Monthly Archives: May 2008

Nano Wiki presentation and more jazz

The 2008 Canada Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences started yesterday at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and I’m presenting at one of the conferences. (Btw, their Congress website is not one of my faves.)

My presentation is called, The Nanotech Mysteries: an initiation into the science and the technology. It’s all about the wiki I’m developing on nanotechnology. I’m discussing some of the ideas behind the project and reviewing a prototype for the project. The presentation is for the Canadian Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (CATTW). Their conference website is here. There’s not a lot to it but they do have a programme there. I’m presenting tomorrow, June 1 in the 1:30 to 3 pm slot. I’m listed last on the speaker list, it looks like it’s going to be a nice day, and it’s the session before afternoon coffee. It just seems that I shouldn’t expect a big audience.

On a jazz note, my friend and her band are performing tonight at Bogarts, 6:30 to 9:30 pm at 1619 West Broadway, Vancouver.

Is the carbon nanotube report bad science? and a jazz moment

I found a rebuttal to that study carbon nanotube could be like asbestos study that’s been published in Nature Nanotechnology. The summaries of the study all said that ‘long’ carbon nanotubes resemble asbestos fibres and, according to this first study, create the same kinds of lesions as asbestos when tested on mice. The rebuttal (found at Small Times), which is based on an interview with the CEO of a company that produces long carbon nanotubes commercially, makes this point: ‘Long’ as defined by the study meant anything over 20 microns and the longest carbon nanotube used in the study was 56 microns. His company, Nanocomp Technologies, produces carbon nanotubes that are millimetre-long. That’s a pretty significant difference in scale which may explain why the CEO described the report as ‘bad science’. The whole thing keeps raising more questions for me i.e. What is the standard length of commercially produced carbon nanotubes? At what point does length have an impact?  For example, is there a different impact or no impact if the length is a millimetre-long rather than 56 microns?

A friend of mine is a jazz singer who’s performing tonight (Friday nights through July 2008) at the Fairview Pub, 898 West Broadway, Vancouver, BC. She’s on from 6-9 pm. For a sample, you can listen to her here.

Nano risk aftershocks?

Did the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies (PEN) postpone the ‘Small is Beautiful: A European View of Nanotech Cosmetics and Safety presentation/webcast in the wake of the latest risk concerns i.e. long carbon nanotubes resembling asbestos and the possibility that bucky balls might be toxic? (Check my last couple of postings for more info. about the studies and some links.) They haven’t sent me a notice yet but maybe they don’t want to draw attention. I hope this doesn’t turn into a cancellation as I really wanted to hear what Dr. Andrew Maynard, PEN’s Science Advisor, and L’Oreal’s science representative,  Dr.Francis Quinn, have to say about nanotech risks and safety vis a vis cosmetics.  (L’Oreal has a lot of patents. One statistic I read suggested that they rank as sixth on the list of patent holders in the US. Here’s the info. in a news release announcing the talk which has been ‘postponed’.)

Modeling dangerous bucky balls and no cafe

They (a team at the University of Calgary) haven’t actually proved that bucky balls are dangerous. They’ve created a simulation which shows how bucky balls (a type of carbon molecule usually represented as a sphere that looks like a soccer ball) could penetrate into a cell and this could prove to be toxic. The team has published the study in Nature Nanotechnology. The reason for so much interest? Bucky balls are starting to be used commercial  in coatings. There’s more from the team’s press release here.

I did not make it to the Cafe Scientifique get together last night. I’m healing from a sprained ankle and a dental procedure and I don’t quite have my usual bounce.

Cafe Scientifique, wiki project, and more Bonifacho

Just found this today. There’s a science get together in Vancouver that sounds like it’s modeled on the Philosopher’s Cafe events they run through Simon Fraser University. It’s 7:30 pm tonight at Steamworks (brewpub), 375 Water St., Harbourview Room and it features three scientists giving  a somewhat eclectic mix of presentations ranging from Pathogenomics, to climate changes, to DNA Nanotechnology. The last one sounds a little bogus to me. It smacks of someone in the biotech field deciding to rebrand their work as nanotechnology in the wake of the anti-GM (‘frankenfood’) movement.  I will go see for myself and report on it tomorrow. The Vancouver Cafe Scientific folks have a site here but there are more details for this event here.

Yesterday, I mentioned my wiki project, which is called The Nanotech Mysteries: an initiation into the science and the technology. It’s my dissertation project (MA at De Montfort University, UK) and I’ve been gathering information for about 1/1/2 years now and writing papers and even presenting them all in preparation for my wiki. I put up a prototype for workshop review a few months ago and Sunday I created the project wik at but I’m running into some problems. I sure they hope resolve them soon or I’m going somewhere else. (I created the wiki in their 1.0 version and then, under the impression that it would be easy to accomplish,  asked to move it to their 2.0 version. I’m still waiting for a reply. Fingers crossed that they can do this in a timely fashion. So I can have something happening there soon.

Couple things regarding Bratsa Bonifacho and his street banners. I got a few things wrong. The banners are going to be all over Vancouver and not just on Cambie St. and it was the 24 Hours newspaper and not Metro News which claimed the banners on Cambie St. were in support of anti-homophobic rally. For anyone interested in a better image (than the jpeg I have here) of the work appearing on the banners you can go to Bratsa’s website here. Just click on a Habitat Pixel (the collection he used as the basis for  the banners)  image for a closer view. Although, you should see one of the paintings…if you get a chance. A digital image just doesn’t convey the texture of the work, how he builds layers, cuts into them, and the more subtle use of colour. (He’s represented by the Bau-Xi Gallery on south Granville St., Vancouver.)

Healthy carbon nanotubes? or mesothelioma

It seems there are two studies that have been published about multiwalled, long carbon nanotubes having effects similar to asbestos on mice according to the International Council on Nanotechology’s backgrounder here. Short of looking up the articles in Nature Nanotechnology or the Journal of Toxicological Sciences, the briefing gives a pretty good description of the experimental methods used in each of the studies and some of the issues associated with each. For example, were there any possible contaminants and did they have any impact on the results? That’s the research process isn’t it? Testing an hyothesis, examining the results, and testing again as we add to the body of knowledge.

The study reported in Natural Nanotechnology is getting a lot of attention from different sectors, including the investment sector. According to the blog, 24/7 Wall St., the exchange-traded fund, PowerShares Lux Nanotech, experienced a dip shortly after the study was released.

It’s such early days yet, that’s it hard to know how to interpret any of this but it bears thinking about anyway, especially as I get ready to produce my nanotechnology wiki. (more about the wiki tomorrow)

Nano, wikis, and the sun

About a week or so ago, I read about a new nano wiki being proposed or developed by the International Council on Nanotechnology (ICON). This wiki is  going to focus on international best practices for environmental health and safety vis a vis nanoparticles. I’d forgotten about it until this morning when I saw some comments about the wiki on an IEEE blog.  The writer also questions whether or not council truly is international. (You can go see the comments here.) It’s a bit of a puzzle trying to get representation that’s truly international.  For example, I’ve had a proposal accepted for a presentation at the Language and the Scientific Imagination  conference in Helsinki and I’ve noticed that most of the people presenting are from the UK, a few are from Australia, and then there are assorted single presenters (Belgium, Canada, Germany). I’m willing to bet the organizer worked really, really hard and that group is as diverse as she could manage.

IBM was busy announcing some sort of advance that could reduce the costs fro solar panels (more here). Don’t know why but it reminded me of IBM’s pr stunt last year where they reproduced a famous paining (17th century, I think) of the sun. I’m being a little facetious but it does seem as if IBM wants to brand the sun.

Oh, and the British Columbia Nanotechnology Alliance is putting on a golf tournament June 19, 2008. It’s a benefit for BC Technology Social Venture Partners. You can register and get more details about the golf tournament here and about the charitable society here.

More Krazy and Bonifacho

The media preview for Krazy (show at the  Vancouver Art Gallery) was packed. I guess it was a combination of having Art Spiegelman (probably best known for Maus, a biographical tale of World War II and the Holocaust presented in a graphic novel) giving a tour, the subject (comics, anime, video games, and art), and a very nice catered lunch (mini burgers and prawns) with martinis after the tour.

Parts of the show are still under construction so things are a little more edgy than usual in the gallery. For anyone who doesn’t know the gallery, it’s one of Vancouver’s older buildings and was originally the courthouse. It has a classic 19th century feel to it with Greek columns on the facade and when you walk into the gallery proper, it’s quite elegant with two spiral staircases, marble floor, and soaring cupola above you. It contrasts markedly with the show which is very much mid to later 20th century.

As you’d expect from a comic books guy, Spiegelman (he doesn’t make much distinction between graphic novels and comic books) who was both a curator for the show and tour leader for the media preview, the show was presented in a series of frames. First, you get the comic books, then the graphic novels, and so on. Spiegelman explained how to look at the panels and observe whether the panels vertical or horizontal and when the artist would change orientations. He also talked about the shapes.

I was hoping they’d talk about why they tied all these genres together. I was especially interested in why they included video games. Unfortunately, I was too shy to ask questions and nobody else was thinking along those lines.

They have some work from one artist (Justin Green) that has never been seen in public before. So, you’ll be treated to a premiere or an unveiling (we couldn’t see it because they haven’t finished the construction for the display).

It’s a fun show and you can learn a lot if you’re interested in this stuff. It is organized by genre and, mostly, in historical order. I wish they’d chosen to organize around topics. e.g. war.  It would have been interesting to contrast how comic books, graphic novels, anime, manga, video games, and art represent war. From there you could have branched off into more specifics about each genre.

The show is merchandised every which way you can imagine so you might want to bring a few extra bucks with you.  The show starts May 17 and goes to Sept. 7, 2008.

Bratsa Bonifacho’s banners got some more coverage. This time it’s Ming Pao. Hopefully, you read Chinese. This is not a very good jpeg but here’s what the banners look like:

Bratsa Bonifacho\'\'s banners on the Cambie St. bridge in Vancouver

Canadian nano and a couple responses

The province of Alberta has decided to fund nanotechnology studies to the tune of $30 million in programming for undergraduate students undertaking a Bachelor of Science in Engineering at either the University of Alberta or the University of Calgary. Congratulations to them all. It just seems odd to me that Canadians haven’t put much money into figuring out whether any of this is safe and what impact, if any, it’s going to have on us.

Scientists usually want some kind of communication programme or what they call public engagement because they want to make sure there’s no public outrage resulting in a loss of funds to do their work. I gave a presentation called Engaging Nanotechnology (pop culture, media, and public awareness) at the Cascadia Nanotech Symposium this last March in Vancouver. I’d give a link to the symposium presentations but they haven’t posted them yet. More about that in a later posting as I’m still rewriting the paper.

On the other side of the country, researchers at the Universite de Montreal have made some discoveries about proteins which have implications for cancers and degenerative neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s diseases. The article is here.

Thank you to both Richard Jones and Adam Shand for clearing up a few questions. I’m sorry that it took me so long to figure out that I had any comments.

Nano Oreal, Bonifacho, and Krazy

I received an invitation to a nanotech event “Small is Beautiful” just yesterday for a June 5, 2008 at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC. Luckily they webcast their events so you can tune in 1pm – 2pm EST here. And in case that link doesn’t work, you can try here in the invite and click in the right sidebar under Webcast Live. And, here’s why you might be interested. They’re featuring a representative from L’Oreal, Dr. Francis Quinn, and the Chief Science Officer for the Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, Dr. Andrew Maynard. Apparently, L’Oreal ranks sixth in nanotech patents in the US. So, the beauty and cosmetics sector has embraced nanotechnology and introduced it into their products. I will be interested to hear about any risk assessments L’Oreal has made for people slathering nanoparticles onto their skin. Maynard should be interesting too. He writes a about risk on a Safenano Community blog here.

On another note, an artist I know, Bratsa Bonifacho, just had a launch event for his latest project, a series of street banners that have been placed along Cambie St. and its eponymous bridge in Vancouver. He was invited to Vancouver City Hall and feted by mayor Sam Sullivan and various city councillors yesterday for the launch. (late breaking…here are some links to articles about Bratsa and his banners…Vancouver Sun and Metro News…despite Metro News, the banners are not about anti-homophobic rallies…Bratsa did a series of paintings about computer viruses and that’s what you can see on the street banners)

Tomorrow I’m off to a press preview of Krazy! The delirious world of Anime + Comics + Video Games + Art at the Vancouver Art Gallery. More about that afterwards.

I was out of commission for a few days. Twisted ankle on Saturday, May 10 and tooth extraction yesterday, May 13. I should be back to normal in the next few days.