Arianne Cohen’s May 28, 2020 article for Fast Company concisely sums up the space junk problem and solution (Note: A link has been removed),
Throwing money at problems works in space, too! A paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS] says that the space debris problem can be fixed once and for all, not by the engineers and scientists who consider space their domain, but with cold, hard cash: about $235,000 per satellite. Such a plan would create financial barriers for smaller organizations.
This looks pretty doesn’t it? hard to believe it’s a representation of the junk yard that floats around the earth.
Space is getting crowded. Aging satellites and space debris crowd low-Earth orbit, and launching new satellites adds to the collision risk. The most effective way to solve the space junk problem, according to a new study, is not to capture debris or deorbit old satellites: it’s an international agreement to charge operators “orbital-use fees” for every satellite put into orbit.
Orbital use fees would also increase the long-run value of the space industry, said economist Matthew Burgess, a CIRES [Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences] Fellow and co-author of the new paper. By reducing future satellite and debris collision risk, an annual fee rising to about $235,000 per satellite would quadruple the value of the satellite industry by 2040, he and his colleagues concluded in a paper published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“Space is a common resource, but companies aren’t accounting for the cost their satellites impose on other operators when they decide whether or not to launch,” said Burgess, who is also an assistant professor in Environmental Studies and an affiliated faculty member in Economics at the University of Colorado Boulder. “We need a policy that lets satellite operators directly factor in the costs their launches impose on other operators.”
Currently, an estimated 20,000 objects–including satellites and space debris–are crowding low-Earth orbit. It’s the latest Tragedy of the Commons, the researchers said: Each operator launches more and more satellites until their private collision risk equals the value of the orbiting satellite.
So far, proposed solutions have been primarily technological or managerial, said Akhil Rao, assistant professor of economics at Middlebury College and the paper’s lead author. Technological fixes include removing space debris from orbit with nets, harpoons, or lasers. Deorbiting a satellite at the end of its life is a managerial fix.
Ultimately, engineering or managerial solutions like these won’t solve the debris problem because they don’t change the incentives for operators. For example, removing space debris might motivate operators to launch more satellites–further crowding low-Earth orbit, increasing collision risk, and raising costs. “This is an incentive problem more than an engineering problem. What’s key is getting the incentives right,” Rao said.
A better approach to the space debris problem, Rao and his colleagues found, is to implement an orbital-use fee–a tax on orbiting satellites. “That’s not the same as a launch fee,” Rao said, “Launch fees by themselves can’t induce operators to deorbit their satellites when necessary, and it’s not the launch but the orbiting satellite that causes the damage.”
Orbital-use fees could be straight-up fees or tradeable permits, and they could also be orbit-specific, since satellites in different orbits produce varying collision risks. Most important, the fee for each satellite would be calculated to reflect the cost to the industry of putting another satellite into orbit, including projected current and future costs of additional collision risk and space debris production–costs operators don’t currently factor into their launches. “In our model, what matters is that satellite operators are paying the cost of the collision risk imposed on other operators,” said Daniel Kaffine, professor of economics and RASEI Fellow at the University of Colorado Boulder and co-author on the paper.
And those fees would increase over time, to account for the rising value of cleaner orbits. In the researchers’ model, the optimal fee would rise at a rate of 14 percent per year, reaching roughly $235,000 per satellite-year by 2040.
For an orbital-use fee approach to work, the researchers found, all countries launching satellites would need to participate–that’s about a dozen that launch satellites on their own launch vehicles and more than 30 that own satellites. In addition, each country would need to charge the same fee per unit of collision risk for each satellite that goes into orbit, although each country could collect revenue separately. Countries use similar approaches already in carbon taxes and fisheries management.
In this study, Rao and his colleagues compared orbital-use fees to business as usual (that is, open access to space) and to technological fixes such as removing space debris. They found that orbital use fees forced operators to directly weigh the expected lifetime value of their satellites against the cost to industry of putting another satellite into orbit and creating additional risk. In other scenarios, operators still had incentive to race into space, hoping to extract some value before it got too crowded.
With orbital-use fees, the long-run value of the satellite industry would increase from around $600 billion under the business-as-usual scenario to around $3 trillion, researchers found. The increase in value comes from reducing collisions and collision-related costs, such as launching replacement satellites.
Orbital-use fees could also help satellite operators get ahead of the space junk problem. “In other sectors, addressing the Tragedy of the Commons has often been a game of catch-up with substantial social costs. But the relatively young space industry can avoid these costs before they escalate,” Burgess said.
Scientists have long been puzzled by the existence of so-called “buckyballs” – complex carbon molecules with a soccer-ball-like structure – throughout interstellar space. Now, a team of researchers from the University of Arizona has proposed a mechanism for their formation in a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Carbon 60, or C60 for short, whose official name is Buckminsterfullerene, comes in spherical molecules consisting of 60 carbon atoms organized in five-membered and six-membered rings. The name “buckyball” derives from their resemblance to the architectural work of Richard Buckminster Fuller [bettr known as Buckminster Fuller], who designed many dome structures that look similar to C60. Their formation was thought to only be possible in lab settings until their detection in space challenged this assumption.
For decades, people thought interstellar space was sprinkled with lightweight molecules only: mostly single atoms, two-atom molecules and the occasional nine or 10-atom molecules. This was until massive C60 and C70 molecules were detected a few years ago.
Researchers were also surprised to find that that they were composed of pure carbon. In the lab, C60 is made by blasting together pure carbon sources, such as graphite. In space, C60 was detected in planetary nebulae, which are the debris of dying stars. This environment has about 10,000 hydrogen molecules for every carbon molecule.
“Any hydrogen should destroy fullerene synthesis,” said astrobiology and chemistry doctoral student Jacob Bernal, lead author of the paper. “If you have a box of balls, and for every 10,000 hydrogen balls you have one carbon, and you keep shaking them, how likely is it that you get 60 carbons to stick together? It’s very unlikely.”
Bernal and his co-authors began investigating the C60 mechanism after realizing that the transmission electron microscope, or TEM, housed at the Kuiper Materials Imaging and Characterization Facility at UArizona, was able to simulate the planetary nebula environment fairly well.
The TEM, which is funded by the National Science Foundation and NASA, has a serial number of “1” because it is the first of its kind in the world with its exact configuration. Its 200,000-volt electron beam can probe matter down to 78 picometers – scales too small for the human brain to comprehend – in order to see individual atoms. It operates under a vacuum with extremely low pressures. This pressure, or lack thereof, in the TEM is very close to the pressure in circumstellar environments.
“It’s not that we necessarily tailored the instrument to have these specific kinds of pressures,” said Tom Zega, associate professor in the UArizona Lunar and Planetary Lab and study co-author. “These instruments operate at those kinds of very low pressures not because we want them to be like stars, but because molecules of the atmosphere get in the way when you’re trying to do high-resolution imaging with electron microscopes.”
The team partnered with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Lab, near Chicago, which has a TEM capable of studying radiation responses of materials. They placed silicon carbide, a common form of dust made in stars, in the low-pressure environment of the TEM, subjected it to temperatures up to 1,830 degrees Fahrenheit and irradiated it with high-energy xenon ions.
Then, it was brought back to Tucson for researchers to utilize the higher resolution and better analytical capabilities of the UArizona TEM. They knew their hypothesis would be validated if they observed the silicon shedding and exposing pure carbon.
“Sure enough, the silicon came off, and you were left with layers of carbon in six-membered ring sets called graphite,” said co-author Lucy Ziurys, Regents Professor of astronomy, chemistry and biochemistry. “And then when the grains had an uneven surface, five-membered and six-membered rings formed and made spherical structures matching the diameter of C60. So, we think we’re seeing C60.”
This work suggests that C60 is derived from the silicon carbide dust made by dying stars, which is then hit by high temperatures, shockwaves and high energy particles , leeching silicon from the surface and leaving carbon behind. These big molecules are dispersed because dying stars eject their material into the interstellar medium – the spaces in between stars – thus accounting for their presence outside of planetary nebulae. Buckyballs are very stable to radiation, allowing them to survive for billions of years if shielded from the harsh environment of space.
“The conditions in the universe where we would expect complex things to be destroyed are actually the conditions that create them,” Bernal said, adding that the implications of the findings are endless.
“If this mechanism is forming C60, it’s probably forming all kinds of carbon nanostructures,” Ziurys said. “And if you read the chemical literature, these are all thought to be synthetic materials only made in the lab, and yet, interstellar space seems to be making them naturally.”
If the findings are any sign, it appears that there is more the universe has to tell us about how chemistry truly works.
I have two links and citations. This first is for the 2019 paper being described here and the second is the original 1985 paper about C60.
There is a lot happening in the next day or two. I have two Vancouver (Canada) science events and an online event, which can be attended from anywhere.
Space debris on January 23, 2020 in Vancouver
I was surprised to learn about space debris (it was described as a floating junkyard in space) in 1992. It seems things have not gotten better. Here’s more from the Cosmic Nights: Space Debris event page on the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre website,
Cosmic Nights: Space Debris
There are tens of thousands of pieces of man-made debris, or “space junk,” orbiting the Earth that threaten satellites and other spacecraft. With the increase of space exploration and no debris removal processes in place that number is sure to increase.
Learn more about the impact space debris will have on current and future missions, space law, and the impact human activity, both scientific, and commercial are having on space as we discuss what it will take to make space exploration more sustainable. Physics professors Dr. Aaron Rosengren, and Dr. Aaron Boley will be joining us to share their expertise on the subject.
Tickets available for 7:30pm or 9:00pm planetarium star theatre shows. ________________
7:30 ticket holder schedule: 6:30 – check-in 7:00 – “Pooping in Space” (GroundStation Canada Theatre) 7:30 – 8:30 “Go Boldly and Sustainably” show (Planetarium Star Theatre) 9:00 – 9:30 “Space Debris” lecture
9:00 ticket holder schedule: 6:30 – check-in 7:00 – 9:00 (runs every 30 mins) “Pooping in Space” show (GroundStation Canada Theatre) 8:00 – 8:30 “Space Debris” lecture 9:00 – 10:00 “Go Boldly and Sustainably” show (Planetarium Star Theatre) The bar will be open from 6:30 – 10:00pm in the Cosmic Courtyard.
Only planetarium shows are ticketed, all other activities are optional.
7:00pm, 7:30pm, 8:00pm, 8:30pm – “Pooping in Space” – GroundStation Canada Theatre The ultimate waste! What happens when you have to “GO” in space? In this live show you’ll see how astronauts handle this on the ISS, look at some new innovations space suit design for future missions, and we’ll have some fun astronaut trivia.
7:30pm and 9:00pm – “Go Boldly and Sustainably” – Planetarium Star Theatre As humans venture into a solar system, where no one can own anything, it is becoming increasingly important to create policies to control for waste and promote sustainability. But who will enact these policies? Will it be our governments or private companies? Our astronomer Rachel Wang, and special guest Dr. Aaron Boley will explore these concepts under the dome in the Planetarium Star Theatre. For the 7:30 show SFU’s Paul Meyer will be making an appearance to talk about the key aspects of space security diplomacy and how it relates to the space debris challenge.
Dr. Aaron Boley is an Assistant Professor in the Physics and Astronomy department at UBC whose research program uses theory and observations to explore a wide range of processes in the formation of planets, from the birth of planet-forming discs to the long-term evolution of planetary systems.
Paul Meyer is Fellow in International Security and Adjunct Professor of International Studies at Simon Fraser University and a founding member of the Outer Space Institute. Prior to his assuming his current positions in 2011, Mr. Meyer had a 35-year career with the Canadian Foreign Service, including serving as Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations and to the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva (2003-2007). He teaches a course on diplomacy at SFU’s School for International Studies and writes on issues of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, outer space security and international cyber security.
8:00pm and 9:00pm – “Space Junk: Our Quest to Conquer the Space Environment Problem” lecture by Dr. Aaron Rosengren
At the end of 2019, after nearly two decades, the U.S. government issued updated orbital debris mitigation guidelines, but the revision fell short of the sweeping changes many in the space debris research community expected. The updated guidelines sets new quantitative limits on events that can create debris and updates the classes of orbits to be used for the retirement of satellites, even allowing for the new exotic idea of passive disposal through gravitational resonances (similar phenomena have left their mark on the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter). The revised guidelines, however, do not make major changes, and leave intact the 25-year time frame for end-of-life disposal of low-Earth orbit satellites, a period many now believe to be far too long with the ever increasing orbital traffic in near-Earth space. In this talk, I will discuss various approaches to cleaning up or containing space junk, such as a recent exciting activity in Australia to use laser photo pressure to nudge inactive debris to safe orbits.
Dr. Aaron J. Rosengren is an Assistant Professor in the College of Engineering at the University of Arizona and Member of the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Applied Mathematics. Prior to joining UA in 2017, he spent one year at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece working in the Department of Physics, as part of the European Union H2020 Project ReDSHIFT. He has also served as a member of the EU Asteroid and Space Debris Network, Stardust, working for two years at the Institute of Applied Physics Nello Carrara of the Italian National Research Council. His research interests include space situational awareness, orbital debris, celestial mechanics, and planetary science. Aaron is currently part of the Space Situational Awareness (SSA)-Arizona initiative at the University of Arizona, a member of the Outer Space Institute (OSI) for the sustainable development of Space at the University of British Columbia, and a research affiliate of the Center for Orbital Debris Education and Research (CODER) at the University of Maryland.
*Choose between either the 7:30pm or 9:00pm planetarium show when purchasing your ticket.*
This is a 19+ event. All attendees will be required to provide photo ID upon entry.
Date and Time
Thu, 23 January 2020 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM PST
H.R. MacMillan Space Centre 1100 Chestnut Street Vancouver, BC V6J 3J9
Cosmic Nights is the name for a series of talks about space and astronomy and an opportunity to socialize with your choice of beer or wine for purchase.
Canada-wide 2nd Canadian DIY Biology Summit (live audio and webcast)
This is a January 22, 2020 event accessible Canada-wide. For anyone on Pacific Time, it does mean being ready to check-in at 5 am. The first DIY Biology (‘do-it-yourself’ biology) Summit was held in 2016.
Organizers of Community Biolabs across Canada are converging on Ottawa this Wednesday for the second Canadian DIY Biology Summit organized by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). OSN [Open Science Network] President & Co-Founder, Scott Pownall, has been invited to talk about the Future of DIY/Community Biology in Canada.
A few points of clarification: DIYbio YVR has been renamed Open Science Network on Meetup and, should you wish to attend the summit virtually, there is information about passwords and codes on the agenda, which presumably will help you to get access.
Nerd Nite v. 49: Waterslides, Oil Tankers, and Predator-Prey Relationships on January 22, 2020 in Vancouver
When you were young, did you spend your summers zooming down waterslides? We remember days where our calves ached from climbing stairs, and sore bums from well… you know. And, if you were like us, you also stared at those slides and thought “How are these things made? And, is it going to disassemble while I’m on it?”. Today, we spend more of our summer days staring out at the oil tankers lining the shore, or watching seagulls dive down to retrieve waste left behind by tourists on Granville Island, but we maintain that curiousity about the things around us! So, splash into a New Year with us to learn about all three: waterslides, oil tankers, and predator-prey relationships.
Zachary is completing an MSc at UBC investigating freshwater and estuarine predation on juvenile salmon during their out-migration from natal rivers and works as a part-time contract biologist in the lower mainland. Prior to coming out west, Zach completed an interdisciplinary BSc in Aquatic Resources and Biology at St. F.X. University in Antigonish, N.S. During his undergraduate degree, Zach ran field and lab experiments to explore predator-induced phenotypic plasticity in intertidal blue mussels exposed to the waterborne cues of a drilling predator snail. He also conducted biological surveys on lobster fishing boats and worked as a fisheries observer for the offshore commercial snow crab fleet.
Shane is a professional mechanical engineer whose career transitioned from submarine designer to waterslide tester. He is currently a product manager for waterslides at WhiteWater West.
3. Oil Tankers 101
Kayla is an ocean enthusiast. She earned her Masters in Marine Management at Dalhousie University, studying compensation for environmental damage caused by ship-source oil spills. Passionate about sharing her knowledge of the ocean with others, Kayla’s shifted her focus to the realm of science communication to help more people foster a deeper relationship with science and the ocean. Kayla now works as a producer at The Story Collider, a non-profit dedicated to sharing true, personal stories about science, where she hosts live storytelling events and leads workshops on behalf of the organization. Follow her at @kaylamayglynn and catch her live on the Story Collider stage on February 11th, 2020!
There’s a very good November 11, 2019 article by Natalie Angier for the New York Times on carbon nanotubes (CNTs) and the colour black,
On a laboratory bench at the National Institute of Standards and Technology was a square tray with two black disks inside, each about the width of the top of a Dixie cup. Both disks were undeniably black, yet they didn’t look quite the same.
Solomon Woods, 49, a trim, dark-haired, soft-spoken physicist, was about to demonstrate how different they were, and how serenely voracious a black could be.
“The human eye is extraordinarily sensitive to light,” Dr. Woods said. Throw a few dozen photons its way, a few dozen quantum-sized packets of light, and the eye can readily track them.
Dr. Woods pulled a laser pointer from his pocket. “This pointer,” he said, “puts out 100 trillion photons per second.” He switched on the laser and began slowly sweeping its bright beam across the surface of the tray.
On hitting the white background, the light bounced back almost unimpeded, as rude as a glaring headlight in a rearview mirror.
The beam moved to the first black disk, a rondel of engineered carbon now more than a decade old. The light dimmed significantly, as a sizable tranche of the incident photons were absorbed by the black pigment, yet the glow remained surprisingly strong.
Finally Dr. Woods trained his pointer on the second black disk, and suddenly the laser’s brilliant beam, its brash photonic probe, simply — disappeared. Trillions of light particles were striking the black disk, and virtually none were winking back up again. It was like watching a circus performer swallow a sword, or a husband “share” your plate of French fries: Hey, where did it all go?
N.I.S.T. disk number two was an example of advanced ultra-black technology: elaborately engineered arrays of tiny carbon cylinders, or nanotubes, designed to capture and muzzle any light they encounter. Blacker is the new black, and researchers here and abroad are working to create ever more efficient light traps, which means fabricating materials that look ever darker, ever flatter, ever more ripped from the void.
The N.I.S.T. ultra-black absorbs at least 99.99 percent of the light that stumbles into its nanotube forest. But scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported in September the creation of a carbon nanotube coating that they claim captures better than 99.995 of the incident light.
… The more fastidious and reliable the ultra-black, the more broadly useful it will prove to be — in solar power generators, radiometers, industrial baffles and telescopes primed to detect the faintest light fluxes as a distant planet traverses the face of its star.
Psychology and metaphors
It’s not all technical, Angier goes on to mention the psychological and metaphorical aspects,
Psychologists have gathered evidence that black is among the most metaphorically loaded of all colors, and that we absorb our often contradictory impressions about black at a young age.
Reporting earlier this year in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, Robin Kramer and Joanne Prior of the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom compared color associations in a group of 104 children, aged 5 to 10, with those of 100 university students.
The researchers showed subjects drawings in which a lineup of six otherwise identical images differed only in some aspect of color. The T-shirt of a boy taking a test, for example, was switched from black to blue to green to red to white to yellow. The same for a businessman’s necktie, a schoolgirl’s dress, a dog’s collar, a boxer’s gloves.
Participants were asked to link images with traits. Which boy was likeliest to cheat on the test? Which man was likely to be in charge at work? Which girl was the smartest in her class, which dog the scariest?
Again and again, among both children and young adults, black pulled ahead of nearly every color but red. Black was the color of cheating, and black was the color of cleverness. A black tie was the mark of a boss, a black collar the sign of a pit bull. Black was the color of strength and of winning. Black was the color of rage.
Then, there is the world of art,
For artists, black is basal and nonnegotiable, the source of shadow, line, volume, perspective and mood. “There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh,” Ad Reinhardt, the abstract expressionist artist, said. “Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow.”
So essential is black to any aesthetic act that, as David Scott Kastan and Stephen Farthing describe in their scholarly yet highly entertaining book, “On Color,” modern artists have long squabbled over who pioneered the ultimate visual distillation: the all-black painting.
Was it the Russian Constructivist Aleksandr Rodchenko, who in 1918 created a series of eight seemingly all-black canvases? No, insisted the American artist Barnett Newman: Those works were very dark brown, not black. He, Mr. Newman, deserved credit for his 1949 opus, “Abraham,” which in 1966 he described as “the first and still the only black painting in history.”
But what about Kazimir Malevich’s “Black Square” of 1915? True, it was a black square against a white background, but the black part was the point. Then again, the English polymath Robert Fludd had engraved a black square in a white border back in 1617.
Clearly, said Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the first director of the Museum of Modern Art, “Each generation must paint its own black square.”
Solomon and his NIST colleagues and the MIT scientists are all trying to create materials with structural colour, in this case, black. Angier goes on to discuss structural colour in nature mentioning bird feathers and spiders as examples of where you might find superblacks. For anyone unfamiliar with structural colour, the colour is not achieved with pigment or dye but with tiny structures, usually measured at the nanoscale, on a bird’s wing, a spider’s belly, a plant leaf, etc. Structural colour does not fade or change . Still, it’s possible to destroy the structures, i.e., the colour, but light and time will not have any effect since it’s the tiny structures and their optical properties which are producing the colour . (Even after all these years, my favourite structural colour story remains a Feb. 1, 2013 article, Color from Structure, by Cristina Luiggi for The Scientist magazine. For a shorter version, I excerpted parts of Luiggi’s story for my February 7, 2013 posting.)
The examples of structural colour in Angier’s article were new to me. However, there are many, many examples elsewhere,. You can find some here by using the terms ‘structural colour’ or ‘structural color’ in the blog’s search engine.
Angier’s is a really good article and I strongly recommend reading it if you have time but I’m a little surprised she doesn’t mention Vantablack and the artistic feud. More about that in a moment,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a ‘blacker black’
According to MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), they have the blackest black. It too is courtesy of carbon nanotubes.
What you see in the above ‘The Redemption of Vanity’ was on show at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) from September 13 – November 29, 2019. It’s both an art piece and a demonstration of MIT’s blackest black.
With apologies to “Spinal Tap,” it appears that black can, indeed, get more black.
MIT engineers report today that they have cooked up a material that is 10 times blacker than anything that has previously been reported. The material is made from vertically aligned carbon nanotubes, or CNTs — microscopic filaments of carbon, like a fuzzy forest of tiny trees, that the team grew on a surface of chlorine-etched aluminum foil. The foil captures at least 99.995 percent* of any incoming light, making it the blackest material on record.
The researchers have published their findings today in the journal ACS-Applied Materials and Interfaces. They are also showcasing the cloak-like material as part of a new exhibit today at the New York Stock Exchange, titled “The Redemption of Vanity.”
The artwork, conceived by Diemut Strebe, an artist-in-residence at the MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology, in collaboration with Brian Wardle, professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, and his group, and MIT Center for Art, Science, and Technology artist-in-residence Diemut Strebe, features a 16.78-carat natural yellow diamond from LJ West Diamonds, estimated to be worth $2 million, which the team coated with the new, ultrablack CNT material. The effect is arresting: The gem, normally brilliantly faceted, appears as a flat, black void.
Wardle says the CNT material, aside from making an artistic statement, may also be of practical use, for instance in optical blinders that reduce unwanted glare, to help space telescopes spot orbiting exoplanets.
“There are optical and space science applications for very black materials, and of course, artists have been interested in black, going back well before the Renaissance,” Wardle says. “Our material is 10 times blacker than anything that’s ever been reported, but I think the blackest black is a constantly moving target. Someone will find a blacker material, and eventually we’ll understand all the underlying mechanisms, and will be able to properly engineer the ultimate black.”
Wardle’s co-author on the paper is former MIT postdoc Kehang Cui, now a professor at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.
Into the void
Wardle and Cui didn’t intend to engineer an ultrablack material. Instead, they were experimenting with ways to grow carbon nanotubes on electrically conducting materials such as aluminum, to boost their electrical and thermal properties.
But in attempting to grow CNTs on aluminum, Cui ran up against a barrier, literally: an ever-present layer of oxide that coats aluminum when it is exposed to air. This oxide layer acts as an insulator, blocking rather than conducting electricity and heat. As he cast about for ways to remove aluminum’s oxide layer, Cui found a solution in salt, or sodium chloride.
At the time, Wardle’s group was using salt and other pantry products, such as baking soda and detergent, to grow carbon nanotubes. In their tests with salt, Cui noticed that chloride ions were eating away at aluminum’s surface and dissolving its oxide layer.
“This etching process is common for many metals,” Cui says. “For instance, ships suffer from corrosion of chlorine-based ocean water. Now we’re using this process to our advantage.”
Cui found that if he soaked aluminum foil in saltwater, he could remove the oxide layer. He then transferred the foil to an oxygen-free environment to prevent reoxidation, and finally, placed the etched aluminum in an oven, where the group carried out techniques to grow carbon nanotubes via a process called chemical vapor deposition.
By removing the oxide layer, the researchers were able to grow carbon nanotubes on aluminum, at much lower temperatures than they otherwise would, by about 100 degrees Celsius. They also saw that the combination of CNTs on aluminum significantly enhanced the material’s thermal and electrical properties — a finding that they expected.
What surprised them was the material’s color.
“I remember noticing how black it was before growing carbon nanotubes on it, and then after growth, it looked even darker,” Cui recalls. “So I thought I should measure the optical reflectance of the sample.
“Our group does not usually focus on optical properties of materials, but this work was going on at the same time as our art-science collaborations with Diemut, so art influenced science in this case,” says Wardle.
Wardle and Cui, who have applied for a patent on the technology, are making the new CNT process freely available to any artist to use for a noncommercial art project.
“Built to take abuse”
Cui measured the amount of light reflected by the material, not just from directly overhead, but also from every other possible angle. The results showed that the material absorbed at least 99.995 percent of incoming light, from every angle. In other words, it reflected 10 times less light than all other superblack materials, including Vantablack. If the material contained bumps or ridges, or features of any kind, no matter what angle it was viewed from, these features would be invisible, obscured in a void of black.
The researchers aren’t entirely sure of the mechanism contributing to the material’s opacity, but they suspect that it may have something to do with the combination of etched aluminum, which is somewhat blackened, with the carbon nanotubes. Scientists believe that forests of carbon nanotubes can trap and convert most incoming light to heat, reflecting very little of it back out as light, thereby giving CNTs a particularly black shade.
“CNT forests of different varieties are known to be extremely black, but there is a lack of mechanistic understanding as to why this material is the blackest. That needs further study,” Wardle says.
The material is already gaining interest in the aerospace community. Astrophysicist and Nobel laureate John Mather, who was not involved in the research, is exploring the possibility of using Wardle’s material as the basis for a star shade — a massive black shade that would shield a space telescope from stray light.
“Optical instruments like cameras and telescopes have to get rid of unwanted glare, so you can see what you want to see,” Mather says. “Would you like to see an Earth orbiting another star? We need something very black. … And this black has to be tough to withstand a rocket launch. Old versions were fragile forests of fur, but these are more like pot scrubbers — built to take abuse.”
[Note] An earlier version of this story stated that the new material captures more than 99.96 percent of incoming light. That number has been updated to be more precise; the material absorbs at least 99.995 of incoming light.
Here’s an August 29, 2019 news release from MIT announcing the then upcoming show. Usually I’d expect to see a research paper associated with this work but this time it seems to an art exhibit only,
The MIT Center for Art, Science &Technology (CAST) and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) will present The Redemption of Vanity,created by artist Diemut Strebe in collaboration with MIT scientist Brian Wardle and his lab, on view at the New York Stock Exchange September 13, 2019 -November 25, 2019. For the work, a 16.78 carat natural yellow diamond valued at $2 million from L.J.West was coated using a new procedure of generating carbon nanotubes (CNTs), recently measured to be the blackest black ever created, which makes the diamond seem to disappear into an invisible void. The patented carbon nanotube technology (CNT) absorbs more than 99.96% of light and was developed by Professor Wardle and his necstlablab at MIT.
“Any object covered with this CNT material loses all its plasticity and appears entirely flat, abbreviated/reduced to a black silhouette. In outright contradiction to this we see that a diamond,while made of the very same element (carbon) performs the most intense reflection of light on earth.Because of the extremely high light absorbtive qualities of the CNTs, any object, in this case a large diamond coated with CNT’s, becomes a kind of black hole absent of shadows,“ explains Strebe.“The unification of extreme opposites in one object and the particular aesthetic features of the CNTs caught my imagination for this art project.”
“Strebe’s art-science collaboration caused us to look at the optical properties of our new CNT growth, and we discovered that these particular CNTs are blacker than all other reported materials by an order of magnitude across the visible spectrum”, says Wardle. The MIT team is offering the process for any artist to use. “We do not believe in exclusive ownership of any material or idea for any artwork and have opened our method to any artist,” say Strebe and Wardle.“
The project explores material and immaterial value attached to objects and concepts in reference to luxury, society and to art. We are presenting the literal devaluation of a diamond, which is highly symbolic and of high economic value.It presents a challenge to art market mechanisms on the one hand, while expressing at the same time questions of the value of art in a broader way. In this sense it manifests an inquiry into the significance of the value of objects of art and the art market,” says Strebe. “We are honored to present this work at The New York Stock Exchange, which I believe to be a most fitting location to consider the ideas embedded in The Redemption of Vanity.”
“The New York Stock Exchange, a center of financial and technological innovation for 227 years, is the perfect venue to display Diemut Strebe and Professor Brian Wardle’s collaboration. Their work brings together cutting-edge nanotube technology and a natural diamond, which is a symbol of both value and longevity,” said John Tuttle, NYSE Group Vice Chairman & Chief Commercial Officer.
“We welcome all scientists and artists to venture into the world of natural color diamonds. The Redemption of Vanity exemplifies the bond between art, science, and luxury. The 16-carat vivid yellow diamond in the exhibit spent millions of years in complete darkness, deep below the earth’s surface. It was only recently unearthed —a once-in-a-lifetime discovery of exquisite size and color. Now the diamond will relive its journey to darkness as it is covered in the blackest of materials. Once again, it will become a reminder that something rare and beautiful can exist even in darkness,”said Larry West.
The “disappearing” diamond in The Redemption of Vanity is a $2 Million Fancy Vivid Yellow SI1 (GIA), Radiant shape, from color diamond specialist, L.J. West Diamonds Inc. of New York.
The Redemption of Vanity, conceived by Diemut Strebe, has been realized with Brian L. Wardle, Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and Director of necstlab and Nano-Engineered Composite aerospace STructures (NECST) Consortium and his team Drs. Luiz Acauan and Estelle Cohen, in conjunction with Strebe’s residency at MIT supported by the Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST).
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Diemut Strebe is a conceptual artist based in Boston, MA and a MIT CAST Visiting Artist. She has collaborated with several MIT faculty, including Noam Chomsky and Robert Langer on Sugababe (2014), Litmus (2014) and Yeast Expression(2015); Seth Lloyd and Dirk Englund on Wigner’s Friends(2014); Alan Guth on Plötzlich! (2018); researchers in William Tisdale’s Lab on The Origin of the Works of Art(2018); Regina Barzilay and Elchanan Mossel on The Prayer (2019); and Ken Kamrin and John Brisson on The Gymnast (2019). Strebe is represented by the Ronald Feldman Gallery.
Brian L. Wardle is a Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT and the director of the necstlab research group and MIT’s Nano-Engineered Composite aerospace STructures (NECST) Consortium. Wardle previously worked with CAST Visiting Artist Trevor Paglen on The Last Picturesproject (2012).
ABOUT THE MIT CENTER FOR ART, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
A major cross-school initiative, the MIT Center for Art, Science & Technology (CAST) creates new opportunities for art, science and technology to thrive as interrelated, mutually informing modes of exploration, knowledge and discovery. CAST’s multidisciplinary platform presents performing and visual arts programs, supports research projects for artists working with science and engineering labs, and sponsors symposia, classes, workshops, design studios, lectures and publications. The Center is funded in part by a generous grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Evan Ziporyn is the Faculty Director and Leila W. Kinney is the Executive Director.Since its inception in 2012, CAST has been the catalyst for more than 150 artist residencies and collaborative projects with MIT faculty and students, including numerous cross-disciplinary courses, workshops, concert series, multimedia projects, lectures and symposia. The visiting artists program is a cornerstone of CAST’s activities, which encourages cross-fertilization among disciplines and intensive interaction with MIT’s faculty and students. More info at https://arts.mit.edu/cast/ .
HISTORY OF VISITING ARTISTS AT MIT
Since the late 1960s, MIT has been a leader in integrating the arts and pioneering a model for collaboration among artists, scientists and engineers in a research setting. CAST’s Visiting Artists Program brings internationally acclaimed artists to engage with MIT’s creative community in ways that are mutually enlightening for the artists and for faculty, students and research staff at the Institute. Artists who have worked extensively at MIT include Mel Chin, Olafur Eliasson, Rick Lowe, Vik Muniz, Trevor Paglen, Tomás Saraceno, Maya Beiser, Agnieszka Kurant, and Anicka Yi.
ABOUT L.J. WEST DIAMONDS
L.J. West Diamonds is a three generation natural color diamond whole sale rfounded in the late 1970’s by Larry J. West and based in New York City. L.J. West has established itself as one of the world’s prominent houses for some of the most rare and important exotic natural fancy color diamonds to have ever been unearthed. This collection includes a vast color spectrum of rare pink, blue, yellow, green, orange and red diamonds. L.J. West is an expert in every phase of the jewelry process –from sourcing to the cutting, polishing and final design. Each exceptional jewel is carefully set to become a unique work of art.The Redemption of Vanity is on view at the New York Stock Exchange by appointment only.
Press viewing: September 13, 2019 at 3pmNew York Stock Exchange, 11 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005RSVP required. Please check-in at the blue tent at 2 Broad Street(at the corner of Wall and Broad Streets). All guests are required to show a government issued photo ID and go through airport-like security upon entering the NYSE.NYSE follows a business casual dress code -jeans & sneakers are not permitted.
No word yet if there will be other showings.
An artistic feud (of sorts)
Earlier this year, I updated a story on Vantablack. It was the blackest black, blocking 99.8% of light when I featured it in a March 14, 2016 posting. The UK company making the announcement, Surrey NanoSystems, then laid the groundwork for an artistic feud when it granted exclusive rights to their carbon nanotube-based coating, Vantablack, to Sir Anish Kapoor mentioned here in an April 16, 2016 posting.
This exclusivity outraged some artists notably, Stuart Semple. In his first act of defiance, he created the pinkest pink. Next, came a Kickstarter campaign to fund Semple’s blackest black, which would be available to all artists except Anish Kapoor. You can read all about the pinkest pink and blackest black as per Semple in my February 21, 2019 posting. You can also get a bit of an update in an Oct. 17, 2019 Stuart Semple proffile by Berenice Baker for Verdict,
… so I managed to hire a scientist, Jemima, to work in the studio with me. She got really close to a super black, and we made our own pigment to this recipe and it was awesome, but we couldn’t afford to put it into manufacture because it cost £25,000.”
Semple launched a Kickstarter campaign and was amazed to raise half a million pounds, making it the second most-supported art Kickstarter of all time.
The ‘race to the blackest’ is well underway, with MIT researchers recently announcing a carbon nanotube-based black whose light absorption they tested by coasting a diamond. But Semple is determined that his black should be affordable by all artists and work like a paint, not only perform in laboratory conditions. He’s currently working with Jemima and two chemists to upgrade the recipe for Black 3.2.
I don’t know how Semple arrived at his blackest black. I think it’s unlikely that he achieved the result by working with carbon nanotubes since my understanding is that CNTs aren’t that easy to produce.
Interesting, eh? In just a few years scientists have progressed from achieving a 99.8% black to 99.999%. It doesn’t seem like that big a difference to me but with Solomon Woods, at the beginning of this post, making the point that our eyes are very sensitive to light, an artistic feud, and a study uncovering deep emotions, getting the blackest black is a much more artistically fraught endeavour than I had imagined.
I don’t know what’s happened but either there are way more science type events or I’ve changed some pattern of internet use and am stumbling across more of them. I vote for the former.
In any event, this is the third ’roundup’ of science type things and/or events that I’ve published this October 2019. *ETA October 23, 2019: The events are in one or other of the science museums in Ottawa, the internships (part-time) are in Washington, DC, and Sci_Tunes is aimed at teachers in the UK although I imagine anyone is free to enjoy them.*
All three of the museums that are included in the Ingenium portmanteau (formerly the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation) have events and Ingenium itself is announcing a science type thing (a video game).
AI (artificial intelligence) and climate change at the Canada Museum of Science and Technology
From an October 16, 2019 Ingenium announcement (received via email),
Canada Science and Technology Museum Oct. 24, 2019 (6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.) Fee: $10 for non-members, $7 for members and students. Registration required. Language: English presentation with simultaneous translation into French, and a bilingual Q & A.
Climate Change and Artificial Intelligence – two topics essential to the future of our society, each with their own inherent challenges. What if they could work together for the greater good?
Join invited speakers from Watergeeks.io and BluWave AI for a discussion that will explore the potential to use AI to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, build climate resilience,and help Canada lead in the clean tech economy. Don’t miss this essential evening, the first in the thematic series “Living in the Machine Age.”
For anyone who may be confused about the museum name (as I was for so very long): The corporation is the governing entity for three museums, Canada Science and Technology, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and Canada Aviation and Space Museum. Changing the corporate name from Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation to Ingenium was welcome news (to me, if no one else).
Sky High Magic at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum
From an October 16, 2019 Ingenium announcement (received via email) ,
Canada Aviation and Space Museum
Jan. 5, 2020, Feb. 17, 2020, and March 8, 2020
Fee: $8 per ticket, $6 for members (with the discount code)
Mark your calendar…the Sky High Magic
Series is coming back to the Canada Aviation and Space Museum! With
shows running through March 2020, this year’s line up features talented,
high-energy magicians who will dazzle you with amazing illusions —
mixed with a whirlwind of comedy.
StarBlox Inc. is a mashup of a puzzler and a brawler — in space! Ingenium’s experts worked on the science in the game to immerse players in a realistic world. For example, when playing on the Jovian moon Io, you’ll need to dodge waves of lava. In real life, these can measure over 50 km high!
The game includes 72 unlockable photobook entries about the planets, moons, and asteroids in the game, with images from NASA. Check out the StarBlox Inc. trailer.
I’ve included a copy of the trailer here,
It seems more like a entrepreneur’s starter kit than a game. The overarching theme seems to be that the business of transportation and delivery is a zero sum game. Philosophically, they seem to be espousing capitalism as a form of the ‘strongest survive’ tenet.
OTTAWA, ON, September 30, 2019 – Nintendo Switch players can now join the team at StarBlox Incorporated – where sorting cargo is a contact sport!
A unique mash up of a puzzler and a brawler, Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation – developed the game for Nintendo Switch in partnership with Seed Interactive. Crafted for scientific accuracy by Ingenium’s expert science advisors and curatorial staff, StarBlox Inc. features stunning planetary backdrops which have been meticulously designed to ensure that players are fully immersed in a realistic world.
As players deliver cargo to the far corners of the solar system, each of the planets, moons and asteroids presents new challenges – from black holes to gravity to waves of lava. This interactive game tests quickness and ability to efficiently to beat the competition. But watch out – the shipping world is fierce! An opponent can sabotage work by stealing blocks, delivering punches or even throwing someone in the incinerator!
Game features include: Two local competitive multiplayer modes for up to four people Single player “Career mode” Seventy-two unlockable photobook entries about the planets, moons and asteroids in the game, with images provided by NASA
StarBlox Inc. is now available for pre-purchase in North America, and will launch in the Nintendo eShop on Nintendo Switch later this fall.
“As science communicators, Ingenium is proud to create digital experiences that reach beyond the four walls of our Museums. This latest foray into the world of gaming is just one of the many ways in which we are leveraging our world class collection and team of experts to engage people regardless of where they are – nationally and internationally.” – Christina Tessier, President and CEO, Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovatio
“Seed Interactive creates entertainment with a purpose. As digital innovators we utilize games and interactive technologies to create exciting and accessible education, health and wellness and entertainment products.” -Aaron McLean, Founder and C.O.O, SEED Interactive Inc
The game was released October 18, 2019.
Hercules and the last straw at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
From an October 21, 2019 Ingenium announcement (received via email),
Hercules and The Last Straw
Friday, November 8, 2019 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Canada Agriculture and Food Museum
We are pleased to invite you to join us at the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, November 8, 2019 for a special evening of art and inspiration.
Ingenium is thrilled to partner with celebrated artist Elaine Goble as she shares her artistic perspectives on the fascinating connection between the STEAM subjects of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics, and personal wellness. The Canada Agriculture and Food Museum is one of three museums of Ingenium – Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation.
For the first time, three of Ms. Goble’s large-sized animal portraits will be on view simultaneously. The vernissage and presentation will be held in the museum’s Learning Centre, where guests will be welcome to view the artworks and meet the artist before the presentation. Ms. Goble’s pieces will be complemented by several other agriculture-related artworks from Ingenium’s national science and technology collection.
Light refreshments and a cash bar will be offered.
In honour of Ms. Goble’s commitment to using art as a catalyst for curiosity and expression, a $20 donation to the museum’s art programming is requested. A tax receipt will be issued to all ticket holders and donors. If you cannot attend but would like to make a donation, please visit the Ingenium Foundation’s website .
Please RSVP using this link before November 3. As space for this event is limited, please reserve early to ensure you don’t miss out on this evening devoted to art, ingenuity, and the human spirit. A reminder with more information, including detailed driving and parking directions, will be emailed to all registrants several days before the event.
Here’s the image they’re using to accompany the publicity for the event,
Presumably, that is either Hercules or a stand-in for him.
Perimeter Institute and ‘Homes away from home’ with Elizabeth Tasker
I tried but these Perimeter Institute (PI) events are very popular and they are already at the wait list stage mere hours after making tickets available. However, there are other ways to attend as you’ll see.
Here’s more from an October 18, 2019 announcement from PI (received via email),
Homes away from home WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6  at 7 PM ET Elizabeth Tasker, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency
Since the discovery of the first exoplanets in the early 1990s, we have detected more than 4,000 worlds beyond our solar system. Many of these are similar in size to our Earth, leading to an obvious question: could any be habitable?
On November 6 , astrophysicist and author Elizabeth Tasker will take audiences for a speculative stroll through a few of the alien worlds we’ve discovered in the galaxy, and ponder whether someone else may already call them home. Read more ➞
Become a member of our donor thank you program! Learn more.
Here’s a bit more detail from the event’s ticket page,
PI Public Lecture Series:
Title: Homes away from home – the hunt for habitable planets
Since the discovery of the first exoplanets in the early 1990s, we have detected more than 4,000 worlds beyond our solar system. Many of these are similar in size to our Earth, leading to an obvious question: could any be habitable?
For now, we typically only know the size and orbit of these planets, but nothing about their surface conditions. Although we cannot know for sure if these worlds could support life, we can use models to speculate on what we might find there.
In her Nov. 6  talk at Perimeter Institute, astrophysicist and author Elizabeth Tasker will take audiences for a speculative stroll through a few of the alien worlds we’ve discovered in the galaxy, and ponder whether someone else may already call them home.
Elizabeth Tasker is an astrophysicist at the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA). Her research explores the formation of stars and planets using computer simulations. She is particularly interested in how diverse planets might be and what different conditions might exist beyond our Solar System. Elizabeth is also a keen science communicator and writer for the NASA NExSS “Many Worlds” online column. Her popular science book, The Planet Factory, was published out in paperback in Canada last April.
Wilson Center Spring 2020 science and technology internships
From an October 21, 2019 Wilson Center announcement (received via email),
The Science and Technology Innovation Program (STIP) is currently welcoming applicantions for the spring semester of 2020. Our internships are designed to provide the opportunity for current students or recent graduates for practical experience in an environment that successfully combines scholarship with public policy. We recommend exploring our website to determine if your research interests align with current STIP programming around emerging technologies, i.e.:
5G * Artificial Intelligence * Big Data * Citizen Science * Cybersecurity * Disinformation * Marine Debris/Ocean Plastics * One Health * Open Science * Public Communication of Science * Serious Games
We offer two types of internships: graduate-level research and undergraduate-level research internships. All internships must be served in Washington, D.C. and cannot be served remotely. Internships are unpaid unless otherwise stated.
Tools like Foldscope, a $1 microscope, and Arduino, a microprocessor for creating customized scientific instrumentation, show how low cost hardware (including open, proprietary, and mixed solutions) can accelerate research while making it more transparent and participatory.
These tools have the potential to change how, and by whom, science is done, within professional spaces and broader communities. But more work is needed to understand the capacity and future potential for low-cost hardware to accelerate and broaden participation in scientific research. We are seeking a research intern with an interest in exploring democratized scientific research and technological development through the lens of low cost hardware.
Our world is drowning in plastic pollution. Humans produce about 300 million tons of plastic waste every year, equivalent to the weight of the entire human population in 2018. Nowhere is this crisis more visible than in our oceans, which by 2050 could contain more plastic than fish. Further complicating this issue are city-state actors, such as the United States, EU and China, who have vastly different approaches in how to negate the issue area. The global public needs to understand the impact of plastic pollution and how to end its leakage into the ocean.
We are seeking a research intern with an interest in exploring the ocean plastics issue in a shared role between the China Environment Forum and Science and Technology Innovation Program’s Serious Games Initiative.
The deadline for Spring 2020 internships is November 15, 2019.
Cosmic Shambles and Sci-Tunes
Cosmic Shambles (officially, The Cosmic Shambles Network) is a science blog network that rose from the ashes of the Guardian science blog network. These days they have podcasts, videos, blogs, and more. This latest project is described in an October 21, 2019 posting on the Cosmic Shambles blog,
In association with The Stephen Hawking Foundation and science troubadour Jonny Berliner, The Cosmic Shambles Network is proud to present Sci-Tunes.
Coming soon, a series of educational music videos on GCSE [General Certificate of Secondary Education examinations in the UK] Physics, written and performed by Jonny Berliner, funded by The Stephen Hawking Foundation, and produced by The Cosmic Shambles Network. The full videos will be released in November  and accompanied by free resources packs for both teachers and students. …
Researchers at RMIT University [Ausralia] have engineered a new type of transistor, the building block for all electronics. Instead of sending electrical currents through silicon, these transistors send electrons through narrow air gaps, where they can travel unimpeded as if in space.
The device unveiled in material sciences journal Nano Letters (“Metal–Air Transistors: Semiconductor-free field-emission air-channel nanoelectronics”), eliminates the use of any semiconductor at all, making it faster and less prone to heating up.
Lead author and PhD candidate in RMIT’s Functional Materials and Microsystems Research Group, Ms Shruti Nirantar, said this promising proof-of-concept design for nanochips as a combination of metal and air gaps could revolutionise electronics.
“Every computer and phone has millions to billions of electronic transistors made from silicon, but this technology is reaching its physical limits where the silicon atoms get in the way of the current flow, limiting speed and causing heat,” Nirantar said.
“Our air channel transistor technology has the current flowing through air, so there are no collisions to slow it down and no resistance in the material to produce heat.”
The power of computer chips – or number of transistors squeezed onto a silicon chip – has increased on a predictable path for decades, roughly doubling every two years. But this rate of progress, known as Moore’s Law, has slowed in recent years as engineers struggle to make transistor parts, which are already smaller than the tiniest viruses, smaller still.
Nirantar says their research is a promising way forward for nano electronics in response to the limitation of silicon-based electronics.
“This technology simply takes a different pathway to the miniaturisation of a transistor in an effort to uphold Moore’s Law for several more decades,” Shruti said.
Research team leader Associate Professor Sharath Sriram said the design solved a major flaw in traditional solid channel transistors – they are packed with atoms – which meant electrons passing through them collided, slowed down and wasted energy as heat.
“Imagine walking on a densely crowded street in an effort to get from point A to B. The crowd slows your progress and drains your energy,” Sriram said.
“Travelling in a vacuum on the other hand is like an empty highway where you can drive faster with higher energy efficiency.”
But while this concept is obvious, vacuum packaging solutions around transistors to make them faster would also make them much bigger, so are not viable.
“We address this by creating a nanoscale gap between two metal points. The gap is only a few tens of nanometers, or 50,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, but it’s enough to fool electrons into thinking that they are travelling through a vacuum and re-create a virtual outer-space for electrons within the nanoscale air gap,” he said.
The nanoscale device is designed to be compatible with modern industry fabrication and development processes. It also has applications in space – both as electronics resistant to radiation and to use electron emission for steering and positioning ‘nano-satellites’.
“This is a step towards an exciting technology which aims to create something out of nothing to significantly increase speed of electronics and maintain pace of rapid technological progress,” Sriram said.
It’s been a while since I’ve received any notices about upcoming talks from the local Café Scientifique crowd but on May 22, 2019 there was this announcement in an email,
Dear Café Scientifiquers,
Our next café will happen on TUESDAY, MAY 28TH  at 7:30PM in the back room at YAGGER’S DOWNTOWN (433 W Pender). Our speaker for the evening will be DR. CATHERINE JOHNSON from the Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC [University of British Columbia] .
GETTING TO THE HEART OF MARS WITH INSIGHT
Catherine Johnson is a professor of geophysics in the Dept of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at UBC Vancouver [campus], and a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute, Tucson. She is a Co-Investigator on the InSight mission to Mars, the OSIRIS-REx mission to asteroid Bennu and was previously a Participating Scientist on the MESSENGER mission to Mercury.
We hope to see you there!
I did some digging and found two articles about Johnson, the InSight mission, and Mars. The first one is an October 21, 2012 article by James Keller on the Huffington Post Canada website,
As NASA’s Curiosity rover beams back photos of the rocky surface of Mars, another group of scientists, including one from British Columbia, is preparing the next mission to uncover what’s underneath.
Prof. Catherine Johnson, of the University of British Columbia, is among the scientists whose project, named Insight, was selected by NASA this week as part of the U.S. space agency’s Discovery program, which invites proposals from within the scientific community.
Insight will send a stationary robotic lander to Mars in 2016, drilling down several metres into the surface as it uses a combination of temperature readings and seismic measurements to help scientists on this planet learn more about the Martian core.
The second one is a May 6, 2018 article (I gather it took them longer to get to Mars than they anticipated in 2012) by Ivan Semeniuk for the Globe and Mail newspaper website,
Thanks to a thick bank of predawn fog, Catherine Johnson couldn’t see the rocket when it blasted off early Saturday morning at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California – but she could hear the roar as NASA’s InSight mission set off on its 6½-month journey to Mars.
“It was really impressive,” said Dr. Johnson, a planetary scientist at the University of British Columbia and a member of the mission’s science team. Describing the mood at the launch as a mixture of relief and joy, Dr. Johnson added that “the spacecraft is finally en route to do what we have worked toward for many years.”
But while InSight’s mission is just getting under way, it also marks the last stage in a particularly fruitful period for the U.S. space agency’s Mars program. In the past two decades, multiple, complementary spacecraft tackled different aspects of Mars science.
Unlike the Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars nearly six years ago and is in the process of climbing a mountain in the middle of an ancient crater, InSight is designed to stay in one place after it touches down Nov. 26 . Its purpose is to open a new direction in Mars exploration – one that leads straight down as the spacecraft deploys a unique set of instruments to spy on the planet’s interior.
“What we will learn … will help us understand the earliest history of rocky planets, including Earth,” Dr. Johnson said.
It has been a prolonged voyage to the red planet. In 2015, technical problems forced program managers to postpone InSight’s launch for 2½ years. Now, scientists are hoping for smooth sailing to Mars and an uneventful landing a few hundred kilometres north of Curiosity, at a site that Dr. Johnson cheerfully describes as “boring.”
Does the timing of this talk mean you’ll be getting the latest news since InSight landed on Mars roughly six months ago? One can only hope. Finally, Johnson’s UBC bio webpage is here.
Baba Brinkman brings us up-to-date
Here’s most of a May 22, 2019 newsletter update (received via email) from former Vancouverite and current rapper, playwright, and science communicator, Baba Brinkman,
… Over the past five years I have been collaborating frequently with a company in California called SpectorDance, after the artistic director Fran Spector Atkins invited me to write and perform a rap soundtrack to one of her dance productions. Well, a few weeks ago we played our biggest venue yet with our latest collaborative show, Ocean Trilogy, which is all about the impact of human activities including climate change on marine ecosystems. The show was developed in collaboration with scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and for the first time there’s now a full video of the production online. Have you ever seen scientifically-informed eco rap music combined in live performance with ballet and modern dance? Enjoy.
Speaking of “Science is Everywhere”, about a year ago I got to perform my song “Can’t Stop” about the neurobiology of free will for a sold-out crowd at the Brooklyn Academy of Music alongside physicist Brian Greene, comedian Chuck Nice, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. The song is half scripted and half freestyle (can you tell which part is which?) They just released the video.
Over the past few months I’ve been performing Rap Guide to Evolution, Consciousness, and Climate Chaos off-Broadway 2-3 times per week, which has been a roller coaster. Some nights I have 80 people and it’s rocking, other nights I step on stage and play to 15 people and it takes effort to keep it lively. But since this is New York, occasionally when there’s only 15 people one of them will turn out to be a former Obama Administration Energy Advisor or will publish a five star review, which keeps it exciting.
What’s Rap Guide to Culture about? Cultural evolution and the psychology of norms of course. I recently attended a conference at the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis in Knoxville, TN where I performed a sneak preview and did a “Rap Up” of the various conference talks, summarizing the scientific content at the end of the day, check out the video.
Okay, time to get back to packing and hit the road. More to come soon, and wish me luck continuing to dominate my lonely genre.
Brinkman has been featured here many times (just use his name as the term in the blog’s search engine). While he lives in New York City these days, he does retain a connection to Vancouver in that his mother Joyce Murray is the Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra and, currently, the president of the Treasury Board.
I wish I was near either Ottawa or Kingston in December as there are a couple of very interesting events, assuming you have an interest in cryptology and/or space travel.
This show has been on tour in Ontario and, until Dec. 2, 2018, it will be at the Canada Science and Technology Museum before moving to Kingston (from the Canada Science and Technology Museum’s exhibitions page),
Pssst…want to know a secret?
One way to safely share secret information is through encryption — which means converting your message into something only the intended recipient can understand. For as long as we’ve had secret information, individuals and organizations have encrypted and analyzed encrypted communications. One way people encrypt their secrets is through ciphers that replace the original message with other letters, numbers, words, or symbols. From schoolyard gossip to military plans, ciphers keep secrets out of the wrong hands.
Cipher | Decipher is an interactive, new exhibition exploring the past and present of communications cryptology — what it is, how it works, and how it affects our lives. See an authentic Enigma cipher machine, or try your hand at logic puzzles and games to see if you have what it takes to work in the field of cryptology!
Developed by the Canada Science and Technology Museum, in partnership with the Communications Security Establishment, this 750 sq. ft. travelling exhibition is already on the move!
Mark your calendar to see Cipher | Decipher at the following locations:
Library and Archives Canada: October 5 to October 31, 2018
Canada Science and Technology Museum: November 6 to December 2, 2018
Military Communications and Electronics Museum, Kingston: December 7, 2018 to March 31, 2019
This information came in a November 27, 2018 special announcement (received via email) from Ingenium (formerly Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation and not to be confused with the Canada Science and Technology Museum),
Join the Canada Aviation and Space Museum for a special breakfast at the museum, as we witness the historic launch of Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques!
Start your day with a breakfast and a big cup of “rocket fuel” (a.k.a. coffee) as we watch the launch of this important space mission.
Take a selfie with our cut-out image of David Saint-Jacques, while the kids work on fun space-themed crafts. David Saint-Jacques themed merchandise will be 10% off during the event. Each purchase of a breakfast ticket/group of tickets will receive one FREE family pass, to visit the museum in 2019.
December 3, 2018
6 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.
Tickets: $16 (+ taxes)
Parking fees are additional.
This work from Russia on fullerenes (also known as buckministerfullerenes, C60, and/or buckyballs) is quite interesting and dates back more than a year. I’m not sure why the work is being publicized now but nanotechnology and interstellar space is not covered here often enough so, here goes, (from a January 29, 2018 Kazan Federal University press release (also on EurekAlert), Note: Links have been removed,
Currently, materials based on spherical carbon nanostructures can cost up to USD 150 million per 1 gram.
Fullerenes were first discovered by Harry Kroto in the 1970s, a feat for which he and his colleagues Robert Curl and Richard Smalley received a Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Recently, fullerenes have been found in winds emitted by red giants and in interstellar medium.
Fullerenes are very potent antioxidants and are used in antiviral medications. In particular, fullerenes with anti-HIV properties have also been discovered. Apart from that, they are also used as semiconductors and even high temperature superconductors (if decorated with alkali metal atoms). Their sphere of use is constantly growing, and research is ongoing to find ways of mass production. So far, they are produced in near-gram quantities. One of the more popular methods is the graphite electrode arc process. It is hypothesized that in deep vacuum conditions with low density fullerenes can by synthesized in other yet unknown ways.
A group of astronomers is currently engaged in studies of fullerenes in interstellar medium. Among them are KFU alumni Gazinur Galazutdinov (Catholic University of the North, Chile) and Gennady Valyavin (Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences) and current KFU employee, Associate Professor at the Department of Astronomy and Space Geodesy Vladislav Shimansky. Together, they contributed to a recent paper in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
The nearest interstellar clouds with confirmed fullerene presence are about 1,000 light years away from Earth. Electromagnetic spectra of 19 distant stars were provided by the VLT telescope in Chile, one of the largest in the world. The authors found fullerenes which left traces – absorption lines in certain frequencies.
Dr. Shimansky comments, “We know for sure which frequencies have lines of fullerenes, but the main difficulty is to separate the interstellar medium spectrum from the star spectrum. That’s why we can obtain fullerene lines by ‘subtracting’ star spectra from the existing spectrum, and that’s a complicated process. Firstly, we discovered some parameters of stars, and some of these stars are unique objects.”
“We compare fullerene-bearing clouds with non-fullerene clouds to find out which environmental parameters capacitate the formation of such molecules. In our research, we found that in some clouds the molecules are in an excited state, and in some they are not. This leads us to believe that the ways of their formation are different.”
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
C60+ – looking for the bucky-ball in interstellar space by G. A. Galazutdinov, V. V. Shimansky, A. Bondar, G. Valyavin, J. Krełowski. Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, Volume 465, Issue 4, 11 March 2017, Pages 3956–3964, https://doi.org/10.1093/mnras/stw2948 Published: 22 December 2016
Tell us about your style, how would you describe it?
My work is very much based in mathematics, I come up with what I would call formulas and punch information into these formulas and an image will end up coming out. If I was to label my work as a genre, I would say I’m trying to blend optical art and graffiti.
What is your process for creating artwork?
I have like a 50+ step process to coming up with and producing a piece, haha. There are a lot of different things involved.
I wonder if he’s using 3D printers for the pieces at 2017 Art Rapture; it certainly fits with his comment about formulas (maybe he meant algorithms?) and that piece looks like it might be a polymer, a dominant material in 3D printing (biological inks are also used in 3D printing for medical research).
Mark Ollinger’s work begins with how we communicate. From the macroscopic study of language to the microscopic analysis of their constituent alphabets, Mark explores the conditions of language that underly our inner thoughts and outer expressions. He channels the meaning, sound, and physical appearance of words into sculptural elements whose geometric intricacies reflect the complexity of human linguistic [sic]. From here it becomes a cerebral exercise, a visual representation of an acoustic ephemerality. Drawing on the critical analysis of universal laws and fundamental frameworks, Mark seeks to visualize the phenomenology of the three dimensional world through the usage of physical and mathematical formulae.
This description has a lot of ideas but none are particularly well developed. It’s hard to tell if this is someone who’s struggling to communicate a complex set of well formed ideas or if the ideas are still being formed.
Ollinger’s biography on the Hetringer Kiss Gallery website (they represent him n Calgary) is a bit more informative about his past accomplishments,
Mark was born in 1988 and grew up in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. After graduating high school Mark began freelancing in graphic design and illustration and working at a silkscreen print shop for a year. Mark then started his own project, Duality Clothing, a clothing line that became his full-time endeavor. During this time Mark was painting daily and six years after owning and operating Duality Clothing Mark decided to pursue his passion for creating paintings and sculptural works. In 2015 he embarked on an ongoing body of work of unsanctioned public sculptural installations in Canada and abroad including Melbourne, Los Angeles, Toronto and Montreal. Self-taught, with no formal training Mark now works full time as an artist. He has gallery representation in Vancouver and Calgary and has been based in Vancouver, British Columbia since 2009.
Taming Infinities (or On Coin Tosses, Atoms and Forest Fires); a math lecture and event in Toronto, Ontario
The Fields Medal in Mathematics is a very big deal and the 2017 Fields Medal Symposium is being held in Toronto from Oct. 16 – 19, 2017,
The 2017 Fields Medal Symposium will be centered on the work of Martin Hairer (Fields Medal 2014), and its current and potential impact.
The Scientific Program is intended for a wide audience, including graduate students, mathematicians in other research areas, and scientists who use mathematics in an important way.
Schedule: 9:30 am – 4:30 pm daily – see detailed schedule below Location: The Fields Institute (222 College St., Toronto, ON)
The Symposium comprises four separate events:
Student Workshop (October 15): aims to provide students with a good general exposure to probability a better understanding of what they will encounter during the Scientific Program, including regularity structures and their applications.
Scientific Program (October 16-19): see description above.
Public Opening (October 16): features a public lecture by Martin Hairer entitled Taming Infinities. This public lecture will be held at the MaRS Discovery District.
Student Night (October 17): offers the opportunity for undergraduate and high school students to attend an evening talk by Martin Hairer entitled On Coin Tosses, Atoms and Forest Fires [perhaps the title has been changed?] — followed by networking (with plenty of time for questions/answers) and pizza.
Events will be broadcast live online whenever possible.
All events are free to attend, but registration is required.
See the sidebar to only register for the Scientific Program and/or Student Workshop and below to register for the other events.
Some physical and mathematical theories have the unfortunate feature that if one takes them at face value, many quantities of interest appear to be infinite! What’s worse, this doesn’t just happen for some exotic theories, but in the standard theories describing some of the most fundamental aspects of nature.
101 College Street
FREE EVENT • REGISTRATION REQUIRED
Join us for the Public Opening of the 2017 Fields Medal Symposium, featuring a general audience presentation by Professor Martin Hairer (Fields Medal 2014).
Welcome and introductions by distinguished guests from academia and government:
• Cheryl Regehr, Vice-President and Provost, University of Toronto
• The Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, Ontario
• Sylvia Serfaty, Professor, Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences, NYU
Fields Medals are awarded every four years by the International Mathematical Union to the most distinguished mathematicians age 40 or under. In the absence of a Nobel Prize in mathematics, the Fields Medal is regarded as the highest professional honor a mathematician can attain. Each year, the Fields Institute holds the Fields Medal Symposium to showcase and celebrate the work of a Fields Medallist. The Symposium
brings together brilliant researchers to support and further the research areas of Fields Medallists. It also raises public awareness of mathematics, the Fields Medal, and inspires new and upcoming researchers.
This event is a unique opportunity for the general public and academics to engage with this prominent scholar, his ideas, and cutting-edge research in mathematics.
Jennifer Ruef, assistant professor of education studies at the University of Oregon, promises to make you a math whiz in four easy steps in her Sept. 11, 2017 essay for The Conversation (Note: Links have been removed),
What do you think of when you think about mathematics? Perhaps you think about x’s and y’s, intractable fractions, or nonsensical word problems. The cartoonist Gary Larson once depicted hell’s library as containing only giant tomes of word problems. You know, “If a train leaves New York…”
I was trained as a mathematician, and I will let you in on a trade secret: That is not what mathematics is, nor where it lives. It’s true that learning mathematics often involves solving problems, but it should focus on the joy of solving puzzles, rather than memorizing rules.
For many reasons, not the least of which is that [George] Pólya died in 1985, you will meet him as I did – through his wildly successful “How to Solve It.” Penned in 1945, this book went on to sell over one million copies and was translated into 17 languages.
As a mathematician, Pólya worked on a wide range of problems, including the study of heuristics, or how to solve problems. When you read “How to Solve It,” it feels like you’re taking a guided tour of Pólya’s mind. This is because his writing is metacognitive – he writes about how he thinks about thinking. And metacognition is often the heart of problem solving.
Pólya’s problem solving plan breaks down to four simple steps:
Make sure you understand the problem.
Make a plan to solve the problem.
Carry out the plan.
Check your work to test your answer.
There it is. Problem solving in the palm of your hand – math reduced to four steps.
Here’s a classic problem from research on mathematics education done by Jean Lave. A man, let’s call him John, is making ¾ of a recipe that calls for 2/3 cup of cottage cheese. What do you think John did? What would you do?
If you’re like me, you might immediately dive into calculations, perhaps struggling with what the fractions mean, working to remember the rules for arithmetic. That’s what John seemed to do, at first. But then he had a Eureka! moment.
John measured 2/3 cup of cottage cheese, then dumped it onto a cutting board. He patted the cheese into a circle and drew lines into it, one vertical, one horizontal, dividing the cheese patty into quarters. He then carefully pushed one quarter of the cottage cheese back into its container. Voilá! Three-quarters of 2/3 cup of cottage cheese remained.
John is a mathematician and problem solver. First, he understood the problem: He needed ¾ of what the recipe called for, which was 2/3 cup. Then, he made a plan, most likely visualizing in his head how he would measure and divide the cottage cheese. Finally, he carried out the plan.
Did he check his answer? That remains unclear, but we can check the validity of his work for him. Did he indeed end up with ¾ of 2/3 cup of cottage cheese? Yes, because the full amount was reduced by one-quarter, leaving three-quarters.
Ruef goes on to the discuss another solution, using pictures, for the same problem before she summarizes this delightful essay. (h/t Sept. 12, 2017 news item on phys.org)
Science Literacy Week in Canada (Sept. 18 – 24, 2017)
Thanks to Ingenium (formerly the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation) and its What’s up @ the Museums Sept. 2013 newsletter (received via email), I found out about Canada’s Science Literacy Week being held from Sept. 18-24, 2017. You can check here for online events and for events in your area.
Getting back to Ingenium, they are holding a Science Literacy Week programme at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa,
Demonstrations and activities:
Explore the Museum’s world-renowned collection in one of three ways:
a kids’ tour designed especially for children ages 4 to 7
Cockpit Interpretation Centre
Want the experience of flight but prefer to keep your feet on the ground? Here is your chance to sit at the controls of an aircraft without taking off! Friendly, knowledgeable Museum staff will assist you in boarding one of two cockpits:
the Tutor (CT-114)
Cessna 150 Cockpit
Sit at the controls of a Cessna 150. Practise takeoffs and landings, and get a feel for what it’s like to fly this popular civilian airplane.
The Museum offers two flight simulators, open to the public at an additional cost. Climb aboard a replica of an F-16 cockpit and test your flight skills! Or, try the Redbird full-motion platform simulator, used to train pilots around the world.
Ejection Seat Demonstration
Monday to Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and Sundays at 4 p.m.
Learn how an ejection seat can save a pilot’s life.
Breathing on Mars
Saturdays and Sundays at 1 p.m.
Could humans breathe on Mars? Learn what the atmosphere on Mars is made of.
Shaping the Future in Space
Saturdays at 4 p.m. and Sundays at 11:30 a.m.
Discover new experiments that could improve human living conditions in Space.
First, it’s interesting to note how many women are involved in the Fields Medal Symposium as speakers and that the essay on mathematics is by a woman. Second, while the programme at the Canada Aviation and Space Museum is being listed on their Science Literacy Week page, these demonstrations, etc. do not seem to have been developed specially for Science Literacy Week. In any event, there you have it!