A mental meet-up

Rendezvous with Madness' program aims to use art to educate and raise awareness about mental health issues

A mental meet-up

One in five children under the age of 18 have a diagnosable mental health issue. 70 to 75 percent of mental illnesses appear before the age of 20. Only one in six have access to the treatment they might need.

MEDIA PHOTO

MEDIA PHOTO

All of these are reasons that youth mental health is an important topic of discussion, according to child psychologist Dr. Marshall Korenblum. He was speaking at the Youth Mental Health Symposium on the last day of Rendezvous with Madness, a six day festival showcasing films from Canada and abroad with a focus on mental health.

“The goal of the festival is to sort of expose people to mental health and to decrease stigma, eliminate discrimination and prejudice that goes toward a lot of people with mental illness and addiction,” said program manager Jeff Wright in an interview with The Varsity. The festival is presented by Workman Arts, a local organization that provides training and opportunities for artists with mental illnesses.

While the festival explored a variety of angles and perspectives on mental health, it was bookended by art representing the experiences of children and adolescents.

The opening night was a screening of Destin Daniel Cretton’s Short Term 12, a startling and engrossing film about a foster care facility. The main character, Grace (Brie Larson), herself a survivor of abuse and her own mental health challenges, sees much of herself in new charge, Jadeyn, and goes to great lengths to reach out to her. The talented ensemble cast brings each characters’ story to life, creating a highly relatable and human portrayal.

Saturday afternoon’s symposium featured a pair of films, both documentaries, of treatment facilities and the experiences of the young people who go through them. Echoes of Short Term 12 were apparent in Allan King’s Warrendale, despite the latter having been made almost 50 years prior. A documentary filmed for the
CBC — which for decades refused to air it ­—  Warrendale is an observational look at the treatment centre in Etobicoke, showing reactions of the children and the attempts of the staff to restrain and console them. In a subsequent discussion, Korenblum  pointed out that it shares many themes with Short Term 12, and the other films show “how much has changed and how little has changed” in the field of mental health in the past 50 years. The second film, Nuria Ibañez’s The Naked Room, continues with the theme of emotional realism by presenting a series of interviews with children in a mental health facility in Mexico. The camera remains trained on each child’s face, even when their parents are the ones speaking, revealing every reaction and creating an remarkable amount of empathy.

The whole festival aimed to instill empathy in its audience members, as emphasized in the panel discussions following each screening designed to create conversations about mental health. “If people aren’t that familiar with mental health issues to come see a film, they might have thoughts or questions they might want to ask, and we sort of give that platform for them to ask and we have people there who can answer better than going home and googling,” said Wright.

Rendezvous with Madness certainly succeeded in making me think more consciously about mental health. Statistically, six of the 30 people on the streetcar ride home with me deal with these kinds of issues on a daily basis. I thought about what Wright said about what he learned while programming the festival: “You see people in the street and it’s a lot more evident how many people are affected by it, and that’s just visibly. And to think that so many people are suffering from mental illness without it being a visible thing, and maybe the stigma or prejudice that goes towards people with mental illness, not being able to speak about it or get help.”

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson awarded Dunlap Prize

“Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive” to visit U of T in March 2014

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson awarded Dunlap Prize

Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has won the first Dunlap Prize from the University of Toronto’s Dunlap Institute for Astronomy and Astrophysics. According to the institute, the prize recognizes those who embody “the institute’s vision for sharing scientific discovery with the public, training the next generation of astronomers, and developing innovative astronomical instrumentation to enable breakthroughs in observational research.” Tyson’s impressive career and academic achievements easily distinguish him as a renowned astrophysicist, but these factors alone did not earn him the Dunlap prize, nor did his reputation as the “Sexiest Astrophysicist Alive.” The award also recognizes his role in scientific outreach and education.

WILLIAM AHN/THE VARSITY

WILLIAM AHN/THE VARSITY

Tyson is the current director of the Hayden Planetarium in the America Museum of Natural History, located in New York. As an astrophysicist,  Tyson has followed an exceptional academic path: he earned his BA in physics at Harvard and a PhD in astrophysics at Columbia. He also completed his post-doctoral research at Princeton. He was twice recruited by former President George W. Bush to serve on White House commissions, and was part of the NASA advisory council from 2005 – 2008.

Born in the same week that NASA became operational, Tyson became fascinated with astrophysics on his very first visit to the Hayden Planetarium at the age of nine. “The universe called me,” he said during a conversation with Stephen Colbert. Now, as director, he has been tirelessly pushing public education of science and inspiring the young generation to explore space.

Dr. Tyson has authored multiple books, including Death By Black Hole: And Other Cosmic Quandaries, an anthology of his most popular essays in Natural History magazine, and The Pluto Files: The Rise And Fall of America’s Favourite Planet — an analysis of Pluto’s cultural impact as well as a collection of public responses to Pluto’s demotion. The latter is especially fitting, as Tyson took part in the decision to “downgrade” Pluto. In his most recent book, Space Chronicles: Facing the Ultimate Frontier, Tyson not only provides a well-documented list of NASA’s contributions to our society and daily life, but also calls for greater recognition and expansion of the space program.

Tyson’s efforts in educating and inspiring the public can also be reflected in his radio show, StarTalk. The weekly show explores a wide variety of topics, scientific and non-scientific alike, and analyzes them from a scientific perspective. Past topics include dark matter, time travel, zombie apocalypses and hip-hop. Tyson’s humour, together with the expertise of guest co-hosts, keeps the show entertaining and lighthearted, yet informative and scientifically accurate. He has also collaborated with many well-known names ­— like Richard Dawkins, Stephen Colbert, and Bill Nye  ­— to discuss science topics and encourage students to keep pursuing their dreams in science.

His witty and sometimes sarcastic style has gathered him a dedicated audience not only in universities but also online; his twitter account, followed by nearly 1.5 million people, is composed of fun facts, interesting thought experiments, scientific reviews of sci-fi movies, and other humorous quirky comments. In 2014, he will also be the host of Cosmos, a continuation of the legendary science show first popularized by Carl Sagan.

Tyson’s immense popularity has earned him 18 honorary doctorates, a NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal and an asteroid named in his honour (Asteroid “13123 Tyson”). On March 21, 2014, Tyson will visit at U of T for the Dunlap Prize ceremony and give a free public lecture in Convocation Hall. Registration for this event will be available later this winter.

 

With Files from the Dunlap Institute, Hayden Planetarium, and Colbert interview with Neil DeGrasse Tyson at Montclair Kimberley Academy.

U of T plays host to first-ever Toronto Science Festival

Science Engagement and Dunlap Institute-organized event celebrates science

U of T plays host to first-ever Toronto Science Festival

The University of Toronto will host the first annual Toronto Science Festival (TSF) this September 27–29. The festival is, at its heart, a celebration of science — bringing together experts in fields as diverse as biology, paleontology and astronomy. It aims to provide a comprehensive look at its central theme of “life in the universe.”  How did life on earth begin?  In what seemingly inhospitable environments can life be found? What form might life outside our planet take?  These are among the many questions to be pondered throughout the event. Hoping to attract a wide variety of people to listen to and take part in these discussions, the festival boasts an impressive program of events.

TSF is organized by U of T Science Engagement and the Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics. Science Engagement works to raise awareness of the university’s strengths in science teaching and research and facilitate U of T scientists to engage effectively with the community at large. It also coordinates science journalism courses for U of T graduate students and the Science Leadership Program for faculty members. The Dunlap Institute for Astronomy & Astrophysics develops new astronomical instrumentation to delve deeper into the universe and understand how it works. In addition to the TSF, the institute also organizes the Transit of Venus at Varsity Stadium event. Various academic units and administrative offices from the Faculty of Arts & Science have also contributed to the event.

On Friday, September 27 at 7:00 pm, the festival will kick off with a talk by Julie Payette, a Canadian astronaut. She will talk about her unique experiences and the future of space exploration. Following Payette at 8:00 pm will be Sean B. Carroll, a distinguished evolutionary biologist, who will talk about Jacques Monod — a leader in the French Resistance who was also a co-founder of molecular biology. Carroll will also discuss humankind’s place in the universe. The third keynote speaker will be Jim Bell, a planetary scientist, who will be discussing the Mars rovers and the search for life on the Red Planet on Saturday at 7:00 pm.

There are many more intriguing and engaging events. One exciting panel discussion, moderated by Dr. Jennifer Carpenter, will be debating the origin and evolution of life; another panel — moderated by Nora Young of CBC Radio’s Spark — will examine the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. There will also be a contemporary dance performance by the renowned inDance company; a jazz performance by Diane Nalini; screenings of Star Trek, with discussions by Hugo award-winning science fiction writer Peter Watts and U of T astronomy professor Michael Reid; and a screening of Carl Sagan’s Hugo award-winning film, Contact.

The festival seeks to engage with the community to share the excitement of their new discoveries of the scientific process. By bringing together some of the brightest minds in a plethora of disciplines ­— including evolutionary biology, planetary science, oceanography, paleontology, geochemistry, astronomy, anthropology, earth sciences, and exobiology — the festival seeks to give a fresh and diverse discussion on life in the universe. The festival is also an interactive experience. The Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI) contest, for example, allows participants to compose a 100-word message, which will be sent via radio signal to two nearby star systems. The Café Scientifique Brunch will allow participants to have a casual conversation with world-renowned scientists while filling their appetites.

The festival will be a stimulating overview of the evolutionary and astronomical sciences. Unlike regular science lectures, the festival focuses on communicating the direction of future science and the possibilities for the future. In other words, the focus will be on “what is possible” and “what is probable.” Another focus is exploring the meaning of our current state of knowledge. For example, what are the implications of extraterrestrial life? What would we say to alien intelligence? The festival seeks to discuss tough questions from many perspectives and create a dialogue that informs the public about recent scientific breakthroughs.

The amalgamation of so many different perspectives in discussing the search for life elsewhere in the universe may be the most important facet of the TSF.  Reid says that the search is one that requires just such a multifaceted approach:

“Biology defines what life is and tells us how we can go about looking for it. Earth science helps us figure out the conditions under which life can be sustained and how to distinguish life from inanimate processes which can mimic living ones. Astronomy allows us to identify potential sites where life might exist elsewhere in the universe, and gives us the tools to identify it from light-years away,” he says.

Ultimately, it is a question we may never find an answer to — the difficulties of interplanetary and interstellar travel may prove to be insurmountable. However, the stellar list of participants being brought together to find a solution gives hope that we are on the right path. With the opportunity for the citizens and scientists of tomorrow to create a dialogue with the scientists of today, the TFS promises to engage and inspire all who attend, and give a peek into the extraordinary worlds of science.

The Toronto Science Festival will run at U of T from September 27-29. To find more information, visit http://tsf.utoronto.ca/. Follow the festival on twitter. @tosciencefest for the latest updates.

 

Julie Payette

LUCINDA YAE-RIM RO/THE VARSITY

LUCINDA YAE-RIM RO/THE VARSITY

TSF will begin on September 27 at 7:00 pm in Convocation Hall, with a keynote speech by a truly exceptional woman: astronaut Julie Payette. Payette is currently the director of the Montreal Science Centre, and one of only two Canadian female astronauts. She is also an engineer and a symphony-quality singer, and can converse in six languages. Her diversity of talents and accomplishments earned her a distinction as an Officer of the Order of Canada.  She is a force for the public understanding of science, and lectures around the world on the importance of space exploration — a position that makes her an ideal candidate to kick off the TFS.  As a representative of science — particularly, Canadian science — the organizers could not have chosen more wisely than a woman whose expertise and interest in so many fields give her such a unique insight into life in the universe.

 

Sean Carroll

IMELDA LO/THE VARSITY

IMELDA LO/THE VARSITY

Dr. Sean Carroll will be one of the keynote speakers at the TSF; he will be speaking at 8:00 pm in Convocation Hall on Friday, September 27. His talk is entitled “BRAVE GENIUS: Jacques Monod, Chance, and our Place in the Universe.” At 9:00 pm, he will be participating in a book signing in the Convocation Hall lobby.

The Varsity asked Carroll about life on other planets: “Biology on Earth gives us some sense of what is possible or likely elsewhere in the universe ­— about the most likely shapes (rods or spheres?) and sizes (microscopic) of possible life forms,” he replied. Carroll leaves an interesting caveat however, saying that due to our perpetual surprise at the forms of life on our own planet that “perhaps we are not very prepared for what may lurk out there.”

White people more likely to be positively portrayed in television advertisements

UTM finds black and Asian people are often shown in negative light

White people are over-represented in Canadian television advertisements, and they are more likely to be presented in a positive light than black or Asian people, according to a new study from the University of Toronto Mississauga (UTM). The study, which attempted to trace the connections between different racial groups and the products they are coupled with in Canadian television advertisements, found that although white people compose 80 per cent of Canada’s population, 87 per cent of the more than 1,000 characters analyzed from 244 prime time television advertisements were white.

Professor Shyon Baumann, primary author of the study and chair of UTM’s Department of Sociology says this is the first study that focuses on advertising and uses quantitative data to find connections. He believes television advertising is a particularly interesting medium through which to look at how people of different races are portrayed, as the brevity of television commercials leaves little time for nuance or character development.

Baumann, along with phd student Loretta Ho, studied the appearance of 1,000 white, black, and east and southeast Asian people in advertisements, noting their appearances and the contexts in which they appeared. Other races such as First Nations and Hispanic were insufficiently represented in advertisements to be included in the study.

White people were most often matched with healthy foods — like eggs or milk — whereas black and Asian people are disproportionately featured in ads for fast food. The cultural trends white people were associated with include nostalgia, nature, and nuclear family. These cultural trends showed white people to be bearers of tradition in quality food, with higher socioeconomic status, and better rounded family lives.

White people were generally portrayed as wealthy, whereas black and Asian people were typically shown as having low socio-economic status or a less traditional family structure. Those Asian people who were shown as wealthy appeared caricaturized with negative overtones — robotic and focused on success, with minimal mention of family in the advertisements.

When asked why he thinks advertisers chose white people over many other racial groups, Baumann said “I think they don’t [consider]…diversity when it comes to casting or conceptualizing commercials, they do what is convenient and portray…white people because it’s easier [without worrying about the] implications of race for the brand identity they are developing.”

Baumann and Ho also indicate that white people are depicted in a wider variety of situations and experiences than other ethnic groups. This makes them seem like better rounded individuals, allowing the viewer to see them as whole person. Baumann is concerned that the similarity of situations in which non-white actors are portrayed has negative sociological effects so that eventually: “the society’s expectations of the race are constrained.”

U of T students create social networking app

Sociably aims to take the pain out of social organization

U of T students create social networking app

Two U of T students have embraced the spirit of entrepreneurship and created a new app that aims to make it easier to plan social outings.

Jimoh Ovbiagele and Abby Vaidyanathan saw a need for a platform that would easily allow students to plan hangouts without leaving one person to dictate the timing. They created Sociably to fulfill this need.

As Ovbiagele explains it, “The reason why we built the app is we know how frustrating it is to get your friends together in a short amount of time, so we decided we needed a disparate solution from what people are currently using, like group chats, sms, and Doodle. So we took the basics of all of those technologies and packed it into one lightweight design.”

As Vaidyanathan points out that “this app in many ways focuses on a problem that many students face. With everyone’s conflicting class schedules, it’s very hard to get in touch with everyone, get your plan going. I feel like this is primarily a student problem.”

The Sociably app allows users to create an event suggestion with a place, date, and time, and send the suggestion to all of the friends they want to invite. The date of the suggestion can only be set for either the day of or the day after the suggestion is being sent out.

“We want to keep it spontaneous, that’s the kind of behavior we want to promote. You don’t want people yammering in the group chat for two weeks before the meeting, it would remove the urgency of you getting the notification,” says Ovbiagele.

The app will also allow users to group people together and make lists of people with whom the users usually hang out most.

As they configure the app, users will have to log in with their Facebook accounts. The app makes use of this link to Facebook to discern a user’s close friends by searching the people with whom the user takes pictures most often. These close friends will automatically be ranked at the top of a user’s contact list, to make the invitation process easier.

Once a suggestion is sent out, recipients can suggest alternate times if the time suggested does not work for them. After alternate suggestions are sent out, all users invited to an event can up-vote or down-vote a suggested time.

The app is cross-platform and can be used with any Blackberry, ios, or Android smartphone. It also has a feature that allows users who don’t have a smartphone, or who don’t want to download the app, to receive suggestions and invites through sms. sms users can still make suggestions to change the time of an event by formatting their suggestion in a specific way.

Once the app is launched, the plan is to focus advertising mainly on the U of T campus. The creators have chosen to focus on U of T in particular because they want to use the student body to get feedback before seeking a wider release. Ovbiagele  and Vaidyanathan want to observe how students use Sociably and determine what they like and dislike about the app.

Students interested in a beta-version of the app should visit www.sociablyapp.com.

 

Discolure: Abby Vaidyanathan is a member of the Board of Directors of Varsity Publications. 

U of T hosts first tri-campus TEDx event

Speakers included Nobel Laureate, Dinosaur Comics creator

U of T hosts first tri-campus TEDx event

Karen Gomez is exhausted.  “It’s been non-stop TED” since February, when Karen and the other six members of the TEDx University of Toronto executive committee kicked into high gear, and at 7 pm on Saturday May 18, Karen finally stops to reflect: “I’m pretty proud, but it’s almost like a blur.” She had been at the George Ignatieff Theatre since the early hours of the morning, preparing for U of T’s first tri-campus TEDx event.

TEDx events are independently-organized events authorized by the larger TED organization to use the certain trademarks and branding, including the now-famous TED talk format. TED talks present one “idea worth spreading” in 20 minutes or less. The original TED talks are filmed live in front of an audience, and are then posted online and can seen by millions of people. TED speakers are expected to deliver an entertaining, captivating talk; the pressure is high. During Saturday’s event, a few speakers were spotted nervously combing through their lecture slides before their talks.  One speaker confessed that he wasn’t looking forward to the experience.

 

Impressive line-up of speakers drawn from U of T community    

The speakers’ list for TEDx UofT featured 13 of the university’s most famous and engaging professors.

Dr. John Polanyi, the 1986 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, spoke about the need for a changed policy on nuclear deterrence, warning that “the bombs one has, by inertia, tend to be used.”

In a talk entitled “Everything You Love,” Dr. Dan Dolderman made a passionate plea for environmental consciousness. He also promoted his “Unstoppable Snowball” project, which combines environmental activism and social networking.

Christos Marcopoulos, architect and member of the Responsive Architecture at Daniels (RAD) labs, asked, “What if the building blocks that create the space around us become computational?” He then answered his own question with a slideshow of technology developed at the RAD labs, including the IM Blankie — “the blanket with an IP address.”

Ryan North, the creator of Dinosaur Comics and the writer of the Eisner-nominated Adventure Time comic book, was the day’s final speaker. His talk, titled “A Time Traveller’s Primer: The Mistakes to Fix When You’re Fixing the Past,” is a humorous testament to the greatest technology ever devised by humanity: literacy.

 

Next year’s event to include student speakers

The event’s MCs ended the evening with a promise to make next year’s event “bigger and better.” The executive team is already brainstorming for next year, and wants to push next year’s talks forward into March, and there was some speculation that there might be two TEDx events. The executive team is also highly committed to featuring student speakers at next year’s conference.

In conversation with The Varsity, Gomez spoke about the ideal student speaker. “We are looking for leaders, absolutely. But honestly, I think TED boils down to a good idea… A lot of the great TEDx talks that I’ve seen — the best ones — are just simple ideas, and they capture the audience. So we’re looking for everything — we’re looking for a bit of academia, because there are a lot of PhD students out there that are doing some mind blowing research, but we’re also looking for undergraduate students who have an awesome story to tell.”

“The students at U of T are remarkably talented,” added Colleen Garrity, another member of the executive. “They have ideas worth sharing, and we want to share them with a larger audience.”

The talks from Saturday’s event will be posted online at a later date. Check back with The Varsity for more coverage of the speakers and talks of TEDxUofT 2013.

A three-in-one sustainability plan

New NPO educates, provides waste management services, and donates to the community

A three-in-one sustainability plan

As the public becomes more educated about environmental issues, an increasing number of people are making deliberate choices to minimize the pressure they put on the environment. From low-flow fixtures to organic foods to electric cars, there are multiple options available to individuals that allow them to reduce their environmental impact. Recycle for Change, a new not-for–profit organization, aims to make it easy for corporations and organizations to do the same, while continuing to support individual efforts.

Recycle for Change was founded by entrepreneur Ilia Shapenko, and is a waste management organization with environmental objectives.

“Our goal is to educate and inform the public about environmental issues, while providing our clients with customized solutions and educational programs for recycling, waste management, and sustainability,” says Shapenko.

“[We] partner with commercial offices, construction companies, universities, colleges, schools, and others, helping them with their waste management and recycling needs. In addition, we will be offering a unique sustainability program designed by sustainability and environmental professionals.

“Via this program we will provide workshops and presentations to employees, in order to raise awareness, decrease waste, and help them to operate in a sustainable manner.”

Shapenko, who immigrated to Canada in 2005, says that it was his interest in entrepreneurship that pushed him to create the organization in 2012 and his passion for the environment that led him to make Recycle for Change so green-minded.

“It was critical for me to found an organization which will make a positive impact and real changes in our community and society,” he says.

Recycle for Change is not only interested in environmental issues, however. The organization also hopes to create social change in the Toronto area according to Shapenko, a Ryerson graduate.

“The fees we collect from our services will be invested back into our community through donations made to established Canadian organizations such as SickKids Hospital, United Way, The Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, and animal welfare organizations.

“The waste management industry is known for … being traditional, old fashioned, and for being led by for-profit, large corporations that are operating for the purpose of maximizing revenues. Our approach is different, as through our services we are offering a channel for institutions, corporations, and individuals to donate funds and make both environmental and social change.“

Elaine Zlotkowski is the chief editor at Recycle for Change, and curates articles and web content that the organization creates to educate the public on environmental issues.

“I absolutely believe that Recycle for Change has the potential to make a difference in the community and environment,” says Zlotkowski. “[Our] programs will provide businesses and institutions with the educational tools that will help them to operate sustainably, and the environment will be far healthier for it. It’s really a win-win situation for the environment and the community.”

For editor and author Tamkin Naghshbandi, the opportunity to connect to the public was a key factor that led her to join the organization. “Recycle for Change initially sparked my interest when I learned that there was an opportunity to write and research environmental reports for the purpose of educating the public. These articles are posted on the website for readers to enjoy and use for the purpose of learning more about … how human activity impacts the natural ecosystem.”

The educational aspect of the organization is integral to achieving its mandate for environmental and social change.

“We have two main goals: change the perception of the environment and change the community,” explains Recycle for Change business development analyst Yana Shepelyova. “That’s a new approach, innovative, and it’s going to shake the industry and give it new breath. We are not only about performing high-quality services; we are also about educating people. Change starts in everyone’s mind.”

Shapenko hopes the organization will be up and running in the near future. “Our goal is to offer educational services and fully operate by the end of [the] year,” says Shapenko.

If all goes well for Shapenko, his organization will soon be creating the environmental and social change he has been working for. “By educating individuals about sustainability, recycling, and environmental issues, we can build a strong community, improve our’s and others’ lives, and live in a better world.”

A Bright Idea

World’s most energy-efficient bulb invented by U of T grads

A Bright Idea

Graduates of the University of Toronto have designed what they claim is “the world’s most efficient light bulb.” Gimmy Chu, Christian Yan, and Tom Rodinger met while working on U of T’s solar car team, and have reunited to develop the NanoLight, a new LED light bulb which they launched on January 7.

A traditional incandescent light bulb that gives off 1600 lumens (the unit used to measure the amount of visible light emitted) requires 100 W of power, but these incandescents are currently being phased out in favour of the more efficient compact fluorescent (CFL) light bulbs, which require only 24 W to give off the same amount of light. Newer to the lighting scene are LED lightbulbs, which need only 20 W, but none of these existing options can hold a candle to the NanoLight, which uses only 12 W to produce the standard measure of 1600 Lumens. The NanoLight LED light bulb also lasts four times longer than its CFL counterpart. The longevity and efficiency of the NanoLight will make it extremely attractive to consumers, and the bulb has aesthetic merits too: its unique multifaceted design has been likened by CNET to “an origami bulb of LEDs.” The unique design allows light to be broadcast in all directions, a feat that has traditionally been a challenge for LED lightbulbs.

DAN SELJAK/THE VARSITY

The NanoLight uses printed circuit board technology to give the bulb its structure, and to provide the necessary internal circuitry. This engineering innovation, combined with the most energy-efficient LEDs currently available and a special heat-dissipating outer coating, allowed the inventors to omit the heat sink normally required in LED bulbs. The NanoLight runs at a lower temperature than other light bulbs, so it can be used safely in enclosed fixtures and, unlike some CFL bulbs, it becomes fully bright as soon as it is turned on.

The NanoLight is not without its flaws, however. It suffers from a low Colour Rendering Index (CRI) — a measure of how closely the emitted light can reproduce colours of objects compared to a natural light source. One practical challenge listed on the company’s Kickstarter page is the mass production of NanoLight bulbs: the complex shape of the printed circuit board and the atypical mounting of the LEDs will make assembly by machine difficult, but the bulb’s inventors remain optimistic that they will overcome this challenge.

Kickstarter is a for-profit website that facilitates funding for creative projects like the NanoLight. The funding comes not from investors, but rather through “backers” who receive no equity or ownership of the projects they back. As the Kickstarter website puts it, “Backing a project is more than just giving someone money, it’s supporting their dream to create something that they want to see exist in the world.” The backers pledge towards the goal set by the project creators. The creators only receive money if they achieve their funding goal for the project within the time allotted. So far the NanoLight has received over $160,000 in pledges, greatly exceeding the goal of $20,000, with weeks left until the March 8 deadline.

To encourage pledges, the creators offer incentives including a 10 W NanoLight (75 W equivalent) in return for a $30 pledge, and a 12 W NanoLight (100 W equivalent) for a $45 pledge. As well as overwhelming support on Kickstarter, the NanoLight has also enjoyed substantial media attention; it has been featured on CTV News, tech website CNET, and the business section of the Toronto Star. In a recent CTV News interview, company strategist Chu indicated that the U of T alumni inventors have big plans. “Our focus isn’t just going to be on LED lighting but it’s also on solar technologies; we have some other products in the works and we’re hoping to be able to release it to you guys soon.”

In these energy-conscious times, any innovation that increases the efficiency with which people use energy is welcome, and potentially profitable.