Beauty Kit is part of Boundary-Crossings: Multiscalar Entanglements in Art, Science and Society, a public Outreach [sic] program supported by the Fiends [sic;] Institute for Research in Mathematical Science.
In this workshop /performance, Isabel Burr Raty explores the energetic potentials of bodily fluids. Modern culture tends to consider bodily fluids as superfluous and wasteful, as unholy and unspeakable taboos, as something that should be discarded because it has no apparent use except in the personal sphere of intimacy.
By revealing the chemical, biological and nutritional potentials of a variety of bodily fluids and by encouraging the participants to explore and harvest their own, Burr Raty engages in a fierce critique of consumption and industrial mass production, and in a clever journey to cross many boundaries: she breaks the taboo that prevents us from speaking about bodily fluids; she shows how bodily fluids are profoundly entangled with the body and its surrounding environment; she demonstrates how far from waste they are, and how they participate in a never-ending cycle of growth, decay and renewal. By crossing the boundaries of art, biology, technology and agriculture, Burr Raty offers spaces of liberation that incite new living habits by means of alternative cultural arrangements, which propose circular economy models such as the one based on fluid bio-transaction and pleasure. Speaking of and practicing boundary crossing, especially the idea of bodily fluids’ ecological entanglements, is crucial in today’s increased fear of touching and physical isolation due to COVID19’s hygiene theatre.
During this workshop-performance, registered participants will join the online audience from various remote locations. They will be asked to answer a number of questions reflecting their relation with bodily fluids from a variety of perspectives – personal, scientific or philosophical – and will be invited to test and give feedback on a series of special Beauty Kit (BK) transpersonal and gender neutral skin and care lines that will be delivered via mail to their homes. Finally, they will be encouraged to inquire on the product’s formulas and agro-cultural technology employed in this project.
The workshop-performance will take place on October 29  3:00-5:00 pm [presumably this is on Eastern Daylight Time]
I believe “Fiends Institute for Research in Mathematical Science” should be “Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Science.”
Isabel Burr Raty currently runs a mobile Farm that harvests human female erotic juices to manufacture Para-pharmaceutical bio-products with them, that will evolve into an Eco-erogenous Village of entanglements, where every-BODY will harvest each other.
We are looking for participants to take part in this unique online/distributed workshop-performance
Beauty Kit – eco-erogenous para-pharmaceutics
On Oct 29, 2020,
3:00-5:00 pm EDT
How many types of female ejaculations do you know about? Can a brain orgasm be transformed into a source of renewable energy? Can the orgasmic body be a territory for sustainable agricultural development? Could engaging in and speaking of bodily fluids and intimate relations help us overcome current fears of the unknown and the microscopic and open up a new culture of care and sharing, mutual aid and solidarity?
These are some (but not all!) of the questions that this workshop/performance seeks to explore.
The joint participation of the online public is very important. Pointing out gaps in scientific perspectives about the body’s orgasmic agency, she exposes allopathic and ancestral perspectives on the faculty of sexual fluids to replace the components of beauty and wellbeing products that we find in the market. An invited audience of participants is warmly welcome to test the BK transpersonal and gender neutral skin and care lines that they will receive via the post to their homes, as well as to inquire on the product’s formulas and agro-cultural technology employed in this project.
To run this workshop, we are looking for volunteers to:
1. Participate in the workshop/performance remotely online
2. Try some Beauty Kit (BK) products
3. Engage in a public discussion with Burr Raty and the general audience
4. Agree to make themselves visible, as avatars, as themselves, as masked characters or by wearing a color that gives them pleasure
This is an inclusive workshop which seeks to address intimate, scientific and political topics with respect and care.
If you wish to be part of this experience, please, send us your intent to participate: RSVP to the workshop by Oct 15, 2020 by sending an email to email@example.com with a couple of sentences explaining why you are interested in being part of it.
We will ask you to provide a home address where we can send you the material.
We care about your privacy and we will do anything we can to respect your preferences. If you live in Toronto, arrangements can be made for physically distanced pickup.
This workshop is performative and participants are encouraged to impersonate their alter-ego, to play their avatar, to wear a costume etc…
ABOUT ISABEL BURR RATY
Isabel Burr Raty is an independent filmmaker, artist, teacher and sexual Kunfu coach exploring the interstices between the organic and the artificial, between the unlicensed knowledge of minority groups and the official facts. In so doing, she aims to dig up chapters left out of history books, blur the limits between fiction/reality and re-think the memory of the future.
In her artistic work she interweaves performance and new media installation proposing hybrid narratives and bio-autonomy practices that invite the public to queer production understandings and embody SF in real time, such as the Beauty Kit Farm.
Isabel teaches Media art history in École de Recherche Graphique and is researcher in WAB IV nadine Brussels. In 2018 she was granted a bio-art & design deal by the AFK (Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst), which partnered her to: The Waag, Mediamatic and Prof. Toby Kiers (VU Amsterdam).
Burr Raty has shown her works and collaborations internationally, in venues such as: KVS (Royal Flemish Theater), Beursschouwburg, Constant_V, ZSeene Art Lab, Limal (Brussels); Palais de Tokyo Paris, ISEA Hong Kong and Cultivamos Cultura Portugal; presented her work in festivals and conferences such as: Enter Through The Void, Exit Through The Giftshop, Campo Victoria, Ghent (BE), Ecofutures at Queen Mary’s University London (GB), FEMeeting (PT), Taboo Transgression Transcendence in Art and Science (GR/AU), Human Enhancement Clinic at Border Sessions (NL), Science Friction at the Aki Institute in Enchede University (NL) and FACTT at Humbolt University Berlin (DE); and given workshops at the University of the Arts Berlin (DE) and Rampa Lab Ljubljana (SI).
Beauty Kit is part of Boundary-Crossings: Multiscalar Entanglements in Art, Science and Society, a public Outreach program supported by the Fiends [sic; Fields] Institute for Research in Mathematical Science
Boundary Crossings is a series exploring how the notion of boundaries can be transcended and dissolved in the arts and the humanities, the biological and the mathematical sciences, as well as human geography and political economy. Boundaries are used to establish delimitations among disciplines; to discriminate between the human and the non-human (body and technologies, body and bacteria); and to indicate physical and/or artificial boundaries, separating geographical areas and nation states.
This event is curated by ArtSci Salon with support from Sensorium: Centre for Digital Arts and Technology, York University
I believe this or something like it is what you’ll be receiving,
I’m not sure how mathematics relates to Beauty Kit but it is definitely boundary-crossing.
The night sky has inspired speculation, discovery, and stories throughout time and from all the peoples of this planet. The information derived from observing the stars and moon has led to voyages on land, on sea, through space, and into the recesses of minds and hearts.
Currently, an ancient celestial practice, celebration of solstices and equinoxes seems to be gaining popularity and acceptance.
Indigenous Star Knowledge Symposia: A series of local and international gatherings, on the land and online
Organised by Ingenium in collaboration with the Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies at the University of Ottawa, and hosted on traditional Algonquin Anishnaabeg territory, this series of symposia (chosen on the dates of the Fall equinox, Winter solstice, Spring equinoxes and Summer solstice) will combine spiritual ceremony, presentations, activities and dialogue, both online and on the land. The symposia will feature gatherings of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders, educators and scholars to share and exchange towards reclaiming, preserving, and revitalizing Star Knowledge with Indigenous communities worldwide.
Our original plan was to have a symposium in September 2020, but due to Covid-19 we have reshaped the entire program to spread out the timeline while combining physical and digitally-inclusive experiences. This blended format greatly expands our original intent to offer a space for teaching and learning, while bringing hope and healing through the Indigenous Star Knowledge and our work.
Fall Equinox: Protocols before Knowledge, Seasonal and regional themes
September 21, 2020 (7 p.m. Est Ottawa, Canada); September 22, 2020 (9:00 a.m. Lismore, Australia)
For Indigenous people astronomy and cosmology are intricately intertwined. Star Knowledge, like everything else, is all about relationships and teaches us our place in the universe.
Shawn Wilson is Opaskwayak Cree from Manitoba. He works at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples and is also an Adjunct Professor at Østfold University College in Norway. Shawn will discuss how understanding Indigenous Star Knowledge develops a deeper understanding of the very nature of reality. To gain this understanding requires us to develop deeper relationships with Sky Country.
Stuart Barlo is a Yuin man from the south coast of New South Wales, and is Dean of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples. Stuart will talk about the journey of being able to speak about Sky Country. The journey requires learning how to prepare yourself and create a safe space to develop relationship with Sky Country.
Wilfred Buck, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Center
*Postponed and adapted due to COVID* Coinciding with a ceremony at Kitigan Zibi, Quebec to launch the Algonquin Star Knowledge Project. Offering of Tobacco and Prayer on the land with Peter Decontie, Wilfred Buck, Anita Tenasco and members of the Algonquin community.
It gets a little confusing but I gather that the symposia are linked to a larger initiative, which has its roots in a 2017 exhibition (co-curated by Wilfred Buck and Annette S. Lee) at Canada’s Science and Technology Museum,
By the way, MFNERC is Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre.
One Sky, Many Worlds; Indigenous Voices in Astronomy
I gather various parties have been working together to produce not only the symposia but a new traveling exhibition “One Sky, Many Worlds; Indigenous Voices in Astronomy.”
I was going to call this item a brochure but its URL includes the words “exhibition book.” Regardless, it’s where you can get more details about “One Sky, Many Worlds” and how it was developed. Do take a look at it, there are many beautiful images, including Margaret Nazon’s beadworks of art, one of which I featured at the beginning of this posting. There are many works of Indigenous astronomy-based art featured in the ‘brochure’. For some reason, the text is white against a dark background. Perhaps they were trying to evoke the stars against the night sky? Unfortunately, it makes the text less readable, which would seem to defeat the purpose of bothering with text in the first place. Also, it can lead to having to deal with cranky writers who worry their work won’t be read. (Just a thought)
New Partnership with Ingenium: Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation
Nomad are proud to be selected as Ingenium’s partner to develop and tour an exciting new international travelling exhibition ‘One Sky, Many Worlds: Indigenous Voices in Astronomy’. This ground-breaking new exhibition will illustrate in a spectacular immersive display environment how for tens of thousands of years Indigenous people have been building a relationship with the night sky.
The exhibition will showcase artifacts representing global collections, whilst numerous mechanical and digital interactive elements will enhance visitors’ learning and understanding in an engaging, active way that reminds every human being that we come from the stars.
Led by Indigenous knowledge keepers, One Sky, Many Worlds: Indigenous Voices in Astronomy, is an 8,000 sq ft traveling exhibition that explores Indigenous Star Knowledge from locations around the globe. Featuring content from North America, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, South America, Asia, Hawaii, and New Zealand, One Sky asks questions, and shares experiences that will resonate with all people who look up and wonder about the night sky. The exhibition is available for tour internationally from summer 2021. [emphasis mine]
Nomad Exhibitions are innovative creators of international museum quality touring exhibitions.
Nomad offers a unique portfolio of high quality touring exhibitions combining curatorial excellence, state of the art design and seamless turnkey production. Our exhibitions are designed to facilitate exceptional international collaborations between cultural institutions on major exhibition projects, providing museum professionals with a tailored exhibition hosting experience.
Nomad Exhibitions is located in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
One Sky, Many Worlds is a collaborative exhibition led by Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, both young and old, from around the world. The exhibition explores the enduring relationship and connection that Indigenous people have with the night sky and how it has provided –and continues to provide – a practical, cultural, and spiritual guidebook for life.
One Sky, Many Worlds is, at its core, experiential. A strong emphasis on exceptional objects and intriguing ideas will be carefully complemented by a variety of interactive elements and spaces designed to engage visitors in active participation.
Each exhibition section will feature an immersive experience, audio visual content, and a selection of digital interactives, many of which will be touch free. For example, visitors will be transported from the Mississippi through the Milky Way on to the Pacific Ocean via a beautiful, [emphasis mine] immersive projection experience; visitors will be engaged in stories as told by Indigenous Elders in their own language; and visitors will also have the opportunity to participate in dynamic activities that show the links between earth and sky and allow them to see the constellations in a whole new way.
The example is a bit puzzling since ‘the Mississippi’ could mean either the ‘state of Mississippi’ or the ‘Mississippi River’ neither of which have any connection to the Pacific Ocean. But, perhaps astronomy buffs would understand this better than I do.
As to why either the state or the river would be the starting point for transportation via the Milky Way, that is a mystery. Especially after taking a look at Sharmila Kuthunu’s July 1, 2019 article, “How to See the Milky Way in 5 Easy Steps” for Space Tourism Guide,
Home to 400 billion stars, our galaxy is a barred spiral that spans 100,000 light years in diameter. While that might seem huge, the Milky Way is only clearly visible from April through October in the northern hemisphere and is hidden below the horizon for half the year.
It rises in the southeast, crosses over the horizon and sets in the southwest. Since it rises and sets in the southern hemisphere, those living in the south can see it directly overhead. The largest view of the galaxy can be seen from southern hemisphere destinations like South Africa, Chile, and Australia [emphasis mine].
Given that there was a global collaboration and the Milky Way is visible from any number of starting points, the choice of whichever Mississippi the writer intended to highlight seems odd. (See geography of Mississippi River; geography of Mississippi state [be sure to follow the red arrow to the green rectangle bordering the Gulf of Mexico])
Most likely, it’s my ignorance showing.
Plus, when I saw Nomad was offering an example, I was hoping there’d be a description or a story representing Indigenous astronomy. If you look at the brochure/exhibition book you’ll see they had a broad range of Indigenous societies represented on the team. The nomad description seems like a lost opportunity.
Regardless of my nitpicking, both the symposia and the travelling exhibition are exciting and I hope they get the attention they deserve.
If you’re as ignorant about astronomy as I am, you might find this piece about the Milky Way on the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) website helpful.
It seems like an interesting idea although I’m not sure how it differs from any of our other science festivals but this year’s (2020) edition of Canada’s Science Literacy Week will run from Sept.21 – 27, 2020, From the home page,
B is for Biodiversity
This year’s theme is biodiversity. We’re partnering with organizations from across Canada to offer content that will inspire you!
Bridging art and science
Download our collection of posters that aim to illustrate and explain in a fun, colorful and simple way some of modern science’s most interesting phenomenons.
Science Literacy Week showcases the diversity of Canadian science and the culture it’s embedded in. Libraries, museums, science centres, schools and not-for-profits come together to highlight the books, movies, podcasts and events that convey the excitement and influence of science in our everyday lives. It’s about each and everyone’s unique relationship with science and how they live it.
The 2019 Science Literacy Week was celebrated with oceans as the theme. It included over 650 events put on by more than 300 partners in 250 cities across Canada.
The 2020 event seems to be a more low key affair than 2019’s. At the time of this writing (Monday, Sept. 7, 2020), most of the events are online and most (but not all) are being presented by agencies and institutions that reside in central Canada (Ontario and Québec).
You can check out the current list of events but don’t bother establishing any search parameters, use the list of event dates. Scroll down past the search parameters to the dates and events and, if you don’t find something local, click on the ‘Load more events’ button.
According to the British Royal Automobile and the French Automobile clubs, the first car was created in 1770 by the Frenchman Joseph Cugnot. This “Fardier” (French name for a trolley used to transport heavy loads) was a car propelled by a steam engine and powered by a boiler. This 7 m long self-propelled machine reached a speed of 4 km/h, for an average autonomy of 15 min. 250 years later, researchers at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST), Japan, in partnership with colleagues in the University Paul Sabatier (Toulouse, France), report in Chemistry – A European Journal a new family of nanocars integrating a dipole to speed up their motion in the nanoworld.
After the first nanocar race organized in spring 2017, in Toulouse (France) we designed a new family of molecules to behave as cars in the nanoworld. When I established my laboratory in NAIST in April 2018, Toshio Nishino (Assistant Professor) and Hiroki Takeuchi (Master student) started the synthesis. Two years later, we are reporting the results in a publication presenting the synthesis of 9 dipolar nanocars. The result is amazing. In every flask, about 100 mg of green or blue powders (i.e. 60 x 1018 nanocars) stick to the walls. These are the Franco-Japanese racing cars that sleep wisely in the garage waiting for the next Grand Prix in 2021.
“To hope to win the race, nanocars have to be fast but they need also to be controllable,” emphasizes Gwénaël Rapenne. The design of the molecules has long been thought to need a compromise between opposite requirements. Consistently, the nanocar Rapenne and his colleagues designed is made up of 150 atoms (chemical formula C85H59N5Zn). A planar chassis made from porphyrin, a fragment already used in nature for many processes like oxygen transportation (hemoglobin) or photosynthesis (chlorophyl). Ultimately, the presence of a zinc atom could allow transportation of small molecules on the car body. “The nanocar is 2 nm long and surrounded by four wheels designed to minimize contact with the ground and has two legs which are able to donate or accept electrons making the nanocar dipolar” specifies the researcher.
What kind of application could be envisioned with such small vehicles?
“Honestly, today, we do not know yet what this technology will be used for. But just like the liquid crystals discovered in 1910 and not used until half a century later in calculator screens and now in all our LCD supports, the manipulation of molecules could well be revolutionary, ” dreams Gwénaël Rapenne. One of the directions of the research could be to carry a load to transport reactants or drugs from one place to another.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
Dipolar Nanocars Based on a Porphyrin Backbone by Toshio Nishino, Colin J. Martin, Hiroki Takeuchi, Florence Lim, Kazuma Yasuhara, Yohan Gisbert, Seifallah Abid, Nathalie Saffon-Merceron, Claire Kammerer, Gwénaël Rapenne. Chemistry Europe DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/chem.202001999 First published: 12 June 2020
This paper is behind a paywall.
For anyone curious about the 2017 race, I found this May 9, 2017 posting, which notes that a US-Austrian team won.
What better way to say ‘Happy Canada Day’ than to highlight a data sonfication project from HotPopRobot. These are not all of the awards won by the HotPopRobot team (based in Toronto, Canada), from the hotpoprobot.com homepage,
Micro:bit Challenge North America Runners Up 2020.
NASA SpaceApps 2019, 2018, 2017, 2014.
Imagining the Skies 2019.
Jesse Ketchum Astronomy Award 2018. Hon.
Mention at 2019 NASA Planetary Defense Conference. Emerald Code Grand Prize 2018.
Canadian Space Apps 2017
Here’s more about this intriguing team from the site’s About Us page,
HotPopRobot is a maker-family enterprise co-founded in 2014 by Artash […], Arushi […], Rati, and Vikas to bring discussions on Science, Space Exploration, Astronomy, and Technology in our everyday conversation. It encourages families, kids, and youths to become creators (and not consumers), scientists, artists, or whatever they want to be by undertaking projects on space, robotics, coding, and science.
We started this enterprise after winning the NASA Space Apps Toronto 2014 Award for our Mars Rover: CuriousBot. We ended up among the top 5 NASA Space Apps Winners (people’s choice) globally! We won the NASA SpaceApps Challenge Toronto again in 2019, 2018, and 2017 as well as the Canadian Space Agency’s Space Apps Challenge 2017 for our project – “Yes I Can” which used RadarSat-2 satellite data to recreate the #Canada150 logo. We ended up getting invited to the Canadian Space Agency to present our project and meet the new Canadian Astronauts.
The latest project is a musical based on data sonification of data on COVID-19 impacts in Toronto, Canada. Here’s a video of the ‘Toronto COVID-19 Lockdown Musical’ or more formally the ‘Musical Scales Project’,
As of June 2020, Artash and Arushi are in grade eight and grade five, respectively, which means they are likely 13 and 10 years old now and were seven and four years old, respectively, when they and their parents started the HotPopRobots enterprise in 2014.
Definitely visit their website if you’re interested in artificial intelligence, robots, machine learning, as well as, their other topics.
Regarding their latest project, here’s more about the Musical Scales Project from a June 19 (?), 2020 posting on their website,
The beauty of the human mind is that once you set it free, it soars high. Our mind too was teeming with big questions that we wanted to find the answers about. Would the COVID19 lockdown have increased the bird density in the city skies, would the closure of all economic activities have affected the rotation of the Earth, would an Alien civilization be able to figure out that something drastic must have happened on Earth?
All questions are good questions. But from our previous experiences of making projects, we knew we had to limit our imagination for the time being and focus on practicality to come up with workable project design. Once we have made something and it works, we could always keep improving it or make newer versions of the same.
So between the two of us [Artash and Arushi], we limited our questions to:
Has the noise levels on our streets gone down?
Has the air we breathe become cleaner?
Have the traffic levels on our streets gone down?
Has the lockdown affected the vibration of the Earth due to the stopping of businesses, economic, and construction activities?
We often have to dismantle some of our older projects to get the components for our newer projects. It is not a good feeling as we often use our older projects to give demonstrations at various public events. So where possible we try to make our projects modular so that we can use the same components for more than one project.
We ended up collecting the following sensors and cameras for this project.
Light Sensor: It measures the light around us. It has a photo-resistor whose value decreases when light falls on it. It is the base sensor that will help us visualize separate daily data readings as well as changes in data collected during day and night.
Sound Sensor: To listen to street noise around us. It is similar to a microphone but gives analog values of sound levels. This raw data then has to be calibrated to understand how it changes with the change in sound levels.
PM 2.5 Dust Sensor: It is a sensor to measure particulate matters of 2.5 microns in the air. There is a small heater in the sensor which directs the flow of air in the sensor in an upward direction (convection current). The flow of air passes through infrared light which bounces around. The more the bounce the more the particulate matter or more polluted the air.
Temperature Sensor: We wanted to see how much the temperature was changing around us. The sensor is just like a digital thermometer but it prints out the readings.
Humidity Sensor: It measures how damp the air around is. We measure humidity and temperature as they both affect the pollution levels.
Intel RealSense Camera: To get a wide overview of the traffic on King Street. Its high resolution allows us to apply machine learning for object identification and tracking.
In addition to getting data from our sensors, we had to rely on external databases to get some other information.
Covid19 Infection Rates in Toronto: from City of Toronto Public Health website
The intensity of Night Lights Over Toronto: Using NASA Night Light Data to understand changes in night lights over Toronto during different weeks.
Seismic Vibrations in Toronto: We got the displacement data of Earth along the vertical direction from the Leslie Spit Seismic Station in Toronto.
We used the free Musical Algorithm software (www.musicalgorithms.org) to bring all the data together and create the COVID19 Lockdown Musical.
The descriptions and instructions are comprehensive, which is very helpful if you’re planning your own project.
Part 1 covered some of the more formal aspects science culture in Canada, such as science communication education programmes, mainstream media, children’s science magazines, music, etc. Part 2 covered science festivals, art/sci or sciart (depending on who’s talking, informal science get togethers such ‘Cafe Sccientifque’, etc.
This became a much bigger enterprise than I anticipated and so part 3 is stuffed with the do-it-yourself (DIY) biology movement in Canada, individual art/sci or lit/sci projects, a look at what the mathematicians have done and are doing, etc. But first there’s the comedy.
Comedy, humour, and science
Weirdly, Canadians like to mix their science fiction (scifi) movies with humour. (I will touch on more scifi later in this post but it’s too big a topic to cover inadequately, let alone adequately, in this review.) I post as my evidence of the popularity of comedy science fiction films, this from the Category: Canadian science fiction films Wikipedia webpage,
As you see, comedy science fiction is the second most populated category. Also, the Wikipedia time frame is much broader than mine but I did check one Canadian science fiction comedy film, Bang Bang Baby, a 2014 film, which, as it turns out, is also a musical.
Daniel Chai is a Vancouver-based writer, comedian, actor and podcaster. He is co-host of The Fear of Science podcast, which combines his love of learning with his love of being on a microphone. Daniel is also co-founder of The Fictionals Comedy Co and the creator of Improv Against Humanity, and teaches improv at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He is very excited to be part of Vancouver Podcast Festival, and thanks everyone for listening!
Jeff is the producer and co-host of The Fear of Science. By day, he is a graphic designer/digital developer [according to his LinkedIn profile, he works at Science World], and by night he is a cosplayer, board gamer and full-time geek. Jeff is passionate about all things science, and has been working in science communication for over 4 years. He brings a general science knowledge point of view to The Fear of Science.
Here’s more about The Fear of Science from its homepage (where you will also find links to their podcasts),
A podcast that brings together experts and comedians for an unfiltered discussion about complicated and sometimes controversial science fears in a fun and respectful way.
This podcast seems to have taken life in August 2018.(Well, that’s as far back as the Archived episodes stretch on the website.)
This is Vancolour is a podcast hosted by Mo Amir and you will find this description on the website,
THIS IS A PODCAST ABOUT VANCOUVER AND THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THIS CITY COLOURFUL
Cartoonist, writer, and educator, Raymond Nakamura produces work for Telus Science World and the Science Borealis science aggregator. His website is known as Raymond’s Brain features this image,
Much has been happening on this front. First for anyone unfamiliar with do-it-yourself biology, here’s more from its Wikipedia entry,
Do-it-yourself biology (DIY biology, DIY bio) is a growing biotechnological social movement in which individuals, communities, and small organizations study biology and life science using the same methods as traditional research institutions. DIY biology is primarily undertaken by individuals with extensive research training from academia or corporations, who then mentor and oversee other DIY biologists with little or no formal training. This may be done as a hobby, as a not-for-profit endeavour for community learning and open-science innovation, or for profit, to start a business.
A January 21, 2020 posting here listed the second Canadian DIY Biology Summit organized by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). It was possible to attend virtually from any part of Canada. The first meeting was in 2016 (you can see the agenda here). You’ll see in the agenda for the 2nd meeting in 2020 that there have been a few changes as groups rise into and fall out of existence.
From the 2020 agenda, here’s a list representing the players in Canada’s DIYbio scene,
Most of these organizations (e.g., Victoria Makerspace, Synbiota, Bricobio, etc.) seem to be relatively new (founded in 2009 or later) which is quite exciting to think about. This March 13, 2016 article in the Vancouver Observer gives you a pretty good overview of the DIY biology scene in Canada at the time while providing a preview of the then upcoming first DIY Biology summit.
*The Open Science Network in Vancouver was formerly known as DIYbio YVR. I’m not sure when the name change occurred but this July 17, 2018 article by Emily Ng for The Ubyssey (a University of British Columbia student newspaper) gives a little history,
In 2009, a group of UBC students and staff recognized these barriers and teamed up to democratize science, increase its accessibility and create an interdisciplinary platform for idea exchange. They created the Open Science Network (OSN).
The Open Science Network is a non-profit society that serves the science and maker community through education, outreach and the provision of space. Currently, they run an open community lab out of the MakerLabs space on East Cordova and Main street, which is a compact space housing microscopes, a freezer, basic lab equipment and an impressive amount of activity.
The lab is home to a community of citizen scientists, professional scientists, artists, designers and makers of all ages who are pursuing their own science projects.
Members who are interested in lab work can receive some training in “basic microbiology techniques like pipetting, growing bacteria, using the Polymerase Chain Reaction machine (PCR) [to amplify DNA] and running gels [through a gel ectrophoresis machine to separate DNA fragments by size] from Scott Pownall, a PhD graduate from UBC and the resident microbiologist,” said Wong [ Wes Wong, a staff member of UBC Botany and a founding member of OSN].
The group has also made further efforts to serve their members by offering more advanced synthetic biology classes and workshops at their lab.
There is another organization called ‘Open Science Network’ (an ethnobiology group and not part of the Vancouver organization). Here is a link to the Vancouver-based Open Science Network (a community science lab) where they provide further links to all their activities including a regular ‘meetup’.
I have poetry, a book, a television adaptation, three plays with mathematics and/or physics themes and more.
In 2012 there was a night of poetry readings in Vancouver. What made it special was that five poets had collaborated with five scientists (later amended to four scientists and a landscape architect) according to my December 4, 2012 posting. The whole thing was conceptualized and organized by Aileen Penner who went on to produce a chapbook of the poetry. She doesn’t have any copies available currently but you can contact her on her website’s art/science page if you are interested in obtaining a copy. She doesn’t seem to have organized any art/science projects since. For more about Aileen Penner who is a writer and poet, go to her website here.
The Banff International Research Station (BIRS) it’s all about the mathematics) hosted a workshop for poets and mathematicians way back in 2011. I featured it (Mathematics: Muse, Maker, and Measure of the Arts) after the fact in my January 9, 2012 posting (scroll down about 30% of the way). If you have the time, do click on my link to Nassif Ghoussoub’s post on his blog (Piece of Mind) about mathematicians, poetry, and the arts. It’s especially interesting in retrospect as he is now the executive director for BIRS, which no longer seems to have workshops that meld any of the arts with mathematics, and science.
That sadly seems to be it for poetry and the sciences, including mathematics. If you know of any other poetry/science projects or readings, etc. in Canada during the 2010-9 decade, please let me know in the comments.
Karl Schroeder, a Canadian science fiction author, has written many books but of particular interest here are two futuristic novels for the Canadian military.The 2005 novel, Crisis in Zefra, doesn’t fit the time frame I’ve established for this review but the the 2014 novel, Crisis in Urla (scroll down) fits in nicely. His writing is considered ‘realistic’ science fiction in that it’s based on science research and his work is also associated with speculative realism (from his Wikipedia entry; Note: Links have been removed),
Karl Schroeder (born September 4, 1962) is a Canadianscience fiction author. His novels present far-future speculations on topics such as nanotechnology, terraforming, augmented reality, and interstellar travel, and are deeply philosophical.
The other author I’m mentioning here is Margaret Atwood. The television adaptation of her book, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has turned a Canadian literary superstar into a supernova (an exploding star whose luminosity can be the equivalent of an entire galaxy). In 2019, she won the Booker Prize, for the second time for ‘The Testaments’ (a followup to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), sharing it with Bernardine Evaristo and her book ‘Girl, Woman, Other’. Atwood has described her work (The Handmaid’s Tale, and others) as speculative fiction rather than science fiction. For me, she bases her speculation on the social sciences and humanities, specifically history (read her Wikipedia entry for more).
In 2017 with the television adaptation of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, Atwood’s speculative fiction novel became a pop culture phenomenon. Originally published in 1985, the novel was also adapted for a film in 1990 and for an opera in 2000 before it came to television, according to its Wikipedia entry.
There’s a lot more out there, Schroeder and Atwood are just two I’ve stumbled across.
I have drama, musical comedy and acting items.
Pi Theatre’s (Vancouver) mathematically-inclined show, ‘Long Division‘, ran in April 2017 and was mentioned in my April 20, 2017 posting (scroll down about 50% of the way).
This theatrical performance of concepts in mathematics runs from April 26 – 30, 2017 (check here for the times as they vary) at the Annex at 823 Seymour St. From the Georgia Straight’s April 12, 2017 Arts notice,
“Mathematics is an art form in itself, as proven by Pi Theatre’s number-charged Long Division. This is a “refreshed remount” of Peter Dickinson’s ambitious work, one that circles around seven seemingly unrelated characters (including a high-school math teacher, a soccer-loving imam, and a lesbian bar owner) bound together by a single traumatic incident. Directed by Richard Wolfe, with choreography by Lesley Telford and musical score by Owen Belton, it’s a multimedia, movement-driven piece that has a strong cast. … “
You can read more about the production here. As far as I’m aware, there are no upcoming show dates.
There seems to be some sort of affinity between theatre and mathematics, I recently featured (January 3, 2020 posting) a theatrical piece by Hannah Moscovitch titled, ‘Infinity‘, about time, physics, math and more. It had its first production in Toronto in 2015.
John Mighton, a playwright and mathematician, wrote ‘The Little Years’ which has been produced in both Vancouver and Toronto. From a May 9, 2005 article by Kathleen Oliver for the Georgia Straight,
The Little Years is a little jewel of a play: small but multifaceted, and beautifully crafted.
John Mighton’s script gives us glimpses into different stages in the life of Kate, a woman whose early promise as a mathematician is cut short. At age 13, she’s a gifted student whose natural abilities are overlooked by 1950s society, which has difficulty conceiving of women as scientists. Instead, she’s sent to vocational school while her older brother, William, grows up to become one of the most widely praised poets of his generation.
John Mighton is a successful playwright and mathematician, yet at times in his life, he’s struggled with doubt. However, he also learned there was hope, and that’s the genesis of The Little Years, which opens at the Tarragon Theatre on Nov. 16 and runs to Dec. 16 .
In keeping (more or less) with this subsection’s theme ‘The Word’, Mighton has recently had a new book published, ‘All Things Being Equal: Why Math is the Key to a Better World’, according to a January 24, 2020 article (online version) by Jamie Portman for Postmedia,
It’s more than two decades since Canadian mathematician and playwright John Mighton found himself playing a small role in the film, Good Will Hunting. What he didn’t expect when he took on the job was that he would end up making a vital contribution to a screenplay that would go on to win an Oscar for its writers, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
What happened on that occasion tells you a great deal about Mighton’s commitment to the belief that society grossly underestimates the intellectual capacity of human beings — a belief reiterated with quiet eloquence in his latest book, All Things Being Equal.
Mighton loved the experience but as shooting continued he became troubled over his involvement in a movie that played “heavily on the idea that geniuses like Will are born and not made.” This was anathema to his own beliefs as a mathematician and he finally summoned up the courage to ask Affleck and Damon if he could write a few extra lines for his character. This speech was the result: “Most people never get the chance to see how brilliant they can be. They don’t find teachers who believe in them. They get convinced they’re stupid.”
At a time of growing controversy across Canada over the teaching of mathematics in school and continuing evidence of diminishing student results, Mighton continues to feel gratitude to the makers of Good Will Hunting for heeding his concerns. [I will be writing a post about the latest PISA scores where Canadian students have again slipped in their mathematics scores.]
Mighton is on the phone from from Toronto, his voice soft-spoken but still edged with fervour. He pursues two successful careers — as an award-winning Canadian playwright and as a renowned mathematician and philosopher who has devoted a lifetime to developing strategies that foster the intellectual potential of all children through learning math. But even as he talks about his 2001 founding of JUMP Math, a respected charity that offers a radical alternative to conventional teaching of the subject, he’s anxious to remind you that he’s a guy who almost failed calculus at university and who once struggled to overcome his “own massive math anxiety.”
You can find out more about John Mighton in his Wikipedia entry (mostly about his academic accomplishments) and on the JUMP Math website (better overall biography).
It’s called ‘Math Out Loud’ and was first mentioned here in a January 9, 2012 posting (the same post also featured the BIRS poetry workshop),
“When Mackenzie Gray talks about the way Paul McCartney used a recursive sequence to make the song “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” seem to last forever, you realize that part of the Beatles’ phenomenal success might have sprung from McCartney’s genius as a mathematician.
When Roger Kemp draws on a napkin to illustrate that you just have to change the way you think about numbers to come up with a binary code for pi (as in 3.14 ad infinitum), you get a sense that math can actually be a lot of fun.”
Produced by MITACS which in 2012 was known as ‘Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems’, a not-for-profit research organization, the musical went on tour in the Fall of 2012 (according to my September 7, 2012 posting). Unusually, I did not embed the promotional trailer for this 2012 musical so, here it is now,
Since 2012, Mitacs has gone through some sort of rebranding process and it’s now described as a nonprofit national research organization. For more you can read its Wikipedia entry or go to its website.
Acting and storytelling
It turns out there was an acting class (five sessions) for scientists at the University of Calgary in 2017. Here’s more from the course’s information sheet,
Act Your Science: Improve Your Communication Skills with Training in Improvisation 2 hours a session, 5 sessions, every Wednesday starting November 14  …
Dr. Jeff Dunn, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Graduate Students Association, the Canadian Science Writers Association [also known as Science Writers and Communicators of Canada] and the Loose Moose Theatre have teamed together to provide training in a skill which will be useful where ever your career takes you.
The goal of this project is to improve the science communication skills of graduate students in science fields. We will improve your communication through the art of training in improvisation. Training will help with speech and body awareness. Improvisation will provide life‐long skills in communication, in a fun interactive environment.
For many years, Alan Alda, a well-known actor (originally of the “MASH” television series fame), has applied his acting skills and improvisation training to help scientists improve their communication. He developed the Alan Alda Centre for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
The training will involve five 2hr improvisation workshop sessions led by one of Canada’s top professional improvisation trainers, Dennis Cahill, the Artistic Director from Loose Moose Theatre. Dennis has an international reputation for developing the theatrical style of improvisation. Training involves a lot of moving around (and possibly rolling on the floor!) so dress casually. Be prepared to release your inhibitions!
The information sheet includes a link to this University of Chicago video (posted on Youtube February 24, 2014) of actor Alan Alda discussing science communication,
Victoria Bouvier, a Michif-Metis woman, is of the Red River Settlement and Boggy Creek, Manitoba, and born and raised in Calgary. She is an Assistant professor in Indigenous Studies at Mount Royal University and a doctoral candidate in Educational Research [emphasis mine] at the University of Calgary. Her research is exploring how Michif/Métis people, born and raised in urban environments, practice and express their self-understandings, both individually and collectively through using an Indigenous oral system and visual media as methodology.
In a technology-laden society, people are capturing millions of photographs and videos that document their lived experiences, followed by uploading them to social media sites. As mass amounts of media is being shared each day, the question becomes: are we utilizing photos and videos to derive meaning from our everyday lived experiences, while settling in to a deeper sense of our self-in-relation?
This session will explore how photos and videos, positioned within an Indigenous oral system, are viewed and interacted with as a third perspective in the role of storytelling.
Finally, h/t to Jennifer Bon Bernard’s April 19, 2017 article (reposted Dec. 11, 2019) about Act Your Science for the Science Writers and Communicators blog. The original date doesn’t look right to me but perhaps she participated in a pilot project.
Neuroscience, science policy, and science advice
The end of this part is almost in sight
Knitting in Toronto and drawings in Vancouver (neuroscience)
In 2017, Toronto hosted a neuroscience event which combined storytelling and knitting (from my October 12, 2017 posting (Note: the portion below is an excerpt from an ArtSci Salon announcement),
With NARRATING NEUROSCIENCE we plan to initiate a discussion on the role and the use of storytelling and art (both in verbal and visual forms) to communicate abstract and complex concepts in neuroscience to very different audiences, ranging from fellow scientists, clinicians and patients, to social scientists and the general public. We invited four guests to share their research through case studies and experiences stemming directly from their research or from other practices they have adopted and incorporated into their research, where storytelling and the arts have played a crucial role not only in communicating cutting edge research in neuroscience, but also in developing and advancing it.
The ArtSci Salon folks also announced this (from the Sept. 25, 2017 ArtSci Salon announcement; received via email),
ATTENTION ARTSCI SALONISTAS AND FANS OF ART AND SCIENCE!! CALL FOR KNITTING AND CROCHET LOVERS!
In addition to being a PhD student at the University of Toronto, Tahani Baakdhah is a prolific knitter and crocheter and has been the motor behind two successful Knit-a-Neuron Toronto initiatives. We invite all Knitters and Crocheters among our ArtSci Salonistas to pick a pattern (link below) and knit a neuron (or 2! Or as many as you want!!)
BRING THEM TO OUR OCTOBER 20 ARTSCI SALON! Come to the ArtSci Salon and knit there!
That link to the patterns is still working.
Called “The Beautiful Brain” and held in the same time frame as Toronto’s neuro event, Vancouver hosted an exhibition of Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s drawings from September 5 to December 3, 2017. In concert with the exhibition, the local ‘neuro’ community held a number of outreach events. Here’s what I had in my September 11, 2017 posting where I quoted from the promotional material for the exhibition,
The Beautiful Brain is the first North American museum exhibition to present the extraordinary drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), a Spanish pathologist, histologist and neuroscientist renowned for his discovery of neuron cells and their structure, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1906. Known as the father of modern neuroscience, Cajal was also an exceptional artist. He combined scientific and artistic skills to produce arresting drawings with extraordinary scientific and aesthetic qualities.
A century after their completion, Cajal’s drawings are still used in contemporary medical publications to illustrate important neuroscience principles, and continue to fascinate artists and visual art audiences. …
Pictured: Santiago Ramón y Cajal, injured Purkinje neurons, 1914, ink and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC).
From Vancouver, the exhibition traveled to a gallery in New York City and then onto the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Mehrdad Hariri has done a an extraordinary job as its founder and chief executive officer. The CSPC has developed from a single annual conference to an organization that hosts different events throughout the year and publishes articles and opinion pieces on Canadian science policy and has been instrumental in the development of a Canadian science policy community.
The magnitude of Hariri’s accomplishment becomes clear when reading J.w. Grove’s [sic] article, Science Policy, in The Canadian Encyclopedia and seeing that the most recent reports on a national science policy seem to be the Science Council’s (now defunct) 4th report in 1968, Towards a National Science Policy in Canada, the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) 1969 Review of [Canada’s] Science Policy, and 3 reports from the Senate’s Lamontagne Committee (Special Committee on Science Policy). Grove’s article takes us only to 1988 but I have been unable to find any more recent reports focused on a national science policy for Canada. (If you have any information about a more recent report, please do let me know in the comments.)
A November 5, 2019 piece (#VoteScience: lessons learned and building science advocacy beyond the election cycle) on the CSPC website further illustrates how the Canadian science policy community has gained ground (Note: Links have been removed),
… on August 8, 2019, a coalition of Canadian science organizations and student groups came together to launch the #VoteScience campaign: a national, non-partisan effort to advocate for science in the federal elections, and make science an election issue.
Specifically, we — aka Evidence for Democracy, Science & Policy Exchange (SPE), and the Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN) [emphases mine] — built a collection of tools and resources to empower Canadian scientists and science supporters to engage with their local candidates on science issues and the importance of evidence-informed decision-making. Our goal was to make it easy for as many Canadians as possible to engage with their candidates — and they did.
Over the past three months, our #VoteScience portal received over 3,600 visitors, including 600 visitors who used our email form to reach out directly to their local candidates. Collectively, we took #VoteScience selfies, distributed postcards to supporters across Canada, and even wrote postcards to every sitting Member of Parliament (in addition to candidates from all parties in each of our own ridings). Also of note, we distributed a science policy questionnaire to the federal parties, to help better inform Canadians about where the federal parties stand on relevant science issues, and received responses from all but one party. We’ve also advocated for science through various media outlets, including commenting for articles appearing in The Narwhal and Nature News, and penning op-eds for outlets such as the National Observer, University Affairs, Le Devoir, and Découvrir.
Prior to SPIN, the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA; more about them in part 4), issued a 2017 report titled, Science Policy: Considerations for Subnational Governments. The report was the outcome of a 2016 CCA workshop originally titled, Towards a Science Policy in Alberta. I gather the scope broadened.
Interesting trajectory, yes?
Chief Science advisors/scientists
In September 2017, the Canadian federal government announced that a Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, had been appointed. I have more about the position and Dr. Nemer in my September 26, 2017 posting. (Prior to Dr. Nemer’s appointment a previous government had discontinued a National Science Advisor position that existed from 2004 to 2008.)
The Office of the Chief Science Advisor released it first annual report in 2019 and was covered here in a March 19, 2019 posting.
Québec is the only province (as far as I know) to have a Chief Scientist, Rémi Quirion who was appointed in 2011.
Onto Part 4 where you’ll find we’ve gone to the birds and more.
*The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) section was written sometime in February 2020. I believe they are planning to publish an editorial piece I submitted to them on April 20, 202 (in other words, before this post was published) in response to their call for submissions (see my April 1, 2020 post for details about the call). In short, I did not praise the organization with any intention of having my work published by them. (sigh) Awkward timing.
Originally, the plan was to produce some sort of a Canadian science culture roundup for 2019 but it came to my attention that 2019 was also an end-of-decade year (sometimes I miss the obvious). I’ll do my best to make this snappy but it is a review (more or less) of the last 10 years (roughly) and with regard to science culture in Canada, I’m giving the term a wide interpretation while avoiding (for the most part) mention of traditional science communication/outreach efforts such as university rresearch, academic publishing, academic conferences, and the like.
Since writing that opening paragraph in late December 2019, COVID-19 took over the world and this review seemed irrelevant for a while but as time passed, Iit occurred to me it might serve as a reminder of past good times and as a hope for the future.
Having started this blog in 2008, I’ve had the good fortune to observe a big increase in the number and range of science outreach/communication/culture initiatives, projects, festivals, etc. It’s tempting to describe it as an explosion of popular interest but I have no idea if this is true. I spend much of my time searching out and writing up this kind of work in addition to the emerging science and technology that I follow and my perception is most likely skewed by my pursuits. What i can say is that in 2019 there was more of everything to do with science culture/outreach/communication than there was when I started in 2008.
Coincidentally, I wrote a three-part series about science communication (including science outreach/culture projects) in Canada in Sept. 2009, just months before the start of this decade. In retrospect, the series is sprawling everywhere and it looks to me like I was desperately trying to make something look bigger than it actually was.
I’m looking at the more formal aspects of science communication and so onto mainstream media and education. This is the saddest section but don’t worry it gets better as it goes on.
As I note in the following subsection, there are fewer science writers employed by mainstream media, especially in Canada. The only science writer (that I know of) who’s currently employed by a newspaper is Ivan Semeniuk. for the Globe and Mail.
Margaret Munro who was the science writer for PostMedia (publisher of most newspaper dailies in Canada) is now a freelancer. Kate Lunau, a health and science journalist for Maclean’s Magazine (Canada) until 2016 and then Motherboard/VICE (US online publication) until March 2019 now publishes her own newsletter.
Daily Planet, which was a long running science programme (under various names since 1995) on Discovery Channel Canada and which inspired iterations in other countries, was cancelled in 2018 but there is still a Twitter feed being kept up to date and a webpage with access to archived programmes.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) programmes, Spark for technology and Quirks & Quarks for science on the radio side and the Nature of Things for science, wildlife, and technology on television carry on year after year and decade after decade.
A more recent addition (2019?) to the CBC lineup is a podcast that touches on science and other topics, Tai Asks Why? According to the programme’s About page, the host (Tai Poole) is in grade seven. No podcasts dated after September 2019 have been posted on Tia’s page.
Yes Magazine for children and Seed magazine (for adults) have both died since 2009. On a happier note, Canadian children’s science magazines are easier to find these days either because I got lucky on my search and/or because there are more of them to find.
Thank you to helpwevegotkids.com for their 10 Awesome Magazines for Canadian Kids webpage. First published in 2016, it is updated from time to time, most recently in October 2019 by Heather Camlot; it’s where I found many of these science/technology magazines (Note: I’m not sure how long these magazines have been published but they are all new to me),
Chickadee Magazine: ages 6-9 ( Every month, the Chickadee team creates a package of interactive stories, puzzles, animal features, and science experiments to educate and entertain readers.) It’s from the folks at owlkids.com
OWL Magazine: ages 9-13 (… highlight the elements of science and tech, engineering, art and math ) Also from the folks at owlkids.com
AdventureBox: ages 6 – 9 (… nature with beautiful photographs and fascinating scientific information … Hilarious and adventurous comic-strips, games and quizzes … An audio CD every 2 months) Also from the folks at owlkids.com
DiscoveryBox: ages 9 – 12 ( … Animals and nature, with spectacular photographs … Fascinating scientific topics, with clear explanations and experiments to carry out …) Also from the folks at owlkids.com BTW, I was not able to find out much about the Owl Kids organization.
WILD magazine ( … jam-packed with fun wildlife stories, games and pictures for youngsters of all ages. It’s a great way to get the children in your life engaged in nature and share your passion for the outdoors. Published 6 times per year) From the folks at the Canadian Wildlife Federation (enough said).
Bazoof! (… suited for ages 7-12 … nutrition, personal care, fitness, healthy lifestyles, character development, eco-education—all in a creative and zany style! Filled with short stories, comics, recipes, puzzles, games, crafts, jokes, riddles, pet care, interviews, healthy snacks, sports, true stories, fun facts, prizes and more!) Bazoof! is being brought to you by the team responsible for Zamoof! You might want to read their About page. That’s all I can dig up.
Brainspace (an augmented reality magazine for kids 8 – 14) As best I can determine they are still ‘publishing’ their interactive magazine but they make finding information about themselves or their organization a little challenging. It’s published in Ontario and its publisher Nicky Middleton had this in her LinkedIn profile: “Publisher of Brainspace interactive magazine for kids 8-12. Creating augmented reality content for teaching resources in partnership with Brock University, District School Board of Niagara.”
One more thing regarding mainstream media
While there are fewer science journalists being employed, there’s still a need for science writing and journalism. The Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC) opened in 2010 (from its Wikipedia entry),
… to serve journalists with accurate information on scientific matters. The centre has a Research Advisory Panel of 20 Canadian scientists who will make their expertise available in a simple and understandable manner. In order to secure objectivity, the centre has an Editorial Advisory Committee of eight journalists. The centre is bilingual.
As of January 2020, the SMCC is still in operation.
The University of British Columbia’s Journalism School (Vancouver) no longer has a Science Journalism Research Group nor does Concordia University (Montréal) have its Science Journalism Project. I have checked both journalism schools and cannot find any indication there is a science programme or specific science courses of any kind for journalists or other communicators but I didn’t spend a lot of time digging. Interestingly, the chair, David Secko, of Concordia’s journalism programme is a science journalist himself and a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of the Science Media Centre of Canada.
The lack of science journalism programmes in Canada seems to reflect on overall lack of science journalism. It’s predictable given that the newspapers that once harboured science journalists have trimmed and continue to trim back their staffs.
Science centres, museums, and the like are considered part of the informal science community with Makerspaces being a new addition. For the most part, their target audience is children but they are increasingly (since 2010, I believe) offering events aimed at adults. The Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC) describes itself and its membership this way (from the CASC About Us webpage),
CASC members are a diverse group of organisations that support informal learning of science, technology and nature. Our common bond is that we offer creative programming and exhibitions for visitors that inspire a drive to learn, create, and innovate.
If you are a member of a Science Centres, Museums, Aquariums, Planetariums and Makerspaces [these are a 2010s phenomenon] you could benefit from our reciprocal admission agreement. Not all CASC Members are participants in the Reciprocal Admissions Agreement. Click here for more information.
You can find a full list of their members including the Ingenium museums (the federal consortium of national Canadian science museums), the Saskatchewan Science Centre, the Nunavut Research Institute, Science East, and more, here.
I’m calling what follows ‘truly informal science culture’.
Science: the informal (sometimes cultural) scene
When I first started (this blog) there was one informal science get-together (that I knew of locally) and that was Vancouver Café Scientifque and its monthly events, which are still ongoing. You can find our more about the parent organization, which was started in Leeds, England in 1998. Other Canadian cities listed as having a Café Scientifique: Ottawa, Victoria, Mississauga, and Saskatoon.
Now onto the music, the dance, and more
Sing a song of science
Baba Brinkman is well known for his science raps. The rapper and playwright (from British Columbia) lives in New York City these days with his wife and sometime performance collaborator, neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin and their two children (see his Wikipedia entry for more), he is still Canadian (I think).
He got his start rapping science in 2008 when I think he was still living in Vancouver (Canada) after gaining the attention of UK professor Mark Pallen who commissioned him to write a rap about evolution. The Rap Guide to Evolution premiered at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Here’s a video of Brinkman’s latest science rap (Data Science) posted on YouTube on October 21, 2019,
I find this one especially interesting since Brinkman’s mother is the Honourable Joyce Murray, a member of parliament and the Minister of Digital Government in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s latest cabinet. (My December 27, 2019 posting highlights what I believe to be the importance of the Minister of Digital Government in the context of the government’s science and technology vision. Scroll down about 25% of the way to the subhead titled “The Minister of Digital Government and a bureaucratic débacle,”) You can find out more about Baba Brinkman here.
Tim Blais of A Capella Science first attracted my notice in 2014 thanks to David Bruggeman and his Pasco Phronesis blog (btw: David, I miss your posts about science and music which are how I found out most of what I know about the Canadian science music scene).
Blais (who has a master’s degree in physics from McGill University in Québec) started producing his musical science videos in 2012. I featured one of his earliest efforts (and one of my favourites, Rolling in the Higgs [Adele parody]) in my July 18, 2014 posting.
Dating back to 2012. The Institute of Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo held two performances of Quantum: Music at the Frontier of Science. Raymond Laflamme, then director of the institute, wrote a September 20, 2012 article (The Quantum Symphony: A Cultural Entanglement) about the performances. You can see a video (15 mins., 45 secs.,) of the February 2012 performances here.
More recently, the Life Sciences Institute at the University of British Columbia (UBC) hosted a performance of Sounds and Science – Vienna Meets Vancouver in late 2019. I covered it in a November 12, 2019 posting (scroll down to the Sounds and Science subheading). The story about how the series, which has its home base in Vienna, started is fascinating. The sold out Vancouver performance was a combination of music and lecture featuring the Vienna Philharmonic and UBC researchers. According to this Sounds and Science UBC update,
For those who missed this exceptional evening, JoyTV and its CARPe Diem show will be producing an episode focusing on the concert, to be aired in February, 2020 [emphasis mine].
There is another way to look at musical science and that’s to consider the science of music which is what they do at the Large Interactive Virtual Environment Laboratory (LIVELab) at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). it’s “a research concert hall. It functions as both a high-tech laboratory and theatre, opening up tremendous opportunities for research and investigation”, you can read more about it in my November 29, 2019 posting.
One last thing, there is data sonification which means finding a way to turn data into music or a sound which can more or less be defined as musical. There may be other data sonification projects and presentations in Canada but these are the ones I’ve tripped across (Note: Some links have bee removed),
Songs of the Ottawa From the website: “Songs of the Ottawa” is the Master’s Research Project of Cristina Wood, under the co-supervision of Dr. Joanna Dean and Dr. Shawn Graham. She completed her Master’s of Arts in Public History with a Specialization in Digital Humanities at Carleton University in spring 2019. She will continue her explorations of the Ottawa River in the Ph.D. program at York University [fall 2020]. Be in touch with Cristina on Twitter or send an email to hello [at] cristinawood [dot] ca.”
The Art of Data Sonification (This January 2019 workshop at Inter/Access in Toronto is over.) From the website: “Learn how to turn data into sound! Dan Tapper will teach participants how to apply different data sonification techniques, collect and produce a variety of sonifications, and how to creatively use these sonifications in their own work. The workshop will move from looking at data sonification through the lens of Dan Tapper’s work sonifying data sets from NASA, to collecting, cleaning and using your own data for artistic creation. Participants will work with pre-gathered and cleaned data sets before collecting and working with personal data and online data sets. Tools will be provided by Tapper created in Pure Data and Processing, as well as versions for Max/MSP users. A particular focus will be placed on how to use data sets and the created sonifications in creative practice – moving beyond quantitative sonic representations to richer material. “
Sonification: Making Data Sound (This September 2019 workshop at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia is also over.) From the website: ” Computers and music have been mingling their intimate secrets for over 50 years. These two worlds evolve in tandem, and where they intersect they spawn practices that are entirely novel. One of these is “sonification,” turning raw data into sounds and sonic streams to discover new musical relationships within the dataset. This is similar to data visualization, a strategy that reveals new insights from data when it is made for the eye to perceive as graphs or animations. A key advantage with sonification is sound’s ability to present trends and details simultaneously at multiple time scales, allowing us to absorb and integrate information in the same way we listen to music. In this workshop, Chris Chafe will lead a discussion of the practice and application of sonification in a wide array of disciplines, drawing on his own extensive experience in this field.”
I have been looking for data sonification projects in Canada for years. It’s amazing to me that all of this sprung up in the last year of this decade. If there’s more, please do let me know in the Comments section.
Science blogging in Canada
The big news for the decade was the founding and launch of Science Borealis, a Canadian science blog aggregator in 2013. Assuming I counted right in December 2019, there are 146 blogs. These are not all independent bloggers, many institutional blogs are included. Also, I’m not sure how active some of these blogs are. Regardless, that’s a pretty stunning number especially when I consider that my annual Canadian blog roundup from 2010 -2012 would have boasted 20 – 30 Canadian science blogs at most.
I’m not sure why ASAP Science (Michael Moffit and Gregory Brown) isn’t included on Science Borealis but maybe the science vloggers (video bloggers) prefer to go it alone. or they fit into another category of online science. Regardless, ASAP Science has been around since May 2012 according to their About page. In addition to the science education/information they provide, there’s music, including this Taylor Swift Acapella Parody.
One of the earliest Canadians to create a science blog,Gregor Wolbring, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, started his in 2006. He has taken a few breaks, 2011 and August 2013 – June 2017 but he’s back at it these days. He is in a sense a progenitor for Canadian science blogging. At one time, his blog was so popular that US researchers included it in their studies on what was then ‘the blogging phenomenon’. His focus academically and on his blog is on rehabilitation and disability. This webpage on his blog is of particular interest to me: FUTUREBODY: The Future of the Body in the Light of Neurotechnology. It’s where he lists papers from himself and his colleagues’ in the ERANET NEURON ELSI/ELSA funded by the European Community. (ELSI is Ethical, Legal and Social Implications and ELSA is Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects.)
Canada’s Favourite Science Online, a competition co-sponsored by Science Borealia and the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC), gives a People’s Choice Award annually in two categories: blog and science site. This September 16, 2019 posting on the Science Borealis blog features the finalists in the categories and a pretty decent sampling of what available online from the Canadian science community.
Science in the City is a Canadian life sciences blog aggregator and job and event listing website. The name is an official mark of McMaster University (Ontario, Canada) and it is used and registered by STEMCELL Technologies Canada Inc. Here’s more from their AboutScienceInTheCity webpage,
As scientists ourselves, we know that science is accelerated by collaboration and connection, but that the busy, demanding lifestyle of a scientist makes this challenging. Thus, we saw the need for a central resource that connects local scientists, provides them with a platform to share their ideas, and helps them stay current with the news, events, and jobs within their local scientific community. This inspired us to launch Science in the City in our hometown of Vancouver, Canada in 2017.
Science in the City is your complete source for all the life science news and events happening in your city. The Science in the City website and weekly newsletter provide researchers and medical professionals with breaking news, in-depth articles, and insightful commentary on what is happening around them. By supplying scientists with a resource for the local news and events that affect them, Science in the City fosters learning and collaboration within scientific communities, ultimately supporting the advancement of science and medicine.
Vancouver is our hometown, so it made sense to launch this exciting initiative in our own backyard. But we’re only getting started! We’ve launched Science in the City in Seattle and Boston, and we’re currently working on bringing Science in the City to several more scientific communities across North America and Europe!
Do check their event listings as they range past life science to many other interesting ‘sciencish’ get togethers. For example, in early 2020 (in Vancouver) there was,
At a guess their funding comes from STEMCELL Technologies while Science Borealis was originally (not sure what the status is today) bankrolled by Canadian Science Publishing (CSP).
It’s just dance, dance, dance
Ranging from pigeon courtship to superconductivity, Canadian scientists have scored a number of wins in the Dance Your Ph.D. competition founded in 2008 according to its Wikipedia entry and held by Science Magazine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The contest requires that the entrant dance either as a solo artist or as part of a troupe.
In 2018, a University of Alberta student won in the physics category and then went on to win overall. I covered it in a February 22, 2019 posting. Because I love the video, here is Pramodh Senarath Yapa with his Superconductivity: The Musical!, again,
BTW, John Bohannon who came up with the idea for the contest wrote this February 15, 2019 article about Yapa’s win for Science Magazine.
While searching for other Canadian Dance Your Ph.D. winners, I found some from the 2010 and 2011 contests. (If there are others, please do let me know in the Comments section.)
McConnell’s video did not win in its division but another Canadian student, Queen’s University (Ontario) biologist, Emma Ware won the 2011 social science division for ‘A Study of Social Interactivity Using Pigeon Courtship‘. For more about McConnell and Ware’s 2011 efforts, you can read Tyler Irving’s October 20, 2011 posting on his eponymous blog. (Side note: Irving is a Canadian science writer who started the blog in 2011 and took a five year hiatus from January 2015 to January 2020.)
Lesley Telford, choreographer and director of Inverso Productions based in Vancouver, seems to have started showing a dance piece inspired by Albert Einstein’s famous description of quantum entanglement as “spooky action from s a distance” in 2017.
I first wrote about it in an April 20, 2017 posting. The title, at that time, was, ‘Three Sets/Relating At A Distance; My tongue, your ear / If / Spooky Action at a Distance (phase 1‘. In 2017, Telford was artist-in-residence at the Dance Centre and TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science, both located in Vancouver.
She has continued to work with the concept and most recently her company gave performances of ‘Spooky Action’ in 2019 and will go on tour in 2020 according to her company’s homepage.
Unlike Lesley Telford who has a single science-inspired piece, Blue Ceilingdance in Toronto, is organized around the idea of art (dance) and science according to the company’s About page,
Blue Ceiling dance aims to pierce the soul through investigations at the intersection of art and science, and physical rigour provoked by the imagination. By peering into the mysterious corners of human experience and embodying the natural laws of the universe, we want to inspire empathy and curiosity. Through creation, production, commissioning and touring of new dance and multi-disciplinary works and through the Imaginative Body Classes, Blue Ceiling dance uses the poetry of the body and of scientific language to describe our experience of the world through the lens of poetic naturalism.
Blue Ceiling dance was founded by Lucy Rupert in 2004, as an umbrella for her creative endeavours. …
Our biggest project to date premieres January 23-26th, 2020 at The Theatre Centre [Toronto].
Using the length of time it takes light to travel from the Sun to Earth, we launch into 8 overlapping meditations on the physical behaviour of light, the metaphors of astrophysics, and the soul of cosmology, as they brush against a sense of our own mortality. What would you do with your last 8 minutes and 17 seconds before the lights go out?
Choreographed and conceived by Lucy Rupert with additional choreography by Karen Kaeja, Emma Kerson and Jane Alison McKinney, and Michael Caldwell. With text written by Hume Baugh.
The company’s repertoire is diverse and focused largely on science,
Animal Vegetable Mineral is a site-specific work with a naturalist-led hike. Exploring embodiments of each category of matter, the dancers form an ecosystem under stress, and highlight the interconnectedness of all species and our deep need for one another. Audiences explore their local environment and encounter human embodiments in an intimate performance setting.
Originally made for the High Park Nature Centre in Toronto, the piece is adaptable to different ecosystems and environments.
dead reckoning Perplexing, haunting and slightly mischievous, with choreography by Lucy Rupert and international ballet choreographer Peter Quanz. The launching point for this work of dance-theatre is Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1914 and the mysterious experiences surrounding his life-or-death situation. Three linked dances offer three views of an explorer pursued by an enigmatic “other”.
Bye, bye ScienceOnline Vancouver
A ScienceOnline conference and community based in the United States inspired a short-lived but exciting offshoot in Vancouver. With much ado, their first event was held on April 19, 2012. As I recall, by December 2012, it had died.
The volunteers were wildly ambitious and it’s very hard to maintain the level of dynamism and technology they established on their first night. Here’s how I described the first event in my April 20, 2012 posting, ” It was a very technology-heavy event in that there was livestreaming, multiple computers and screens, references to tweeting and Storify, etc.” That’s a lot to do on a regular basis as volunteers. By Christmas 2012, ScienceOnline was gone. It was a great and I’m thankful for it.
Now onto part 2 where you’ll find the visual arts, poetry, festivals, and more.
The United Nations (UN) wants COVID-19 themed graphic & visual art by April 9, 2020 at 6 pm, London (almost certainly UK) local time; the Canadian Science Policy Centre is accepting submissions for editorials with an unusual two-tiered deadline, and the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, California has issued an art challenge for everyone.
United Nations (UN) call for submissions and creative brief
‘If you have something appropriate and ready-to-go, send it now’ is the message from the United Nations. Here’s more about the call from a March 31, 2020 article by Evan Nicole Brown for Fast Company (Note: A link has been removed),
Are you creative? Do you want to help fight COVID-19 but don’t know where to start? The UN is calling on artists and designers to create public service announcements that both engage and inform at-risk citizens around the world.
“We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply. We cannot resort to the usual tools in such unusual times. The creativity of the response must match the unique nature of the crisis – and the magnitude of the response must match its scale,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said about the open brief in a statement.
The call was so successful that on the day of its launch (March 30, 2020), it had to be moved to the Talenthouse portal. For anyone who hasn’t heard of them before, the company bills itself as “The World’s leading creative collaboration platform for brands & agencies”
All participants are contributing toward stopping the spread of coronavirus, and together we help save lives, protect resources and care for each other.
A minimum of 10 pieces of work will be chosen by the Selection Panel. And in support of this global campaign, the Selected Creators will all:
Have their work shared across UN and media supporter channels, reaching a global audience
Have their work shared across TLNT channels (including Talenthouse, Ello and/or Zooppa), reaching over 4 million creators and fans around the world
Have their work seen and potentially shared by a global audience across every industry
Potentially receive additional exposure through having their work showcased in digital galleries, physical exhibitions amongst other opportunities
Launch: March 30, 2020 at 5:00 PM
Submission Deadline: April 9, 2020 at 6:00 PM
Creators Selected: April 22, 2020 at 6:00 PM
All times are in London Local Time.
Editorials on COVID-19 for the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC)
I received a call for editorial submissions from the CSPC in an April 1, 2020 email,
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to change our lives and policies, CSPC has put a call for editorials on the impacts of this global health challenge, specifically on the topics including: Policy Development, Lessons Learned from Managing Global Health Challenges, Scientific & Economic Impacts, Social Impacts.
Editorials will be published as a special edition on the CSPC website, shared through CSPC social media channels, and in upcoming CSPC newsletters; ensuring wide exposure to stakeholders in science, technology, and innovation across Canada.
If you have any questions about writing an editorial for CSPC, or would like to submit your editorial piece, email CSPC Editorial Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As for what I meant when I said the submission deadline is unusual (from the Call webpage),
Acknowledging the unpredictability and rapid evolution of COVID-19 related developments, we request only that you confirm your intent to submit an article for this series by Friday April 3rd, 2020.The publications will be posted online on a rolling basis, as we receive them at the convenience of the authors. These articles will also be collected into a final edition for release and promotion. The submission deadline to be included in the first edition release of the editorials is Friday April 17th, 2020.
Editorials will be published as a special edition on the CSPC website, shared through CSPC social media channels, and in upcoming CSPC newsletters; ensuring wide exposure to stakeholders in science, technology, and innovation across Canada.
Getty Museum and an artwork challenge (using household items)
The pictures are starting to pop up everywhere and the challenge was only issued on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 by the Getty Museum. Here’s more from a March 30, 2020 posting by Sarah Waldorf and Annelisa Stephan on the Getty Museum’s Iris blog,
On Wednesday (March 25, 2020] we issued a playful challenge on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to re-create your favorite art using just three objects lying around home. And wow, did you respond! Thousands and thousands of re-creations later, we’re in awe of your creative powers and sense of humor.
“Pasta being life for a 6-year-old, it was first selected, followed by the boiled eggs, which happened to be cooling off to the side,” Christian told us. Next came a brown paper bag as the canvas, and a basil stem from last night’s dinner. “It was truly wonderful to let art be the answer and escape in such a volatile environment,” he added.
As I don’t belong to Instagram or Facebook, I can’t access the images (from the Getty or the Rijksmuseum) posted on those sites for a leisurely look. As for Twitter, the Getty Museum haven’t posted many images there. However, as I noted these are popping up everywhere.
Here are two options in addition to the Iris blog posting for more pictures from the Getty challenge, if you don’t want to join Instagram or Facebook to get access: (1) a March 31, 2020 article by KC Ifeanyi for Fast Company and an April 1, 2020 article by Emily Rumball for the Daily Hive. Both articles host lots of images and there is very little crossover between the pictures in the two articles and very little crossover between the pictures in the articles and in the Getty Museum blog posting.
A February 12, 2020 announcement (received via email) from ARPICO (Society of Italian Researchers and Professionals in Western Canada) features an upcoming March 2020 meeting,
ARPICO’s activity in 2020 will begin on Wednesday March 4th at the Italian Cultural Centre, Room 5, near the Museum & Art Gallery.
We’re sure many of us have often heard the words “artificial intelligence” also known by its acronym “AI”, a concept that appears to be infiltrating many aspects of our lives. It is probably a good guess to say that many of us wonder what AI really is and about the pros and cons of AI technology’s ubiquitous presence.
While it would take far longer than the typical ARPICO speaking event duration to even define AI, we will be able to delve into some of its workings and their effect on our lives at our next event when we are very pleased to host Dr. Cristina Conati, who will be presenting “The Eyes Are the Windows to the Mind: Implications for Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven Personalized Interaction“
Ahead of the speaking event, ARPICO will be holding its 2020 Annual General Meeting in the same location. We encourage everyone to participate in the AGM and have their say on all aspects of ARPICO’s matters. ARPICO is made by all of its members, not just the Board, and it is therefore paramount that you all make an effort to attend, let us know what your wishes are for the Society and tell us how we can do better together as we go forward.
If you are driving to the venue, there is plenty of free parking space.
We look forward to seeing everyone there.
The evening agenda is as follows:
5:45PM to 6:30PM – Annual General Meeting
[ Doors Open for Registration at 5:30PM ]
7:00pm – Start of the evening Event with introductions & lecture by Dr. Cristina Conati
[ Doors Open for Registration at 6:30PM ]
8:00 pm – Q & A Period
to follow – Mingling & Refreshments until about 9:30 pm
Here’s a description of the talk and Dr. Conati,
Eye-tracking has been extensively used both in psychology for understanding various aspects of human cognition, as well as in human computer interaction (HCI) for evaluation of interface design or as a form of direct input. In recent years, eye-tracking has also been investigated as a source of information for machine learning models that predict relevant user states and traits (e.g., attention, confusion, learning, perceptual abilities). These predictions can then be leveraged by AI agents to personalize the interaction with their users. In this talk, Dr. Conati will provide an overview of the research her lab has done in this area, including predicting user cognitive skills, and affective states, with applications to User-Adaptive Visualizations and Intelligent Tutoring Systems.
Dr. Conati is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. She received an M.Sc. in Computer Science at the University of Milan, as well as an M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Intelligent Systems at the University of Pittsburgh. Conati’s research is at the intersection of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Human Computer Interaction (HCI) and Cognitive Science, with the goal to create intelligent interactive systems that can capture relevant user’s properties (states, skills, needs) and personalize the interaction accordingly. Conati has over 100 peer-reviewed publications in this field and her research has received awards from a variety of venues, including UMUAI, the Journal of User Modeling and User Adapted Interaction (2002), the ACM International Conference on Intelligent User Interfaces (IUI 2007), the International Conference of User Modeling, Adaptation and Personalization (UMAP 2013, 2014), TiiS, ACM Transactions on Intelligent Interactive Systems (2014), and the International Conference on Intelligent Virtual Agents (IVA 2016).
I have more registration information from the announcement,
WHEN (AGM): Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 at 5:45PM (doors open at 5:30PM)
WHEN (EVENT): Wednesday, March 4th, 2020 at 7:00PM (doors open at 6:30PM)
WHERE: Italian Cultural Centre – Museum & Art Gallery – Room 5 – 3075 Slocan St, Vancouver, BC, V5M 3E4
are FREE, but all individuals are requested to obtain “free-admission”
tickets on EventBrite site due to limited seating at the venue.
Organizers need accurate registration numbers to manage wait lists and
prepare name tags.
ARPICO events are 100% staffed by volunteer organizers and helpers,
however, room rental, stationery, and guest refreshments are costs
incurred and underwritten by members of ARPICO. Therefore to be fair,
all audience participants are asked to donate to the best of their
ability at the door or via EventBrite to “help” defray costs of the
No brain but it learns, it has about 720 sexes, and it travels at a rate of approximately 4 cm (1.6 inches) per hour, it is known as ‘le blob’. Fascinated when I first stumbled across the news, I had to post this piece but wish I hadn’t waited so long.
Here’s the 101: the 900-odd species of slime mould, of which P. polycephalum is just one, are a taxonomic headache. They’re currently boxed into the Protista kingdom, because where else are you going to put something that isn’t a fungus, plant, bacteria, or animal?
When life is good, they tend to live solitary lives as single cells like amoeba.
On occasion they squish together, forming a wide, branching structure called a plasmodium that can cover several square metres as they search cities to conquer. Well, bacteria to digest at least.
If you thought your experience on Tinder was hard, dating for slime moulds is a nightmare. Cells can only mix-and-match their genetic material if each has a compatible set of genes called matA, mat B, and mat C, each with up to 16 variations.
But the truly fascinating part is their ability to sense and rapidly adapt to their environment – a behaviour we might, for lack of a better word, call learning.
It isn’t an animal, a plant, or a fungus. The slime mold (Physarum polycephalum) is a strange, creeping, bloblike organism made up of one giant cell. Though it has no brain, it can learn from experience, as biologists at the Research Centre on Animal Cognition (CNRS, Université Toulouse III — Paul Sabatier) previously demonstrated. Now the same team of scientists has gone a step further, proving that a slime mold can transmit what it has learned to a fellow slime mold when the two combine. These new findings are published in the December 21, 2016, issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Imagine you could temporarily fuse with someone, acquire that person’s knowledge, and then split off to become your separate self again. With slime molds, that really happens! The slime mold — Physarum polycephalum for scientists — is a unicellular organism whose natural habitat is forest litter. But it can also be cultured in a laboratory petri dish. Audrey Dussutour and David Vogel had already trained slime molds to move past repellent but harmless substances (e.g. coffee, quinine, or salt) to reach their food. They now reveal that a slime mold that has learned to ignore salt can transmit this acquired behavior to another simply by fusing with it.
To achieve this, the researchers taught more than 2,000 slime molds that salt posed no threat. In order to reach their food, these slime molds had to cross a bridge covered with salt. This experience made them habituated slime molds. Meanwhile, another 2,000 slime molds had to cross a bridge bare of any substance. They made up the group of naive slime molds. After this training period, the scientists grouped slime molds into habituated, naive, and mixed pairs. Paired slime molds fused together where they came into contact. The new, fused slime molds then had to cross salt-covered bridges. To the researchers’ surprise, the mixed slime molds moved just as fast as habituated pairs, and much faster than naive ones, suggesting that knowledge of the harmless nature of salt had been shared. This held true for slime molds formed from 3 or 4 individuals. No matter how many fused, only 1 habituated slime mold was needed to transfer the information.
To check that transfer had indeed taken place, the scientists separated the slime molds 1 hour and 3 hours after fusion and repeated the bridge experiment. Only naive slime molds that had been fused with habituated slime molds for 3 hours ignored the salt; all others were repulsed by it. This was proof of learning. When viewing the slime molds through a microscope, the scientists noticed that, after 3 hours, a vein formed at the point of fusion. This vein is undoubtedly the channel through which information is shared. The next challenges facing the researchers are to elucidate the form this information takes, and to test whether more than one behavior can be transmitted simultaneously. If Slime Mold A learns how to ignore quinine and Slime Mold B to ignore salt, the biologists wonder whether both behaviors can be transmitted and retained through fusion.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper published in 2016,
Le blob est un organisme unicellulaire complexe mais dépourvu de système nerveux. Celui-ci est capable d’emmagasiner une connaissance et de la transmettre à ses congénères mais la manière dont il procède demeurait un mystère. Des chercheuses et chercheurs du Centre de recherches sur la cognition animale (CNRS/UT3 Paul Sabatier)* viennent de montrer que le blob apprend à tolérer une substance en l’absorbant.
Cette découverte découle d’une observation : les blobs s’échangent de l’information seulement lorsque leurs réseaux veineux fusionnent. Dans ce cas-là, la connaissance circule-t-elle au travers de ces veines ? Dès lors, la substance à laquelle le blob s’habitue constitue-t-elle le support de sa « mémoire » ?
Dans un premier temps l’équipe de scientifiques a entrainé des blobs à traverser des environnements salés pendant six jours dans le but de les habituer au sel. Par la suite, elle a évalué la concentration en sel au sein de ces blobs : ceux-ci en contenaient dix fois plus que les blobs « naïfs ». Les chercheurs les ont alors placés dans un environnement neutre et ont observé qu’ils excrétaient le sel qu’ils contenaient au bout de deux jours, perdant de fait « la mémoire ». Cette expérience semblait donc indiquer un lien entre la concentration de sel au sein de l’organisme et la « mémoire » de l’apprentissage.
Pour aller plus loin et confirmer cette hypothèse, les scientifiques ont introduit dans des blobs naïfs la « mémoire » de l’habituation au sel en en injectant directement dans leurs organismes. Deux heures après, les blobs ne se comportaient plus comme des naïfs mais comme des blobs ayant subi un entrainement de six jours.
Lorsque les conditions environnementales se détériorent, les blobs sont capables d’entrer dans un état de dormance. Les chercheurs ont démontré qu’un mois après être entrés dans cet état, les blobs conservaient leur habituation au sel. Les blobs stockent en effet le sel absorbé pendant la phase de dormance et conservent ainsi la connaissance sur le long terme.
Les résultats de cette étude prouvent que la substance aversive pourrait constituer le support de la « mémoire » du blob. Les chercheurs essayent maintenant de comprendre si le blob peut mémoriser plusieurs substances aversives en même temps et dans quelle mesure il est capable de s’y habituer.
* Le Centre de recherche sur la cognition animale fait partie du Centre de biologie intégrative (CNRS/UT3 Paul Sabatier)
Here’s the abstract for the paper (the link and citation follow afterward),
Learning and memory are indisputably key features of animal success. Using information about past experiences is critical for optimal decision-making in a fluctuating environment. Those abilities are usually believed to be limited to organisms with a nervous system, precluding their existence in non-neural organisms. However, recent studies showed that the slime mould Physarum polycephalum, despite being unicellular, displays habituation, a simple form of learning. In this paper, we studied the possible substrate of both short- and long-term habituation in slime moulds. We habituated slime moulds to sodium, a known repellent, using a 6 day training and turned them into a dormant state named sclerotia. Those slime moulds were then revived and tested for habituation. We showed that information acquired during the training was preserved through the dormant stage as slime moulds still showed habituation after a one-month dormancy period. Chemical analyses indicated a continuous uptake of sodium during the process of habituation and showed that sodium was retained throughout the dormant stage. Lastly, we showed that memory inception via constrained absorption of sodium for 2 h elicited habituation. Our results suggest that slime moulds absorbed the repellent and used it as a ‘circulating memory’.
This article is part of the theme issue ‘Liquid brains, solid brains: How distributed cognitive architectures process information’.
Here’s the link and the citation for the 2019 paper,
Should you ever wish to find ‘le blob’, the Paris Zoological Park, known as the parc zoologique de Paris, is one of four establishments which comprise the totality of the Muséum national d’histoire naturelle in Paris. There are others outside Paris. (You can find more in the Muséum’s Wikipedia entry but it is in French.)