Monthly Archives: March 2022

Classical music makes protein songs easier listening

Caption: This audio is oxytocin receptor protein music using the Fantasy Impromptu guided algorithm. Credit: Chen et al. / Heliyon

A September 29, 2021 news item on ScienceDaily describes new research into music as a means of communicating science,

In recent years, scientists have created music based on the structure of proteins as a creative way to better popularize science to the general public, but the resulting songs haven’t always been pleasant to the ear. In a study appearing September 29 [2021] in the journal Heliyon, researchers use the style of existing music genres to guide the structure of protein song to make it more musical. Using the style of Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu and other classical pieces as a guide, the researchers succeeded in converting proteins into song with greater musicality.

Scientists (Peng Zhang, Postdoctoral Researcher in Computational Biology at The Rockefeller University, and Yuzong Chen, Professor of Pharmacy at National University of Singapore [NUS]) wrote a September 29, 2021 essay for The Conversation about their protein songs (Note: Links have been removed),

There are many surprising analogies between proteins, the basic building blocks of life, and musical notation. These analogies can be used not only to help advance research, but also to make the complexity of proteins accessible to the public.

We’re computational biologists who believe that hearing the sound of life at the molecular level could help inspire people to learn more about biology and the computational sciences. While creating music based on proteins isn’t new, different musical styles and composition algorithms had yet to be explored. So we led a team of high school students and other scholars to figure out how to create classical music from proteins.

The musical analogies of proteins

Proteins are structured like folded chains. These chains are composed of small units of 20 possible amino acids, each labeled by a letter of the alphabet.

A protein chain can be represented as a string of these alphabetic letters, very much like a string of music notes in alphabetical notation.

Protein chains can also fold into wavy and curved patterns with ups, downs, turns and loops. Likewise, music consists of sound waves of higher and lower pitches, with changing tempos and repeating motifs.

Protein-to-music algorithms can thus map the structural and physiochemical features of a string of amino acids onto the musical features of a string of notes.

Enhancing the musicality of protein mapping

Protein-to-music mapping can be fine-tuned by basing it on the features of a specific music style. This enhances musicality, or the melodiousness of the song, when converting amino acid properties, such as sequence patterns and variations, into analogous musical properties, like pitch, note lengths and chords.

For our study, we specifically selected 19th-century Romantic period classical piano music, which includes composers like Chopin and Schubert, as a guide because it typically spans a wide range of notes with more complex features such as chromaticism, like playing both white and black keys on a piano in order of pitch, and chords. Music from this period also tends to have lighter and more graceful and emotive melodies. Songs are usually homophonic, meaning they follow a central melody with accompaniment. These features allowed us to test out a greater range of notes in our protein-to-music mapping algorithm. In this case, we chose to analyze features of Chopin’s “Fantaisie-Impromptu” to guide our development of the program.

If you have the time, I recommend reading the essay in its entirety and listening to the embedded audio files.

The September 29, 2021 Cell Press news release on EurekAlert repeats some of the same material but is worth reading on its own merits,

In recent years, scientists have created music based on the structure of proteins as a creative way to better popularize science to the general public, but the resulting songs haven’t always been pleasant to the ear. In a study appearing September 29 [2021] in the journal Heliyon, researchers use the style of existing music genres to guide the structure of protein song to make it more musical. Using the style of Frédéric Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu and other classical pieces as a guide, the researchers succeeded in converting proteins into song with greater musicality.

Creating unique melodies from proteins is achieved by using a protein-to-music algorithm. This algorithm incorporates specific elements of proteins—like the size and position of amino acids—and maps them to various musical elements to create an auditory “blueprint” of the proteins’ structure.

“Existing protein music has mostly been designed by simple mapping of certain amino acid patterns to fundamental musical features such as pitches and note lengths, but they do not map well to more complex musical features such as rhythm and harmony,” says senior author Yu Zong Chen, a professor in the Department of Pharmacy at National University of Singapore. “By focusing on a music style, we can guide more complex mappings of combinations of amino acid patterns with various musical features.”

For their experiment, researchers analyzed the pitch, length, octaves, chords, dynamics, and main theme of four pieces from the mid-1800s Romantic era of classical music. These pieces, including Fantasie-Impromptu from Chopin and Wanderer Fantasy from Franz Schubert, were selected to represent the notable Fantasy-Impromptu genre that emerged during that time.

“We chose the specific music style of a Fantasy-Impromptu as it is characterized by freedom of expression, which we felt would complement how proteins regulate much of our bodily functions, including our moods,” says co-author Peng Zhang (@zhangpeng1202), a post-doctoral fellow at the Rockefeller University

Likewise, several of the proteins in the study were chosen for their similarities to the key attributes of the Fantasy-Impromptu style. Most of the 18 proteins tested regulate functions including human emotion, cognition, sensation, or performance which the authors say connect to the emotional and expressive of the genre.

Then, they mapped 104 structural, physicochemical, and binding amino acid properties of those proteins to the six musical features. “We screened the quantitative profile of each amino acid property against the quantized values of the different musical features to find the optimal mapped pairings. For example, we mapped the size of amino acid to note length, so that having a larger amino acid size corresponds to a shorter note length,” says Chen.

Across all the proteins tested, the researchers found that the musicality of the proteins was significantly improved. In particular, the protein receptor for oxytocin (OXTR) was judged to have one of the greatest increases in musicality when using the genre-guided algorithm, compared to an earlier version of the protein-to-music algorithm.

“The oxytocin receptor protein generated our favorite song,” says Zhang. “This protein sequence produced an identifiable main theme that repeats in rhythm throughout the piece, as well as some interesting motifs and patterns that recur independent of our algorithm. There were also some pleasant harmonic progressions; for example, many of the seventh chords naturally resolve.”

The authors do note, however, that while the guided algorithm increased the overall musicality of the protein songs, there is still much progress to be made before it resembles true human music.

“We believe a next step is to explore more music styles and more complex combinations of amino acid properties for enhanced musicality and novel music pieces. Another next step, a very important step, is to apply artificial intelligence to jointly learn complex amino acid properties and their combinations with respect to the features of various music styles for creating protein music of enhanced musicality,” says Chen.


Research supported by the National Key R&D Program of China, the National Natural Science Foundation of China, and Singapore Academic Funds.

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

Protein Music of Enhanced Musicality by Music Style Guided Exploration of Diverse Amino Acid Properties by Nicole WanNi Tay, Fanxi Liu, Chaoxin Wang, Hui Zhang, Peng Zhang, Yu Zong Chen. Heliyon, 2021 DOI: https:// Published; September 29, 2021

This paper appears to be open access.

Of Health Myths and Trickster Viruses; a Who Cares? windup event on Friday, April 1, 2022 (+ more final Who Cares? events)

Toronto’s ArtSci Salon has been hosting a series of events and exhibitions about COVID-19 and other health care issues under the “Who Cares?” banner. The exhibitions and events are now coming to an end (see my February 9, 2022 posting for a full listing).

A March 29, 2022 Art/Sci Salon announcement (received via email) heralds the last roundtable event (see my March 7, 2022 posting for more about the Who Cares? roundtables), Note: This is an online event,

Bayo Akomolafe
Seema Yasmin

Of Health Myths and Trickster Viruses

Friday, April 1 [2022], 5:00-7:00 pm [ET]

Des mythes sur la santé et des virus trompeurs

Le Vendredi 1 avril [2022], de 17H à 19H A conversation on the unsettling dimensions of epidemics and the complexities of responses to their challenges.
Une conversation sur les dimensions troublantes des épidémies et la complexité des réponses à leurs défis.

Inscrivez- vous ici/Register here

Seema Yasmin,  Director of Research and Education, Stanford Health Communication Initiative. She is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, Pulitzer prize finalist, medical doctor and Stanford and UCLA professor.

Bayo Akomolafe Chief Curator, The Emergence Network.  He is a widely celebrated international speaker, posthumanist thinker, poet, teacher, public intellectual, essayist, and author ~

Seema Yasmin, Director of Research and Education, Stanford Health Communication Initiative. Elle est une journaliste lauréate d’un Emmy Award, finaliste du prix Pulitzer, médecin et professeure à Stanford et UCLA.

Bayo Akomolafe, Chief Curator, The Emergence Network. Il  est un conférencier international très célèbre, un penseur posthumaniste, un poète, un enseignant, un intellectuel public, un essayiste et un auteur.

There are the acknowledgements,

“Who Cares?” is a Speaker Series dedicated to fostering transdisciplinary conversations between doctors, writers, artists, and researchers on contemporary biopolitics of care and the urgent need to move towards more respectful, creative, and inclusive social practices of care in the wake of the systemic cracks made obvious by the pandemic.

We wish to thank/ nous the generous support of the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada, New College at the University of Toronto and The Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies at York University; the Centre for Feminist Research, Sensorium Centre for Digital Arts and Technology, The Canadian Language Museum, the Departments of English and the School of Gender and Women’s Studies at York University; the D.G. Ivey Library and the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto; We also wish to thank the support of The Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences

This series is co-produced in collaboration with the ArtSci Salon

The Who Cares? series webpage, found here, lists the exhibitions and final events,

March 24 – April 30

Alanna Kibbe – TRANSFORM: Exploring Languages of Healing. Opening March 31, 5 pm 
Canadian Language Museum, 2275 Bayview Avenue, York University Glendon Campus

in person. Virtual opening available

Camille Baker INTER/her. Opening April 7 [2022], 4 pm
Ivey Library, 20 Willcox Street, New College, University of Toronto

in person. Virtual opening available

Closing Presentation and Interactive Session
Karolina Żyniewicz – Signs of the time, Collecting
Biological Traces and Memories

Artist talk: April 8 [2022], 4:00-6:00 [ET]

Memory Collection: Apr 9 [2022], 2:00-4:00 [ET]

online and in person

Fractal brain structures and story listening

For anyone who needs to brush up on their fractals,

Caption: Zoomed in detail of the Mandelbrot set, a famous fractal, at different spatial scales of 1x, 4x, 16x, and 64x (from left to right). Credit: Image by Jeremy R. Manning.

My September 3, 2012 posting (Islands of Benoît Mandelbrot: Fractals, Chaos, and the Materiality of Thinking exhibition opening in Sept. 2012 in New York) includes an explanation of fractals. There is another explanation in the news release that follows below.

The story

A September 30, 2021 Dartmouth College news release announces work from a team of researchers using the concept of fractals as a way of understanding how the brain works (Note: Links have been removed),

Understanding how the human brain produces complex thought is daunting given its intricacy and scale. The brain contains approximately 100 billion neurons that coordinate activity through 100 trillion connections, and those connections are organized into networks that are often similar from one person to the next. A Dartmouth study has found a new way to look at brain networks using the mathematical notion of fractals, to convey communication patterns between different brain regions as people listened to a short story.The results are published in Nature Communications.

“To generate our thoughts, our brains create this amazing lightning storm of connection patterns,” said senior author Jeremy R. Manning, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences, and director of the Contextual Dynamics Lab at Dartmouth. “The patterns look beautiful, but they are also incredibly complicated. Our mathematical framework lets us quantify how those patterns relate at different scales, and how they change over time.”

In the field of geometry, fractals are shapes that appear similar at different scales. Within a fractal, shapes and patterns are repeated in an infinite cascade, such as spirals comprised of smaller spirals that are in turn comprised of still-smaller spirals, and so on. Dartmouth’s study shows that brain networks organize in a similar way: patterns of brain interactions are mirrored simultaneously at different scales. When people engage in complex thoughts, their networks seem to spontaneously organize into fractal-like patterns. When those thoughts are disrupted, the fractal patterns become scrambled and lose their integrity.

The researchers developed a mathematical framework that identifies similarities in network interactions at different scales or “orders.” When brain structures do not exhibit any consistent patterns of interaction, the team referred to this as a “zero-order” pattern. When individual pairs of brain structures interact, this is called a “first-order” pattern. “Second-order” patterns refer to similar patterns of interactions in different sets of brain structures, at different scales. When patterns of interaction become fractal— “first-order” or higher— the order denotes the number of times the patterns are repeated at different scales.

The study shows that when people listened to an audio recording of a 10-minute story, their brain networks spontaneously organized into fourth-order network patterns. However, this organization was disrupted when people listened to altered versions of the recording. For example, when the story’s paragraphs were randomly shuffled, preserving some but not all of the story’s meaning, people’s brain networks displayed only second-order patterns. When every word of the story was shuffled, this disrupted all but the lowest level (zero-order) patterns.

“The more finely the story was shuffled, the more the fractal structures of the network patterns were disrupted,” said first author Lucy Owen, a graduate student in psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth. “Since the disruptions in those fractal patterns seemed directly linked with how well people could make sense of the story, this finding may provide clues about how our brain structures work together to understand what is happening in the narrative.”

The fractal network patterns were surprisingly similar across people: patterns from one group could be used to accurately estimate what part of the story another group was listening to.

The team also studied which brain structures were interacting to produce these fractal patterns. The results show that the smallest scale (first-order) interactions occurred in brain regions that process raw sounds. Second-order interactions linked these raw sounds with speech processing regions, and third-order interactions linked sound and speech areas with a network of visual processing regions. The largest-scale (fourth-order) interactions linked these auditory and visual sensory networks with brain structures that support high-level thinking. According to the researchers, when these networks organize at multiple scales, this may show how the brain processes raw sensory information into complex thought—from raw sounds, to speech, to visualization, to full-on understanding.

The researchers’ computational framework can also be applied to areas beyond neuroscience and the team has already begun using an analogous approach to explore interactions in stock prices and animal migration patterns.

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

High-level cognition during story listening is reflected in high-order dynamic correlations in neural activity patterns by Lucy L. W. Owen, Thomas H. Chang & Jeremy R. Manning. Nature Communications volume 12, Article number: 5728 (2021) DOI: Published: 30 September 2021

This paper is open access.

Secure quantum communication network with 15 users

Things are moving quickly where quantum communication networks are concerned. Back in April 2021, Dutch scientists announced the first multi-node quantum network connecting three processors (see my July 8, 2021 posting with the news and an embedded video).

Less than six months later, Chinese scientists announced work on a 15-user quantum network. From a September 23, 2021 news item on,

Quantum secure direct communication (QSDC) based on entanglement can directly transmit confidential information. Scientist [sic] in China explored a QSDC network based on time-energy entanglement and sum-frequency generation. The results show that when any two users are performing QSDC over 40 kilometers of optical fiber, and the rate of information transmission can be maintained at 1Kbp/s. Our result lays the foundation for the realization of satellite-based long-distance and global QSDC in the future.

A September 23, 2021 Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) press release on EurekAlert, which seems to have originated the news item, provides additional detail,

Quantum communication has presented a revolutionary step in secure communication due to its high security of the quantum information, and many communication protocols have been proposed, such as the quantum secure direct communication (QSDC) protocol. QSDC based on entanglement can directly transmit confidential information. Any attack of QSDC results to only random number, and cannot obtain any useful information from it. Therefore, QSDC has simple communication steps and reduces potential security loopholes, and offers high security guarantees, which guarantees the security and the value propositions of quantum communications in general. However, the inability to simultaneously distinguish the four sets of encoded orthogonal entangled states in entanglement-based QSDC protocols limits its practical application. Furthermore, it is important to construct quantum network in order to make wide applications of quantum secure direct communication. Experimental demonstration of QSDC is badly required.

In a new paper published in Light Science & Application, a team of scientists, led by Professor Xianfeng Chen from State Key Laboratory of Advanced Optical Communication Systems and Networks, School of Physics and Astronomy, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China and Professor Yuanhua Li from Department of Physics, Jiangxi Normal University, China have explored a QSDC network based on time-energy entanglement and sum-frequency generation (SFG). They present a fully connected entanglement-based QSDC network including five subnets, with 15 users. Using the frequency correlations of the fifteen photon pairs via time division multiplexing and dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), they perform a 40-kilometer fiber QSDC experiment by implying two-step transmission between each user. In this process, the network processor divides the spectrum of the single-photon source into 30 International Telecommunication Union (ITU) channels. With these channels, there will be a coincidence event between each user by performing a Bell-state measurement based on the SFG. This allows the four sets of encoded entangled states to be identified simultaneously without post-selection.

It is well known that the security and reliability of the information transmission for QSDC is an essential part in the quantum network. Therefore, they implemented block transmission and step-by-step transmission methods in QSDC with estimating the secrecy capacity of the quantum channel. After confirming the security of the quantum channel, the legitimate user performs encoding or decoding operations within these schemes reliably.

These scientists summarize the experiment results of their network scheme:

“The results show that when any two users are performing QSDC over 40 kilometers of optical fiber, the fidelity of the entangled state shared by them is still greater than 95%, and the rate of information transmission can be maintained at 1 Kbp/s. Our result demonstrates the feasibility of a proposed QSDC network, and hence lays the foundation for the realization of satellite-based long-distance and global QSDC in the future.”

“With this scheme, each user interconnects with any others through shared pairs of entangled photons in different wavelength. Moreover, it is possible to improve the information transmission rate greater than 100 Kbp/s in the case of the high-performance detectors, as well as high-speed control in modulator being used” they added.

“It is worth noting the present-work, which offers long-distance point-to-point QSDC connection, combined with the recently proposed secure-repeater quantum network of QSDC, which offers secure end-to-end communication throughout the quantum Internet, will enable the construction of secure quantum network using present-day technology, realizing the great potential of QSDC in future communication.” the scientists forecast.

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

A 15-user quantum secure direct communication network by Zhantong Qi, Yuanhua Li, Yiwen Huang, Juan Feng, Yuanlin Zheng & Xianfeng Chen. Light: Science & Applications volume 10, Article number: 183 (2021) DOI: Published: 14 September 2021

This paper is open access.

For the profoundly curious, there is an earlier version of this paper on, the site run by Cornell University where it was posted after moderation but prior to peer-review for publication in a journal.

Methylene Blue-based sunscreen—anti-aging and coral reef safe

In any event, it’s time to start thinking about sunscreens (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere.) One other thing, this is informational; it is not an endorsement. A March 1, 2022 Mblue Labs product announcement on EurekAlert (also on EIN Presswire) describes some of the research that went into this new sunscreen,

(Bethesda, MD – March 1, 2022) Mblue Labs releases the first sunscreen based on a recent study that found Methylene Blue, a century old medicine, to be  a highly effective, broad-spectrum UV irradiation protector that absorbs UVA and UVB, repairs ROS (Free Radicals) and UV irradiation induced DNA damages, and is safe for coral reefs. The research paper, “Ultraviolet radiation protection potentials of Methylene Blue for human skin and coral reef health ” was published in Nature’s Scientific Reports (5/28/2021) [open access].

80% of today’s sunscreens use Oxybenzone as a chemical UV blocker, despite multiple studies that have shown it expedites the destruction of coral reefs. Several states and countries have now banned the use of Oxybenzone and its derivatives to stop the devastating effects on the world’s marine ecosystem. In addition, consumers focus primarily on the Sun Protection Factor (SPF) to prevent sunburns and potentially dangerous long-term health issues. However, SPF only measures UVB exposure, leaving sunscreen users vulnerable to UVA-triggered oxidative stress and photo-aging.

Our peer-reviewed study demonstrates that Methylene Blue is an effective UV blocker with a number of highly desired characteristics as a novel ingredient to be included in sunscreens. It shows a broad spectrum absorption of both UVA and UVB rays, promotes DNA damage repair, combats reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by UVA, and most importantly, poses no harm to coral reefs.” says the study’s senior author Dr. Kan Cao, Founder of Mblue Labs, Bluelene Skincare and a Professor at the University of Maryland Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics.

Mblue Labs and the University of Maryland have a pending patent on the property of Methylene Blue as an effective UV blocking agent that also delays skin aging and promotes DNA damage repair. The company’s first anti-aging sunscreen called “Bluevado SunFix”, contains the FDA approved, safe active ingredients Zinc Oxide and Titanium Dioxide, together with an optimized dosage of Methylene Blue. 

“Our Vision for this novel multifunctionsunscreen is deeply rooted in our concern for coral reefs – the rainforest of the ocean. We look forward to working with the industry and the FDA to get Methylene Blue included in the sunscreen monograph. We are confident that Bluevado SunFix not only delivers broad spectrum UVB/UVA protection and post sun repair, but also provides the full anti-aging benefits of our Bluelene Moisturizer with the same cosmetic elegance.”  says Jasmin EL Kordi, CEO Mblue Labs.

This research was supported by a National Science Foundation (NSF) Small Business Technology Transfer Grant (Grant: 1842745). This press release does not necessarily represent the views of the NSF. This study was conducted jointly by researchers at Mblue Labs and the University of Maryland.

About Mblue Labs + Bluelene

MBlue Labs provides revolutionary anti-aging technology to consumers around the world.  The company’s clinical skincare brand Bluelene uses patented ingredient Methylene Blue to repair and protect skin on the mitochondrial level. Mblue Labs’ recent research demonstrates Methylene Blue as the new retinol challenger for anti-aging treatments, in addition to its exciting properties as a new UV sunscreen.

I went looking for the new sunscreen (Bluevado SunFix) and found this,


Bluevado SunFix is the first FDA-approved anti-aging sunscreen with Methylene Blue. Methylene Blue’s unique ability to promote skin cell health, repair/delay skin aging and protect against UVA and UVB radiation, is now captured in the bravado of this revolutionary SPF Day Cream.

Our innovative formulation blends Methylene Blue with proven minerals to outperform Oxybenzone, deliver cosmetic elegance, and protect our precious coral reefs from harmful substances. 

Methylene Blue is a preferred alternative to retinol for sensitive skin sufferers and with SunFix there is no retinol sun sensitivity.

Bluevado SunFix is proudly made in the USA and is formulated for ALL skin types.

Preorder now to reserve your SunFix. First shipments are available in mid-March [2022].


Use as a daily SPF Moisturizer. For sun protection apply 15mins before sun exposure and reapply after 40 minutes of swimming or sweating.


Broad-spectrum UVA/UVB sun protection 

Prevents pre-mature aging 

Repairs photo-aging DNA damage caused by UVA exposure

Reduces fine lines, crows feet, and wrinkles

Improves skin elasticity & firmness

Provides all-day skin hydration

Protects coral reefs

Free USPS shipping for all domestic orders over $34!


Active Ingredients: Zinc Oxide 8.2%, Titanium Dioxide 2.8%   

Inactive Ingredients: Water (Aqua), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, C13-15 Alkane, Cetearyl Alcohol, Glycerin, Oryza Sativa (Rice) Bran Oil, Heptyl Undecylenate, Cetyl Alcohol, Argania Spinosa (Argan) Kernel Oil, Tocopheryl Acetate, Glyceryl Stearate, PEG-100 Stearate, Capryloyl Glycerin/Sebacic Acid Copolymer, Sorbitan Laurate, Butyrospermum Parkii (Shea) Butter, Cocos Nucifera (Coconut) Oil, Bisabolol, Xanthan Gum, Polyhydroxystearic Acid, Jojoba Esters, Polysorbate 60, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Citrus Aurantium Bergamia (Bergamot) Peel Oil, Pelargonium Graveolens (Geranium) Leaf Oil, Citrus Grandis (Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Lavandula Angustifolia (Lavender) Oil, Phenoxyethanol, Caprylyl Glycol, Methylene Blue. [emphasis mine]

Caution: For external use only. Keep out of reach of children. In case of irritation or allergic reaction, discontinue use and consult your physician.

There’s 3 fl oz or 90 mL of product in the tube and it’s SPF 21. (If memory serves, Methylene Blue’s placement at the end of the list ingredients means that it’s the ingredient that weighs the least.)

Again, I am not endorsing this product. That said, it does look interesting.

Caption: Corals exposed to Methylene Blue remain healthy. Credit: Mblue Labs

BTW, Finding a product announcement on EurekAlert (online science news service sponsored by the American Association for the Advancement of Science [AAAS]) was a little unexpected but only because I was ignorant of their Content Eligibility Guidelines (scroll down to Business Announcements). Duly noted.

Singapore contributes to art/science gallery on the International Space Station (ISS)

A March 15, 2022 Nanyang Technological University press release (also on EurekAlert) announces Singapore’s contribution to an art gallery in space,

Two Singapore-designed artefacts are now orbiting around the Earth on the International Space Station (ISS), as part of Moon Gallery.

These artworks were successfully launched into space recently as part of a test flight by the Moon Gallery and will come back to Earth after 10 months.

Currently consisting of 64 artworks made by artists all around the world, the Moon gallery will eventually consist of 100 artworks, which will then be placed on the moon by 2025. Out of these 64 art pieces on the ISS, only two are Singaporean artworks.

Here’s Singapore’s contribution,

Caption: NTU [Nanyang Technological University] Singapore Assistant Professor Matteo Seita (left), who is holding the Cube of Interaction, and Ms Lakshmi Mohanbabu (right), who designed both cubes. The Structure & Reflectance cube in the foreground was 3D printed at NTU Singapore.. Credit: NTU Singapore

A December 8, 2021 news item on describes the project,

The Moon Gallery Foundation is developing an art gallery to be sent to the Moon, contributing to the establishment of the first lunar outpost and permanent museum on Earth’s only natural satellite. The international initiative will see one hundred artworks from artists around the world integrated into a 10 cm x 10 cm x 1 cm grid tray, which will fly to the Moon by 2025. The Moon Gallery aims to expand humanity’s cultural dialog beyond Earth. The gallery will meet the cosmos for the first time in low Earth orbit in 2022 in a test flight.

The test flight is in collaboration with Nanoracks, a private in-space service provider. The gallery is set to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard the NG-17 rocket as part of a Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply mission in February of 2022. The art projects featured in the gallery will reach the final frontier of human habitat in space, and mark the historical meeting point of the Moon Gallery and the cosmos. Reaching low Earth orbit on the way to the Moon is a pivotal first step in extending our cultural dialog to space.

On its return flight, the Moon Gallery will become a part of the NanoLab technical payload, a module for space research experiments. The character of the gallery will offer a diverse range of materials and behaviors for camera observations and performance tests with NanoLab.

In return, Moon Gallery artists will get a chance to learn about the performance of their artworks in space. The result of these observations will serve as a solid basis for the subsequent Moon Gallery missions and a source of a valuable learning experience for future space artists. The test flight to the ISS is a precursor mission, contributing to the understanding of future possibilities for art in space and strengthening collaboration between the art and space sectors.

A December 8, 2021 NYU press release on EurekAlert, which originated the news item, provides more detail about the art from Singapore,


Our every perception, analysis, and thought reflect the influences from our surroundings and the Universe in a world of collaboration, communication and interaction, making it possible to explore the real, the imagined and the unknown. The ‘Structure and Reflectance’ cube, a marriage of Art and Technology, is one of the hundred artworks selected by the Moon Gallery, with a unifying message of an integrated world, making it a quintessential signature of humankind on the Moon.

Ms Lakshmi Mohanbabu, a Singaporean architect and designer, is the first and only local artist to have her artwork selected for the Moon Gallery. Coined the ‘Structure and Reflectance’ cube, Lakshmi’s art is a marriage of Art and Technology and is one of the hundred artworks selected by the Moon Gallery. The cube signifies a unifying message of an integrated world, making it a quintessential signature of humankind on the Moon.

The early-stage prototyping and design iterations of the ‘Structure and Reflectance’ cube were performed with Additive Manufacturing, otherwise known as 3D printing, at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore’s (NTU Singapore)Singapore Centre for 3D Printing (SC3DP). This was part of a collaborative project supported by the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Cluster (NAMIC), a national programme office which accelerates the adoption and commercialisation of additive manufacturing technologies. Previously, the NTU Singapore team at SC3DP produced a few iterations of Moon-Cube using metal 3D printing in various materials such as Inconel and Stainless Steel to evaluate the best suited material.

The newest iteration of the cube comprises crystals—ingrained in the cube via additive manufacturing technology— revealed to the naked eye by the microscopic differences in their surface roughness, which reflect light along different directions.

“Additive Manufacturing is suitable for enabling this level of control over the crystal structure of solids. More specifically, the work was created using ‘laser powder bed fusion technology’ a metal additive manufacturing process which allows us to control the surface roughness through varying the laser parameter,” said Dr Matteo Seita, Nanyang Assistant Professor, NTU Singapore, is the Principal Investigator overseeing the project for the current cube design.  

Dr Seita shared the meaning behind the materials used, “Like people, materials have a complex ‘structure’ resulting from their history—the sequence of processes that have shaped their constituent parts—which underpins their differences. Masked by an exterior façade, this structure often reveals little of the underlying quality in materials or people. The cube is a material representation of a human’s complex structure embodied in a block of metal consisting of two crystals with distinct reflectivity and complementary shape.”

Ms Lakshmi added, “The optical contrast on the cube surface from the crystals generates an intricate geometry which signifies the duality of man: the complexity of hidden thought and expressed emotion. This duality is reflected by the surface of the Moon where one side remains in plain sight, while the other has remained hidden to humankind for centuries; until space travel finally allowed humanity to gaze upon it. The bright portion of the visible side of the Moon is dependent on the Moon’s position relative to the Earth and the Sun. Thus, what we see is a function of our viewpoint.”

The hidden structure of materials, people, and the Moon are visualized as reflections of light through art and science in this cube. Expressed in the Structure & Reflectance cube is the concept of human’s duality—represented by two crystals with different reflectance—which appears to the observer as a function of their perspective.

Dr Ho Chaw Sing, Co-Founder and Managing Director of NAMIC said, “Space is humanity’s next frontier. Being the only Singaporean – among a selected few from the global community – Lakshmi’s 3D printed cube presents a unique perspective through the fusion of art and technology. We are proud to have played a small role supporting her in this ‘moon-shot’ initiative.”

Lakshmi views each artwork as a portrayal of humanity’s quests to discover the secrets of the Universe and—fused into a single cube—embody the unity of humankind, which transcends our differences in culture, religion, and social status.

The first cube face, the Primary, is divided into two triangles and depicts the two faces of the Moon, one visible to us from the earth and the other hidden from our view.

The second cube face, the Windmill, has two spiralling windmill forms, one clockwise and the other counter-clockwise, representing our existence, energy, and time.

The third cube face, the Dromenon, is a labyrinth form of nested squares, which represents the layers that we—as space explorers—are unravelling to discover the enigma of the Universe. 

The fourth cube face, the Nautilus, reflects the spiralling form of our DNA that makes each of us unique, a shape reflected in the form of our galaxy.

Not having heard of the Moon Gallery or the Moon Gallery Foundation, I did a little research. There’s a LinkedIn profile for the Moon Gallery Foundation (both the foundation and the gallery are located in Holland [Netherlands]),

Moon Gallery is where art and space meet. We aim to set up the first permanent museum on the Moon and develop a culture for future interplanetary society.

Moon Gallery will launch 100 artefacts to the Moon within the compact format of 10 x 10 x 1cm plate on a lunar lander exterior panelling no later than 2025. We suggest bringing this collection of ideas as the seeds of a new culture. We believe that culture makes a distinction between mere survival and life. Moon Gallery is a symbolic gesture that has a real influence – a way to reboot culture, rethink our values for better living on Earth planet.

The Moon Gallery has its own website, where I found more information about events, artists, and partners such as Nanoracks,

Nanoracks is dedicated to using our unique expertise to solve key problems both in space and on the Earth – all while lowering the barriers to entry of space exploration. Nanoracks’s main office is in Houston, Texas. The business development office is in Washington, D.C., and additional offices are located in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Turin, Italy. Nanoracks provides tools, hardware and services that allow other companies, organizations and governments to conduct research and other projects in space. Some of Nanoracks customers include Student Spaceflight Experiments Program (SSEP), the European Space Agency (ESA), the German Space Agency (DLR), NASA, Planet Labs, Space Florida, Virgin Galactic, Adidas, Aerospace Corporation, National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), UAE Space Agency, Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), and the Beijing Institute of Technology.

You can find the Nanoracks website here.

Let’s celebrate the International Day of Mathematics March 14, 2022 even if it is a little late

A March 14, 2022 UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) announcement (received via email) focuses on mathematics,

Despite the omnipresence of mathematics in our daily lives, in our phones, credit cards, cars etc., there may not be enough mathematicians to solve the complex challenges we face, from climate change to pandemics, a new UNESCO study finds.

Some 41% of the global population is at risk from flooding caused by tropical cyclones. Thanks to new mathematical models and better algorithms, the path of a tropical cyclone can now be predicted up to a week in advance.  In 2019, it could only be predicted five days in advance and, in the 1970s, just 36 hours ahead. Longer visibility gives municipal authorities precious additional time to plan the evacuation of populations in highly exposed areas.

This is just one of many case studies in Mathematics for Action, a new UNESCO publication released on 14 March to mark International Mathematics Day. “The study demonstrates why it makes sense for governments to include a mathematician on their team of scientific advisors”, says Christiane Rousseau of the Department of Mathematics and Statistics at the University of Montréal in Canada, who led the development of the toolkit.  

Mathematical methods to design vaccines

“The COVID-19 pandemic has really brought mathematical modelling into the public eye”, she adds. “Two years ago, who would have thought that a term such as ‘flattening the curve’ would become part of the public lexicon?” Similarly, news stories referring to mathematical terms such as the basic reproduction rate (R0) of the virus or ‘herd immunity’ through mass vaccination have become regular features. Mathematical methods themselves have been used to design vaccines more efficiently and to model vaccine hesitancy as a social phenomenon.

But the utility of mathematics does not stop there. For Norbert Hounkonnou, President of the Network of African Science Academies, “the Mathematics for Action toolkit is a revolutionary policy-oriented tool. It showcases the decisive role of mathematics in contributing to solving the world’s most pressing challenges and in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals”.

One of these goals is to end poverty. The toolkit describes, for example, how researchers were able to compile poverty maps of 552 villages and communities in Senegal and identify areas in need of greater public investment, despite missing census data. By applying mathematical tools like machine learning algorithms (artificial intelligence), the researchers were able to establish the extent of poverty in specific areas. .

Scenarios for the future

How are the many services nature provides, such as freshwater, medicinal plants or crops to be priced? Two research studies in Mathematics for Action do just that by quantifying the value of ecosystem services and biodiversity of large estuaries in North America and Asia.

The toolkit describes how mathematical models enable the exploration of multiple “what-if” scenarios to inform the decision-making process. Scientists use climate models in combination with storylines to produce plausible alternative scenarios for the future.

“The shortage of quality mathematics teachers around the world is a threat to training a sufficient number of mathematicians and scientists capable of meeting the challenges of the contemporary world”, warn Merrilyn Goos and Anjum Halai, the two Vice-Presidents of the International Commission on Mathematical Instruction, two authors of the toolkit.

Read the toolkit Mathematics for action: supporting science-based decision-making

The International Day of Mathematics was proclaimed by UNESCO in 2019 to draw attention to the extensive contribution that mathematics makes to social progress and the plethora of vocations that mathematics offers to boys and girls.

Mathematics for Action: Supporting Science-Based Decision Making is a series of policy briefs produced by UNESCO, the Centre de recherches mathématiques of Canada, the International Mathematical Union, the International Science Council and their partners.

The Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) was the manager of the toolkit project, which was produced by a consortium composed of the:

African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS)

African Mathematical Union (AMU)

Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM)

UNESCO Cat II centre CIMPA (Centre international de mathématiques pures et appliquées)

European Mathematical Society (EMS)

Institut des Sciences mathématiques et de leurs interactions (INSMI) au CNRS [Centre national de la recherche scientifique]

Institut de valorisation des données (IVADO), Canada

International Commission on Mathematical Instruction (ICMI)

International Mathematical Union (IMU)

International Science Council (ISC)

I just noticed that March 14, 2022 is also Pi Day (from its Wikipedia entry; Note: Links have been removed),

Pi Day is an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Pi Day is observed on March 14 (3/14 in the month/day format) since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant figures of π.[2][3] It was founded in 1988 by Larry Shaw, an employee of the Exploratorium. Celebrations often involve eating pie or holding pi recitation competitions. In 2009, the United States House of Representatives supported the designation of Pi Day.[4] UNESCO’s 40th General Conference designated Pi Day as the International Day of Mathematics in November 2019.[5][6] Alternative dates for the holiday include July 22[alpha 1] (22/7, an approximation of π) and June 28 (6.28, an approximation of 2π or tau).

As you can see from the entry, it’s not coincidence that Pi Day and the International Day of Mathematics are celebrated on the same day.

Microneedle vaccine patch outperforms needle

Vaccine patch sounds a lot friendlier than ‘needle’ and in the hoopla about vaccine hesitation I have to wonder if the fact that some people don’t like or are deeply fearful of needles is being overlooked.

Perhaps this or some other vaccine patch* will be ready for use in time for the next pandemic. From a September 24, 2021 news item on ScienceDaily,

Scientists at Stanford University and the University of North Carolina [UNC] at Chapel Hill have created a 3D-printed vaccine patch that provides greater protection than a typical vaccine shot.

The trick is applying the vaccine patch directly to the skin, which is full of immune cells that vaccines target.

The resulting immune response from the vaccine patch was 10 times greater than vaccine delivered into an arm muscle with a needle jab, according to a study conducted in animals and published by the team of scientists in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences [PNAS].

A September 23, 2021 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill news release (also on EurekAlert but published Sept. 24, 2021), which originated the news item, describes the patch in greater detail (Note: Links have been removed),

Considered a breakthrough are the 3D-printed microneedles lined up on a polymer patch and barely long enough to reach the skin to deliver vaccine.

“In developing this technology, we hope to set the foundation for even more rapid global development of vaccines, at lower doses, in a pain- and anxiety-free manner,” said lead study author and entrepreneur in 3D print technology Joseph M. DeSimone, professor of translational medicine and chemical engineering at Stanford University and professor emeritus at UNC-Chapel Hill.

The ease and effectiveness of a vaccine patch sets the course for a new way to deliver vaccines that’s painless, less invasive than a shot with a needle and can be self-administered. 

Study results show the vaccine patch generated a significant T-cell and antigen-specific antibody response that was 50 times greater than a subcutaneous injection delivered under the skin

That heightened immune response could lead to dose sparing, with a microneedle vaccine patch using a smaller dose to generate a similar immune response as a vaccine delivered with a needle and syringe.

While microneedle patches have been studied for decades, the work by Carolina and Stanford overcomes some past challenges: through 3D printing, the microneedles can be easily customized to develop various vaccine patches for flu, measles, hepatitis or COVID-19 vaccines.

Advantages of the vaccine patch

The COVID-19 pandemic has been a stark reminder of the difference made with timely vaccination. But getting a vaccine typically requires a visit to a clinic or hospital.

There a health care provider obtains a vaccine from a refrigerator or freezer, fills a syringe with the liquid vaccine formulation and injects it into the arm.

Although this process seems simple, there are issues that can hinder mass vaccination – from cold storage of vaccines to needing trained professionals who can give the shots.

Meanwhile vaccine patches, which incorporate vaccine-coated microneedles that dissolve into the skin, could be shipped anywhere in the world without special handling and people can apply the patch themselves.

Moreover, the ease of using a vaccine patch may lead to higher vaccination rates.

How the patches are made

It’s generally a challenge to adapt microneedles to different vaccine types, said lead study author Shaomin Tian, researcher in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology in the UNC School of Medicine.

“These issues, coupled with manufacturing challenges, have arguably held back the field of microneedles for vaccine delivery,” she said.  

Most microneedle vaccines are fabricated with master templates to make molds. However, the molding of microneedles is not very versatile, and drawbacks include reduced needle sharpness during replication.

“Our approach allows us to directly 3D print the microneedles which gives us lots of design latitude for making the best microneedles from a performance and cost point-of-view,” Tian said.

The microneedle patches were 3D printed at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill using a CLIP prototype 3D printer that DeSimone invented and is produced by CARBON, a Silicon-Valley company he co-founded.

The team of microbiologists and chemical engineers are continuing to innovate by formulating RNA vaccines, like the Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines, into microneedle patches for future testing.

“One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned during the pandemic is that innovation in science and technology can make or break a global response,” DeSimone said. “Thankfully we have biotech and health care workers pushing the envelope for us all.”

Additional study authors include Cassie Caudill, Jillian L. Perry, Kimon lliadis,  Addis T. Tessema and Beverly S. Mecham of UNC-Chapel Hill and Brian J. Lee of Stanford.  

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

Transdermal vaccination via 3D-printed microneedles induces potent humoral and cellular immunity by Cassie Caudill, Jillian L. Perry, Kimon Iliadis, Addis T. Tessema, Brian J. Lee, Beverly S. Mecham, Shaomin Tian, and Joseph M. DeSimone. PNAS September 28, 2021 118 (39) e2102595118; DOI:

This paper appears to be open access.

*I have featured vaccine patches here before, this December 16, 2016 post (Australia’s nanopatch: a way to eliminate needle vaccinations) is one of many stretching back to 2009.

UNESCO’s first global recommendations on the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) announced

This makes a nice accompaniment to my commentary (December 3, 2021 posting) on the Nature of Things programme (telecast by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), The Machine That Feels.

Here’s UNESCO’s (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) November 25, 2021 press release making the announcement (also received via email),

UNESCO member states adopt the first ever global agreement [recommendation] on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence

Paris, 25 Nov [2021] – Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO presented
Thursday the first ever global standard on the ethics of artificial
intelligence adopted by the member states of UNESCO at the General

This historical text defines the common values and principles which will
guide the construction of the necessary legal infrastructure to ensure
the healthy development of AI.

AI is pervasive, and enables many of our daily routines – booking
flights, steering driverless cars, and personalising our morning news
feeds. AI also supports the decision-making of governments and the
private sector.

AI technologies are delivering remarkable results in highly specialized
fields such as cancer screening and building inclusive environments for
people with disabilities. They also help combat global problems like
climate change and world hunger, and help reduce poverty by optimizing
economic aid.

But the technology is also bringing new unprecedented challenges. We see
increased gender and ethnic bias, significant threats to privacy,
dignity and agency, dangers of mass surveillance, and increased use of
unreliable AI technologies in law enforcement, to name a few. Until now,
there were no universal standards to provide an answer to these issues.

In 2018, Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, launched an
ambitious project: to give the world an ethical framework for the use of
artificial intelligence. Three years later, thanks to the mobilization
of hundreds of experts from around the world and intense international
negotiations, the 193 UNESCO’s member states have just officially
adopted this ethical framework.

“The world needs rules for artificial intelligence to benefit
humanity. The Recommendation on the ethics of AI is a major answer. It
sets the first global normative framework while giving States the
responsibility to apply it at their level. UNESCO will support its 193
Member States in its implementation and ask them to report regularly on
their progress and practices”, said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO Director-General.

The content of the recommendation

The Recommendation [emphasis mine] aims to realize the advantages AI brings to society and reduce the risks it entails. It ensures that digital transformations
promote human rights and contribute to the achievement of the
Sustainable Development Goals, addressing issues around transparency,
accountability and privacy, with action-oriented policy chapters on data
governance, education, culture, labour, healthcare and the economy.

*Protecting data

The Recommendation calls for action beyond what tech firms and
governments are doing to guarantee individuals more protection by
ensuring transparency, agency and control over their personal data. It
states that individuals should all be able to access or even erase
records of their personal data. It also includes actions to improve data
protection and an individual’s knowledge of, and right to control,
their own data. It also increases the ability of regulatory bodies
around the world to enforce this.

*Banning social scoring and mass surveillance

The Recommendation explicitly bans the use of AI systems for social
scoring and mass surveillance. These types of technologies are very
invasive, they infringe on human rights and fundamental freedoms, and
they are used in a broad way. The Recommendation stresses that when
developing regulatory frameworks, Member States should consider that
ultimate responsibility and accountability must always lie with humans
and that AI technologies should not be given legal personality

*Helping to monitor and evalute

The Recommendation also sets the ground for tools that will assist in
its implementation. Ethical Impact Assessment is intended to help
countries and companies developing and deploying AI systems to assess
the impact of those systems on individuals, on society and on the
environment. Readiness Assessment Methodology helps Member States to
assess how ready they are in terms of legal and technical
infrastructure. This tool will assist in enhancing the institutional
capacity of countries and recommend appropriate measures to be taken in
order to ensure that ethics are implemented in practice. In addition,
the Recommendation encourages Member States to consider adding the role
of an independent AI Ethics Officer or some other mechanism to oversee
auditing and continuous monitoring efforts.

*Protecting the environment

The Recommendation emphasises that AI actors should favour data, energy
and resource-efficient AI methods that will help ensure that AI becomes
a more prominent tool in the fight against climate change and on
tackling environmental issues. The Recommendation asks governments to
assess the direct and indirect environmental impact throughout the AI
system life cycle. This includes its carbon footprint, energy
consumption and the environmental impact of raw material extraction for
supporting the manufacturing of AI technologies. It also aims at
reducing the environmental impact of AI systems and data
infrastructures. It incentivizes governments to invest in green tech,
and if there are disproportionate negative impact of AI systems on the
environment, the Recommendation instruct that they should not be used.

Decisions impacting millions of people should be fair, transparent and contestable. These new technologies must help us address the major challenges in our world today, such as increased inequalities and the environmental crisis, and not deepening them.” said Gabriela Ramos, UNESCO’s Assistant Director General for Social and Human Sciences.

Emerging technologies such as AI have proven their immense capacity to
deliver for good. However, its negative impacts that are exacerbating an
already divided and unequal world, should be controlled. AI developments
should abide by the rule of law, avoiding harm, and ensuring that when
harm happens, accountability and redressal mechanisms are at hand for
those affected.

If I read this properly (and it took me a little while), this is an agreement on the nature of the recommendations themselves and not an agreement to uphold them.

You can find more background information about the process for developing the framework outlined in the press release on the Recommendation on the ethics of artificial intelligence webpage. I was curious as to the composition of the Adhoc Expert Group (AHEG) for the Recommendation; they had varied representation from every continent. (FYI, The US and Mexico represented North America.)