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  • richardmitnick 9:37 pm on October 12, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: U of T-founded Creative Destruction Lab receives $25 million from Canadian government, U Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “U of T-founded Creative Destruction Lab receives $25 million from Canadian government” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    1
    Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development poses for photographs with Sonia Sennik, the executive director of the Creative Destruction Lab (photo by Eugene Grichko)

    The federal government is investing $25 million in the Creative Destruction Lab, a seed-stage startup program first launched at the University of Toronto.

    The investment, announced today at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, will spur research and development into science-based startups, attract investment in Canadian companies and encourage more young women to pursue opportunities in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathmatics) fields.

    “Creative Destruction Lab’s exciting project promises to unleash a new wave of startup innovation across Canada, creating thousands of middle-class jobs and further securing Canada’s position as a world leader in the AI field,” said Navdeep Bains, Canada’s minister of innovation, science and economic development.

    “Our government is proud to make investments that will help turn hundreds of innovative ideas into the good jobs and companies of tomorrow.”

    The investment, by the government’s Strategic Innovation Fund, will flow over four years, helping CDL back a number of upcoming initiatives. They include scaling up more than 1,300 science-based startups across the country – a move expected to create up to 22,000 jobs. CDL will also launch a new program aimed at encouraging young women to pursue STEM fields, opening up spots at future CDL sessions for up to 1,500 female high school students.

    “This is a tremendous moment,” said Professor Tiff Macklem, who is Rotman’s dean. “Thank you Minister Bains, the Government of Canada and everyone that saw the vision and the opportunity of the Creative Destruction Lab.”

    Founded in 2012 at Rotman School by Professor Ajay Agrawal, CDL focuses on building science-based companies. Over the years, it has helped grow more than 500 science-based ventures through mentorship and access to entrepreneurs and angel investors who help founders set measurable, focused objectives. CDL itself has also expanded significantly and now operates out of five universities across Canada, as well as New York University.

    “First-time founders of science-based companies, while fully committed to the success of their venture and possessing deep knowledge in their technical domain, often lack the business judgment required to prioritize among the almost infinite list of to-dos required to successfully build and scale their business. Our structured and rigorous program helps them with that prioritization process,” said CDL executive director Sonia Sennik. “While we fully leverage market forces to provide prioritization guidance from individuals who themselves have built successfully scaled businesses, the coordination of those market forces requires non-market support.

    “That is why we are so grateful to the Government of Canada for supporting our mission that will drive economic impact and create jobs, learning opportunities, and global leadership for deep-tech and science-based companies across Canada.”

    2
    Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation, said CDL itself is an example of a startup that’s now scaling globally (photo by Eugene Grichko)

    CDL supports ventures that specialize in artificial intelligence, blockchain, cities, energy, health, quantum machine learning and more. Companies that have participated in CDL have created more than $3 billion in equity value to date. Alumni of the program include Thalmic Labs (Waterloo), Atomwise (San Francisco), Deep Genomics (Toronto) and Kyndi (Palo Alto).

    Earlier this year, CDL launched a new stream designed for supporting entrepreneurs interested in breaking into space-related markets.

    The new investment “will not only help the Creative Destruction Lab continue to do business here in Toronto, but at its sites across the country and around the world,” said Professor Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation.

    “The Creative Destruction Lab is an example of a startup that is now scaling globally.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

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  • richardmitnick 12:38 pm on September 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Equity diversity and inclusion in research activities, U Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “U of T to take significant steps to promote equity, diversity and inclusion in research activities” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    1

    September 21, 2018
    Chris Sorensen

    The University of Toronto’s division of research and innovation will take important steps to promote equity, diversity and inclusion in research activities across Canada’s largest post-secondary institution.

    The changes are detailed in 49 recommendations of a university working group struck in the spring of last year by Vivek Goel, U of T’s vice-president of research and innovation. The recommendations cover everything from the way U of T researchers are supported and funded to the procedures governing nominations for awards and other honours.

    he working group also recommends that U of T’s research services work closely with other university bodies, as well as partner hospitals and community groups, to implement measures to help the university attract and retain a diverse group of top researchers and create an inclusive environment.

    Goel has accepted all the recommendations that are directed to the research and innovation office and has committed to working with relevant university officers on recommendations that are in the jurisdiction of those offices.

    “While the University of Toronto has long been committed to equity and diversity, moving forward on these recommendations will create a more systematic approach by applying an equity, diversity and inclusion lens to all of our internal programs and competitions – basically everything we do,” he said.

    “I thank the members of the working group for their thoughtful assessment and constructive recommendations.”

    Goel struck the working group to address a key objective in the university’s 2018-2023 strategic research plan. The plan called for, among other things, the integration of “best practice recommendations into our internal procedures and programs in order to encourage broad and diverse participation and to counter bias in peer review and selection processes.”
    The working group took into account the calls to action in U of T’s response to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Its findings, meanwhile, are also expected to inform the university’s implementation of the federal Canada Research Chairs Program’s action plan on equity, diversity and inclusion, which aims to ensure Canadian universities meet their targets when it comes to representation of four designated groups – “women, people with disabilities, Indigenous peoples and members of visible minorities.”

    Lorraine Ferris, U of T’s associate vice-president of research oversight and compliance, chaired the U of T working group, which included representatives from across the university. The working group identified high-level issues surrounding equity, diversity and inclusion and then considered concrete and practical recommendations to address them.

    To take one example, the working group calls for the creation of education resources and efforts to raise awareness of equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives. Through these efforts, everyone in the university’s research and innovation enterprise – including applicants, administrators, staff and internal adjudicators – will be informed about principles and practices that promote equity and will be able to integrate them into their work.

    Other recommendations focus on bolstering the university’s ability to collect the data necessary to determine whether its equity, diversity and inclusion initiatives are having the desired effect. That strategy includes encouraging researchers to complete U of T’s diversity survey.

    Another key change will be a focus on promoting community partnerships. Ferris said such partnerships are crucial when studying underrepresented communities, including Indigenous groups, but may not always receive the necessary support now.

    “What we’ve learned is there’s all sorts of research that may use different methodologies – it might be more community-based, community participatory, or community-partnered,” said Ferris, who is a professor at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

    She stressed that the working group’s changes don’t favour one type of research over another.

    “We’re trying to broaden our understanding of what constitutes excellent scholarship,” she said.

    To get there, U of T’s research and innovation office has appointed a new research equity and diversity strategist to help lead the implementation of the working group’s recommendations more broadly. The division will also establish a new standing committee to advise leadership on matters related to equity, diversity and inclusion, and to regularly report on ongoing initiatives.

    Once fully implemented, Ferris said, the working group’s recommendations promise to make U of T’s research and innovation enterprise better reflect the community it serves.

    “At the end of this, we will continue to have excellent scholarship – without a doubt,” she said. “But it will be different from what we see now because it will be much more expansive.”

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:05 pm on September 17, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: DU-Discover the Universe program, , NSERC-National Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, PromoScience Program, U Toronto   

    From Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics: “New Funding Helps U Of T Astronomers Help Students Discover The Universe” 

    Dunlap Institute bloc
    From Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

    At U Toronto

    1

    Sept. 17, 2018

    Julie Bolduc-Duval
    Discover the Universe
    e: julie.bolduc-duval@dunlap.utoronto.ca
    p: 418-332-0428

    Professor Michael Reid
    Public Outreach Coordinator
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
    University of Toronto
    e: mike.reid@utoronto.ca
    p: 416-978-0307Dunlap

    The Dunlap Institute’s Discover the Universe program has been awarded significant financial support from the PromoScience Program of the National Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

    Discover the Universe (DU) provides instruction and resources, in French and English, that help science teachers across the country and around the world teach astronomy to their students. DU provides astronomy teaching support through live workshops, webinars and teaching resources for teachers.

    “Astronomy is a vast subject and it is intimidating to teach it when you have no training in the field,” says Julie Bolduc-Duval, who founded DU in 2011 with financial support from PromoScience. “That’s why we created Discover the Universe. We’re helping teachers so that more kids will be exposed to our wonderful Universe and understand our place within it.”

    DU is offered by the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, and the Canadian Astronomical Society, in collaboration with the Centre for Research in Astrophysics of Quebec.

    According to Professor Michael Reid, Outreach Coordinator for the Dunlap Institute of Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, “The Dunlap’s mission to share the thrill of astronomical discovery with people of all ages has made working with Discover the Universe a natural fit.”

    “We’re immensely grateful to NSERC,” says Reid, “without whom we wouldn’t be able to keep delivering innovative, bilingual teacher training to teachers across Canada and around the world. This funding will help ensure that thousands of Canadian kids have eye-opening encounters with the cosmos that we know can inspire them to pursue careers in STEM.”

    PromoScience is a NSERC program that offers financial support for organizations that promote an understanding of science, engineering, mathematics and technology in young Canadians. The newly announced award to DU includes funding for three years.

    Visit the Discover the Universe website.

    Visit the NSERC PromoScience program website.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    Dunlap Institute campus

    The Dunlap Institute is committed to sharing astronomical discovery with the public. Through lectures, the web, social and new media, an interactive planetarium, and major events like the Toronto Science Festival, we are helping to answer the public’s questions about the Universe.
    Our work is greatly enhanced through collaborations with the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, David Dunlap Observatory, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Toronto Public Library, and many other partners.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:48 pm on June 20, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: A Strange Type of Matter Might Lie Inside Neutron Stars, , It Breaks The Periodic Table, , , U Toronto   

    From University of Toronto via Science Alert: “A Strange Type of Matter Might Lie Inside Neutron Stars, And It Breaks The Periodic Table” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    via

    Science Alert

    1
    (gremlin/istock)

    20 JUN 2018
    MIKE MCRAE

    This is amazing and we are freaking out.

    A group of physicists are questioning our understanding of how quarks – a type of elementary particle – arrange themselves under extreme conditions. And their quest is revealing that elements beyond the edge of the periodic table might be far more weird than we thought.

    Periodic table Sept 2017. Wikipedia

    Deep in the depths of the periodic table there are monsters made of a unique arrangement of subatomic particles. As far as elements go, they come no bigger than oganesson – a behemoth that contains 118 protons and has an atomic mass of just under 300.

    1

    That’s not to say protons and neutrons can’t be arranged into even bigger clumps and still remain somewhat stable for longer than an eye blink. But for all practical purposes, nobody has discovered it yet.

    While scientists speculate over how far the frontiers of the periodic table stretch, it’s becoming clear that as atoms get bigger, the usual rules governing their behaviour change.

    In this latest study, physicists from the University of Toronto argue that the constituent particles making up an atom’s protons and neutrons could break their usual bonds under extreme conditions and still retain enough stability for the atom to stick around.

    There are six types of these particles, called quarks, with the rather odd names of up, down, charm, strange, top, and bottom. Protons contain two up types and a down type. Neutrons, on the other hand, are made of two downs and a single up.

    Quarks aren’t limited to these configurations, though finding other arrangements is often rare thanks to the fact few stay stable very long.

    A little over thirty years ago, a physicist named Edward Witten proposed that the energy keeping combinations of quarks in triplets could achieve something of a balance if put under sufficient pressure, such as that inside a neutron star.

    This ‘strange quark matter’ (or SQM) would be a relatively equal mix of up, down, and strange quarks arranged not in threes, but as a liquid of numerous buzzing particles.

    Given the fact up and down quarks get along well enough to form teams inside protons and neutrons, the possibility of making quark matter without strange quarks to mix things up has been generally dismissed.

    According to physicists Bob Holdom, Jing Ren, and Chen Zhang, doing the actual sums reveals up-down quark matter, or udQM, might not only be possible, but preferable.

    “Physicists have been searching for SQM for decades,” the researchers told Lisa Zyga at phys.org. “From our results, many searches may have been looking in the wrong place.”

    The team went back to basics and question the lowest energy state of a big bunch of squirming quarks.

    They discovered that the ground state – that comfortable lobby of energy levels for particles – for udQM could actually be lower than both SQM and the ground state of the triplets inside protons and neutrons.

    So if bunches of quarks are given enough of a push, they could force the ups and downs to pool into a liquid mess at energies that don’t need the help of strange quarks.

    Neutron stars could provide just such a squeeze, but it’s no secret that the hearts of atoms themselves are pretty intense places as far as forces go.

    The team suggest elements with atomic masses greater than 300 might also provide the right conditions to force up and down quarks to loosen up and party.

    Making these elements would be a challenge that would require some way to pile on the neutrons to make supermassive elements stable enough.

    But the lower ground states of udQM point the way to stable regions beyond the edges of the periodic table.

    Exactly what these heavy elements look like or how they behave is hard to say for now, but it’s unlikely they’d be following the usual rules.

    There’s also a chance that udQM could shoot across the Universe in the form of cosmic rays, and potentially be caught here on Earth. Or even produced inside particle accelerators.

    “Knowing better where to look for udQM might then help to achieve an old idea: that of using quark matter as a new source of energy,” the researchers claim.

    Stable droplets of quarks wouldn’t behave like usual quark clusters found in protons and neutrons, with lower masses that could potentially make them easier to control.

    Quark matter reactors sound like the stuff of science fiction. But if this research is anything to go by, a whole new field of applied physics could be just over the horizon.

    This research was published in Physical Review Letters.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings
    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:00 pm on May 24, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , Pulsar PSR B1957+20, U Toronto   

    From Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics at U Toronto: “Astronomers Observe Unprecedented Detail In Pulsar 6500 Light-Years From Earth” 

    Dunlap Institute bloc
    From Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

    At U Toronto

    May 23, 2018

    CONTACT INFORMATION:

    Robert Main
    Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics (Associate)
    University of Toronto
    e: main@astro.utoronto.ca

    Chris Sasaki
    Communications Coordinator | Press Officer
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
    University of Toronto
    w: dunlap.utoronto.ca
    p: 416-978-6613
    e: csasaki@dunlap.utoronto.ca

    1
    The pulsar PSR B1957+20 is seen in the background through the cloud of gas enveloping its brown dwarf star companion. Image: Dr. Mark A. Garlick; Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto.

    A team of astronomers has performed one of the highest resolution observations in astronomical history by observing two intense regions of radiation, 20 kilometres apart, around a star 6500 light-years away.

    The observation is equivalent to using a telescope on Earth to see a flea on the surface of Pluto.

    The extraordinary observation was made possible by the rare geometry and characteristics of a pair of stars orbiting each other. One is a cool, lightweight star called a brown dwarf, which features a “wake” or comet-like tail of gas. The other is an exotic, rapidly spinning star called a pulsar.

    “The gas is acting like a magnifying glass right in front of the pulsar,” says Robert Main, lead author of the paper describing the observation being published May 24 in the journal Nature. “We are essentially looking at the pulsar through a naturally occurring magnifier which periodically allows us to see the two regions separately.”

    Main is a PhD astronomy student in the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics at the University of Toronto, working with colleagues at the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics and Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, and the Perimeter Institute.

    The pulsar is a neutron star that rotates rapidly—over 600 times a second. As the pulsar spins, it emits beams of radiation from the two hotspots on its surface. The intense regions of radiation being observed are associated with the beams.

    The brown dwarf star is about a third the diameter of the Sun. It is roughly two million kilometres from the pulsar—or five times the distance between the Earth and the moon—and orbits around it in just over 9 hours. The dwarf companion star is tidally locked to the pulsar so that one side always faces its pulsating companion, the way the moon is tidally locked to the Earth.

    Because it is so close to the pulsar, the brown dwarf star is blasted by the strong radiation coming from its smaller companion. The intense radiation from the pulsar heats one side of the relatively cool dwarf star to the temperature of our Sun, or some 6000°C.

    The blast from the pulsar could ultimately spell its companion’s demise. Pulsars in these types of binary systems are called “black widow” pulsars. Just as a black widow spider eats its mate, it is thought the pulsar, given the right conditions, could gradually erode gas from the dwarf star until the latter is consumed.

    In addition to being an observation of incredibly high resolution, the result could be a clue to the nature of mysterious phenomena known as Fast Radio Bursts, or FRBs.

    “Many observed properties of FRBs could be explained if they are being amplified by plasma lenses,” say Main. “The properties of the amplified pulses we detected in our study show a remarkable similarity to the bursts from the repeating FRB, suggesting that the repeating FRB may be lensed by plasma in its host galaxy.”

    Additional notes:

    1. The pulsar is designated PSR B1957+20. Previous work led by Main’s co-author, Prof. Marten van Kerkwijk, from the University of Toronto, suggests that it is likely one of the most massive pulsars known, and further work to accurately measure its mass will help in understanding how matter behaves at the highest known densities, and equivalently, how massive a neutron star can be before collapsing into a black hole.

    2. Main and his co-authors used data obtained with the Arecibo Observatory radio telescope before Hurricane Maria damaged the telescope in September 2017.


    NAIC Arecibo Observatory operated by University of Central Florida, Yang Enterprises and UMET, Altitude 497 m (1,631 ft)

    The collaborators will use the telescope to make follow-up observations of PSR B1957+20.

    See the full article here .


    five-ways-keep-your-child-safe-school-shootings

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.
    stem
    Stem Education Coalition

    Dunlap Institute campus

    The Dunlap Institute is committed to sharing astronomical discovery with the public. Through lectures, the web, social and new media, an interactive planetarium, and major events like the Toronto Science Festival, we are helping to answer the public’s questions about the Universe.
    Our work is greatly enhanced through collaborations with the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, David Dunlap Observatory, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Toronto Public Library, and many other partners.

     
  • richardmitnick 1:05 pm on May 11, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , Australia Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory in New South Wales Australia, , , , , , U Toronto,   

    From University of Toronto Dunlap Institute for Astronomy: “Mapping the Magnetic Bridge Between Our Nearest Galactic Neighbours” May 11 2017 

    U Toronto Bloc

    From University of Toronto

    Dunlap Institute bloc
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics

    May 11 2017 [just now in social media.]

    Jane Kaczmarek
    School of Physics
    University of Sydney
    e: jane.kaczmarek@sydney.edu.au

    Prof. Bryan Gaensler, Director
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
    University of Toronto
    p: 416-978-6623
    e: bgaensler@dunlap.utoronto.ca
    w: dunlap.utoronto.ca

    Chris Sasaki
    Communications Co-ordinator
    Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics
    University of Toronto
    p: 416-978-6613
    e: csasaki@dunlap.utoronto.ca
    w: dunlap.utoronto.ca

    For the first time, astronomers have detected a magnetic field associated with the Magellanic Bridge, the filament of gas stretching 75 thousand light-years between the Milky Way Galaxy’s nearest galactic neighbours: the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC and SMC, respectively).

    Magellanic Bridge ESA_Gaia satellite. Image credit V. Belokurov D. Erkal A. Mellinger.

    ESA/GAIA satellite

    2
    The Large (centre left) and Small (centre right) Magellanic Clouds are seen in the sky above a radio telescope that is part of the Australia Telescope Compact Array at the Paul Wild Observatory in New South Wales, Australia. Image: Mike Salway

    CSIRO ATCA at the Paul Wild Observatory, about 25 km west of the town of Narrabri in rural NSW about 500 km north-west of Sydney, AU

    Visible in the southern night sky, the LMC and SMC are dwarf galaxies that orbit our home galaxy and lie at a distance of 160 and 200 thousand light-years from Earth respectively.

    Small Magellanic Cloud. NASA/ESA Hubble and ESO/Digitized Sky Survey 2

    Large Magellanic Cloud. Adrian Pingstone December 2003

    “There were hints that this magnetic field might exist, but no one had observed it until now,” says Jane Kaczmarek, a PhD student in the School of Physics, University of Sydney, and lead author of the paper describing the finding.

    Such cosmic magnetic fields can only be detected indirectly, and this detection was made by observing the radio signals from hundreds of very distant galaxies that lie beyond the LMC and SMC. The observations were made with the Australia Telescope Compact Array radio telescope at the Paul Wild Observatory in New South Wales, Australia.

    “The radio emission from the distant galaxies served as background ‘flashlights’ that shine through the Bridge,” says Kaczmarek. “Its magnetic field then changes the polarization of the radio signal. How the polarized light is changed tells us about the intervening magnetic field.”

    A radio signal, like a light wave, oscillates or vibrates in a single direction or plane; for example, waves on the surface of a pond move up and down. When a radio signal passes through a magnetic field, the plane is rotated. This phenomenon is known as Faraday Rotation and it allows astronomers to measure the strength and the polarity—or direction—of the field.

    The observation of the magnetic field, which is one millionth the strength of the Earth’s, may provide insight into whether it was generated from within the Bridge after the structure formed, or was “ripped” from the dwarf galaxies when they interacted and formed the structure.

    “In general, we don’t know how such vast magnetic fields are generated, nor how these large-scale magnetic fields affect galaxy formation and evolution,” says Kaczmarek. “The LMC and SMC are our nearest neighbours, so understanding how they evolve may help us understand how our Milky Way Galaxy will evolve.”

    “Understanding the role that magnetic fields play in the evolution of galaxies and their environment is a fundamental question in astronomy that remains to be answered.”

    The paper is one of a growing number of new results that are building a map of the Universe’s magnetism. According to Prof. Bryan Gaensler, Director of the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics, University of Toronto, and a co-author on the paper, “Not only are entire galaxies magnetic, but the faint delicate threads joining galaxies are magnetic, too. Everywhere we look in the sky, we find magnetism.”

    The paper appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Toronto Campus

    The Dunlap Institute is committed to sharing astronomical discovery with the public. Through lectures, the web, social and new media, an interactive planetarium, and major events like the Toronto Science Festival, we are helping to answer the public’s questions about the Universe.
    Our work is greatly enhanced through collaborations with the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics, Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, David Dunlap Observatory, Ontario Science Centre, Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, the Toronto Public Library, and many other partners.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
  • richardmitnick 5:35 pm on April 6, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , , , , U Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “U of T staff (ethically) hack CERN, world’s largest particle physics lab” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    University of Toronto

    1
    CERN, the international lab near Geneva, is home to the Large Hadron Collider, the world’s largest particle accelerator (photo by Claudia Marcelloni/CERN).
    U of T staff (ethically) hack CERN, world’s largest particle physics lab.
    In Geneva, where U of T scientists are on the frontier of physics with world’s largest particle accelerator.

    It takes 22 member states, more than 10,000 scientists and state-of-the-art technology for CERN to investigate the mysteries of the universe. But no matter how cutting-edge a system is, it can have vulnerabilities – and last year University of Toronto employees helped CERN find theirs.

    CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, asked for help to hack its digital infrastructure last year, organizing the White Hat Challenge. Allan Stojanovic and David Auclair from U of T’s ITS Information Security Enterprise and Architecture department, along with a group of security professionals, were more than willing to answer the call.

    Passionate advocates for information security, Stojanovic and Auclair say regular testing is essential for any organization.

    “Vulnerabilities are not created, they are discovered,” says Stojanovic. “Just because something has been working, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a flaw in it all along.”

    Their director, Mike Wiseman, supported their participation in the challenge. “This competition was an opportunity to bring experts together to exercise their skill as well as give CERN a valuable test of their infrastructure.”

    Stojanovic first heard about the challenge during a presentation at a Black Hat digital security conference. He jumped at the opportunity, immediately approaching the presenter, Stefan Lüders, CERN’s security manager.

    Stojanovic put together a group of eight industry professionals (pen testers, consultants, Computer Information Systems administrators and programmers), set goals for the test and created a ten-day timeline.

    Any penetration test involves three main stages: scoping, reconnaissance and scanning. Before the scanning stage begins, testers are not allowed to interact with the system directly, but try to learn everything they can about it.

    During the “scoping” stage, testers define what is “in scope” and specify what IP spaces and domains they can and cannot probe during the testing. The “recon” stage is exactly what it sounds like: reconnaissance. The testers try to find out everything they can about the domains that are in scope, helping guide them towards potential weaknesses.

    With scoping and recon complete, the team was able to officially begin the scanning stage. Scanning is like a huge treasure hunt, beginning with a broad search and gradually narrowing it down, burrowing deeper and deeper into the most interesting areas and letting go of the others.

    This went on for nine days. It was a gruelling process – the team would find a tiny foothold, investigate it, but nothing significant would emerge. This happened again and again.

    Finally, Stojanovic was woken up one day by a short message, “I got it!” Someone on the team had solved the puzzle – a breakthrough generated by multiple late nights of patient analysis.

    Details of the breakthrough are kept secret due to a confidentiality agreement with CERN. But after more than two weeks of work, the team revealed weaknesses in CERN’s security infrastructure and provided important recommendations on how to improve it.

    CERN’s security group was then able to roll out fixes and address the identified vulnerabilities before U of T’s formal report even hit their desks.

    Stojanovic hopes that his team’s success will encourage educators to use penetration testing as a pedagogical tool. “It’s a lot of really fantastic experience,” he says, adding that these are the hands-on skills that new security professionals are going to need in the fast-growing information security industry.

    Stojanovic hopes that other institutions, including U of T, will follow CERN’s lead in opening themselves up to testing of this nature.

    And this won’t be the last CERN will see of U of T – Lüders has already asked for round two.

    The U of T at CERN

    Working on a small piece of the world’s largest experiment, it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture.

    Kyle Cormier, a University of Toronto grad student in particle physics, is a member of U of T’s research group at CERN, the sprawling international lab on the French-Swiss border that is home to the largest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.

    His job? Researching a silicon microchip for a planned upgrade to the 7,000-tonne Atlas detector, one of four major experiments at the LHC. He has designed, tested and redesigned the chip to withstand extreme cold and radiation exposure – all so that it can read data from proton collisions without needing a tune-up for at least a decade.

    It may not sound glamorous, but it’s the type of precise, exacting work that led CERN researchers to the 2012 discovery of the Higgs boson, a particle that had been theorized in the 1960s.

    “If you’re on a big hike up a mountain, you’re stepping over root branches working your way up,” Cormier says.

    2
    Professor Pekka Sinervo and U of T students, including Vincent Pascuzzi, Joey Carter, Laurelle Veloce, Kyle Cormier (seated right), at CERN outside Geneva (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville)

    At first glance, CERN, a collection of low-slung concrete buildings on the outskirts of Geneva, doesn’t look like a state-of-the-art, multibillion-dollar research facility. But deep underground, the accelerator races protons around a 27-kilometre ring until they are travelling nearly the speed of light and then smashes them together. Like crash scene investigators looking for clues in rubble, scientists analyze the debris from the collisions, which send subatomic particles flying in every direction.

    CERN scientists used this method to detect the Higgs boson in 2012, a particle explaining why others have mass. Now they’re digging even deeper, investigating questions such as the nature of dark matter.

    The mysterious type of matter, which makes up more than a quarter of the universe, has puzzled scientists since the first clues about its existence arose in the 1930s through astronomical observation and calculations.

    “We’re at the point where we’ve looked where the light’s brightest,” says Pekka Sinervo, a professor of experimental high energy physics at U of T. “Now we’re looking in all the dark corners that are hard to investigate.”

    3

    Researchers may still be a long way off from answering the dark matter riddle, but some breakthrough is just a matter of time, says Laurelle Veloce, who is also studying particle physics at U of T and working at CERN.

    “You just put one foot in front of the other and eventually you know someone will find something,” she says.

    The U of T research group is the largest Canadian team working on the Atlas experiment, with 17 graduate students, four postdocs and six faculty members. Over the summer, undergraduate students can take a summer course at CERN.

    Olivier Arnaez, now a U of T postdoc, spent years searching for the Higgs. When CERN researchers had gathered enough statistical evidence to confirm the discovery of a new particle, there was no eureka moment, he recalls – just relief.

    “We were happy because we knew we could sleep soon,” he says, “which didn’t happen because we then had to investigate more properties of the Higgs.” The celebrations involved litres of champagne and Nobel prizes for the theorists who proposed the Higgs mechanism decades earlier.

    Years of research at CERN haven’t been without setbacks, however. Only nine days after the first successful beam tests in 2008, a soldering error caused an accident that put the project behind schedule by more than 18 months. And last year, researchers who thought they had discovered another new particle admitted they had misinterpreted the data.

    But researchers are still hopeful and morale remains high, says Sinervo.

    “We’re trying to do things every day that nobody has ever done before,” he says.

    Engineering a microchip to work for 10 years without the need for repair, as his student Cormier is doing, is no small feat, he adds. “That’s like how you build spaceships for a moonshot.

    “We know that there is going to be some discovery over the horizon,” Sinervo says. “How far do we have to go to reach it? That’s something we don’t know.”

    See the full article here .

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    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
  • richardmitnick 11:52 am on March 28, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Installing 10 new detector wafers, Re-fitting the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station telescope, Replacing its three lenses with ones made with a new anti-reflective coating, U of T PhD student in astronomy heads to 'bottom of the world' to upgrade telescope, U Toronto   

    From University of Toronto: “U of T PhD student in astronomy heads to ‘bottom of the world’ to upgrade telescope” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    University of Toronto

    1
    “Most of the problems you come across are unique and often require novel solutions,” says Matt Young about his work at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (photo courtesy of Matt Young).

    When Matt Young was a kid growing up in Perth, Australia, his family would go on camping trips to the southern tip of Western Australia. There was a sign there, on the beach, saying “Next Stop: Antarctica.”

    Little did he know that some 20 years later, as a University of Toronto graduate student, he’d be spending two months at the South Pole, helping upgrade the camera on a giant telescope that observes the Cosmic Microwave Background – light from the earliest days of the universe.

    Last November, the third-year PhD student made the long trek from Toronto to the “bottom of the world” – the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station – taking five flights over two weeks to get there. He had just a few weeks of the Antarctic summer – 24-hour sunlight and balmy temperatures of just -30ºC – to work with another graduate student, overhauling and upgrading the telescope’s camera.

    The work involved disassembling the one-tonne instrument, replacing its three lenses with ones made with a new anti-reflective coating, and the high-stakes work of assembling and installing 10 new detector wafers, delicate sensors that focus and record the microwaves captured by the camera from the telescope’s 10-metre dish. One false move or dropped screw, and the entire wafer could be rendered useless.

    2
    The telescope at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station (photo by Keith Vanderlinde).

    For Young, this was the reason he had pivoted from his undergraduate engineering degree to graduate work in astronomy.

    “The work I’m doing here is exactly what I love – hands-on work with a huge variety of scientific equipment,” he says. “Most of the problems you come across are unique and often require novel solutions.”

    The 15-hour days of painstaking labour didn’t faze him at all – they were exactly what he had eagerly signed up for.

    “There’s a huge difference between looking at diagrams of the telescope in Toronto, and actually taking things apart myself,” Young says. “Being here puts everything together. The skills I’m learning here are invaluable. I doubt I could pick them up any other way than by being directly involved.”

    That’s exactly why U of T’s department of astronomy and astrophysics strives to give its graduate students as many opportunities as possible to travel to the world’s most important telescopes.

    “Giving graduate students the opportunity to go into the field and make these measurements themselves completely changes the experience, from sitting at a desk and having someone email you a data set into a really fully interactive science experiment where you’re running the whole show,” says Assistant Professor Keith Vanderlinde of the Faculty of Arts & Science and U of T’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics.

    “It enriches their learning experience enormously. At the end of the day, it makes them better scientists.”

    As the austral summer comes to an end, Young is on his way back to warmer climes, and his PhD research with Vanderlinde.

    “Seeing as my passion is scientific instrumentation, the most valuable thing you can have is hands-on experience,” he says.

    “Even with the long days, I’ve loved every second of it. It just helps confirm that this is what I want to be doing as a career.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
  • richardmitnick 12:28 pm on February 27, 2018 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP), U Toronto   

    From U Toronto: “STARFINDERS: The Campaign for U of T Astronomy” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    University of Toronto

    How often do university students get to do original scientific research just two years out of high school?

    1
    Emily Deibert (left) and Ariel Amaral

    At U of T Astronomy, this happens more often than you’d think.

    Emily Deibert was doing an overnight shift monitoring the Algonquin Radio Observatory, the giant 46-metre telescope located at the north end of Algonquin Park.

    2
    The Algonquin Radio Observatory (ARO) is a radio observatory located in Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada

    “It was just me, sitting at the telescope, making sure that everything was running properly,” she recalls. “If something had gone wrong, it would have been on me to fix it.”

    There’s nothing really unusual about this until you realize that Deibert was between her second and third year of undergrad, just a year removed from taking Astronomy 101 for fun while planning to major in English.

    Having fallen hard for the stars, Deibert made a radical switch in her studies. And within a year—as a still-green undergraduate—she was doing original research at the U of T-based Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics, studying radio pulses coming from the Crab Nebula Pulsar.

    Supernova remnant Crab nebula. NASA/ESA Hubble

    That’s what brought her to the Algonquin observatory in the summer of 2015.

    Deibert’s experience is not unusual at U of T Astronomy, where the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP) hires students to do original science supervised by faculty.

    “SURP is designed to give students the opportunity to figure out what research is like, and if it’s something that excites them,” says astrophysics professor Renée Hložek. “The earlier they get exposed to research, the more excited they get, and the more it gets them ready for a career in science.

    “No one is doing derivative projects—they’re all doing original research. I didn’t get that opportunity until my final year of undergrad; we have students here who get to do this in second year.”

    Another SURP veteran is Ariel Amaral, now, like Deibert, enrolled in the Astronomy PhD program.

    “I remember sitting there with my very first project,” she recalls, “being like, ‘Oh my God, this data that I’m looking at is from space, and I’ve been waiting for this my entire life.’ At U of T, they really take an inclusive approach. People were actually interested in what I was researching. You are treated like an actual scientist.”

    That approach is by design, says Hložek. It gives students a sense of what a career in research would be like, and the ones who thrive in the program grow up fast.

    “It’s amazing—it’s the most extreme transformation they will ever undergo,” she says. “In 16 weeks they go from being green to being fully competent scientists. They look different, they carry themselves differently—it’s really incredible.”

    Amaral’s most recent SURP project, working under Canada Research Chair Bryan Gaensler, led her to the Midwest Magnetic Field Conference at the University of Wisconsin, where she gave a 10-minute talk on her research—a rare opportunity for an undergraduate.

    “Being in a room full of experts who are all studying something that you are also studying, that’s an amazing experience. I got feedback and advice from people who were the top experts in the field—that’s an experience you can only get going to conferences.”

    But these opportunities to travel and do original research, so crucial to the undergraduate experience at U of T Astronomy, are limited—paid for mainly out of already stretched faculty research budgets.

    “More funding for SURP would make it much easier for us to support students,” says Hložek. “We pay them to do science, to be creative, to be professional. We want to pay them well. We want to treat it as a job, so that they are actually rewarded as scientists.”

    That’s why U of T Astronomy is asking for your support for Undergraduate Research—to give promising students a transformative gift at just the right time in their lives.

    Deibert’s SURP experience led her to study exoplanets, now the topic of her PhD research.

    And Amaral’s SURP work on magnetic fields is the topic of her PhD.

    “I feel like a space explorer almost,” says Amaral. “Even though it’s sometimes just number crunching and doing math, you’re still learning about space and doing something that people haven’t done before, and that’s really amazing. To think that I can do that as a 23-year-old person and still make a huge impact, I think that’s awesome.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

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    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
  • richardmitnick 2:52 pm on May 30, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at U of T’s Rotman School of Management, , , U Toronto   

    From U Toronto: “U of T’s Creative Destruction Lab goes quantum” 

    U Toronto Bloc

    University of Toronto

    May 26, 2017
    Chris Sorensen

    1
    Startups participating in CDL’s new quantum machine learning stream will have cloud access to Vancouver-based D-Wave’s quantum computer (photo courtesy D-Wave Systems)

    Startup accelerator launches new quantum machine learning stream for startups.

    The roughly 25 startups lucky enough to be accepted to a new quantum machine learning stream at a University of Toronto accelerator are about to become part of a very exclusive club.

    The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) at U of T’s Rotman School of Management said Thursday that it will provide the startups with access to the world’s only commercially available quantum computers, built by Vancouver’s D-Wave Systems, beginning in September.

    To date, only a handful of U.S.-based organizations have had the tens of millions to invest in D-Wave’s bleeding edge technology. They include Google, Lockheed Martin and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

    “We’re removing the barriers to entry to what’s available in terms of quantum computing – and that will hopefully spawn new, interesting applications from early-stage startups,” said Daniel Mulet, an associate director at the CDL accelerator in Toronto, which focuses on scaling science-based startups with artificial intelligence, or AI, technologies.

    It’s yet another example of how U of T has emerged as a hotbed of computer science research that’s spawning a host of futuristic, AI-equipped companies, ranging from legal research firm ROSS Intelligence to medical startup Deep Genomics. In just the past few months, the university also helped launch the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence and saw star AI researcher Raquel Urtasun form a partnership with ride-sharing giant Uber, which plans to set up a driverless car lab in Toronto.

    Making D-Wave’s quantum machines available to CDL startups follows in the footsteps of other U of T efforts to ensure researchers have access to the latest and most powerful computing tools. The university is one of several members of the Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform (SOSCIP), which offers researchers access to several powerful computing platforms, including IBM’s Watson.

    Mulet said CDL, which recently announced a bold cross-Canada expansion, is now hoping to lay the groundwork for the next phase of AI development by combining machine learning – computers capable of learning without explict human instructions – with the nascent, but potentially game-changing field of quantum computing.

    “Canada, with companies like D-Wave, and groups like IQC and Perimeter, has all the elements to seed a quantum computing and quantum machine learning software industry,” he said, referring to the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing and the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics. “We would like it to happen here before it happens somewhere else in the world.”

    For those unfamiliar with quantum computers, D-Wave’s machine will sound like something straight out of a science fiction movie. It’s a giant black box, about the size of a garden shed, that surrounds a core cooled 180 times below the temperature of deep space. The heavily shielded, otherworldly interior is necessary to allow the quantum bits, or qubits, to exhibit their quantum properties.

    So what, exactly, is a quantum computer and what does it have to do with machine learning?

    The idea is to harness the mind-bending properties of quantum mechanics to achieve an exponential increase in computational power. That includes the quantum principle of superposition, which allows quantum particles to exist in more than one state simultaneously. One oft-used explanation (and the one cited by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last year): classical computer bits are binary, with a value of either one or zero – on or off – whereas a quantum qubit can be both one and zero – on and off – at the same time.

    D-Wave co-founder Eric Ladizinsky offered a more visual explanation during a 2014 conference in London. Imagine, he said, trying to find an X scribbled inside one of the 50 million books in the U.S. Library of Congress. A traditional computer functions like a person trying to systimatically open each book and flip through its pages, he continued, “but what if, somehow, I could put you in this magical state of quantum superposition, so you were in 50 million parallel realities and in each one you could try opening a different book?”

    “We are making a bet that in the next five years quantum speedup useful for machine learning will be achieved,” Mulet said. “When you apply that to creating intelligent systems, those systems become that much more powerful.”

    Vern Brownell, the CEO of D-Wave, said the partnership with CDL, and the prospect of building an ecosystem of quantum AI and machine learning startups, spoke directly to the company’s vision of “bringing quantum computing out of the research lab and into the real world.”

    While CDL won’t have one of D-Wave’s $15 million 2000Q computers on location at U of T, Mulet says the up to 40 individuals accepted to the program – the application deadline is July 24 – will have access to its computational power through the cloud. The startups will also receive training from the same teams that D-Wave dispatches to its large corporate customers, and will participate in an intensive “bootcamp” led by Peter Wittek, a Barcelona-based research scientist who wrote the first textbook on quantum machine learning.

    CDL said three Silicon Valley-based venture capital firms – Bloomberg Beta, Data Collective and Spectrum 28 – will offer to invest pre-seed capital in every company admitted to, or formed in, the program, so long as they meet certain basic criteria.

    Mulet added the arrangement with D-Wave, whose founder Geordie Rose is a CDL Fellow, was three years in the making.

    It should be noted, however, that D-Wave’s vision of quantum computing isn’t shared by everyone in the field. The company focuses on a particular type of quantum function known as quantum annealing, which can only be used to solve certain types of optimization problems – and even then D-Wave’s machines don’t always outperform traditional computers. By contrast, other researchers, including those at IBM, are striving to build a univerisal quantum machine that could handle various types of complex calculations that would take classical computers months or even years to solve.

    In the meantime, a growing number of researchers are experimenting with D-Wave’s machines. One example: Scientists at Volkswagen recently used a similar cloud-based version of D-Wave’s machine to figure out the fastest way to send 10,000 Beijing taxi cabs to the nearest airport without creating a traffic jam. Other problems that D-Wave claims can be tackled with its system include optimizing cancer radio therapy, developing new drug types and designing more efficient water networks.

    D-Wave has also courted controversy in the past because it wasn’t always clear to researchers whether its machines truly demonstrated quantum properties.

    Mulet, however, says the academic debate surrounding D-Wave’s approach is less interesting to CDL than what its startups do with it. “We’re proponents of building impactful companies,” he said, adding that CDL plans to incorporate other types of quantum computers when they become commercially available. “So it doesn’t really matter where your science and technology comes from as long as it creates value for customers.”

    See the full article here .

    Please help promote STEM in your local schools.

    STEM Icon

    Stem Education Coalition

    U Toronto Campus

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

    Established in 1827, the University of Toronto has one of the strongest research and teaching faculties in North America, presenting top students at all levels with an intellectual environment unmatched in depth and breadth on any other Canadian campus.

     
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