Author Archives: Maryse de la Giroday

Venice Biennale 2024 (April 20 – November 24, 2024)

Every once in a while I get an email from a lawyer (Gale P. Eston) in New York City who specializes in the art and business communities. How I got on her list is a mystery to me but her missives are always interesting. The latest one was a little difficult to understand until I looked at the Venice Biennale website and saw the theme for this year’s exhibition,

Courtesy: Venice Biennale [downloaded from https://www.labiennale.org/en/news/biennale-arte-2024-stranieri-ovunque-foreigners-everywhere]

Biennale Arte 2024: Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere

The 60th International Art Exhibition, curated by Adriano Pedrosa, will be open from Saturday 20 April to Sunday 24 November at the Giardini and Arsenale venues.

The 60th International Art Exhibition, titled Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, will open to the public from Saturday April 20 to Sunday November 24, 2024, at the Giardini and the Arsenale; it will be curated by Adriano Pedrosa and organised by La Biennale di Venezia. The pre-opening will take place on April 17, 18 and 19; the awards ceremony and inauguration will be held on 20 April 2024.

Since 2021, La Biennale di Venezia launched a plan to reconsider all of its activities in light of recognized and consolidated principles of environmental sustainability. For the year 2024, the goal is to extend the achievement of “carbon neutrality” certification, which was obtained in 2023 for La Biennale’s scheduled activities: the 80th Venice International Film Festival, the Theatre, Music and Dance Festivals and, in particular, the 18th International Architecture Exhibition which was the first major Exhibition in this discipline to test in the field a tangible process for achieving carbon neutrality – while furthermore itself reflecting upon the themes of decolonisation and decarbonisation

The Exhibition will take place in the Central Pavilion (Giardini) and in the Arsenale, and it will present two sections: the Nucleo Contemporaneo and the Nucleo Storico.

As a guiding principle, the Biennale Arte 2024 has favored artists who have never participated in the International Exhibition—though a number of them may have been featured in a National Pavilion, a Collateral Event, or in a past edition of the International Exhibition. Special attention is being given to outdoor projects, both in the Arsenale and in the Giardini, where a performance program is being planned with events during the pre-opening and closing weekend of the 60th Exhibition.

Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere, the title of the 60th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, is drawn from a series of works started in 2004 by the Paris-born and Palermo-based Claire Fontaine collective. The works consist of neon sculptures in different colours that render in a growing number of languages the words “Foreigners Everywhere”. The phrase comes, in turn, from the name of a Turin collective who fought racism and xenophobia in Italy in the early 2000s.

«The expression Stranieri Ovunque – explains Adriano Pedrosa – has several meanings. First of all, that wherever you go and wherever you are you will always encounter foreigners— they/we are everywhere. Secondly, that no matter where you find yourself, you are always truly, and deep down inside, a foreigner.»

«The Italian straniero, the Portuguese estrangeiro, the French étranger, and the Spanish extranjero, are all etymologically connected to the strano, the estranho, the étrange, the extraño, respectively, which is precisely the stranger. Sigmund Freud’s Das Unheimliche comes to mind—The Uncanny in English, which in Portuguese has indeed been translated as “o estranho”– the strange that is also familiar, within, deep down side. According to the American Heritage and the Oxford Dictionaries, the first meaning of the word “queer” is precisely “strange”, and thus the Exhibition unfolds and focuses on the production of other related subjects: the queer artist, who has moved within different sexualities and genders, often being persecuted or outlawed; the outsider artist, who is located at the margins of the art world, much like the self-taught artist, the folk artist and the artista popular; the indigenous artist, frequently treated as a foreigner in his or her own land. The productions of these four subjects are the interest of this Biennale, constituting the Nucleo Contemporaneo

«Indigenous artists have an emblematic presence and their work greets the public in the Central Pavilion, where the Mahku collective from Brazil will paint a monumental mural on the building’s façade, and in the Corderie, where the Maataho collective from Aotearoa/New Zealand will present a large-scale installation in the first room. Queer artists appear throughout the exhibition, and are also the subject of a large section in the Corderie, and one devoted to queer abstraction in the Central Pavilion.»

The Nucleo Contemporaneo will feature a special section in the Corderie devoted to the Disobedience Archive, a project by Marco Scotini, which since 2005 has been developing a video archive focusing on the relationships between artistic practices and activism. In the Exhibition, the presentation of the Disobedience Archive is designed by Juliana Ziebell, who also worked in the exhibition architecture of the entire International Exhibition. This section is divided into two main parts especially conceived for our framework: Diaspora activism and Gender Disobedience. The Disobedience Archive will include works by 39 artists and collectives made between 1975 and 2023.»

«The Nucleo Storico gathering works from 20th century Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Much has been written about global modernisms and modernisms in the Global South, and a number of rooms will feature works from these territories, much like an essay, a draft, a speculative curatorial exercise that seeks to question the boundaries and definitions of modernism. We are all too familiar with the histories of modernism in Euroamerica, yet the modernisms in the Global South remain largely unknown. […]. European modernism itself travelled far beyond Europe throughout the 20th century, often intertwined with colonialism, and many artists in the Global South traveled to Europe to be exposed to it […].»

In the Central Pavilion three rooms are planned for the Nucleo Storico: one room is titled Portraits, one Abstractions and the third one is devoted to the the worldwide Italian artistic diaspora in the 20th century.

«The double-room named Portraits, includes works from 112 artists, mostly paintings but also works on paper and sculpture, spanning the years of 1905 and 1990. […] The theme of the human figure has been explored in countless different ways by artists in the Global South, reflecting on the crisis of representation around the that very figure that marked much of the art in 20th century art. In the Global South, many artists were in touch with European modernism, through travels, studies or books, yet they bring in their own highly personal and powerful reflections and contributions to their works […]. The room devoted to Abstractions includes 37 artists: most of them are being exhibited together for the first time, and we will learn from these unforeseen juxtapositions in the flesh, which will then hopefully point towards new connections, associations, and parallels much beyond the rather straightforward categories that I have proposed. […]»

Artists from Singapore and Korea have been brought into this section, given that at the time they were part of the so-called Third World. In a similar manner, Selwyn Wilson and Sandy Adsett, from Aotearoa/New Zealand, have been brought into this Nucleo Storico as they are historical Maori artists.

«[…] A third room in the Nucleo Storico is dedicated to the worldwide Italian artistic diaspora in the 20th century: Italian artists who travelled and moved abroad developing their careers in Africa, Asia, Latin America, as well as in the rest of Europe and the United States, becoming embedded in local cultures—and who often played significant roles in the development of the narratives of modernism beyond Italy. This room will feature works by 40 artists who are first or second generations Italians, exhibited in Lina Bo Bardi’s glass easel display system (Bo Bardi herself an Italian who moved to Brazil, and who won the 2021 Biennale Architettura’s Special Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement in Memoriam).»

«Two quite different but related elements have emerged – underlines Pedrosa – rather organically in the research and have been developed, appearing as leitmotivs throughout the International Exhibition. The first one is textiles, which have been explored by many artists in the show in multiple, from key historical figures in the Nucleo Storico, to many artists in the Nucleo Contemporaneo. […] These works reveal an interest in craft, tradition, and the handmade, and in techniques that were at times considered other or foreign, outsider or strange in the larger field of fine arts. […] A second motif is artists—artists related by blood, many of them Indigenous. […] Again tradition plays an important role here: the transmission of knowledge and practices from father or mother to son or daughter or among siblings and relatives.»

There’s a lot more about this huge art exhibition on the Venice Biennale website but this is enough to give you a sense of the size and scope and how the work Eston describes fits into the 2024 exhibition theme.

Gale P. Eston‘s April 12, 2024 email announced an exhibition she curated and which is being held on site during the 2024 Venice Biennale (Note 1: I’ve published too late for the opening reception but there’s more to Eston’s curation than a reception; Note 2: There is an art/science aspect to the work from artist China Blue),

Hospitality in the Pluriverse, curated by Gale Elston during the 60th edition of the Venice Biennial from April 16 to May 4, 2024.

The Opening Reception will be held April 16th, 2024 from 5-7 pm

HOSPITALITY IN THE PLURIVERSE

JEREMY DENNIS

ANITA GLESTA

ANN MCCOY

WARREN NEIDICH

ILONA RICH

Corte de Ca’ Sarasina, Castello 1199, Venezia, IT, 30122

April 16 to May 4, 2024

OPENING RECEPTION: April 16, 5 to 7 PM

Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-6 PM

Performances by CHINA BLUE curated by Elga Wimmer

April 16, 18 and 19 at 6 PM

RAINER GANAHL, Requiem, performed April 17 at 6 PM

This exhibition includes five artists who explore the political, historical, aesthetical, physical, and epistemological dimensions of hospitality and its’ conflicts. Based upon the analysis of Jacques Derrida, in his Of Hospitality, this exhibition scrutinizes the reaction of the host to alterity or otherness.

Each artist examines various questions surrounding the encounter of a foreigner and their host sovereign using a variety of media such as painting, photography, sculpture, and animation.

In discussion with Adriano Pedrosa’s exhibition Foreigners Everywhere, the exhibition Hospitality in the Pluriverse understands the complexity of immigration and begs the question of what hospitality is and when and how should it be extended to the stranger, the foreigner, the “other”.

On the one hand the devastating effects of global inequality, climate change (climate refugees) and the political pressures created have led to mass migration and political and chaos. In opposition, the richness of the contributions of the other in the form of cultural and epistemological multiplicity is invaluable.

Jeremy Dennis, First Nation artist and Tribal Member of the Shinnecock Indian Nation in Southampton, NY, uses staging and computer assisted techniques to create unusual color photographs which portray indigenous identity, culture, and assimilation. His photographs challenge how indigenous people have been presented in film in America Westerns as well as empowering them through the use of a haunting Zombie trope establishing the power of ancestral knowledge as a means of resistance.

Ann McCoy, a New York-based sculptor, painter, and art critic, and Editor-at- Large for the Brooklyn Rail includes a new drawing from her recent Guggenheim Fellowship exploring the fairy tale of a wolf in her father’s silver, gold and tungsten mill. The fairy tale is based on an historic site of many Irish immigrant workers’ deaths and expresses the tragedy using Jungian and alchemical references.

Warren Neidich’s work Pluriverse* engages with the concept of cognitive justice. As Bonaventure de Sousa Santos has said there can be no social justice without cognitive justice. Cognitive which includes the right of different traditions of knowledge and the cultural practices they are engaged with to co-exist without duress. Especially relevant for us here are those forms of knowledge that have evolved in the so-called enlightened global North, Indigenous Knowledges and those in the subaltern global South and Asia. Pluriverse is an expression that is inclusive of these diverse epistemologies. We don’t want to live in a normative, homogeneous Universe but rather a heterogeneous and multiplicitous Pluriverse.*

Anita Glesta, depicts the non-human foreigner (a corona virus moving through the body like a bug or a butterfly) set to a soundtrack from Hildegard von Bingen, the abbess and composer from the medieval ages. Glesta’s video was developed on a Fellowship with The ARC Laureate Felt Experience & Empathy Lab to research how anxiety affects our nervous system. As an extension of the pandemic series her animations invite the viewer to experience how humans process fear and anxiety in their bodies.

Spanish artist Ilona Rich work continues the theme of what it is to be a foreigner on a psychological level. Her colorful sculptures describe a dystopian view of the commonplace and the everyday.

Her work shows us a person who feels like a stranger in their own skin, anxious, precarious, not normative. Her dogs have two heads and the many feet of a centipede. Her sculpture Wheel of Fortune will be displayed which posits that fate is contingent on chance and our roles as host or foreigner are subject to rapid unexpected change.

The exhibition offers a dizzying study of alterity, on the biological (Glesta), the social (Dennis), the historical (McCoy), cognitive (Neidich) and personal levels (Rich).The viewer will come away with an expanded and enriched view of what it means to be a foreigner and asks what contingencies, if any, should accompany hospitality.

— Gale Elston

China Blue, Saturn Walk: Embodying Listening during the 2024 Venice Biennial with (Re)Create [emphasis mine]

Project Space Venice, curated by Elga Wimmer.

US/Canadian artist China Blue creates art performances that give a physical expression to sound based on her interest in connecting through art and science.

For her 2024 Venice exhibition, Saturn Walk: Embodying Listening by China Blue, performers and visitors walk in a labyrinth to a composition created by her and Lance Massey. This is a work based on the sonics in Saturn’s rings that China Blue and Dr. Seth Horowitz discovered as a result of a grant from NASA to explore Saturn’s rings.

In Saturn Walk: Embodying Listening for the (Re)Create Project Space Venice, the artist invites viewers to experience the sound walk following the dance performance. The dancers include Andrea Nann and Jennifer Dahl, Canada, and Laura Coloman, UK. A trace of China Blue’s performance, an artwork, Celestial Pearls, based on 16 of Saturn’s 100+ moons, will remain on view at (Re)Create Project Space Venice.

Austrian artist Rainer Ganahl performs his work, Requiem in memoriam for Russian dissident Alexei Navalny.

It seems like you might need the full seven months to fully appreciate the work on display at the 2024 Venice Biennale.

Apply for 2024 summer school at Canada’s Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Nanotechnology (deadline: April 28, 2024)

This call is for Canadian undergraduate students in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), from the University of Waterloo’s 2024 WIN Summer School on Sustainable Nanotechnology webpage,

WIN is pleased to host a Summer School on Sustainable Nanotechnology at UWaterloo on June 19 – 21, 2024.

This Summer School is open to Undergraduate Students in STEM across Canada .

The WIN Summer School will offer lab and facilities tours in the QNC, and in-class lectures by WIN members, senior PhD students and post-doctoral fellows.

Open to undergraduate students across Canada in STEM!

Topic areas:

* Smart & Functional Materials
* Connected Devices
* Next Generation Energy Systems
* Therapeutics & Theranostics

The WIN Summer School curriculum will be aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

To learn more about last year’s summer school: https://uwaterloo.ca/institute-nanotechnology/news/wins-inaugural-summer-school-attracted-outstanding-students

Summer School Details

DatesJune 19 – 21, 2024
Application Due DateApril 28, 2024
LocationMike & Ophelia Lazaridis Quantum-Nano Centre (QNC) University of Waterloo
200 University Avenue West,
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1
Notification of AcceptanceApril 2024
Application requirementsCanadian Ungeraduate Student in STEM Completed their first year of undergraduate studies
Application DetailsPlease fill out the Application form and include:  CV 1-page Research Statement Broad research interest in nanoscience and nanotechnology Alignment of your research interest with UN Sustainable Development Goals Your career goals to accomplish your research interests
Other DetailsSuccessful candidates will be provided: On-campus housing free of cost All meals  An honorarium of $500 to cover full/partial travel costs

Apply Now!

Check out the University of Waterloo’s 2024 WIN Summer School on Sustainable Nanotechnology webpage for a detailed daily agenda and more.

Finally, good luck!

Pink rice: scientists dish up hybrid food by growing animal cells in rice grains

Beef-infused rice that’s pink? My father is rolling in his grave.

Caption: Growing animal muscle and fat cells inside rice grains. Credit: Yonsei University

A February 14, 2024 (which was in time for Valentine’s Day) news item on phys.org announced the hybrid rice,

From lab-grown chicken to cricket-derived protein, these innovative alternatives offer hope for a planet struggling with the environmental and ethical impacts of industrial agriculture. Now, Korean scientists add a new recipe to the list—cultured beef rice—by growing animal muscle and fat cells inside rice grains.

A February 14, 2024 Cell Press news release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides more detail,

“Imagine obtaining all the nutrients we need from cell-cultured protein rice,” says first author Sohyeon Park, who conducted the study under the guidance of corresponding author Jinkee Hong at Yonsei University, South Korea. “Rice already has a high nutrient level, but adding cells from livestock can further boost it.”

In animals, biological scaffolds help guide and support the cells’ three-dimensional growth to form tissue and organs. To cultivate cell-cultured meat, the team mimicked this cellular environment—using rice. Rice grains are porous and have organized structures, providing a solid scaffold to house animal-derived cells in the nooks and crannies. Certain molecules found in rice can also nourish and promote the growth of these cells, making rice an ideal platform.

The team first coated rice with fish gelatin, a safe and edible ingredient that helps cells latch onto the rice better. Cow muscle and fat stem cells were then seeded into the rice and left to culture in the petri dish for 9 to 11 days. The harvested final product is a cell-cultured beef rice with main ingredients that meet food safety requirements and have a low risk of triggering food allergies.

To characterize the hybrid beef rice, the researchers steamed it and performed various food industry analyses, including nutritional value, odor, and texture. The findings revealed that hybrid rice has 8% more protein and 7% more fat than regular rice. Compared to the typical sticky and soft texture, the hybrid rice was firmer and brittler. Hybrid rice with higher muscle content had beef- and almond-related odor compounds, while those with higher fat content had compounds corresponding to cream, butter, and coconut oil. 

“We usually obtain the protein we need from livestock, but livestock production consumes a lot of resources and water and releases a lot of greenhouse gas,” says Park. The team’s product has a significantly smaller carbon footprint at a fraction of the price. For every 100 g of protein produced, hybrid rice is estimated to release less than 6.27 kg of CO2, while beef releases 49.89 kg. If commercialized, the hybrid rice could cost around $2.23 per kilogram, while beef costs $14.88. 

Given that the hybrid meat rice has low food safety risks and a relatively easy production process, the team is optimistic about commercializing the product. But before the rice makes its way to our stomachs, the team plans to create better conditions in the rice grain for both muscle and fat cells to thrive, which can further boost the nutritional value. 

“I didn’t expect the cells to grow so well in the rice,” says Park. “Now I see a world of possibilities for this grain-based hybrid food. It could one day serve as food relief for famine, military ration, or even space food.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Rice grains integrated with animal cells: A shortcut to a sustainable food system by Sohyeon Park, Milae Lee, Sungwon Jung, Hyun Lee, Bumgyu Choi, Moonhyun Choi, Jeong Min Lee, Ki Hyun Yoo, Dongoh Han, Seung Tae Lee, Won-Gun Koh, Geul Bang, Heeyoun Hwang, Sangmin Lee, Jinkee Hong. Matter Volume 7, ISSUE 3, P1292-1313, March 06, 2024 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.matt.2024.01.015 First published online: February 14, 2024

This paper is behind a paywall.

New system for imaging rare-earth doped nanoparticles

The Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS; Québec, Canada) has issued a January 30,2024 news release (also on EurekAlert) announcing new work in the field of imaging, Note: Links have been removed,

Teams led by professors Jinyang Liang and Fiorenzo Vetrone from the Énergie Matériaux Télécommunications Research Centre at the Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) have developed a new system for imaging nanoparticles. It consists of a high-precision, short-wave infrared imaging technique capable of capturing the photoluminescence lifetimes of rare-earth doped nanoparticles in the micro- to millisecond range.

This groundbreaking discovery, which was published in the journal Advanced Science, paves the way for promising applications, particularly in the biomedical and information security fields.

Rare-earth elements are strategic metals that possess unique light-emitting properties that make them very attractive research tools in cutting-edge science. What’s more, the photoluminescence lifetime of nanoparticles doped with these ions has the advantage of being minimally affected by external conditions. As a result, measuring it through imaging provides data from which accurate and highly reliable information can be derived.

Although this field is seeing remarkable progress, existing optical systems for this type of measurement were less than ideal.

“Until now, existing optical systems have offered limited possibilities due to inefficient photon detection, limited imaging speed, and low sensitivity,” explains Professor Jinyang Liang, a specialist in ultrafast imaging and biophotonics.

To date, the most common technique for measuring the photoluminescence lifetime of rare-earth doped nanoparticles has involved counting time-correlated single photons.

“This method requires a large number of repeated excitations at the same location because the detector can only process a limited number of photons for each excitation,” says the study’s first author Miao Liu, a Ph.D. student in energy and materials science supervised by Profs. Liang and Vetrone.

However, the long photoluminescence lifetimes of rare-earth doped nanoparticles in the infrared spectrum, from hundreds of microseconds to several milliseconds, restrict the excitation’s repetition rate. As a result, the pixel dwelling time needed to build the photoluminescence intensity decay curve is much longer.

Pushing the limits

To overcome this challenge, Liang and Vetrone’s teams have combined streak optics with a high-sensitivity camera. The resulting device is called SWIR-PLIMASC (SWIR for short-wave infrared and PLIMASC for photoluminescence lifetime imaging microscopy using an all-optical streak camera). It vastly improves mapping of the optical properties of short-wave infrared photoluminescence lifetimes. It is the first high-sensitivity, high-speed SWIR imaging system in the optics field.

“It has several advantages,” says Miao Liu. “For instance, it responds to a wide spectral range, from 900 nm to 1700 nm, allowing photoluminescence to be detected at different wavelengths and/or spectral bands.”

The Ph.D. student adds that with the help of this device, photoluminescence lifetimes in the infrared spectrum, from microseconds to milliseconds, can be directly captured in one snapshot with a 1D imaging speed that can be tuned from 10.3 kHz to 138.9 kHz.

Finally, the operation that allocates the temporal information of photoluminescence to different spatial positions ensures that the entire process of 1D photoluminescence intensity decay can be recorded in a single snapshot, without repeated excitation. “You save time, but still get high sensitivity,” sums up Miao Liu.

Biomedical and security applications

The work carried out as part of this research will have a very tangible impact. In the biomedical field, the advances made possible by SWIR-PLIMASC could be used to fight cancer, believes Professor Fiorenzo Vetrone, whose expertise lies in nanomedicine.

“As our system applies to the temperature-based photoluminescence lifetime imaging of rare-earth ions, we believe that the data obtained could, for example, help to detect cancer cells even earlier and more accurately. The metabolism of those cells raises the temperature of the surrounding tissues,” says Professor Vetrone.

The innovative system can also be used to store information at enhanced security levels, more specifically to prevent documents and data from being falsified. Finally, in fundamental science, these unprecedented results will allow scientists to synthesize rare-earth nanoparticles with even more interesting optical properties.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Short-wave Infrared Photoluminescence Lifetime Mapping of Rare-Earth Doped Nanoparticles Using All-Optical Streak Imaging by Miao Liu, Yingming Lai, Miguel Marquez, Fiorenzo Vetrone, Jinyang Liang. Advanced Science DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/advs.202305284 First published: 06 January 2024

This paper is open access.

‘Frozen smoke’ sensors can detect toxic formaldehyde in homes and offices

I love the fact that ‘frozen smoke’ is another term for aerogel (which has multiple alternative terms) and the latest work on this interesting material is from the University of Cambridge (UK) according to a February 9, 2023 news item on ScienceDaily,

Researchers have developed a sensor made from ‘frozen smoke’ that uses artificial intelligence techniques to detect formaldehyde in real time at concentrations as low as eight parts per billion, far beyond the sensitivity of most indoor air quality sensors.

The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, developed sensors made from highly porous materials known as aerogels. By precisely engineering the shape of the holes in the aerogels, the sensors were able to detect the fingerprint of formaldehyde, a common indoor air pollutant, at room temperature.

The proof-of-concept sensors, which require minimal power, could be adapted to detect a wide range of hazardous gases, and could also be miniaturised for wearable and healthcare applications. The results are reported in the journal Science Advances.

A February 9, 2024 University of Cambridge press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the problem and the proposed solution in more detail, Note: Links have been removed,

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a major source of indoor air pollution, causing watery eyes, burning in the eyes and throat, and difficulty breathing at elevated levels. High concentrations can trigger attacks in people with asthma, and prolonged exposure may cause certain cancers.

Formaldehyde is a common VOC and is emitted by household items including pressed wood products (such as MDF), wallpapers and paints, and some synthetic fabrics. For the most part, the levels of formaldehyde emitted by these items are low, but levels can build up over time, especially in garages where paints and other formaldehyde-emitting products are more likely to be stored.

According to a 2019 report from the campaign group Clean Air Day, a fifth of households in the UK showed notable concentrations of formaldehyde, with 13% of residences surpassing the recommended limit set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

“VOCs such as formaldehyde can lead to serious health problems with prolonged exposure even at low concentrations, but current sensors don’t have the sensitivity or selectivity to distinguish between VOCs that have different impacts on health,” said Professor Tawfique Hasan from the Cambridge Graphene Centre, who led the research.

“We wanted to develop a sensor that is small and doesn’t use much power, but can selectively detect formaldehyde at low concentrations,” said Zhuo Chen, the paper’s first author.

The researchers based their sensors on aerogels: ultra-light materials sometimes referred to as ‘liquid smoke’, since they are more than 99% air by volume. The open structure of aerogels allows gases to easily move in and out. By precisely engineering the shape, or morphology, of the holes, the aerogels can act as highly effective sensors.

Working with colleagues at Warwick University, the Cambridge researchers optimised the composition and structure of the aerogels to increase their sensitivity to formaldehyde, making them into filaments about three times the width of a human hair. The researchers 3D printed lines of a paste made from graphene, a two-dimensional form of carbon, and then freeze-dried the graphene paste to form the holes in the final aerogel structure. The aerogels also incorporate tiny semiconductors known as quantum dots.

The sensors they developed were able to detect formaldehyde at concentrations as low as eight parts per billion, which is 0.4 percent of the level deemed safe in UK workplaces. The sensors also work at room temperature, consuming very low power.

“Traditional gas sensors need to be heated up, but because of the way we’ve engineered the materials, our sensors work incredibly well at room temperature, so they use between 10 and 100 times less power than other sensors,” said Chen.

To improve selectivity, the researchers then incorporated machine learning algorithms into the sensors. The algorithms were trained to detect the ‘fingerprint’ of different gases, so that the sensor was able to distinguish the fingerprint of formaldehyde from other VOCs.

“Existing VOC detectors are blunt instruments – you only get one number for the overall concentration in the air,” said Hasan. “By building a sensor that is able to detect specific VOCs at very low concentrations in real time, it can give home and business owners a more accurate picture of air quality and any potential health risks.”

The researchers say that the same technique could be used to develop sensors to detect other VOCs. In theory, a device the size of a standard household carbon monoxide detector could incorporate multiple different sensors within it, providing real-time information about a range of different hazardous gases. The team at Warwick are developing a low-cost multi-sensor platform that will incorporate these new aerogel materials and, coupled with AI algorithms, detect different VOCs.

“By using highly porous materials as the sensing element, we’re opening up whole new ways of detecting hazardous materials in our environment,” said Chen.

The research was supported in part by the Henry Royce Institute, and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), part of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Tawfique Hasan is a Fellow of Churchill College, Cambridge.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Real-time, noise and drift resilient formaldehyde sensing at room temperature with aerogel filaments by Zhuo Chen, Binghan Zhou, Mingfei Xiao, Tynee Bhowmick, Padmanathan Karthick Kannan, Luigi G. Occhipinti, Julian William Gardner, and Tawfique Hasan. Science Advances 9 Feb 2024 Vol 10, Issue 6 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.adk6856

This paper is open access.

Neuromodulation-Curious? May 11, 2024 free event in Vancouver (Canada) hosted by Canadian Neuromodulation Society and the International Neuromodulation Society (INS)

Before leaping into the event details, I’ve got some information about neuromodulation for anyone who’s not familiar with the term, there are two bits (not mutually exclusive). First, there’s this Wikipedia Neuromodulation essay, which focuses on the physiological process of neuromodulation. Second, there are the answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), specifically, What is neuromodulation? on the International Neuromodulation Society (INS) website, which pertain more closely to the information being offered at the upcoming event,

WHAT IS NEUROMODULATION?

Neuromodulation is technology that acts directly upon nerves. It is the alteration—or modulation—of nerve activity by delivering electrical or pharmaceutical agents directly to a target area.

Neuromodulation devices and treatments can be life changing. They affect every area of the body and treat nearly every disease or symptom from headaches to tremors to spinal cord damage to urinary incontinence. With such a broad therapeutic scope, and significant ongoing improvements in biotechnology, it is not surprising that neuromodulation is poised as a major growth industry for the next decade.

Most frequently, people think of neuromodulation in the context of chronic pain relief, the most common indication. However, there are a plethora of neuromodulation applications, such as deep brain stimulation (DBS) treatment for Parkinson’s disease, sacral nerve stimulation for pelvic disorders and incontinence, and spinal cord stimulation for ischemic disorders (angina, peripheral vascular disease).

In addition, neuromodulation devices can stimulate a response where there was previously none, as in the case of a cochlear implant restoring hearing in a deaf patient.

And for every existing neuromodulatory treatment, there are many more on the horizon. An emerging technology called BrainGate Neural Interface System has been used to analyze brain signals and translate those signals into cursor movements, allowing severely motor-impaired individuals an alternate “pathway” to control a computer with thought, and offers potential for one day restoring some degree of limb movement.

This April 9, 2024 International Neuromodulation Society (INS) news release on EurekAlert announces the May 11, 2024 free public event in Vancouver (Canada),

The Canadian Neuromodulation Society and the International Neuromodulation Society (INS) are delighted to announce a public education event, “Understanding Neuromodulation of the Brain and Spinal Cord”. 

This complimentary event is scheduled to take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre, East Building, on Saturday, May 11, from 13:30 to 18:00, during the 16th INS World Congress.

Aimed at patients, their families, and friends dealing with conditions such as chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and tremor, this event is also open to interested members of the public, media representatives, and professionals. 

This gathering comprises several lectures that pair scientifically and clinically substantiated insights with firsthand, real-world experiences. It provides a unique opportunity to learn directly from both local and international medical experts and patients about neuromodulation therapies. Neuromodulation treatments involve “altering nerve activity through the targeted delivery of electrical stimulation or chemical agents to specific neurological sites in the body” (Source: INS).

This event will be moderated by Dr. Christopher Honey, MD, DPhil, FRCPC, FACS, Professor & Head, Division of Neurosurgery at the University of British Columbia, as well as esteemed leader, clinician, author and INS Congress Chair.

“I am both delighted and honoured to chair this meeting. We have brought the world’s experts in neuromodulation and more than a thousand clinicians to Vancouver for the scientific meeting. The public lectures will provide background information on neuromodulation and allow our patients to give a first-hand review of their experience with the technology.” 

Event Highlights:

* Educational Sessions: A series of talks covering various aspects of neuromodulation, including its application for Parkinson’s Disease, tremor, dystonia, back & leg pain, neuropathic pain (CRPS and post-surgical), and angina and peripheral vascular disease.

* Patient Experiences: Hear firsthand accounts from patients who have benefited from neuromodulation therapies, providing insights into their journeys and outcomes.

* Interactive Q&A: Dedicated Q&A sessions will allow attendees to engage with experts, ask questions, and deepen their understanding of neuromodulation and its risks and benefits.

* Networking: Opportunities for attendees to connect with healthcare professionals, researchers and others interested in neuromodulation.

This event is particularly significant as it precedes the INS 16th World Congress on Neuromodulation, highlighting the importance of public education alongside scientific discourse. It underlines the commitment of both the Canadian Neuromodulation Society and INS to raising awareness about therapies that can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with chronic conditions.

Registration Information:

Attendance is free of charge, but registration is required. Interested participants are encouraged to register early to secure their place at this informative session.

About the International Neuromodulation Society:

The International Neuromodulation Society (INS) is a global non-profit organization focused on the scientific development and awareness of neuromodulation. The INS is dedicated to promoting improved patient care through education, research, and advocacy in the field of neuromodulation. The Canadian Neuromodulation Society has been an established chapter of the INS since 2006. [You can find the Canadian Neuromodulation Society website here.]

Good luck getting a seat!

Five more stories complete the 3rd Frontiers for Young Minds collection of stories by Nobel Laureates

A January 31, 2024 Frontiers (publishers) news release on EurekAlert announces more stories by Nobel Laureates for volume 3 of Frontiers for Young Minds,

Frontiers for Young Minds, a non-profit, open-access scientific journal for kids, has published five new articles written by Nobel Prize-winners. The articles complete the third volume of the Nobel collection, bringing the number of featured Laureates and their discoveries to 30.  

The authors were awarded the Nobel Prize for their contributions to the fields of economics, physiology, and medicine. Within each article, the authors explain their ground-breaking work and the practical or future applications of their science.  

The articles are:  

  • Game Theory— More Than Just Games, written by Robert Aumann, awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2005.  
    Game theory is not just about games. It deals with real-life situations like business, politics, war, or even sharing donuts. Robert Aumann enhanced conflict resolution using game theory – the logic which helps us understand how to improve our decisions, specifically in situations where people might disagree.  
  • Can We Use Math to Design a Brighter Future? written by Eric Maskin, awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2007.  
    Math helps to develop new technologies and engineering techniques that advance our society. Eric Maskin laid the foundations of mechanism design theory, a branch of economics that can shape economies to reach social goals such as reducing pollution and establishing fair voting systems. 
  • T Killer T Cells: Immune System Heroes, written by Peter Doherty, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1996.  
    Our immune system keeps our body healthy by fighting microbes and protecting us from infections. Peter Doherty discovered how the immune system recognizes virus-infected cells and the clever way our T-cells identify and kill them. This knowledge could develop new treatments for autoimmune diseases and cancer. 
  • Can Grid Cells Help Us Understand the Brain? written by Edvard Moser, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2014.  
    Grid cells are special brain cells that play a key role in the brain’s navigation system. Edvard Moser co-discovered that these cells generate a positioning system that allows us to navigate our environment and estimate distance. Rapidly developing research on grid cells could eventually help us understand how cognition works. 
  • Hot Chili Peppers Help Uncover the Secrets of Pain, written by David Julius, awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2021.  
    Receptors are small sensing structures present on cell membranes that react to stimuli from the environment or from within the body. David Julius identified a sensor in the nerve endings of the skin that responds to pain and heat. Using chili peppers to study how receptors relate to pain could help develop better drugs for intense and long-term (chronic) pain. 

Launched in 2013, Frontiers for Young Minds publishes accessible and engaging articles in collaboration with exceptional researchers to inspire the next generation of scientists. It provides reliable and up-to-date information on various topics in science, including in technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine (STEMM). The unique Frontiers for Young Minds review process gives kids confidence and communication skills to engage with leading researchers worldwide and empowers them to ask questions and think critically before they validate the scientific information they read.  

Commenting on the new articles, head of program Laura Henderson says: “Since launching our Nobel Collection volume 1 in 2021, we have been blown away by the impact it has made. With over 1.8 million views and downloads worldwide, we are reaching science enthusiasts all over the world as part of our mission to inspire and engage kids with accessible scientific content. To now have a total of 30 Nobel Prize winners helping us to communicate scientific concepts to young minds is a huge achievement for all our team. I look forward to reaching even more young learners with these articles and our new partner collections coming later this year.” 

Discover all the Nobel Collections here: 

Volume one 
Volume two 
Volume three 

The first half of Volume three was announced here in my November 9, 2023 posting.

Trust in science remains high but public questions scientists’ adherence to science’s norms

A March 4, 2024 Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania news release (also on EurekAlert and received via email) announces research into public trust in science in the US,

Science is one of the most highly regarded institutions in America, with nearly three-quarters of the public expressing “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in scientists. But confidence in science has nonetheless declined over the past few years, since the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, as it has for most other major social institutions.

In a new article, members of the Strategic Council of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine [NASEM] examine what has happened to public confidence in science, why it has happened, and what can be done to elevate it. The researchers write that while there is broad public agreement about the values that should underpin science, the public questions whether scientists actually live up to these values and whether they can overcome their individual biases.

The paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), relies in part on new data being released in connection with this article by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC) of the University of Pennsylvania. The data come from the Annenberg Science Knowledge (ASK) survey conducted February 22-28, 2023, with an empaneled, nationally representative sample of 1,638 U.S. adults who were asked about their views on scientists and science. The margin of error for the entire sample is ± 3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. (See the paper for the findings.) The survey is directed by APPC director Kathleen Hall Jamieson, a member of the Strategic Council and a co-author of the PNAS paper.

Decline in confidence comparable to other institutions

The researchers also examine trends in public confidence in science dating back 20 years from other sources, including the Pew Research Center and the General Social Survey of National Opinion Research at the University of Chicago. These show a recent decline consistent with the decline seen for other institutions.

“We’re of the view that trust has to be earned,” said lead author Arthur Lupia, a member of the NASEM’s Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust, and associate vice president for research at the University of Michigan. “We wanted to understand how trust in science is changing, and why, and is there anything that the scientific enterprise can do to regain trust?”

Highlights

“Confidence in science is high relative to nearly all other civic, cultural, and government institutions…,” the article states. In addition:

  • The public has high levels of confidence in scientists’ competence, trustworthiness, and honesty – 84% of survey respondents in February 2023 are very or somewhat confident that scientists provide the public with trustworthy information in the scientists’ area of inquiry.
  • Many in the public question whether scientists share their values and whether scientists can overcome their own biases. For instance, when asked whether scientists will or will not publish findings if a study’s results run counter to the interests of the organization running the study, 70% said scientists will not publish the findings.
  • The public has “consistent beliefs about how scientists should act and beliefs that support their confidence in science despite their concerns about scientists’ possible biases and distortive incentives.” For example, 84% of U.S. adults say it is somewhat or very important for scientists to disclose their funders and 92% say it is somewhat or very important that scientists be open to changing their minds based on new evidence.
  • However, when asked about scientists’ biases, just over half of U.S. adults (53%) say scientists provide the public with unbiased conclusions about their area of inquiry and just 42% say scientists generally are “able to overcome their human and political biases.”

Beyond measurements of trust in science

The Annenberg Public Policy Center’s ASK survey in February 2023 asked U.S. adults more nuanced questions about attitudes toward scientists.

“We’ve developed measures beyond trust or confidence in science in order to understand why some in the public are less supportive of science and scientists than others,” said Jamieson, who is also a professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. “Perceptions of whether scientists share one’s values, overcome their human and political biases, and correct mistakes are important as well.”

The ASK survey of U.S. adults found, for instance, that 81% regard scientists as competent, 70% as trustworthy, and 68% as honest, but only 42% say scientists “share my values.”

A more detailed analysis of the variables and effects seen in Annenberg’s surveys was published in September 2023 in PNAS in the paper “Factors Assessing Science’s Self-Presentation model and their effect on conservatives’ and liberals’ support for funding science.”

Confidence in science and Covid-19 vaccination status

The research published in PNAS was initiated by members of the NASEM’s Strategic Council for Research Excellence, Integrity, and Trust, which was established in 2021 to advance the integrity, ethics, resilience, and effectiveness of the research enterprise.

Lupia said the Strategic Council’s conversations about whether trust in science was declining and if so, why, began during the pandemic. “There was great science behind the Covid-19 vaccine, so why was the idea of people taking it so controversial?” he asked. “Covid deaths were so visible and yet the controversy over the vaccine was also so visible – kind of an icon of the public-health implications of declining trust in science.”

The article cites research from the Annenberg Public Policy Center that found important relationships between science-based forms of trust and the willingness to take a Covid-19 vaccine. Data from waves of another APPC survey of U.S. adults in five swing states during the 2020 campaign season – reported in a 2021 article in PNAS – showed that from July 2020 to February 2021, U.S. adults’ trust in health authorities was a significant predictor of the reported intention to get the Covid-19 vaccine. See the article “The role of non-COVID-specific and COVID-specific factors in predicting a shift in willingness to vaccinate: A panel study.”

How to raise confidence in science

Raising public confidence in science, the researchers write, “should not be premised on the assumption that society would be better off with higher levels of uncritical trust in the scientific community. Indeed, uncritical trust in science would violate the scientific norm of organized skepticism and be antithetical to science’s culture of challenge, critique, and self-correction.”

“Instead,” they propose, “researchers, scientific organizations, and the scientific community writ large need to redouble their commitment to conduct, communicate, critique, and – when error is found or misconduct detected – correct the published record in ways that both merit and earn public confidence.”

The data cited in the paper, they conclude, “suggest that the scientific community’s commitment to core values such as the culture of critique and correction, peer review, acknowledging limitations in data and methods, precise specification of key terms, and faithful accounts of evidence in every step of scientific practice and in every engagement with the public may help sustain confidence in scientific findings.”

“Trends in U.S. Public Confidence in Science and Opportunities for Progress” was published March 4, 2024, in PNAS. In addition to Jamieson and Lupia, the authors are David B. Allison, dean of the School of Public Health, Indiana University; Jennifer Heimberg, of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine; Magdalena Skipper, editor-in-chief of the journal Nature; and Susan M. Wolf, of the University of Minnesota Law and Medical Schools. Allison is co-chair of the National Academies’ Strategic Council; Lupia, Jamieson, Skipper, and Wolf are members of the Council, and Heimberg is the director of the Council.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Trends in U.S. public confidence in science and opportunities for progress by Arthur Lupia, David B. Allison, Kathleen Hall Jamieson, and Susan M. Wolf. PNAS March 4, 2024 121 (11) e2319488121 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2319488121

This paper is open access.

Butterfly mating inspires neuromorphic (brainlike) computing

Michael Berger writes about a multisensory approach to neuromorphic computing inspired by butterflies in his February 2, 2024 Nanowerk Spotlight article, Note: Links have been removed,

Artificial intelligence systems have historically struggled to integrate and interpret information from multiple senses the way animals intuitively do. Humans and other species rely on combining sight, sound, touch, taste and smell to better understand their surroundings and make decisions. However, the field of neuromorphic computing has largely focused on processing data from individual senses separately.

This unisensory approach stems in part from the lack of miniaturized hardware able to co-locate different sensing modules and enable in-sensor and near-sensor processing. Recent efforts have targeted fusing visual and tactile data. However, visuochemical integration, which merges visual and chemical information to emulate complex sensory processing such as that seen in nature—for instance, butterflies integrating visual signals with chemical cues for mating decisions—remains relatively unexplored. Smell can potentially alter visual perception, yet current AI leans heavily on visual inputs alone, missing a key aspect of biological cognition.

Now, researchers at Penn State University have developed bio-inspired hardware that embraces heterogeneous integration of nanomaterials to allow the co-location of chemical and visual sensors along with computing elements. This facilitates efficient visuochemical information processing and decision-making, taking cues from the courtship behaviors of a species of tropical butterfly.

In the paper published in Advanced Materials (“A Butterfly-Inspired Multisensory Neuromorphic Platform for Integration of Visual and Chemical Cues”), the researchers describe creating their visuochemical integration platform inspired by Heliconius butterflies. During mating, female butterflies rely on integrating visual signals like wing color from males along with chemical pheromones to select partners. Specialized neurons combine these visual and chemical cues to enable informed mate choice.

To emulate this capability, the team constructed hardware encompassing monolayer molybdenum disulfide (MoS2) memtransistors serving as visual capture and processing components. Meanwhile, graphene chemitransistors functioned as artificial olfactory receptors. Together, these nanomaterials provided the sensing, memory and computing elements necessary for visuochemical integration in a compact architecture.

While mating butterflies served as inspiration, the developed technology has much wider relevance. It represents a significant step toward overcoming the reliance of artificial intelligence on single data modalities. Enabling integration of multiple senses can greatly improve situational understanding and decision-making for autonomous robots, vehicles, monitoring devices and other systems interacting with complex environments.

The work also helps progress neuromorphic computing approaches seeking to emulate biological brains for next-generation ML acceleration, edge deployment and reduced power consumption. In nature, cross-modal learning underpins animals’ adaptable behavior and intelligence emerging from brains organizing sensory inputs into unified percepts. This research provides a blueprint for hardware co-locating sensors and processors to more closely replicate such capabilities

It’s fascinating to me how many times butterflies inspire science,

Butterfly-inspired visuo-chemical integration. a) A simplified abstraction of visual and chemical stimuli from male butterflies and visuo-chemical integration pathway in female butterflies. b) Butterfly-inspired neuromorphic hardware comprising of monolayer MoS2 memtransistor-based visual afferent neuron, graphene-based chemoreceptor neuron, and MoS2 memtransistor-based neuro-mimetic mating circuits. Courtesy: Wiley/Penn State University Researchers

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

A Butterfly-Inspired Multisensory Neuromorphic Platform for Integration of Visual and Chemical Cues by Yikai Zheng, Subir Ghosh, Saptarshi Das. Advanced Materials SOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/adma.202307380 First published: 09 December 2023

This paper is open access.