Category Archives: nanotechnology

New York City’s Guggenheim (art) Museum celebrates Earth Day on April 22, 2024 with poetry and more

The Guggenheim’s Earth Day celebrations feature artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña’s “The Quipu of Encounters” series. Here’s an example,

An Inca quipu, from the Larco Museum in Lima (Peru).Claus Ableiter nur hochgeladen aus enWiki – enWiki, hochgeladen von User Lyndsaruell [downloaded from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quipu] CC BY-SA 3.0 File:Inca Quipu.jpg Created: 29 October 2007 Uploaded: 28 October 2007

For anyone unfamiliar with a quipu, here’s a description from the Quipu Wikipedia entry, Note: Links have been removed,

A quipu usually consisted of cotton or camelid fiber strings. The Inca people used quipu for collecting data and keeping records, for monitoring tax obligations, for collecting census records, for calendrical information, and for military organization.[2] The cords stored numeric and other values encoded as knots, often in a base-ten positional system. A quipu could have only a few or thousands of cords.[3] The configuration of the quipu has been “compared to string mops”.[4] Archaeological evidence has also shown the use of finely carved wood as a supplemental, and perhaps sturdier, base to which the color-coded cords could be attached.[5] A relatively small number have survived.

Recently (and relevantly to Vicuña’s project), I came across a suggestion that quipu weren’t used for numerical storage only, from Silvia Ferrara’s March 8, 2022 article “How The Inca Used Knots To Tell Stories” for LitHub,

Because quipu aren’t limited to numbers. A third of these knotted necklaces are narrative. It’s hard even to imagine that a story could be told using a series of colored knots that represent numbers, but it is so. Names, places, genealogies, songs—all are recited like so many zip codes, credit-card numbers, telephone numbers, yellow, green, and blue numbers. Because numbers, for the Inca, speak not only of quantity but of quality. I know, it’s not easy to grasp, but let your imagination run free a little.

The knots are 3D, so they have form, direction, relative position, color, thickness, multiple configurations. Each element carries a different meaning: far from the body, close to the body—these distances affect what quantity is recorded. A three-dimensional Sudoku. Multivalent, multi-referential, and yet at the same time precise. According to Spanish accounts from the mid-16th century, quipu were on par with the Old World’s most complex scripts. One Jesuit missionary tells of an Inca woman who brought him a quipu bearing her entire life story. In knots. Incredible.

Indeed, the details of how this could have been possible are lost to us, since we don’t have the legend that reveals the links among these elements (dimension, thickness, color, number, direction, etc.) and their precise meaning. We’re in need of a decoder, an Inca Rosetta stone to unveil the correlations. …

The Guggenheim and Earth Day 2024

The April 16, 2024 Guggenhein Museum announcement of City-wide activations for Earth Week (2024), also received via email, starts with a poetry event and continues with a listing of New York City partner events, Note: I suspect the links are time sensitive,

Academy of American Poets x Guggenheim

Monday, April 22 [2024]

On April 22, Earth Day, join us online for poetry in response to the climate crisis.

“entwine / the betwixt,” writes artist and activist Cecilia Vicuña in her poem “Three Fragments of Instan.” We are interconnected in our struggle for environmental justice. Together, we seek ways to convey the reality of our current global climate emergency. The Academy of American Poets invites a community of poets to write a new collaborative poem—a choral braid of voices—presented at Poets.org on Earth Day, along with a video recording of their contributions.

Here (on poets.org) is where you can find the video recording of the poets (Nickole Brown, J. P. Grasser, John James, and Ariel Francisco) responding to “time bending / tongue / entwine / the betwixt” for Earth Day 2024.

Before moving onto the list of partner Earth Day 2024 events, the stage is set, from the April 16, 2024 Guggenhein Museum announcement of City-wide activations for Earth Week (2024, Note: I suspect the links are time sensitive,

The Quipu of Encounters

Over the past six months, representatives from various arts and community organizations, along with artists, poets, writers, and musicians, participated in a series of workshops led by artist and poet Cecilia Vicuña at the Wassaic Project and the Guggenheim Museum. Conceived by Vicuña as part of her ongoing “Quipu of Encounters” series, the workshops used ritual and communion as a means to propose ways of being and acting, as individuals and within collectives, in response to the current climate crisis. Among the many themes that emerged were tools and strategies that the cultural sector might use to inspire action in others.

Explore below how our partners will be applying learnings from these workshops through public offerings with a focus on climate justice, sustainability, ecology, and Indigenous practices.

Around Town

Earth Month activities from our partners

Whitney Museum of American Art

Open Studio

   Saturday, April 20

   11 am

Families with kids of all ages are invited to make works of art using natural pigments found in soil and plants inspired by Whitney Biennial artist Dala Nasser. 

More info and register

Brooklyn Public Library

Various branches of the Brooklyn Public Library will present programming during Earth Month, offering opportunities for folks of all ages to connect across themes of environmentalism, crafting, storytelling, and community. 

Earth Day Crafts: Make a Recycled Notebook

   Brooklyn Heights Library, Craft Room

   Friday, April 19, 1 pm

Garden Storytime at Wycoff Bond Garden

   Wyckoff Bond Garden

   Saturday, April 20, 1 pm

15 Ways to Explore Nearby Nature

   Central Library, Info Commons Lab

   Saturday, April 20, 2 pm

Earth Day: Story and Craft

   Brownsville Library

   Monday, April 22, 3 pm

Brooklyn Public Library with the Fort Greene Park Conservancy: Earth Day Festival

   Fort Greene Park

   Saturday, April 27, 11 am

More info →

Dia Art Foundation

Saturday Studio on the Farm

   Saturday, April 27

   10:30 am

Join a practicing artist for an outdoor workshop of art making, material experimentation, and play, offered in partnership with Common Ground Farm in the Hudson Valley. Designed for all ages, Saturday Studio is a family-friendly program that is most suitable for children ages five and up.

More info and register →

GrowNYC

Join Our Climate and GrowNYC for a two-part series where we will come together to explore the boundless possibilities of a sustainable and equitable future for New York City through transformative policies, collective action, and joy.

More info and register →

GrowNYC

   Ongoing

Using techniques learned by the Beauty Turner Academy, a program hosted and facilitated by the National Public Housing Museum, GrowNYC’s Gardens at NYCHA program will engage various NYCHA residents in sharing their ethos for community work through Oral History as Art, highlighting environmental programming currently happening in their communities, and commemorating their stories for those seeking active and tangible change in NYCHA communities and beyond. The project will eventually result in a public film screening. GrowNYC is honored to uplift their collaborative partnership with photographer and writer J Owens, who uses words and images to explore the human experience and paint extraordinary pictures of ordinary places.

Watch the first iteration of Oral History as Art →

Learn more about GrowNYC’s Gardens at NYCHA →

Creative Time HQ

Visit the CTHQ website for a full list of activities and programs.

More info →

You can find out more about Earth Day here. If you scroll down there’s a worldwide map with Earth Day 2024 events marked on it. Yes, mostly featuring events in the US and Europe but other parts of the world are also represented.

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

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

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

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

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

Open to undergraduate students across Canada in STEM!

Topic areas:

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

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

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

Summer School Details

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

Apply Now!

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

Finally, good luck!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This paper is behind a paywall.

New system for imaging rare-earth doped nanoparticles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pushing the limits

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

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

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

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

Biomedical and security applications

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

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

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

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

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

This paper is open access.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This paper is open access.

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

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

WHAT IS NEUROMODULATION?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Event Highlights:

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

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

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

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

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

Registration Information:

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

About the International Neuromodulation Society:

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

Good luck getting a seat!

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

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

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

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

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

Decline in confidence comparable to other institutions

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

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

Highlights

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

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

Beyond measurements of trust in science

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

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

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

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

Confidence in science and Covid-19 vaccination status

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

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

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

How to raise confidence in science

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

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

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

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

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

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

This paper is open access.

Butterfly mating inspires neuromorphic (brainlike) computing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This paper is open access.

Invitation to collect data during April 8, 2024 eclipse for US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

An April 2, 2024 news item on phys.org is, in fact, an open invitation to participate in data collection for NASA during the April 8, 2024 eclipse,

On April 8, 2024, as the moon passes between the sun and Earth, thousands of amateur citizen scientists will measure air temperatures and snap pictures of clouds. The data they collect will aid researchers who are investigating how the sun influences climates in different environments.

Among those citizen scientists are the fifth- and sixth-grade students at Alpena Elementary in northwest Arkansas. In the weeks leading up to the eclipse, these students are visiting the school’s weather station 10 times a day to collect temperature readings and monitor cloud cover. They will then upload the data to a phone-based app that’s part of a NASA-led program called GLOBE, short for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment.

The goal, according to Alpena Elementary science and math teacher Roger Rose, is to “make science and math more real” for his students. “It makes them feel like they’re doing something that’s important and worthwhile.”

The GLOBE eclipse tool is a small part of the much broader GLOBE project, through which students and citizen scientists collect data on plants, soil, water, the atmosphere, and even mosquitoes. Contributors to the eclipse project will only need a thermometer and a smartphone with the GLOBE Observer app downloaded. They can access the eclipse tool in the app. [emphases mine]

An April 1, 2024 NASA article by James Riordon, which originated the news item, provides more information about the GLOBE program and the hopes for the April 8, 2024 eclipse initiative,

This is not the first time the GLOBE eclipse tool has been deployed in North America. During the 2017 North American eclipse, NASA researchers examined the relationship between clouds and air temperature and found that temperature swings during the eclipse were greatest in areas with less cloud cover, while temperature fluctuations in cloudier regions were more muted. It’s a finding that would have been difficult, perhaps impossible, without the assistance of numerous amateur observers along the eclipse path, said Marilé Colón Robles, a meteorologist based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and the GLOBE project scientist overseeing the cloud study portion of the project.

GLOBE program volunteers across North America uploaded data coinciding with the July 21, 2017 event to this map. A high concentration of observers make the path of totality in the western part of the U.S. stand out. Credit: NASA Globe program

The number of weather stations along this year’s eclipse path is limited, and while satellites give us a global view, they can’t provide the same level of detail as people on the ground, said Ashlee Autore, a NASA Langley data scientist who will be conducting a follow-up to the 2017 study. “The power of citizen science is that people make the observations, and they can move.”

It’s still unclear how temperature fluctuations during a total eclipse compare across different climate regions, Colón Robles said. “This upcoming eclipse is passing through desert regions, mountainous regions, as well as more moist regions near the oceans.” Acquiring observations across these areas, she said, “will help us dig deeper into questions about regional connections between cloud cover and ground-level temperatures.” The studies should give scientists a better handle on the flow of energy from the Sun that’s crucial for understanding climate.

In many areas, citizen scientists are expected to gather en masse. “We’re inviting basically all of El Paso to campus,” said geophysicist and GLOBE partner John Olgin of El Paso Community College in Texas. The area will experience the eclipse in near totality, with about 80% of the Sun covered at the peak. It’s enough to make for an engaging event involving citizen scientists from the U.S. and Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande. 

Just a few minutes of midday darkness will have the long-term benefits of increasing awareness of NASA citizen science programs, Olgin said: “It’s going to inspire people to say, ‘Hey look, you can actually do stuff with NASA.’”

More than 30 million people live along the path of the 2024 eclipse, and hundreds of millions more will see a partial eclipse. It will be another 20 years before so many people in North America experience another total solar eclipse again.

With this in mind, Colón Robles has a piece of advice: As the Moon actively blocks the Sun, set your phone and thermometer aside, and marvel at one of the most extraordinary astronomical events of your lifetime.

Visit NASA’s Citizen Science page to learn how you can help NASA scientists study the Earth during eclipses and all year round. The GLOBE Program page provides connections to communities of GLOBE participants in 127 countries, access to data for retrieval and analysis, a roadmap for new participants, and other resources.

For anyone who wants to experience all of the ways that NASA has made their citizen science April 2024 eclipse projects accessible there’s NASA’s ‘general eclipse’ webpage.