An active Science Literacy Week

This year, Science Literacy Week will keep you moving. Beginning September 16, there are tours lined up, a game-based session around data management, a hands-on Excel workshop, interactive sound demonstrations, and exhibits to explore.

Here is the daily rundown of downtown activities organized by the Library:

Monday, (Sept 16): Montreal’s Urban Heat Island: Tour of temperature sensors on campus

Tuesday, (Sept 17): Tour of the Maude Abbott Medical Museum

Wednesday, (Sept 18): Sounds in the City + Treasures from the History of Science in Rare Books and Special Collections

Thursday, (Sept 19): Tour of the Steinberg Centre for Simulation and Interactive Learning + Discover the cure! An introduction to the fundamentals of data management

Friday, (Sept 20): Chart Making in Excel: Going Further by Telling a Story with your Data

Register for an event today!

We also have exhibits going on so don’t miss out on those. You will get the opportunity to test out your map literacy in the Redpath Library Building, and check out a science book in person or online.

Student recommendation for the NHL

Congratulations goes out to Mark Kumhyr, winner of the Winter/Summer 2018 Communication in Engineering (CCOM 206) Excellence in Written Communication Award!

Alternate Refrigeration Systems for Improving Ice Quality in NHL Arenas

The National Hockey League is a multibillion-dollar industry, and yet suffers from a recent uptick in complaints over sub-par ice quality, largely due to a warming climate and higher average ice rink temperatures. The objective of this paper is to demonstrate the superiority of an indirect ammonia/CO2 refrigeration system over a direct CO2 system, all in relation to the current indirect ammonia/brinewater system. The comparison will be made based on three criteria: efficiency, represented by the coefficient of performance value; cost, taking into account short- and long-term investments; and environmental effect, presented as a Global Warming Potential value. The results show that the indirect ammonia/CO2 system is 56% more efficient than the current system, and 20% more than the direct CO2 system, and is less costly in the long-term. The environmental effects of each refrigerant systems were shown to be negligible. It is recommended that the NHL implement an indirect ammonia/CO2 system in order to negate the warming arena temperatures, and ensure that the NHL remains a powerhouse in the sports industry.

Read the full paper in eScholarship, McGill’s open access repository.

Benefits and risks of Mars Colonization

A big thank you to Steve Lee and Anthony Johansen for submitting their Engineering Professional Practice (FACC 400) blog post to The Turret. This guest post will have you thinking about a future society on Mars.


Benefits and risks of Mars Colonization

Steve Lee
Anthony Johansen

Mars, also known as the Red Planet, have caught many scientists’ and engineers’ attention after rovers sent by NASA have found evidence of water on the planet in 2012. The discovery of water was very important since it indicated possibility of life on Mars, and further implies that the Earth is not the only planet where living being exists. Since then, many space agencies around the globe have sent their probes and rovers to collect more information about Mars. Recently, Mars became a popular topic again due to success of SpaceX, a private aerospace company which aims to reduce cost of space transportation and colonize Mars. Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX, believes colonizing Mars “i​s potentially something that could be accomplished in about 10 years, maybe sooner, maybe 9 years.” ​But despite all the efforts to make Mars colonization true, how can this benefits our society?

Establishing a colony on Mars would benefit our society in a number of ways. The first, and most notable way, is that a colony on Mars would mark the first interplanetary settlement in human history. This would be the most monumental achievement in our history to date and would likely be a point in history we would never forget. A settlement on Mars would also prove that such an endeavor is possible and pave the way for future colonizations of other planets and moons, inside our solar system as well as out.

Additionally, the world’s population growth have exponentially increased over the last centuries. United Nations projects that the world’s population will reach 9.8 billion in year 2050 and 11.2 billion in year 2100. At this fast growing rate, there is no doubt that the society will suffer due to limited resources available on Earth. However, colonization of Mars would leverage the problem by distributing the population of the Earth to Mars, and as well as improve the chances for mankind to survive in case the Earth is no longer sustainable.

Another important impact of a Mars colonization would be scientific research. As humans attempt to reach further and further into space, new and innovative advances in technology and science are required in order for us to reach these new heights. For example, since 1976 NASA has published a report every year called ​Spinoff which features new technologies based on research done by NASA. As of 2016, there are over 1,920 products in the ​Spinoff database which can be attributed to advances made by NASA researchers. A well known example is the Infrared Ear Thermometer, initially this technology was designed to measure the temperature of stars and planets across large distances, however it was eventually adapted to be used as a way to record human body temperature without direct contact with the body.

Unfortunately, as with any kind of undertaking of this magnitude, there exists risks. And while we do our best to plan for and minimize those risks, there is always a possibility of something going wrong. Some of the main risks in regard to the colonization itself lie in the environment of Mars. As Mars does not have a very substantial atmosphere, the mars colonists would need to be protected not only from the extreme weather and temperatures that can occur on Mars but also from the radiation that penetrates the atmosphere. Mars’ gravity is only 38 percent of that of the Earth and the difference affects greatly on human body. As a side effect, it causes weakness of bone and muscle, motion sickness, fluid redistribution and more.

Another element that creates risk is the human factor. Many engineers and scientists, try to make fault tolerant equipments, but sometimes a tiny little mistakes could result a great disaster. For example, on Jan 28, 1986, crews of the NASA’s space shuttle Challenger were killed during the launch due to failure of O-rings that seals the booster. It was mainly due to lack of experience launching the space shuttle in a specific environment, and lack of tests. Therefore, if the system designed for the Mars exploration have flaws, then it could lead to disasters.

Although there are risks associated to Mars colonization, there are many things that people can benefit from. As Neil Armstrong once said, the beginning of the mission will be “one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind.”

References

Dunbar, Brian. “NASA Rover Finds Conditions Once Suited for Ancient Life on Mars.” ​NASA​, NASA, 19 Nov. 2015, ​www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/msl/news/msl20130312.html​.

Kelechava, Brad. “The Benefits of Colonizing Mars (Other Than Getting to Live There) – ANSI Blog.” ​The ANSI Blog,​ 4 Feb. 2019, www.blog.ansi.org/2016/10/the-benefits-of-colonizing-mars/​.

“World Population Projected to Reach 9.8 Billion in 2050, and 11.2 Billion in 2100 | UN DESA Department of Economic and Social Affairs.” ​United Nations​, United Nations, www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html​.

Patel, Neel V. “SpaceX CEO Elon Musk Says His Company Could Have a Mars Colony by 2026.” ​Inverse​, www.inverse.com/article/21156-elon-musk-says-spacex-could-start-a-mars-colony-by-2026​.

Mars, Kelli. “The Human Body in Space.” ​NASA​, NASA, 30 Mar. 2016, www.nasa.gov/hrp/bodyinspace​.

Tate, Karl. “The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster: What Happened? (Infographic).” ​Space.com​, Space Created with Sketch. Space, 28 Jan. 2016, www.space.com/31732-space-shuttle-challenger-disaster-explained-infographic.html​.


Steve Lee – U3 Computer Engineering student
Anthony Johansen – U2 Software Engineering student

Doctors’ Cell Phones Are Contaminating Hospitals by Annie Charron

Today we have another guest undergraduate student post, originally submitted as a class assignment for Communicating Science (CCOM 314).

With support from Diane Dechief, Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre, we will be sharing more noteworthy student writing right here on The Turret.

Annie chose to write a Trilobite article that provides knowledge on the health consequences of the use of cell phones by doctors.


Doctors’ Cell Phones Are Contaminating Hospitals

Your mobile phone carries the dirty fragments of germs. Thousands of microscopic bacteria bugs are crawling on it. The residue of greasy food is smudged on the screen. The remnants touched on public door handles have engulfed the surface of the phone.

Mobile phones are your hands’ partner in crime: you can wash your hands to eradicate germs and prevent the spread of germs, but you can’t wash the cell phone – at least not with soap. Without proper cleaning, germs are like glitter, they will never go away. Healthcare workers who bring mobile phones to work interfere with infection controls in hospitals.

Healthcare workers cell phones are a magnet for bacteria and harmful chemicals, which could decrease patients’ recovery. Hospitals should be the most sterile places in the world. But our tiny gadgets may ruin this. At any rate, there should be major shame towards the television series Grey’s Anatomy, where the characters are constantly using their mobile devices during patient care without washing their hands.

In a study published by Excellent Publishers in 2017, Ganapathy Shakthivel and his colleagues, working in the department of microbiology at Tirunelveli Medical College in India, examined 50 randomly selected healthcare workers at a specialized care hospital. They investigated how the bacterial contamination of cell phones poses a threat to infections. They then assessed whether contamination could be cleaned simply with 70% rubbing alcohol.

The study lasted for two months and included mobile phones belonging to doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, nursing assistants and hospital workers. Each worker first filled out a questionnaire that asked questions about the prevalence of phone usage between patient consultations and if workers washed their hands in between use or followed a strict sterile routine. Following this, each mobile phone was swabbed twice. The first swab took place before the decontamination procedure, the second swab occurred after the phone was thoroughly cleaned with the rubbing alcohol for 5 to 7 minutes.

The study revealed that of the 50 mobile phones in the study, 90% were found to be carrying multiple microorganism bacteria such as E. coli, which is very likely to cause infections. The decontamination results revealed that rubbing alcohol proves effective. The majority of the phones (78%) showed no bacterial growth after decontamination and 12% showed decreased bacterial growth. Another study led by Usha Arora (2009), showed a higher decontamination efficacy of approximately 98% with the 70% rubbing alcohol, compared to Ganapathy Shakthivel’s (2017) results of 86.6%.

Ganapathy Shakthivel (2017) states that the use of cell phones in India accounts for more than 88% of all users in Intensive Care Units and Operation theaters. And if a cell phone is not routinely cleaned in hospitals it becomes “a reservoir of infection.” Phones are a vehicle for the transmission of infection, to both patients and the community. The questionnaire revealed that only 12% of the healthcare workers made a habit of washing their hands before attending to a patient. That being said, “nearly 52% of the workers agreed that mobile phones may act a vector for spread of nosocomial (a disease originating in a hospital) infections.”

Preventative methods for eliminating the spread of infection via cell phones, include training other individuals (children, colleagues) not to touch phones other than their own. Some hospitals have banned or eliminated the use of cell phones during working hours. This may be hard to accomplish, considering you touch your phone on average 2,617 times a day. The most important strategy is simply to clean the device with rubbing alcohol before, during and after work – this regular routine will significantly reduce infections in hospitals.

References

Ganapathy Shakthivel, P.C., G. Velvzhi, G. Sucilathangam, Revathy, C. (2017). Mobile phones in healthcare setting: Potential threat in infection control. Int. J.Curr. Microbio  App. Sci. 6(3): 706-711. doi: https://doi.org/10.20546/ijcmas.2017.603.081

Usha, A., P. Devi, A, Chadga, S. Malhotra. (2009). Cell phones A modern slayhouse for bacteria pathogens. Jk Science. 11(3). Retrieved from http://www.jkscience.org/archive/vol113/6-Original%20Article%20-%20cell%20phones.pdf

Comparative Analysis of Interference-Free Alternatives to Wi-Fi

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Once again I have the pleasure of announcing the next Communication in Engineering (CCOM 206) Excellence in Written Communication Award. Alexandre Tessier is the Fall 2017 winner for ‘Comparative Analysis of Interference-Free Alternatives to Wi-Fi’ (yay!).

Abstract:

Current Wi-Fi technologies occupy oversaturated 2.4 GHz and 5GHz frequency bands. In areas with high router density, this results in poor Wi-Fi performances, and, especially, slow data transfer rates at a time when demand for high-speed networks is rising. To minimize these effects, new technologies taking advantage of the availability of higher frequencies have been developed.In particular, Li-Fi and WiGig aim to transfer data wirelessly at rates faster than Wi-Fi and, more importantly, without interference. This paper assesses the viability of these two technologies as interference-free alternatives to Wi-Fi based on 3 standard networking attributes: data transmission capabilities, security, and vulnerability to interference. The analysis concludes that Li-Fi can transfer data at higher rates than WiGig, can be used to implement location-based security levels, and, unlike WiGig, is impervious to interference from neighbouring cells. For the aforementioned reasons, Li-Fi is the most promising candidate for an alternative to Wi-Fi, vastly outperforming current implementations of WiGig.

Download the full paper from the University’s open access repository.

Congratulations, Alexandre!

Alternatives to Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles

The Communication in Engineering (CCOM 206) Excellence in Written Communication Award winner has been announced for the combined Winter/Summer 2017 terms (insert drum roll): Albert Kragl!

Alternatives to Lithium-Ion Batteries for Electric Vehicles

With man-made climate change becoming increasingly severe every year, the need for vehicles powered by alternative energy sources is now greater than ever. Although there are electric vehicles commercially available today, their limited driving range and high price makes them unappealing to many consumers. In order to move past these limitations, researchers have begun investigating different types of batteries with the goal of finding a battery that can reliably store more energy than a traditional lithium-ion battery. This paper analyzes the feasibility of two battery types—lithium-sulfur and lithium-air—as potential replacements for lithium-ion batteries in electric vehicles. Although both batteries demonstrate high theoretical energy densities, the lithium-air battery has a much higher practical energy density when compared to lithium-sulfur, as well as a lower environmental impact and a greater number of charge cycles. The lithium-air battery also demonstrates a higher energy density and lower environmental impact when compared to lithium-ion. These results make lithium-air technology the best candidate to replace lithium-ion batteries in the near future.

The full article PDF is available from McGill’s open access institutional repository, eScholarship.

Congratulations, Albert!

Exploring McGill on a rainy day

I’m taking advantage of this rainy day to tune in to the Mini-Science 2018 episodes: Women in Science at McGill (and beyond). This seven-part series was recorded and made available on the McGill YouTube channel.

YouTube is the place to go If you have ever wondered if you could watch lectures and events that have taken place on campus. Videos include public forums, competitions, and conference presentations.

Apart from the main channel, there are additional options on YouTube for webcasts related to science at McGill: AstroMcGill, Separating Sense From Nonsense (McGill Office for Science and Society), Montreal Neuro, and McGill University Health Centre (MUHC).

If you have time, I highly recommend the first episode of this year’s Mini-Science – History of Women in Science (below). In it, Principal Suzanne Fortier tells an engaging story about her experience growing up in a small town in Quebec and her unique path to science. There were a total of three books in her home, but to find out which three you will have to watch.

Enjoy the rain!

Communicating Science: Profile of Sierra Clark by Audrey Carleton

Today we have a guest student post, originally submitted as a class assignment for Communicating Science (CCOM 314). With support from Diane Dechief, Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre, we will be sharing more noteworthy student writing right here on The Turret.

Audrey Carleton chose to write a profile on Sierra Clark, a graduate student supervised by Dr. Jill Baumgartner in the Institute for Health and Social Policy.


Sierra Clark

Headline: Sierra Clark on indoor air pollution and academic uncertainty

Subhead: McGill Master’s student tests lifesaving interventions for Tibetan Plateau residents

By: Audrey Carleton

Date: December 1, 2017

Sierra Clark has been reading National Geographic for as long as she can remember. Even before she learned to read, she would eagerly flip through the magazine’s glossy pages to admire its photos. From this young age, she had her sights set on someday working for the publication as an archaeologist.

In the twenty years that followed, Clark had a few changes of heart. When she began her undergraduate degree at McGill University in 2011, she was enrolled with a major in Anthropology. But after sitting through a few convoluted lectures in an introductory anthropology course, she realized the program wasn’t the right fit for her. One meeting with an academic advisor later, she settled on a major in Geography, and swiftly fell in love with it. Upon graduating in 2015, she swiftly enrolled in a Master’s Program in Epidemiology at McGill, which she is completing now. All the while, Clark continued to read National Geographic religiously. Continue reading

Level up your research skills

As a librarian, it is really rewarding to facilitate the MyResearch seminar series. It is true that we take advantage of the face-to-face time to impart a lot of what we know about the rapidly changing world of information and scholarly publishing. However, it also gives us the opportunity to learn more about graduate research projects, and watch the inevitable skills swapping that takes place among students.

The number one comment that we get after each of the four-part series comes to an end is something like, “I wish I had known all of this when I first started.” Luckily, it is never too late to learn in life, and these skills in particular will serve you well past graduation.

Sign up for MyResearch today and join fellow students and librarians this February.

I look forward to seeing you there!

April

Another winning paper!

The Fall 2016 Excellence in Written Communication Award goes to Brittany Stott for “Controlling myoelectric-prosthetics through the use of nerves and muscles.”

The accomplishment comes with a monetary prize of $500 from the Faculty of Engineering.

The CCOM 206: Communication in Engineering Writing Recognition Committee found the paper to be very clearly written and well organized, and noted the exemplary use of figures and a table.

The abstract is pasted below but you can download the full paper from the record in eScholarship, McGill’s digital repository.

People who are fitted with prosthetics due to the loss of a limb may have difficulty performing simple daily tasks that may be taken for granted, such as tying shoe laces or opening a jar. The prosthetics used today are often rigid, inflexible, bulky molds that are standardized and have minimal degrees of freedom. The development of myoelectric-controlled prosthetics has greatly facilitated the performance of daily tasks by the user, although the best method for controlling these prosthetics is still to be determined. This paper compares and discusses three major advancements in prosthetic control electrode arrays, osseointegration, and targeted muscle reinnervation by examining stability, accuracy, and movability of the user controlling the prosthetic. It is determined that the most beneficial solution for the user would be the implementation of osseointegration and targeted muscle reinnervation combined. This combination would allow the creation of a prosthetic that would increase the accuracy and stability of the artificial limb, and that would provide a more permanent and long-term solution. In addition, the creation of a myoelectric-controlled prosthetic that incorporates these two methods would allow for further research and would increase the stability, accuracy, and movability of the user.

Stay tuned for the winner of the Winter and Summer 2017 Excellence in Written Communication Award…