A July 21, 2022 news item on Nanowerk describes graphene in its ‘natural’ state and explains what ‘artificial’ graphene is although there is no mention of why variants are a hot topic,
Graphene consists of carbon atoms that crosslink in a plane to form a flat honeycomb structure. In addition to surprisingly high mechanical stability, the material has exciting electronic properties: The electrons behave like massless particles, which can be clearly demonstrated in spectrometric experiments.
Measurements reveal a linear dependence of energy on momentum, namely the so-called Dirac cones – two lines that cross without a band gap – i.e. an energy difference between electrons in the conduction band and those in the valence bands.
Variants in graphene architecture
Artificial variants of graphene architecture are a hot topic in materials research right now. Instead of carbon atoms, quantum dots of silicon have been placed, ultracold atoms have been trapped in the honeycomb lattice with strong laser fields, or carbon monoxide molecules have been pushed into place on a copper surface piece by piece with a scanning tunneling microscope, where they could impart the characteristic graphene properties to the electrons of the copper.
A recent study suggested that it is infinitely easier to make artificial graphene using C60 molecules called buckyballs [or buckminsterfullerenes or, more generically, fullerenes]. Only a uniform layer of these needs to be vapor-deposited onto gold for the gold electrons to take on the special graphene properties. Measurements of photoemission spectra appeared to show a kind of Dirac cone.
Analysis of band structures at BESSY II
“That would be really quite amazing,” says Dr. Andrei Varykhalov, of HZB, who heads a photoemission and scanning tunneling microscopy group. “Because the C60 molecule is absolutely nonpolar, it was hard for us to imagine how such molecules would exert a strong influence on the electrons in the gold.” So Varykhalov and his team launched a series of measurements to test this hypothesis.
In tricky and detailed analyses, the Berlin team was able to study C60 layers on gold over a much larger energy range and for different measurement parameters. They used angle-resolved ARPES spectroscopy at BESSY II [third-generation synchrotron radiation source], which enables particularly precise measurements, and also analysed electron spin for some measurements.
“We see a parabolic relationship between momentum and energy in our measured data, so it’s a very normal behavior. These signals come from the electrons deep in the substrate (gold or copper) and not the layer, which could be affected by the buckyballs,” explains Dr. Maxim Krivenkov, lead author of the study. The team was also able to explain the linear measurement curves from the previous study. “These measurement curves merely mimic the Dirac cones; they are an artifact, so to speak, of a deflection of the photoelectrons as they leave the gold and pass through the C60 layer,” Varykhalov explains. Therefore, the buckyball layer on gold cannot be considered an artificial graphene.
A new state-of-the-art instrument has been built by a team from Swansea University’s Nanomaterials Laboratory which will help scientists fight against climate change, microbial infection and other major global challenges.
The team invented and built the nanoparticle beam instrument with the help of scientists from Freiburg University, Germany and have now installed it at the UK’s national synchrotron science facility, Diamond Light Source, based at the Harwell Science and Innovation Campus in Oxfordshire.
In an initial four-year contract, the instrument will be available for use by staff and users of the Diamond synchrotron and a new Swansea University satellite laboratory team based at the Diamond facility, seconded from the University’s Nanomaterials Laboratory in Engineering led by Professor Richard Palmer. The Laboratory is a world leader in inventing revolutionary nanoparticle beam technology.
The new Swansea instrument located at Diamond’s versatile soft X-ray (VerSoX) beamline B07 will enable the precise generation of nanoscale particles of diverse materials by the method of gas-phase condensation, their size-selection with a mass spectrometer and then deposition onto surfaces to make prototype devices. It will help scientists explore and optimise the influence of particle size, structure and composition on properties relevant to applications as varied as catalysis, batteries, and antibacterial coatings for medical implants. It has the potential to aid radical discovery and innovation in both energy and medical technologies. Initial focus will be on the generation of green hydrogen and green ammonia as clean fuels. This can positively contribute to tackling climate change by harnessing renewable but intermittent energy sources – such as wind, tidal and solar – and storing the energy in these molecules.
The nanoparticle source at Diamond will complement the Matrix Assembly Cluster Source (MACS) and two more new instruments developed by the group at Swansea University. The instrument at Diamond is an ultra-precision source of size-selected nanoparticles (also termed clusters) designed for materials discovery and optimisation, while the MACS is designed to scale-up discoveries made at this model scale to the level of manufacturing.
Professor Steve Wilks, Provost of Swansea University, said: “The installation of this new nanoparticle instrument heralds the start of a strategic partnership between Swansea University and Diamond Light Source, and is underpinned by the Welsh Government. It opens up new opportunities for the Diamond staff and user community to work alongside our Swansea University satellite team based at Diamond, as conceived by Professor Palmer. In particular, nanoparticles have tremendous potential as new catalysts for sustainable energy generation, such as the splitting of water by sunlight to make clean hydrogen fuel, and for the synthesis of medicines and sensors.”
Professor Laurent Chapon, Diamond’s Physical Sciences Director, commented: “Diamond always wants to offer state -of-the-art instruments – often unique in the world – to the user community. One of the ways we push our technology is by partnering with key universities to help us drive forward the balance of scientific vision and needs from the community. Our collaboration with Swansea University provides a unique experimental (nanoparticle beam) set-up for materials discovery, that supports our surface, interface and catalysis community in addressing the pressing challenges of global health and climate. We all now look forward to the advancement in knowledge this new capability will bring.”
The Welsh Government Office for Science Sêr Cymru Programme is supporting the secondment of Dr Yubiao Niu from the Swansea team to Diamond via a Sêr Cymru Industrial Fellowship. He will commission the new instrument and explore the use of nanoparticle catalysts for low energy synthesis of ammonia and storage of hydrogen, with Imperial College also collaborating.
Professor Peter Halligan, WG’s Chief Science Advisor, said: “Generating a hydrogen-based fuel such as ammonia promises to overcome several of the technical challenges faced by hydrogen but has its own challenges. The metallic cluster catalyst method is innovative technology and one which deserves to be explored and exploited to its full potential. Dr Yubiao Niu, Swansea University, Diamond Light Source and Imperial College should be applauded for their foresight and ambition in this exciting area of research.”
Scientists used synchrotron technology to show a key ingredient can create the ideal chocolate structure and could revolutionize the chocolate industry.
Structure is key when it comes creating the best quality of chocolate. An ideal internal structure will be smooth and continuous, not crumbly, and result in glossy, delicious, melt-in-your-mouth decadence. However, this sweet bliss is not easy to achieve.
Researchers from the University of Guelph had their first look at the detailed structure of dark chocolate using the Canadian Light Source (CLS) at the University of Saskatchewan. Their results were published today in Nature Communications.
“One of the major problems in chocolate making is tempering,” said Alejandro Marangoni, a professor at the University of Guelph and Canada Research Chair in Food, Health and Aging. “Very much like when you temper steel, you have to achieve a certain crystalline structure in the cocoa butter.”
Skilled chocolate makers [emphasis mine] use specialized tools and training to manipulate cocoa butter for gourmet chocolate. However, Marangoni wondered if adding a special ingredient to chocolate could drive the formation of the correct crystal structure without the complex cooling and mixing procedures typically used by chocolatiers during tempering.
“Imagine if you could add a component that directs the entire crystallization process to a high-quality finished product. You wouldn’t need fancy tempering protocols or industrial machines — you could easily achieve the desired crystalline form just by the addition of this component,” Marangoni said.
His team went to the CLS to see if their secret ingredient, a specific phospholipid, could drive the formation of an ideal chocolate structure. The facility’s bright light, which is millions of times brighter than the sun, allowed the team to get images of the interior structure of their dark chocolate in exquisite detail.
“We have some of the most beautiful micrographs of the finished chocolate that were only possible because we did this work at the CLS,” said Marangoni.
In a world first, the researchers were able to get detailed imaging of the internal structure of dark chocolate, thanks to the synchrotron’s state of the art BMIT beamline.
“Working with the CLS, I would call it a next level interaction,” Marangoni added. “It was extremely easy to set up a project and we had enormous support from beamline scientists.”
In collaboration with CLS Plant Imaging Lead Jarvis Stobbs, Marangoni and colleagues were able to confirm the positive effect their ingredient had on obtaining the ideal structure for chocolate.
“We screened many minor lipid components that would naturally be present in chocolate and identified one preferred group. We then added a very specific molecule, a saturated phospholipid, to the chocolate mass and obtained the desired effect. This phospholipid formed a specific liquid crystal structure that would ‘seed’ the formation of cocoa butter crystals,” said Marangoni.
Their discovery that this phospholipid ingredient will drive the formation of ideal cocoa butter crystals could have a big impact on the way that chocolate is made.
“It could potentially revolutionize the chocolate industry, because we would not need very complex tempering machines,” Marangoni said. “This could open up the possibility for smaller manufacturers to produce chocolate without having the big capital investment for tempering machinery.”
Synchrotron research allows scientists to identify important details that are not possible to find with other techniques. Marangoni said that any small improvement on current manufacturing methods can have a very large impact on the food industry and can potentially save money for companies.
He added that while chocolate research pales in comparison to global problems, he emphasizes the impact food can have on our everyday lives.
“We have more serious problems like climate change and alternative energies and maybe even vegan foods, which we’re working on as well, but chocolate gives us that psychological pleasure. It’s one of these foods that makes us feel happy.”
According to a Sept. 2, 2021 article by Marc Fawcett-Atkinson for Canada’s National Observer, this work could lead to making chocolate production more sustainable
What happens to the skilled chocolate makers?
That’s one of my big questions. The other is what happens to us? In all these ‘improvements’ of which there are many being touted these days, what I notice is a lack of sensuality. In this particular case, no touch and no smell.
This research from McGill University (Montréal, Canada) focuses on enzymes and their possible utility as nanomachines for producing drugs. (For the uninitiated, nano means billionth, which, in turn, means these enzymes are measured at the nanoscale.)
Many of the drugs and medicines that we rely on today are natural products taken from microbes like bacteria and fungi. Within these microbes, the drugs are made by tiny natural machines – mega-enzymes known as nonribosomal peptide synthetases (NRPSs). A research team led by McGill University has gained a better understanding of the structures of NRPSs and the processes by which they work. This improved understanding of NRPSs could potentially allow bacteria and fungi to be leveraged for the production of desired new compounds and lead to the creation of new potent antibiotics, immunosuppressants and other modern drugs.
“NRPSs are really fantastic enzymes that take small molecules like amino acids or other similar sized building blocks and assemble them into natural, biologically active, potent compounds, many of which are drugs,” said Martin Schmeing, Associate Professor in the Department of Biochemistry at McGill University, and corresponding author on the article that was recently published in Nature Chemical Biology. “An NRPS works like a factory assembly line that consists of a series of robotic workstations. Each station has multi-step workflows and moving parts that allow it to add one building block substrate to the growing drug, elongating and modifying it, and then passing it off to the next little workstation, all on the same huge enzyme.”
Ultra-intensive light beam allows scientists to see proteins
n their paper featured on the cover of the May 2020 issue of Nature Chemical Biology, the team reports visualizing an NRPS mechanical system by using the CMCF beamline at the Canadian Light Source (CLS). The CLS is a Canadian national lab [these types of labs are sometimes called synchrotrons] that produces the ultra-intense beams of X-rays required to image proteins, as even mega-enzymes are too small to see with any light microscope.
“Scientists have long been excited about the potential of bioengineering NRPSs by identifying the order of building blocks and reorganizing the workstations in the enzyme to create new drugs, but the effort has rarely been successful,” said Schmeing. “This is the first time anyone has seen how these enzymes transform keto acids into a building block that can be put into a peptide drug. This helps us understand how the NRPSs can use so very many building blocks to make the many different compounds and therapeutics.”
At long last, the end is in sight! This last part is mostly a collection of items that don’t fit elsewhere or could have fit elsewhere but that particular part was already overstuffed.
Podcasting science for the people
March 2009 was the birth date for a podcast, then called Skeptically Speaking and now known as Science for the People (Wikipedia entry). Here’s more from the Science for the People About webpage,
Science for the People is a long-format interview podcast that explores the connections between science, popular culture, history, and public policy, to help listeners understand the evidence and arguments behind what’s in the news and on the shelves.
Every week, our hosts sit down with science researchers, writers, authors, journalists, and experts to discuss science from the past, the science that affects our lives today, and how science might change our future.
Rachelle Saunders: Producer & Host
I love to learn new things, and say the word “fascinating” way too much. I like to talk about intersections and how science and critical thinking intersect with everyday life, politics, history, and culture. By day I’m a web developer, and I definitely listen to way too many podcasts.
Created in 2007 with the generous funding of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Strategic Knowledge Cluster grant, Situating Science is a seven-year project promoting communication and collaboration among humanists and social scientists that are engaged in the study of science and technology.
You can find out more about Situating Science’s final days in my August 16, 2013 posting where I included a lot of information about one of their last events titled, “Science and Society 2013 Symposium; Emerging Agendas for Citizens and the Sciences.”
The “think-tank” will dovetail nicely with a special symposium in Ottawa on Science and Society Oct. 21-23. For this symposium, the Cluster is partnering with the Institute for Science, Society and Policy to bring together scholars from various disciplines, public servants and policy workers to discuss key issues at the intersection of science and society. [emphasis mine] The discussions will be compiled in a document to be shared with stakeholders and the wider public.
The team will continue to seek support and partnerships for projects within the scope of its objectives. Among our top priorities are a partnership to explore sciences, technologies and their publics as well as new partnerships to build upon exchanges between scholars and institutions in India, Singapore and Canada.
The Situating Science folks did attempt to carry on the organization’s work by rebranding the organization to call it the Canadian Consortium for Situating Science and Technology (CCSST). It seems to have been a short-lived volunteer effort.
Meanwhile, the special symposium held in October 2013 appears to have been the springboard for another SSHRC funded multi-year initiative, this time focused on science collaborations between Canada, India, and Singapore, Cosmopolitanism and the Local in Science and Nature from 2014 – 2017. Despite their sunset year having been in 2017, their homepage boasts news about a 2020 Congress and their Twitter feed is still active. Harking back, here’s what the project was designed to do, from the About Us page,
Welcome to our three year project that will establish a research network on “Cosmopolitanism” in science. It closely examines the actual types of negotiations that go into the making of science and its culture within an increasingly globalized landscape. This partnership is both about “cosmopolitanism and the local” and is, at the same time, cosmopolitan and local.
Anyone who reads this blog with any frequency will know that I often comment on the fact that when organizations such as the Council of Canadian Academies bring in experts from other parts of the world, they are almost always from the US or Europe. So, I was delighted to discover the Cosmopolitanism project and featured it in a February 19, 2015 posting.
Expose a hitherto largely Eurocentric scholarly community in Canada to widening international perspectives and methods,
Build on past successes at border-crossings and exchanges between the participants,
Facilitate a much needed nation-wide organization and exchange amongst Indian and South East Asian scholars, in concert with their Canadian counterparts, by integrating into an international network,
Open up new perspectives on the genesis and place of globalized science, and thereby
Offer alternative ways to conceptualize and engage globalization itself, and especially the globalization of knowledge and science.
Bring the managerial team together for joint discussion, research exchange, leveraging and planning – all in the aid of laying the grounds of a sustainable partnership
Eco Art (also known as ecological art or environmental art)
I’m of two minds as to whether I should have tried to stuff this into the art/sci subsection in part 2. On balance, I decided that this merited its own section and that part 2 was already overstuffed.
Let’s start in Newfoundland and Labrador with Marlene Creates (pronounced Kreets), here’s more about her from her website’s bio webpage,
Marlene Creates (pronounced “Kreets”) is an environmental artist and poet who works with photography, video, scientific and vernacular knowledge, walking and collaborative site-specific performance in the six-acre patch of boreal forest in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, where she lives.
For almost 40 years her work has been an exploration of the relationship between human experience, memory, language and the land, and the impact they have on each other. …
Currently her work is focused on the six acres of boreal forest where she lives in a ‘relational aesthetic’ to the land. This oeuvre includes Water Flowing to the Sea Captured at the Speed of Light, Blast Hole Pond River, Newfoundland 2002–2003, and several ongoing projects:
Marlene Creates received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for “Lifetime Artistic Achievement” in 2019. …
An October 1, 2018 article by Yasmin Nurming-Por for Canadian Art magazine features 10 artists who focus on environmental and/or land art themes,
As part of her 2016 master’s thesis exhibition, Fredericton [New Brunswick] artist Gillian Dykeman presented the video Dispatches from the Feminist Utopian Future within a larger installation that imagined various canonical earthworks from the perspective of the future. It’s a project that addresses the inherent sense of timelessness in these massive interventions on the natural landscape from the perspective of contemporary land politics. … she proposes a kind of interaction with the invasive and often colonial gestures of modernist Land art, one that imagines a different future for these earthworks, where they are treated as alien in a landscape and as beacons from a feminist future.
If you have the time, I recommend reading the article in its entirety.
Oddly, I did not expect Vancouver to have such an active eco arts focus. The City of Vancouver Parks Board maintains an Environmental Art webpage on its site listing a number of current and past projects.
I cannot find the date for when this Parks Board initiative started but I did find a document produced prior to a Spring 2006 Arts & Ecology think tank held in Vancouver under the auspices of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, the Vancouver Foundation, and the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (London UK).
In all likelihood, Vancouver Park Board’s Environmental Art webpage was produced after 2006.
I imagine the document and the think tank session helped to anchor any then current eco art projects and encouraged more projects.
While its early days were in 2008, EartHand Gleaners (Vancouver-based) wasn’t formally founded as an arts non-for-profit organization until 2013. You can find out more about them and their projects here.
Eco Art has been around for decades according to the eco art think tank document but it does seemed to have gained momentum here in Canada over the last decade.
Photography and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)
Exploring the jack pine tight knit family tree. Credit: Dana Harris Brock University (2018)
Pictured are developing phloem, cambial, and xylem cells (blue), and mature xylem cells (red), in the outermost portion of a jack pine tree. This research aims to identify the influences of climate on the cellular development of the species at its northern limit in Yellowknife, NT. The differences in these cell formations is what creates the annual tree ring boundary.
Science Exposed is a photography contest for scientists which has been run since 2016 (assuming the Past Winners archive is a good indicator for the programme’s starting year).
The 2020 competition recently closed but public voting should start soon. It’s nice to see that NSERC is now making efforts to engage members of the general public rather than focusing its efforts solely on children. The UK’s ASPIRES project seems to support the idea that adults need to be more fully engaged with STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) efforts as it found that children’s attitudes toward science are strongly influenced by their parents’ and relatives’ attitudes.(See my January 31, 2012 posting.)
Ingenious, the book and Ingenium, the science museums
To celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary in 2017, then Governor General David Johnston and Tom Jenkins (Chair of the board for Open Text and former Chair of the federal committee overseeing the ‘Review of Federal Support to R&’D [see my October 21, 2011 posting about the resulting report]) wrote a boo about Canada’s inventors and inventions.
Johnston and Jenkins jaunted around the country launching their book (I have more about their June 1, 2017 Vancouver visit in a May 30, 2017 posting; scroll down about 60% of the way]).
The book’s full title, “Ingenious: How Canadian Innovators Made the World Smarter, Smaller, Kinder, Safer, Healthier, Wealthier and Happier ” outlines their thesis neatly.
Not all that long after the book was launched, there was a name change (thankfully) for the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (CSTMC). It is now known as Ingenium (covered in my August 10, 2017 posting).
The reason that name change was such a relief (for those who don’t know) is that the corporation included three national science museums: Canada Aviation and Space Museum, Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, and (wait for it) Canada Science and Technology Museum. On the list of confusing names, this ranks very high for me. Again, I give thanks for the change from CSTMC to Ingenium, leaving the name for the museum alone.
2017 was also the year that the newly refurbished Canada Science and Technology Museum was reopened after more than three years (see my June 23, 2017 posting about the November 2017 reopening and my June 12, 2015 posting for more information about the situation that led to the closure).
A Saskatchewan lab, Convergence, Order of Canada, Year of Science, Animated Mathematics, a graphic novel, and new media
Since this section is jampacked, I’m using subheads.
Dr. Brian Eameshosts an artist-in-residence,Jean-Sebastien (JS) Gauthier at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine Eames Lab. A February 16, 2018 posting here featured their first collaboration together. It covered evolutionary biology, the synchrotron (Canadian Light Source [CLS]) in Saskatoon, and the ‘ins and outs’ of a collaboration between a scientist an artist. Presumably the art-in-residence position indicates that first collaboration went very well.
In January 2020, Brian kindly gave me an update on their current projects. Jean-Sebastin successfully coded an interactive piece for an exhibit at the 2019 Nuit Blanche Saskatoon event using Connect (Xbox). More recently, he got a VR [virtual reality] helmet for an upcoming project or two.
Our Glass is a work of interactive SciArt co-created by artist JS Gauthier and biologist Dr Brian F. Eames. It uses cutting-edge 3D microscopic images produced for artistic purposes at the Canadian Light Source, Canada’s only synchrotron facility. Our Glass engages viewers of all ages to peer within an hourglass showing how embryonic development compares among animals with whom we share a close genetic heritage.
Eames also mentioned they were hoping to hold an international SciArt Symposium at the University of Saskatchewan in 2021.
Cat Lau’s December 23, 2019 posting for the Science Borealis blog provides insight into Zaelzer-Perez’s relationship to science and art,
Cristian: I have had a relationship with art and science ever since I have had memory. As a child, I loved to do classifications, from grouping different flowers to collecting leaves by their shapes. At the same time, I really loved to draw them and for me, both things never looked different; they (art and science) have always worked together.
I started as a graphic designer, but the pursuit to learn about nature was never dead. At some point, I knew I wanted to go back to school to do research, to explore and learn new things. I started studying medical technologies, then molecular biology and then jumped into a PhD. At that point, my life as a graphic designer slipped down, because of the focus you have to give to the discipline. It seemed like every time I tried to dedicate myself to one thing, I would find myself doing the other thing a couple years later.
I came to Montreal to do my post-doc, but I had trouble publishing, which became problematic in getting a career. I was still loving what I was doing, but not seeing a future in that. Once again, art came back into my life and at the same time I saw that science was becoming really hard to understand and scientists were not doing much to bridge the gap.
For a writer of children’s science books, an appointment to the Order of Canada is a singular honour. I cannot recall a children’s science book writer previous to Shar Levine being appointed as a Member of the Order of Canada. Known as ‘The Science Lady‘, Levine was appointed in 2016. Here’s more from her Wikipedia entry, Note: Links have been removed,
Shar Levine (born 1953) is an award-winning, best selling Canadian children’s author, and designer.
Shar has written over 70 books and book/kits, primarily on hands-on science for children. For her work in Science literacy and Science promotion, Shar has been appointed to the 2016 Order of Canada. In 2015, she was recognized by the University of Alberta and received their Alumni Honour Award. Levine, and her co-author, Leslie Johnstone, were co-recipients of the Eve Savory Award for Science Communication from the BC Innovation Council (2006) and their book, Backyard Science, was a finalist for the Subaru Award, (hands on activity) from the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science Books and Films (2005). The Ultimate Guide to Your Microscope was a finalist-2008 American Association for the Advancement of Science/Subaru Science Books and Films Prize Hands -On Science/Activity Books.
The Order of Canada is how our country honours people who make extraordinary contributions to the nation.
Since its creation in 1967—Canada’s centennial year—more than 7 000 people from all sectors of society have been invested into the Order. The contributions of these trailblazers are varied, yet they have all enriched the lives of others and made a difference to this country. Their grit and passion inspire us, teach us and show us the way forward. They exemplify the Order’s motto: DESIDERANTES MELIOREM PATRIAM (“They desire a better country”).
Year of Science in British Columbia
In the Fall of 2010, the British Columbia provincial government announced a Year of Science (coinciding with the school year) . Originally, it was supposed to be a provincial government-wide initiative but the idea percolated through any number of processes and emerged as a year dedicated to science education for youth (according to the idea’s originator, Moira Stilwell who was then a Member of the Legislative Assembly [MLA]’ I spoke with her sometime in 2010 or 2011).
As the ‘year’ drew to a close, there was a finale ($1.1M in funding), which was featured here in a July 6, 2011 posting.
The larger portion of the money ($1M) was awarded to Science World while $100,000 ($0.1 M) was given to the Pacific Institute of Mathematical Sciences To my knowledge there have been no followup announcements about how the money was used.
Animation and mathematics
In Toronto, mathematician Dr. Karan Singh enjoyed a flurry of interest due to his association with animator Chris Landreth and their Academy Award (Oscar) Winning 2004 animated film, Ryan. They have continued to work together as members of the Dynamic Graphics Project (DGP) Lab at the University of Toronto. Theirs is not the only Oscar winning work to emerge from one or more of the members of the lab. Jos Stam, DGP graduate and adjunct professor won his third in 2019.
A graphic novel and medical promise
An academic at Simon Fraser University since 2015, Coleman Nye worked with three other women to produce a graphic novel about medical dilemmas in a genre described as’ ethno-fiction’.
Lissa: A Story about Medical Promise, Friendship, and Revolution (2017) by Sherine Hamdy and Coleman Nye, two anthropologists and Art by Sarula Bao and Caroline Brewer, two artists.
As young girls in Cairo, Anna and Layla strike up an unlikely friendship that crosses class, cultural, and religious divides. Years later, Anna learns that she may carry the hereditary cancer gene responsible for her mother’s death. Meanwhile, Layla’s family is faced with a difficult decision about kidney transplantation. Their friendship is put to the test when these medical crises reveal stark differences in their perspectives…until revolutionary unrest in Egypt changes their lives forever.
The first book in a new series [ethnoGRAPIC; a series of graphic novels from the University of Toronto Press], Lissa brings anthropological research to life in comic form, combining scholarly insights and accessible, visually-rich storytelling to foster greater understanding of global politics, inequalities, and solidarity.
I hope to write more about this graphic novel in a future posting.
I don’t know if this could be described as a movement yet but it’s certainly an interesting minor development. Two new media centres have hosted, in the last four years, art/sci projects and/or workshops. It’s unexpected given this definition from the Wikipedia entry for New Media (Note: Links have been removed),
New media are forms of media that are computational and rely on computers for redistribution. Some examples of new media are computer animations, computer games, human-computer interfaces, interactive computer installations, websites, and virtual worlds.
In Manitoba, the Video Pool Media Arts Centre hosted a February 2016 workshop Biology as a New Art Medium: Workshop with Marta De Menezes. De Menezes, an artist from Portugal, gave workshops and talks in both Winnipeg (Manitoba) and Toronto (Ontario). Here’s a description for the one in Winnipeg,
This workshop aims to explore the multiple possibilities of artistic approaches that can be developed in relation to Art and Microbiology in a DIY situation. A special emphasis will be placed on the development of collaborative art and microbiology projects where the artist has to learn some biological research skills in order to create the artwork. The course will consist of a series of intense experimental sessions that will give raise to discussions on the artistic, aesthetic and ethical issues raised by the art and the science involved. Handling these materials and organisms will provoke a reflection on the theoretical issues involved and the course will provide background information on the current diversity of artistic discourses centred on biological sciences, as well a forum for debate.
VIVO Media Arts Centre in Vancouver hosted the Invasive Systems in 2019. From the exhibition page,
Picture this – a world where AI invades human creativity, bacteria invade our brains, and invisible technological signals penetrate all natural environments. Where invasive species from plants to humans transform spaces where they don’t belong, technology infiltrates every aspect of our daily lives, and the waste of human inventions ravages our natural environments.
This weekend festival includes an art-science exhibition [emphasis mine], a hands-on workshop (Sat, separate registration required), and guided discussions and tours by the curator (Sat/Sun). It will showcase collaborative works by three artist/scientist pairs, and independent works by six artists. Opening reception will be on Friday, November 8 starting at 7pm; curator’s remarks and performance by Edzi’u at 7:30pm and 9pm.
New Westminster’s (British Columbia) New Media Gallery recently hosted an exhibition, ‘winds‘ from June 20 – September 29, 2019 that could be described as an art/sci exhibition,
Landscape and weather have long shared an intimate connection with the arts. Each of the works here is a landscape: captured, interpreted and presented through a range of technologies. The four artists in this exhibition have taken, as their material process, the movement of wind through physical space & time. They explore how our perception and understanding of landscape can be interpreted through technology.
These works have been created by what might be understood as a sort of scientific method or process that involves collecting data, acute observation, controlled experiments and the incorporation of measurements and technologies that control or collect motion, pressure, sound, pattern and the like. …
Council of Canadian Academies, Publishing, and Open Access
Established in 2005, the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) (Wikipedia entry) is tasked by various departments and agencies to answer their queries about science issues that could affect the populace and/or the government. In 2014, the CCA published a report titled, Science Culture: Where Canada Stands. It was in response to the Canada Science and Technology Museums Corporation (now called Ingenium), Industry Canada, and Natural Resources Canada and their joint request that the CCA conduct an in-depth, independent assessment to investigate the state of Canada’s science culture.
I gave a pretty extensive analysis of the report, which I delivered in four parts: Part 1, Part 2 (a), Part 2 (b), and Part 3. In brief, the term ‘science culture’ seems to be specifically, i.e., it’s not used elsewhere in the world (that we know of), Canadian. We have lots to be proud of. I was a little disappointed by the lack of culture (arts) producers on the expert panel and, as usual, I bemoaned the fact that the international community included as reviewers, members of the panel, and as points for comparison were drawn from the usual suspects (US, UK, or somewhere in northern Europe).
Science publishing in Canada took a bit of a turn in 2010, when the country’s largest science publisher, NRC (National Research Council) Research Publisher was cut loose from the government and spun out into the private, *not-for-profit publisher*, Canadian Science Publishing (CSP). From the CSP Wikipedia entry,
Since 2010, Canadian Science Publishing has acquired five new journals:
Canadian Science Publishing offers researchers options to make their published papers freely available (open access) in their standard journals and in their open access journal, (from the CSP Wikipedia entry)
Arctic Science aims to provide a collaborative approach to Arctic research for a diverse group of users including government, policy makers, the general public, and researchers across all scientific fields
FACETS is Canada’s first open access multidisciplinary science journal, aiming to advance science by publishing research that the multi-faceted global community of research. FACETS is the official journal of the Royal Society of Canada’s Academy of Science.
Anthropocene Coasts aims to understand and predict the effects of human activity, including climate change, on coastal regions.
In addition, Canadian Science Publishing strives to make their content accessible through the CSP blog that includes plain language summaries of featured research. The open-access journal FACETS similarly publishes plain language summaries.
CSP announced (on Twitter) a new annual contest in 2016,
New CONTEST! Announcing Visualizing Science! Share your science images & win great prizes! Full details on the blog http://cdnsciencepub.com/blog/2016-csp-image-contest-visualizing-science.aspx1:45 PM · Sep 19, 2016·TweetDeck
The 2016 blog posting is no longer accessible. Oddly for a contest of this type, I can’t find an image archive for previous contests. Regardless, a 2020 competition has been announced for Summer 2020. There are some details on the VISUALIZING SCIENCE 2020 webpage but some are missing, e.g., no opening date, no deadline. They are encouraging you to sign up for notices.
Back to open access, in a January 22, 2016 posting I featured news about Montreal Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute [MNI] in Québec, Canada) and its then new policy giving researchers world wide access to its research and made a pledge that it would not seek patents for its work.
Fish, Newfoundland & Labrador, and Prince Edward Island
AquAdvantage’s genetically modified salmon was approved for consumption in Canada according to my May 20, 2016 posting. The salmon are produced/farmed by a US company (AquaBounty) but the the work of genetically modifying Atlantic salmon with genetic material from the Chinook (a Pacific ocean salmon) was mostly undertaken at Memorial University in Newfoundland & Labrador.
The process by which work done in Newfoundland & Labrador becomes the property of a US company is one that’s well known here in Canada. The preliminary work and technology is developed here and then purchased by a US company, which files patents, markets, and profits from it. Interestingly, the fish farms for the AquAdvantage salmon are mostly (two out of three) located on Prince Edward Island.
Intriguingly, 4.5 tonnes of the modified fish were sold for consumption in Canada without consumers being informed (see my Sept. 13, 2017 posting, scroll down about 45% of the way).
It’s not all sunshine and roses where science culture in Canada is concerned. Incidents where Canadians are not informed let alone consulted about major changes in the food supply and other areas are not unusual. Too many times, scientists, politicians, and government policy experts want to spread news about science without any response from the recipients who are in effect viewed as a ‘tabula rasa’ or a blank page.
Tying it all up
This series has been my best attempt to document in some fashion or another the extraordinary range of science culture in Canada from roughly 2010-19. Thank you! This series represents a huge amount of work and effort to develop science culture in Canada and I am deeply thankful that people give so much to this effort.
I have inevitably missed people and organizations and events. For that I am very sorry. (There is an addendum to the series as it’s been hard to stop but I don’t expect to add anything or anyone more.)
I want to mention but can’t expand upon,the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy, which was established in the 2017 federal budget (see a March 31, 2017 posting about the Vector Institute and Canada’s artificial intelligence sector).
Science Borealis, the Canadian science blog aggregator, owes its existence to Canadian Science Publishing for the support (programming and financial) needed to establish itself and, I believe, that support is still ongoing. I think thanks are also due to Jenny Ryan who was working for CSP and championed the initiative. Jenny now works for Canadian Blood Services. Interestingly, that agency added a new programme, a ‘Lay Science Writing Competition’ in 2018. It’s offered n partnership with two other groups, the Centre for Blood Research at the University of British Columbia and Science Borealis
While the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada does not fit into my time frame as it lists as its founding date December 1, 1868 (18 months after confederation), the organization did celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2018.
Vancouver’s Electric Company often produces theatrical experiences that cover science topics such as the one featured in my June 7, 2013 posting, You are very star—an immersive transmedia experience.
Let’s Talk Science (Wikipedia entry) has been heavily involved with offering STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) programming both as part of curricular and extra-curricular across Canada since 1993.
This organization predates confederation having been founded in 1849 by Sir Sandford Fleming and Kivas Tully in Toronto. for surveyors, civil engineers, and architects. It is the Royal Canadian Institute of Science (Wikipedia entry)_. With almost no interruption, they have been delivering a regular series of lectures on the University of Toronto campus since 1913.
The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics is a more recent beast. In 1999 Mike Lazirides, founder of Research In Motion (now known as Blackberry Limited), acted as both founder and major benefactor for this institute in Waterloo, Ontario. They offer a substantive and imaginative outreach programmes such as Arts and Culture: “Event Horizons is a series of unique and extraordinary events that aim to stimulate and enthral. It is a showcase of innovative work of the highest international standard, an emotional, intellectual, and creative experience. And perhaps most importantly, it is a social space, where ideas collide and curious minds meet.”
While gene-editing hasn’t seemed to be top-of-mind for anyone other than those in the art/sci community that may change. My April 26, 2019 posting focused on what appears to be a campaign to reverse Canada’s criminal ban on human gene-editing of inheritable cells (germline). With less potential for controversy, there is a discussion about somatic gene therapies and engineered cell therapies. A report from the Council of Canadian is due in the Fall of 2020. (The therapies being discussed do not involve germline editing.)
I recently stumbled across ‘un balados’ (podcast), titled, 20%. Started in January 2019 by the magazine, Québec Science, the podcast is devoted to women in science and technology. 20%, the podcast’s name, is the statistic representing the number of women in those fields. “Dans les domaines de la science et de la technologie, les femmes ne forment que 20% de la main-d’oeuvre.” (from the podcast webpage) The podcast is a co-production between “Québec Science [founded in 1962] et l’Acfas [formerly, l’Association Canadienne-Française pour l’Avancement des Sciences, now, Association francophone pour le savoir], en collaboration avec la Commission canadienne pour l’UNESCO, L’Oréal Canada et la radio Choq.ca.” (also from the podcast webpage)
Does it mean anything?
There have been many developments since I started writing this series in late December 2019. In January 2020, Iran shot down one of its own planes. That error killed some 176 people , many of them (136 Canadians and students) bound for Canada. The number of people who were involved in the sciences, technology, and medicine was striking.
It was a shocking loss and will reverberate for quite some time. There is a memorial posting here (January 13, 2020), which includes links to another memorial posting and an essay.
As I write this we are dealing with a pandemic, COVID-19, which has us all practicing physical and social distancing. Congregations of large numbers are expressly forbidden. All of this is being done in a bid to lessen the passage of the virus, SARS-CoV-2 which causes COVID-19.
In the short term at least, it seems that much of what I’ve described in these five parts (and the addendum) will undergo significant changes or simply fade away.
As for the long term, with this last 10 years having hosted the most lively science culture scene I can ever recall, I’m hopeful that science culture in Canada will do more than survive but thrive.
*”for-profit publisher, Canadian Science Publishing (CSP)” corrected to “not-for-profit publisher, Canadian Science Publishing (CSP)” and this comment “Not bad for a for-profit business, eh?” removed on April 29, 2020 as per Twitter comments,
Hi Maryse, thank you for alerting us to your blog. To clarify, Canadian Science Publishing is a not-for-profit publisher. Thank you as well for sharing our image contest. We’ve updated the contest page to indicate that the contest opens July 2020!
Research carried out recently at the Canadian Light Source (CLS) [also known as a synchrotron] in Saskatoon [Saskatchewan, Canada] has revealed promising information about how to build a better dental implant, one that integrates more readily with bone to reduce the risk of failure.
“There are millions of dental and orthopedic implants placed every year in North America and a certain number of them always fail, even in healthy people with healthy bone,” said Kathryn Grandfield, assistant professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at McMaster University in Hamilton [Ontario, Canada].
A dental implant restores function after a tooth is lost or removed. It is usually a screw shaped implant that is placed in the jaw bone and acts as the tooth roots, while an artificial tooth is placed on top. The implant portion is the artificial root that holds an artificial tooth in place.
Grandfield led a study that showed altering the surface of a titanium implant improved its connection to the surrounding bone. It is a finding that may well be applicable to other kinds of metal implants, including engineered knees and hips, and even plates used to secure bone fractures.
About three million people in North America receive dental implants annually. While the failure rate is only one to two percent, “one or two percent of three million is a lot,” she said. Orthopedic implants fail up to five per cent of the time within the first 10 years; the expected life of these devices is about 20 to 25 years, she added.
“What we’re trying to discover is why they fail, and why the implants that are successful work. Our goal is to understand the bone-implant interface in order to improve the design of implants.”
Grandfield’s research team, which included post-doctoral fellow Xiaoyue Wang and McMaster colleague Adam Hitchcock from the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology. The team members used the soft X-ray spectromicroscopy beamline at the CLS as well as facilities at the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy in Hamilton to examine a failed dental implant that had to be removed, along with a small amount of surrounding bone, from a patient. Prior to implantation, a laser beam was used to alter the implant, to roughen the surface, creating what looked like “little volcanoes” on the surface. After removal from the patient, the point of connection between bone and metal was then carefully studied to understand how the implant behaved.
“What we found was that the surface modification changed the chemistry of the implant. The modification created an oxide layer, but not a bad oxide layer like rust but a better, more beneficial layer that helps integrate with bone material.”
The research results were published in Advanced Materials Interfaces in May , ensuring the findings are available “to implant companies interested in using nanotechnology to change the structure of the implants they produce,” said Grandfield.
The next steps in the research will be to apply the surface modification technique to other types of implants “to be able to understand fully how they function.” Grandfield added the research done at the CLS involved healthy bone “so I’d be really interested in seeing the response when bone is a bit more compromised by age or disease, like osteoporosis. We need to find the best surface modifications … because the technology we have today to treat patients with healthier bone may not be sufficient with compromised bone.”
Here’s a link to (even though it’s in the news release text) and a citation for the paper,
Covering this art/sci piece in Saskatchewan proved to be an adventure that led from an evolutionary biologist in Saskatchewan to the Canadian Light Source to 3D models and fish to fractals and Fibonacci sequences to a Fransaskois video artist and sculptor and to much more.
Starting from the end, there’s this,
“Face-to-Face 1” (2017). Digital rendering from synchrotron X-ray microtomography of adult zebrafish and CT scan of adult human. Image courtesy of JS Gauthier. [downloaded from https://www.sciartmagazine.com/collaboration-shining-a-light-on-unity.html]
Of course, it’s debatable as to whether this image could really be described as the end of anything especially since it’s referencing evolutionary biology. (The result of an art/sci project, the image is from the April 2017 exhibition, “Dans la Mesure / Within Measure,” by Jean-Sébastien Gauthier, and was hosted by the University of Saskatchewan College of Arts and Science at their Gordon Snelgrove Gallery.)
Perhaps it would be better to describe it as the end of the beginning which started when Gauthier (who’d been on a tour of the facility) posted a call for scientist collaborators in a Canadian Light Source (synchrotron) newsletter. From an October 2017 article by Erin Prosser-Loose for SciArt Magazine,
… The same day the newsletter went out he [Gautheir] received numerous replies, but one especially well-articulated response stood out to him.
Dr. Brian Eames in the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan who kindly spoke with me at length about his involvement was the author of the letter which led, initially, to what sounds like a date. Eames and Gauthier met for coffee and conversation designed to gauge their compatibility. “We shared concepts on evolutionary biology and spitballed ideas for using the snychrotron to explore evolution.” Afterwards, they went to Eames’ laboratory where Gauthier was introduced to zebrafish in the lab’s downstairs aquaria.
Morphogenesis (the process that causes an organism to take its shape; for more see: this Wikipeida entry) was central to their first discussion and was the first working title for their project,
After their collaboration had been established, something serendipitous occurred. According to Gauthier, “We were imaging one of the first zebrafish samples in the lab when I noted the book on Brian’s desk in his office. It was a gift from PhD student, Patsy Gomez to Brian. It was an absolutely seminal point of reference for our work as it opened up a clear historical precedent for artsci.” “Art Forms in Nature: The Prints of Ernst Haeckel” was the book and, for anyone unfamiliar with Haeckel, he was a philosopher, a biologist, an artist, and more.
The geometric shapes and natural forms, captured with exceptional precision in Ernst Haeckel’s prints, still influence artists and designers to this day. This volume highlights the research and findings of this natural scientist. Powerful modern microscopes have confirmed the accuracy of Haeckel’s prints, which even in their day, became world famous. Haeckel’s portfolio, first published between 1899 and 1904 in separate installments, is described in the opening essays. The plates illustrate Haeckel’s fundamental monistic notion of the “unity of all living things” and the wide variety of forms are executed with utmost delicacy. Incipient microscopic organisms are juxtaposed with highly developed plants and animals. The pages, ordered according to geometric and “constructive” aspects, document the oness of the world in its most diversified forms. This collection of plates was not only well-received by scientists, but by artists and architects as well. Rene Binet, a pioneer of glass and iron constructions, Emile Galle, a renowned Art Nouveau designer, and the photographer Karl Blossfeld all make explicit reference to Haeckel in their work.
Here’s one of the images made available by Amazon,
[downloaded from https://www.amazon.com/Art-Forms-Nature-Prints-Haeckel/dp/3791319906]
‘Oneness’ and repetition of patterns? In mathematics, there are fractals and the Fibonacci sequence.
A fractal is a never-ending pattern. Fractals are infinitely complex patterns that are self-similar across different scales. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing feedback loop. Driven by recursion, fractals are images of dynamic systems – the pictures of Chaos. Geometrically, they exist in between our familiar dimensions. Fractal patterns are extremely familiar, since nature is full of fractals. For instance: trees, rivers, coastlines, mountains, clouds, seashells, hurricanes, etc. Abstract fractals – such as the Mandelbrot Set – can be generated by a computer calculating a simple equation over and over.
[downloaded from http://fractalfoundation.org/2017/12/festive-fractals-show-128-at-7-pm/]
The story began in Pisa, Italy in the year 1202. Leonardo Pisano Bigollo was a young man in his twenties, a member of an important trading family of Pisa. In his travels throughout the Middle East, he was captivated by the mathematical ideas that had come west from India through the Arabic countries. When he returned to Pisa he published these ideas in a book on mathematics called Liber Abaci, which became a landmark in Europe. Leonardo, who has since come to be known as Fibonacci, became the most celebrated mathematician of the Middle Ages. His book was a discourse on mathematical methods in commerce, but is now remembered mainly for two contributions, one obviously important at the time and one seemingly insignificant.
The important one: he brought to the attention of Europe the Hindu system for writing numbers. European tradesmen and scholars were still clinging to the use of the old Roman numerals; modern mathematics would have been impossible without this change to the Hindu system, which we call now Arabic notation, since it came west through Arabic lands.
The other: hidden away in a list of brain-teasers , Fibonacci posed the following question:
If a pair of rabbits is placed in an enclosed area, how many rabbits will be born there if we assume that every month a pair of rabbits produces another pair, and that rabbits begin to bear young two months after their birth?
This apparently innocent little question has as an answer a certain sequence of numbers, known now as the Fibonacci sequence, which has turned out to be one of the most interesting ever written down. It has been rediscovered in an astonishing variety of forms, in branches of mathematics way beyond simple arithmetic. Its method of development has led to far-reaching applications in mathematics and computer science.
But even more fascinating is the surprising appearance of Fibonacci numbers, and their relative ratios, in arenas far removed from the logical structure of mathematics: in Nature and in Art, in classical theories of beauty and proportion.
Getting back to Brian Eames and Jean-Sébastien Gauthier, after exploring areas of mutual interest from a conversational perspective they went on to develop a project focused on unity and forms. “No matter what vertebrate (animals with bones) you compare, a chick or a mouse or a human or a zebrafish, they are very similar,” says Eames.
The scientist, the artist, and the synchrotron (Canadian Light Source)
Dr. Brian Eames
Eames’ research interests are, as noted on his faculty page where it’s Dr. Brian Eames, PhD., Faculty, Anatomy and Cell Biology, College of Medicine, University of Saskatchewan,
… defects associated with osteoarthritis that degrade the cartilage protecting the bones leaving them exposed and susceptible to damage. He did this in two ways: through the use of zebrafish embryos and with the cutting-edge imaging capabilities available at the synchrotron.
Originally from Ohio (US), Eames first studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where he developed an interest in virology at a time when HIV as a causative agent for AIDS was a hot topic. He went on to work at a Stanford University (California) laboratory before undertaking graduate studies at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) where he earned a PhD in Biomedical Sciences.
Eames discussed how his PhD was influenced by his earlier studies at UNC, “HIV taught me how genetic evolution worked, and I made a decision to study genetic evolution in a more complex system, the skeleton–so I picked a lab that studied skeletal development in the embryo for my PhD .” In fact, even before he’d studied HIV and genetic evolution in detail, Eames had a summer job after his second year in university where he worked on getting stem cells to differentiate into bone cells in a lab at Case Western Reserve University (iOhio).
He didn’t know it at the time but all all his research interests and work were to bring him to the University of Saskatchewan.
This dynamic program introduces students to new ways of making visual art. Using examples from contemporary and historical art, Jean-Sébastien will discuss performative approaches to art making. Students will learn how to create living sculptures from their own bodies and everyday materials, and will be inspired to use these temporary constructions as models for sketching and drawing.
Jean-Sébastien (JS) Gauthier is a Fransaskois [Franco-Saskatchewanian] artist from Saskatoon. His art practice combines a range of disciplines, including sculpture, video, and performance. JS is the grandson of sculptor Bill Epp, well known for creating public sculpture for cities throughout Saskatchewan and the world. As a child JS apprenticed in his grandfather’s bronze foundry. After high school, JS studied animation, worked in a sculpture foundry in France, and studied Fine Arts at Concordia University in Montreal [Québec, Canada].
JS’s sculptures, videos, and performances have been exhibited throughout Canada, the US, and Europe. In 2014, he collaborated with two other Saskatoon artists to create a bronze monument titled «The Spirit of Alliance». This public work commemorates the alliance between First Nations People and the British Crown during the War of 1812.
In a sense, the Eames/Gauthier coffee date could have been described as Colliding Worlds (a 2014 book by Arthur I. Miller which is subtitled: How cutting edge science is redefining contemporary art) and was mentioned by Eames in his interview.
First, however, there was the science. “In the end he [Gauthier] did a science project and I was like a cheerleader encouraging him as he went through all the ups and downs of research,” said Eames. Both Eames and Gauthier had to develop new skills, Gauthier learning how to prepare samples, handle data, and process 3D scans while Eames refined his approach to preparing samples. ” We had to try a bunch of different techniques to ensure that the sample would stay still during the hours-long imaging sessions (if it moved even a little bit–a few microns [a micron is one millionth], then you can’t reconstruct 3D models of the sample!)–… JS got some art straws (used to protect art brushes during shipment), and then we’d immerse the sample in a seaweed jelly, put it in the straw, and seal the ends with melted wax. We also had to find the best settings [for] the imaging equipment (and the synchrotron equivalent equipment) to get the best resolution images possible.”
It’s all about the light
Synchrotrons are also known as ‘light sources’ and ours is the Canadian Light Source and for most Canadians finding out that Saskatoon is home to a world class facility and one of approximately 40 synchrotrons in the world (and the only one in Canada) will come as a bit of a shock. This description about synchrotrons from my May 31, 2011 posting about ours and the UK’s synchrotron still stands (the description can also be found on the Canadian Light Source’s What is a Synchrotron webpage),
A synchrotron is a source of brilliant light that scientists can use to gather information about the structural and chemical properties of materials at the molecular level.
A synchrotron produces the light by using powerful electro-magnets and radio frequency waves to accelerate electrons to nearly the speed of light. Energy is added to the electrons as they accelerate so that, when the magnets alter their course, they naturally emit a very brilliant, highly focused light. Different spectra of light, such as Infrared, Ultraviolet, and X-rays, are directed down beamlines where researchers choose the desired wavelength to study their samples. The researchers observe the interaction between the light and the matter in their sample at the endstations (small laboratories).
This tool can be used to probe the matter and analyze a host of physical, chemical, geological, and biological processes. Information obtained by scientists can be used to help design new drugs, examine the structure of surfaces to develop more effective motor oils, build smaller, more powerful computer chips, develop new materials for safer medical implants, and help with clean-up of mining wastes, to name just a few applications.
The Canadian Light Source (CLS) (French: Centre canadien de rayonnement synchrotron – CCRS) is Canada’s national synchrotron light source facility, located on the grounds of the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. The CLS has a third-generation 2.9 GeV storage ring, and the building occupies a footprint the size of a football field. It opened in 2004 after a 30-year campaign by the Canadian scientific community to establish a synchrotron radiation facility in Canada. It has expanded both its complement of beamlines and its building in two phases since opening, and its official visitors have included Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. As a national synchrotron facility with over 1000 individual users, it hosts scientists from all regions of Canada and around 20 other countries. Research at the CLS has ranged from viruses to superconductors to dinosaurs, and it has also been noted for its industrial science  and its high school education programs.
Here’s an image of the synchrotron,
Synchrotron facility. Image credit Canadian Light Source Inc. [downloaded from https://www.sciartmagazine.com/collaboration-shining-a-light-on-unity.html]
The attraction for Eames, Gauthier, and countless scientists is the ability to see high resolution detail at extraordinarily small scales and, in some cases, to create 3D models using the data from the synchrotron. (After all, Gauthier is a sculptor and one of Eames’ research interests is molecular genetics.)
The zebrafish is well known among biological scientists as a model organism for the study of developmental and genetic vertebrate biology. Using zebrafish in the project began for practical reasons as Brian had access to a large quantity of the embryos, which would be important for trouble shooting imaging techniques and for use on the synchrotron. From his perspective, JS [Gauthier] liked the idea of using a well-characterized, scientific model organism for his art, “As an artist, I believe that anything can be significant to my art practice, that I don’t need to have reasons beyond curious engagement to undertake explorations. …”
The first step was to image the zebrafish embryo in 3D. As Brian [Eames] explains, “the basic idea is that you stabilize the sample (the zebrafish embryo) by embedding it in a thick gel, so that it doesn’t move, put it on something like a record player, and take a series of X-rays, rotating the sample slightly each time.” From these 2D images, JS utilized software to make 3D models. For the interactive piece project, the 3D images were further processed through a mix of sculpting and rendering software, which made them useable in an interactive game engine. …
Before moving onto the art and because it fascinates me, here are a few quick facts about the Canadian Light Source (CLS) from their What is a Synchrotron webpage),
… The Canadian synchrotron is competitive with the brightest facilities in Japan, the U.S. and Europe.
More than 3,000 scientists have used the CLS more than 5,000 times.
Beamlines carry the synchrotron light to scientific work stations that operate 24 hours per day, 6 days per week, approximately 42 weeks of the year.
CLS utility costs are approximately $1.8M annually including electricity, steam and water. When we are operating the facility with stored beam, consumption is approximately 3.2-3.5 megawatts to produce approximately 200 kW of synchrotron radiation. This translates to approximately $1,000 worth of electricity daily.
The six-storey building (Phase I construction) required 1,300 tons of steel and enough concrete to build 160 1,200-square-foot homes. This concrete base has more than 700 piles each 10-20m deep with vibrational isolation from the foundation for the walls in order to ensure stability.
A 2010 economic impact study estimated that CLS operations directly contributed almost $90M to the Canadian GDP. This means that for every dollar of CLS operating funding (approximately $23M) our operations contributed three to the Canadian economy.
As for the ‘light’ produced by a synchrotron, Eames describes it this way, “It’s like an x-ray but the source in this case is more intense. The term is “brilliance” for the brightness and other qualities of the synchrotron light, no joke.”
The art/sci piece: Dans la Mesure / Within Measure and beyond
This video gives a little insight into how the senses (sight, hearing, and kinesthetia) are engaged by “Dans la Mesure / Within Measure”,
The sound you hear in the video is from a session when musician and sound artist Andy Rudolph had Eames and Gauthier place a microphone in the synchrotron to record the sound while they were imaging one of their samples.
In a later (after the University of Saskatchewan exhibit in April 2017) , simultaneous installation of Dans la Mesure / Within Measure at la ‘Nuit Blanche Saskatoon‘ and la ‘Nuit Blanche Toronto‘ on September 30, 2017, Gauthier said there were, “… proximity sensors [or] ultrasonic rangefinders. They detect[ed] viewers’ positions using high frequency sonar. The sensors were in plain view, (though their function was not made evident to the audience, unless someone was interacting with them at that particular time). These sensors didn’t really “activate the projector”; they would translate and magnify the scale and rotation of embryonic 3D models from a single pixel on the wall to a monumental scale. The default single pixel projections were still bigger than the most of the actual samples that were modelled ,so the display played upon senses of scale also. The proximity of the viewer also alter[ed] the volume and location of audio samples in the soundscape.” In effect, the viewer would experience the development of a zebrafish embryo by walking through a series of eight 3D models
In summing up the idea behind the Eames/Guathier project and, in reality, all artists and scientists working in collaboration, Jeff Cutler (CLS [Canadian Light Source] Chief Strategic Relations officer) in Prosser-Loose’s October 2017 article does a beautiful job,
… “Art and science are natural collaborators. In the same way that art alters a perspective, or provides an unexpected revelation, so does science. Researchers from around the world come to our light source in order to see things differently, and their findings often change how we look at the world. It’s this search for a new way of seeing things that brings art and science together, and that’s why it’s important for us to work with artists like JS. Not only does his work introduce the CLS to a new audience, but he has also challenged us to see our own work differently.”
Eames adds to the reasons for art/sci collaboration,
“My work depends upon taxpayer money! So really, everyone should get something from my work, since they paid for it. What can they get out of it? Well, the synchrotron is an amazing investment by Canadians that provides unique and wonderfully insightful views of all sorts of things in the world. The fact that it’s in Saskatoon should bring even more pride to the people of Saskatchewan. Also, JS and I feel strongly that many problems that humans have today are due to a lack of understanding of how all forms of life are related, so this is a major driving force in our collaboration so far.”
Beyond (future plans)
Eames and Gauthier have big plans for what comes next. Building on their first project, which was supported by a Canada Council for the Arts grant, they are currently embarking on a more technically complex piece with more sculptures and more viewer interaction with the objects. Their aim is to heighten the immersive and interactive experience.
They’re planning to make greater interaction possible through [augmented] reality (AR)* which will engage viewers in a sensory field, as well as, allowing accessibility outside of a gallery. Similar to their first installation, Eames and Gauthier are also planning a generative soundscape based on viewers’ position in the gallery.
In November 2017, Eames and Gauthier received the news that “All Forms at All Times / Toutes formes et en tout temps” had received funding from the Canada Council for the Arts with contributions from the University of Saskatchewan.
This time, specimens from other species will be included. As Eames explains about this new work, ” [We’re once again] hitting the commonality of life on Earth…plus I find that each animal’s embryos has its unique beauties; I’m very interested to see how JS puts the various images together aesthetically.”
it’s exciting to hear of this art/sci work (or SciArt as it’s sometimes called) in Saskatchewan. There seems to be a movement in Canada building towards these kinds of collaborations and interactions. There’s Curiosity Collider which holds events in Vancouver (BC); Beakerhead, a five-day art, science, and engineering festival held in Calgary (Alberta) annually since 2013, the Art/Sci Salon holds events in Toronto (Ontario), and Art the Science; “a Canadian Science-Art nonprofit (likely in Ontario), which helps set up artist residencies in science facilities. Art the Science has regularly updated blog featuring creators and various Science-Art projects.
This isn’t the first time there’s been an art/sci ‘movement’ in Canada. About 15 or 20 years ago (in the early 2000’s), the Canada Council for the Arts worked with Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the National Research Council (NRC) of Canada to award grants for art/sci collaborations and for artist residencies in science facilities.
At the time, I spoke with artist Alan Storey who had a residency at TRIUMF (if memory serves) which is now billing itself as “Canada’s particle accelerator centre.” (It was “Canada’s National Laboratory for Particle and Nuclear Physics”.) He was a bit discouraged as there wasn’t much interest in anything other than his welding skills (artists often need to develop a broad range of skills to realize their artistic vision and to support themselves). The grants programme died within a year or two after that. So, it’s great to see an art/sci (or SciArt) movement taking place now in what seems to have been a bottom-up process (or what used to be called a grassroots movement).
As mentioned earlier in this posting, the notion of exploring connections between various natural forms has long held great interest for me. The experiential element of the exhibit underscores the notion of connections between the viewer and the object while giving the viewer something more to do than gaze at art works. There’s nothing wrong with gazing at art works; it can be a very powerful experience but “Dans la Mesure / Within Measure” arises from ideas about evolutionary biology and it could be said that biology and evolution are about movement (especially given Eames’ research into knee cartilage) and change.
Gauthier and Eames have created a very male installation. All of the figures I’ve seen in the video and in Prosser-Loose’s October 2017 article (I encourage you to read it if you have time; my excerpts don’t do justice to it and the many images embedded in it) feature what appear to be male figures only. It’s an unexpected approach since females are usually associated with embryos and reproduction. It challenges preconceptions about reproduction and, by extension, evolutionary biology in some subtle ways.
Of course, there may have been purely practical reasons for using a male figure throughout. Cost and convernience. It’s the same reason zerbrafish embryos were used. Anyway, it will be interesting to note if more funding will affect the ‘figures’ in future projects.
Connect to and/or presenting “Dans la Mesure / Within Measure”?
For anyone interested in hosting “Dans la Mesure / Within Measure,” Gauthier and Eames are very interested in bringing their work to new venues.
Eames and Gauthier are currently in talks with Calgary’s Beakerhead to present their newest, “All Forms at All Times / Toutes formes et en tout temps” as part of the Beakerhead festival in Calgary, September 19 -23, 2018. Details are still being discussed. Meanwhile, an exhibition for the news installation is being planned for early 2019.
*AR/MR/VR stand for augmented reality, mixed reality, and virtual reality respectively. While VR, which requires equipment such as specialized helmets and induce immersion in a ‘counterfeit reality’ has a largely standard definition, AR and MR do not with AR and MR sometimes being used interchangeably to describe a reality composed of ‘real’ and ‘counterfeit’ elements. You’ll get much better definitions from foundry.com’s VR? AR? MR? Sorry I’m confused webpage.
It was delightful to learn that there is science underlying Paul Feig’s upcoming all female version (remake) of the movie Ghostbusters in a March 4, 2016 article by Darian Alexander for Slate.com (Note: Links have been removed),
With Thursday’s [March 4, 2016] release of the first trailer for Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters, fans finally got a good look at the highly anticipated reboot. The clip offered a peak into the movie’s setup, its setpieces, and its overall tone. But there’s one topic it left mysterious: the science.
Well, in a new and pretty fascinating marketing tie-in, the studio made a video going deep on the science of proton packs. Tucked inconspicuously into the trailer footage (at around the 1:05 mark) was a short shot of an equation-filled whiteboard. Appearing somewhat mysteriously atop it was a url: ParanormalStudiesLab.com.
The Paranormal Studies Lab site (part of Sony’s publicity campaign for the film) doesn’t have a great deal of information at this time but there is this video featuring scientist James Maxwell (not to be confused with James Clerk Maxwell whose 150-year-old theory mashing up magnetism, electricity and optics is being celebrated as noted in my Nov. 27, 2015 posting),
By the way, there is a real paranormal studies laboratory at the University of Virginia according to a Feb. 10, 2014 article by Jake Flanagin for the The Atlantic,
The market for stories of paranormal academe is a rich one. There’s Heidi Julavits’s widely acclaimed 2012 novel The Vanishers, which takes place at a New England college for aspiring Sylvia Brownes. And, of course, there’s Professor X’s School for Gifted Youngsters—Marvel’s take on Andover or Choate—where teachers read minds and students pass like ghosts through ivy-covered walls.
The Division of Perceptual Studies (DOPS) at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine is decidedly less fantastic than either Julavits’s or Marvel’s creations, but it’s nevertheless a fascinating place. Founded in 1967 by Dr. Ian Stevenson—originally as the Division of Personality Studies—its mission is “the scientific empirical investigation of phenomena that suggest that currently accepted scientific assumptions and theories about the nature of mind or consciousness, and its relation to matter, may be incomplete.”
What sorts of “phenomena” qualify? Largely your typical catalog of Forteana: ESP, poltergeists, near-death experiences, out-of-body experiences, “claimed memories of past lives.” So yes: In 2014, there is a center for paranormal research at a totally legitimate (and respected) American institution of higher learning. But unlike the X-Mansion, or other fictional psy-schools, DOPS doesn’t employ any practicing psychics. The teachers can’t read minds, and the students don’t walk through walls. DOPS is home to a small group of hardworking, impressively credentialed scientists with minds for stats and figures.
Finally, for anyone unfamiliar with the original Ghostbusters movie, it was made in 1984 and featured four comedians in the lead roles, Bill Murray, Dan Ackroyd, Harold Ramis, and Rick Moranis, according to IMDB.com. Feig’s 2016 version features four female comedians: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones.
*’Ghostbuster’ corrected to ‘Ghostbusters’ on March 14, 2016.
*ETA Oct. 17, 2016: L. E. Carmichael has written up a Ghostbusters review in an Oct. 17, 2016 posting on her eponymous blog.*
The technique was first suggested in 1939 but wasn’t feasible until the advent of computers and their algorithms. Researchers at the University College of London have found a way to improve the quality of 3-D images of nanomaterials. From the Aug. 7, 2012 news release on EurekAlert,
A new advance in X-ray imaging has revealed the dramatic three-dimensional shape of gold nanocrystals, and is likely to shine a light on the structure of other nano-scale materials.
Described today in Nature Communications, the new technique improves the quality of nanomaterial images, made using X-ray diffraction, by accurately correcting distortions in the X-ray light.
Dr Jesse Clark, lead author of the study from the London Centre for Nanotechnology [at the University College of London] said: “With nanomaterials playing an increasingly important role in many applications, there is a real need to be able to obtain very high quality three dimensional images of these samples.
“Up until now we have been limited by the quality of our X-rays. Here we have demonstrated that with imperfect X-ray sources we can still obtain very high quality images of nanomaterials.”
You can see the differences for yourself in this image provided by the researchers,
Figure: Shown on the left is the three dimensional image of a gold nanocrystal obtained previously while on the right is the image using the newly developed method. The features of the nanocrystal are vastly improved in the image on the left. The black scale bar is 100 nanometres (1 nanometre = 1 billionth of a meter). Downloaded from http://www.london-nano.com/research-and-facilities/highlight/advance-in-x-ray-imaging-shines-light-on-nanomaterials
The researchers have also provided two videos, the first features the current standard 3-D image of a gold nanocrystal and the second features the improved image,
The Aug. 7, 2012 news release originated from an article (Aug. 2012?) by Ian Robinson and Jesse Clark for the London Centre for Nanotechnology (part of the University College of London) giving context for the research and describing the technique (Note: I have removed a link),
Up until now, most nanomaterial imaging has been done using electron microscopy. X-ray imaging is an attractive alternative as X-rays penetrate further into the material than electrons and can be used in ambient or controlled environments.
However, making lenses that focus X-rays is very difficult. As an alternative, scientists use the indirect method of coherent diffraction imaging (CDI), where the diffraction pattern of the sample is measured (without lenses) and inverted to an image by computer.
Nobel Prize winner Lawrence Bragg suggested this method in 1939 but had no way to determine the missing phases of the diffraction, which are today provided by computer algorithms.
CDI can be performed very well at the latest synchrotron X-ray sources such as the UK’s Diamond Light Source which have much higher coherent flux than earlier machines. CDI is gaining momentum in the study of nanomaterials, but, until now, has suffered from poor synchimage quality, with broken or non-uniform density. This had been attributed to imperfect coherence of the X-ray light used.
The dramatic three-dimensional images of gold nanocrystals presented in this study demonstrate that this distortion can be corrected by appropriate modelling of the coherence function.
Professor Ian Robinson, London Centre for Nanotechnology and author of the paper said: “The corrected images are far more interpretable that ever obtained previously and will likely lead to new understanding of structure of nanoscale materials.”
The method should also work for free-electron-laser, electron- and atom-based diffractive imaging.
That mention of the UK’s Diamond Light Source reminded me of the Canadian Light Source located in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. I imagine this work will open up some possibilities for the researchers there.
For those who would like to read more about the work, here’s a citation for the article,
Canada’s synchrotron, Canadian Light Source (based in Saskatchewan), has signed a new three-year deal with the US Dept. of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory’s Advanced Photon Source (APS) that will give Canadian scientists more access to the APS facilities, according to the June 18, 2012 news item at the Nanowerk website,
Seeking to solve some of today’s greatest global problems, scientists using x-ray light source facilities at national research laboratories in the United States and Canada are sharing more expertise.
The Canadian Light Source (CLS) and the Advanced Photon Source (APS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Argonne National Laboratory agreed in January 2012 to a Partner User Proposal that cements a stronger working relationship between the two facilities for the next three years. These two premier light sources use different but complementary x-ray techniques to probe materials in order to understand chemical and structural behavior.
This new agreement will provide Canadian scientists with more research time to use the x-ray light source facilities and more time on a larger number of APS beamlines. Using varied x-ray and imaging capabilities will broaden the range of experiments Canadians may undertake at the APS to augment their research done at the Canadian Light Source. X-ray science offers potential solutions to a broad range of problems in surface, material, environmental and earth sciences, condensed matter physics, chemistry, and geosciences.
Since the Sector 20 beamlines became fully operational, scientists from Canada and other areas who have used these beamlines at the APS have produced an average of 51 scientific publications a year. This research includes the study of more effective mineral exploration strategies, ways to mitigate mine waste and mercury contamination, and novel ways to fabricate nanomaterials for use in fuel cells, batteries, and LEDs.
I had not realized how longstanding the CLS/APS relationship has been,
Before the Canadian Light Source began operation in 2004, a Canadian group led by Daryl Crozier of Simon Fraser University, working in partnership with colleagues at the University of Washington and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, helped found the Sector 20 beamlines at the APS as part of the Pacific Northwest Consortium Collaborative Access Team, or PNC-CAT. Parts of this team were included in the X-ray Science Division of the APS when it was formed.
This long-standing partnership has led to scientifically significant upgrades to the beamline. The new agreement will provide the valuable manpower and expertise to allow the APS to continue to push the innovation envelope. [emphasis mine]
As I was reading Kunz’s news release I kept asking, what’s in it for the APS? Apparently they need more “manpower and expertise.” Unfortunately, their future plans are a little shy of detail,
Scientists from the APS and the Canadian Light Source will work together on R&D projects to improve light-source technology. In particular, scientists will upgrade even further the two beamlines at Sector 20 in four key areas. This will provide a unique capability to prepare and measure in situ films and interfaces, a new technique to create quantitative three-dimensional chemical maps of samples, and improved forms of spectroscopy to expand the range of elements and types of environments that can be examined.
What are the four key areas? For that matter, what is Sector 20? I suspect some of my readers have similar questions about my postings. It’s easy (especially if you write frequently) to forget that your readers may not be as familiar as you are with the subject matter.