The night sky has inspired speculation, discovery, and stories throughout time and from all the peoples of this planet. The information derived from observing the stars and moon has led to voyages on land, on sea, through space, and into the recesses of minds and hearts.
Currently, an ancient celestial practice, celebration of solstices and equinoxes seems to be gaining popularity and acceptance.
Indigenous Star Knowledge Symposia: A series of local and international gatherings, on the land and online
Organised by Ingenium in collaboration with the Institute of Indigenous Research and Studies at the University of Ottawa, and hosted on traditional Algonquin Anishnaabeg territory, this series of symposia (chosen on the dates of the Fall equinox, Winter solstice, Spring equinoxes and Summer solstice) will combine spiritual ceremony, presentations, activities and dialogue, both online and on the land. The symposia will feature gatherings of Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, Elders, educators and scholars to share and exchange towards reclaiming, preserving, and revitalizing Star Knowledge with Indigenous communities worldwide.
Our original plan was to have a symposium in September 2020, but due to Covid-19 we have reshaped the entire program to spread out the timeline while combining physical and digitally-inclusive experiences. This blended format greatly expands our original intent to offer a space for teaching and learning, while bringing hope and healing through the Indigenous Star Knowledge and our work.
Fall Equinox: Protocols before Knowledge, Seasonal and regional themes
September 21, 2020 (7 p.m. Est Ottawa, Canada); September 22, 2020 (9:00 a.m. Lismore, Australia)
For Indigenous people astronomy and cosmology are intricately intertwined. Star Knowledge, like everything else, is all about relationships and teaches us our place in the universe.
Shawn Wilson is Opaskwayak Cree from Manitoba. He works at Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples and is also an Adjunct Professor at Østfold University College in Norway. Shawn will discuss how understanding Indigenous Star Knowledge develops a deeper understanding of the very nature of reality. To gain this understanding requires us to develop deeper relationships with Sky Country.
Stuart Barlo is a Yuin man from the south coast of New South Wales, and is Dean of Gnibi College of Indigenous Australian Peoples. Stuart will talk about the journey of being able to speak about Sky Country. The journey requires learning how to prepare yourself and create a safe space to develop relationship with Sky Country.
Wilfred Buck, Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Center
*Postponed and adapted due to COVID* Coinciding with a ceremony at Kitigan Zibi, Quebec to launch the Algonquin Star Knowledge Project. Offering of Tobacco and Prayer on the land with Peter Decontie, Wilfred Buck, Anita Tenasco and members of the Algonquin community.
It gets a little confusing but I gather that the symposia are linked to a larger initiative, which has its roots in a 2017 exhibition (co-curated by Wilfred Buck and Annette S. Lee) at Canada’s Science and Technology Museum,
By the way, MFNERC is Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre.
One Sky, Many Worlds; Indigenous Voices in Astronomy
I gather various parties have been working together to produce not only the symposia but a new traveling exhibition “One Sky, Many Worlds; Indigenous Voices in Astronomy.”
I was going to call this item a brochure but its URL includes the words “exhibition book.” Regardless, it’s where you can get more details about “One Sky, Many Worlds” and how it was developed. Do take a look at it, there are many beautiful images, including Margaret Nazon’s beadworks of art, one of which I featured at the beginning of this posting. There are many works of Indigenous astronomy-based art featured in the ‘brochure’. For some reason, the text is white against a dark background. Perhaps they were trying to evoke the stars against the night sky? Unfortunately, it makes the text less readable, which would seem to defeat the purpose of bothering with text in the first place. Also, it can lead to having to deal with cranky writers who worry their work won’t be read. (Just a thought)
New Partnership with Ingenium: Canada’s Museums of Science and Innovation
Nomad are proud to be selected as Ingenium’s partner to develop and tour an exciting new international travelling exhibition ‘One Sky, Many Worlds: Indigenous Voices in Astronomy’. This ground-breaking new exhibition will illustrate in a spectacular immersive display environment how for tens of thousands of years Indigenous people have been building a relationship with the night sky.
The exhibition will showcase artifacts representing global collections, whilst numerous mechanical and digital interactive elements will enhance visitors’ learning and understanding in an engaging, active way that reminds every human being that we come from the stars.
Led by Indigenous knowledge keepers, One Sky, Many Worlds: Indigenous Voices in Astronomy, is an 8,000 sq ft traveling exhibition that explores Indigenous Star Knowledge from locations around the globe. Featuring content from North America, South Africa, Australia, Mexico, South America, Asia, Hawaii, and New Zealand, One Sky asks questions, and shares experiences that will resonate with all people who look up and wonder about the night sky. The exhibition is available for tour internationally from summer 2021. [emphasis mine]
Nomad Exhibitions are innovative creators of international museum quality touring exhibitions.
Nomad offers a unique portfolio of high quality touring exhibitions combining curatorial excellence, state of the art design and seamless turnkey production. Our exhibitions are designed to facilitate exceptional international collaborations between cultural institutions on major exhibition projects, providing museum professionals with a tailored exhibition hosting experience.
Nomad Exhibitions is located in Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.
One Sky, Many Worlds is a collaborative exhibition led by Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, both young and old, from around the world. The exhibition explores the enduring relationship and connection that Indigenous people have with the night sky and how it has provided –and continues to provide – a practical, cultural, and spiritual guidebook for life.
One Sky, Many Worlds is, at its core, experiential. A strong emphasis on exceptional objects and intriguing ideas will be carefully complemented by a variety of interactive elements and spaces designed to engage visitors in active participation.
Each exhibition section will feature an immersive experience, audio visual content, and a selection of digital interactives, many of which will be touch free. For example, visitors will be transported from the Mississippi through the Milky Way on to the Pacific Ocean via a beautiful, [emphasis mine] immersive projection experience; visitors will be engaged in stories as told by Indigenous Elders in their own language; and visitors will also have the opportunity to participate in dynamic activities that show the links between earth and sky and allow them to see the constellations in a whole new way.
The example is a bit puzzling since ‘the Mississippi’ could mean either the ‘state of Mississippi’ or the ‘Mississippi River’ neither of which have any connection to the Pacific Ocean. But, perhaps astronomy buffs would understand this better than I do.
As to why either the state or the river would be the starting point for transportation via the Milky Way, that is a mystery. Especially after taking a look at Sharmila Kuthunu’s July 1, 2019 article, “How to See the Milky Way in 5 Easy Steps” for Space Tourism Guide,
Home to 400 billion stars, our galaxy is a barred spiral that spans 100,000 light years in diameter. While that might seem huge, the Milky Way is only clearly visible from April through October in the northern hemisphere and is hidden below the horizon for half the year.
It rises in the southeast, crosses over the horizon and sets in the southwest. Since it rises and sets in the southern hemisphere, those living in the south can see it directly overhead. The largest view of the galaxy can be seen from southern hemisphere destinations like South Africa, Chile, and Australia [emphasis mine].
Given that there was a global collaboration and the Milky Way is visible from any number of starting points, the choice of whichever Mississippi the writer intended to highlight seems odd. (See geography of Mississippi River; geography of Mississippi state [be sure to follow the red arrow to the green rectangle bordering the Gulf of Mexico])
Most likely, it’s my ignorance showing.
Plus, when I saw Nomad was offering an example, I was hoping there’d be a description or a story representing Indigenous astronomy. If you look at the brochure/exhibition book you’ll see they had a broad range of Indigenous societies represented on the team. The nomad description seems like a lost opportunity.
Regardless of my nitpicking, both the symposia and the travelling exhibition are exciting and I hope they get the attention they deserve.
If you’re as ignorant about astronomy as I am, you might find this piece about the Milky Way on the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) website helpful.
Part 1 covered some of the more formal aspects science culture in Canada, such as science communication education programmes, mainstream media, children’s science magazines, music, etc. Part 2 covered science festivals, art/sci or sciart (depending on who’s talking, informal science get togethers such ‘Cafe Sccientifque’, etc.
This became a much bigger enterprise than I anticipated and so part 3 is stuffed with the do-it-yourself (DIY) biology movement in Canada, individual art/sci or lit/sci projects, a look at what the mathematicians have done and are doing, etc. But first there’s the comedy.
Comedy, humour, and science
Weirdly, Canadians like to mix their science fiction (scifi) movies with humour. (I will touch on more scifi later in this post but it’s too big a topic to cover inadequately, let alone adequately, in this review.) I post as my evidence of the popularity of comedy science fiction films, this from the Category: Canadian science fiction films Wikipedia webpage,
As you see, comedy science fiction is the second most populated category. Also, the Wikipedia time frame is much broader than mine but I did check one Canadian science fiction comedy film, Bang Bang Baby, a 2014 film, which, as it turns out, is also a musical.
Daniel Chai is a Vancouver-based writer, comedian, actor and podcaster. He is co-host of The Fear of Science podcast, which combines his love of learning with his love of being on a microphone. Daniel is also co-founder of The Fictionals Comedy Co and the creator of Improv Against Humanity, and teaches improv at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. He is very excited to be part of Vancouver Podcast Festival, and thanks everyone for listening!
Jeff is the producer and co-host of The Fear of Science. By day, he is a graphic designer/digital developer [according to his LinkedIn profile, he works at Science World], and by night he is a cosplayer, board gamer and full-time geek. Jeff is passionate about all things science, and has been working in science communication for over 4 years. He brings a general science knowledge point of view to The Fear of Science.
Here’s more about The Fear of Science from its homepage (where you will also find links to their podcasts),
A podcast that brings together experts and comedians for an unfiltered discussion about complicated and sometimes controversial science fears in a fun and respectful way.
This podcast seems to have taken life in August 2018.(Well, that’s as far back as the Archived episodes stretch on the website.)
This is Vancolour is a podcast hosted by Mo Amir and you will find this description on the website,
THIS IS A PODCAST ABOUT VANCOUVER AND THE PEOPLE WHO MAKE THIS CITY COLOURFUL
Cartoonist, writer, and educator, Raymond Nakamura produces work for Telus Science World and the Science Borealis science aggregator. His website is known as Raymond’s Brain features this image,
Much has been happening on this front. First for anyone unfamiliar with do-it-yourself biology, here’s more from its Wikipedia entry,
Do-it-yourself biology (DIY biology, DIY bio) is a growing biotechnological social movement in which individuals, communities, and small organizations study biology and life science using the same methods as traditional research institutions. DIY biology is primarily undertaken by individuals with extensive research training from academia or corporations, who then mentor and oversee other DIY biologists with little or no formal training. This may be done as a hobby, as a not-for-profit endeavour for community learning and open-science innovation, or for profit, to start a business.
A January 21, 2020 posting here listed the second Canadian DIY Biology Summit organized by the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC). It was possible to attend virtually from any part of Canada. The first meeting was in 2016 (you can see the agenda here). You’ll see in the agenda for the 2nd meeting in 2020 that there have been a few changes as groups rise into and fall out of existence.
From the 2020 agenda, here’s a list representing the players in Canada’s DIYbio scene,
Most of these organizations (e.g., Victoria Makerspace, Synbiota, Bricobio, etc.) seem to be relatively new (founded in 2009 or later) which is quite exciting to think about. This March 13, 2016 article in the Vancouver Observer gives you a pretty good overview of the DIY biology scene in Canada at the time while providing a preview of the then upcoming first DIY Biology summit.
*The Open Science Network in Vancouver was formerly known as DIYbio YVR. I’m not sure when the name change occurred but this July 17, 2018 article by Emily Ng for The Ubyssey (a University of British Columbia student newspaper) gives a little history,
In 2009, a group of UBC students and staff recognized these barriers and teamed up to democratize science, increase its accessibility and create an interdisciplinary platform for idea exchange. They created the Open Science Network (OSN).
The Open Science Network is a non-profit society that serves the science and maker community through education, outreach and the provision of space. Currently, they run an open community lab out of the MakerLabs space on East Cordova and Main street, which is a compact space housing microscopes, a freezer, basic lab equipment and an impressive amount of activity.
The lab is home to a community of citizen scientists, professional scientists, artists, designers and makers of all ages who are pursuing their own science projects.
Members who are interested in lab work can receive some training in “basic microbiology techniques like pipetting, growing bacteria, using the Polymerase Chain Reaction machine (PCR) [to amplify DNA] and running gels [through a gel ectrophoresis machine to separate DNA fragments by size] from Scott Pownall, a PhD graduate from UBC and the resident microbiologist,” said Wong [ Wes Wong, a staff member of UBC Botany and a founding member of OSN].
The group has also made further efforts to serve their members by offering more advanced synthetic biology classes and workshops at their lab.
There is another organization called ‘Open Science Network’ (an ethnobiology group and not part of the Vancouver organization). Here is a link to the Vancouver-based Open Science Network (a community science lab) where they provide further links to all their activities including a regular ‘meetup’.
I have poetry, a book, a television adaptation, three plays with mathematics and/or physics themes and more.
In 2012 there was a night of poetry readings in Vancouver. What made it special was that five poets had collaborated with five scientists (later amended to four scientists and a landscape architect) according to my December 4, 2012 posting. The whole thing was conceptualized and organized by Aileen Penner who went on to produce a chapbook of the poetry. She doesn’t have any copies available currently but you can contact her on her website’s art/science page if you are interested in obtaining a copy. She doesn’t seem to have organized any art/science projects since. For more about Aileen Penner who is a writer and poet, go to her website here.
The Banff International Research Station (BIRS) it’s all about the mathematics) hosted a workshop for poets and mathematicians way back in 2011. I featured it (Mathematics: Muse, Maker, and Measure of the Arts) after the fact in my January 9, 2012 posting (scroll down about 30% of the way). If you have the time, do click on my link to Nassif Ghoussoub’s post on his blog (Piece of Mind) about mathematicians, poetry, and the arts. It’s especially interesting in retrospect as he is now the executive director for BIRS, which no longer seems to have workshops that meld any of the arts with mathematics, and science.
That sadly seems to be it for poetry and the sciences, including mathematics. If you know of any other poetry/science projects or readings, etc. in Canada during the 2010-9 decade, please let me know in the comments.
Karl Schroeder, a Canadian science fiction author, has written many books but of particular interest here are two futuristic novels for the Canadian military.The 2005 novel, Crisis in Zefra, doesn’t fit the time frame I’ve established for this review but the the 2014 novel, Crisis in Urla (scroll down) fits in nicely. His writing is considered ‘realistic’ science fiction in that it’s based on science research and his work is also associated with speculative realism (from his Wikipedia entry; Note: Links have been removed),
Karl Schroeder (born September 4, 1962) is a Canadianscience fiction author. His novels present far-future speculations on topics such as nanotechnology, terraforming, augmented reality, and interstellar travel, and are deeply philosophical.
The other author I’m mentioning here is Margaret Atwood. The television adaptation of her book, ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has turned a Canadian literary superstar into a supernova (an exploding star whose luminosity can be the equivalent of an entire galaxy). In 2019, she won the Booker Prize, for the second time for ‘The Testaments’ (a followup to ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’), sharing it with Bernardine Evaristo and her book ‘Girl, Woman, Other’. Atwood has described her work (The Handmaid’s Tale, and others) as speculative fiction rather than science fiction. For me, she bases her speculation on the social sciences and humanities, specifically history (read her Wikipedia entry for more).
In 2017 with the television adaptation of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’, Atwood’s speculative fiction novel became a pop culture phenomenon. Originally published in 1985, the novel was also adapted for a film in 1990 and for an opera in 2000 before it came to television, according to its Wikipedia entry.
There’s a lot more out there, Schroeder and Atwood are just two I’ve stumbled across.
I have drama, musical comedy and acting items.
Pi Theatre’s (Vancouver) mathematically-inclined show, ‘Long Division‘, ran in April 2017 and was mentioned in my April 20, 2017 posting (scroll down about 50% of the way).
This theatrical performance of concepts in mathematics runs from April 26 – 30, 2017 (check here for the times as they vary) at the Annex at 823 Seymour St. From the Georgia Straight’s April 12, 2017 Arts notice,
“Mathematics is an art form in itself, as proven by Pi Theatre’s number-charged Long Division. This is a “refreshed remount” of Peter Dickinson’s ambitious work, one that circles around seven seemingly unrelated characters (including a high-school math teacher, a soccer-loving imam, and a lesbian bar owner) bound together by a single traumatic incident. Directed by Richard Wolfe, with choreography by Lesley Telford and musical score by Owen Belton, it’s a multimedia, movement-driven piece that has a strong cast. … “
You can read more about the production here. As far as I’m aware, there are no upcoming show dates.
There seems to be some sort of affinity between theatre and mathematics, I recently featured (January 3, 2020 posting) a theatrical piece by Hannah Moscovitch titled, ‘Infinity‘, about time, physics, math and more. It had its first production in Toronto in 2015.
John Mighton, a playwright and mathematician, wrote ‘The Little Years’ which has been produced in both Vancouver and Toronto. From a May 9, 2005 article by Kathleen Oliver for the Georgia Straight,
The Little Years is a little jewel of a play: small but multifaceted, and beautifully crafted.
John Mighton’s script gives us glimpses into different stages in the life of Kate, a woman whose early promise as a mathematician is cut short. At age 13, she’s a gifted student whose natural abilities are overlooked by 1950s society, which has difficulty conceiving of women as scientists. Instead, she’s sent to vocational school while her older brother, William, grows up to become one of the most widely praised poets of his generation.
John Mighton is a successful playwright and mathematician, yet at times in his life, he’s struggled with doubt. However, he also learned there was hope, and that’s the genesis of The Little Years, which opens at the Tarragon Theatre on Nov. 16 and runs to Dec. 16 .
In keeping (more or less) with this subsection’s theme ‘The Word’, Mighton has recently had a new book published, ‘All Things Being Equal: Why Math is the Key to a Better World’, according to a January 24, 2020 article (online version) by Jamie Portman for Postmedia,
It’s more than two decades since Canadian mathematician and playwright John Mighton found himself playing a small role in the film, Good Will Hunting. What he didn’t expect when he took on the job was that he would end up making a vital contribution to a screenplay that would go on to win an Oscar for its writers, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
What happened on that occasion tells you a great deal about Mighton’s commitment to the belief that society grossly underestimates the intellectual capacity of human beings — a belief reiterated with quiet eloquence in his latest book, All Things Being Equal.
Mighton loved the experience but as shooting continued he became troubled over his involvement in a movie that played “heavily on the idea that geniuses like Will are born and not made.” This was anathema to his own beliefs as a mathematician and he finally summoned up the courage to ask Affleck and Damon if he could write a few extra lines for his character. This speech was the result: “Most people never get the chance to see how brilliant they can be. They don’t find teachers who believe in them. They get convinced they’re stupid.”
At a time of growing controversy across Canada over the teaching of mathematics in school and continuing evidence of diminishing student results, Mighton continues to feel gratitude to the makers of Good Will Hunting for heeding his concerns. [I will be writing a post about the latest PISA scores where Canadian students have again slipped in their mathematics scores.]
Mighton is on the phone from from Toronto, his voice soft-spoken but still edged with fervour. He pursues two successful careers — as an award-winning Canadian playwright and as a renowned mathematician and philosopher who has devoted a lifetime to developing strategies that foster the intellectual potential of all children through learning math. But even as he talks about his 2001 founding of JUMP Math, a respected charity that offers a radical alternative to conventional teaching of the subject, he’s anxious to remind you that he’s a guy who almost failed calculus at university and who once struggled to overcome his “own massive math anxiety.”
You can find out more about John Mighton in his Wikipedia entry (mostly about his academic accomplishments) and on the JUMP Math website (better overall biography).
It’s called ‘Math Out Loud’ and was first mentioned here in a January 9, 2012 posting (the same post also featured the BIRS poetry workshop),
“When Mackenzie Gray talks about the way Paul McCartney used a recursive sequence to make the song “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” seem to last forever, you realize that part of the Beatles’ phenomenal success might have sprung from McCartney’s genius as a mathematician.
When Roger Kemp draws on a napkin to illustrate that you just have to change the way you think about numbers to come up with a binary code for pi (as in 3.14 ad infinitum), you get a sense that math can actually be a lot of fun.”
Produced by MITACS which in 2012 was known as ‘Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems’, a not-for-profit research organization, the musical went on tour in the Fall of 2012 (according to my September 7, 2012 posting). Unusually, I did not embed the promotional trailer for this 2012 musical so, here it is now,
Since 2012, Mitacs has gone through some sort of rebranding process and it’s now described as a nonprofit national research organization. For more you can read its Wikipedia entry or go to its website.
Acting and storytelling
It turns out there was an acting class (five sessions) for scientists at the University of Calgary in 2017. Here’s more from the course’s information sheet,
Act Your Science: Improve Your Communication Skills with Training in Improvisation 2 hours a session, 5 sessions, every Wednesday starting November 14  …
Dr. Jeff Dunn, Faculty of Graduate Studies, Graduate Students Association, the Canadian Science Writers Association [also known as Science Writers and Communicators of Canada] and the Loose Moose Theatre have teamed together to provide training in a skill which will be useful where ever your career takes you.
The goal of this project is to improve the science communication skills of graduate students in science fields. We will improve your communication through the art of training in improvisation. Training will help with speech and body awareness. Improvisation will provide life‐long skills in communication, in a fun interactive environment.
For many years, Alan Alda, a well-known actor (originally of the “MASH” television series fame), has applied his acting skills and improvisation training to help scientists improve their communication. He developed the Alan Alda Centre for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.
The training will involve five 2hr improvisation workshop sessions led by one of Canada’s top professional improvisation trainers, Dennis Cahill, the Artistic Director from Loose Moose Theatre. Dennis has an international reputation for developing the theatrical style of improvisation. Training involves a lot of moving around (and possibly rolling on the floor!) so dress casually. Be prepared to release your inhibitions!
The information sheet includes a link to this University of Chicago video (posted on Youtube February 24, 2014) of actor Alan Alda discussing science communication,
Victoria Bouvier, a Michif-Metis woman, is of the Red River Settlement and Boggy Creek, Manitoba, and born and raised in Calgary. She is an Assistant professor in Indigenous Studies at Mount Royal University and a doctoral candidate in Educational Research [emphasis mine] at the University of Calgary. Her research is exploring how Michif/Métis people, born and raised in urban environments, practice and express their self-understandings, both individually and collectively through using an Indigenous oral system and visual media as methodology.
In a technology-laden society, people are capturing millions of photographs and videos that document their lived experiences, followed by uploading them to social media sites. As mass amounts of media is being shared each day, the question becomes: are we utilizing photos and videos to derive meaning from our everyday lived experiences, while settling in to a deeper sense of our self-in-relation?
This session will explore how photos and videos, positioned within an Indigenous oral system, are viewed and interacted with as a third perspective in the role of storytelling.
Finally, h/t to Jennifer Bon Bernard’s April 19, 2017 article (reposted Dec. 11, 2019) about Act Your Science for the Science Writers and Communicators blog. The original date doesn’t look right to me but perhaps she participated in a pilot project.
Neuroscience, science policy, and science advice
The end of this part is almost in sight
Knitting in Toronto and drawings in Vancouver (neuroscience)
In 2017, Toronto hosted a neuroscience event which combined storytelling and knitting (from my October 12, 2017 posting (Note: the portion below is an excerpt from an ArtSci Salon announcement),
With NARRATING NEUROSCIENCE we plan to initiate a discussion on the role and the use of storytelling and art (both in verbal and visual forms) to communicate abstract and complex concepts in neuroscience to very different audiences, ranging from fellow scientists, clinicians and patients, to social scientists and the general public. We invited four guests to share their research through case studies and experiences stemming directly from their research or from other practices they have adopted and incorporated into their research, where storytelling and the arts have played a crucial role not only in communicating cutting edge research in neuroscience, but also in developing and advancing it.
The ArtSci Salon folks also announced this (from the Sept. 25, 2017 ArtSci Salon announcement; received via email),
ATTENTION ARTSCI SALONISTAS AND FANS OF ART AND SCIENCE!! CALL FOR KNITTING AND CROCHET LOVERS!
In addition to being a PhD student at the University of Toronto, Tahani Baakdhah is a prolific knitter and crocheter and has been the motor behind two successful Knit-a-Neuron Toronto initiatives. We invite all Knitters and Crocheters among our ArtSci Salonistas to pick a pattern (link below) and knit a neuron (or 2! Or as many as you want!!)
BRING THEM TO OUR OCTOBER 20 ARTSCI SALON! Come to the ArtSci Salon and knit there!
That link to the patterns is still working.
Called “The Beautiful Brain” and held in the same time frame as Toronto’s neuro event, Vancouver hosted an exhibition of Santiago Ramon y Cajal’s drawings from September 5 to December 3, 2017. In concert with the exhibition, the local ‘neuro’ community held a number of outreach events. Here’s what I had in my September 11, 2017 posting where I quoted from the promotional material for the exhibition,
The Beautiful Brain is the first North American museum exhibition to present the extraordinary drawings of Santiago Ramón y Cajal (1852–1934), a Spanish pathologist, histologist and neuroscientist renowned for his discovery of neuron cells and their structure, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine in 1906. Known as the father of modern neuroscience, Cajal was also an exceptional artist. He combined scientific and artistic skills to produce arresting drawings with extraordinary scientific and aesthetic qualities.
A century after their completion, Cajal’s drawings are still used in contemporary medical publications to illustrate important neuroscience principles, and continue to fascinate artists and visual art audiences. …
Pictured: Santiago Ramón y Cajal, injured Purkinje neurons, 1914, ink and pencil on paper. Courtesy of Instituto Cajal (CSIC).
From Vancouver, the exhibition traveled to a gallery in New York City and then onto the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Mehrdad Hariri has done a an extraordinary job as its founder and chief executive officer. The CSPC has developed from a single annual conference to an organization that hosts different events throughout the year and publishes articles and opinion pieces on Canadian science policy and has been instrumental in the development of a Canadian science policy community.
The magnitude of Hariri’s accomplishment becomes clear when reading J.w. Grove’s [sic] article, Science Policy, in The Canadian Encyclopedia and seeing that the most recent reports on a national science policy seem to be the Science Council’s (now defunct) 4th report in 1968, Towards a National Science Policy in Canada, the OECD’s (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) 1969 Review of [Canada’s] Science Policy, and 3 reports from the Senate’s Lamontagne Committee (Special Committee on Science Policy). Grove’s article takes us only to 1988 but I have been unable to find any more recent reports focused on a national science policy for Canada. (If you have any information about a more recent report, please do let me know in the comments.)
A November 5, 2019 piece (#VoteScience: lessons learned and building science advocacy beyond the election cycle) on the CSPC website further illustrates how the Canadian science policy community has gained ground (Note: Links have been removed),
… on August 8, 2019, a coalition of Canadian science organizations and student groups came together to launch the #VoteScience campaign: a national, non-partisan effort to advocate for science in the federal elections, and make science an election issue.
Specifically, we — aka Evidence for Democracy, Science & Policy Exchange (SPE), and the Toronto Science Policy Network (TSPN) [emphases mine] — built a collection of tools and resources to empower Canadian scientists and science supporters to engage with their local candidates on science issues and the importance of evidence-informed decision-making. Our goal was to make it easy for as many Canadians as possible to engage with their candidates — and they did.
Over the past three months, our #VoteScience portal received over 3,600 visitors, including 600 visitors who used our email form to reach out directly to their local candidates. Collectively, we took #VoteScience selfies, distributed postcards to supporters across Canada, and even wrote postcards to every sitting Member of Parliament (in addition to candidates from all parties in each of our own ridings). Also of note, we distributed a science policy questionnaire to the federal parties, to help better inform Canadians about where the federal parties stand on relevant science issues, and received responses from all but one party. We’ve also advocated for science through various media outlets, including commenting for articles appearing in The Narwhal and Nature News, and penning op-eds for outlets such as the National Observer, University Affairs, Le Devoir, and Découvrir.
Prior to SPIN, the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA; more about them in part 4), issued a 2017 report titled, Science Policy: Considerations for Subnational Governments. The report was the outcome of a 2016 CCA workshop originally titled, Towards a Science Policy in Alberta. I gather the scope broadened.
Interesting trajectory, yes?
Chief Science advisors/scientists
In September 2017, the Canadian federal government announced that a Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, had been appointed. I have more about the position and Dr. Nemer in my September 26, 2017 posting. (Prior to Dr. Nemer’s appointment a previous government had discontinued a National Science Advisor position that existed from 2004 to 2008.)
The Office of the Chief Science Advisor released it first annual report in 2019 and was covered here in a March 19, 2019 posting.
Québec is the only province (as far as I know) to have a Chief Scientist, Rémi Quirion who was appointed in 2011.
Onto Part 4 where you’ll find we’ve gone to the birds and more.
*The Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) section was written sometime in February 2020. I believe they are planning to publish an editorial piece I submitted to them on April 20, 202 (in other words, before this post was published) in response to their call for submissions (see my April 1, 2020 post for details about the call). In short, I did not praise the organization with any intention of having my work published by them. (sigh) Awkward timing.
I have two stories about lungs and they are entirely different with the older one being a bioengineering story from the US and the more recent one being an artificial tissue story from the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa (both in Canada).
Lab grown lungs
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s Quirks and Quarks radio programme posted a December 29, 2018 news item (with embedded radio files) about bioengineered lunjgs,
There are two major components to building an organ: the structure and the right cells on that structure. A team led by Dr. Joan Nichols, a Professor of Internal Medicine, Microbiology and Immunology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, were able to tackle both parts of the problem
In their experiment they used a donor organ for the structure. They took a lung from an unrelated pig, and stripped it of its cells, leaving a scaffold of collagen, a tough, flexible protein. This provided a pre-made appropriate structure, though in future they think it may be possible to use 3-D printing technology to get the same result.
They then added cultured cells from the animal who would be receiving the transplant – so the lung was made of the animal’s own cells. Cultured lung and blood vessel cells were placed on the scaffold and it was placed in a tank for 30 days with a cocktail of nutrients to help the cells stick to the scaffold and proliferate. The result was a kind of baby lung.
They then transplanted the bio-engineered, though immature, lung into the recipient animal where they hoped it would continue to develop and mature – growing to become a healthy, functioning organ.
The recipients of the bio-engineered lungs were four pigs adult pigs, which appeared to tolerate the transplants well. In order to study the development of the bio-engineered lungs, they euthanized the animals at different times: 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after transplantation.
They found that as early as two weeks, the bio-engineered lung had integrated into the recipient animals’ body, building a strong network of blood vessels essential for the lung to survive. There was no evidence of pulmonary edema, the build of fluid in the lungs, which is usually a sign of the blood vessels not working efficiently. There was no sign of rejection of the transplanted organs, and the pigs were healthy up to the point where they were euthanized.
One lingering concern is how well the bio-engineered lungs delivered oxygen. The four pigs who received the trasplant [sic] had one original functioning lung, so they didn’t depend on their new bio-engineered lung for breathing. The scientists were not sure that the bio-engineered lung was mature enough to handle the full load of oxygen on its own.
You can hear Bob McDonald’s (host of Quirks & Quarks, a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation science radio programme) interview lead scientist, Dr. Joan Nichols if you go to here. (Note: I find he overmodulates his voice but some may find he has a ‘friendly’ voice.)
This is an image of the lung scaffold produced by the team,
In 2014, Joan Nichols and Joaquin Cortiella from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston were the first research team to successfully bioengineer human lungs in a lab. In a paper now available in Science Translational Medicine, they provide details of how their work has progressed from 2014 to the point no complications have occurred in the pigs as part of standard preclinical testing.
“The number of people who have developed severe lung injuries has increased worldwide, while the number of available transplantable organs have decreased,” said Cortiella, professor of pediatric anesthesia. “Our ultimate goal is to eventually provide new options for the many people awaiting a transplant,” said Nichols, professor of internal medicine and associate director of the Galveston National Laboratory at UTMB.
To produce a bioengineered lung, a support scaffold is needed that meets the structural needs of a lung. A support scaffold was created using a lung from an unrelated animal that was treated using a special mixture of sugar and detergent to eliminate all cells and blood in the lung, leaving only the scaffolding proteins or skeleton of the lung behind. This is a lung-shaped scaffold made totally from lung proteins.
The cells used to produce each bioengineered lung came from a single lung removed from each of the study animals. This was the source of the cells used to produce a tissue-matched bioengineered lung for each animal in the study. The lung scaffold was placed into a tank filled with a carefully blended cocktail of nutrients and the animals’ own cells were added to the scaffold following a carefully designed protocol or recipe. The bioengineered lungs were grown in a bioreactor for 30 days prior to transplantation. Animal recipients were survived for 10 hours, two weeks, one month and two months after transplantation, allowing the research team to examine development of the lung tissue following transplantation and how the bioengineered lung would integrate with the body.
All of the pigs that received a bioengineered lung stayed healthy. As early as two weeks post-transplant, the bioengineered lung had established the strong network of blood vessels needed for the lung to survive.
“We saw no signs of pulmonary edema, which is usually a sign of the vasculature not being mature enough,” said Nichols and Cortiella. “The bioengineered lungs continued to develop post-transplant without any infusions of growth factors, the body provided all of the building blocks that the new lungs needed.”
Nichols said that the focus of the study was to learn how well the bioengineered lung adapted and continued to mature within a large, living body. They didn’t evaluate how much the bioengineered lung provided oxygenation to the animal.
“We do know that the animals had 100 percent oxygen saturation, as they had one normal functioning lung,” said Cortiella. “Even after two months, the bioengineered lung was not yet mature enough for us to stop the animal from breathing on the normal lung and switch to just the bioengineered lung.”
For this reason, future studies will look at long-term survival and maturation of the tissues as well as gas exchange capability.
The researchers said that with enough funding, they could grow lungs to transplant into people in compassionate use circumstances within five to 10 years.
“It has taken a lot of heart and 15 years of research to get us this far, our team has done something incredible with a ridiculously small budget and an amazingly dedicated group of people,” Nichols and Cortiella said.
Here’s a citation and another link for the paper,
Production and transplantation of bioengineered lung into a large-animal model by Joan E. Nichols, Saverio La Francesca, Jean A. Niles, Stephanie P. Vega, Lissenya B. Argueta, Luba Frank, David C. Christiani, Richard B. Pyles, Blanca E. Himes, Ruyang Zhang, Su Li, Jason Sakamoto, Jessica Rhudy, Greg Hendricks, Filippo Begarani, Xuewu Liu, Igor Patrikeev, Rahul Pal, Emiliya Usheva, Grace Vargas, Aaron Miller, Lee Woodson, Adam Wacher, Maria Grimaldo, Daniil Weaver, Ron Mlcak, and Joaquin Cortiella. Science Translational Medicine 01 Aug 2018: Vol. 10, Issue 452, eaao3926 DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aao3926
This paper is behind a paywall.
Artificial lung cancer tissue
The research teams at the University of Toronto and the University of Ottawa worked on creating artificial lung tissue but other applications are possible too. First, there’s the announcement in a February 25, 2019 news item on phys.org,
A 3-D hydrogel created by researchers in U of T Engineering Professor Molly Shoichet’s lab is helping University of Ottawa researchers to quickly screen hundreds of potential drugs for their ability to fight highly invasive cancers.
Cell invasion is a critical hallmark of metastatic cancers, such as certain types of lung and brain cancer. Fighting these cancers requires therapies that can both kill cancer cells as well as prevent cell invasion of healthy tissue. Today, most cancer drugs are only screened for their ability to kill cancer cells.
“In highly invasive diseases, there is a crucial need to screen for both of these functions,” says Shoichet. “We now have a way to do this.”
In their latest research, the team used hydrogels to mimic the environment of lung cancer, selectively allowing cancer cells, and not healthy cells, to invade. In their latest research, the team used hydrogels to mimic the environment of lung cancer, selectively allowing cancer cells, and not healthy cells, to invade. This emulated environment enabled their collaborators in Professor Bill Stanford’s lab at University of Ottawa to screen for both cancer-cell growth and invasion. The study, led by Roger Y. Tam, a research associate in Shochet’s lab, was recently published in Advanced Materials.
“We can conduct this in a 384-well plate, which is no bigger than your hand. And with image-analysis software, we can automate this method to enable quick, targeted screenings for hundreds of potential cancer treatments,” says Shoichet.
One example is the researchers’ drug screening for lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM), a rare lung disease affecting women. Shoichet and her team were inspired by the work of Green Eggs and LAM, a Toronto-based organization raising awareness of the disease.
Using their hydrogels, they were able to automate and screen more than 800 drugs, thereby uncovering treatments that could target disease growth and invasion.
In the ongoing collaboration, the researchers plan to next screen multiple drugs at different doses to gain greater insight into new treatment methods for LAM. The strategies and insights they gain could also help identify new drugs for other invasive cancers.
Shoichet, who was recently named a Distinguished Woman in Chemistry or Chemical Engineering, also plans to patent the hydrogel technology.
“This has, and continues to be, a great collaboration that is advancing knowledge at the intersection of engineering and biology,” says Shoichet.
I note that Shoichet (pronounced ShoyKet) is getting ready to patent this work. I do have a question about this and it’s not up to Shoichet to answer as she didn’t create the system. Will the taxpayers who funded her work receive any financial benefits should the hydrogel prove to be successful or will we be paying double, both supporting her research and paying for the hydrogel through our healthcare costs?
Getting back to the research, here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
It seems May 2019 is destined to be a big month where science events in Canada are concerned. I have three national science science promotion programmes, Science Odyssey, Science Rendezvous, and Pint of Science Festival Canada (part of an international effort); two local (Vancouver, Canada) events, an art/sci café from Curiosity Collider and a SciCats science communication workshop; a national/local event at Ingenium’s Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, and an international social media (Twitter) event called #Museum Week.
Science Odyssey 2019 (formerly Science and Technology Week)
In 2016 the federal Liberal government rebranded a longstanding science promotion/education programme known as Science and Technology Week to Science Odyseey and moved it from the autumn to the spring. (Should you be curious about this change, there’s a video on YouTube with Minister of Science Kirsty Duncan and Parliamentary Secretary for Science Terry Beech launching “Science Odyssey, 10 days of innovation and science discovery.” My May 10, 2016 posting provides more details about the change.)
Moving forward to the present day, the 2019 edition of Science Odyseey will run from May 4 – May 19, 2019 for a whopping16 days. The Science Odyssey website can be found here.
Once you get to the website and choose your language, on the page where you land, you’ll find if you scroll down, there’s an option to choose a location (ignore the map until after you’ve successfully chosen a location and clicked on the filter button (it took me at least twice before achieving success; this seems to be a hit and miss affair).
Once you have applied the filter, the map will change and make more sense but I liked using the text list which appears after the filter has been applied better. Should you click on the map, you will lose the filtered text list and have to start over.
Science Rendezvous 2019
I’m not sure I’d call Science Rendezvous the largest science festival in Canada (it seems to me Beakerhead might have a chance at that title) but it did start in 2008 as its Wikipedia entry mentions (Note: Links have been removed),
Science Rendezvous is the largest [emphasis mine] science festival in Canada; its inaugural event happened across the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) on Saturday, May 10, 2008. By 2011 the event had gone national, with participation from research institutes, universities, science groups and the public from all across Canada – from Vancouver to St. John’s to Inuvik. Science Rendezvous is a registered not-for-profit organization dedicated to making great science accessible to the public. The 2017 event took place on Saturday May 13 at more than 40 simultaneous venues.
This free all-day event aims to highlight and promote great science in Canada. The target audience is the general public, parents, children and youth, with an ultimate aim of improving enrollment and investment in sciences and technology in the future.
Science Rendezvous is being held on May 11, 2019 and its website can be found here.You can find events listed by province here. There are no entries for Alberta, Nunavut, or Prince Edward Island this year.
Science Rendezvous seems to have a relationship to Science Odyssey, my guess is that they are receiving funds. In any case , you may find that an event on the Science Rendezvous site is also on the Science Odyssey site or vice versa, depending on where you start.
Pint of Science Festival (Canada)
The 2019 Pint of Science Festival will be in 25 cities across Canada from May 20 – 22, 2019. Reminiscent of the Café Scientifique events (Vancouver, Canada) where science and beer are closely interlinked, so it is with the Pint of Science Festival, which has its roots in the UK. (Later, I have something about Guelph, Ontario and its ‘beery’ 2019 Pint event.)
Here’s some history about the Canadian inception and its UK progenitor. From he Pint of Science of Festival Canada website, the About Us page,
About Us Pint of Science is a non-profit organisation that brings some of the most brilliant scientists to your local pub to discuss their latest research and findings with you. You don’t need any prior knowledge, and this is your chance to meet the people responsible for the future of science (and have a pint with them). Our festival runs over a few days in May every year,but we occasionally run events during other months.
A propos de nous Pinte de Science est une organisation à but non lucratif qui amène quelques brillants scientifiques dans un bar près de chez vous pour discuter de leurs dernières recherches et découvertes avec le public. Vous n’avez besoin d’aucune connaissance préalable, et c’est l’occasion de rencontrer les responsables de l’avenir de la science (et de prendre une pinte avec eux). Notre festival se déroule sur quelques jours au mois de mai chaque année, mais nous organisons parfois quelques événements exceptionnels en dehors des dates officielles du festival.
History In 2012 Dr Michael Motskin and Dr Praveen Paul were two research scientists at Imperial College London in the UK. They started and organised an event called ‘Meet the Researchers’. It brought people affected by Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis into their labs to show them the kind of research they do. It was inspirational for both visitors and researchers. They thought if people want to come into labs to meet scientists, why not bring the scientists out to the people? And so Pint of Science was born. In May 2013 they held the first Pint of Science festival in just three UK cities. It quickly took off around the world and is now in nearly 300 cities. Read more here. Pint of Science Canada held its first events in 2016, a full list of locations can be found here.
L’Histoire En 2012, Dr Michael Motskin et Dr Praveen Paul étaient deux chercheurs à l’Imperial College London, au Royaume-Uni. Ils ont organisé un événement intitulé «Rencontrez les chercheurs» et ont amené les personnes atteintes de la maladie de Parkinson, d’Alzheimer, de neuropathie motrice et de sclérose en plaques dans leurs laboratoires pour leur montrer le type de recherche qu’ils menaient. C’était une source d’inspiration pour les visiteurs et les chercheurs. Ils ont pensé que si les gens voulaient se rendre dans les laboratoires pour rencontrer des scientifiques, pourquoi ne pas les faire venir dans des bars? Et ainsi est née une Pinte de Science. En mai 2013, ils ont organisé le premier festival Pinte de Science dans trois villes britanniques. Le festival a rapidement décollé dans le monde entier et se trouve maintenant dans près de 300 villes. Lire la suite ici . Pinte de Science Canada a organisé ses premiers événements en 2016. Vous trouverez une liste complète des lieux ici.
I clicked on ‘Vancouver’ and found a range of bars, dates, and topics. It’s worth checking out every topic because the title doesn’t necessarily get the whole story across. Kudos to the team putting this together. Where these things are concderned, I don’t get surprised often. Here’s how it happened, I was expecting another space travel story when I saw this title: ‘Above and beyond: planetary science’. After clicking on the arrow,
Geology isn’t just about the Earth beneath our feet. Join us for an evening out of this world to discover what we know about the lumps of rock above our heads too!
Thank you for the geology surprise. As for the international part of this festival, you can find at least one bar in Europe, Asia and Australasia, the Americas, and Africa.
Beer and Guelph (Ontario)
I also have to tip my hat to Science Borealis (Canada’s science blog aggregator) for the tweet which led me to Pint of Science Guelph and a very special beer/science ffestival announcement,
Pint of Science Guelph will be held over three nights (May 20, 21, and 22) at six different venues, and will feature twelve different speakers. Each venue will host two speakers with talks ranging from bridging the digital divide to food fraud to the science of bubbles and beer. There will also be trivia and lots of opportunity to chat with the various researchers to learn more about what they do, and why they do it.
But wait! There’s more! Pint of Science Guelph is (as far as I’m aware) the first Pint of Science (2019) in Canada to have its own beer. Thanks to the awesome folks at Wellington Brewery, a small team of Pint of Science Guelph volunteers and speakers spent last Friday at the brewery learning about the brewing process by making a Brut IPA. This tasty beverage will be available as part of the Pint of Science celebration. Just order it by name – Brain Storm IPA.
The event starts promptly at 8pm (doors open at 7:30pm). $5.00-10.00 (sliding scale) cover at the door. Proceeds will be used to cover the cost of running this event, and to fund future Curiosity Collider events. Curiosity Collider is a registered BC non-profit organization.
SciCATs (Science Communication Action Team, uh, something) is a collective of science communicators (and cat fans) providing free, open source, online, skills-based science communication training, resources, and in-person workshops.
We believe that anyone, anywhere should be able to learn the why and the how of science communication!
For the past two years, SciCATs has been developing online resources and delivering science communication workshops to diverse groups of those interested in science communication. We are now hosting an open, public event to help a broader audience of those passionate about science to mix, mingle, and build their science communication skills – all while having fun.
SciCATs’ Fundamentals of Science Communication is a three-hour interactive workshop [emphasis mine] followed by one hour of networking.
For this event, our experienced SciCATs facilitators will lead the audience through our most-requested science communication modules: Why communicate science Finding your message Telling your science as a story Understanding your audience [emphasis mine]
This workshop is ideal for people who are new to science communication [empahsis mine] or those who are more experienced. You might be an undergraduate or graduate student, researcher, technician, or other roles that have an interest in talking to the public about what you do. Perhaps you just want to hang out and meet some local science communicators. This is a great place to do it!
After the workshop we have a reservation at Chaqui Grill (1955 Cornwall), it will be a great opportunity to continue to network with all of the Sci-Cats and science communicators that attend over a beverage! They do have a full dinner menu as well.
Date and Time Sun, May 5, 2019 2:00 PM – 5:00 PM PDT
Location H.R. MacMillan Space Centre 1100 Chestnut Street Vancouver, BC V6J 3J9
Refund Policy Refunds up to 1 day before event
You can find out more about SciCats and its online resources here.
da Vinci in Canada from May 2 to September 2, 2019
This show is a big deal and it’s about to open in Ottawa in our national Science and Technology Museum (one of the Ingenium museums of science), which makes it national in name and local in practice since most of us will not make it to Ottawa during the show’s run.
Canada Science and Technology Museum from May 2 to September 2, 2019.
For the first time in Canada, the Canada Science and Technology Museum presents Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius, the most comprehensive exhibition experience on Leonardo da Vinci to tour the world. Created by Grande Exhibitions in collaboration with the Museo Leonardo da Vinci in Rome and a number of experts and historians from Italy and France, this interactive experience commemorates 500 years of Leonardo’s legacy, immersing visitors in his extraordinary life like never before.
Demonstrating the full scope of Leonardo da Vinci’s achievements, Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius celebrates one of the most revered and dynamic intellects of all time. Revolutionary SENSORY4™ technology allows visitors to take a journey into the mind of the ultimate Renaissance man for the very first time.
Discover for yourself the true genius of Leonardo as an inventor, artist, scientist, anatomist, engineer, architect, sculptor and philosopher. See and interact with over 200 unique displays, including machine inventions, life-size reproductions of Leonardo’s Renaissance art, entertaining animations giving insight into his most notable works, and touchscreen versions of his actual codices.
Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius also includes the world’s exclusive Secrets of Mona Lisa exhibition – an analysis of the world’s most famous painting, conducted at the Louvre Museum by renowned scientific engineer, examiner and photographer of fine art Pascal Cotte.
Whether you are a history aficionado or discovering Leonardo for the first time, Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius is an entertaining, educational and enlightening experience the whole family will love.
For a change I’ve placed the video after its transcript,
The April 30, 2019 Ingenium announcement (received via email) hints at something a little more exciting than walking around and looking at cases,
Discover the true genius of Leonardo as an inventor, artist, scientist, anatomist, engineer, architect, sculptor, and philosopher. See and interact with more than 200 unique displays, including machine inventions, life-size reproductions of Leonardo’s Renaissance art, touchscreen versions of his life’s work, and an immersive, walkthrough cinematic experience. Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius [includes information about entry fees] the exclusive Secrets of Mona Lisa exhibition – an analysis of the world’s most famous painting.
I imagine there will be other events associated with this exhbition but for now there’s an opening night event, which is part of the museum’s Curiosity on Stage series (ticket purchase here),
Curiosity on Stage: Evening Edition – Leonardo da Vinci: 500 Years of Genius
Join the Italian Embassy and the Canada Science and Technology Museum for an evening of discussion and discovery on the quintessential Renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci. Invited speakers from the Galileo Museum in Italy, Carleton University, and the University of Ottawa will explore the historical importance of da Vinci’s diverse body of work, as well as the lasting impact of his legacy on science, technology, and art in our age.
Be among the first to visit the all-new exhibition “Leonardo da Vinci – 500 Years of Genius”! Your Curiosity on Stage ticket will grant you access to the exhibit in its entirety, which includes life-size reproductions of Leonardo’s art, touchscreen versions of his codices, and so much more!
Speakers: Andrea Bernardoni (Galileo Museum) – Senior Researcher Angelo Mingarelli (Carleton University) – Mathematician Hanan Anis (University of Ottawa) – Professor in Electrical and Computer Engineering Lisa Leblanc (Canada Science and Technology Museum) – Director General; Panel Moderator
Join the conversation and share your thoughts using the hashtag #CuriosityOnStage.
Agenda: 5:00 – 6:30 pm: Explore the “Leonardo da Vinci: 500 Years of Genius” exhibit. Light refreshments and networking opportunities. 6:30 – 8:30 pm: Presentations and Panel discussion Cost: Members: $7 Students: $7 with discount code “SALAI” (valid student ID required on night of event) Non-members: $10 *Parking fees are included with admission.
Tickets are not yet sold out.
#Museum Week 2019
#Museum Week (website) is being billed as “The first worldwide cultural event on social networks. The latest edition is being held from May 13 – 19, 2019. As far as I’m aware, it’s held on Twitter exclusively. You can check out the hash tag feed (#Museum Week) as it’s getting quite active even now.
They don’t have a list of participants for this year which leaves me feeling a little sad. It’s kind of fun to check out how many and which institutions in your country are planning to participate. I would have liked to have seen whether or not the Canada Science and Technology Museum and Science World Vancouver will be there. (I think both participated last year.) Given how busy the hash tag feed becomes during the event, I’m not likely to see them on it even if they’re tweeting madly.
May 2019 looks to be a very busy month for Canadian science enthusiasts! No matter where you are there is something for you.
In a recent (Tuesday, March 6, 2018) live stream ‘conversation’ (‘Science in Canada; Investing in Canadian Innovation’ now published on YouTube) between Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, and US science communicator, Bill Nye, at the University of Ottawa, they discussed, amongst many other topics, what AI (artificial intelligence) can and can’t do. They seemed to agree that AI can’t be creative, i.e., write poetry, create works of art, make jokes, etc. A conclusion which is both (in my opinion) true and not true.
There are times when I think the joke may be on us (humans). Take for example this March 6, 2018 story by Alexis Madrigal for The Atlantic magazine (Note: Links have been removed),
SkyKnit: How an AI Took Over an Adult Knitting Community
Ribald knitters teamed up with a neural-network creator to generate new types of tentacled, cozy shapes.
Janelle Shane is a humorist [Note: She describes herself as a “Research Scientist in optics. Plays with neural networks. …” in her Twitter bio.] who creates and mines her material from neural networks, the form of machine learning that has come to dominate the field of artificial intelligence over the last half-decade.
Perhaps you’ve seen the candy-heart slogans she generated for Valentine’s Day: DEAR ME, MY MY, LOVE BOT, CUTE KISS, MY BEAR, and LOVE BUN.
Or her new paint-color names: Parp Green, Shy Bather, Farty Red, and Bull Cream.
Or her neural-net-generated Halloween costumes: Punk Tree, Disco Monster, Spartan Gandalf, Starfleet Shark, and A Masked Box.
Her latest project, still ongoing, pushes the joke into a new, physical realm. Prodded by a knitter on the knitting forum Ravelry, Shane trained a type of neural network on a series of over 500 sets of knitting instructions. Then, she generated new instructions, which members of the Ravelry community have actually attempted to knit.
“The knitting project has been a particularly fun one so far just because it ended up being a dialogue between this computer program and these knitters that went over my head in a lot of ways,” Shane told me. “The computer would spit out a whole bunch of instructions that I couldn’t read and the knitters would say, this is the funniest thing I’ve ever read.”
It appears that the project evolved,
The human-machine collaboration created configurations of yarn that you probably wouldn’t give to your in-laws for Christmas, but they were interesting. The user citikas was the first to post a try at one of the earliest patterns, “reverss shawl.” It was strange, but it did have some charisma.
Shane nicknamed the whole effort “Project Hilarious Disaster.” The community called it SkyKnit.
I’m not sure what’s meant by “community” as mentioned in the previous excerpt. Are we talking about humans only, AI only, or both humans and AI?
Here’s some of what underlies Skyknit (Note: Links have been removed),
The different networks all attempt to model the data they’ve been fed by tuning a vast, funky flowchart. After you’ve created a statistical model that describes your real data, you can also roll the dice and generate new, never-before-seen data of the same kind.
How this works—like, the math behind it—is very hard to visualize because values inside the model can have hundreds of dimensions and we are humble three-dimensional creatures moving through time. But as the neural-network enthusiast Robin Sloan puts it, “So what? It turns out imaginary spaces are useful even if you can’t, in fact, imagine them.”
Out of that ferment, a new kind of art has emerged. Its practitioners use neural networks not to attain practical results, but to see what’s lurking in the these vast, opaque systems. What did the machines learn about the world as they attempted to understand the data they’d been fed? Famously, Google released DeepDream, which produced trippy visualizations that also demonstrated how that type of neural network processed the textures and objects in its source imagery.
Madrigal’s article is well worth reading if you have the time. You can also supplement Madrigal’s piece with an August 9, 2017 article about Janelle Shane’s algorithmic experiments by Jacob Brogan for slate.com.
SkyKnit fancy addite rifopshent
Fingering (14 wpi) ?
24 stitches and 30 rows = 4 inches
in stockinette stitch
US 4 – 3.5 mm
This pattern is available as a free Ravelry download
SkyKnit is a type of machine learning algorithm called an artificial neural network. Its creator, Janelle Shane of AIweirdness.com, gave it 88,000 lines of knitting instructions from Stitch-Maps.com and Ravelry, and it taught itself how to make new patterns. Join the discussion!
SkyKnit seems to have created something that has paralell columns, and is reversible. Perhaps a scarf?
Test-knitting & image courtesy of Chatelaine
Patterns may include notes from testknitters; yarn, needles, and gauge are totally at your discretion.
About the designer
SkyKnit’s favorites include lace, tentacles, and totally not the elimination of the human race.
For more information, see: http://aiweirdness.com/
If you’ve been on the internet today, you’ve probably interacted with a neural network. They’re a type of machine learning algorithm that’s used for everything from language translation to finance modeling. One of their specialties is image recognition. Several companies – including Google, Microsoft, IBM, and Facebook – have their own algorithms for labeling photos. But image recognition algorithms can make really bizarre mistakes.
Microsoft Azure’s computer vision API [application programming interface] added the above caption and tags. But there are no sheep in the image of above. None. I zoomed all the way in and inspected every speck.
I have become quite interested in Shane’s self descriptions such as this one from the aiweirdness.com website,
I train neural networks, a type of machine learning algorithm, to write unintentional humor as they struggle to imitate human datasets. Well, I intend the humor. The neural networks are just doing their best to understand what’s going on. Currently located on the occupied land of the Arapahoe Nation.
As for the joke being on us, I can’t help remembering the Facebook bots that developed their own language (Facebotlish), and were featured in my June 30, 2017 posting, There’s a certain eerieness to it all, which seems an appropriate response in a year celebrating the 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s 1818 book, Frankenstein; or, the Modern Prometheus. I’m closing with a video clip from the 1931 movie,
I received (via email) a December 11, 2017 notice from the Canadian Science Policy Centre that the 2017 Proceedings for the ninth annual conference (Nov. 1 – 3, 2017 in Ottawa, Canada) can now be accessed,
The Canadian Science Policy Centre is pleased to present you the Proceedings of CSPC 2017. Check out the reports and takeaways for each panel session, which have been carefully drafted by a group of professional writers. You can also listen to the audio recordings and watch the available videos. The proceedings page will provide you with the opportunity to immerse yourself in all of the discussions at the conference. Feel free to share the ones you like! Also, check out the CSPC 2017 reports, analyses, and stats in the proceedings.
Take a look at the 70+ one-on-one interviews with prominent figures of science policy. The interviews were conducted by the great team of CSPC 2017 volunteers. The interviews feature in-depth perspectives about the conference, panels, and new up and coming projects.
Organized by: Friends of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Keynote: Alan Bernstein, President and CEO, CIFAR, 2017 Henry G. Friesen International Prizewinner
Speakers: Brenda Andrews, Director, Andrew’s Lab, University of Toronto; Doina Precup, Associate Professor, McGill University; Dr Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist of Quebec; Linda Rabeneck, Vice President, Prevention and Cancer Control, Cancer Care Ontario; Peter Zandstra, Director, School of Biomedical Engineering, University of British Columbia
Discussants: Henry Friesen, Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba; Roderick McInnes, Acting President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and Director, Lady Davis Institute, Jewish General Hospital, McGill University; Duncan J. Stewart, CEO and Scientific Director, Ottawa Hospital Research Institute; Vivek Goel, Vice President, Research and Innovation, University of Toronto
Moderators: Eric Meslin, President & CEO, Council of Canadian Academies; André Picard, Health Reporter and Columnist, The Globe and Mail
Takeaways and recommendations:
The opportunity for Canada
The potential impact of artificial intelligence (AI) could be as significant as the industrial revolution of the 19th century.
Canada’s global advantage in deep learning (a subset of machine learning) stems from the pioneering work of Geoffrey Hinton and early support from CIFAR and NSERC.
AI could mark a turning point in Canada’s innovation performance, fueled by the highest levels of venture capital financing in nearly a decade, and underpinned by publicly funded research at the federal, provincial and institutional levels.
The Canadian AI advantage can only be fully realized by developing and importing skilled talent, accessible markets, capital and companies willing to adopt new technologies into existing industries.
Canada leads in the combination of functional genomics and machine learning which is proving effective for predicting the functional variation in genomes.
AI promises advances in biomedical engineering by connecting chronic diseases – the largest health burden in Canada – to gene regulatory networks by understanding how stem cells make decisions.
AI can be effectively deployed to evaluate health and health systems in the general population.
AI brings potential ethical and economic perils and requires a watchdog to oversee standards, engage in fact-based debate and prepare for the potential backlash over job losses to robots.
The ethical, environmental, economic, legal and social (GEL3S) aspects of genomics have been largely marginalized and it’s important not to make the same mistake with AI.
AI’s rapid scientific development makes it difficult to keep pace with safeguards and standards.
The fields of AI’s and pattern recognition are strongly connected but here is room for improvement.
Self-learning algorithms such as Alphaville could lead to the invention of new things that humans currently don’t know how to do. The field is developing rapidly, leading to some concern over the deployment of such systems.
Training future AI professionals
Young researchers must be given the oxygen to excel at AI if its potential is to be realized.
Students appreciate the breadth of training and additional resources they receive from researchers with ties to both academia and industry.
The importance of continuing fundamental research in AI is being challenged by companies such as Facebook, Google and Amazon which are hiring away key talent.
The explosion of AI is a powerful illustration of how the importance of fundamental research may only be recognized and exploited after 20 or 30 years. As a result, support for fundamental research, and the students working in areas related to AI, must continue.
Organized by: Kirsten Vanstone, Royal Canadian Institute for Science and Reinhart Reithmeier, Professor, University of Toronto [in Ontario]
Speakers: Chantal Barriault, Director, Science Communication Graduate Program, Laurentian University [in Ontario] and Science North [in Ontario]; Maurice Bitran, CEO, Ontario Science Centre [take a wild guess as to where this institution is located?]; Kelly Bronson, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa [in Ontario]; Marc LePage, President and CEO, Genome Canada [in Ontario]
Moderator: Ivan Semeniuk, Science Reporter, The Globe and Mail [in Ontario]
In fact, all of the institutions are in southern Ontario, even, the oddly named Science North.
I know from bitter experience it’s hard to put together panels but couldn’t someone from another province have participated?
Ah well, here’s hoping for 2018 and for a new location. After Ottawa as the CSPC site for three years in a row, please don’t make it a fourth year in a row.
Thanks to the Canadian Science Policy Centre’s September 26, 2017 announcement (received via email) a burning question has been answered,
After great anticipation, Prime Minister Trudeau along with Minister Duncan have announced Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Mona Nemer, [emphasis mine] at a ceremony at the House of Commons. The Canadian Science Policy Centre welcomes this exciting news and congratulates Dr. Nemer on her appointment in this role and we wish her the best in carrying out her duties in this esteemed position. CSPC is looking forward to working closely with Dr. Nemer for the Canadian science policy community. Mehrdad Hariri, CEO & President of the CSPC, stated, “Today’s historic announcement is excellent news for science in Canada, for informed policy-making and for all Canadians. We look forward to working closely with the new Chief Science Advisor.”
In fulfilling our commitment to keep the community up to date and informed regarding science, technology, and innovation policy issues, CSPC has been compiling all news, publications, and editorials in recognition of the importance of the Federal Chief Science Officer as it has been developing, as you may see by clicking here.
The Government of Canada is committed to strengthen science in government decision-making and to support scientists’ vital work.
In keeping with these commitments, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced Dr. Mona Nemer as Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor, following an open, transparent, and merit-based selection process.
We know Canadians value science. As the new Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Nemer will help promote science and its real benefits for Canadians—new knowledge, novel technologies, and advanced skills for future jobs. These breakthroughs and new opportunities form an essential part of the Government’s strategy to secure a better future for Canadian families and to grow Canada’s middle class.
Dr. Nemer is a distinguished medical researcher whose focus has been on the heart, particularly on the mechanisms of heart failure and congenital heart diseases. In addition to publishing over 200 scholarly articles, her research has led to new diagnostic tests for heart failure and the genetics of cardiac birth defects. Dr. Nemer has spent more than ten years as the Vice-President, Research at the University of Ottawa, has served on many national and international scientific advisory boards, and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Member of the Order of Canada, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec.
As Canada’s new top scientist, Dr. Nemer will provide impartial scientific advice to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science. She will also make recommendations to help ensure that government science is fully available and accessible to the public, and that federal scientists remain free to speak about their work. Once a year, she will submit a report about the state of federal government science in Canada to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science, which will also be made public.
“We have taken great strides to fulfill our promise to restore science as a pillar of government decision-making. Today, we took another big step forward by announcing Dr. Mona Nemer as our Chief Science Advisor. Dr. Nemer brings a wealth of expertise to the role. Her advice will be invaluable and inform decisions made at the highest levels. I look forward to working with her to promote a culture of scientific excellence in Canada.” — The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
“A respect for science and for Canada’s remarkable scientists is a core value for our government. I look forward to working with Dr. Nemer, Canada’s new Chief Science Advisor, who will provide us with the evidence we need to make decisions about what matters most to Canadians: their health and safety, their families and communities, their jobs, environment and future prosperity.”
— The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science
“I am honoured and excited to be Canada’s Chief Science Advisor. I am very pleased to be representing Canadian science and research – work that plays a crucial role in protecting and improving the lives of people everywhere. I look forward to advising the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science and working with the science community, policy makers, and the public to make science part of government policy making.”
— Dr. Mona Nemer, Chief Science Advisor, Canada
Dr. Nemer is also a Knight of the Order of Merit of the French Republic, and has been awarded honorary doctorates from universities in France and Finland.
The Office of the Chief Science Advisor will be housed at Innovation, Science and Economic Development and supported by a secretariat.
Nemers’ Wikipedia entry does not provide much additional information although you can find out a bit more on her University of Ottawa page. Brian Owens in a Sept. 26, 2017 article for the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Science Magazine provides a bit more detail, about this newly created office and its budget
Nemer’s office will have a $2 million budget, and she will report to both Trudeau and science minister Kirsty Duncan. Her mandate includes providing scientific advice to government ministers, helping keep government-funded science accessible to the public, and protecting government scientists from being muzzled.
Ivan Semeniuk’s Sept. 26, 2017 article for the Globe and Mail newspaper about Nemer’s appointment is the most informative (that I’ve been able to find),
Mona Nemer, a specialist in the genetics of heart disease and a long time vice-president of research at the University of Ottawa, has been named Canada’s new chief science advisor.
The appointment, announced Tuesday [Sept. 26, 2017] by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, comes two years after the federal Liberals pledged to reinstate the position during the last election campaign and nearly a decade after the previous version of the role was cut by then prime minister Stephen Harper.
Dr. Nemer steps into the job of advising the federal government on science-related policy at a crucial time. Following a landmark review of Canada’s research landscape [Naylor report] released last spring, university-based scientists are lobbying hard for Ottawa to significantly boost science funding, one of the report’s key recommendations. At the same time, scientists and science-advocacy groups are increasingly scrutinizing federal actions on a range of sensitive environment and health-related issues to ensure the Trudeau government is making good on promises to embrace evidence-based decision making.
A key test of the position’s relevance for many observers will be the extent to which Dr. Nemer is able to speak her mind on matters where science may run afoul of political expediency.
Born in 1957, Dr. Nemer grew up in Lebanon and pursued an early passion for chemistry at a time and place where women were typically discouraged from entering scientific fields. With Lebanon’s civil war making it increasingly difficult for her to pursue her studies, her family was able to arrange for her to move to the United States, where she completed an undergraduate degree at Wichita State University in Kansas.
A key turning point came in the summer of 1977 when Dr. Nemer took a trip with friends to Montreal. She quickly fell for the city and, in short order, managed to secure acceptance to McGill University, where she received a PhD in 1982. …
It took a lot of searching to find out that Nemer was born in Lebanon and went to the United States first. A lot of immigrants and their families view Canada as a second choice and Nemer and her family would appear to have followed that pattern. It’s widely believed (amongst Canadians too) that the US is where you go for social mobility. I’m not sure if this is still the case but at one point in the 1980s Israel ranked as having the greatest social mobility in the world. Canada came in second while the US wasn’t even third or fourth ranked.
It’s the second major appointment by Justin Trudeau in the last few months to feature a woman who speaks French. The first was Julie Payette, former astronaut and Québecker, as the upcoming Governor General (there’s more detail and a whiff of sad scandal in this Aug. 21, 2017 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation online news item). Now there’s Dr. Mona Nemer who’s lived both in Québec and Ontario. Trudeau and his feminism, eh? Also, his desire to keep Québeckers happy (more or less).
I’m not surprised by the fact that Nemer has been based in Ottawa for several years. I guess they want someone who’s comfortable with the government apparatus although I for one think a little fresh air might be welcome. After all, the Minister of Science, Kirsty Duncan, is from Toronto which between Nemer and Duncan gives us the age-old Canadian government trifecta (geographically speaking), Ottawa-Montréal-Toronto.
Two final comments, I am surprised that Duncan did not make the announcement. After all, it was in her 2015 mandate letter.But perhaps Paul Wells in his acerbic June 29, 2017 article for Macleans hints at the reason as he discusses the Naylor report (review of fundamental science mentioned in Semeniuk’s article and for which Nemer is expected to provide advice),
The Naylor report represents Canadian research scientists’ side of a power struggle. The struggle has been continuing since Jean Chrétien left office. After early cuts, he presided for years over very large increases to the budgets of the main science granting councils. But since 2003, governments have preferred to put new funding dollars to targeted projects in applied sciences. …
Naylor wants that trend reversed, quickly. He is supported in that call by a frankly astonishingly broad coalition of university administrators and working researchers, who until his report were more often at odds. So you have the group representing Canada’s 15 largest research universities and the group representing all universities and a new group representing early-career researchers and, as far as I can tell, every Canadian scientist on Twitter. All backing Naylor. All fundamentally concerned that new money for research is of no particular interest if it does not back the best science as chosen by scientists, through peer review.
The competing model, the one preferred by governments of all stripes, might best be called superclusters. Very large investments into very large projects with loosely defined scientific objectives, whose real goal is to retain decorated veteran scientists and to improve the Canadian high-tech industry. Vast and sprawling labs and tech incubators, cabinet ministers nodding gravely as world leaders in sexy trendy fields sketch the golden path to Jobs of Tomorrow.
You see the imbalance. On one side, ribbons to cut. On the other, nerds experimenting on tapeworms. Kirsty Duncan, a shaky political performer, transparently a junior minister to the supercluster guy, with no deputy minister or department reporting to her, is in a structurally weak position: her title suggests she’s science’s emissary to the government, but she is not equipped to be anything more than government’s emissary to science.
Second, our other science minister, Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development does not appear to have been present at the announcement. Quite surprising given where her office will located (from the government’s Sept. 26, 2017 press release in Quick Facts section ) “The Office of the Chief Science Advisor will be housed at Innovation, Science and Economic Development and supported by a secretariat.”
Finally, Wells’ article is well worth reading in its entirety and for those who are information gluttons, I have a three part series on the Naylor report, published June 8, 2017,
For the first time, researchers have sent a quantum-secured message containing more than one bit of information per photon through the air above a city. The demonstration showed that it could one day be practical to use high-capacity, free-space quantum communication to create a highly secure link between ground-based networks and satellites, a requirement for creating a global quantum encryption network.
Quantum encryption uses photons to encode information in the form of quantum bits. In its simplest form, known as 2D encryption, each photon encodes one bit: either a one or a zero. Scientists have shown that a single photon can encode even more information—a concept known as high-dimensional quantum encryption—but until now this has never been demonstrated with free-space optical communication in real-world conditions. With eight bits necessary to encode just one letter, for example, packing more information into each photon would significantly speed up data transmission.
This looks like donuts on a stick to me,
For the first time, researchers have demonstrated sending messages in a secure manner using high dimensional quantum cryptography in realistic city conditions. Image Credit: SQO team, University of Ottawa.
An Aug. 24, 2017 Optical Society news release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, describes the work done by a team in Ottawa, Canada, (Note: The ‘Congratulate China’ piece (August 22, 2017 posting) includes excerpts from an article that gave a brief survey of various national teams [including Canada] working on quantum communication networks; Links have been removed),
“Our work is the first to send messages in a secure manner using high-dimensional quantum encryption in realistic city conditions, including turbulence,” said research team lead, Ebrahim Karimi, University of Ottawa, Canada. “The secure, free-space communication scheme we demonstrated could potentially link Earth with satellites, securely connect places where it is too expensive to install fiber, or be used for encrypted communication with a moving object, such as an airplane.”
For the first time, researchers have demonstrated sending messages in a secure manner using high dimensional quantum cryptography in realistic city conditions. Image Credit: SQO team, University of Ottawa.
As detailed in Optica, The Optical Society’s journal for high impact research, the researchers demonstrated 4D quantum encryption over a free-space optical network spanning two buildings 0.3 kilometers apart at the University of Ottawa. This high-dimensional encryption scheme is referred to as 4D because each photon encodes two bits of information, which provides the four possibilities of 01, 10, 00 or 11.
In addition to sending more information per photon, high-dimensional quantum encryption can also tolerate more signal-obscuring noise before the transmission becomes unsecure. Noise can arise from turbulent air, failed electronics, detectors that don’t work properly and from attempts to intercept the data. “This higher noise threshold means that when 2D quantum encryption fails, you can try to implement 4D because it, in principle, is more secure and more noise resistant,” said Karimi.
Using light for encryption
Today, mathematical algorithms are used to encrypt text messages, banking transactions and health information. Intercepting these encrypted messages requires figuring out the exact algorithm used to encrypt a given piece of data, a feat that is difficult now but that is expected to become easier in the next decade or so as computers become more powerful.
Given the expectation that current algorithms may not work as well in the future, more attention is being given to stronger encryption techniques such as quantum key distribution, which uses properties of light particles known as quantum states to encode and send the key needed to decrypt encoded data.
Although wired and free-space quantum encryption has been deployed on some small, local networks, implementing it globally will require sending encrypted messages between ground-based stations and the satellite-based quantum communication networks that would link cities and countries. Horizontal tests through the air can be used to simulate sending signals to satellites, with about three horizontal kilometers being roughly equal to sending the signal through the Earth’s atmosphere to a satellite.
Before trying a three-kilometer test, the researchers wanted to see if it was even possible to perform 4D quantum encryption outside. This was thought to be so challenging that some other scientists in the field said that the experiment would not work. One of the primary problems faced during any free-space experiment is dealing with air turbulence, which distorts the optical signal.
For the tests, the researchers brought their laboratory optical setups to two different rooftops and covered them with wooden boxes to provide some protection from the elements. After much trial and error, they successfully sent messages secured with 4D quantum encryption over their intracity link. The messages exhibited an error rate of 11 percent, below the 19 percent threshold needed to maintain a secure connection. They also compared 4D encryption with 2D, finding that, after error correction, they could transmit 1.6 times more information per photon with 4D quantum encryption, even with turbulence.
“After bringing equipment that would normally be used in a clean, isolated lab environment to a rooftop that is exposed to the elements and has no vibration isolation, it was very rewarding to see results showing that we could transmit secure data,” said Alicia Sit, an undergraduate student in Karimi’s lab.
As a next step, the researchers are planning to implement their scheme into a network that includes three links that are about 5.6 kilometers apart and that uses a technology known as adaptive optics to compensate for the turbulence. Eventually, they want to link this network to one that exists now in the city. “Our long-term goal is to implement a quantum communication network with multiple links but using more than four dimensions while trying to get around the turbulence,” said Sit.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,
High-dimensional intracity quantum cryptography with structured photons by Alicia Sit, Frédéric Bouchard, Robert Fickler, Jérémie Gagnon-Bischoff, Hugo Larocque, Khabat Heshami, Dominique Elser, Christian Peuntinger, Kevin Günthner, Bettina Heim, Christoph Marquardt, Gerd Leuchs, Robert W. Boyd, and Ebrahim Karimi. Optica Vol. 4, Issue 9, pp. 1006-1010 (2017) •https://doi.org/10.1364/OPTICA.4.001006
The Council Canadian of Academies (CCA) released a report on subnational science policy that started life as a workshop on the province of Alberta’s science policy (see my Nov. 10, 2016 posting). Somehow by the time of the April 19, 2017 CCA news release (also received via email and found on EurekAlert) announcing the workshop report, the focus had widened,
A new report, Science Policy: Considerations for Subnational Governments, released today [April 19, 2017] by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA), affirms the importance of explicit science policies at the subnational level.
“In Canada, science is as much a provincial endeavour as it is a national one,” said Dr. Joy Johnson, FCAHS, Chair of the CCA Workshop Steering Committee, and Vice President of Research at Simon Fraser University. “Currently, the institutions that perform science, together with the infrastructure and funding that enable it, are a part of a multi-level system that is uncoordinated and complex. Realizing the benefits of science as a country requires explicit and effective science policies across all levels of government.”
While all governments have implicit science policies, the report emphasizes that explicit science policies help to articulate the value and objectives of support for science, enhance government coordination and alignment, and increase transparency. Making science policy explicit at the subnational level can also aid in leveraging federal support for science.
The report is the outcome of a two-day expert workshop that sought to identify key considerations for science policies relevant to subnational jurisdictions, specifically for Canadian provinces and territories. Among its findings, the report notes that a comprehensive framework for science policy can be built around five core elements: people, infrastructure, research, science culture, and knowledge mobilization. The report also underscores that science and innovation policies are distinct, but inextricably linked, and that cross-sectoral and cross-governmental coordination and cooperation are essential. With science changing rapidly and research activities becoming increasingly globalized, a commitment to science and to flexible, yet consistent, science policy, is important for long-term success.
“This study suggests that a long-term commitment to subnational science policy is important for maintaining and developing the entire science ecosystem,” said Dr. Eric M. Meslin, FCAHS, President and CEO of the CCA. “Indeed, with the recent release of Canada’s Fundamental Science Review there is now an excellent opportunity for provinces to consider how their own investments in science can be coordinated or aligned with federal priorities for maximum impact.”
Requested by the Government of Alberta, the report also pulls out some specific considerations for the province and highlights successful research initiatives such as the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR). Overall, the report is intended to be used by Canadian provinces and territories as a roadmap to guide conversations and inform decision-making about science policies at the subnational level.
Is anyone surprised that these experts would advise subnational science policies? Perhaps there’s a naïve ten-year-old out there?
Having gotten that off my chest, I have to admit I wouldn’t have come in with anything too different but I could guarantee a little more humour (assuming I’d have had anything to do with the final report).
On to the report, it’s a solid and workmanlike piece of writing and proposed policy as produced by the participants of the workshop (I see a few more people were added after my Nov. 10, 2016 posting), from the report,
Joy Johnson, FCAHS (Chair of the Steering Committee and Workshop),
Vice President Research, Simon Fraser
University (Burnaby, BC)
Paul Dufour (Steering Committee Member),
Adjunct Professor, Institute for Science, Society and Policy, University
of Ottawa (Gatineau, QC)
Janet Halliwell (Steering Committee Member),
President, J.E. Halliwell Associates Inc. (Salt Spring Island, BC)
Kaye Husbands Fealing (Steering Committee Member),
Chair and Professor, School of Public Policy, Georgia
Institute of Technology (Atlanta, GA)
Marc LePage (Steering Committee Member),
President and CEO, Genome Canada (Ottawa, ON)
Allison Barr, [new]
Director, Office of the Chief Scientist, Ontario
Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science (Toronto, ON)
Eric Cook, [new]
Executive Director and CEO, Research Productivity Council (Fredericton, NB)
Irwin Feller, [new]
Professor Emeritus, Pennsylvania State
University (State College, PA)
Peter Fenwick, [new]
Member, A100 (Calgary, AB)
Richard Hawkins, [new]
Professor, University of Calgary (Calgary, AB)
Jeff Kinder, [new]
Director, Federal Science and Technology Secretariat (Ottawa, ON)
Robert Lamb, [new]
Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Light Source Inc. (Saskatoon, SK)
John Morin, [new]
Director of Policy, Planning and External Relations, Western Economic Diversification Canada
Nils Petersen, [new]
Professor Emeritus, University of Alberta
Grace Skogstad, [new]
Professor, University of Toronto (Toronto,
P. Kim Sturgess, C.C., FCAE,
CEO, WaterSMART Ltd.
I expect there was an attempt to have women represented in the group of participants and amongst the reviewers. This time it worked out to five women out of 16 workshop participants or approximately 30% and one female reviewer out of four reviewers or 25%. I’m glad to see an effort has been made although I would like to these percentages increase.
As for regional representation, there was none from the North.
The international contingent were all from the US. As I’ve noted with regard to previous CCA reports, the international flavour is garnered from the US, the UK, another commonwealth country such as Australia or New Zealand, and, occasionally, from the European Union. Perhaps one of these times, experts from Asia, South America, or Africa might be included?
The rationale for creating an explicit science policy at the subnational level is compelling.
Science and innovation policies are distinct, but inextricably linked, for all levels of government.
Subnational governments play many of the same roles as national governments in supporting science.
A comprehensive framework for a science policy can be built around five core elements: people, infrastructure, research, science culture, and knowledge mobilization.
Cross-sectoral and cross-governmental coordination and cooperation are central to an effective subnational science policy.
A subnational science policy can bring clarity to provincial research priorities.
Committing long term to a subnational science policy is important for maintaining and developing the science system.
I’m picking a few bits out of the report that I found to be of particular interest. The cover features two light bulbs, appropriately since a couple of Canadians invented them (Henry Woodward and Matthew Evans). Then, Thomas Edison bought the patent, refined the invention, and commercialized it. Oddly, I haven’t been able to find any description of or credit for the front page illustration; which would have been helpful as most Canadians are not familiar with that piece of history.
Moving on, there’s no specific definition for the term, subnational.The closest they get is ‘regional’. In Canada, that presumably means provincial although they could be including cities and other regional jurisdictions such as Metro Vancouver, which includes the city of Vancouver along with several other municipalities. However, the impression is that they are discussing provincial governments only.
Moving on to what was in the report that was of interest to me, there was this on computation and digital infrastructure,
Rapid growth in the data requirements of many areas of scientific work is creating both physical and virtual infrastructure needs. Access to high-power computing capacity, data storage, and high-speed networking is increasingly vital to many domains of research activity, from oceanography to neuroscience. In Canada national organizations such as CANARIE and Compute Canada respond to these needs and focus investments in continued development of Canada’s digital research infrastructure (CANARIE, n.d.; CC, n.d.). These may be supported further by provincial investments, such as the Ontario government’s investment in Compute Ontario and the B.C. government’s support for the WestGrid high performance computing network (Gov. of BC, 2011; CC, 2016). Data harmonization, interoperability, and standardization can accelerate research and lead to new advances, particularly in health research. At a pan-Canadian level, the Leadership Council for Digital Infrastructure is seeking to coordinate the diverse players in the digital infrastructure ecosystem (LCDI, n.d.). Subnationally, provinces must also consider the adequacy of regional digital infrastructure, taking into account the requirements associated with provincial research priorities and how best to coordinate provincial, regional, [emphasis mine] and federal support. (p. 11 print; p. 23 PDF)
This was the most specific section of the report naming specific agencies and responsibilities. Intriguingly, they mention provincial and regional support separately but I believe that regional in this instance means ‘Atlantic’, ‘Western’, ‘Prairie’, Maritime’, etc., in other words, provincial and territorial (?) groupings. As the Naylor report also went into some detail about digital infrastructure, which I didn’t choose to mention in my three part commentary, I’m beginning to suspect some anxiety is being felt about data. Given the increasing concerns over cyber security both in Canada and around the globe, the anxiety is to be expected.
Next up, Science Culture (sigh),
Workshop participants suggested that subnational governments have a role to play in supporting a strong science culture through education, public science outreach,
engagement, and communication. This begins with science education at the primary and secondary levels, which provinces can direct through provincial science curricula in the K-12 system. Overall, Canada performs well in student science achievement relative to other countries as measured through the OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) (OECD, 2016). The development of K-12 science curricula in many provinces benefitted from the 1997 Common Framework of Science Learning Outcomes created by the Council of Ministers of Education, Canada (CMEC, 1997), and from the 1984 Science Council of Canada report, Science for Every Student (SCC, 1984). That report reviewed science education at the primary and secondary levels, and established a vision for public science literacy in Canada. Research has since confirmed the fundamental role of science education as a key determinant of civic science literacy (Miller, 1998).
Support for Informal Science Learning and Engagement
Beyond formal science education, there are many avenues through which subnational governments can support public engagement in the sciences. Science centres and museums provide opportunities for the public to experience science in interactive, hands-on forums, which increasingly harness new digital and communication technologies. Expert science communicators and science ambassadors can make scientific work more accessible to the public, illuminating its relevance and potential. Non-profit organizations can build interest and knowledge among youth in the STEM fields (LTS, n.d.). Science fairs and festivals can also foster excitement about science. Contemporary science festivals often involve collaborations of musicians, artists, [emphasis mine] technologies, engineers, researchers, and communicators of many types.3 Governments can promote scientific and technological awareness through designated science and technology days or weeks. Chief scientists can officially support public science engagement, as is the case in Australia (see Gov. of AU, n.d.). Granting programs can create incentives to encourage researchers to participate in science communication and outreach activities. However, such incentives require careful structuring because not all researchers have the inclination or skills needed to communicate their work to a broader audience.
Subnational governments often support science centres, museums, and other forms of public science outreach. In Quebec, science culture is explicitly identified as a sub-priority in the provincial science policy (Gov. of QC, 2013), but such support is not always connected to or formally recognized in subnational science policies. Leaving such support unconnected to the larger policy framework that outlines the government’s approach to supporting science may contribute to a lack of alignment and coordination of government support. (pp. 12-3 print; pp. 24-5 PDF)
While it can’t be denied that reaching out to children and youth is important, science outreach for adults may be the key to getting more science participation from science and youth. I wrote about two 2012 studies one in the UK (ASPIRES) and the other in the US, which strongly suggested that children and teens can get excited about science and still decide that it’s ‘not for me’ because no one they know (parents, family friends, etc.) has a ‘scientific’ job. The impact that your family has on your occupational aspirations is quite substantive. You can read about the two studies in my Jan. 31, 2012 posting.There’s also a plaintive plea for more adult science outreach in my May 12, 2017 posting. One final note about science culture, given the mention of artists and musicians, I’m surprised they didn’t mention STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts, and mathematics).
The last bit I’m going to mention is Alberta’s position vis-à-vis science policy,
Alberta has a long history of supporting scientific research in the province. As noted earlier, the Alberta Research Council was established in 1921 as Canada’s first provincial research organization (ACT, 2016). Almost 100 years later, its legacy is carried on through research and technology development activities under the auspices of Alberta Innovates. Workshop participants pointed to two sectoral initiatives that are regarded as particular research success stories in the provincial research landscape: the Alberta Oil Sands Technology and Research Authority (AOSTRA) established in 1974, and the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research (AHFMR) established through an endowment in 1980 (AIHS, 2016; ACT, n.d.) (see Box 4.1 for a brief discussion of each). Both initiatives are seen as “big bets” that have delivered significant benefits for the province; workshop participants cautioned that small
investments over short periods are less likely to deliver noticeable impacts.
Today, Alberta is home to a dynamic science system and its scientific contributions are nationally and internationally competitive by many measures. Workshop participants identified the talent pool and a strong university research system as key strengths of Alberta’s science system. While bibliometric indicators (indicators based on research publication and citation patterns) are not valid measures of strength across all areas of academic research, they are valuable in many domains, especially when used to compare like with like. Using data collected by the CCA (2012b, 2016) in its studies of the state of science and technology and industrial R&D in Canada, a snapshot of Alberta’s strengths is revealing. Alberta’s research output and impact are broadly on par with Canada’s other large provinces: it has the second highest rate of publications per faculty researcher, the fourth highest Average Relative Citation (ARC) score6 among the provinces, and the third highest rate of doctoral graduates per population after Quebec and Ontario (CCA, 2012b, 2016). Bibliometric analysis indicates that Alberta’s research output is comparatively high in fields such as Public Health and Health Services; Earth and Environmental Sciences; Philosophy and Theology; and Psychology and Cognitive Sciences (Figure 4.1). Fields in which Alberta has a high research impact (as reflected by citations) include Clinical Medicine; Physics and Astronomy; Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; Historical Studies; Economics and Business; and Information and Communication Technologies (Figure 4.2).
The four themes of Alberta Innovates give a sense of current research priorities, with the government offering significant funding support under bio solutions, energy and environment, health, and technology futures (AI, n.d.). Nanotechnology is another area of focus with the National Institute for Nanotechnology as an important piece of a broader nanotechnology cluster and strategy for Alberta. The province has developed a nanotechnology strategy that seeks to expand the sector, focusing on commercialization, talent, and infrastructure (Gov. of AB, 2007). (p. 20 print; p. 32 PDF)
6 The ARC score “is a measure of the frequency of citation of publications” (CCA, 2012b).
There is no question that Alberta has worked hard to establish its scientific credentials. I’m a little surprised the report doesn’t mention Québec’s efforts in more detail as they have been on a par with Alberta’s. I expect Ontario should also score well this in area but I stumble less frequently on information about Ontario’s science efforts than I do for Alberta and Québec. One last thing, it should be noted that the province of Alberta paid for this workshop/assessment either in large part or in whole.
In sum, they covered the bases competently and thoughtfully if not imaginatively. For anyone who’s has the time, there’s the full report (Science Policy: Considerations for Subnational Governments report) and its recommendations on gender and diversity, researcher mobility, alignment with federal support and programmes, science advice and evidence-based policy, and more.
I have two news bits about Alberta’s nanotechnology scene, one focused on a hockey logo (this year , there are two Canadian teams [Edmonton Oilers and Ottawa Senators] competing to get to the finals and a Stanley Cup win sometime in June; there hasn’t been a win by a Canadian team since 1993); the other news bit concerns funding for research into technology for oil spill cleanups.
National Hockey League (NHL) logo
To celebrate the Edmonton Oilers entry into the semifinals, folks at the University of Alberta have created the smallest NHL logo for them. From a May 1, 2017 news item by Chad Mosleh for Metro News Edmonton,
A department at the University of Alberta has created an Oilers logo so small you could fit 900 million of them on top of a puck.
“We’re constantly trying to push the limit of how small we can make things,” said Eric Flaim, director of the NanoFAB Fabrication & Characterization Centre, which focuses on research on micro and nanoscale units, which are particles so tiny you need an extremely powerful microscope to see them.
The microscopic Oilers logo was created in collaboration with Edmonton-based companies Applied Quantum Materials and Applied Nanotools. The logo is 2.4 micrometres in diameter, 40 times smaller than a similar one they made in 2006, which was roughly the width of a human hair. The university is calling it the world’s smallest NHL logo.
[downloaded from https://www.nanofab.ualberta.ca/2017/news/lets-go-oilers/]
An April 27, 2017 posting by Dr. Eric Flaim for the University of Alberta’s nanoFAB blog notes this (Note: Links have been removed),
Working in partnership with two Edmonton companies who are developing new nanoscale fabrication processes to support commercialization of made-in-Alberta technology for photonics, sensors, and nanomaterials, the nanoFAB took the opportunity to show pride in our Edmonton Oilers.
Using a nanomaterial developed by Applied Quantum Materials, and nanoscale pattern correction methods developed by Applied Nanotools, we thought it would be fitting to re-create the logo we fabricated during the Oilers’ last playoff run…albeit at a much smaller scale.
Whereas the Oilers logo in 2006 was about the width of a human hair, the logo we made for this year’s Orange Crush is over 40× smaller: at only 2.4 µm in diameter, over 900 million of these logos could fit on top of a hockey puck.
Beyond showing team spirit, the fabrication of this logo highlights several of the unique capabilities available at the nanoFAB. The logo was fabricated via electron-beam lithography (EBL) with our Raith 150-TWO system, using AQM SIOX as the EBL resist—a made-in-Edmonton alternative to the ultra-high resolution hydrogen silsesquioxane (HSQ) resist. At such a small length scale, sophisticated pattern correction techniques must be used to ensure the fidelity of the design; this expertise was provided by engineers from Applied Nanotools, who use the same methods for their high-resolution silicon photonics service. Finally, the images of the logos were taken using our Zeiss Orion NanoFab Helium Ion microscope.
I wonder how the University of Ottawa and the Ottawa Senators team are responding to this development?
Oil spills and carbon nanotube (CNT) meshes
An April 28, 2017 Ingenuity Lab news release (which rather weirdly has London, England listed as the location in the dateline) on MarketWired announces Canadian federal government funding for a project centered in Alberta, Canada,
Nanotechnology has had a multitude of applications: from healthcare to textiles to new consumer gadgets, innovative new uses for nanotechnology are constantly emerging. It has now found a new role, with University of Alberta-based nanotechnology accelerator Ingenuity Lab using it as the basis for the development of a revolutionary new way to clean up oil spills. The system has received a vote of confidence from Natural Resources Canada, with the organization providing $1.7m to fund its ongoing development.
Using a carbon-nanotube mesh combined with other minerals and polymers, Ingenuity Lab’s system acts as a sponge that attracts and absorbs oil underwater. When it is fully saturated with oil, the mesh is then removed from the water and exposed to heat, electricity or ultraviolet light, causing it to expel the collected oil.
The oil spill cleaning system has come a long way in a remarkably short amount of time. Director of Ingenuity Lab Dr Carlo Montemango [sic] said his team was able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the membrane approximately a year ago, but is now working on developing a large-scale version of the system. “Where you might see it is being rolled off the back [of a vessel] and dragged or moved through the water. As it becomes saturated, it would be brought on board, the oil would be expelled and it would be redeployed.”
Past tests have shown the system can be remarkably effective and is capable of cleaning up 100 percent of a spill – even the heavier oil that may be trapped below the surface. The system also recovers the oil, allowing it to be reused and potentially recuperate some of the cost associated with cleaning up a spill.
The technology is far more advanced than current methods of containing a spill, which usually involve floating booms and skimming oil from the water’s surface. Ingenuity Lab’s system would make a substantial difference should the world see another event on the scale of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster, or the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989.
Montemango [sic] said the team is now working on developing a pilot system and beginning field tests in less than two years. “Our mission is to develop solutions to significant societal problems and challenges, and translate those solutions to the marketplace.”
I searched for more information about the new funding and found this news release (?) on the Ingenuity Lab website,
Oil is a common pollutant in oceans; more than three million metric tons of oil contaminate them every year. The accidental release of crude oil into a body of water by an oil tanker, refinery, storage facility, underwater pipeline, or offshore oil-drilling rig, is an environmental emergency. Depending on location, oil spills can be both hazardous as well as environmentally destructive. Timely cleanup is critical to protecting the integrity of the water, the shoreline, and the creatures that depend on these habitats. Due to increased scrutiny of the oil industry (with regards to its environmental record) the attention has focused on the development of new materials and technologies for removing organic contaminants; including spilled oil from waterways. Since existing methods are not sufficiently robust, nanotechnology has initiated the development of new tools using specifically designed materials suited for separations, such as the removal of crude oil from water.
Ingenuity Lab, a multidisciplinary research initiative based in Alberta, received $1.7 million in project funding for the research and development of an effective alternative for recovering heavy oil spilled in marine environments. IngenuityLab developed nanowire-based multifunctional stimuli-responsive membranes and devices capable of recovering the oil from spills.
This project will focus on the recovery of oil through the development of novel technology and devices using a variety of stimuli-responsive nanomaterials. The fabrication of reinforced membranes for oil-water separation (published in Adv. Mater. Interfaces, 2016, 3: 1600445) [emphasis mine] uses carbon nanotubes (CNTs), mats, and a few other metal oxide embedded nanowire hybrid membranes. They exhibit the switchable hydrophobic property with the influence of stimuli (UV, heat, electric, etc.). The focus of using the membranes is to develop a pilot facility for separating the oil out of spills to clean the environment while recovering the valuable oils.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper I highlighted in the news release (?),
I have a few comments about this work. it’s encouraging to see these efforts to develop better technologies for cleaning up oil spills but it does seem that none of these proposed solutions ever makes it out of the laboratory. For example, I have an April 17, 2012 posting about CNT nanosponges that absorb oil and which could be wrung out and reused. More recently, I had a Dec. 7, 2015 posting featuring boron nitride nanosponges (or nanosheets) for oil spill cleanups. Personally, I prefer sponges that can be wrung out over meshes or sponges that need additional processing such as exposure ” … to heat, electricity or ultraviolet light … .” Regardless, I hope one of these days, a new oil spill cleanup technology will make its way into the field.
For those not familiar with Alberta and the oil industry, the province is a main source for the fossil fuel and, in particular, the Alberta oil sands, which environmentalists have uncategorically condemned.