Category Archives: Music

Highlights from Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) June 2024 Metacreation Lab newsletter

The latest newsletter from the Metacreation Lab for Creative AI (at Simon Fraser University [SFU]), features a ‘first’. From the June 2024 Metacreation Lab newsletter (received via email),

“Longing + Forgetting” at the 2024 Currents New Media Festival in Santa Fe

We are thrilled to announce that Longing + Forgetting has been invited to the esteemed Currents New Media Festival in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Longing + Forgetting is a generative audio-video installation that explores the relationship between humans and machines. This media art project, created by Canadian artists Philippe Pasquier and Thecla Schiphorst alongside Australian artist Matt Gingold, has garnered international acclaim since its inception. Initially presented in Canada in 2013, the piece has journeyed through multiple international festivals, captivating audiences with its exploration of human expression through movement.

Philippe Pasquier will be on-site for the festival, overseeing the site-specific installation at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe. This marks the North American premiere of the redeveloped version of “Longing + Forgetting,” featuring a new soundtrack by Pasquier based solely on the close-mic recording of dancers.

Currents New Media Festival runs June 14–23, 2024 and brings together the work of established and emerging new media artists from around the world across various disciplines, with an expected 9,000 visitors during the festival’s run.

More Information

Discover “Longing + Forgetting” at Bunjil Place in Melbourne

We are excited to announce that “Longing + Forgetting” is being featured at Bunjil Place in Melbourne, Australia. As part of the Art After Dark Program curated by Angela Barnett, this outdoor screening will run from June 1 to June 28, illuminating the night from 5 pm to 7 pm.

More Information

Presenting “Unveiling New Artistic Dimensions in Calligraphic Arabic Script with GANs” at SIGGRAPH 2024

We are pleased to share that our paper, “Unveiling New Artistic Dimensions in Calligraphic Arabic Script with Generative Adversarial Networks,” will be presented at SIGGRAPH 2024, the premier conference on computer graphics and interactive techniques. The event will take place from July 28 to August 1, 2024, in Denver, Colorado.

This paper delves into the artistic potential of Generative Adversarial Networks (GANs) to create and innovate within the realm of calligraphic Arabic script, particularly the nastaliq style. By developing two custom datasets and leveraging the StyleGAN2-ada architecture, we have generated high-quality, stylistically coherent calligraphic samples. Our work bridges the gap between traditional calligraphy and modern technology and offers a new mode of creative expression for this artform.

SIGGRAPH’24

For those unfamiliar with the acronym, SIGGRAPH stands for special interest group for computer graphics and interactive techniques. SIGGRAPH is huge and it’s a special interest group (SIG) of the ACM (Association for Computing Machinery).

If memory serves, this is the first time I’ve seen the Metacreation Lab make a request for volunteers, from the June 2024 Metacreation Lab newsletter,

Are you interested in music-making and AI technology?

The Metacreation Lab for Creative AI at Simon Fraser University (SFU), is conducting a research study in partnership with Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH. We are testing and evaluating MMM-Cubase v2, a creative AI system for assisting composing music. The system is based on our best music transformer, the multitrack music machine (MMM), which can generate, re-generate or complete new musical content based on existing content.

There is no prerequisite for this study beyond a basic knowledge of DAW and MIDI. So everyone is welcome even if you do not consider yourself a composer, but are interested in trying the system. The entire study should take you around 3 hours, and you must be 19+ years old. Basic interest and familiarity with digital music composition will help, but no experience with making music is required.

We seek to better evaluate the potential for adoption of such systems for novice/beginner as well as for seasoned composers. More specifically, you will be asked to install and use the system to compose a short 4-track musical composition and to fill out a survey questionnaire at the end.

Participation in this study is rewarded with one free Steinberg software license of your choice among Cubase Element, Dorico Element or Wavelab Element.

For any question or further inquiry, please contact researcher Renaud Bougueng Tchemeube directly at rbouguen@sfu.ca.

Enroll in the Study

You can find the Metacreation Lab for Creative AI website here.

Climate measurements as music

Given that it was Earth Day yesterday (April 22, 2024), this seems like a good second act. From an April 18, 2024 news item on phys.org,

A geo-environmental scientist from Japan has composed a string quartet using sonified climate data. The 6-minute-long composition—titled “String Quartet No. 1 “Polar Energy Budget”—is based on over 30 years of satellite-collected climate data from the Arctic and Antarctic and aims to garner attention on how climate is driven by the input and output of energy at the poles.

This is a little longer video than I usually like to embed here at 6 mins. 29 secs. and it is one of the more aesthetically pleasing I’ve heard,

An April 18, 2024 Cell Press press release, which originated the news item, describes the data sonification work and its application to art/science projects, Note: A link has been removed,

“I strongly hope that this manuscript marks a significant turning point, transitioning from an era where only scientists handle data to one where artists can freely leverage data to craft their works,” writes author and composer Hiroto Nagai, a geo-environmental scientist at Rissho University.

Scientist-composer Hiroto Nagai asserts that music, as opposed to sound, evokes an emotional response and posits that “musification” (as opposed to sonification) of data requires some intervention by the composer to build tension and add dynamics. For this reason, Nagai was more liberal in adding a “human touch” compared to previous data-based musical compositions, aiming to meld sonification with traditional music composition.

“As a fundamental principle in music composition, it is necessary to combine temporal sequences from tension-building to resolution in various scales, from harmonic progressions to entire movements,” Nagai writes. “So far, there haven’t been published attempts and open discussion on sonification-based music composition, nor attempts to demonstrate the methodology required to intentionally affect the audience’s emotions with an artistic piece.”

To do this, he first used a program to sonify environmental data by assigning sounds to different data values. The publicly available data was collected from four polar locations between 1982 and 2022: an ice-core drilling site in the Greenland ice sheet, a satellite station in Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, and two Japanese-owned research stations in the Antarctic (Showa Station and Dome Fuji Station). For each of the sites, Nagai used data on monthly measurements of short- and longwave radiation, precipitation, surface temperature, and cloud thickness.

In the next step, he transformed this collection of sounds into a musical composition to be played by two violins, a viola, and a cello. This process involved many steps, including manipulating the pitch of different datapoints and assigning sections of data to the different instruments, overlaying passages created from different data, and introducing musical playing techniques such as pizzicato and staccato. Nagai also intervened in more artistic ways by introducing rhythm, deliberately removing certain sounds, and introducing handwritten (non-data derived) parts into the composition.

The quartet’s premiere live performance was shared at Waseda University in Tokyo in March 2023 followed by a panel discussion. A filmed performance of the piece by PRT Quartet, a Japanese professional string quartet, was also released on YouTube in March 2023.

“Upon listening, my initial reaction was like, ‘What is this?’ It felt like a typical contemporary piece,” said Haruka Sakuma, the professional violinist who performed 2nd violin. “The flow of the music was a bit hard to memorize quickly, and it was quite challenging at first.”

Nagai says that, in contrast to graphical representations of data, music elicits emotion before intellectual curiosity and suggests that using graphical and music representations of data in conjunction might be even more powerful.

“It grabs the audiences’ attention forcefully, while graphical representations require active and conscious recognition instead,” Nagai writes. “This reveals the potential for outreach in the Earth sciences through music.”

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

String Quartet No. 1 “Polar Energy Budget” – Music composition using Earth observation data of polar regions by Hiroto Nagai. iScience DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.isci.2024.109622 Published: April 18, 2024 Copyright © 2024 The Author(s). Published by Elsevier Inc. User license Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0)

As you may have guessed on seeing the Creative Commons licence, this is an open access paper,

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

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

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

Biennale Arte 2024: Stranieri Ovunque – Foreigners Everywhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HOSPITALITY IN THE PLURIVERSE

JEREMY DENNIS

ANITA GLESTA

ANN MCCOY

WARREN NEIDICH

ILONA RICH

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

April 16 to May 4, 2024

OPENING RECEPTION: April 16, 5 to 7 PM

Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10-6 PM

Performances by CHINA BLUE curated by Elga Wimmer

April 16, 18 and 19 at 6 PM

RAINER GANAHL, Requiem, performed April 17 at 6 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Gale Elston

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

Project Space Venice, curated by Elga Wimmer.

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

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

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

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

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

Interweave: A multi-sensory show (March 21, 2024 in Vancouver, Canada) where fashion, movement, & music come together though wearable instruments.

Interweave is a free show at The Kent in the gallery in downtown Vancouver, Canada. Here’s more from a Simon Fraser University (SFU) announcement (received via email),

SFU School for the Contemporary Arts (SCA) alumnus, Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi, is hosting Interweave, a multi-sensory show where fashion, movement, and music come together though wearable instruments.

Embrace the fusion of creativity and expression alongside your fellow alumni in a setting that celebrates innovation and the uncharted synergy between fashion, music, and movement. This is a great opportunity to mingle and reconnect with your peers.

Event Details:

Date: March 21, 2024
Time: Doors 7:30pm, Show 8:00pm
Location: The Kent Vancouver, 534 Cambie Street
Free Entry, RSVP required

Interweave is the first event from Fashion x Electronics (FXE), a collective created by Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi, SCA alumnus, composer, and performer, and designer Kayla Yazdi. FXE is an interdisciplinary collective that is building multi-sensory experiences for their community, bridging together a diverse range of disciplines.

This is a 19+ event. ID will be checked at the door.

RSVP Now!

I wasn’t able to discern much more about the event or the Yazdi sisters from their Fashion x Electronics (FXE) website but there is this about Kayla Yazdi on her FXE profile,

Kayla Yazdi

Designer / Co-Producer

Kayla Yazdi is an Iranian-Canadian designer based in Vancouver, Canada. Her upbringing in Iran immersed her in a world of culture, art, and color. Holding a diploma in painting and a bachelor’s degree in design with a specialization in fashion and technology, Kayla has cultivated the skill set that merges her artistic sensibilities with innovative design concepts.

Kayla is dedicated to the creation of “almost” zero-waste garments. With design, technology, and experimentation, Kayla seeks to minimize environmental impacts while delivering unique styles.

Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi’s FXE profile has this,

Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi

Sound Artist / Co-Producer

Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi(b. 1997 Tehran, Iran) is a California/Vancouver-based composer and performer. She writes for hybrid instrumental/electronic ensembles, creates electroacoustic and audiovisual works, and performs electronic music. Kimia explores the unfamiliar familiar while constantly being driven by the concepts of motion, interaction, and growth in both human life and in the sonic world. Being a cross-disciplinary artist, she has actively collaborated on projects evolving around dance, film, and theatre. Kimia’s work has been showcased by organizations such as Iranian Female Composer Association, Music on Main, Western Front, Vancouver New Music, and Media Arts Committee. She has been featured in The New York Times, Georgia Straight, MusicWorks Magazine, Vancouver Sun, and Sequenza 21. Her work has been performed at festivals around the world including Ars Electronica Festival, Festival Ecos Urbanos, Tehran Contemporary Sounds, AudioVisual Frontiers Virtual Exhibition, The New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival, Yarn/Wire Institute, Ensemble Evolution, New Music on the Point, wasteLAnd Summer Academy, EQ: Evolution of the String Quartet, Modulus Festival, and SALT New Music Festival. She holds a BFA in Music Composition from Simon Fraser University’s Interdisciplinary School for the Contemporary Arts, having studied with Sabrina Schroeder and Mauricio Pauly. Kimia is currently pursuing her DMA in Music Composition at Stanford University.

For more details about the sisters and the performance, Marilyn R. Wilson has written up a February 21, 2024 interview with both sisters for her Olio blog,

Can you share a little bit about your background, the life, work, experiences that led you to who you are today?
Kayla: I’m a visual artist with a focus on fashion design, and textile development. I like to explore ways to create wearable art with minimal waste produced in the process. I studied painting at Azadehgan School of Art in Iran and fashion design & technology at Wilson School of Design in Vancouver. My interest in fashion is rooted in creating functional art. I enjoy the business aspect of fashion however, I want to push boundaries of how fashion can be seen as art rather than solely as production.

Kimia: I’m a composer of acoustic and electronic music, I perform and build instruments, and a lot of times I combine these components together. Working with various disciplines is also an important part of my practice. I studied piano performance at Tehran Music School before moving to Vancouver to study composition at Simon Fraser University. I am currently a doctorate candidate in music composition at Stanford University. I love electronic music, food, and sports! My family, partner, and friends are a huge part of my life!

You have your premier event called “Interweave” coming up on March 21st at The Kent Gallery in Vancouver. What can guests attending expect this evening?

Kayla & Kimia: Interweave is a multidisciplinary performance that bridges fashion, music, technology, and dance. Our dancers will be performing in garments designed by Kayla, that are embedded with microcontrollers and sensors developed by Kimia. The dancers control various musical parameters through their movements and their interaction with the sensors that are incorporated within the garments. Along with works for movement and dance, there will be a live electronic music performance made for costume-made instruments. So far we have received an amazing amount of support and RSVP’s from the art industry in Vancouver and look forward to welcoming many local creative individuals.

We’d love to know about the team of professionals who are working hard to create this unique experience. 

Kayla & Kimia: We are working with the amazing choreographers/dancers Anya Saugstad and Daria Mikhailiuk. We are thankful for Laleh Zandi’s help for creating a sculpture for one of our instruments which will be performed by Kimia. Celeste Betancur and Richard Lee have been our amazing audio tech assistants. We are very appreciative of everyone involved in FXE’s premiere and can’t wait to showcase our hard work.

I have a bit more about Kimia Koochakzadeh-Yazdi and her work in music from a February 27, 2024 profile on the SFU School for the Contemporary Arts website, Note: Links have been removed,

Please introduce yourself.

I’m a composer of acoustic and electronic music, I perform and build instruments, and a lot of times, I combine these components together. Working with various disciplines is also an important part of my practice. I studied piano performance at Tehran Music School before moving to Vancouver to study composition at Simon Fraser University, graduating from the SCA in 2020. I am currently a doctoral student in music composition at Stanford University, where I spend most of my time.

Tell us about your current studies.

I’m in the third year of the DMA (Doctor of Musical Arts) program at Stanford University. I do the majority of my work at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). I’m currently trying to learn and to experiment as much as possible! The amount of resources and ideas that I have been exposed to during the last couple of years has been quite significant and wonderful. I have been taking courses in subjects that I never thought I would study, from classes in the computer science and the mechanical engineering departments, to ones in education and theatre. I’m grateful to have been given a supportive platform to truly experiment and to learn.

As for my compositions, they are more melodic than before, and that currently makes me happy. I have started to perform more again (piano and electronics), and it makes me question: why did I ever stop…?

Koochakzadeh-Yazdi’s mention of building instruments reminded me of Icelandic musician, Bjork and Biophilia, which was an album, various art projects, and a film (Biophilia Live), which featured a number of musical instruments she created.

Getting back to Interweave, it’ s on March 21, 2024 at The Kent, specifically the gallery, which has,

… 14 foot ceilings boasts 50 track lights with the ability to transform the vacuous hall from candlelight to daylight. The lights are fully dimmable in an array of playful hues, according to your whim.   A full array of DMX Lighting and control systems live alongside the track light system and our recently installed (Vancouvers only) immersive projection system [emphasis mine] is ready for your vision.  This is your show.

I wonder if ‘multi-sensory’ includes an immersive experience.

Don’t forget, you have to RSVP for Interweave, which is free.

Chandra Sonifications (extraplanetary music and data sonification)

I’m not sure why the astronomy community is so taken with creating music out of data but it seems to be the most active of the science communities in the field. This October 15. 2023 article by Elizabeth Hlavinka for Salon.com provides a little context before describing some of the latest work, Note: Links have been removed,

Christine Malec, who has been blind since birth, has always been a big astronomy buff, fascinated by major questions about the universe like what happens when a limit reaches infinity and whether things like space travel could one day become a reality. However, throughout her childhood, most astronomical information was only accessible to her via space documentaries or science fiction books.

Nearly a decade ago, Malec discovered a completely new way to experience astronomy when she saw astronomer and musician Matt Russo, Ph.D., give a presentation at a local planetarium in Toronto. Using a process called astronomical sonification, Russo had translated information collected from the TRAPPIST-1 solar system, which has seven planets locked in an orbital resonance, into something people who are blind or have low vision could experience: music. 

Russo’s song sent a wave of goosebumps through Malec’s body. Something she had previously understood intellectually but never had turned into a sensory experience was suddenly, profoundly felt.

“It was unforgettable,” Malec told Salon in a phone interview. “I compare it to what it might be like for a sighted person to look up at the night sky and get a sensory intuition of the size and nature of the cosmos. As a blind person, that’s an experience I hadn’t had.”

Through astronomical sonification, scientists map complex astronomical structures like black holes or exploded stars through the similarly expansive and multidimensional world of sound. Translating data from outer space into music not only expands access to astronomy for people who are blind or have low vision, but it also has the potential to help all scientists better understand the universe by leading to novel discoveries. Like images from the James Webb telescope that contextualize our tiny place in the universe, astronomical sonification similarly holds the power to connect listeners to the cosmos.

“It really does bring a connection that you don’t necessarily get when you’re just looking at a cluster of galaxies that’s billions of light years away from you that stretches across many hundreds of millions of light years,” said Kimberly Kowal Arcand, Ph.D., a data visualizer for NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory. “Having sound as a way of experiencing that type of phenomenon, that type of object, whatever it is, is a very valid way of experiencing the world around you and of making meaning.”

Malec serves as a consultant for Chandra Sonifications, which translates complex data from astronomical objects into sound. One of their most popular productions, which has been listened to millions of times, sonified a black hole in the Perseus cluster galaxy about 240 million light-years away. When presenting this sonification at this year’s [2023] SXSW festival in March, Russo, who works with Chandra through an organization he founded called SYSTEM Sounds, said this eerie sound used to depict the black hole had been likened to “millions of damned souls being sucked into the pits of hell.” 

Here’s some of what the audience at the 2023 SXSW festival heard,

If you have the time , do read Hlavinka’s October 15. 2023 article as she tells a good story with many interesting tidbits such as this (Note: Links have been removed),

William “Bill” Kurth, Ph.D., a space physicist at the University of Iowa, said the origins of astronomical sonification can be traced back to at least the 1970s when the Voyager-1 spacecraft recorded electromagnetic wave signals in space that were sent back down to his team on Earth, where they were processed as audio recordings.

Back in 1979, the team plotted the recordings on a frequency-time spectrogram similar to a voiceprint you see on apps that chart sounds like birds chirping, Kurth explained. The sounds emitted a “whistling” effect created by waves following the magnetic fields of the planet rather than going in straight lines. The data seemed to confirm what they had suspected: lightning was shocking through Jupiter’s atmosphere.

“At that time, the existence of lightning anywhere other than in Earth’s atmosphere was unknown,” Kurth told Salon in a phone interview. “This became the first time that we realized that lightning might exist on another planet.”

And this (Note: Links have been removed),

Beyond astronomy, sonification can be applied to any of the sciences, and health researchers are currently looking at tonifying DNA strands to better understand how proteins fold in multiple dimensions. Chandra is also working on constructing tactile 3-D models of astronomical phenomena, which also expands access for people who are blind or have low vision — those who have historically only been able to experience these sciences through words, Malec said.

Chandra and other sonification projects

I found a brief and somewhat puzzling description of the Chandra sonification project on one of the of US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) websites. From a September 22, 2021 posting on the Marshall Science Research and Projects Division blog (Note: Links have been removed,)

On 9/16/21, a Chandra sonification image entitled “Jingle, Pluck, and Hum: Sounds from Space” was released to the public.  Since 2020, Chandra’s “sonification” project has transformed astronomical data from some of the world’s most powerful telescopes into sound.  Three new objects — a star-forming region, a supernova remnant, and a black hole at the center of a galaxy — are being released.  Each sonification has its own technique to translate the astronomical data into sound.

For more information visit: Data Sonifications: Westerlund 2 (Multiwavelength), Tycho’s Supernova Remnant, and M87. https://www.nasa.gov/missions_pages/chandra/main/index.html.

A Chandra article entitled “Data Sonification: Sounds from the Milky Way” was also released in the NASA STEM Newsletter.  This newsletter was sent to 54,951 subscribers and shared with the office of STEM engagements social media tools with approximately 1.7M followers. For more information visit: https://myemail.constantcontact.com/NASA-EXPRESS—-Your-STEM-Connection-for-Sept–9–2021.html?soid=1131598650811&aid=iXfzAJk6x_s

I’m a little puzzled by the reference to a Chandra sonification image but I’m assuming that they also produce data visualizations. Anyway, as Hlavinka notes Chandra is a NASA X-ray Observatory and they have a number of different projects/initiatives.

Getting back to data sonification, Chandra offers various audio files on its A Universe of Sound webpage,

Here’s a sampling of three data sonification posts (there are more) here,

Enjoy!

FrogHeart’s 2023 comes to an end as 2024 comes into view

My personal theme for this last year (2023) and for the coming year was and is: catching up. On the plus side, my 2023 backlog (roughly six months) to be published was whittled down considerably. On the minus side, I start 2024 with a backlog of two to three months.

2023 on this blog had a lot in common with 2022 (see my December 31, 2022 posting), which may be due to what’s going on in the world of emerging science and technology or to my personal interests or possibly a bit of both. On to 2023 and a further blurring of boundaries:

Energy, computing and the environment

The argument against paper is that it uses up resources, it’s polluting, it’s affecting the environment, etc. Somehow the part where electricity which underpins so much of our ‘smart’ society does the same thing is left out of the discussion.

Neuromorphic (brainlike) computing and lower energy

Before launching into the stories about lowering energy usage, here’s an October 16, 2023 posting “The cost of building ChatGPT” that gives you some idea of the consequences of our insatiable desire for more computing and more ‘smart’ devices,

In its latest environmental report, Microsoft disclosed that its global water consumption spiked 34% from 2021 to 2022 (to nearly 1.7 billion gallons , or more than 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools), a sharp increase compared to previous years that outside researchers tie to its AI research. [emphases mine]

“It’s fair to say the majority of the growth is due to AI,” including “its heavy investment in generative AI and partnership with OpenAI,” said Shaolei Ren, [emphasis mine] a researcher at the University of California, Riverside who has been trying to calculate the environmental impact of generative AI products such as ChatGPT.

Why it matters: Microsoft’s five WDM [West Des Moines in Iowa] data centers — the “epicenter for advancing AI” — represent more than $5 billion in investments in the last 15 years.

Yes, but: They consumed as much as 11.5 million gallons of water a month for cooling, or about 6% of WDM’s total usage during peak summer usage during the last two years, according to information from West Des Moines Water Works.

The focus is AI but it doesn’t take long to realize that all computing has energy and environmental costs. I have more about Ren’s work and about water shortages in the “The cost of building ChatGPT” posting.

This next posting would usually be included with my other art/sci postings but it touches on the issues. My October 13, 2023 posting about Toronto’s Art/Sci Salon events, in particular, there’s the Streaming Carbon Footprint event (just scroll down to the appropriate subhead). For the interested, I also found this 2022 paper “The Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media:; Problems, Calculations, Solutions” co-authored by one of the artist/researchers (Laura U. Marks, philosopher and scholar of new media and film at Simon Fraser University) who presented at the Toronto event.

I’m late to the party; Thomas Daigle posted a January 2, 2020 article about energy use and our appetite for computing and ‘smart’ devices for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s online news,

For those of us binge-watching TV shows, installing new smartphone apps or sharing family photos on social media over the holidays, it may seem like an abstract predicament.

The gigabytes of data we’re using — although invisible — come at a significant cost to the environment. Some experts say it rivals that of the airline industry. 

And as more smart devices rely on data to operate (think internet-connected refrigerators or self-driving cars), their electricity demands are set to skyrocket.

“We are using an immense amount of energy to drive this data revolution,” said Jane Kearns, an environment and technology expert at MaRS Discovery District, an innovation hub in Toronto.

“It has real implications for our climate.”

Some good news

Researchers are working on ways to lower the energy and environmental costs, here’s a sampling of 2023 posts with an emphasis on brainlike computing that attest to it,

If there’s an industry that can make neuromorphic computing and energy savings sexy, it’s the automotive indusry,

On the energy front,

Most people are familiar with nuclear fission and some its attendant issues. There is an alternative nuclear energy, fusion, which is considered ‘green’ or greener anyway. General Fusion is a local (Vancouver area) company focused on developing fusion energy, alongside competitors from all over the planet.

Part of what makes fusion energy attractive is that salt water or sea water can be used in its production and, according to that December posting, there are other applications for salt water power,

More encouraging developments in environmental science

Again, this is a selection. You’ll find a number of nano cellulose research projects and a couple of seaweed projects (seaweed research seems to be of increasing interest).

All by myself (neuromorphic engineering)

Neuromorphic computing is a subset of neuromorphic engineering and I stumbled across an article that outlines the similarities and differences. My ‘summary’ of the main points and a link to the original article can be found here,

Oops! I did it again. More AI panic

I included an overview of the various ‘recent’ panics (in my May 25, 2023 posting below) along with a few other posts about concerning developments but it’s not all doom and gloom..

Governments have realized that regulation might be a good idea. The European Union has a n AI act, the UK held an AI Safety Summit in November 2023, the US has been discussing AI regulation with its various hearings, and there’s impending legislation in Canada (see professor and lawyer Michael Geist’s blog for more).

A long time coming, a nanomedicine comeuppance

Paolo Macchiarini is now infamous for his untested, dangerous approach to medicine. Like a lot of people, I was fooled too as you can see in my August 2, 2011 posting, “Body parts nano style,”

In early July 2011, there were reports of a new kind of transplant involving a body part made of a biocomposite. Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene underwent a trachea transplant that required an artificial windpipe crafted by UK experts then flown to Sweden where Beyene’s stem cells were used to coat the windpipe before being transplanted into his body.

It is an extraordinary story not least because Beyene, a patient in a Swedish hospital planning to return to Eritrea after his PhD studies in Iceland, illustrates the international cooperation that made the transplant possible.

The scaffolding material for the artificial windpipe was developed by Professor Alex Seifalian at the University College London in a landmark piece of nanotechnology-enabled tissue engineering. …

Five years later I stumbled across problems with Macchiarini’s work as outlined in my April 19, 2016 posting, “Macchiarini controversy and synthetic trachea transplants (part 1 of 2)” and my other April 19, 2016 posting, “Macchiarini controversy and synthetic trachea transplants (part 2 of 2)“.

This year, Gretchen Vogel (whose work was featured in my 2016 posts) has written a June 21, 2023 update about the Macchiarini affair for Science magazine, Note: Links have been removed,

Surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who was once hailed as a pioneer of stem cell medicine, was found guilty of gross assault against three of his patients today and sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison by an appeals court in Stockholm. The ruling comes a year after a Swedish district court found Macchiarini guilty of bodily harm in two of the cases and gave him a suspended sentence. After both the prosecution and Macchiarini appealed that ruling, the Svea Court of Appeal heard the case in April and May. Today’s ruling from the five-judge panel is largely a win for the prosecution—it had asked for a 5-year sentence whereas Macchiarini’s lawyer urged the appeals court to acquit him of all charges.

Macchiarini performed experimental surgeries on the three patients in 2011 and 2012 while working at the renowned Karolinska Institute. He implanted synthetic windpipes seeded with stem cells from the patients’ own bone marrow, with the hope the cells would multiply over time and provide an enduring replacement. All three patients died when the implants failed. One patient died suddenly when the implant caused massive bleeding just 4 months after it was implanted; the two others survived for 2.5 and nearly 5 years, respectively, but suffered painful and debilitating complications before their deaths.

In the ruling released today, the appeals judges disagreed with the district court’s decision that the first two patients were treated under “emergency” conditions. Both patients could have survived for a significant length of time without the surgeries, they said. The third case was an “emergency,” the court ruled, but the treatment was still indefensible because by then Macchiarini was well aware of the problems with the technique. (One patient had already died and the other had suffered severe complications.)

A fictionalized tv series ( part of the Dr. Death anthology series) based on Macchiarini’s deceptions and a Dr. Death documentary are being broadcast/streamed in the US during January 2024. These come on the heels of a November 2023 Macchiarini documentary also broadcast/streamed on US television.

Dr. Death (anthology), based on the previews I’ve seen, is heavily US-centric, which is to be expected since Adam Ciralsky is involved in the production. Ciralsky wrote an exposé about Macchiarini for Vanity Fair published in 2016 (also featured in my 2016 postings). From a December 20, 2023 article by Julie Miller for Vanity Fair, Note: A link has been removed,

Seven years ago [2016], world-renowned surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was the subject of an ongoing Vanity Fair investigation. He had seduced award-winning NBC producer Benita Alexander while she was making a special about him, proposed, and promised her a wedding officiated by Pope Francis and attended by political A-listers. It was only after her designer wedding gown was made that Alexander learned Macchiarini was still married to his wife, and seemingly had no association with the famous names on their guest list.

Vanity Fair contributor Adam Ciralsky was in the midst of reporting the story for this magazine in the fall of 2015 when he turned to Dr. Ronald Schouten, a Harvard psychiatry professor. Ciralsky sought expert insight into the kind of fabulist who would invent and engage in such an audacious lie.

“I laid out the story to him, and he said, ‘Anybody who does this in their private life engages in the same conduct in their professional life,” recalls Ciralsky, in a phone call with Vanity Fair. “I think you ought to take a hard look at his CVs.”

That was the turning point in the story for Ciralsky, a former CIA lawyer who soon learned that Macchiarini was more dangerous as a surgeon than a suitor. …

Here’s a link to Ciralsky’s original article, which I described this way, from my April 19, 2016 posting (part 2 of the Macchiarini controversy),

For some bizarre frosting on this disturbing cake (see part 1 of the Macchiarini controversy and synthetic trachea transplants for the medical science aspects), a January 5, 2016 Vanity Fair article by Adam Ciralsky documents Macchiarini’s courtship of an NBC ([US] National Broadcasting Corporation) news producer who was preparing a documentary about him and his work.

[from Ciralsky’s article]

“Macchiarini, 57, is a magnet for superlatives. He is commonly referred to as “world-renowned” and a “super-surgeon.” He is credited with medical miracles, including the world’s first synthetic organ transplant, which involved fashioning a trachea, or windpipe, out of plastic and then coating it with a patient’s own stem cells. That feat, in 2011, appeared to solve two of medicine’s more intractable problems—organ rejection and the lack of donor organs—and brought with it major media exposure for Macchiarini and his employer, Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, home of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Macchiarini was now planning another first: a synthetic-trachea transplant on a child, a two-year-old Korean-Canadian girl named Hannah Warren, who had spent her entire life in a Seoul hospital. … “

Other players in the Macchiarini story

Pierre Delaere, a trachea expert and professor of head and neck surgery at KU Leuven (a university in Belgium) was one of the first to draw attention to Macchiarini’s dangerous and unethical practices. To give you an idea of how difficult it was to get attention for this issue, there’s a September 1, 2017 article by John Rasko and Carl Power for the Guardian illustrating the issue. Here’s what they had to say about Delaere and other early critics of the work, Note: Links have been removed,

Delaere was one of the earliest and harshest critics of Macchiarini’s engineered airways. Reports of their success always seemed like “hot air” to him. He could see no real evidence that the windpipe scaffolds were becoming living, functioning airways – in which case, they were destined to fail. The only question was how long it would take – weeks, months or a few years.

Delaere’s damning criticisms appeared in major medical journals, including the Lancet, but weren’t taken seriously by Karolinska’s leadership. Nor did they impress the institute’s ethics council when Delaere lodged a formal complaint. [emphases mine]

Support for Macchiarini remained strong, even as his patients began to die. In part, this is because the field of windpipe repair is a niche area. Few people at Karolinska, especially among those in power, knew enough about it to appreciate Delaere’s claims. Also, in such a highly competitive environment, people are keen to show allegiance to their superiors and wary of criticising them. The official report into the matter dubbed this the “bandwagon effect”.

With Macchiarini’s exploits endorsed by management and breathlessly reported in the media, it was all too easy to jump on that bandwagon.

And difficult to jump off. In early 2014, four Karolinska doctors defied the reigning culture of silence [emphasis mine] by complaining about Macchiarini. In their view, he was grossly misrepresenting his results and the health of his patients. An independent investigator agreed. But the vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institute, Anders Hamsten, wasn’t bound by this judgement. He officially cleared Macchiarini of scientific misconduct, allowing merely that he’d sometimes acted “without due care”.

For their efforts, the whistleblowers were punished. [emphasis mine] When Macchiarini accused one of them, Karl-Henrik Grinnemo, of stealing his work in a grant application, Hamsten found him guilty. As Grinnemo recalls, it nearly destroyed his career: “I didn’t receive any new grants. No one wanted to collaborate with me. We were doing good research, but it didn’t matter … I thought I was going to lose my lab, my staff – everything.”

This went on for three years until, just recently [2017], Grinnemo was cleared of all wrongdoing.

It is fitting that Macchiarini’s career unravelled at the Karolinska Institute. As the home of the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, one of its ambitions is to create scientific celebrities. Every year, it gives science a show-business makeover, picking out from the mass of medical researchers those individuals deserving of superstardom. The idea is that scientific progress is driven by the genius of a few.

It’s a problematic idea with unfortunate side effects. A genius is a revolutionary by definition, a risk-taker and a law-breaker. Wasn’t something of this idea behind the special treatment Karolinska gave Macchiarini? Surely, he got away with so much because he was considered an exception to the rules with more than a whiff of the Nobel about him. At any rate, some of his most powerful friends were themselves Nobel judges until, with his fall from grace, they fell too.

The September 1, 2017 article by Rasko and Power is worth the read if you have the interest and the time. And, Delaere has written up a comprehensive analysis, which includes basic information about tracheas and more, “The Biggest Lie in Medical History” 2020, PDF, 164 pp., Creative Commons Licence).

I also want to mention Leonid Schneider, science journalist and molecular cell biologist, whose work the Macchiarini scandal on his ‘For Better Science’ website was also featured in my 2016 pieces. Schneider’s site has a page titled, ‘Macchiarini’s trachea transplant patients: the full list‘ started in 2017 and which he continues to update with new information about the patients. The latest update was made on December 20, 2023.

Promising nanomedicine research but no promises and a caveat

Most of the research mentioned here is still in the laboratory. i don’t often come across work that has made its way to clinical trials since the focus of this blog is emerging science and technology,

*If you’re interested in the business of neurotechnology, the July 17, 2023 posting highlights a very good UNESCO report on the topic.

Funky music (sound and noise)

I have couple of stories about using sound for wound healing, bioinspiration for soundproofing applications, detecting seismic activity, more data sonification, etc.

Same old, same old CRISPR

2023 was relatively quiet (no panics) where CRISPR developments are concerned but still quite active.

Art/Sci: a pretty active year

I didn’t realize how active the year was art/sciwise including events and other projects until I reviewed this year’s postings. This is a selection from 2023 but there’s a lot more on the blog, just use the search term, “art/sci,” or “art/science,” or “sciart.”

While I often feature events and projects from these groups (e.g., June 2, 2023 posting, “Metacreation Lab’s greatest hits of Summer 2023“), it’s possible for me to miss a few. So, you can check out Toronto’s Art/Sci Salon’s website (strong focus on visual art) and Simon Fraser University’s Metacreation Lab for Creative Artificial Intelligence website (strong focus on music).

My selection of this year’s postings is more heavily weighted to the ‘writing’ end of things.

Boundaries: life/nonlife

Last year I subtitled this section, ‘Aliens on earth: machinic biology and/or biological machinery?” Here’s this year’s selection,

Canada’s 2023 budget … military

2023 featured an unusual budget where military expenditures were going to be increased, something which could have implications for our science and technology research.

Then things changed as Murray Brewster’s November 21, 2023 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) news online website comments, Note: A link has been removed,

There was a revelatory moment on the weekend as Defence Minister Bill Blair attempted to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality in the Liberal government’s spending plans for his department and the Canadian military.

Asked about an anticipated (and long overdue) update to the country’s defence policy (supposedly made urgent two years ago by Russia’s full-on invasion of Ukraine), Blair acknowledged that the reset is now being viewed through a fiscal lens.

“We said we’re going to bring forward a new defence policy update. We’ve been working through that,” Blair told CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday.

“The current fiscal environment that the country faces itself does require (that) that defence policy update … recognize (the) fiscal challenges. And so it’ll be part of … our future budget processes.”

One policy goal of the existing defence plan, Strong, Secure and Engaged, was to require that the military be able to concurrently deliver “two sustained deployments of 500 [to] 1,500 personnel in two different theaters of operation, including one as a lead nation.”

In a footnote, the recent estimates said the Canadian military is “currently unable to conduct multiple operations concurrently per the requirements laid out in the 2017 Defence Policy. Readiness of CAF force elements has continued to decrease over the course of the last year, aggravated by decreasing number of personnel and issues with equipment and vehicles.”

Some analysts say they believe that even if the federal government hits its overall budget reduction targets, what has been taken away from defence — and what’s about to be taken away — won’t be coming back, the minister’s public assurances notwithstanding.

10 years: Graphene Flagship Project and Human Brain Project

Graphene and Human Brain Project win biggest research award in history (& this is the 2000th post)” on January 28, 2013 was how I announced the results of what had been a a European Union (EU) competition that stretched out over several years and many stages as projects were evaluated and fell to the wayside or were allowed onto the next stage. The two finalists received €1B each to be paid out over ten years.

Future or not

As you can see, there was plenty of interesting stuff going on in 2023 but no watershed moments in the areas I follow. (Please do let me know in the Comments should you disagree with this or any other part of this posting.) Nanotechnology seems less and less an emerging science/technology in itself and more like a foundational element of our science and technology sectors. On that note, you may find my upcoming (in 2024) post about a report concerning the economic impact of its National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) from 2002 to 2022 of interest.

Following on the commercialization theme, I have noticed an increase of interest in commercializing brain and brainlike engineering technologies, as well as, more discussion about ethics.

Colonizing the brain?

UNESCO held events such as, this noted in my July 17, 2023 posting, “Unveiling the Neurotechnology Landscape: Scientific Advancements, Innovations and Major Trends—a UNESCO report” and this noted in my July 7, 2023 posting “Global dialogue on the ethics of neurotechnology on July 13, 2023 led by UNESCO.” An August 21, 2023 posting, “Ethical nanobiotechnology” adds to the discussion.

Meanwhile, Australia has been producing some very interesting mind/robot research, my June 13, 2023 posting, “Mind-controlled robots based on graphene: an Australian research story.” I have more of this kind of research (mind control or mind reading) from Australia to be published in early 2024. The Australians are not alone, there’s also this April 12, 2023 posting, “Mind-reading prosthetic limbs” from Germany.

My May 12, 2023 posting, “Virtual panel discussion: Canadian Strategies for Responsible Neurotechnology Innovation on May 16, 2023” shows Canada is entering the discussion. Unfortunately, the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC), which held the event, has not posted a video online even though they have a youtube channel featuring other of their events.

As for neurmorphic engineering, China has produced a roadmap for its research in this area as noted in my March 20, 2023 posting, “A nontraditional artificial synaptic device and roadmap for Chinese research into neuromorphic devices.”

Quantum anybody?

I haven’t singled it out in this end-of-year posting but there is a great deal of interest in quantum computer both here in Canada and elsewhere. There is a 2023 report from the Council of Canadian Academies on the topic of quantum computing in Canada, which I hope to comment on soon.

Final words

I have a shout out for the Canadian Science Policy Centre, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2023. Congratulations!

For everyone, I wish peace on earth and all the best for you and yours in 2024!

The sounds of recent (December 2023) seismic activity in Iceland

On the heels of yesterday’s When the rocks sing “I got rhythm” (my December 18, 2023 posting), I received (via email) a media notice/reminder/update about a Northwestern University (Chicago, Illinois, US) app that allows you to listen,

From the original November 16, 2023 Northwestern University news release by Amanda Morris (also published as a November 16, 2023 news item on phys.org),

As seismic activity intensifies ahead of an impending eruption of a fissure near Iceland’s Fagradalsfjall volcano, the island’s Reykjanes Peninsula is experiencing hundreds of earthquakes per day.

Now, listeners can follow along through Northwestern University’s Earthtunes app. Developed in 2019, the app transforms seismic frequencies into audible pitches. Whereas a classic seismometer records motions in the Earth’s surface as squiggly lines scratched across a page, Earthtunes enables users to hear, rather than see, activity.

So far, Iceland’s recent, ongoing seismic activity sounds like a jarring symphony of doors slamming, hail pelting against a tin roof or window and people cracking trays of ice cubes.

By listening to activities recorded by the Global Seismographic Network station (named BORG), located to the north-northeast of Reykjavik, people can hear how the seismic activity has changed around the Fagradalsfjall area.

In this audio clip, listeners can hear 24 hours of activity recorded from Friday, Nov. 10, into Saturday, Nov. 11. Peppered with a cacophony of sharp knocking noises, it sounds like someone is insistently banging on a door.

“The activity is formidable, exciting and scary,” said Northwestern seismologist Suzan van der Lee, who co-developed Earthtunes. “Iceland did the right thing by evacuating residents in nearby Grindavik and the nearby Svartsengi geothermal power plant, one of the world’s oldest geothermal power plants, which was the first to combine electricity generation with hot water for heating in the region.”

Van der Lee is the Sarah Rebecca Roland Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. In her research, she applies data science to millions of records of seismic waves in order to decode seismic signals, which harbor valuable information about the Earth’s interior dynamics.

As hundreds of earthquakes shake the ground, Van der Lee says the impending eruption is reminiscent of the 1973 eruption of Heimaey on Iceland’s Vestmannaeyjar archipelago.

“This level of danger is unprecedented for this area of Iceland, but not for Iceland as a whole,” said van der Lee, who hiked Fagradalsfjall in June. “While most Icelandic volcanoes erupt away from towns and other infrastructure, Icelanders share the terrible memory of an eruption 50 years ago on the island Vestmannaeyjar, during which lava covered part of that island’s town, Heimaey. The residents felt very vulnerable, as the evacuated people of Grindavik feel now. In a few days or weeks, they might no longer have their jobs, homes and most possessions, while still having to feed their families and pay their mortgages. However, partially resulting from that eruption on Vestmannaeyjar, Icelanders are well prepared for the current situation in the Fagradallsfjall-Svartsengi-Grindavik area.” 

Accelerated audio

This audio clip presents the same data, with the pitch increased by 10 octaves. Listeners will hear a long, low rumbling sound, punctuated by an occasional slamming door.

“What you’re hearing is 24 hours of seismic data — filled with earthquake signals,” van der Lee said. “The vast majority of these quakes are associated with the magma intrusion into the crust of the Fagradallsfjall-Svartsengi-Grindavik area of the Reykjanes Peninsula. Seismic data are not audible; their frequencies are too low. So, the 24 hours of data are compressed into approximately 1.5 minutes of audio data. You can hear an unprecedented intensity of earthquakes during the night from last Friday into Saturday and related to a new magma intrusion into the crust area.”

In a third audio clip, the same data is less compressed, with the pitch increased by just seven octaves

“One can hear frequent earthquakes happening at this point,” van der Lee said. “Icelandic seismologists have been monitoring these quakes and their increasing vigor and changing patterns. They recognized similar patterns to earthquake swarms that preceded the 2021-2023 eruptions of the adjacent Fagradallsfjall volcano.”

Earthtunes is supported by the American Geophysical Union and Northwestern’s department of Earth and planetary sciences. Seismic data is obtained from the Earthscope Consortium. The app was designed and developed by van der Lee, Helio Tejedor, Melanie Marzen, Igor Eufrasio, Josephine Anderson, Liam Toney, Cooper Barth, Michael Ji and Leonicio Cabrera.

Jennifer Ouellette’s November 16, 2023 article for Ars Tecnica draws heavily from the news release while delving into the topic of data sonification (making sounds from data), Note: Links have been removed,

….

Sonification of scientific data is an area of growing interest in many different fields. For instance, several years ago, a project called LHCSound built a library of the “sounds” of a top quark jet and the Higgs boson, among others. The project hoped to develop sonification as a technique for analyzing the data from particle collisions so that physicists could “detect” subatomic particles by ear. Other scientists have mapped the molecular structure of proteins in spider silk threads onto musical theory to produce the “sound” of silk in hopes of establishing a radical new way to create designer proteins. And there’s a free app for Android called the Amino Acid Synthesizer that enables users to create their own protein “compositions” from the sounds of amino acids.

The December 19, 2023 Northwestern University media update points to the latest audio file of the eruption of the svartsengi-grindavik fissure in Iceland: 24 hours as of Monday, December 18, 2023 14:00:00 UTC.

Enjoy!

One last thing, there are a number of postings about data sonification here; many but not all scientists and/or communication practitioners think to include audio files.

When the rocks sing “I got rhythm”

George Gershwin, along with his brother Ira, wrote jazz standards such as “I got rhythm” in 1930 and, before that, “Fascinating rhythm” in 1924 and both seem à propos in relation to this October 9, 2023 news item on phys.org,

f you could sink through the Earth’s crust, you might hear, with a carefully tuned ear, a cacophany of booms and crackles along the way. The fissures, pores, and defects running through rocks are like strings that resonate when pressed and stressed. And as a team of MIT geologists has found, the rhythm and pace of these sounds can tell you something about the depth and strength of the rocks around you.

The fissures and pores running through rocks, from the Earth’s crust to the liquid mantle, are like channels and cavities through which sound can resonate. Credit: iStock [downloaded from https://news.mit.edu/2023/boom-crackle-pop-earth-crust-sounds-1009]

An October 9, 2023 Massachusetts Institute of Technology news release (also on EurekAlert) by Jennifer Chu, which originated the news item, (word play alert) delves down into the material, Note: A link has been removed,

“If you were listening to the rocks, they would be singing at higher and higher pitches, the deeper you go,” says MIT geologist Matěj Peč. 

Peč and his colleagues are listening to rocks, to see whether any acoustic patterns, or “fingerprints” emerge when subjected to various pressures. In lab studies, they have now shown that samples of marble, when subjected to low pressures, emit low-pitched “booms,” while at higher pressures, the rocks generate an ‘avalanche’ of higher-pitched crackles. 

Peč says these acoustic patterns in rocks can help scientists estimate the types of cracks, fissures, and other defects that the Earth’s crust experiences with depth, which they can then use to identify unstable regions below the surface, where there is potential for earthquakes or eruptions. The team’s results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could also help inform surveyors’ efforts to drill for renewable, geothermal energy. 

“If we want to tap these very hot geothermal sources, we will have to learn how to drill into rocks that are in this mixed-mode condition, where they are not purely brittle, but also flow a bit,” says Peč, who is an assistant professor in MIT’s Department of Earth, Atmospheric and Planetary Sciences (EAPS). “But overall, this is fundamental science that can help us understand where the lithosphere is strongest.” 

Peč’s collaborators at MIT are lead author and research scientist Hoagy O. Ghaffari, technical associate Ulrich Mok, graduate student Hilary Chang, and professor emeritus of geophysics Brian Evans. Tushar Mittal, co-author and former EAPS postdoc, is now an assistant professor at Penn State University.

Fracture and flow

The Earth’s crust is often compared to the skin of an apple. At its thickest, the crust can be 70 kilometers deep — a tiny fraction of the globe’s total, 12,700-kilometer diameter. And yet, the rocks that make up the planet’s thin peel vary greatly in their strength and stability. Geologists infer that rocks near the surface are brittle and fracture easily, compared to rocks at greater depths, where immense pressures, and heat from the core, can make rocks flow. 

The fact that rocks are brittle at the surface and more ductile at depth implies there must be an in-between — a phase in which rocks transition from one to the other, and may have properties of both, able to fracture like granite, and flow like honey. This “brittle-to-ductile transition” is not well understood, though geologists believe it may be where rocks are at their strongest within the crust. 

“This transition state of partly flowing, partly fracturing, is really important, because that’s where we think the peak of the lithosphere’s strength is and where the largest earthquakes nucleate,” Peč says. “But we don’t have a good handle on this type of mixed-mode behavior.”

He and his colleagues are studying how the strength and stability of rocks — whether brittle, ductile, or somewhere in between — varies, based on a rock’s microscopic defects. The size, density, and distribution of defects such as microscopic cracks, fissures, and pores can shape how brittle or ductile a rock can be. 

But measuring the microscopic defects in rocks, under conditions that simulate the Earth’s various pressures and depths, is no trivial task. There is, for instance, no visual-imaging technique that allows scientists to see inside rocks to map their microscopic imperfections. So the team turned to ultrasound, and the idea that, any sound wave traveling through a rock should bounce, vibrate, and reflect off any microscopic cracks and crevices, in specific ways that should reveal something about the pattern of those defects. 

All these defects will also generate their own sounds when they move under stress and therefore both actively sounding through the rock as well as listening to it should give them a great deal of information. They found that the idea should work with ultrasound waves, at megahertz frequencies.

This kind of ultrasound method is analogous to what seismologists do in nature, but at much higher frequencies,” Peč explains. “This helps us to understand the physics that occur at microscopic scales, during the deformation of these rocks.” 

A rock in a hard place

In their experiments, the team tested cylinders of Carrara marble. 

“It’s the same material as what Michaelangelo’s David is made from,” Peč notes. “It’s a very well-characterized material, and we know exactly what it should be doing.”

The team placed each marble cylinder in a a vice-like apparatus made from pistons of aluminum, zirconium, and steel, which together can generate extreme stresses. They placed the vice in a pressurized chamber, then subjected each cylinder to pressures similar to what rocks experience throughout the Earth’s crust.  

As they slowly crushed each rock, the team sent pulses of ultrasound through the top of the sample, and recorded the acoustic pattern that exited through the bottom. When the sensors were not pulsing, they were listening to any naturally occurring acoustic emissions.

They found that at the lower end of the pressure range, where rocks are brittle, the marble indeed formed sudden fractures in response, and the sound waves resembled large, low-frequency booms. At the highest pressures, where rocks are more ductile, the acoustic waves resembled a higher-pitched crackling. The team believes this crackling was produced by microscopic defects called dislocations that then spread and flow like an avalanche. 

“For the first time, we have recorded the ‘noises’ that rocks make when they are deformed across this brittle-to-ductile transition, and we link these noises to the individual microscopic defects that cause them,” Peč says. “We found that these defects massively change their size and propagation velocity as they cross this transition. It’s more complicated than people had thought.”

The team’s characterizations of rocks and their defects at various pressures can help scientists estimate how the Earth’s crust will behave at various depths, such as how rocks might fracture in an earthquake, or flow in an eruption.    

“When rocks are partly fracturing and partly flowing, how does that feed back into the earthquake cycle? And how does that affect the movement of magma through a network of rocks?” Peč says. “Those are larger scale questions that can be tackled with research like this.”

This research was supported, in part, by the National Science Foundation.

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

Microscopic defect dynamics during a brittle-to-ductile transition by Hoagy O’Ghaffari, Matěj Peč, Tushar Mittal, Ulrich Mok, Hilary Chang, and Brian Evans. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 120 (42) e2305667120 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2305667120 October 9, 2023

This paper is behind a paywall.