce the reflection to a negligible level.
While some earlier work has treated solar panels with hydrophobic coatings, the new multifunctional surfaces created by the MIT team are even more effective at repelling water, keeping the panels clean longer, the researchers say. In addition, existing hydrophobic coatings do not prevent reflective losses, giving the new system yet another advantage.
More testing is needed and while they do fantasize about wider applications (car windows, microscopes, cameras, smartphones, building windows, etc. mentioned earlier in this posting) for this technology there are no immediate plans to fulfill my dream of self-cleaning apartment windows and mirrors.
CEATEC (Cutting Edge IT [Information Technology] and Electronics Comprehensive Exhibition) Japan, Oct.4-8, 2011 is a large technology fair being held in Chiba, near Tokyo. Some 800 companies are showcasing their latest and greatest according to the Oct. 4, 2011 news item on physorg.com,
Around 600 firms unveiled their innovations at the Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies (Ceatec) exhibition in Chiba, near Tokyo, expected to draw 200,000 visitors during its five-day run, organisers said.
The impact of Japan’s March 11 earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster gave added resonance to technologies on display, particularly those aimed at improving urban infrastructure and energy efficiency.
State-of-the-art radiation counters and power-saving technologies are in high demand after Japan’s disasters sparked fears over contamination and led to power shortages, requiring cuts to energy consumption this summer.
Japanese telecom giant NTT [Nippon Telegraph and Telephone] DoCoMo showed off a smartphone with changeable sensor-embedded shells that can detect bad breath, vital body signs and even be used to measure background radiation levels.
One item that particularly interested me is a transparent organic film from Murata Manufacturing. From the news item,
Electronics parts maker Murata Manufacturing unveiled devices using a newly developed transparent organic film that can deliver instructions via twisting motions or pressure.
One of its gadgets, a light-powered plate called the Leaf Grip Remote Controller, has no buttons but is instead operated by the user bending and twisting it.
Another application of the film is as a touch panel which responds to left-right and up-down finger swipes but also senses how strongly it is being pressed, unlike conventional touchscreen glass used on smartphones.
“Currently we give commands two-dimensionally on touch panels in smartphones and tablet computers but this invention would give us another dimension — how hard they are pressed,” Murata spokesman Kazuhisa Mashita said.
“This could enable users to scroll screens slowly by touching the screen lightly and move images faster by pressing it harder,” he told AFP [Agence France-Presse] ahead of the exhibition.
Earlier this year when CHI (computer-human interface) 2011 was taking place in Vancouver, Canada, I wrote about Roel Vertegaal and his team’s work on their PaperPhone and bending and twisting gestures (May 12, 2011 posting).
Bending and twisting a flexible screen doesn’t seem all that complicated but when you think about making those gestures meaningful, i. e., ‘slowing a screen image by pressing more softly’, you realize just how much effort and thought are required for features, that if successful, will not be noticed.
Coatings may not sound exciting but nanotechnology is have a big impact in that area. P2i, a UK-based company that’s been mentioned here before, will be bringing a nanocoating for LED lighting and smartphones to IFA 2011, the largest consumer trade show for electronics and home appliances in the world. From the August 31, 2011 news item on Nanowerk,
P2i brings its award-winning liquid repellent nano-coating technology, Aridion™, to IFA for the first time in 2011. Show visitors will be able to witness the ‘magic’ of Aridion™ in action at P2i’s booth – water simply forms beads and rolls off protected items, leaving no trace.
Aridion™ technology creates a complete nanoscopic protective coating for consumer electronics devices such as smartphones and MP3 players. By providing superior liquid repellency Aridion™ effectively fights corrosion, thus substantially reducing warranty failure and repair costs.
While the news item mentions smartphones, the company’s big announcement seems to be focused on LED lighting,
As IFA opens, P2i also announces it has entered into an exclusive worldwide license agreement to protect LED lighting solutions with SavWatt USA, Inc. Aridion™ technology will transform the reliability of the lights through reduced failure and repair rates.
For anyone who’d like more details about the Aridion™ coating,
Aridion™ is applied using a special pulsed ionized gas (plasma), which is created within a vacuum chamber, to attach a nanoscopic polymer layer, one thousand times thinner than a human hair – to the lighting system. This dramatically lowers the product’s surface energy, so that when liquids or moisture come into contact with it, they form beads and simply roll off.
Plus, because Aridion™ coats every aspect of a finished product at the nanoscopic level, it protects much more thoroughly than alternative approaches where individual components are treated prior to assembly. The result is a truly durable liquid repellent coating that does not affect the working components of electronic devices, maintaining the look, feel and functionality of the product.
In general, one thinks of surveillance as an activity undertaken by the military or the police or some other arm of the state (a spy agency of some kind). The Nano Hummingbird, a drone from AeroVironment designed for the US Pentagon, would fit into any or all of those categories.
The inset screen shows you what is being seen via the hummingbird’s camera, while the larger screen image allows you to observe the Nano Hummingbird in action. I don’t know why they’ve used the word nano as part of the product unless it is for marketing purposes. The company’s description of the product is at a fairly high level and makes no mention of the technology, nano or otherwise, that makes the hummingbird drone’s capabilities possible (from the company’s Nano Hummingbird webpage),
AV [AeroVironment] is developing the Nano Air Vehicle (NAV) under a DARPA sponsored research contract to develop a new class of air vehicle systems capable of indoor and outdoor operation. Employing biological mimicry at an extremely small scale, this unconventional aircraft could someday provide new reconnaissance and surveillance capabilities in urban environments.
The Nano Hummingbird could be described as a traditional form surveillance as could the EyeSwipe iris scanners (mentioned in my Dec. 10, 2010 posting). The EyeSwipe allows the police, military, or other state agencies to track you with cameras that scan your retinas (they’ve had trials of this technology in Mexico).
A provocative piece by Nic Fleming for the journal, New Scientist, takes this a step further. Smartphone surveillance: The cop in your pocket can be found in the July 30, 2011 issue of New Scientist (preview here; the whole article is behind a paywall),
While many of us use smartphones to keep our social lives in order, they are also turning out to be valuable tools for gathering otherwise hard-to-get data. The latest smartphones bristle with sensors …
Apparently the police are wanting to crowdsource surveillance by having members of the public use their smartphones to track licence plate numbers, etc. and notify the authorities. Concerns about these activities are noted both in Fleming article and in the August 10, 2011 posting on the Foresight Institute blog,
“Christine Peterson, president of the Foresight Institute based in Palo Alto, California, warns that without safeguards, the data we gather about each other might one day be used to undermine rather than to protect our freedom. ‘We are moving to a new level of data collection that our society is not accustomed to,’ she says.”
Peterson’s comments about data collection struck me most particularly as I’ve noticed over the last several months a number of applications designed to make life ‘easier’ that also feature data collection (i. e., collection of one’s personal data). For example, there’s Percolate. From the July 7, 2011 article by Austin Carr for Fast Company,
Percolate, currently in its “double secret alpha” version, is a blogging platform that provides curated content for you to write about. The service taps into your RSS and Twitter feeds, culls content based on your interests–the stuff that “percolates up”–and then offers you the ability to share your thoughts on the subject with friends. “We’re trying to make it easy for anyone to create content,” Brier says, “to take away from the frustration of staring at that blank box and trying to figure out what to say.”
It not only removes the frustration, it removes at least some of the impetus for creativity. The service is being framed as a convenience. Coincidentally, it makes much easier for marketers or any one or any agency to track your activities.
This data collection can get a little more intimate than just your Twitter and RSS feeds. Your underwear can monitor your bodily functions (from the June 11, 2010 news item on Nanowerk),
A team of U.S. scientists has designed some new men’s briefs that may be comfortable, durable and even stylish but, unlike most underpants, may be able to save lives.
Printed on the waistband and in constant contact with the skin is an electronic biosensor, designed to measure blood pressure, heart rate and other vital signs.
The technology, developed by nano-engineering professor Joseph Wang of University of California San Diego and his team, breaks new ground in the field of intelligent textiles and is part of shift in focus in healthcare from hospital-based treatment to home-based management.
The method is similar to conventional screen-printing although the ink contains carbon electrodes.
The project is being funded by the U.S. military with American troops likely to be the first recipients.
“This specific project involves monitoring the injury of soldiers during battlefield surgery and the goal is to develop minimally invasive sensors that can locate, in the field, and identify the type of injury,” Wang told Reuters Television.
I realize that efforts such as the ‘smart underpants’ are developed with good intentions but if the data can be used to monitor your health status, it can be used to monitor you for other reasons.
While the military can insist its soldiers be monitored, civilian efforts are based on incentives. For example, Foodzy is an application that makes dieting fun. From the July 7, 2011 article by Morgan Clendaniel on Fast Company,
As more and more people join (Foodzy is aiming for 30,000 users by the end of the year and 250,000 by the end of 2012), you’ll also start being able to see what your friends are eating. This could be a good way to keep your intake of bits down, not wanting to embarrass yourself in front of your friends as you binge on some cookies, but Kamphuis [Marjolijn Kamphuis is one of the founders] sees a more social aspect to it: “On my dashboard I am able to see what the ‘food match’ between me and my friends is, the same way Last.FM has been comparing me and my friend’s music taste for ages! I am now able to share recipes with my friends or hook up with them in real life for dinner because I notice we have similar taste.”
That sure takes the discovery/excitement aspect out of getting to know someone. As I noted with my comments about Percolate, with more of our lives being mediated by applications of this nature, the easier we are to track.
Along a parallel track, there’s a campaign to remove anonymity and/or pseudonymity from the Internet. As David Sirota notes in his August 12, 2011 Salon essay about this trend, the expressed intention is to ensure civility and minimize bullying but there is at least one other consequence,
The big potential benefit of users having to attach real identities to their Internet personas is more constructive dialogue.
As Zuckerberg [Randi Zuckerberg, Facebook executive] and Schmidt [Eric Schmidt, former Google CEO] correctly suggest, online anonymity is primarily used by hate-mongers to turn constructive public discourse into epithet-filled diatribes. Knowing they are shielded from consequences, trolls feel empowered to spew racist, sexist and other socially unacceptable rhetoric that they’d never use offline. …
The downside, though, is that true whistle-blowers will lose one of their most essential tools.
Though today’s journalists often grant establishment sources anonymity to attack weaker critics, anonymity’s real social value is rooted in helping the powerless challenge the powerful. Think WikiLeaks, which exemplifies how online anonymity provides insiders the cover they need to publish critical information without fear of retribution. Eliminating such cover will almost certainly reduce the kind of leaks that let the public occasionally see inconvenient truths.
It’s not always about whistleblowing, some people prefer pseudonyms. Science writer and blogger, GrrlScientist, recently suffered a blow to her pseudonymity which was administered by Google (from her July 16, 2011 posting on the Guardian science blogs),
One week ago, my entire Google account was deactivated suddenly and without warning. I was not allowed to access gmail nor any other Google service until I surrendered my personal telephone number in exchange for reinstating access to my gmail account. I still cannot access many of my other accounts, such as Google+, Reader and Buzz. My YouTube account remains locked, too.
I was never notified as to what specifically had warranted this unexpected deactivation of my account. I only learned a few hours later that my account was shut down due to the name I use on my profile page, which you claim is a violation of your “community standards”. However, as stated on your own “display name” pages, I have not violated your community standards. I complied with your stated request: my profile name is “the name that [I] commonly go by in daily life.”
My name is a pseudonym, as I openly state on my profile. I have used GrrlScientist as my pseudonym since 2000 and it has a long track record. I have given public lectures in several countries, received mail in two countries, signed contracts, received monetary payments, published in a number of venues and been interviewed for news stories – all using my pseudonym. A recent Google search shows that GrrlScientist, as spelled, is unique in the world. This meets at least two of your stated requirements; (1) I am not impersonating anyone and (2) my name represents just one person.
GrrlScientist is not the only writer who prefers a pseudonym. Mark Twain did too. His real name was Samuel J. Clemens but widely known as Mark Twain, he was the author of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and many more books, short stories, and essays.
Minimzing bullying, ensuring civility, monitoring vital signs in battle situations, encouraging people to write, helping a friend stay on diet are laudable intentions but all of this leads to more data being collected about us and the potential for abusive use of this data.
The headline for the news release on Marketwire (via the Canadian Science Policy site) is: Canada Foundation for Innovation(CFI) Practices is Called ‘World’s Best’. As it’s been a bit slow for news here I began wondering ‘which practices in which countries are being compared’? After reviewing the reports quickly, I can’t answer the question. There are no bibliographies in any of the three reports related to this KPMG study while the footnotes make reference only to other KPMG and Canadian studies. It was a bit of surprise, I was expecting to see reports from other countries and/or from international organizations and some insight into their analysis as comparing agencies in different countries can be complicated.
I’m not sure how they arrived at their conclusion although they provide some interesting data. From the Overall Evaluation report (p. 28 PDF, p. 24 print),
Exhibit [Table] 4.16 shows that, on average, there have been about 6.4 collaborations with end-users per PL/PU in the past year, three-quarters of which used the CFI projects as key resources, and about 10.2 collaborations per Department Head, about 70% of which using CFI projects in a significant way. For PLs/PUs, there are only small differences in use of CFI projects as a key resource by type of end-user, but Department Heads show more variation in the use of CFI project by type of user; it is unknown if this is significant.
Note that 64% of PL/PUs’ and 80% of Department Heads’ end-user collaborations, respectively, are with Canadian organizations; there is a significant international component (with OMS data suggesting that the CFI projects are a significant attractor for international organizations to collaborate [emphasis mine]).
It certainly seems laudable although I question whether you can conclude that the CFI is a significant international organization attractor by inference alone. Shouldn’t this be backed up with another instrument, such as a questionnaire for a survey/poll of the international organizations, asking why they are collaborating with Canadian scientists? I was not able to find any mention of such a survey or poll taking place.
From everything I hear, Canadians are excellent at academic science research and attracting researchers from around the world and because of our penchant for collaboration we (as they say) “punch above our weight.” I just wish this report did a better job of providing evidence for its assertions about the CFI’s ‘best practices’.
Thanks to Adrian Covert’s article on Fast Company, I found information about a prototype for a piece of wearable computing, the Ping hoodie. From Covert’s article,
The Ping clothing concept makes use of embedded electronics and haptics controlled by the Arduino Lilypad system, which transmits to your device (most likely a smartphone) using the Lylipad Xbee. This tech serves as the core interface between you and the information you need. If someone special is sending you a call or text, you can set the hoodie to vibrate in a specific manner, letting you know it’s them. Actions as simple as lifting or dropping the hood can be used to send status updates and messages on Facebook, with the potential to target certain groups of friends.
There’s more at Fast Company or you can check out electricfoxy where the designer, Jennifer Darmour has her site which is where I found this image,
Ping hoodie (wearable computing) designed by Jennifer Darmour at electricfoxy
Do go to Darmour’s site (although Fast Company offers a pretty good selection) if you want to see all the images including close ups of the fabric (don’t forget to scroll horizontally as well as vertically).
Clothing that protects your life
P2i, a company I’ve mentioned here before, has announced a ‘new’ revolutionary form of protective clothing. Actually, it sounds like an improvement rather than a revolutionary concept but maybe I’m getting jaded. From the news item on Nanowerk,
A revolutionary new generation of high-performance body armour, launched today, is lighter, more comfortable and more protective than any previous design, thanks to P2i’s liquid-repellent nano-coating technology.
The new G Tech Vest is a joint development between two world-class UK companies with very strong credentials for the life protection market: P2i, whose technology was originally developed to make soldiers’ protective clothing more effective against chemical attack; and Global Armour, which has been at the leading edge of product innovation in the armour industry for over 30 years.
The G Tech Vest employs brand-new lightweight materials, both in the physical armour itself (a closely-guarded trade secret) and the fabric that forms the armour into a garment. P2i’s technology reduces weight by avoiding the need for bulky durable water repellents and increases comfort by preserving the natural airflow and drape of the garment material.
I recently (April 15, 2010) made a comment about how modern soldiers are beginning to resemble medieval knights and this talk of armour certainly reinforces the impression.
Spiders weaving building materials?
Michael Berger at Nanowerk has written an in-depth article about spider silk and its possible application, amongst others, as a building material. He’s interviewed one of the authors (Markus J. Buehler) of a recent paper that lays out “… a framework for predicting the nanostructure of spider silk using atomistic principles.” More from the Spotlight article on Nanowerk,
In a paper published as the cover article in Applied Physics Letters on April 12, 2010 (“Atomistic model of the spider silk nanostructure”), [Sinan] Keten and Buehler demonstrate an innovative application of replica exchange molecular dynamics simulations on a key spider silk repeating sequence, resulting in the first atomistic level structure of spider silk.
More specifically, the MIT researchers found the formation of beta-sheet structures in poly-Ala rich parts of the structure, the presence of semi-extended GGX domains that form H-bonded 31 helix type structures and a complete lack of alpha-helical conformations in the molecular structures formed by the self-assembly of MaSp1 proteins. These results resolve controversies around the structure of the amorphous domains in silk, by illustrating for the first time that these semi-extended, well-oriented and more sparsely H-bonded structures that resemble 31 helices could be the molecular source of the large semi-crystalline fraction of silks and the so-called ‘pre-stretched’ configuration proposed for these domains.
Shy of reading the original research, which I likely wouldn’t understand easily, Berger’s article provides an excellent entry into the subject.
Open access archive for nano papers
My final item for today is about a project to give free access to papers on nanotechnology that they host and/or publish. Hooray! It’s very frustrating to get stuck behind paywalls so I’m thrilled that there’s an agency offering free access. From the news item on Nanowerk,
The Nano Archive, the online open-access repository for nanoscience and nanotechnology, invites you to submit research papers to be published free online for users across the globe.
Submitted papers can include peer-reviewed articles, journal articles, review articles, conference and workshop papers, theses and dissertations, book chapters and sections, as well as multimedia and audio-visual materials. The Nano Archive also welcomes new, unpublished research results to be shared with the wider community.
The Nano Archive is part of the ICPC NanoNet project, funded by the EU under FP7. It brings together partners from the EU, Russia, India, China and Africa, and provides wider access to published nanoscience research and opportunities for collaboration between scientists in the EU and International Cooperation Partner Countries.
The Nano Archive currently hosts over 6000 papers. You can read more about the sponsoring agency, the ICPC (International Cooperation Partner Countries) NanoNet here. It has funding for four years and was started in 2008.
There’s a new ‘smartphone’ application for scientists and others who aspire to collect data and send it on to a database. From the news item on Physorg.com,
… researchers [at the Imperial College of London] have developed an application for ‘smartphones’ that allows a scientist or member of the public to collect and record data, photos and videos – for example to document the presence of an animal or plant species – and then send this information to a central web-based database. The website records the user’s location, using the phone’s GPS system, and it can then display all of the data collected on this topic across the world, using Google Maps.
You can read more about it here. It’s interesting to contrast this development in the UK with some comments that Rob Annan made (in this blog’s Sept. 17, 2009 comments section) about science communication needing to be participatory.
In fact, yesterday’s posting has motivated me to look at science communication in Canada. There are three programmes in education institutions (do correct me if I’ve missed a programme), a graduate diploma from Science North and Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario and two summer programmes at Banff Centre for the Arts: a three day workshop for senior scientists and a 12-day workshop for anyone else. That’s as much as I can find for formal education for anyone interested in communicating science. There are informal education opportunities available in science and technology centres (e.g. Science World and the HR MacMillan Space Centre in Vancouver) but these tend to be oriented to children as is the National Science and Technology Week which is coming up in October. There are some in-house programmes as I found out and there’s a Cafe Scientifique series in many cities around the world, including Vancouver (although they don’t appear to have been active for some months).
Nothing I’ve found (as little as there is) begins to approach the idea of engaging members of the public to participate in science and full discussion about science (as opposed to asking questions at the end of a presentation). The education programmes at Banff (here for senior scientists [there is mention of a two-way communication process but the projects for students are one-way] and here for anyone else [they give no details about their approach to interactive science communication and the faculty come from traditional sources, i.e. a university lecturer, some broadcasters, print journalists, etc.]) and Science North (check module 3) are focused on communicating science to the public.
There is a public engagement community in Canada but that tends to be social scientists working in the biotechnology field. There was a huge uproar about biotechnology, stem cells, and genetically modified food which resulted in a number of public engagement exercises in Canada (and elsewhere). Typically, the engagement is in the form of a ‘town hall’ where policy makers, scientists, affected individuals, and the general public have discussions which are recorded and used as data to inform policy decisions. In Canada, this type of public engagement has pretty much remained within the biotech/genome community. There are other types of public engagement or public consultations but these don’t seem to generate data for policy making although short-term political decisions may be influenced. (Note: if I’m mistaken in my understanding, please do correct me.)
Now on to Scribblenauts! From the Fast Company article by Kevin Ohannessian,
… Scribblenauts may be the first game to use your vocabulary as the interface. Jeremiah Slaczka, the Lead Designer at the title’s developer 5th Cell, describes the game as, “An action puzzle game where you can literally write anything to solve the puzzle. You can write ladder and it will appear, or flamethrower and use that.” The user handwrites the name of an object and it appears on screen.
Please do read the article, this sounds like a great game and an antidote to all those folks who keep predicting the end of literacy (I confess, sometimes I’m one of those folks).
ETA: Don’t forget the Perverse incentives: The untold story of federal subsidies for fossil fuels tomorrow (Sept. 18, 2009)starting at 9 am (EST) in Washington, DC. There will be live webcast which can also be accessed a day or two later when it’s posted online. You can find links to the event on my Sept. 11, 2009 posting.