It’s good to see research into practical ways of replacing plastic. From a May 13, 2022 news item on ScienceDaily,
For our sake and the environment, there is a considerable amount of research into the reduction of plastic for many and various applications. For the first time, researchers have found a way to imbue relatively sustainable paper materials with some of the useful properties of plastic. This can be done easily, cost effectively, and efficiently. A coating called Choetsu not only waterproofs paper, but also maintains its flexibility and degrades safely as well.
It’s hard to escape the fact that plastic materials are by and large detrimental to the environment. You’ve probably seen images of plastic pollution washing up on beaches, spoiling rivers and killing countless animals. Yet the problem often seems completely out of our hands given the ubiquity of plastic materials in everyday life. Professor Zenji Hiroi from the Institute for Solid State Physics at the University of Tokyo and his team explore ways materials science can help, and their recent discovery aims to replace some uses of plastic with something more sustainable: Paper.
“The main problem with plastic materials as I see it is their inability to degrade quickly and safely,” said Hiroi. “There are materials that can degrade safely, such as paper, but obviously paper cannot fulfill the vast range of uses plastic can. However, we’ve found a way to give paper some of the nice properties of plastic, but with none of the detriments. We call it Choetsu, a low-cost biodegradable coating that adds waterproofing and strength to simple paper.”
Choetsu is a combination of materials which, when applied to paper, spontaneously generate a strong and waterproof film when it makes contact with moisture in the air. The coating consists of safe and low-cost chemicals, mostly methyltrimethoxysilane, some isopropyl alcohol, and a small amount of tetraisopropyl titanate. Paper structures, for example food containers, are sprayed with or dipped into this liquid mixture and are dried at room temperature. Once dry, a thin layer of silica containing methyl, a type of alcohol, forms on the cellulose making up the paper, providing the strong and waterproof properties.
Furthermore, reactions that take place during the coating procedure automatically creates a layer of titanium dioxide nanoparticles. These give rise to a dirt- and bacterial-repellent property known as photocatalytic activity, which protects the coated item for an extended period of time. All of the chemicals involved in the coating break down over time into harmless things such as carbon, water and sandlike silicon.
“The technical challenge is complete, and some applications could be realized soon, such as items for consuming, packaging or storing food,” said Hiroi. “We now hope to use this approach on other kinds of materials as well. The liquid composition can be tuned for other materials, and we can create a dirt- and mold-resistant coating that could form onto glass, ceramics and even other plastics to extend their usefulness. Alongside researcher Yoko Iwamiya, who has been working in this field for some time now, and the rest of my team, I hope we can do something truly beneficial for the world.”
Before getting to the two news items, it might be a good idea to note that ‘artificial intelligence (AI)’ and ‘robot’ are not synonyms although they are often used that way, even by people who should know better. (sigh … I do it too)
A robot may or may not be animated with artificial intelligence while artificial intelligence algorithms may be installed on a variety of devices such as a phone or a computer or a thermostat or a … .
It’s something to bear in mind when reading about the two new institutions being launched. Now, on to Harvard University.
Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence
On Thursday [September 22, 2022], leadership from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) and Harvard University celebrated the launch of the Kempner Institute for the Study of Natural and Artificial Intelligence at Harvard University with a symposium on Harvard’s campus. Speakers included CZI Head of Science Stephen Quake, President of Harvard University Lawrence Bacow, Provost of Harvard University Alan Garber, and Kempner Institute co-directors Bernardo Sabatini and Sham Kakade. The event also included remarks and panels from industry leaders in science, technology, and artificial intelligence, including Bill Gates, Eric Schmidt, Andy Jassy, Daniel Huttenlocher, Sam Altman, Joelle Pineau, Sangeeta Bhatia, and Yann LeCun, among many others.
The Kempner Institute will seek to better understand the basis of intelligence in natural and artificial systems. Its bold premise is that the two fields are intimately interconnected; the next generation of AI will require the same principles that our brains use for fast, flexible natural reasoning, and understanding how our brains compute and reason requires theories developed for AI. The Kempner Institute will study AI systems, including artificial neural networks, to develop both principled theories [emphasis mine] and a practical understanding of how these systems operate and learn. It will also focus on research topics such as learning and memory, perception and sensation, brain function, and metaplasticity. The Institute will recruit and train future generations of researchers from undergraduates and graduate students to post-docs and faculty — actively recruiting from underrepresented groups at every stage of the pipeline — to study intelligence from biological, cognitive, engineering, and computational perspectives.
CZI Co-Founder and Co-CEO Mark Zuckerberg [chairman and chief executive officer of Meta/Facebook] said: “The Kempner Institute will be a one-of-a-kind institute for studying intelligence and hopefully one that helps us discover what intelligent systems really are, how they work, how they break and how to repair them. There’s a lot of exciting implications because once you understand how something is supposed to work and how to repair it once it breaks, you can apply that to the broader mission the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has to empower scientists to help cure, prevent or manage all diseases.”
CZI Co-Founder and Co-CEO Priscilla Chan said: “Just attending this school meant the world to me. But to stand on this stage and to be able to give something back is truly a dream come true … All of this progress starts with building one fundamental thing: a Kempner community that’s diverse, multi-disciplinary and multi-generational, because incredible ideas can come from anyone. If you bring together people from all different disciplines to look at a problem and give them permission to articulate their perspective, you might start seeing insights or solutions in a whole different light. And those new perspectives lead to new insights and discoveries and generate new questions that can lead an entire field to blossom. So often, that momentum is what breaks the dam and tears down old orthodoxies, unleashing new floods of new ideas that allow us to progress together as a society.”
CZI Head of Science Stephen Quake said: “It’s an honor to partner with Harvard in building this extraordinary new resource for students and science. This is a once-in-a-generation moment for life sciences and medicine. We are living in such an extraordinary and exciting time for science. Many breakthrough discoveries are going to happen not only broadly but right here on this campus and at this institute.”
CZI’s 10-year vision is to advance research and develop technologies to observe, measure, and analyze any biological process within the human body — across spatial scales and in real time. CZI’s goal is to accelerate scientific progress by funding scientific research to advance entire fields; working closely with scientists and engineers at partner institutions like the Chan Zuckerberg Biohub and Chan Zuckerberg Institute for Advanced Biological Imaging to do the research that can’t be done in conventional environments; and building and democratizing next-generation software and hardware tools to drive biological insights and generate more accurate and biologically important sources of data.
President of Harvard University Lawrence Bacow said: “Here we are with this incredible opportunity that Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg have given us to imagine taking what we know about the brain, neuroscience and how to model intelligence and putting them together in ways that can inform both, and can truly advance our understanding of intelligence from multiple perspectives.”
Kempner Institute Co-Director and Gordon McKay Professor of Computer Science and of Statistics at the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Sham Kakade said: “Now we begin assembling a world-leading research and educational program at Harvard that collectively tries to understand the fundamental mechanisms of intelligence and seeks to apply these new technologies for the benefit of humanity … We hope to create a vibrant environment for all of us to engage in broader research questions … We want to train the next generation of leaders because those leaders will go on to do the next set of great things.”
Kempner Institute Co-Director and the Alice and Rodman W. Moorhead III Professor of Neurobiology at Harvard Medical School Bernardo Sabatini said: “We’re blending research, education and computation to nurture, raise up and enable any scientist who is interested in unraveling the mysteries of the brain. This field is a nascent and interdisciplinary one, so we’re going to have to teach neuroscience to computational biologists, who are going to have to teach machine learning to cognitive scientists and math to biologists. We’re going to do whatever is necessary to help each individual thrive and push the field forward … Success means we develop mathematical theories that explain how our brains compute and learn, and these theories should be specific enough to be testable and useful enough to start to explain diseases like schizophrenia, dyslexia or autism.”
About the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative was founded in 2015 to help solve some of society’s toughest challenges — from eradicating disease and improving education, to addressing the needs of our communities. Through collaboration, providing resources and building technology, our mission is to help build a more inclusive, just and healthy future for everyone. For more information, please visit chanzuckerberg.com.
Principled theories, eh. I don’t see a single mention of ethicists or anyone in the social sciences or the humanities or the arts. How are scientists and engineers who have no training in or education in or, even, an introduction to ethics or social impacts or psychology going to manage this?
Mark Zuckerberg’s approach to these issues was something along the lines of “it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.” I understand there have been changes but it took far too long to recognize the damage let alone attempt to address it.
If you want to gain a little more insight into the Kempner Institute, there’s a December 7, 2021 article by Alvin Powell announcing the institute for the Harvard Gazette,
The institute will be funded by a $500 million gift from Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, which was announced Tuesday [December 7, 2021] by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. The gift will support 10 new faculty appointments, significant new computing infrastructure, and resources to allow students to flow between labs in pursuit of ideas and knowledge. The institute’s name honors Zuckerberg’s mother, Karen Kempner Zuckerberg, and her parents — Zuckerberg’s grandparents — Sidney and Gertrude Kempner. Chan and Zuckerberg have given generously to Harvard in the past, supporting students, faculty, and researchers in a range of areas, including around public service, literacy, and cures.
“The Kempner Institute at Harvard represents a remarkable opportunity to bring together approaches and expertise in biological and cognitive science with machine learning, statistics, and computer science to make real progress in understanding how the human brain works to improve how we address disease, create new therapies, and advance our understanding of the human body and the world more broadly,” said President Larry Bacow.
Bernardo Sabatini and Sham Kakade [Institute co-directors]
GAZETTE: Tell me about the new institute. What is its main reason for being?
SABATINI: The institute is designed to take from two fields and bring them together, hopefully to create something that’s essentially new, though it’s been tried in a couple of places. Imagine that you have over here cognitive scientists and neurobiologists who study the human brain, including the basic biological mechanisms of intelligence and decision-making. And then over there, you have people from computer science, from mathematics and statistics, who study artificial intelligence systems. Those groups don’t talk to each other very much.
We want to recruit from both populations to fill in the middle and to create a new population, through education, through graduate programs, through funding programs — to grow from academic infancy — those equally versed in neuroscience and in AI systems, who can be leaders for the next generation.
Over the millions of years that vertebrates have been evolving, the human brain has developed specializations that are fundamental for learning and intelligence. We need to know what those are to understand their benefits and to ask whether they can make AI systems better. At the same time, as people who study AI and machine learning (ML) develop mathematical theories as to how those systems work and can say that a network of the following structure with the following properties learns by calculating the following function, then we can take those theories and ask, “Is that actually how the human brain works?”
KAKADE: There’s a question of why now? In the technological space, the advancements are remarkable even to me, as a researcher who knows how these things are being made. I think there’s a long way to go, but many of us feel that this is the right time to study intelligence more broadly. You might also ask: Why is this mission unique and why is this institute different from what’s being done in academia and in industry? Academia is good at putting out ideas. Industry is good at turning ideas into reality. We’re in a bit of a sweet spot. We have the scale to study approaches at a very different level: It’s not going to be just individual labs pursuing their own ideas. We may not be as big as the biggest companies, but we can work on the types of problems that they work on, such as having the compute resources to work on large language models. Industry has exciting research, but the spectrum of ideas produced is very different, because they have different objectives.
How humans and super smart robots will live and work together in the future will be among the key issues being scrutinised by experts at a new centre of excellence for AI and autonomous machines based at The University of Manchester.
The Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI will be a new specialist multi-disciplinary centre to explore developments in smart robotics through the lens of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomous machinery.
The University of Manchester has built a modern reputation of excellence in AI and robotics, partly based on the legacy of pioneering thought leadership begun in this field in Manchester by legendary codebreaker Alan Turing.
Manchester’s new multi-disciplinary centre is home to world-leading research from across the academic disciplines – and this group will hold its first conference on Wednesday, Nov 23, at the University’s new engineering and materials facilities.
A highlight will be a joint talk by robotics expert Dr Andy Weightman and theologian Dr Scott Midson which is expected to put a spotlight on ‘posthumanism’, a future world where humans won’t be the only highly intelligent decision-makers.
Dr Weightman, who researches home-based rehabilitation robotics for people with neurological impairment, and Dr Midson, who researches theological and philosophical critiques of posthumanism, will discuss how interdisciplinary research can help with the special challenges of rehabilitation robotics – and, ultimately, what it means to be human “in the face of the promises and challenges of human enhancement through robotic and autonomous machines”.
Other topics that the centre will have a focus on will include applications of robotics in extreme environments.
For the past decade, a specialist Manchester team led by Professor Barry Lennox has designed robots to work safely in nuclear decommissioning sites in the UK. A ground-breaking robot called Lyra that has been developed by Professor Lennox’s team – and recently deployed at the Dounreay site in Scotland, the “world’s deepest nuclear clean up site” – has been listed in Time Magazine’s Top 200 innovations of 2022.
Angelo Cangelosi, Professor of Machine Learning and Robotics at Manchester, said the University offers a world-leading position in the field of autonomous systems – a technology that will be an integral part of our future world.
Professor Cangelosi, co-Director of Manchester’s Centre for Robotics and AI, said: “We are delighted to host our inaugural conference which will provide a special showcase for our diverse academic expertise to design robotics for a variety of real world applications.
“Our research and innovation team are at the interface between robotics, autonomy and AI – and their knowledge is drawn from across the University’s disciplines, including biological and medical sciences – as well the humanities and even theology. [emphases mine]
“This rich diversity offers Manchester a distinctive approach to designing robots and autonomous systems for real world applications, especially when combined with our novel use of AI-based knowledge.”
Delegates will have a chance to observe a series of robots and autonomous machines being demoed at the new conference.
The University of Manchester’s Centre for Robotics and AI will aim to:
design control systems with a focus on bio-inspired solutions to mechatronics, eg the use of biomimetic sensors, actuators and robot platforms;
develop new software engineering and AI methodologies for verification in autonomous systems, with the aim to design trustworthy autonomous systems;
research human-robot interaction, with a pioneering focus on the use of brain-inspired approaches [emphasis mine] to robot control, learning and interaction; and
research the ethics and human-centred robotics issues, for the understanding of the impact of the use of robots and autonomous systems with individuals and society.
In some ways, the Kempner Institute and the Manchester Centre for Robotics and AI have very similar interests, especially where the brain is concerned. What fascinates me is the Manchester Centre’s inclusion of theologian Dr Scott Midson and the discussion (at the meeting) of ‘posthumanism’. The difference is between actual engagement at the symposium (the centre) and mere mention in a news release (the institute).
Today [October 7, 2022], to mark National Nanotechnology Day, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) are making key announcements that aim to advance the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to leverage the promise of science and technology to benefit all Americans. They also complement the Administration’s ongoing CHIPS and Science Act implementation efforts that will ensure the United States remains a world leader in the industries of tomorrow.
“National Nanotechnology Day is an opportunity to celebrate the NNCO’s – and Biden-Harris Administration’s – efforts to advance research breakthroughs on the nanoscale that impact nearly every scientific discipline and lay the foundation for emerging fields and technologies,” said newly announced National Nanotechnology Coordination Office Director Dr. Branden Brough. “As evidenced by this week’s Nobel Prize announcements highlighting work in quantum information science and click chemistry, the nanotechnology community is leveraging the Nation’s investments in research at the level of atoms and molecules to find solutions to address today’s most pressing challenges, including climate change, pandemic preparedness, and domestic microelectronics manufacturing.”
Biden-Harris Administration’s National Nanotechnology Challenge, Nano4EARTH
The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office is announcing the inaugural National Nanotechnology Challenge, Nano4EARTH. Nano4EARTH will leverage recent investments in understanding and controlling matter at the nanoscale to develop technologies and industries that address climate change. Nano4EARTH recognizes the role nanotechnology plays in: Evaluating, monitoring, and detecting climate change status and trends; Averting future greenhouse gas emissions; Removing existing greenhouse gasses; Training and educating a highly skilled workforce to harness nanotechnology solutions; and developing Higher resilience to – and mitigation of – climate change-induced pressures for improved societal/economic resilience.
The NNCO supports the National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI), a White House-led initiative that coordinates the nanotechnology R&D activities of 20 federal government agencies. Identified in the 2021 NNI Strategic Plan, National Nanotechnology Challenges are a new mechanism to mobilize and connect the NNI community so it can help to address global societal challenges.
Members of the NNI community – the scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, and government leaders developing solutions at the nanoscale – are invited to participate in Nano4EARTH! By doing so, they can support the United States’ goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 and inspire and build the STEM workforce capacity that will help develop and implement climate change mitigation and resilience solutions. Links to relevant agency programs, information about the public kick-off workshop, and a link to join a mailing list to get involved can be found on the Nano4EARTH webpage. The Nano4EARTH kick-off workshop (to be held in early 2023) will serve as an information-gathering exercise to identify key feasible outputs of the challenge and effective ways to measure success.
National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) Leadership
The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and The National Nanotechnology Coordination Office are announcing Dr. Branden Brough as the new Director of the National Nanotechnology Coordination Office (NNCO) and Dr. Quinn Spadola as its Deputy Director.
Dr. Brough joins the NNCO from the Molecular Foundry, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded nanoscale science research center that provides users from around the world with access to cutting-edge expertise and instrumentation. He will also serve as OSTP’s Assistant Director for Nanotechnology. As the Molecular Foundry’s Deputy Director, Dr. Brough was responsible for helping guide the organization’s scientific plans and initiatives, while also managing the center’s operations. Before joining the Molecular Foundry, Dr. Brough worked at the NIH’s National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, where he led strategic policy and planning activities, as well as Congressional and public outreach efforts. Dr. Brough received his Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering – focusing on the integration of synthetic motor molecules and natural self-assembling proteins into micro/nanotechnologies – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).
Dr. Spadola was the Associate Director of Education for the National Nanotechnology Coordinated Infrastructure (NNCI), a network of open nanotechnology laboratory user facilities supported by the National Science Foundation, and the Director of Education and Outreach for the Southeastern Nanotechnology Infrastructure Corridor NNCI site at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Prior to joining the Georgia Institute of Technology, Dr. Spadola was the Education and Outreach Coordinator and a Technical Advisor to the Director at NNCO. She received her Ph.D. in physics from Arizona State University and her MFA in Science and Natural History Filmmaking from Montana State University.
This new book has been published by an organization with an organizational history that started in the United Kingdom (UK). Founded in 1910, it was called the Entomological Research Committee (Tropical Africa).
(Then, tor many years, CABI was known as the Commonwealth Agricultural Bureaux, the Commonwealth Institute of Entomology, and the Commonwealth Mycological Institute before melding themselves together into to CAB, and more recently with the addition of the word international, as CABI or CAB International.)
Script’s new book aimed at helping to improve the communication of science in Africa has now been published. The book is available for free electronically and to buy in paperback in the CABI Digital Library.
‘Science Communication Skills for Journalists: A Resource Book for Universities in Africa,’ is edited and authored by Dr Charles Wendo who is himself a qualified vet and science journalist as well as Training Coordinator for SciDev.Net.
Further contributors to the book include Dr Abraham Kiprop Mulwo (Moi University, Kenya), Dr Darius Mukiza (University of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania), and Dr Aisha Sembatya Nakiwala, Dr Samuel George Okech and Dr William Tayeebwa – the latter of whom are all from Makerere University in Uganda.
Future of science journalism
In the book Dr Abraham Kiprop Mulwo, Dean of the School of Information Sciences at Moi University, Kenya, reviews the current status and future of science journalism and communication in Africa.
Dr Wendo uses his detailed knowledge and experience in the field to package engaging and informative content for journalists, students of science journalism and communication, and educators.
The book, that was recently launched at a science journalism conference at Moi University, provides hands-on advice on the practice of science journalism. It also includes learning activities and discussion questions to deepen the readers’ understanding of the topic.
With 22 chapters of engaging content, the book is divided into two parts. Part 1 lays down the theoretical foundation of science communication while Part 2 has 16 chapters of hands-on advice about science journalism.
Real life experiences
Five academic papers are also included that identify, review and synthesize available literature and experiences on science journalism and communication issues in Africa.
The book also includes a case study detailing the experience of Makerere University in introducing science journalism and communication into their undergraduate and post-graduate curricula.
This is after some of the content of the book was tried and tested by lecturers at Makerere University, Nasarawa State University in Nigeria, Moi University and University of Dar es Salaam.
Samuel Musungu Muturi, a third-year student of journalism and media studies at Moi University, said science journalism training and the book will increase the relevance of journalists.
Bridging gaps in communication
Mr Muturi said, “This book is part of a training that will enable us to claim our position as journalists who are vital in the science communication process, bridging the gap between scientists, the public, and policymakers.”
‘Science Communication Skills for Journalists: A Resource Book for Universities in Africa,’ is published as part of SciDev.Net’s Script science communication training programme.
Script was funded by the Robert Bosch Stiftung. This is a free training and networking resource. It is aimed at journalists, scientists and anyone who wants to communicate science in an engaging and accurate way. The programme was launched in 2018 to bridge the gap in science communication in sub-Saharan Africa.
Emanuel Dandaura, Professor of Development Communication and Performance Aesthetics at the Nasarawa State University, Keffi, Nigeria, said, “Part of the challenge for scientists is to communicate often complex science to journalists who then help analyse and disseminate that information to a range of stakeholders including the general public.
“This new resource will go a long way towards bridging the gap in Africa between science communication and audiences, such as policymakers, who we hope will take heed of our findings for the betterment of society.”
Accurate and ethical reporting
At the launch event, Dr Wendo, who is also SciDev.Net’s Training Coordinator, discussed a paper on reporting science in a local language. He also chaired a session on the ethical reporting of science.
Dr Wendo said, “Science Communication Skills for Journalists: A Resource Book for Universities in Africa,’ equips the reader to not only understand often complex scientific findings but also to communicate research in layman’s terms.
“The book also highlights the need to take a critical and analytical viewpoint of new scientific endeavours to ensure that reporting is accurate, fair and balanced. This is particularly important in our age of ‘fake news’ and misleading information.”
You can view the book online for free here or order a paperback version for $65 (USD?) when it’s available.
Nakkazi (2012) reports on the growth of science journalism in Africa from the early 2000s. Whereas science journalism in the Global North was experiencing a crisis during this period, with science desks shutting down and science journalists changing to other news beats, the reverse was true in Africa [emphasis mine]. Editors in African countries cited an improvement in the number of journalists reporting science stories, the quality of stories and the number of media outlets with dedicated science space. Nakkazi attributes the growth of science journalism in Africa to the activities of professional associations: for example, SjCOOP, a science journalism training and mentoring programme run by the World Federation of Science Journalists. About 100 African journalists benefited from the programme between 2006 and 2012. During the same period several new science journalism associations were formed in Africa, and scientists’ trust in journalism increased. Lugalambi et al. (2011) also reported an improvement in the trust and engagement between scientists and journalists over time, with scientists being more willing than before to share information with journalists.
This positive outlook of science journalism in Africa was confirmed by the Global Science Journalism Report (Massarani et al., 2021). According to the report, science journalists in Africa were more satisfied with their work than those in most other parts of the world, even though most of them worked as freelancers, as opposed to being staff reporters.
You’ll find the excerpt above in the chapter titled: Current Status and Future of Science Journalism and Communication in Africa by Dr Abraham Kip.
The book offer a good basic grounding on science journalism and communication in Africa. Perhaps future editions will see the addition of South Africa; that omission was surprising to me since that country is the one that pops up most often on my radar. As for data visualization and other graphic arts as they relate science communication and journalism, that’s, in all probability, another book.
The first show to arrive will be Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training And Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) in March 2023 then, Bill Nye arrives with his new show in June 2023.
Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training And Tactical Intelligence Operative Network)
H/t to Rebecca Bollwitt’s November 23, 2022 posting on her Miss604 blog for information about this upcoming show (Note: A link has been removed),
After sold out runs and millions of fans in London, New York, Seoul, Paris, Singapore, China, Las Vegas, Toronto and India, Avengers: S.T.A.T.I.O.N., an interactive experience, is on its way to thrill audiences across BC. Guests will step into the world of the Avengers, discovering intelligence and cutting-edge science inspired by the Marvel Studios’ films. After completing their training, participants only have one thing left to do: Assemble!
AVENGERS S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) is a world-class interactive experience for the whole family based on the global phenomenon, Marvel’s Avengers.
The exhibition has traveled the world with its exclusive storyline steeped in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, integrating science and modern technology with movie based props and augmented reality. [emphasis mine]
Are you ready to join S.T.A.T.I.O.N., the scientific combat support network [emphasis mine] for the Avengers?
Start as a new recruit and delve into the history, science, engineering, genetics, [emphasis mine] and profiles of your favourite Avengers, including Captain America, Iron Man, Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Black Widow, the Hulk, Thor, and more. Then, complete your training to become an integral member of the Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N.
It seems the Vancouver stop is the only Canadian one on this tour but that could change.
(1) This company’s branding has proved a bit of a challenge for me but here goes: the corporate parent is currently known as NEON or neon (located in Singapore) but it was founded as Cityneon (the name they’ve used on the Canadian Avengers website),
A Global Leader In Immersive & Epic Experiences
We specialize in unique, experiential and large scale epic experiences for fans & families. With strategically located entertainment spaces in key markets around the world, neon is uniquely positioned to bring communities together, and closer to what they love.
Founded in April 14, 1956, Cityneon was guided by the principles of excellence coupled with an unwavering commitment to deliver on our promises. Since then, we have grown from strength to strength.
In October 2022, we have repositioned ourselves as neon, a portal & platform for communities to Get CloserTM to what they love. We are committed to helping communities forge new relationships with each other and with the object of their passion, inspiring new stories to be told for decades to come.
(2) Victory Hill Exhibitions is based Las Vegas, Nevada and is a subsidiary of Cityneon (as noted on its LinkedIn profile page).
(3) Paquin Entertainment Group doesn’t seem to have corporate headquarters but they do have offices in Toronto and Winnipeg, as well as, contact email addresses for Vancouver and Nashville. (I’m guessing it’s a Canadian company since Winnipeg is not often mentioned when entertainment enterprises are discussed and there’s a dearth of US offices). Paquin Entertainment Group was last mentioned here, in passing, in a November 30, 2020 posting about the immersive “Imagine Van Gogh” exhibit then due to open.
The Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. experience looks like fun although I’m not sure how educational it will be given that all three exhibition companies seem to be almost exclusively entertainment oriented.
After returning to screens earlier this year with new series The End Is Nye, Bill Nye has announced plans to take the show on the road in 2023.
Ticketmaster listings point to the beloved Science Guy rolling through Canada on live tour “The End is Nye! An Evening with Nye the Science Guy” with four dates revealed for 2023 at present.
In March of next year , Nye will bring the show to Hamilton’s FirstOntario Concert Hall (March 28) and Toronto’s Meridian Hall (March 29), ahead of Western Canadian stops set for June at Vancouver’s Queen Elizabeth Theatre (June 20) and Calgary’s Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium (June 21).
Nye’s The End Is Nye series, which premiered with a six-episode season in August  via American streaming service Peacock, finds the scientist exploring natural and unnatural disasters with a focus on prevention, mitigation and survival.
Slingerland’s November 16, 2022 article includes a trailer for The End is Nye series, which may offer some hints about what you might see in Nye’s live show.
Daniel Chai’s November 15, 2022 news item offers a link to where you can purchase tickets, as well as, a few more details. Ticket prices start at $77CAD including all taxes and they add a $3CAD processing fee.
A May 16, 2022 news item on phys.org announces work on a new machine learning model that could be useful in the research into engineered nanoparticles for medical purposes (Note: Links have been removed),
With antibiotic-resistant infections on the rise and a continually morphing pandemic virus, it’s easy to see why researchers want to be able to design engineered nanoparticles that can shut down these infections.
A new machine learning model that predicts interactions between nanoparticles and proteins, developed at the University of Michigan, brings us a step closer to that reality.
“We have reimagined nanoparticles to be more than mere drug delivery vehicles. We consider them to be active drugs in and of themselves,” said J. Scott VanEpps, an assistant professor of emergency medicine and an author of the study in Nature Computational Science.
Discovering drugs is a slow and unpredictable process, which is why so many antibiotics are variations on a previous drug. Drug developers would like to design medicines that can attack bacteria and viruses in ways that they choose, taking advantage of the “lock-and-key” mechanisms that dominate interactions between biological molecules. But it was unclear how to transition from the abstract idea of using nanoparticles to disrupt infections to practical implementation of the concept.
“By applying mathematical methods to protein-protein interactions, we have streamlined the design of nanoparticles that mimic one of the proteins in these pairs,” said Nicholas Kotov, the Irving Langmuir Distinguished University Professor of Chemical Sciences and Engineering and corresponding author of the study.
“Nanoparticles are more stable than biomolecules and can lead to entirely new classes of antibacterial and antiviral agents.”
The new machine learning algorithm compares nanoparticles to proteins using three different ways to describe them. While the first was a conventional chemical description, the two that concerned structure turned out to be most important for making predictions about whether a nanoparticle would be a lock-and-key match with a specific protein.
Between them, these two structural descriptions captured the protein’s complex surface and how it might reconfigure itself to enable lock-and-key fits. This includes pockets that a nanoparticle could fit into, along with the size such a nanoparticle would need to be. The descriptions also included chirality, a clockwise or counterclockwise twist that is important for predicting how a protein and nanoparticle will lock in.
“There are many proteins outside and inside bacteria that we can target. We can use this model as a first screening to discover which nanoparticles will bind with which proteins,” said Emine Sumeyra Turali Emre, a postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering and co-first author of the paper, along with Minjeong Cha, a PhD student in materials science and engineering.
Emre and Cha explained that researchers could follow up on matches identified by their algorithm with more detailed simulations and experiments. One such match could stop the spread of MRSA, a common antibiotic-resistant strain, using zinc oxide nanopyramids that block metabolic enzymes in the bacteria.
“Machine learning algorithms like ours will provide a design tool for nanoparticles that can be used in many biological processes. Inhibition of the virus that causes COVID-19 is one good example,” said Cha. “We can use this algorithm to efficiently design nanoparticles that have broad-spectrum antiviral activity against all variants.”
This breakthrough was enabled by the Blue Sky Initiative at the University of Michigan College of Engineering. It provided $1.5 million to support the interdisciplinary team carrying out the fundamental exploration of whether a machine learning approach could be effective when data on the biological activity of nanoparticles is so sparse.
“The core of the Blue Sky idea is exactly what this work covers: finding a way to represent proteins and nanoparticles in a unified approach to understand and design new classes of drugs that have multiple ways of working against bacteria,” said Angela Violi, an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor, a professor of mechanical engineering and leader of the nanobiotics Blue Sky project.
Emre led the building of a database of interactions between proteins that could help to predict nanoparticle and protein interaction. Cha then identified structural descriptors that would serve equally well for nanoparticles and proteins, working with collaborators at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles to develop a machine learning algorithm that combed through the database and used the patterns it found to predict how proteins and nanoparticles would interact with one another. Finally, the team compared these predictions for lock-and-key matches with the results from experiments and detailed simulations, finding that they closely matched.
Additional collaborators on the project include Ji-Young Kim, a postdoctoral researcher in chemical engineering at U-M, who helped calculate chirality in the proteins and nanoparticles. Paul Bogdan and Xiongye Xiao, a professor and PhD student, respectively, in electrical and computer engineering at USC [University of Southern California] contributed to the graph theory descriptors. Cha then worked with them to design and train the neural network, comparing different machine learning models. All authors helped analyze the data.
Here are links to and a citation for the research briefing and paper, respectively,
Research communication attracts funders, increases opportunities formulti-institutional collaborations and multi-continent projects, and enhances scientific reputation. India lags behind other nations in actively promoting science. These are the findings of a white paper titled ‘Enriching the Indian Scientific Landscape with Research Communication’ byImpact Science, a Cactus Communications brand that specializes in science communication strategy and tactics. The comprehensive report emphasizes the importance of research communication and high-profile work in terms of publications and patents which allow the scientific community to reach out to a worldwide audience and raise awareness about Indian research. To continue this endeavor, the white paper highlights the need for sustained and increased funding from both private and public sectors.
Research has great potential in enhancing national pride, improving problem-solving capabilities, training the younger generation of scientists, and occasional commercialization. Abhishek Goel, CEO & Co-founder, CACTUS said, “Apart from the fact that it is a public good and that it is needed to inspire the next generation of scientists, the main reason for communicating science and scientific research is to obtain more funding for research. The west has been quite good at attracting philanthropic funding, whereas this remains extremely limited in India. In the west, entire departments or laboratories are funded by endowments and philanthropic money for a long time and we recommend the same for India, especially in the new age of private universities. Such funding would help attract the best of domestic and global minds, working to solve India’s and the world’s problems, from India.”
The white paper addresses the major gap between content portrayal for the academics, scientific communities, and non-scientific audience. It is crucial as limited people have the flair for understanding the language and technicalities of a research paper. Efforts should be invested in opening channels to use the science background and merge it with writing and communication skills that can be understood by the larger audience. Prof. K. VijayRaghavan, Former Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India, said, “One point which everyone agrees is that there is no point in doing science unless and until it is written up and communicated to your peers. Communication is at the heart of all our science.”
Over the years, academic institutions, governments, researchers, and those funding research projects have been concerned about the struggles faced by scientists and researchers’ way of engagement with the larger non-scientific audience. Conveying their research to this set of non-scientific audience needs to be simplified and requires an adequate skillset due to the complexity of the subject matter.
Adding to the perspective, Prof. V. Ramgopal Rao, Former Director, IIT Delhi said, “Being able to communicate your research to a wider audience is essential. There are times wherein researchers hesitate to explain their work due to technical constraints on the receiving end. Internationally, researchers have showcased perfect combinations of being excellent writers, authors, and effective communicators. The same needs to be inculcated in India. Institutes now have to identify and motivate good communicators among all their researchers and scientists. I believe merely publishing papers will not create an impact in the long run until we generate the knowledge and use that knowledge to create wealth later.”
The white paper further talks about how gradually the government and other research institutes are working toward propagating research and popularising the work through newspaper articles or even blogs and social media posts. Researchers prefer Twitter and LinkedIn over other social media platforms. Engagement on these platforms has led to successful collaborations, increased funding, and award nomination possibilities. Leading institutes and scientists are attempting to reach out to a larger audience by preparing videos on popular and current topics such as vaccines, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. They are creating material in regional languages and uploading them on the Internet which is helping them reach out to a much larger audience than before.
Founded in 2002, Cactus Communications (cactusglobal.com) is a technology company accelerating scientific advancement. CACTUS solves problems for researchers, universities, publishers, academic societies, and life science organisations through innovative products and services developed under the brands Editage, Cactus Life Sciences, Researcher.Life, Impact Science, UNSILO, Paperpal and Cactus Labs. CACTUS has offices in Princeton, London, Aarhus, Singapore, Beijing, Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, and Mumbai; a global workforce of over 3,000 experts; and customers from over 190 countries. CACTUS is considered a pioneer in its workplace best practices and has been consistently ranked a great place to work over the last several years. To find out more, visit www.cactusglobal.com
About Impact Science
Founded in 2019, Impact Science (impact.science) offers solutions for science dissemination and engagement with peers, public, and policymakers for wider research outreach. Impact Science is a brand of Cactus Communications (cactusglobal.com), a technology company accelerating scientific advancement. Few [sic] key clienteles [sic] Impact Science engages with are Kings College London, Willey, Emerald publishing, Abbott, ASCO, Royal Society of Chemistry, etc.
Before you download the white paper, you will need to give them your name, your institution, your email, etc.
This May 10, 2022 Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) announcement (received via email) has an eye-catching head,
Should Smart Cities Adopt Facial Recognition, Remote Monitoring Software+Social Media to Police [verb] Info?
The Association for Computing Machinery, the largest and most prestigious computer science society worldwide (100,000 members) has released a report, ACM TechBrief: Smart Cities, for smart city planners to address 1) cybersecurity; 2) privacy protections; 3) fairness and transparency; and 4) sustainability when planning and designing systems, including climate impact.
The Association for Computing Machinery’s global Technology Policy Council (ACM TPC) just released, “ACM TechBrief: Smart Cities,” which highlights the challenges involved in deploying information and communication technology to create smart cities and calls for policy leaders planning such projects to do so without compromising security, privacy, fairness and sustainability. The TechBrief includes a primer on smart cities, key statistics about the growth and use of these technologies, and a short list of important policy implications.
“Smart cities” are municipalities that use a network of physical devices and computer technologies to make the delivery of public services more efficient and/or more environmentally friendly. Examples of smart city applications include using sensors to turn off streetlights when no one is present, monitoring traffic patterns to reduce roadway congestion and air pollution, or keeping track of home-bound medical patients in order to dispatch emergency responders when needed. Smart cities are an outgrowth of the Internet of Things (IoT), the rapidly growing infrastructure of literally billions of physical devices embedded with sensors that are connected to computers and the Internet.
The deployment of smart city technology is growing across the world, and these technologies offer significant benefits. For example, the TechBrief notes that “investing in smart cities could contribute significantly to achieving greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets,” and that “smart cities use digital innovation to make urban service delivery more efficient.”
Because of the meteoric growth and clear benefits of smart city technologies, the TechBrief notes that now is an urgent time to address some of the important public policy concerns that smart city technologies raise. The TechBrief lists four key policy implications that government officials, as well as the private companies that develop these technologies, should consider.
Cybersecurity risks must be considered at every stage of every smart city technology’s life cycle.
Effective privacy protection mechanisms must be an essential component of any smart city technology deployed.
Such mechanisms should be transparently fair to all city users, not just residents.
The climate impact of smart city infrastructures must be fully understood as they are being designed and regularly assessed after they are deployed
“Smart cities are fast becoming a reality around the world,”explains Chris Hankin, a Professor at Imperial College London and lead author of the ACM TechBrief on Smart Cities. “By 2025, 26% of all internet-connected devices will be used in a smart city application. As technologists, we feel we have a responsibility to raise important questions to ensure that these technologies best serve the public interest. For example, many people are unaware that some smart city technologies involve the collection of personally identifiable data. We developed this TechBrief to familiarize the public and lawmakers with this topic and present some key issues for consideration. Our overarching goal is to guide enlightened public policy in this area.”
“Our new TechBrief series builds on earlier and ongoing work by ACM’s technology policy committees,” added James Hendler, Professor at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Chair of the ACM Technology Policy Council. “Because many smart city applications involve algorithms making decisions which impact people directly, this TechBrief calls for methods to ensure fairness and transparency in how these systems are developed. This reinforces an earlier statement we issued that outlined seven principles for algorithmic transparency and accountability. We also note that smart city infrastructures are especially vulnerable to malicious attacks.”
This TechBrief is the third in a series of short technical bulletins by ACM TPC that present scientifically grounded perspectives on the impact of specific developments or applications of technology. Designed to complement ACM’s activities in the policy arena, TechBriefs aim to inform policymakers, the public, and others about the nature and implications of information technologies. The first ACM TechBrief focused on climate change, while the second addressed facial recognition. Topics under consideration for future issues include quantum computing, election security, and encryption.
About the ACM Technology Policy Council
ACM’s global Technology Policy Council sets the agenda for ACM’s global policy activities and serves as the central convening point for ACM’s interactions with government organizations, the computing community, and the public in all matters of public policy related to computing and information technology. The Council’s members are drawn from ACM’s global membership. It coordinates the activities of ACM’s regional technology policy groups and sets the agenda for global initiatives to address evolving technology policy issues.
ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, is the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, uniting educators, researchers and professionals to inspire dialogue, share resources and address the field’s challenges. ACM strengthens the computing profession’s collective voice through strong leadership, promotion of the highest standards, and recognition of technical excellence. ACM supports the professional growth of its members by providing opportunities for life-long learning, career development, and professional networking.
This is indeed a brief. I recommend reading it as it provides a very good overview to the topic of ‘smart cities’ and raises a question or two. For example, there’s this passage from the April 2022 Issue 3 Technical Brief on p. 2,
… policy makers should target broad and fair access and application of AI and, in general, ICT [information and communication technologies]. This can be achieved through transparent planning and decision-making processes for smart city infrastructure and application developments, such as open hearings, focus groups, and advisory panels. The goal must be to minimize potential harm while maximizing the benefits that algorithmic decision-making [emphasis mine] can bring
Is this algorithmic decision-making under human supervision? It doesn’t seem to be specified in the brief itself. It’s possible the answer lies elsewhere. After all, this is the third in the series.
In a new study published in Science Advances, a team led by graduate student Peter Dahl with Nikhil Malvankar, Assistant Professor of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry in the Microbial Sciences Institute, and Victor Batista, Professor of Chemistry, found that nanowires move 10 billion electrons per second without any energy loss. These studies explain the remarkable capacity of these bacteria to send electrons over long distances. The team also found that cooling the environment around the nanowires of Geobacter from room temperature to freezing increases conductivity 300-fold. This is very surprising because cooling typically freezes electrons and slows them down in organic materials. By combining experiments with theory, the researchers found that the colder temperatures restructure hydrogen bonds and flatten heme proteins within nanowires, thus enhancing the flow of electricity. Leveraging this naturally occurring electrical grid might one day lead to the development of living and self-repairing electrical circuits, new sources of electricity and bioremediation strategies.
It’s been quite a while since I’ve stumbled across a study about public perceptions of nanotechnology. This study is focused on public perceptions as seen on Twitter (before the Elon Musk acquisition completed on October 27, 2022). From a May 9, 2022 article by Kristy McRoberts for Chemistry World,
Scientists should be aware of the impact social media could have on their work. A new study shows that to reduce the chance of disruption due to legislative, regulatory or funding changes linked to public opinion, it is important to include social media when considering risk.
Finbarr Murphy, from the University of Limerick in Ireland, and colleagues performed a sentiment analysis of tweets between 2006 and 2020 relating to three areas of nanoscience – silver, carbon and titanium – to examine the public perception of nanotechnology. They found that overall public perception is slightly positive. But whilst positive events have little to no impact on tweet volume or perception, adverse events caused an increase in the volume of tweets presenting a negative opinion.
If an event is perceived badly enough to generate a twitterstorm, this decrease in public confidence could have far reaching impacts, with legislation, research funding and insurance coverage all susceptible to public opinion. As many research grants are through public funds, a large negative shift in public opinion towards nanotechnology could result in a decrease in funding available for research in that area.
Murphy says that ‘insurers are potentially the weak link [emphasis mine] of the scientific community’ and if insurers are impacted by a change in public opinion ‘they might begin to either exclude nanotechnology from their premiums or withdraw’.
Finbarr Murphy was last mentioned here in a December 17, 2014 posting titled: “Insurance companies, the future, and perceptions about nanotechnology risks.”
Here’s a link to and a citation for Murphy’s latest research,