Water molecules are made up of water clusters!?! and Academic Pride

Kudos to Michael Berger at Nanowerk News for picking up on a very funny (and sad) piece of copywriting. It’s advertising for a nutritional supplement which makes use of nanotechnology (supposedly). According to the copywriter, water molecules are made up of water clusters which adhere to a particle in the middle. It’s funny because it’s so wrong (and if you read the article here, because of Berger’s colour commentary). It’s sad because I suspect there’s a fairly sizable portion of the population that doesn’t realize how very wrong the science is.

There’s an interesting interview with Jim Flaherty, [Canada] Minister of Finance in MacLean’s Magazine here. (Thanks Rob Annan, Researcher Forum, Don’t Leave Canada Behind). Here’s a quote that Annan singled out from the article,

Q. If Canada’s fiscal fundamentals are strong, these are still unsettling times. For instance, R  &  D by Canadian companies is perennially weak. And now the future of two of the very biggest research spenders, Nortel and AECL, are in doubt. Should we be worried about our innovative capacity shrinking?

A. As a government we are among the largest funders of R & D in the world. We’re low on the private-sector side, which has been a persistent concern. One of the things I’ve talked about with my Economic Advisory Council, which is important to me, is that in the IT sector we have a tremendous success. We have more than half a million people working in that sector and it has not gone into recession. It’s a tremendous source of research and development innovation. In the financial services sector we have sources of innovation. [this is not the full text for the answer, you can see the full text in Annan’s posting [and his take on the interview] or in the interview itself).

What I find puzzling in the answer is Flaherty’s claim that that the Canadian government is one of the largest funders of R&D spending in the world. (Unfortunately, Flaherty does not cite sources to support his claim.) According to Peter McKnight’s article, which I mentioned yesterday in another context,

…  Statistics Canada has estimated that federal funding for research and development will decline three per cent in 2008/2009 — a troubling prediction given that R & D funding as a percentage of gross domestic product decreased to 1.88 in 2007 from 2.08 in 2004.

Given that Canadian business has been historically weak in terms of its R & D spending, it seems to me that the big drop in R&D spending must be largely the consequence of decreased funding by the government.  By the way, I’d be interested to know if Obama’s declaration that science funding would grow to 3% of US gross domestic production includes business investment or only includes government funding. If someone knows offhand, please do let me know. Otherwise, I will try and track it down.

Meanwhile, there was a demonstration in France yesterday (Academic Pride, June 4, 2009) about the research situation there and in Europe generally. It was marked as a failure because only 800 researchers showed up. (By Canadian standards, that would be a success.) Rob Annan has a pre-event writeup here, but it’s in French so the event is referred to as, La Marche de tous les Savoirs. My French is rusty so I can’t offer a translation with any confidence but I can say that the situation in Europe cetainly bears some resemblance to the situation in Canada.

I found something amusing (to me) in Science Daily about soap sniffing. Apparently some doctors have created a device that can sniff hospital workers hands and determine if they’ve been washed recently. My favourite bits,

Call it a Breathalyzer for the hands. Using sensors capable of detecting drugs in breath, new technology developed at University of Florida monitors health-care workers’ hand hygiene by detecting sanitizer or soap fumes given off from their hands.

“This isn’t big brother, this is just another tool,” said Richard J. Melker, M.D., Ph.D., a UF College of Medicine anesthesiology professor who developed the technology along with professors Donn Dennis, M.D., and Nikolaus Gravenstein, M.D., of the anesthesiology department, and Christopher Batich, Ph.D., a materials science professor in the College of Engineering. [emphasis mine]

There’s more here.

Finally, poet Heather Haley is hosting a poetry event, June 9, 2009 at her home in Bowen Island.

VISITING POETS on Bowen Island Reading/Salon<!– blockquote, dl, ul, ol, li { padding-top: 0 ; padding-bottom: 0 } –>

POETRY READING/SALON with visiting poets Allan Briesmaster and Clara Blackwood

Please join us for a lovely evening of stellar verse with father and daughter poets Allan Briesmaster and Clara Blackwood from Ontario.

7:30 pm
Tuesday, June 9
At the home of Josef Roehrl and Heather Haley
Bowen Island, BC
Information: 778 861-4050

Allan Briesmaster is a freelance editor and publisher, and the author of ten
books of poetry, including Interstellar (Quattro Books, 2007). He was
centrally involved in the weekly Art Bar Poetry Reading Series in Toronto
from 1991 until 2002. As an editor Allan has been instrumental in producing
more than 70 books of poetry and non-fiction since 1998. Last year he
co-edited the 256-page anthology Crossing Lines: Poets Who Came to Canada in
the Vietnam War Era for Seraphim Editions. Allan lives in Thornhill, Ontario
with his wife Holly, a visual artist with whom he has collaborated several

Clara Blackwood

Born and raised in Toronto, Clara Blackwood has been writing poetry for 15 years. Her first poetry collection, Subway Medusa (2007), is the inaugural book in Guernica Editions¹ First Poets Series, which showcases first books by poets thirty-five and under. From 1998 to 2004, Clara ran the monthly Syntactic Sunday Reading Series at the Free Times Café in Toronto. Her poetry has appeared in such magazines as the Hart House Review, Misunderstandings Magazine, Surface & Symbol and Carousel.

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