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Researchers look for unique ways to collect data as COVID-19 changes methods – Toronto Star

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Aaron Fairweather has 27 colonies of ants to keep happy in the living room by getting the temperature, humidity and light just right although the environment at home may not feel quite as comfortable as in a lab.

The PhD entomology student from the University of Guelph said it was the only way to continue collecting data as COVID-19 puts a damper on research and labs can’t be used.

Fairweather, like several other scientists, is trying to make the best of the summer when researchers typically spend long hours outdoors collecting data in the field.

“It’s a pretty bleak year for research,” Fairweather said. “There will be a gap in the knowledge.”

Fairweather had been planning an intensive research project on ants since last fall but said a lack of the usual resources could mean a setback for an entire year.

“I have to wait till next year, probably, to be able to get in and do the active experiments that I wanted to do.”

While the data collected from the colonies of ants at home could help, that type of research is not feasible for many scientists so a gap in research might mean data could be skewed or years of work have to be thrown out, Fairweather said.

Arthur Fredeen, a professor in the Natural Resources and Environmental Studies Institute at the University of Northern British Columbia, said he is concerned about teaching field work.

His ecology class this fall requires working with students taking measurements and observations in the field, he said.

“I’ve had to grapple with the technologies that can help me deliver the course online, even though it will be quite challenging to do so in an adequate way.”

Pascal Lee won’t be testing equipment and studying rocks in the high Arctic this month, likely for the first time in nearly 25 years.

The chairman of the Mars Institute and a planetary scientist with the California-based SETI Institute does research on Devon Island because its surface resembles the “red planet.”

This year his team planned on testing a new space suit and an “astronaut smart glove.”

The group hopes to make it to the island in September but if that falls through, their equipment may have to be tested in the United States.

“Missing a summer for us means missing a year,” he said.

The choice for some researchers is between losing out on a year of data collection through field work and adapting to quarantine on a boat for a month.

The director of the University of British Columbia’s Marine Mammal Research Unit will be doing the latter with eight researchers as they continue a study from last year to determine if there is a shortage of chinook salmon for southern resident killer whales.

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Andrew Trites said the researchers are creating their own bubble on the boat, starting with a two-week quarantine period before they board the vessel in mid-August.

Everybody is “a little paranoid,” Trites said.

“In the end if the pandemic doesn’t kill us, maybe being confined together will,” he said laughing. “It’ll be quite a challenge.”

On a similar research trip last year, scientists got off the boat after docking and went into cities and towns, but that won’t happen this year, he said.

Only one person, masked and gloved, will be allowed to leave the wooden boat called Gikumi to get supplies while the vessel is refuelled.

“We’re going to be packed a little bit like sardines but everybody has a job on the boat,” he said, noting team members are aware of the effect the quarantine period might have on their mental health although being able to see the horizon may help.

Field work is important, Trites said because there is an element of biology, which can’t be done without being near animals.

While computers and mathematical models make projections and look at probabilities, he said answers to some questions can come only by observing animals in their natural habitat and recording what’s going on to make meaningful comparisons and draw conclusions.

What the team will miss, Trites said, is the interaction with researchers on other boats.

One of the biggest losses this research season may be the generation of new ideas, reflection, and the “ability to brainstorm together to solve biological mysteries,” he said.

“So, we’ll be waving at other researchers whom we know from a distance, and hoping there will be an opportunity in six months, a year, year-and-a-half, where you can finally sit down together and have much more meaningful conversations.”

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CP Cancels Holiday Train for 2020 – CFJC Today Kamloops

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September 24, 2020 Calgary

​Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Canadian Pacific (CP) will donate to food banks in communities along its network and host a virtual concert in lieu of its regular Holiday Train program. The modified program will draw attention to food security issues, while ensuring donations go to all food banks that would ordinarily receive them, including those that typically host a Holiday Train event in alternating years.

“COVID-19 has created many challenges for communities across our network and has only increased the need at local food banks and food shelves,” said CP President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel. “It is our honor to continue to donate to communities across our network this year, even if the train itself will not run. The spirit of the Holiday Train program and the Christmas spirit will carry on this year through our virtual concert. We will have the Holiday Train rolling again spreading Christmas cheer as soon as it’s safe to do so!”

CP launched the Holiday Train in 1999, and every year since it has traveled across Canada and the northern U.S. raising money, collecting food and drawing attention to the important work of local food banks. In its first 21 years, the train has raised $17.8 million and collected 4.8 million pounds of food for local food banks in communities along CP’s network.

“We are very excited that CP has chosen a safe way to keep the spirit of the CP Holiday Train rolling in support of local food banks like ours in these challenging times,” said Calgary Food Bank President and CEO James McAra. “The need for food bank services has risen substantially over the course of this year and heading into the high-demand winter months. We hope CP’s concert will prompt the train’s supporters to give as generously as they’re able.”

Live music has always been part of the CP Holiday Train tradition. To maintain that tradition, CP will produce a benefit concert, with details to be announced when they’re available.

“We support CP’s decision to hold a virtual concert instead of hosting events that encourage local gathering, though we’ll miss the train’s bright lights and in-person shows,” said Kristine Martin, President of East Side Neighborhood Services, a Minneapolis-based Holiday Train beneficiary food bank. “CP’s generous donations to East Side Neighborhood Services over the years have helped us provide nutritious food to people who have difficulty accessing traditional food shelves or grocery stores. This year, being able to continue providing those services has been even more important. We’re thankful to CP for their continued support and donations again this year.”

CP intends to resume operating the annual train tour in 2021.

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A clearer view of what makes glass rigid – EurekAlert

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IMAGE: A team of scientists led by the University of Tokyo uses computer simulations to study the rigidity of amorphous solids like glass
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Credit: Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo

Tokyo, Japan – Researchers led by The University of Tokyo employed a new computer model to simulate the networks of force-carrying particles that give amorphous solids their strength even though they lack long range order. This work may lead to new advances in high-strength glass, which can be used for cooking, industrial, and smartphone applications.

Amorphous solids such as glass–despite being brittle and having constituent particles that do not form ordered lattices–can possess surprising strength and rigidity. This is even more unexpected because amorphous systems also suffer from large anharmonic fluctuations. The secret is an internal network of force-bearing particles that span the entire solid which lends strength to the system. This branching, dynamic network acts like a skeleton that prevents the material from yielding to stress even though it makes up only a small fraction of the total particles. However, this network only forms after a “percolation transition” when the number of force-bearing particles exceeds a critical threshold. As the density of these particles increases, the probability that a percolating network that goes from one end to the other increases from zero to almost certain.

Now, scientists from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have used computer simulations to carefully show the formation of these percolating networks as an amorphous material is cooled below its glass transition temperature. In these calculations, binary particle mixtures were modelled with finite-range repulsive potentials. The team found that the strength of amorphous materials is an emergent property caused by the self-organization of the disordered mechanical architecture.

“At zero temperature, a jammed system will show long-range correlations in stress due to its internal percolating network. This simulation showed that the same is true for glass even before it has completely cooled,” first author Hua Tong says.

The force-bearing backbone can be identified by recognizing that particles in this network are must be connected by at least two strong force bonds. Upon cooling, the number of force-bearing particles increases, until a system-spanning network links together.

“Our findings may open up a way towards a better understanding of amorphous solids from a mechanical perspective,” senior author Hajime Tanaka says. Since rigid, durable glass is highly prized for smartphones, tablets, and cookware, the work can find many practical uses.

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The work is published in Nature Communications as “Emergent solidity of amorphous materials as a consequence of mechanical self-organisation” (DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18663-7).

About Institute of Industrial Science (IIS), the University of Tokyo

Institute of Industrial Science (IIS), the University of Tokyo is one of the largest university-attached research institutes in Japan.

More than 120 research laboratories, each headed by a faculty member, comprise IIS, with more than 1,000 members including approximately 300 staff and 700 students actively engaged in education and research. Our activities cover almost all the areas of engineering disciplines. Since its foundation in 1949, IIS has worked to bridge the huge gaps that exist between academic disciplines and real-world applications.

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.

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CP Holiday Train derailed this holiday season due to the pandemic – Barrie 360 – Barrie 360

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The CP Holiday train will not be riding the rails this year to the COVID-19 outbreak.

That said, the spirit of the train will carry on.

“COVID-19 has created many challenges for communities across our network and has only increased the need at local food banks and food shelves,” said CP President and Chief Executive Officer Keith Creel. “It is our honor to continue to donate to communities across our network this year, even if the train itself will not run. The spirit of the Holiday Train program and the Christmas spirit will carry on this year through our virtual concert. We will have the Holiday Train rolling again spreading Christmas cheer as soon as it’s safe to do so!”  

The Holiday train tour, which made a regular stop at Midhurst, was launched in 1999 and has raised $17.8 million and collected 4.8 million pounds of food items.

Live music has always been part of the CP Holiday Train tradition. To maintain that tradition, CP will produce a benefit concert, with details to be announced when they’re available.

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