U.K. and Australian ecologists have used audio technology to record different types of sounds in the soils of a degraded and restored forest to indicate the health of ecosystems.
Non-invasive acoustic monitoring has great potential for scientists to gather long-term information on species and their abundance, says Flinders University [Australia] researcher Dr. Jake Robinson, who conducted the study while at the University of Sheffield in England.
“Eco-acoustics can measure the health lf landscapes affected by farming, mining and deforestation but can also monitor their recovery following revegetation,” he says.
“From earthworms and plant roots to shifting soils and other underground activity, these subtle sounds were stronger and more diverse in healthy soils – once background noise was blocked out.”
The subterranean study used special microphones to collect almost 200 sound samples, each about three minutes long, from soil samples collected in restored and cleared forests in South Yorkshire, England.
“Like underwater and above-ground acoustic monitoring, below-ground biodiversity monitoring using eco-acoustics has great potential,” says Flinders University co-author, Associate Professor Martin Breed.
Since joining Flinders University, Dr Robinson has released his first book, entitled Invisible Friends (DOI: 10.53061/NZYJ2969) [emphasis mine], which covers his core research into ‘how microbes in the environment shape our lives and the world around us’.
Now a researcher in restoration genomics at the College of Science and Engineering at Flinders University, the new book examines the powerful role invisible microbes play in ecology, immunology, psychology, forensics and even architecture.
“Instead of considering microbes the bane of our life, as we have done during the global pandemic, we should appreciate the many benefits they bring in keeping plants animals, and ourselves, alive.”
In another new article, Dr Robinson and colleagues call for a return to ‘nature play’ for children [emphasis mine] to expose their developing immune systems to a diverse array of microbes at a young age for better long-term health outcomes.
“Early childhood settings should optimise both outdoor and indoor environments for enhanced exposure to diverse microbiomes for social, cognitive and physiological health,” the researchers say.
“It’s important to remember that healthy soils feed the air with these diverse microbes,” Dr Robinson adds.
It seems Robinson has gone on a publicity blitz, academic style, for his book. There’s a May 22, 2023 essay by Robinson, Carlos Abrahams (Senior Lecturer in Environmental Biology – Director of Bioacoustics, Nottingham Trent University); and Martin Breed (Associate Professor in Biology, Flinders University) on the Conversation, Note: A link has been removed,
Nurturing a forest ecosystem back to life after it’s been logged is not always easy.
It can take a lot of hard work and careful monitoring to ensure biodiversity thrives again. But monitoring biodiversity can be costly, intrusive and resource-intensive. That’s where ecological acoustic survey methods, or “ecoacoustics”, come into play.
Indeed, the planet sings. Think of birds calling, bats echolocating, tree leaves fluttering in the breeze, frogs croaking and bush crickets stridulating. We live in a euphonious theatre of life.
Even the creatures in the soil beneath our feet emit unique vibrations as they navigate through the earth to commute, hunt, feed and mate.
Robinson has published three papers within five months of each other, in addition to the book, which seems like heavy output to me.
First, here’s a link to and a citation for the education paper,
It’s a little late since this work was presented at the American Chemical Society’s (ACS) Spring 2023 meeting but it’s a fascinating approach to the periodic table of elements that features a longstanding interest of mine, data sonification.
A March 26, 2023 news item on phys.org announces the then upcoming presentation abut a musical version of the periodic table of elements,
In chemistry, we have He [helium], Fe [iron] and Ca [calcium]—but what about do, re and mi? Hauntingly beautiful melodies aren’t the first things that come to mind when looking at the periodic table of the elements. However, using a technique called data sonification, a recent college graduate has converted the visible light given off by the elements into audio, creating unique, complex sounds for each one. Today [March 26, 2023], the researcher reports the first step toward an interactive, musical periodic table.
The researcher will present his results at the spring meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS Spring 2023 is a hybrid meeting being held virtually and in-person March 26–30 , and features more than 10,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.
Previously, W. Walker Smith, the project’s sole investigator, took his combined passions of music and chemistry and converted the natural vibrations of molecules into a musical composition. “Then I saw visual representations of the discrete wavelengths of light released by the elements, such as scandium,” says Smith. “They were gorgeous and complex, and I thought, ‘Wow, I really want to turn these into music, too.’”
Elements emit visible light when they are energized. This light is made up of multiple individual wavelengths, or particular colors, with brightness levels that are unique for each element. But on paper, the collections of wavelengths for different elements are hard to tell apart visually, especially for the transition metals, which can have thousands of individual colors, says Smith. Converting the light into sound frequencies could be another way for people to detect the differences between elements.
However, creating sounds for the elements on the periodic table has been done before. For instance, other scientists have assigned the brightest wavelengths to single notes played by the keys on a traditional piano. But this approach reduced the rich variety of wavelengths released by some elements into just a few sounds, explains Smith, who is currently a researcher at Indiana University.
To retain as much of the complexity and nuance of the element spectra as possible, Smith consulted faculty mentors at Indiana University, including David Clemmer, Ph.D., a professor in the chemistry department, and Chi Wang, D.M.A., a professor in the Jacobs School of Music. With their assistance, Smith built a computer code for real-time audio that converted each element’s light data into mixtures of notes. The discrete color wavelengths became individual sine waves whose frequency corresponded to that of the light, and their amplitude matched the brightness of the light.
Early in the research process, Clemmer and Smith discussed the pattern similarities between light and sound vibrations. For instance, within the colors of visible light, violet has almost double the frequency of red, and in music, one doubling of frequency corresponds to an octave. Therefore, visible light can be thought of as an “octave of light.” But this octave of light is at a much higher frequency than the audible range. So, Smith scaled the sine waves’ frequencies down by approximately 10-12, fitting the audio output into a range where human ears are most sensitive to differences in pitch.
Because some elements had hundreds or thousands of frequencies, the code allowed these notes to be generated in real time, forming harmonies and beating patterns as they mixed together. “The result is that the simpler elements, such as hydrogen and helium, sound vaguely like musical chords, but the rest have a more complex collection of sounds,” says Smith. For example, calcium sounds like bells chiming together with a rhythm resulting from how the frequencies interact with each other. Listening to the notes from some other elements reminded Smith of a spooky background noise, similar to music used in cheesy horror movies. He was especially surprised by the element zinc, which despite having a large number of colors, sounded like “an angelic choir singing a major chord with vibrato.”
“Some of the notes sound out of tune, but Smith has kept true to that in this translation of the elements into music,” says Clemmer. These off-key tones — known musically as microtones — come from frequencies that are found between the keys of a traditional piano. Agreeing, Wang says, “The decisions as to what’s vital to preserve when doing data sonification are both challenging and rewarding. And Smith did a great job making such decisions from a musical standpoint.”
The next step is to turn this technology into a new musical instrument with an exhibit at the WonderLab Museum of Science, Health, and Technology in Bloomington, Indiana. “I want to create an interactive, real-time musical periodic table, which allows both children and adults to select an element and see a display of its visible light spectrum and hear it at the same time,” says Smith. He adds that this sound-based approach has potential value as an alternative teaching method in chemistry classrooms, because it’s inclusive to people with visual impairments and different learning styles.
Smith acknowledges support and funding from Indiana University’s Department of Chemistry, Center for Electronic and Computer Music, and Center for Rural Engagement; an Indiana University Undergraduate Research grant; the 2022 Annual Project Jumpstart Innovation Competition; and the Indiana University Hutton Honors College Grant Program.
A recorded media briefing on this topic will be posted Monday, March 27 , by 10 a.m. Eastern time at www.acs.org/acsspring2023briefings. Reporters can request access to media briefings during the embargo period by contacting email@example.com. [The ACS 2023 Spring Meeting media briefings are freely available as of June 12, 2023. The “What do the elements sound like? Media Briefing” runs approximately 11 mins.]
If you keep going past the news release, you’ll find this presentation abstract,
Title Designing an interactive musical periodic table: sonification of visible element emission spectra
Abstract What does the element helium sound like? What about hydrogen? While these may seem like absurd questions, the process of data sonification can be used to convert the visible spectra of chemical elements into sounds. When stimulated by electricity or heat, elements release distinct wavelengths of light depending on their electron energy levels—a sort of “chemical footprint” unique to every element. These frequencies of light, which we perceive as different colors, can be scaled into the audio range to yield different sonic frequencies, allowing one to hear the different sounds of chemical elements. This research project involved the construction of an interactive musical periodic table, combining musical and visual representations of elemental spectra from high-resolution spectral datasets.
The interactive periodic table was designed using Max/MSP, a programming language that uses digital signal processing (DSP) algorithms to generate real-time audio and visual outputs. This allows all spectral lines of an element to be played simultaneously (as a “chord”) or for individual lines to be played in succession (as a “melody”). This highly interdisciplinary project has applications spanning data analysis, STEAM (STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] + Arts) education, and public science outreach. Sonification of scientific data provides alternative methods of analysis that can expand access of such data to blind and visually impaired people. Sonification can even enhance data analysis via traditional data visualization by providing a supplementary layer of auditory information, and sonification-based learning models have been shown to improve student engagement and understanding of scientific concepts like protein folding.
This program is currently being implemented in several middle and high school music and science classes, as well as a public music/science show titled “The Sound of Molecules” at WonderLab Museum of Science. Future work will focus on designing a free and open-source version of the program that does not require specialized DSP software.
I’m sorry to be late. Thankfully this show extends into July 2023, so, there’s still plenty of time to get to Chicago’s The Block Museum of Art (at Northwestern University) art/science exhibition. I found this on the museum’s exhibition page for “The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto” show,
What do we owe to the memories of one another’s hearts?
For American artist Dario Robleto (b. 1972), artists and scientists share a common aspiration: to increase the sensitivity of their observations. Throughout the history of scientific invention, instruments like the cardiograph and the telescope have extended the reach of perception from the tiniest stirrings of the human body to the farthest reaches of space. In his prints, sculptures, and video and sound installations, Robleto contemplates the emotional significance of these technologies, bringing us closer to the latent traces of life buried in the scientific record.
The Heart’s Knowledge concentrates on the most recent decade of Robleto’s creative practice, a period of deepening engagement with histories of medicine, biomedical engineering, sound recording, and space exploration. The exhibition organizes the artist’s conceptually ambitious, elegantly wrought artworks as a series of multisensory encounters between art and science. Each work seeks to attune viewers to the material traces of life at scales ranging from the intimate to the universal, returning always to the question: Does empathy extend beyond the boundaries of time and space?
Here’s more from a January 27, 2023 Northwestern University news release (received via email),
Exhibition searches for meaning at the limits of science and perception
“The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto” is on view Jan. 27 to July 9  at The Block Museum of Art
Works are informed by dialogue with Northwestern Engineering researchers during five-year residency
Exhibition a tribute to NASA Golden Record creator, ‘whose heart has left the solar system’
Opening conversation with the artist will take place at 2 p.m. on [Saturday] Feb. 4 
American artist Dario Robleto (b. 1972) believes artists and scientists share a common aspiration: to increase the sensitivity of their observations.
From understanding the human body’s pulses and brainwaves to viewing the faintest glimmers of light from the edge of the observable universe, groundbreaking science pushes the limits of perception. Similarly, the perceptive work of artists can extend the boundaries of empathy and understanding.
Since 2018, Robleto served as an artist-at-large at the McCormick School of Engineering. This unique partnership between The Block Museum and McCormick gave the artist an open “hall pass” to learn from, collaborate with and question scientists, engineers and experts from across the University.
A free opening conversation with the artist will take place at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 4 , in Norris University Center’s McCormick Auditorium, 1999 Campus Drive in Evanston.
About the Exhibition: “The Heart’s Knowledge”
Throughout the history of scientific invention, instruments like the cardiograph and the telescope have extended the reach of perception from the tiniest stirrings of the human body to the farthest reaches of space.
Robleto’s prints, sculptures and video and sound installations contemplate the emotional significance of these technologies, bringing viewers closer to the latent traces of life buried in the scientific record.
“The Heart’s Knowledge” represents a decade of Robleto’s creative practice, from 2012 to 2022, a period marked by a deepening engagement with science, including astronomy, synthetic biology and exobiology, and a widening embrace of new materials and creative forms, from 3D-printed objects to film.
Robleto dedicates the exhibition to Ann Druyan, the creative director of NASA’s Golden Record for the Voyager 1 and 2 projects. The record includes Druyan’s brainwaves and heartbeats, recorded as she reflected on her secret love for famed astronomer and future husband Carl Sagan. The act of sneaking “love on board the Voyager” inspired Robleto to compose a love letter to the only human whose “heart has left the solar system.”
Robleto sees Druyan’s act to include her emotions on the record as the central inspiration of his work. “I consider it the greatest work of subversive, avant-garde art not yet given its due,” Robleto said. “The Golden Record and Ann’s radical act brought us all together to think about what it means to be human — to one another and to unknown beings on other worlds.”
The exhibition organizes the artist’s conceptually ambitious, elegantly wrought artworks as a series of multisensory encounters between art and science. Each asks viewers to seek out the material traces of life in scales ranging from the intimate to the universal, and to question: Does empathy extend beyond the boundaries of time and space?
“Whether he’s addressing the most minute phenomena of the body or the horizons of the known universe, Robleto binds the rigor of scientific inquiry with artistic expression,” said exhibition curator Michael Metzger, The Block’s Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts.
“Straining at the bounds of observation, Robleto discovers unity at the limits; the common endeavor of art and science to achieve a form of knowledge that language alone cannot speak,” Metzger said.
The exhibition includes three sections:
“Heartbeats“ Rooted in the artist’s longstanding fascination with the clinical and cultural history of the human heart, “Heartbeats” draws inspiration from 19th-century pioneers of cardiography, whose instruments graphically measured heart activity for the first time, leaving behind poignant records of human subjectivity. In “The First Time, the Heart (A Portrait of Life 1854-1913)” (2017), Robleto transforms early measurements of heartbeats into photolithographs executed on paper hand-sooted with candle flames. For the installation “The Pulse Armed with a Pen (An Unknown History of the Human Heartbeat)” (2014), Robleto collaborated with sound historian Patrick Feaster to digitally resurrect these heartbeats in audio form, giving visitors access to intimate pulses of life recorded before the invention of sound playback.
“Wavelengths“ Robleto has recently embraced digital video to create works that narrate transformational episodes in the recording and study of wave phenomena. “Wavelengths” comprises two hour-long immersive video installations. “The Boundary of Life is Quietly Crossed” (2019) is inspired by NASA’s Voyager Golden Record, a gold-plated phonographic disc launched into space onboard the Voyager I and II space probes in 1977. In “The Aorta of an Archivist” (2020-2021), Robleto investigates three breakthroughs in the history of recording: the first recording of a choral performance made with an Edison wax cylinder, the first heartbeat captured while listening to music and the first effort to transcribe the brain wave activity of a dreaming subject.
“Horizons“ In the final section, “Horizons,” Robleto evokes the spirit of the Hubble telescope and the search for extraterrestrial life, gazing out at the boundaries of the observable universe. Inspired by his time as an artist-in-residence at the SETI Institute (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) and as artistic consultant to the Breakthrough Initiatives, his intricate sculptures, such as “Small Crafts on Sisyphean Seas” (2018), give shape to the speculative search for intelligent life in the universe. Other works like “The Computer of Jupiter” (2019) are framed as “gifts for extraterrestrials” offering an alternative view of the best way to begin a dialogue with alien intelligences.
The Artist-at-Large Program at Northwestern
Lisa Corrin, the Ellen Philips Katz Executive Director of The Block Museum of Art, and Julio M. Ottino, dean of McCormick School of Engineering, envisioned the possibilities of this unconventional partnership between scientist and artist when they launched the artist-at-large initiative together. The work is part of an ongoing Art + Engineering initiative and a part of the whole-brain engineering philosophy at Northwestern Engineering.
“Here, a university’s school of engineering and its art museum come together in the shared belief that transformative innovation can happen at the intersections of usually distinct academic disciplines and modes of creativity and inquiry,” Corrin said. “We had faith that something meaningful would emerge organically if we merely provided structures in which informal interactions might take place.”
“We wanted to model for young engineers the value of embracing uncertainty as part of the journey that leads to innovation and opens pathways within the imagination — as artists do,” Ottino said. “We are grateful to Dario Robleto for accepting our invitation to come to Northwestern and to enter the unknown with us. He has taught us that our shared future resides in our capacity for compassion and for empathy, the ethos at the heart of his work that holds the most promise for those at the forefront of science in the interest of humankind.”
“The Heart’s Knowledge” will include six months of events and dialogues that will illuminate the intersections in Robleto’s practice. All events are free and open to the public. For current program information, visit The Block Museum website.
Program highlights for February and March include:
The Block Museum hosts a discussion that reaches across boundaries to examine the shared pursuit that binds artists and scientists. The conversation features artist Dario Robleto; Jennifer Roberts, professor of the humanities at Harvard University; Lucianne Walkowicz, astronomer and co-founder of the JustSpace Alliance; and Michael Metzger, Pick-Laudati Curator of Media Arts and curator of “The Heart’s Knowledge.”
Joining artist Dario Robleto in conversation are Elizabeth Kessler, exhibition publication contributor and a lecturer in American Studies at Stanford University, and Shane Larson, research professor of physics and astronomy and associate director of CIERA (Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics) at Northwestern.
Ann Druyan, creative director for NASA’s Voyager Interstellar Messaging Project and writer and producer of the PBS television series “Cosmos,” joins Robleto and art historian Jennifer Roberts for a conversation about the Golden Record and the heart’s memory.
The publication is edited by Michael Metzger with contributions by Metzger, Robert M. Brain, Daniel K. L. Chua, Patrick Feaster, Stefan Helmreich, Elizabeth A. Kessler ,Julius B. Lucks, Elizabeth Kathleen Mitchell, Alexander Rehding, Jennifer L. Roberts, Claire Isabel Webb and Dario Robleto.
About Dario Robleto
Dario Robleto was born in San Antonio, Texas, in 1972 and received his BFA from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 1997. He lives and works in Houston, Texas. The artist has had numerous solo exhibitions since 1997, most recently at the Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, Kansas (2021); the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University (2019); the McNay Museum, San Antonio, Texas (2018); Menil Collection, Houston, Texas (2014); the Baltimore Museum of Art (2014); the New Orleans Museum of Art (2012); and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver (2011).
He is currently working on his first book, “Life Signs: The Tender Science of the Pulsewave,” co-authored with art historian Jennifer Roberts, the Elizabeth Cary Agassiz Professor of the Humanities at Harvard (University of Chicago Press).
“The Heart’s Knowledge: Science and Empathy in the Art of Dario Robleto” exhibition is made possible through a partnership with the Robert R. McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science at Northwestern University. Major support also was provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is contributed by the Dorothy J. Speidel Fund; the Bernstein Family Contemporary Art Fund; the Barry and Mary Ann MacLean Fund for Art and Engineering; the Illinois Arts Council Agency; and the Alumnae of Northwestern University. The exhibition publication is made possible in part by the Sandra L. Riggs Publications Fund.
Should you be in the Chicago area and interested in the exhibit, you can find all the information for your visit here.
I look forward to 2023 and hope it will be as stimulating as 2022 proved to be. Here’s an overview of the year that was on this blog:
Sounds of science
It seems 2022 was the year that science discovered the importance of sound and the possibilities of data sonification. Neither is new but this year seemed to signal a surge of interest or maybe I just happened to stumble onto more of the stories than usual.
This is not an exhaustive list, you can check out my ‘Music’ category for more here. I have tried to include audio files with the postings but it all depends on how accessible the researchers have made them.
Aliens on earth: machinic biology and/or biological machinery?
When I first started following stories in 2008 (?) about technology or machinery being integrated with the human body, it was mostly about assistive technologies such as neuroprosthetics. You’ll find most of this year’s material in the ‘Human Enhancement’ category or you can search the tag ‘machine/flesh’.
However, the line between biology and machine became a bit more blurry for me this year. You can see what’s happening in the titles listed below (you may recognize the zenobot story; there was an earlier version of xenobots featured here in 2021):
US National Academies Sept. 22-23, 2022 workshop on techno, legal & ethical issues of brain-machine interfaces (BMIs) September 21, 2022 posting
I hope the US National Academies issues a report on their “Brain-Machine and Related Neural Interface Technologies: Scientific, Technical, Ethical, and Regulatory Issues – A Workshop” for 2023.
Meanwhile the race to create brainlike computers continues and I have a number of posts which can be found under the category of ‘neuromorphic engineering’ or you can use these search terms ‘brainlike computing’ and ‘memristors’.
On the artificial intelligence (AI) side of things, I finally broke down and added an ‘artificial intelligence (AI) category to this blog sometime between May and August 2021. Previously, I had used the ‘robots’ category as a catchall. There are other stories but these ones feature public engagement and policy (btw, it’s a Canadian Science Policy Centre event), respectively,
“How AI-designed fiction reading lists and self-publishing help nurture far-right and neo-Nazi novelists” December 6, 2022 posting
While there have been issues over AI, the arts, and creativity previously, this year they sprang into high relief. The list starts with my two-part review of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s AI show; I share most of my concerns in part two. The third post covers intellectual property issues (mostly visual arts but literary arts get a nod too). The fourth post upends the discussion,
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (1 of 2): The Objects” July 28, 2022 posting
“Mad, bad, and dangerous to know? Artificial Intelligence at the Vancouver (Canada) Art Gallery (2 of 2): Meditations” July 28, 2022 posting
“AI (artificial intelligence) and art ethics: a debate + a Botto (AI artist) October 2022 exhibition in the Uk” October 24, 2022 posting
Should AI algorithms get patents for their inventions and is anyone talking about copyright for texts written by AI algorithms? August 30, 2022 posting
Interestingly, most of the concerns seem to be coming from the visual and literary arts communities; I haven’t come across major concerns from the music community. (The curious can check out Vancouver’s Metacreation Lab for Artificial Intelligence [located on a Simon Fraser University campus]. I haven’t seen any cautionary or warning essays there; it’s run by an AI and creativity enthusiast [professor Philippe Pasquier]. The dominant but not sole focus is art, i.e., music and AI.)
There is a ‘new kid on the block’ which has been attracting a lot of attention this month. If you’re curious about the latest and greatest AI anxiety,
Peter Csathy’s December 21, 2022 Yahoo News article (originally published in The WRAP) makes this proclamation in the headline “Chat GPT Proves That AI Could Be a Major Threat to Hollywood Creatives – and Not Just Below the Line | PRO Insight”
Mouhamad Rachini’s December 15, 2022 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) online news overs a more generalized overview of the ‘new kid’ along with an embedded CBC Radio file which runs approximately 19 mins. 30 secs. It’s titled “ChatGPT a ‘landmark event’ for AI, but what does it mean for the future of human labour and disinformation?” The chat bot’s developer, OpenAI, has been mentioned here many times including the previously listed July 28, 2022 posting (part two of the VAG review) and the October 24, 2022 posting.
Opposite world (quantum physics in Canada)
Quantum computing made more of an impact here (my blog) than usual. it started in 2021 with the announcement of a National Quantum Strategy in the Canadian federal government budget for that year and gained some momentum in 2022:
“Quantum Mechanics & Gravity conference (August 15 – 19, 2022) launches Vancouver (Canada)-based Quantum Gravity Institute and more” July 26, 2022 posting Note: This turned into one of my ‘in depth’ pieces where I comment on the ‘Canadian quantum scene’ and highlight the appointment of an expert panel for the Council of Canada Academies’ report on Quantum Technologies.
“Bank of Canada and Multiverse Computing model complex networks & cryptocurrencies with quantum computing” July 25, 2022 posting
There’s a Vancouver area company, General Fusion, highlighted in both postings and the October posting includes an embedded video of Canadian-born rapper Baba Brinkman’s “You Must LENR” [L ow E nergy N uclear R eactions or sometimes L attice E nabled N anoscale R eactions or Cold Fusion or CANR (C hemically A ssisted N uclear R eactions)].
BTW, fusion energy can generate temperatures up to 150 million degrees Celsius.
Ukraine, science, war, and unintended consequences
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has reverberated through Europe and spread to other countries that have long been dependent on the region for natural gas. But while oil-producing countries and gas lobbyists are arguing for more drilling, global energy investments reflect a quickening transition to cleaner energy. [emphasis mine]
Call it the Putin effect – Russia’s war is speeding up the global shift away from fossil fuels.
In December [2022?], the International Energy Agency [IEA] published two important reports that point to the future of renewable energy.
First, the IEA revised its projection of renewable energy growth upward by 30%. It now expects the world to install as much solar and wind power in the next five years as it installed in the past 50 years.
The second report showed that energy use is becoming more efficient globally, with efficiency increasing by about 2% per year. As energy analyst Kingsmill Bond at the energy research group RMI noted, the two reports together suggest that fossil fuel demand may have peaked. While some low-income countries have been eager for deals to tap their fossil fuel resources, the IEA warns that new fossil fuel production risks becoming stranded, or uneconomic, in the next 20 years.
Kyte’s essay is not all ‘sweetness and light’ but it does provide a little optimism.
Kudos, nanotechnology, culture (pop & otherwise), fun, and a farewell in 2022
Sometimes I like to know where the money comes from and I was delighted to learn of the Ărramăt Project funded through the federal government’s New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF). Here’s more about the Ărramăt Project from the February 14, 2022 posting,
“The Ărramăt Project is about respecting the inherent dignity and interconnectedness of peoples and Mother Earth, life and livelihood, identity and expression, biodiversity and sustainability, and stewardship and well-being. Arramăt is a word from the Tamasheq language spoken by the Tuareg people of the Sahel and Sahara regions which reflects this holistic worldview.” (Mariam Wallet Aboubakrine)
Over 150 Indigenous organizations, universities, and other partners will work together to highlight the complex problems of biodiversity loss and its implications for health and well-being. The project Team will take a broad approach and be inclusive of many different worldviews and methods for research (i.e., intersectionality, interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary). Activities will occur in 70 different kinds of ecosystems that are also spiritually, culturally, and economically important to Indigenous Peoples.
The project is led by Indigenous scholars and activists …
Kudos to the federal government and all those involved in the Salmon science camps, the Ărramăt Project, and other NFRF projects.
There are many other nanotechnology posts here but this appeals to my need for something lighter at this point,
“Say goodbye to crunchy (ice crystal-laden) in ice cream thanks to cellulose nanocrystals (CNC)” August 22, 2022 posting
The following posts tend to be culture-related, high and/or low but always with a science/nanotechnology edge,
Sadly, it looks like 2022 is the last year that Ada Lovelace Day is to be celebrated.
… this year’s Ada Lovelace Day is the final such event due to lack of financial backing. Suw Charman-Anderson told the BBC [British Broadcasting Corporation] the reason it was now coming to an end was:
A few things that didn’t fit under the previous heads but stood out for me this year. Science podcasts, which were a big feature in 2021, also proliferated in 2022. I think they might have peaked and now (in 2023) we’ll see what survives.
Nanotechnology, the main subject on this blog, continues to be investigated and increasingly integrated into products. You can search the ‘nanotechnology’ category here for posts of interest something I just tried. It surprises even me (I should know better) how broadly nanotechnology is researched and applied.
If you want a nice tidy list, Hamish Johnston in a December 29, 2022 posting on the Physics World Materials blog has this “Materials and nanotechnology: our favourite research in 2022,” Note: Links have been removed,
“Inherited nanobionics” makes its debut
The integration of nanomaterials with living organisms is a hot topic, which is why this research on “inherited nanobionics” is on our list. Ardemis Boghossian at EPFL [École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne] in Switzerland and colleagues have shown that certain bacteria will take up single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWCNTs). What is more, when the bacteria cells split, the SWCNTs are distributed amongst the daughter cells. The team also found that bacteria containing SWCNTs produce a significantly more electricity when illuminated with light than do bacteria without nanotubes. As a result, the technique could be used to grow living solar cells, which as well as generating clean energy, also have a negative carbon footprint when it comes to manufacturing.
Getting to back to Canada, I’m finding Saskatchewan featured more prominently here. They do a good job of promoting their science, especially the folks at the Canadian Light Source (CLS), Canada’s synchrotron, in Saskatoon. Canadian live science outreach events seeming to be coming back (slowly). Cautious organizers (who have a few dollars to spare) are also enthusiastic about hybrid events which combine online and live outreach.
Hopefully this year I will catch up with the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) output and finally review a few of their 2021 reports such as Leaps and Boundaries; a report on artificial intelligence applied to science inquiry and, perhaps, Powering Discovery; a report on research funding and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.
Given what appears to a renewed campaign to have germline editing (gene editing which affects all of your descendants) approved in Canada, I might even reach back to a late 2020 CCA report, Research to Reality; somatic gene and engineered cell therapies. it’s not the same as germline editing but gene editing exists on a continuum.
For anyone who wants to see the CCA reports for themselves they can be found here (both in progress and completed).
I’m also going to be paying more attention to how public relations and special interests influence what science is covered and how it’s covered. In doing this 2022 roundup, I noticed that I featured an overview of fusion energy not long before the breakthrough. Indirect influence on this blog?
My post was precipitated by an article by Alex Pasternak in Fast Company. I’m wondering what precipitated Alex Pasternack’s interest in fusion energy since his self-description on the Huffington Post website states this “… focus on the intersections of science, technology, media, politics, and culture. My writing about those and other topics—transportation, design, media, architecture, environment, psychology, art, music … .”
He might simply have received a press release that stimulated his imagination and/or been approached by a communications specialist or publicists with an idea. There’s a reason for why there are so many public relations/media relations jobs and agencies.
Que sera, sera (Whatever will be, will be)
I can confidently predict that 2023 has some surprises in store. I can also confidently predict that the European Union’s big research projects (1B Euros each in funding for the Graphene Flagship and Human Brain Project over a ten year period) will sunset in 2023, ten years after they were first announced in 2013. Unless, the powers that be extend the funding past 2023.
I expect the Canadian quantum community to provide more fodder for me in the form of a 2023 report on Quantum Technologies from the Council of Canadian academies, if nothing else otherwise.
I’ve already featured these 2023 science events but just in case you missed them,
2023 Preview: Bill Nye the Science Guy’s live show and Marvel Avengers S.T.A.T.I.O.N. (Scientific Training And Tactical Intelligence Operative Network) coming to Vancouver (Canada) November 24, 2022 posting
September 2023: Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand set to welcome women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) November 15, 2022 posting
Getting back to this blog, it may not seem like a new year during the first few weeks of 2023 as I have quite the stockpile of draft posts. At this point I have drafts that are dated from June 2022 and expect to be burning through them so as not to fall further behind but will be interspersing them, occasionally, with more current posts.
Most importantly: a big thank you to everyone who drops by and reads (and sometimes even comments) on my posts!!! it’s very much appreciated and on that note: I wish you all the best for 2023.
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  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.
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  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.
Hidden Life Radio livestreams music generated from trees (their biodata, that is). Kristin Toussaint in her August 3, 2021 article for Fast Company describes the ‘radio station’, Note: Links have been removed,
Outside of a library in Cambridge, Massachusetts, an over-80-year-old copper beech tree is making music.
As the tree photosynthesizes and absorbs and evaporates water, a solar-powered sensor attached to a leaf measures the micro voltage of all that invisible activity. Sound designer and musician Skooby Laposky assigned a key and note range to those changes in this electric activity, turning the tree’s everyday biological processes into an ethereal song.
That music is available on Hidden Life Radio, an art project by Laposky, with assistance from the Cambridge Department of Public Works Urban Forestry, and funded in part by a grant from the Cambridge Arts Council. Hidden Life Radio also features the musical sounds of two other Cambridge trees: a honey locust and a red oak, both located outside of other Cambridge library branches. The sensors on these trees are solar-powered biodata sonification kits, a technology that has allowed people to turn all sorts of plant activity into music.
… Laposky has created a musical voice for these disappearing trees, and he hopes people tune into Hidden Life Radio and spend time listening to them over time. The music they produce occurs in real time, affected by the weather and whatever the tree is currently doing. Some days they might be silent, especially when there’s been several days without rain, and they’re dehydrated; Laposky is working on adding an archive that includes weather information, so people can go back and hear what the trees sound like on different days, under different conditions. The radio will play 24 hours a day until November, when the leaves will drop—a “natural cycle for the project to end,” Laposky says, “when there aren’t any leaves to connect to anymore.”
The 2021 season is over but you can find an archive of Hidden Life Radio livestreams here. Or, if you happen to be reading this page sometime after January 2022, you can try your luck and click here at Hidden Life Radio livestreams but remember, even if the project has started up again, the tree may not be making music when you check in. So, if you don’t hear anything the first time, try again.
Want to create your own biodata sonification project?
Toussaint’s article sent me on a search for more and I found a website where you can get biodata sonification kits. Sam Cusumano’s electricity for progress website offers lessons, as well as, kits and more.
Sophie Haigney’s February 21, 2020 article for NPR ([US] National Public Radio) highlights other plant music and more ways to tune in to and create it. (h/t Kristin Toussaint)
Simon Fraser University’s (SFU) Metacreation Lab for Creative AI (artificial intelligence) in Vancouver, Canada, has just sent me (via email) a January 2022 newsletter, which you can find here. There are a two items I found of special interest.
Max Planck Centre for Humans and Machines Seminars
Max Planck Institute Seminar – The rise of Creative AI & its ethics January 11, 2022 at 15:00 pm [sic] CET | 6:00 am PST
Next Monday [sic], Philippe Pasquier, director of the Metacreation Labn will be providing a seminar titled “The rise of Creative AI & its ethics” [Tuesday, January 11, 2022] at the Max Planck Institute’s Centre for Humans and Machine [sic].
The Centre for Humans and Machines invites interested attendees to our public seminars, which feature scientists from our institute and experts from all over the world. Their seminars usually take 1 hour and provide an opportunity to meet the speaker afterwards.
The seminar is openly accessible to the public via Webex Access, and will be a great opportunity to connect with colleagues and friends of the Lab on European and East Coast time. For more information and the link, head to the Centre for Humans and Machines’ Seminars page linked below.
The Centre’s seminar description offers an abstract for the talk and a profile of Philippe Pasquier,
Creative AI is the subfield of artificial intelligence concerned with the partial or complete automation of creative tasks. In turn, creative tasks are those for which the notion of optimality is ill-defined. Unlike car driving, chess moves, jeopardy answers or literal translations, creative tasks are more subjective in nature. Creative AI approaches have been proposed and evaluated in virtually every creative domain: design, visual art, music, poetry, cooking, … These algorithms most often perform at human-competitive or superhuman levels for their precise task. Two main use of these algorithms have emerged that have implications on workflows reminiscent of the industrial revolution:
– Augmentation (a.k.a, computer-assisted creativity or co-creativity): a human operator interacts with the algorithm, often in the context of already existing creative software.
– Automation (computational creativity): the creative task is performed entirely by the algorithms without human intervention in the generation process.
Both usages will have deep implications for education and work in creative fields. Away from the fear of strong – sentient – AI, taking over the world: What are the implications of these ongoing developments for students, educators and professionals? How will Creative AI transform the way we create, as well as what we create?
Philippe Pasquier is a professor at Simon Fraser University’s School for Interactive Arts and Technology, where he directs the Metacreation Lab for Creative AI since 2008. Philippe leads a research-creation program centred around generative systems for creative tasks. As such, he is a scientist specialized in artificial intelligence, a multidisciplinary media artist, an educator, and a community builder. His contributions range from theoretical research on generative systems, computational creativity, multi-agent systems, machine learning, affective computing, and evaluation methodologies. This work is applied in the creative software industry as well as through artistic practice in computer music, interactive and generative art.
Folks at the Metacreation Lab have made available an interactive search engine for sounds, from the January 2022 newsletter,
Audio Metaphor is an interactive search engine that transforms users’ queries into soundscapes interpreting them. Using state of the art algorithms for sound retrieval, segmentation, background and foreground classification, AuMe offers a way to explore the vast open source library of sounds available on the freesound.org online community through natural language and its semantic, symbolic, and metaphorical expressions.
We’re excited to see Audio Metaphor included among many other innovative projects on Freesound Labs, a directory of projects, hacks, apps, research and other initiatives that use content from Freesound or use the Freesound API. Take a minute to check out the variety of projects applying creative coding, machine learning, and many other techniques towards the exploration of sound and music creation, generative music, and soundscape composition in diverse forms an interfaces.
Audio Metaphor (AuMe) is a research project aimed at designing new methodologies and tools for sound design and composition practices in film, games, and sound art. Through this project, we have identified the processes involved in working with audio recordings in creative environments, addressing these in our research by implementing computational systems that can assist human operations.
We have successfully developed Audio Metaphor for the retrieval of audio file recommendations from natural language texts, and even used phrases generated automatically from Twitter to sonify the current state of Web 2.0. Another significant achievement of the project has been in the segmentation and classification of environmental audio with composition-specific categories, which were then applied in a generative system approach. This allows users to generate sound design simply by entering textual prompts.
As we direct Audio Metaphor further toward perception and cognition, we will continue to contribute to the music information retrieval field through environmental audio classification and segmentation. The project will continue to be instrumental in the design and implementation of new tools for sound designers and artists.
I have some news about conserving art; early bird registration deadlines for two events, and, finally, an announcement about contest winners.
Canadian Light Source (CLS) and modern art
This is one of three pieces by Rita Letendre that underwent chemical mapping according to an August 5, 2020 CLS news release by Victoria Martinez (also received via email),
Research undertaken at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan was key to understanding how to conserve experimental oil paintings by Rita Letendre, one of Canada’s most respected living abstract artists.
The work done at the CLS was part of a collaborative research project between the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and the Canadian Conservation Institute (CCI) that came out of a recent retrospective Rita Letendre: Fire & Light at the AGO. During close examination, Meaghan Monaghan, paintings conservator from the Michael and Sonja Koerner Centre for Conservation, observed that several of Letendre’s oil paintings from the fifties and sixties had suffered significant degradation, most prominently, uneven gloss and patchiness, snowy crystalline structures coating the surface known as efflorescence, and cracking and lifting of the paint in several areas.
Kate Helwig, Senior Conservation Scientist at the Canadian Conservation Institute, says these problems are typical of mid-20th century oil paintings. “We focused on three of Rita Letendre’s paintings in the AGO collection, which made for a really nice case study of her work and also fits into the larger question of why oil paintings from that period tend to have degradation issues.”
Growing evidence indicates that paintings from this period have experienced these problems due to the combination of the experimental techniques many artists employed and the additives paint manufacturers had begun to use.
In order to determine more precisely how these factors affected Letendre’s paintings, the research team members applied a variety of analytical techniques, using microscopic samples taken from key points in the works.
“The work done at the CLS was particularly important because it allowed us to map the distribution of materials throughout a paint layer such as an impasto stroke,” Helwig said. The team used Mid-IR chemical mapping at the facility, which provides a map of different molecules in a small sample.
For example, chemical mapping at the CLS allowed the team to understand the distribution of the paint additive aluminum stearate throughout the paint layers of the painting Méduse. This painting showed areas of soft, incompletely dried paint, likely due to the high concentration and incomplete mixing of this additive.
The painting Victoire had a crumbling base paint layer in some areas and cracking and efflorescence at the surface in others. Infrared mapping at the CLS allowed the team to determine that excess free fatty acids in the paint were linked to both problems; where the fatty acids were found at the base they formed zing “soaps” which led to crumbling and cracking, and where they had moved to the surface they had crystallized, causing the snowflake-like efflorescence.
AGO curators and conservators interviewed Letendre to determine what was important to her in preserving and conserving her works, and she highlighted how important an even gloss across the surface was to her artworks, and the philosophical importance of the colour black in her paintings. These priorities guided conservation efforts, while the insights gained through scientific research will help maintain the works in the long term.
In order to restore the black paint to its intended even finish for display, conservator Meaghan Monaghan removed the white crystallization from the surface of Victoire, but it is possible that it could begin to recur. Understanding the processes that lead to this degradation will be an important tool to keep Letendre’s works in good condition.
“The world of modern paint research is complicated; each painting is unique, which is why it’s important to combine theoretical work on model paint systems with this kind of case study on actual works of art” said Helwig. The team hopes to collaborate on studying a larger cross section of Letendre’s paintings in oil and acrylic in the future to add to the body of knowledge.
The latest news from the CSPC 2020 (November 16 – 20 with preconference events from Nov. 1 -14) organizers is that registration is open and early birds have a deadline of September 27, 2020 (from an August 6, 2020 CSPC 2020 announcement received via email),
It’s time! Registration for the 12th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC 2020) is open now. Early Bird registration is valid until Sept. 27th .
CSPC 2020 is coming to your offices and homes:
Register for full access to 3 weeks of programming of the biggest science and innovation policy forum of 2020 under the overarching theme: New Decade, New Realities: Hindsight, Insight, Foresight.
300+ Speakers from five continents
65+ Panel sessions, 15 pre conference sessions and symposiums
50+ On demand videos and interviews with the most prominent figures of science and innovation policy
20+ Partner-hosted functions
15+ Networking sessions
15 Open mic sessions to discuss specific topics
The virtual conference features an exclusive array of offerings:
3D Lounge and Exhibit area
Advance access to the Science Policy Magazine, featuring insightful reflections from the frontier of science and policy innovation
Don’t miss this unique opportunity to engage in the most important discussions of science and innovation policy with insights from around the globe, just from your office, home desk, or your mobile phone.
Benefit from significantly reduced registration fees for an online conference with an option for discount for multiple ticket purchases
The preliminary programme can be found here. This year there will be some discussion of a Canadian synthetic biology roadmap, presentations on various Indigenous concerns (mostly health), a climate challenge presentation focusing on Mexico and social vulnerability and another on parallels between climate challenges and COVID-19. There are many presentations focused on COVID-19 and.or health.
Margaux Davoine has written up a teaser for the 2020 edition of ISEA in the form of an August 6, 2020 interview with Yan Breuleux. I’ve excerpted one bit,
Finally, thinking about this year’s theme [Why Sentience?], there might be something a bit ironic about exploring the notion of sentience (historically reserved for biological life, and quite a small subsection of it) through digital media and electronic arts. There’s been much work done in the past 25 years to loosen the boundaries between such distinctions: how do you imagine ISEA2020 helping in that?
The similarities shared between humans, animals, and machines are fundamental in cybernetic sciences. According to the founder of cybernetics Norbert Wiener, the main tenets of the information paradigm – the notion of feedback – can be applied to humans, animals as well as the material world. Famously, the AA predictor (as analysed by Peter Galison in 1994) can be read as a first attempt at human-machine fusion (otherwise known as a cyborg).
The infamous Turing test also tends to blur the lines between humans and machines, between language and informational systems. Second-order cybernetics are often associated with biologists Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana. The very notion of autopoiesis (a system capable of maintaining a certain level of stability in an unstable environment) relates back to the concept of homeostasis formulated by Willam Ross [William Ross Ashby] in 1952. Moreover, the concept of “ecosystems” emanates directly from the field of second-order cybernetics, providing researchers with a clearer picture of the interdependencies between living and non-living organisms. In light of these theories, the absence of boundaries between animals, humans, and machines constitutes the foundation of the technosciences paradigm. New media, technological arts, virtual arts, etc., partake in the dialogue between humans and machines, and thus contribute to the prolongation of this paradigm. Frank Popper nearly called his book “Techno Art” instead of “Virtual Art”, in reference to technosciences (his editor suggested the name change). For artists in the technological arts community, Jakob von Uexkull’s notion of “human-animal milieu” is an essential reference. Also present in Simondon’s reflections on human environments (both natural and artificial), the notion of “milieu” is quite important in the discourses about art and the environment. Concordia University’s artistic community chose the concept of “milieu” as the rallying point of its research laboratories.
ISEA2020’s theme resonates particularly well with the recent eruption of processing and artificial intelligence technologies. For me, Sentience is a purely human and animal idea: machines can only simulate our ways of thinking and feeling. Partly in an effort to explore the illusion of sentience in computers, Louis-Philippe Rondeau, Benoît Melançon and I have established the Mimesis laboratory at NAD University. Processing and AI technologies are especially useful in the creation of “digital doubles”, “Vactors”, real-time avatar generation, Deep Fakes and new forms of personalised interactions.
I adhere to the epistemological position that the living world is immeasurable. Through their ability to simulate, machines can merely reduce complex logics to a point of understandability. The utopian notion of empathetic computers is an idea mostly explored by popular science-fiction movies. Nonetheless, research into computer sentience allows us to devise possible applications, explore notions of embodiment and agency, and thereby develop new forms of interaction. Beyond my own point of view, the idea that machines can somehow feel emotions gives artists and researchers the opportunity to experiment with certain findings from the fields of the cognitive sciences, computer sciences and interactive design. For example, in 2002 I was particularly marked by an immersive installation at Universal Exhibition in Neuchatel, Switzerland titled Ada: Intelligence Space. The installation comprised an artificial environment controlled by a computer, which interacted with the audience on the basis of artificial emotion. The system encouraged visitors to participate by intelligently analysing their movements and sounds. Another example, Louis-Philippe Demers’ Blind Robot (2012), demonstrates how artists can be both critical of, and amazed by, these new forms of knowledge. Additionally, the 2016 BIAN (Biennale internationale d’art numérique), organized by ELEKTRA (Alain Thibault) explored the various ways these concepts were appropriated in installation and interactive art. The way I see it, current works of digital art operate as boundary objects. The varied usages and interpretations of a particular work of art allow it to be analyzed from nearly every angle or field of study. Thus, philosophers can ask themselves: how does a computer come to understand what being human really is?
I have yet to attend conferences or exchange with researchers on that subject. Although the sheer number of presentation propositions sent to ISEA2020, I have no doubt that the symposium will be the ideal context to reflect on the concept of Sentience and many issues raised therein.
For the last bit of news.
HotPopRobot, one of six global winners of 2020 NASA SpaceApps COVID-19 challenge
We are excited to become the global winners of the 2020 NASA SpaceApps COVID-19 Challenge from among 2,000 teams from 150 countries. The six Global Winners will be invited to visit a NASA Rocket Launch site to view a spacecraft launch along with the SpaceApps Organizing team once travel is deemed safe. They will also receive an invitation to present their projects to NASA, ESA [European Space Agency], JAXA [Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency], CNES [Centre National D’Etudes Spatiales; France], and CSA [Canadian Space Agency] personnel. https://covid19.spaceappschallenge.org/awards
15,000 participants joined together to submit over 1400 projects for the COVID-19 Global Challenge that was held on 30-31 May 2020. 40 teams made to the Global Finalists. Amongst them, 6 teams became the global winners!
The 2020 SpaceApps was an international collaboration between NASA, Canadian Space Agency, ESA, JAXA, CSA,[sic] and CNES focused on solving global challenges. During a period of 48 hours, participants from around the world were required to create virtual teams and solve any of the 12 challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic posted on the SpaceApps website. More details about the 2020 SpaceApps COVID-19 Challenge: https://sa-2019.s3.amazonaws.com/media/documents/Space_Apps_FAQ_COVID_.pdf
We have been participating in NASA Space Challenge for the last seven years since 2014. We were only 8 years and 5 years respectively when we participated in our very first SpaceApps 2014.
We have grown up learning more about space, tacking global challenges, making hardware and software projects, participating in meetings, networking with mentors and teams across the globe, and giving presentations through the annual NASA Space Apps Challenges. This is one challenge we look forward to every year.
It has been a fun and exciting journey meeting so many people and astronauts and visiting several fascinating places on the way! We hope more kids, youths, and families are inspired by our space journey. Space is for all and is yours to discover!
What better way to say ‘Happy Canada Day’ than to highlight a data sonfication project from HotPopRobot. These are not all of the awards won by the HotPopRobot team (based in Toronto, Canada), from the hotpoprobot.com homepage,
Micro:bit Challenge North America Runners Up 2020.
NASA SpaceApps 2019, 2018, 2017, 2014.
Imagining the Skies 2019.
Jesse Ketchum Astronomy Award 2018. Hon.
Mention at 2019 NASA Planetary Defense Conference. Emerald Code Grand Prize 2018.
Canadian Space Apps 2017
Here’s more about this intriguing team from the site’s About Us page,
HotPopRobot is a maker-family enterprise co-founded in 2014 by Artash […], Arushi […], Rati, and Vikas to bring discussions on Science, Space Exploration, Astronomy, and Technology in our everyday conversation. It encourages families, kids, and youths to become creators (and not consumers), scientists, artists, or whatever they want to be by undertaking projects on space, robotics, coding, and science.
We started this enterprise after winning the NASA Space Apps Toronto 2014 Award for our Mars Rover: CuriousBot. We ended up among the top 5 NASA Space Apps Winners (people’s choice) globally! We won the NASA SpaceApps Challenge Toronto again in 2019, 2018, and 2017 as well as the Canadian Space Agency’s Space Apps Challenge 2017 for our project – “Yes I Can” which used RadarSat-2 satellite data to recreate the #Canada150 logo. We ended up getting invited to the Canadian Space Agency to present our project and meet the new Canadian Astronauts.
The latest project is a musical based on data sonification of data on COVID-19 impacts in Toronto, Canada. Here’s a video of the ‘Toronto COVID-19 Lockdown Musical’ or more formally the ‘Musical Scales Project’,
As of June 2020, Artash and Arushi are in grade eight and grade five, respectively, which means they are likely 13 and 10 years old now and were seven and four years old, respectively, when they and their parents started the HotPopRobots enterprise in 2014.
Definitely visit their website if you’re interested in artificial intelligence, robots, machine learning, as well as, their other topics.
Regarding their latest project, here’s more about the Musical Scales Project from a June 19 (?), 2020 posting on their website,
The beauty of the human mind is that once you set it free, it soars high. Our mind too was teeming with big questions that we wanted to find the answers about. Would the COVID19 lockdown have increased the bird density in the city skies, would the closure of all economic activities have affected the rotation of the Earth, would an Alien civilization be able to figure out that something drastic must have happened on Earth?
All questions are good questions. But from our previous experiences of making projects, we knew we had to limit our imagination for the time being and focus on practicality to come up with workable project design. Once we have made something and it works, we could always keep improving it or make newer versions of the same.
So between the two of us [Artash and Arushi], we limited our questions to:
Has the noise levels on our streets gone down?
Has the air we breathe become cleaner?
Have the traffic levels on our streets gone down?
Has the lockdown affected the vibration of the Earth due to the stopping of businesses, economic, and construction activities?
We often have to dismantle some of our older projects to get the components for our newer projects. It is not a good feeling as we often use our older projects to give demonstrations at various public events. So where possible we try to make our projects modular so that we can use the same components for more than one project.
We ended up collecting the following sensors and cameras for this project.
Light Sensor: It measures the light around us. It has a photo-resistor whose value decreases when light falls on it. It is the base sensor that will help us visualize separate daily data readings as well as changes in data collected during day and night.
Sound Sensor: To listen to street noise around us. It is similar to a microphone but gives analog values of sound levels. This raw data then has to be calibrated to understand how it changes with the change in sound levels.
PM 2.5 Dust Sensor: It is a sensor to measure particulate matters of 2.5 microns in the air. There is a small heater in the sensor which directs the flow of air in the sensor in an upward direction (convection current). The flow of air passes through infrared light which bounces around. The more the bounce the more the particulate matter or more polluted the air.
Temperature Sensor: We wanted to see how much the temperature was changing around us. The sensor is just like a digital thermometer but it prints out the readings.
Humidity Sensor: It measures how damp the air around is. We measure humidity and temperature as they both affect the pollution levels.
Intel RealSense Camera: To get a wide overview of the traffic on King Street. Its high resolution allows us to apply machine learning for object identification and tracking.
In addition to getting data from our sensors, we had to rely on external databases to get some other information.
Covid19 Infection Rates in Toronto: from City of Toronto Public Health website
The intensity of Night Lights Over Toronto: Using NASA Night Light Data to understand changes in night lights over Toronto during different weeks.
Seismic Vibrations in Toronto: We got the displacement data of Earth along the vertical direction from the Leslie Spit Seismic Station in Toronto.
We used the free Musical Algorithm software (www.musicalgorithms.org) to bring all the data together and create the COVID19 Lockdown Musical.
The descriptions and instructions are comprehensive, which is very helpful if you’re planning your own project.
Originally, the plan was to produce some sort of a Canadian science culture roundup for 2019 but it came to my attention that 2019 was also an end-of-decade year (sometimes I miss the obvious). I’ll do my best to make this snappy but it is a review (more or less) of the last 10 years (roughly) and with regard to science culture in Canada, I’m giving the term a wide interpretation while avoiding (for the most part) mention of traditional science communication/outreach efforts such as university rresearch, academic publishing, academic conferences, and the like.
Since writing that opening paragraph in late December 2019, COVID-19 took over the world and this review seemed irrelevant for a while but as time passed, Iit occurred to me it might serve as a reminder of past good times and as a hope for the future.
Having started this blog in 2008, I’ve had the good fortune to observe a big increase in the number and range of science outreach/communication/culture initiatives, projects, festivals, etc. It’s tempting to describe it as an explosion of popular interest but I have no idea if this is true. I spend much of my time searching out and writing up this kind of work in addition to the emerging science and technology that I follow and my perception is most likely skewed by my pursuits. What i can say is that in 2019 there was more of everything to do with science culture/outreach/communication than there was when I started in 2008.
Coincidentally, I wrote a three-part series about science communication (including science outreach/culture projects) in Canada in Sept. 2009, just months before the start of this decade. In retrospect, the series is sprawling everywhere and it looks to me like I was desperately trying to make something look bigger than it actually was.
I’m looking at the more formal aspects of science communication and so onto mainstream media and education. This is the saddest section but don’t worry it gets better as it goes on.
As I note in the following subsection, there are fewer science writers employed by mainstream media, especially in Canada. The only science writer (that I know of) who’s currently employed by a newspaper is Ivan Semeniuk. for the Globe and Mail.
Margaret Munro who was the science writer for PostMedia (publisher of most newspaper dailies in Canada) is now a freelancer. Kate Lunau, a health and science journalist for Maclean’s Magazine (Canada) until 2016 and then Motherboard/VICE (US online publication) until March 2019 now publishes her own newsletter.
Daily Planet, which was a long running science programme (under various names since 1995) on Discovery Channel Canada and which inspired iterations in other countries, was cancelled in 2018 but there is still a Twitter feed being kept up to date and a webpage with access to archived programmes.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) programmes, Spark for technology and Quirks & Quarks for science on the radio side and the Nature of Things for science, wildlife, and technology on television carry on year after year and decade after decade.
A more recent addition (2019?) to the CBC lineup is a podcast that touches on science and other topics, Tai Asks Why? According to the programme’s About page, the host (Tai Poole) is in grade seven. No podcasts dated after September 2019 have been posted on Tia’s page.
Yes Magazine for children and Seed magazine (for adults) have both died since 2009. On a happier note, Canadian children’s science magazines are easier to find these days either because I got lucky on my search and/or because there are more of them to find.
Thank you to helpwevegotkids.com for their 10 Awesome Magazines for Canadian Kids webpage. First published in 2016, it is updated from time to time, most recently in October 2019 by Heather Camlot; it’s where I found many of these science/technology magazines (Note: I’m not sure how long these magazines have been published but they are all new to me),
Chickadee Magazine: ages 6-9 ( Every month, the Chickadee team creates a package of interactive stories, puzzles, animal features, and science experiments to educate and entertain readers.) It’s from the folks at owlkids.com
OWL Magazine: ages 9-13 (… highlight the elements of science and tech, engineering, art and math ) Also from the folks at owlkids.com
AdventureBox: ages 6 – 9 (… nature with beautiful photographs and fascinating scientific information … Hilarious and adventurous comic-strips, games and quizzes … An audio CD every 2 months) Also from the folks at owlkids.com
DiscoveryBox: ages 9 – 12 ( … Animals and nature, with spectacular photographs … Fascinating scientific topics, with clear explanations and experiments to carry out …) Also from the folks at owlkids.com BTW, I was not able to find out much about the Owl Kids organization.
WILD magazine ( … jam-packed with fun wildlife stories, games and pictures for youngsters of all ages. It’s a great way to get the children in your life engaged in nature and share your passion for the outdoors. Published 6 times per year) From the folks at the Canadian Wildlife Federation (enough said).
Bazoof! (… suited for ages 7-12 … nutrition, personal care, fitness, healthy lifestyles, character development, eco-education—all in a creative and zany style! Filled with short stories, comics, recipes, puzzles, games, crafts, jokes, riddles, pet care, interviews, healthy snacks, sports, true stories, fun facts, prizes and more!) Bazoof! is being brought to you by the team responsible for Zamoof! You might want to read their About page. That’s all I can dig up.
Brainspace (an augmented reality magazine for kids 8 – 14) As best I can determine they are still ‘publishing’ their interactive magazine but they make finding information about themselves or their organization a little challenging. It’s published in Ontario and its publisher Nicky Middleton had this in her LinkedIn profile: “Publisher of Brainspace interactive magazine for kids 8-12. Creating augmented reality content for teaching resources in partnership with Brock University, District School Board of Niagara.”
One more thing regarding mainstream media
While there are fewer science journalists being employed, there’s still a need for science writing and journalism. The Science Media Centre of Canada (SMCC) opened in 2010 (from its Wikipedia entry),
… to serve journalists with accurate information on scientific matters. The centre has a Research Advisory Panel of 20 Canadian scientists who will make their expertise available in a simple and understandable manner. In order to secure objectivity, the centre has an Editorial Advisory Committee of eight journalists. The centre is bilingual.
As of January 2020, the SMCC is still in operation.
The University of British Columbia’s Journalism School (Vancouver) no longer has a Science Journalism Research Group nor does Concordia University (Montréal) have its Science Journalism Project. I have checked both journalism schools and cannot find any indication there is a science programme or specific science courses of any kind for journalists or other communicators but I didn’t spend a lot of time digging. Interestingly, the chair, David Secko, of Concordia’s journalism programme is a science journalist himself and a member of the Editorial Advisory Committee of the Science Media Centre of Canada.
The lack of science journalism programmes in Canada seems to reflect on overall lack of science journalism. It’s predictable given that the newspapers that once harboured science journalists have trimmed and continue to trim back their staffs.
Science centres, museums, and the like are considered part of the informal science community with Makerspaces being a new addition. For the most part, their target audience is children but they are increasingly (since 2010, I believe) offering events aimed at adults. The Canadian Association of Science Centres (CASC) describes itself and its membership this way (from the CASC About Us webpage),
CASC members are a diverse group of organisations that support informal learning of science, technology and nature. Our common bond is that we offer creative programming and exhibitions for visitors that inspire a drive to learn, create, and innovate.
If you are a member of a Science Centres, Museums, Aquariums, Planetariums and Makerspaces [these are a 2010s phenomenon] you could benefit from our reciprocal admission agreement. Not all CASC Members are participants in the Reciprocal Admissions Agreement. Click here for more information.
You can find a full list of their members including the Ingenium museums (the federal consortium of national Canadian science museums), the Saskatchewan Science Centre, the Nunavut Research Institute, Science East, and more, here.
I’m calling what follows ‘truly informal science culture’.
Science: the informal (sometimes cultural) scene
When I first started (this blog) there was one informal science get-together (that I knew of locally) and that was Vancouver Café Scientifque and its monthly events, which are still ongoing. You can find our more about the parent organization, which was started in Leeds, England in 1998. Other Canadian cities listed as having a Café Scientifique: Ottawa, Victoria, Mississauga, and Saskatoon.
Now onto the music, the dance, and more
Sing a song of science
Baba Brinkman is well known for his science raps. The rapper and playwright (from British Columbia) lives in New York City these days with his wife and sometime performance collaborator, neuroscientist Dr. Heather Berlin and their two children (see his Wikipedia entry for more), he is still Canadian (I think).
He got his start rapping science in 2008 when I think he was still living in Vancouver (Canada) after gaining the attention of UK professor Mark Pallen who commissioned him to write a rap about evolution. The Rap Guide to Evolution premiered at the 2009 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Here’s a video of Brinkman’s latest science rap (Data Science) posted on YouTube on October 21, 2019,
I find this one especially interesting since Brinkman’s mother is the Honourable Joyce Murray, a member of parliament and the Minister of Digital Government in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s latest cabinet. (My December 27, 2019 posting highlights what I believe to be the importance of the Minister of Digital Government in the context of the government’s science and technology vision. Scroll down about 25% of the way to the subhead titled “The Minister of Digital Government and a bureaucratic débacle,”) You can find out more about Baba Brinkman here.
Tim Blais of A Capella Science first attracted my notice in 2014 thanks to David Bruggeman and his Pasco Phronesis blog (btw: David, I miss your posts about science and music which are how I found out most of what I know about the Canadian science music scene).
Blais (who has a master’s degree in physics from McGill University in Québec) started producing his musical science videos in 2012. I featured one of his earliest efforts (and one of my favourites, Rolling in the Higgs [Adele parody]) in my July 18, 2014 posting.
Dating back to 2012. The Institute of Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo held two performances of Quantum: Music at the Frontier of Science. Raymond Laflamme, then director of the institute, wrote a September 20, 2012 article (The Quantum Symphony: A Cultural Entanglement) about the performances. You can see a video (15 mins., 45 secs.,) of the February 2012 performances here.
More recently, the Life Sciences Institute at the University of British Columbia (UBC) hosted a performance of Sounds and Science – Vienna Meets Vancouver in late 2019. I covered it in a November 12, 2019 posting (scroll down to the Sounds and Science subheading). The story about how the series, which has its home base in Vienna, started is fascinating. The sold out Vancouver performance was a combination of music and lecture featuring the Vienna Philharmonic and UBC researchers. According to this Sounds and Science UBC update,
For those who missed this exceptional evening, JoyTV and its CARPe Diem show will be producing an episode focusing on the concert, to be aired in February, 2020 [emphasis mine].
There is another way to look at musical science and that’s to consider the science of music which is what they do at the Large Interactive Virtual Environment Laboratory (LIVELab) at McMaster University (Hamilton, Ontario, Canada). it’s “a research concert hall. It functions as both a high-tech laboratory and theatre, opening up tremendous opportunities for research and investigation”, you can read more about it in my November 29, 2019 posting.
One last thing, there is data sonification which means finding a way to turn data into music or a sound which can more or less be defined as musical. There may be other data sonification projects and presentations in Canada but these are the ones I’ve tripped across (Note: Some links have bee removed),
Songs of the Ottawa From the website: “Songs of the Ottawa” is the Master’s Research Project of Cristina Wood, under the co-supervision of Dr. Joanna Dean and Dr. Shawn Graham. She completed her Master’s of Arts in Public History with a Specialization in Digital Humanities at Carleton University in spring 2019. She will continue her explorations of the Ottawa River in the Ph.D. program at York University [fall 2020]. Be in touch with Cristina on Twitter or send an email to hello [at] cristinawood [dot] ca.”
The Art of Data Sonification (This January 2019 workshop at Inter/Access in Toronto is over.) From the website: “Learn how to turn data into sound! Dan Tapper will teach participants how to apply different data sonification techniques, collect and produce a variety of sonifications, and how to creatively use these sonifications in their own work. The workshop will move from looking at data sonification through the lens of Dan Tapper’s work sonifying data sets from NASA, to collecting, cleaning and using your own data for artistic creation. Participants will work with pre-gathered and cleaned data sets before collecting and working with personal data and online data sets. Tools will be provided by Tapper created in Pure Data and Processing, as well as versions for Max/MSP users. A particular focus will be placed on how to use data sets and the created sonifications in creative practice – moving beyond quantitative sonic representations to richer material. “
Sonification: Making Data Sound (This September 2019 workshop at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies at the University of British Columbia is also over.) From the website: ” Computers and music have been mingling their intimate secrets for over 50 years. These two worlds evolve in tandem, and where they intersect they spawn practices that are entirely novel. One of these is “sonification,” turning raw data into sounds and sonic streams to discover new musical relationships within the dataset. This is similar to data visualization, a strategy that reveals new insights from data when it is made for the eye to perceive as graphs or animations. A key advantage with sonification is sound’s ability to present trends and details simultaneously at multiple time scales, allowing us to absorb and integrate information in the same way we listen to music. In this workshop, Chris Chafe will lead a discussion of the practice and application of sonification in a wide array of disciplines, drawing on his own extensive experience in this field.”
I have been looking for data sonification projects in Canada for years. It’s amazing to me that all of this sprung up in the last year of this decade. If there’s more, please do let me know in the Comments section.
Science blogging in Canada
The big news for the decade was the founding and launch of Science Borealis, a Canadian science blog aggregator in 2013. Assuming I counted right in December 2019, there are 146 blogs. These are not all independent bloggers, many institutional blogs are included. Also, I’m not sure how active some of these blogs are. Regardless, that’s a pretty stunning number especially when I consider that my annual Canadian blog roundup from 2010 -2012 would have boasted 20 – 30 Canadian science blogs at most.
I’m not sure why ASAP Science (Michael Moffit and Gregory Brown) isn’t included on Science Borealis but maybe the science vloggers (video bloggers) prefer to go it alone. or they fit into another category of online science. Regardless, ASAP Science has been around since May 2012 according to their About page. In addition to the science education/information they provide, there’s music, including this Taylor Swift Acapella Parody.
One of the earliest Canadians to create a science blog,Gregor Wolbring, Associate Professor at the University of Calgary’s Cumming School of Medicine, started his in 2006. He has taken a few breaks, 2011 and August 2013 – June 2017 but he’s back at it these days. He is in a sense a progenitor for Canadian science blogging. At one time, his blog was so popular that US researchers included it in their studies on what was then ‘the blogging phenomenon’. His focus academically and on his blog is on rehabilitation and disability. This webpage on his blog is of particular interest to me: FUTUREBODY: The Future of the Body in the Light of Neurotechnology. It’s where he lists papers from himself and his colleagues’ in the ERANET NEURON ELSI/ELSA funded by the European Community. (ELSI is Ethical, Legal and Social Implications and ELSA is Ethical, Legal, and Social Aspects.)
Canada’s Favourite Science Online, a competition co-sponsored by Science Borealia and the Science Writers and Communicators of Canada (SWCC), gives a People’s Choice Award annually in two categories: blog and science site. This September 16, 2019 posting on the Science Borealis blog features the finalists in the categories and a pretty decent sampling of what available online from the Canadian science community.
Science in the City is a Canadian life sciences blog aggregator and job and event listing website. The name is an official mark of McMaster University (Ontario, Canada) and it is used and registered by STEMCELL Technologies Canada Inc. Here’s more from their AboutScienceInTheCity webpage,
As scientists ourselves, we know that science is accelerated by collaboration and connection, but that the busy, demanding lifestyle of a scientist makes this challenging. Thus, we saw the need for a central resource that connects local scientists, provides them with a platform to share their ideas, and helps them stay current with the news, events, and jobs within their local scientific community. This inspired us to launch Science in the City in our hometown of Vancouver, Canada in 2017.
Science in the City is your complete source for all the life science news and events happening in your city. The Science in the City website and weekly newsletter provide researchers and medical professionals with breaking news, in-depth articles, and insightful commentary on what is happening around them. By supplying scientists with a resource for the local news and events that affect them, Science in the City fosters learning and collaboration within scientific communities, ultimately supporting the advancement of science and medicine.
Vancouver is our hometown, so it made sense to launch this exciting initiative in our own backyard. But we’re only getting started! We’ve launched Science in the City in Seattle and Boston, and we’re currently working on bringing Science in the City to several more scientific communities across North America and Europe!
Do check their event listings as they range past life science to many other interesting ‘sciencish’ get togethers. For example, in early 2020 (in Vancouver) there was,
At a guess their funding comes from STEMCELL Technologies while Science Borealis was originally (not sure what the status is today) bankrolled by Canadian Science Publishing (CSP).
It’s just dance, dance, dance
Ranging from pigeon courtship to superconductivity, Canadian scientists have scored a number of wins in the Dance Your Ph.D. competition founded in 2008 according to its Wikipedia entry and held by Science Magazine and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). The contest requires that the entrant dance either as a solo artist or as part of a troupe.
In 2018, a University of Alberta student won in the physics category and then went on to win overall. I covered it in a February 22, 2019 posting. Because I love the video, here is Pramodh Senarath Yapa with his Superconductivity: The Musical!, again,
BTW, John Bohannon who came up with the idea for the contest wrote this February 15, 2019 article about Yapa’s win for Science Magazine.
While searching for other Canadian Dance Your Ph.D. winners, I found some from the 2010 and 2011 contests. (If there are others, please do let me know in the Comments section.)
McConnell’s video did not win in its division but another Canadian student, Queen’s University (Ontario) biologist, Emma Ware won the 2011 social science division for ‘A Study of Social Interactivity Using Pigeon Courtship‘. For more about McConnell and Ware’s 2011 efforts, you can read Tyler Irving’s October 20, 2011 posting on his eponymous blog. (Side note: Irving is a Canadian science writer who started the blog in 2011 and took a five year hiatus from January 2015 to January 2020.)
Lesley Telford, choreographer and director of Inverso Productions based in Vancouver, seems to have started showing a dance piece inspired by Albert Einstein’s famous description of quantum entanglement as “spooky action from s a distance” in 2017.
I first wrote about it in an April 20, 2017 posting. The title, at that time, was, ‘Three Sets/Relating At A Distance; My tongue, your ear / If / Spooky Action at a Distance (phase 1‘. In 2017, Telford was artist-in-residence at the Dance Centre and TRIUMF, Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science, both located in Vancouver.
She has continued to work with the concept and most recently her company gave performances of ‘Spooky Action’ in 2019 and will go on tour in 2020 according to her company’s homepage.
Unlike Lesley Telford who has a single science-inspired piece, Blue Ceilingdance in Toronto, is organized around the idea of art (dance) and science according to the company’s About page,
Blue Ceiling dance aims to pierce the soul through investigations at the intersection of art and science, and physical rigour provoked by the imagination. By peering into the mysterious corners of human experience and embodying the natural laws of the universe, we want to inspire empathy and curiosity. Through creation, production, commissioning and touring of new dance and multi-disciplinary works and through the Imaginative Body Classes, Blue Ceiling dance uses the poetry of the body and of scientific language to describe our experience of the world through the lens of poetic naturalism.
Blue Ceiling dance was founded by Lucy Rupert in 2004, as an umbrella for her creative endeavours. …
Our biggest project to date premieres January 23-26th, 2020 at The Theatre Centre [Toronto].
Using the length of time it takes light to travel from the Sun to Earth, we launch into 8 overlapping meditations on the physical behaviour of light, the metaphors of astrophysics, and the soul of cosmology, as they brush against a sense of our own mortality. What would you do with your last 8 minutes and 17 seconds before the lights go out?
Choreographed and conceived by Lucy Rupert with additional choreography by Karen Kaeja, Emma Kerson and Jane Alison McKinney, and Michael Caldwell. With text written by Hume Baugh.
The company’s repertoire is diverse and focused largely on science,
Animal Vegetable Mineral is a site-specific work with a naturalist-led hike. Exploring embodiments of each category of matter, the dancers form an ecosystem under stress, and highlight the interconnectedness of all species and our deep need for one another. Audiences explore their local environment and encounter human embodiments in an intimate performance setting.
Originally made for the High Park Nature Centre in Toronto, the piece is adaptable to different ecosystems and environments.
dead reckoning Perplexing, haunting and slightly mischievous, with choreography by Lucy Rupert and international ballet choreographer Peter Quanz. The launching point for this work of dance-theatre is Sir Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica in 1914 and the mysterious experiences surrounding his life-or-death situation. Three linked dances offer three views of an explorer pursued by an enigmatic “other”.
Bye, bye ScienceOnline Vancouver
A ScienceOnline conference and community based in the United States inspired a short-lived but exciting offshoot in Vancouver. With much ado, their first event was held on April 19, 2012. As I recall, by December 2012, it had died.
The volunteers were wildly ambitious and it’s very hard to maintain the level of dynamism and technology they established on their first night. Here’s how I described the first event in my April 20, 2012 posting, ” It was a very technology-heavy event in that there was livestreaming, multiple computers and screens, references to tweeting and Storify, etc.” That’s a lot to do on a regular basis as volunteers. By Christmas 2012, ScienceOnline was gone. It was a great and I’m thankful for it.
Now onto part 2 where you’ll find the visual arts, poetry, festivals, and more.