Category Archives: Science and technology

Doctors use Thrones’ murder to explore treatments

DEADLY RESULTS: Doctors use Thrones’ murder to explore treatments

TORONTO Game of Thrones fans may have shed few tears over the poisoning death of King Joffrey I Baratheon, a nasty character if ever there were one. But could real-world medicine have saved the young monarch?

It was an intriguing question for Will Wu, a third-year medical student at the University of Toronto, who teamed up with two physicians at St. Michael’s Hospital to explore what steps could have been taken to try to resuscitate Joffrey, one of several characters to experience grisly deaths in of the wildly popular HBO series.

“These characters don’t get saved in the story, but there are ways to save them in real life,” said Wu of Ottawa, who describes himself as a “casual” aficionado of Game of Thrones.

Joffrey, the arrogant and cruel king who sat on the Iron Throne ruling the Seven Kingdoms, unwittingly drinks poisoned wine at his wedding feast in season 4. He chokes, collapses and dies as blood pours from his eyes and nose.

“We think the toxin caused him to go into a seizure and then into cardiac arrest, where the heart stops,” said Wu, whose “case report” on treating the character was co-written with emergency medicine specialists Dr. Emily Austin and Dr. Steve Lin, and published on the CanadiEM website.

The poison that felled Joffrey (portrayed by Jack Gleeson) was called “the strangler” and it created a range of symptoms that weren’t consistent with toxins familiar to modern-day doctors, said Austin, who has a specialty in pharmacology and toxicology.

“But in general, any type of cardiac arrest associated with a poison, you can apply certain treatments and really nothing was done for this poor guy, although he’s a horrible character,” she said. “Had something been done, he may have stood a chance to be resuscitated.”

Treatment would have involved a number of steps — checking the pulse, performing CPR and maintaining an airway.

A defibrillator to shock the heart back to life wouldn’t have gone amiss, either, Austin conceded.

“And then it moves on to the specific toxicology stuff where you start thinking, ‘Is there a specific antidote that I could give to this person, given the constellation of symptoms that they have?’ ”

In some cases of poisoning induced cardiac arrest, doctors have been successful in resuscitating a patient with an IV injection of a solution of lipids. One theory suggests that these fats absorb and compartmentalize certain toxins, keeping them out of tissues where they would have deadly effects.

The King Joffrey case report is the second based on a Game of Thrones character that was written by the team and published on CanadiEM, a website aimed at emergency medicine practitioners. The previous article discussed the role of hypothermia in the case of Jon Snow (played by Kit Harington), who was stabbed multiple times and left to bleed out in freezing temperatures.

Austin called the Joffrey article suggested by Wu “a great project for a medical student, because it allows you to do a bit more reading around toxin-induced cardiac arrest.”

“But taking a step back, I think one of the goals to the article is just to sort of highlight that toxin-induced cardiac arrest can be managed a little bit differently and … there are some special treatments,” compared with those used for cardiac arrests caused by other factors, she said.

“It’s just a good reminder of some of those differences and some of the options we have to treat these patients.”

Humanoid robot at the 2017 Web Summit in Lisbon

Yesterday, Nov 7th, Sophia, the world’ first robot citizen appeared at the Web Summit in Lisbon.  Sophia was made a citizen of Saudi Arabia in October.  (Does she have to wear a veil? Will she be allowed to drive? ) There was a very, very brief article in today’s Gazette, mostly photo which appears below, credited to  Oatricia de Melo Moreira / Getty Images





Sophia was created by Hanson Robotics.

Read post by reporter who interviewed Sophia at the conference.

Read more at Wikipedia

Montreal conference on Artificial Intelligence


AI poses ethical double-edged sword, experts tell Montreal conference

Montreal Gazette JACOB SEREBRIN

Artificial intelligence has the power to eliminate mundane jobs and create tremendous wealth, but it could also lead to widespread unemployment and reinforce existing inequalities.

That was the message at the forum on the socially responsible development of artificial intelligence, a two-day conference that ended on Friday.

Montreal has an opportunity to take a leading role in lead in ensuring AI technology is used responsibly, said Marie-Josée Hébert, the vice-rector of Research, Discovery, Creation and Innovation at the Université de Montréal and one of the organizers of the conference.

The forum was intended to bring academic researchers together with industry and government to exchange ideas about the responsible development and use of AI, she said. That’s important because the technology has the power to change the foundations of our society, she said.

Issues raised at the forum ranged from who is legally liable if a selfdriving car gets in an accident, to the possibility AI will lead to widespread unemployment.

Some of the issues are already here — like the ability for the creators of AI systems and the producers of data to introduce their own biases into AI systems.

“If you have an algorithm that sees biased data, gender-biased, racially biased, biased based on economic status and so on, the algorithm is going to ingest that and result in a biased model,” Doina Precup, a professor of computer science at McGill and the head of Google-affiliated DeepMind’s Montreal research lab, said in a session at the conference.

While AI systems are currently tools used by people, in the future, there could be general AI systems that act on their own, she said, which raises further questions of responsibility.

“Are AIs ever going to get to a stage where they’re sufficiently complex to be responsible for what they do? That I think is an open question,” Precup said.

There are also issues related to monopoly power, Yoshua Bengio, a U de M professor and one of the founders of Element AI, which sells AI services to businesses, said in a speech at the event.

A handful of large companies could control the data required for AI systems to “learn” and hire the majority of top researchers, creating a situation where other businesses couldn’t catch up, Bengio said. He also raised the issue of autonomous robots with the ability to kill, calling on the Canadian government to take a similar approach to this technology as it took with landmines.

“We are really at the cusp of something that it is important,” Hébert said. “It’s important to initiate these conversations before it’s too late, but it’s going to be as important to maintain these conversations as we go.”

As part of that process, the forum has created what it calls the Montreal Declaration for a Responsible Development of Artificial Intelligence. Over the next few months, that document will be developed through a process of “co-creation” and consultation with the general public.

The goal is to “establish a consensus on basic principles that are representative of our values,” Hébert said, “that should all guide us to how we are going to live through this phase of innovation and transformation.”

We are at the cusp of something important. It’s important to initiate these conversations before it’s too late.

Nuclear Fusion: Documentary opens September 15

Pushing the edge of technology to prove we have
the intelligence to prevent our own extinction.

Click here to view trailer.


Directed by Mila Aung-Thwin and Van Royko

Opens in Montreal – Friday, September 15

Cinéma du Parc (English)
Cinéma Le Clap (French)

Cinémathéque Québécoise (French)

Opens in Toronto – Friday, September 22

Ted Rogers Hot Docs Cinema

Clean, safe and unlimited power has been an obsession for scientists and inventors for centuries, and an underlying preoccupation for our society as a whole. Since the 1940s, when we first understood how the sun creates energy, nuclear fusion has been energy’s holy grail.

Let There Be Light has igniting audiences since its world premiere at SXSW and then followed up with a Canadian premiere at Hot Docs this past spring. Now the film will open theatrically across Canada and generate a whole new fusion fan base, beginning in Montreal September 15, and Toronto on September 22.

For decades, fusion has been delayed and thwarted by failure, miscalculation, fraud and politics. It has been maddeningly always just out of reach, which seems to make people obsess over it all the more. Fusion is the energy of the future and always will be, goes one old joke.

But today, fusion is being pursued with a renewed zeal, mostly because we’ve never needed it like we do now, and there are 37 countries currently collaborating to build the biggest experiment ever, in order to prove that fusion is viable.

Will this finally succeed? Or will the project collapse under its own massive complexity? The film chronicles the work of the passionate scientists who are struggling to make it work.

It’s rare to find people who work on projects that are designed to last decades, and these scientists would be happy if it worked in a century from now, says co-director Aung-Thwin. So on a personal level, this is a deep sacrifice – but they are doing it for the chance that it helps all of humanity.

About EyeSteelFilm
Based in Montreal, Canada, EyeSteelFilm is a leading global documentary production and distribution company, with films covering diverse and compelling topics, such as multiple award-winning I am the Blues; Rip! A Remix Manifesto; Last Train Home – winner of two Emmy Awards, and Up the Yangtze, a top grossing and critically acclaimed doc winning dozens of awards including the 2009 Genie for Best Feature Length Documentary. EyeSteelFilm has collaborated with a wide range of partners including The National Film Board of Canada, CBC, CTV, BBC, ZDF/ARTE, PBS and ITVS. EyeSteelFilm has been twice named to Realscreen Magazines Global 100 company. EyeSteelFilm’s current theatrical releases include Weirdos; Le Roi des Belges; Tokyo Idols.

Concordia to build $52M research centre

New Centre to focus on biomedical products, bio products and nano materials.

Montreal Gazette   KELSEY LITWIN

A new $52.75-million science centre will be built on Concordia University’s Loyola campus in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce thanks to funding from the federal and provincial governments.

The centre, which the university is calling a research and innovation hub, will become the university’s new home for applied scientific research. Marc Garneau, federal minister of transportation, said the centre will focus on biomedical products, bio products and nano materials.

The new hub will be an extension of the Richard J. Renaud Science Complex on West Broadway St., which opened in 2003.

Graham Carr, the university’s vice-president of academic affairs, said the new centre will address interdisciplinary trends in science and research by creating an open workspace that “combines the fundamental with the applied.”

“This is another factor that makes Montreal that much more appealing for students, researchers, professors and the community at large,” said Kathleen Weil, minister of immigration, diversity and inclusiveness.

About $20 million will come from the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF). The SIF is a $2-billion fund with the specific goal to modernize research and commercialization facilities in Canadian post-secondary schools.

The Quebec government and the university will each supply about $16 million for the centre.

“Every dollar invested into infrastructure by the government will generate much more than a dollar in economic activity,” said Garneau, discussing the SIF.

Concordia president Alan Shepard specified that the new space will house Concordia’s new Department of Chemical and Material Engineering, the Centre for NanoScience Research and the Centre for Microscopy and Cellular Imaging.

He said the research done in the space will allow the university to continue exploring commercial partnerships with the aerospace, food, life science and nano science industries.

The centre will also include a space for Concordia’s District 3, a startup incubator. Unlike District 3’s current downtown location, the new space in N.D.G. will offer wet labs, where liquid chemicals or biological matter can be handled.

“Students who want to work on projects that have a direct application to the markets, let’s say in genomics, will have a chance to do that here,” Shepard said.

Construction should begin in spring 2018, with the centre expected to be open in spring 2019.

Montreal’s Element AI to boost projects with $102M financing deal

Montreal Gazette  BERTRAND MAROTTE

Element CEO Jean-François Gagné, centre, speaks with staff in Montreal. His firm said new funding will allow it to hire hundreds of top researchers and expand worldwide with AI-based solutions. JOHN MAHONEY

Montreal-based Element AI, a key player in the city’s burgeoning artificial-intelligence sector, has clinched a major financing deal to fund future growth and job creation.

Element is set to announce on Wednesday that it has raised US$102-million from a group of investors led by San Francisco venture capital fund Data Collective (DCVC).

The deal is the largest Series A funding round for an AI company in history, according to Element.

The investment will allow Element to “accelerate its capabilities and invest in large-scale AI projects internationally, solidifying its position as the largest global AI company in Canada and creating 250 jobs in the Canadian high-tech sector by January 2018,” it said in a news release.

Element was founded last year by tech entrepreneurs Jean-François Gagné and Nicolas Chapados, Montreal venture capital fund Real Ventures, and Université de Montréal AI scientist Yoshua Bengio.

The company aims to make cutting-edge AI research and innovation available to other companies seeking to tap into AI and also help develop new firms in the rapidly growing field.

“Artificial intelligence is a ‘must have’ capability for global companies,” Element chief executive Gagné said. “Without it, they are competitively impaired if not at grave risk of being obseleted in place.

“Seasoned AI investors at DCVC understood this, and supported us to democratize the AI firepower reserved today for only the largest of tech corporations.”

The new funding will allow Element to hire hundreds of top researchers as well as expand internationally with AI-based solutions

for customers in such areas as cybersecurity, fintech, manufacturing, logistics, transportation and robotics, the company said.

Element boasts that it has “pioneered a unique, non-exploitative model of academic co-operation” whose talent and advanced research “matches or exceeds even the largest tech corporations’ reach and budgets.”

“The most serious problems facing global industry and government today involve too much complex and rapidly changing data for the cognitive capacity of even large numbers of human experts working together,” said DCVC managing partner Matt Ocko.

A central aspect of AI is machine learning, which involves the creation of computer neural networks that mimic human brain activity and can program themselves to solve complex problems rather than having to be programmed.

Fun is in evidence at CSI exhibit

If you have watched any police procedural show you have most certainly heard of IBIS, but did you know it was developed here in Montreal? I had no idea until I read this article (scroll down) in the Gazette by Bill Brownstein. —CPL 
 In the early 1990s, Forensic Technology, located atop a Montreal Urban Community police station across from the Cavendish Mall in Côte-St-Luc, created the groundbreaking, automated Integrated Ballistics Identification System, better known as IBIS.
 From Wikipedia:
Automated firearms identification is now a universally accepted technology. As the system with the largest installed base, IBIS has become the de facto world standard.

The emergence of a world standard enables law enforcement agencies worldwide to share ballistic data. This capability is now being leveraged as a tool for international collaboration among law enforcement agencies worldwide. Countries have begun to link up their IBIS systems. Europe already has EURO-IBIS, while the United States recently concluded an agreement to link their NIBIN system with Canada’s.


In early 2009, INTERPOL signed an agreement with Forensic Technology, wherein the latter will install and maintain an IBIS correlation server at INTERPOL headquarters in Lyon, France. To facilitate ballistic information sharing among INTERPOL member-countries in Asia, a second IBIS Correlation Server was installed at the INTERPOL Centre for Global Innovation in Singapore in 2015.

Forensics analyst tackles crime display at Science Centre

CHRISTINNE MUSCHI Bob Walsh of Forensic Technology reviews a mock crime scene for clues at an exhibit called A House Collided, part of the CSI: The Experience program, currently running at the Montreal Science Centre.

CSI chief Gil Grissom, via a video monitor, instructs a group of aspiring sleuths to look carefully at the evidence left behind at the crime scene and then wishes them luck in solving a messy murder case.

Among the would-be detectives is the dapper Bob Walsh, sporting a turned-up, Columbostyle trench coat and looking very much like Central Casting’s notion of a TV gumshoe.

With pencil and notepad in hand, Walsh, like the others, proceeds to check out a crime referred to as “A House Collided,” wherein a vehicle is lodged halfway into the living room of a home, and behind the wheel is a banged-up and bloodied dead man. All manner of evidence — from a slipper to a pizza carton — is strewn about the scene.

Welcome to CSI: The Experience at the Montreal Science Centre in the Old Port, where budding investigators, from schoolchildren to nonagenarians, have been converging to attempt to solve three different cases inspired by the CSI TV series.

This interactive exhibition not only (somewhat graphically) depicts murder scenes, but also allows sleuths the opportunity to carry out scientific testing in labs and to examine (facsimiles of ) corpses in an autopsy room before compiling a final report as to who committed this heinous deed and for what reason.

A computer then informs the would-be investigators whether they have correctly solved the case or if they would be better off delivering pizzas than embarking on a career in crime-detection.

Walsh, who is here at my request, is more familiar than most with crime detection. In the early 1990s, his company Forensic Technology, located atop a Montreal Urban Community police station across from the Cavendish Mall in Côte-StLuc, created the groundbreaking, automated Integrated Ballistics Identification System, better known as IBIS.

Simply put, this technology accurately proves that every fired bullet and cartridge casing tells its own story. That’s because every firearm, from handguns to howitzers, has unique characteristics — the equivalent of human fingerprints — that are transferred to the bullets and casings when shot.

Forensic labs — including the RCMP, INTERPOL, the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms in the U.S. — in more than 70 countries employ this ammo-identification system (now available in 3D-HD), which has been credited with getting convictions, and has been featured in the TV crime labs of the various CSI and Law & Order series, as well as numerous films.

Continue reading Fun is in evidence at CSI exhibit

Let’s capitalize on AI revolution

Montreal is welcoming leading technologists to the city this week for the C2 (commerce/creativity) conference, just as the city could be on the verge of becoming an international hub for Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. Capitalizing on this brewing revolution will require governments to drastically alter traditional modus operandi, loosening their grip on the entrepreneurial class and suppressing nationalistic impulses.

Advocating for massive government spending with little restraint admittedly deviates from the tenor of these columns, but the AI business is unlike any other before it. Having leaders acting as fervent advocates for the industry is crucial; resisting the coming technological tide is, as the Borg would say, futile.

The roughly 250 AI researchers who call Montreal home are not simply part of a niche industry. Quebec’s francophone character and Montreal’s multilingual citizenry are certainly factors favouring the development of language technology, but there’s ample opportunity for endeavours with broader applications.

AI isn’t simply a technological breakthrough; it is the technological revolution. In the coming decades, modern computing will transform all industries, eliminating human inefficiencies and maximizing opportunities for innovation and growth — regardless of the ethical dilemmas that will inevitably arise.

“By 2020, we’ll have computers that are powerful enough to simulate the human brain,” said (in 2009) futurist Ray Kurzweil, author of The Singularity Is Near, a seminal 2006 book that has inspired a generation of AI technologists. Kurzweil’s projections are not science fiction but perhaps conservative, as some forms of AI already effectively replace many human cognitive functions. “By 2045, we’ll have expanded the intelligence of our human-machine civilization a billion-fold. That will be the singularity.”

Continue reading Let’s capitalize on AI revolution

Montreal to become world centre of AI

Montreal is positioning itself to become a world centre of artificial intelligence with impressive amounts of cash flowing into academia, public-private partnerships, research labs and startups. Bertrand Marotte reports on some of the big brains behind the suddenly hot trend.

PHOTOS: JOHN MAHONEY Jean-François Gagné is co-founder and chief executive officer of Element AI, an artificial intelligence startup factory launched in Montreal last year. “We want to be part of that conversation — shaping what AI is going to look like,” he says.

It might seem like an ambitious goal, but key players in Montreal’s rapidly growing artificial intelligence sector are intent on transforming the city into a Silicon Valley of AI.

Certainly, the flurry of activity these days indicates that AI in the city is on a roll. Impressive amounts of cash have been flowing into academia, public-private partnerships, research labs and startups active in AI in the Montreal area.

And hopes are high that a threeday conference starting May 24 — AI Forum — will help burnish Montreal’s reputation as one of the world’s emerging AI advanced research centres and top talent pools in the suddenly very hot tech trend.

Topics and issues on the agenda include the evolution of AI in Montreal and the transformative impact AI can have on business, industry and the economy.

For example, researchers at Microsoft Corp. have successfully developed a computing system able to decipher conversational speech as accurately as humans do. The technology makes the same, or fewer, errors than professional transcribers and could be a huge boon to major users of transcription services like law firms and the courts.

Setting the goal of attaining the critical mass of a Silicon Valley is “a nice point of reference,” said tech entrepreneur Jean-François Gagné, co-founder and chief executive officer of Element AI, an artificial intelligence startup factory launched last year.

“It’s ambitious,” allowed Gagné, one of the keynote speakers at the AI Forum, held in partnership with the annual C2 Montréal international gabfest.

The idea is to create a “fluid, dynamic ecosystem” in Montreal where AI research, startup, investment and commercialization activities all mesh productively together, said Gagné, who founded Element with researcher Nicolas Chapados and Université de Montréal deep learning pioneer Yoshua Bengio.

Continue reading Montreal to become world centre of AI