Weekly Reckoning: Stay Inside Or Freeze Your Eyeballs Edition

weekly-reckoningYes, it’s cold. This is not news. It’s an ongoing and eternal condition. This lousy weather trumps your verb tenses and freezes all time into an unchanging lattice of stilled space-time. But in the meantime, there’s the Internet.

1. SOME SORT OF SELF-SERVING MEDIA CELEBRATION IS GOING ON That’s right! It’s Oscar night! Celebrities are putting on their Oscar hats, having their teeth fitted with Oscar grills and wearing the skins of past Oscar winners. You can watch it on TV, but I prefer the snark-laden live blog on Deadline Hollywood, which usually collapses in a heap of disgust before the night is over. Unlike previous years, Nikki Finke won’t be providing the commentary, so it may be a little more measured. If schadenfreude’s your thing, check out The Razzie Awards and find out who took home a Golden Raspberry.

2. NO CANADIAN BOOTS ON THE GROUND FOR UKRAINE John Baird, who isn’t winning any awards for being our cuddliest politician, ruled out military intervention in Ukraine, even though he’s not afraid to make noise about possible diplomatic sanctions.

3. IT’S LIKE HERDING ONE-EYED CATS Before R&B music was absorbed by the musical establishment like delicious sauce being swiped up by a big bland white towel, it could get pretty filthy. Here is a guide to the salacious, smutty and downright obscene music of early R&B.

4. LASER-POWERED MIND CONTROL Scientists. Using lasers. To make a fly copulate with a ball of wax. SCIENCE.

5. FAITH-BASED SEX LAWS DOING AN END-RUN AROUND JUSTICE In Phoenix, prostitutes have been subject to mass detainment without a formal arrest or access to a lawyer. Instead of jail, they’re taken to… a church. Where they’re lectured on the evil of their ways in a “diversion program,” the alternative to which is jail time. Read this piece and weep (warning: really obnoxious and pervy American Apparel ad running on the page).

Pick Of The Day: Science Rendezvous

Given all the anti-science shenanigans that have been going on lately, with the federal government in particular seemingly determined to squelch any and all studies and scientific findings that clash with its agenda to exploit the country’s natural resources to the max, this is probably a more controversial event to consider attending than it should be.

But for people who are interested in science, it’s a great way to get up to speed on what sort of research is going on at the University of Regina. You can find out more details here, but the basics are as follows: it’s family-focused, it goes today from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., and most of the activities will occur on the main floor of the Research and Innovation Centre at the university.

Happy Day Of Reason: The Moon Landing Could Not Have Been Faked

It may not be the National Day of Reason in Canada, but it’s still reasonable to celebrate the cerebrum and all the excellent things it’s capable of, from telling me when I’m hungry to… well, that’s about it for me. In keeping with Paul’s post that debunked the afterlife (depressing, because I need a place to put my stuff and I’m too cheap for a self-storage unit), here’s my hero SG Collins explaining why 1969 could not possibly have been faked. Note that he’s not claiming that we landed on the moon in 1969 – just that we didn’t have the technology to fake the footage back then. Really! It turns out that we could put a man on the moon, but we couldn’t fake an hour of guys jumping around the lunar surface.

I’ll leave you to ponder that one.

Pick of the Day (Tomorrow Edition): Lunarchy!

Thought I’d give you a heads up about this 2012 Canadian documentary by Simon Ennis as it’s only screening at the RPL Theatre on Thursday at 9 p.m. and Friday at 7 p.m.

At the start, Ennis and co-producer Jonas Bell Pasht intended to make a relatively straightforward documentary about the various ways that the moon has captured humanity’s imagination throughout recorded history. But as they delved into the subject they discovered a thriving subculture of people with a fascination for all things lunar — including one man who through a loophole he discovered in the 1967 U.N. Outer Space Treaty claims to own the moon.

I went looking for a trailer on YouTube but couldn’t find one so here’s the video for Bjork’s 2011 tune “Moon”:

Saskatoon-Based Scientist Muzzled By Harper Government In HUGE Shocker

I’m surprised, personally. The Harper Government doesn’t like its paid scientists to disclose their research without a crash course in anti-environmentalist spin? This is all news to me:

Waiser wrote two scientific papers for Environment Canada that were published in 2011 that looked at chemical pollutants (such as phosporus and ammonia) and pharmaceuticals (such as trace antibiotics) in Wascana Creek.

Both kinds of pollution were found downstream of the Regina sewage treatment plant west of the city.

Waiser says when CBC contacted her to talk about the research, Environment Canada higher-ups lowered the boom.

“One of the first things they said after reading the two papers on Wascana Creek is that they didn’t want to upset the City of Regina,” she said.

Man, that last bit stings, doesn’t it. Though I guess it stings more if you’re a non-scientist spokesperson or “media guru” or whatever job title at Environment Canada in 2013 means it’s your job to make sure that nobody talks to the press unless they reinforce the Harper Government voter base’s beliefs that absolutely nothing has changed in the environment in the past sixty years and that human culpability in environmental issues is basically nil. Because look how snippy this guy or gal got:

Environment Canada declined a recorded interview, but in an email, a spokesperson said the department won’t comment on “hearsay.”

Zing. Is it “hearsay” when the source on this story about a government scientist being muzzled over her work is the government scientist who did the work? Is it hearsay when it’s part of a larger pattern previously addressed by international scientific journals? I guess it’s difficult to say. At least the Harper Government can take some solace in the fact that there’s no way to gain how much traction this “hearsay” actually has.

harper muzzle

Yep, no way at all. The full interview with Marley Waiser is here. Big ups to CBC Sask for digging up and running this story.

Big Day In Particle Physics!

Higgs-eventI won’t pretend to understand all the nuances of the discovery that was announced today by scientists working at the Large Hadron Collider near the French-Swiss border. The LHC is a particle accelerator that allows scientists to smash small bits of matter into each other at huge speeds and see what sub-atomic particles pop loose that they can detect.

Today, LHC scientists confirmed the existence of the Higgs Bosun (depiction at left). First theorized to exist in 1964, but previously never observed, the particle has now been confirmed to exist. It had been a missing piece in the puzzle of the Standard Model of Physics that we’ve thus far developed to explain how matter, energy and time interact with each other to form what we perceive as reality.

Through some sort of mechanism the Higgs Bosun imparts mass to other particles. And from mass you get gravity, energy and other physical processes that operate on everything from the subatomic to the intergalactic level.

Read more on the momentous discovery in this CBC report.

The Greatest Thing To Happen To The Twitterverse Since #TellVicEverything

On March 7, Stephen Harper asked the Twitterverse to supply him with questions when he talks with Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who’s currently commanding the International Space Station.

It’s not going well.

Here’s some of my favourites …

“Do you agree that all science is a hoax unless it furthers the projects of Big Oil?”

“Anything to say before I slash your funding?”

“Why do you hate science so much, Stephen? Were you bullied by nerds?”

“From space, can you tell where Senator Mike Duffy lives?”

“The next time you fly over Venezuela, Harper wants you to give it the finger.”

“Who’s the evil guy with bad grey hair: Harper or KHHHAAAAAAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN?

“What do you think about the Minister of Science in Canada being a creationist who doesn’t even have a university degree?”

 

Food for Thought

While I was chowing down on breakfast this morning (a half-and-half bowl of Cheerios and Raisin Bran with 2% milk, a piece of 100 % whole wheat toast with peanut butter and a watered down glass of orange juice) I heard an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current that Anna Maria Tremonti did with American author Michael Moss, who recently published a book titled Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us.

During my repast, I didn’t at any point pick up a salt shaker or sugar spoon. Got to eat healthy, right? But if you were to actually measure the amount of sugar and salt I’d ingested… even though my food choices were relatively healthy compared to most items on the processed food continuum, you’d be surprised.

Here’s a link to Tremonti’s interview with Moss. What it boils down to is that for all sorts of reasons, from shelf-life to taste, texture and marketability, the giant food companies that control huge chunks of the global food supply routinely add significant amounts of salt, sugar and saturated fat to their products.

People don’t do themselves any favours with some of their food and beverage choices, obviously. But even if you try to eat and drink healthy you end up consuming more of the above substances than you need for good nutrition. Others factors, especially our sedentary lifestyle, factor into it. But poor diet is a major contributor to a host of health problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease and dementia that are reaching epidemic proportions in our society.

The impact it’s having on health care costs is huge. With an aging population, some of that increase is inevitable. But this year the provincial allocation for health is probably going to reach $5 billion. And in a roughly $11 billion budget that’s a shitload pile of money. And Moss argues in his book that we have to find ways to get food processors to improve the health quality of their products by reducing the salt, sugar and saturated fat content.

To close, here’s a video by Rollin’ Wild that’s attracted a fair bit of attention on YouTube lately titled What If Wild Animals Ate Fast Food:

Artifact Or Artifiction

No pick of the day today. Instead, here’s a heads up about a fun event that’s happening at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum on March 7. It’s called Artifact or Artifiction and its a fundraiser for the museum that’s billed as a game of deduction, deception and discovery.

You can learn more by visiting the RSM website, but what it involves is the museum presenting 20 specimens from its permanent collection. Museum staff will be on hand to provide insight into the origin of each specimen, and it will be the job of the players to determine if the staff are telling the truth or if they’re feeding you a load of dinosaur poop.

In addition to the game there will be refreshments and live music by the alt-country band The Rusty Augers. The fun gets going at 7 p.m. on Thursday. Tickets are $50 and can be obtained by contacting the RSM at 757-5951.

To close, here’s video from last summer of the Augers playing a tune called “Bluegrass Breakdown”:

Life Is Full Of Unsolved Mysteries

I’ll probably edit next issue’s Bonus Column (“Because you can never have too many columns!”) today. This one’s got kind of a paranormal TV show feel so I Googled some videos to get in the mood, and I found this excellent thing. Highlight: “Perhaps the answer will come someday soon when the skies open up over another small community and the blobs once again fall to earth.”

Enjoy!

Nuclear Industry Still Courting Saskatchewan As A Waste Dump

Three or so years ago I attended an open house at the Delta Hotel that was being hosted by the Nuclear Waste Management Organization to promote the idea of Saskatchewan becoming a storage ground for spent nuclear waste. The project was semi-touted as being an economic windfall for all the jobs that would be involved in the construction and maintenance of the facility — which would be located deep underground in the bedrock of the Canadian Shield.

Around the same time the Wall government was exploring the idea (through the Perrins Commission) of building a nuclear reactor in the province for energy generation and the production of medical isotopes. That idea wasn’t well received by provincial residents, and the government eventually abandoned it. The government hasn’t categorically ruled out the possibility of giving the go-ahead to a waste storage facility, but it hasn’t been actively pushing the idea either.

Now the NWMO is back in the news. According to this CBC report it’s provided the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations with $1 million to hold a series of public meetings to gauge the interest of northern First Nations in hosting such a facility. There was a meeting in Saskatoon last night, and another is scheduled for Prince Albert tonight.

There is a sovereignty card that can be played, I suppose, where a First Nations community could argue that it has the right to do what it wishes on its territory and that it’s entitled to take steps to improve its economic fortunes by agreeing to host a waste dump. Others argue that the storage of nuclear material that remains toxic for a million years is an issue that concerns everyone in the province and it can’t be reduced to a simple argument over territorial sovereignty.

Then there’s the added reality that, to reach the facility, the waste material would have to be transported either by truck or rail through heavily populated areas of Saskatchewan. Waste from central Canada would surely be stored at the facility, which would impact on people living in Ontario and Manitoba too. And down the road, who knows where waste might be shipped from — the United States, Europe, Asia. So, really, pretty much every Canadian has a stake in this discussion.

To close, here’s a 20-minute documentary that Regina filmmaker Myek O’Shea and others put together examining the activities of the NWMO in Saskatchewan:

Pick Of The Day: Da Vinci

As in Leonardo. The Italian Renaissance scientist, artist, inventor and thinker who nearly 500 years after his death in France at age 67 in 1519 stills exists in the Western mind as the quintessential example of a Renaissance Man.

Until April 28, the Saskatchewan Science Centre is hosting a touring exhibit organized by museums in Italy and France that features interactive models of some of his most famous inventions including the car, bicycle, helicopter, tank and submarine. There are also reproductions of some of his paintings, anatomical drawings and codices — including a high-definition version of The Last Supper.

Special admission prices are in effect for this show. To find out what they are, or learn more visit the SSC website.  And to play us out, here’s The Pretty Reckless’ Last Supper inspired video for their 2010 song “Miss Nothing”:

Messenger Completes Map Of Mercury

For the last two years the NASA spacecraft Messenger has been orbiting the planet Mercury. Of the eight planets in the solar system, it’s the closest to the Sun. Lacking much in the way of an atmosphere, it experiences unreal temperature differentials that range between minus 200 C during night time to 450 C during the day. As the planet rotates slowly in its orbit, the entire surface experiences this temperature fluctuation every few months or so, which makes for interesting climate conditions on the planet. Only at the poles is there never any direct sunlight, and water ice has been found there.

The other day NASA scientists released a colour enhanced image of the planet (that’s a shot of it above) where the different colours represent different geological formations. Similar in size to the Moon, Mercury apparently has a relatively large iron core for its size. It also has large surface deposits of sulphur and  potassium. You can read more in this report from The Independent.

Meteor Appears In Sky Over Russia

The other day I posted on an asteroid that is scheduled to pass extremely close to Earth today. There’s no danger of the asteroid, which is said to be half the size of a football field, striking us during this approach. But earlier today in the Ural region Russians were witness to a meteorite unrelated to the asteroid that roared overhead, brightening the early morning sky and breaking the sound barrier, causing windows in buildings to shatter and injuring approximately 400 Russians. You can see some video footage from car cams which are apparently pretty common in Russia in this news report.

Asteroid To Skim Past Earth Feb. 15

Bill Nye the Science Guy is in the news again. As CEO of the Planetary Society, he issued a press release the other day noting that on Feb. 15 Asteroid 2012 DA14 will pass within 17,000 miles of Earth. The asteroid was discovered last February, and during its approach astronomers will study it to learn more about its composition and orbit.

While this qualifies as a close call (the asteroid will pass nearer to Earth than some of our communication satellites, and if it were to impact it would cause destruction equivalent to 100 nuclear bombs) Nye warns in his release that “It is not a matter of whether there will be a dangerous impact, it is a matter of when.”

During a CNN interview on the subject, anchor Deb Feyerick screwed up when she asked Nye if there was any link between the asteroid and global warming. Uh… no. But after a momentary stumble Nye recovers and explains the science behind the 100,000 near-Earth objects that have been detected thus far and the danger they pose. Here’s the clip:

The End Of Time

I dithered on whether to do a post on this or not. On one hand, this Canada/Swiss co-pro, a documentary by Peter Mettler, is on a really interesting and profound subject. But as far as reviews go, they’ve been pretty lukewarm.

In his film, Mettler visits a number of locations to offer visual essays on various ways that we perceive time. Some of the essays rock, apparently, but others tend to drag.

So with that caveat in mind The End of Time (which may or may not be named after a two-part Dr. Who episode that aired in 2009) screens at the RPL Film Theatre Feb. 7 and 9 at 9 p.m. and Feb. 8 and 10 at 7 p.m. Here’s the trailer:

More Star Stuff

If you check the post below this you’ll see that Prairie Dog film reviewer Jorge Ignacio Castillo has started a series of columns handicapping all the key contests in the upcoming Academy Awards.

Here’s a star story of another sort. If you check this CBC report you’ll learn that construction has started on a new $11 million radio telescope at the Dominion Radio Astrophysical Facility near Penticton, B.C. Using components adapted from cellphones (specifically 2560 low-noise receivers spread out over a sizeable area), the telescope will gather cosmic radio waves from the northern half of the sky as seen from Earth and use the data to create a giant 3-D map of one-quarter of the observable universe.

Through the detection of Doppler shifts in light waves and other types of cosmic radiation, astronomers know that the universe is expanding, with millions of galaxies like the Milky Way (pictured above) moving away from each other at a rapid pace. Because some of the radio waves that the telescope will receive have been travelling for billions of years, the map that’s ultimately built will enable scientists to look back in time and discover what conditions looked like around the time of the universe’s creation which is currently calculated at 13.7 billion years ago.

Potpourri

It’s a slow day in Regina so here’s a heads up on three events that are happening in the city in the next week or so. For simplicity’s sake I’m listing them in chronological order.

On Friday, Jan. 18 the Regina & District Chamber of Commerce is installing its 2013 chair. This year, it’s Gord Archibald who is head of the Association of Regina Realtors. I don’t know the man personally, but I have read a number of columns that he’s written in the Saturday Homes  section that the Leader-Post runs. Along with his co-columnist Alan Thomarat of the Canadian Homebuilders Association (Saskatchewan branch), Archibald is a bit of a tout for a business as usual approach to urban planning in Regina which privileges low-density, car-dependent development on the city’s outskirts over more sustainable growth initiatives. The dinner’s at Conexus Arts Centre at 6:30 p.m. For more information call 757-4658.

No offense to the other two events in this post, but if I was to pick one to attend it would be this one. Gut Ecology is the title, and it goes Jan. 21 at the RPL Theatre at Central Library at 7 p.m. As a society, we strive to lead antiseptic lives. We deploy all sorts of anti-bacterial and sanitizing products, but in actual fact over the eons of our existence on this planet we’ve developed symbiotic relationships with numerous types of bacteria that inhabit different areas of our bodies. This presentation, as the title implies, focuses on intestinal bacteria (like those pictured above) and the health benefits they provide. To register call 777-6120.

Speaking of bacteria… no, that’s a cheap shot. I gotta remember that I’m one of the moderates on Dog Blog and need to stick to the high road. And besides, the cause is somewhat worthy. Although it’s not like it’s a true charitable event. But on Jan. 24, the Canadian Association of Family Enterprises is hosting a dinner at Queensbury Convention Centre. CAFE is an advocacy group that family-run businesses can join to gain access to resources to help meet the challenges of surviving in an increasingly global and predatory world.

Truly, it’s like the ongoing battle that occurs everyday in our guts where bacteria native to that region join forces with our immune system to help repel invaders intent on executing a hostile takeover. And to extend the analogy even further, the guest-speaker at the CAFE gala is CBC’s resident venture capitalist and all-round market fundamentalist Kevin O’Leary. The gala runs from 5:30-9:30 p.m., and more information can be had by phoning 1-866-578-0978.

After this post was written we did receive word of an event that is happening in town tonight. You’ll find more info after the jump:

Continue reading “Potpourri”

Finally Some Quality Film Of A Live, Huge-Ass Giant Squid

It has come to my attention that Japanese heroes have actual film of an awesome, live giant squid swimming around being huge and amazing. From Phys.Org:

 Scientists and broadcasters said Monday they have captured footage of an elusive giant squid roaming the depths of the Pacific Ocean, showing it in its natural habitat for the first time ever. Japan’s National Science Museum succeeded in filming the deep-sea creature at a depth of more than half a kilometre (a third of a mile) after teaming up with Japanese public broadcaster NHK and the US Discovery Channel. The massive invertebrate is the stuff of legend, with sightings of a huge ocean-dwelling beast reported by sailors for centuries. The creature is thought to be the genesis of the Nordic legend of Kraken, a sea monster believed to have attacked ships in waters off Scandinavia over the last millennium.

Okay then. And there’s photos.

 

Look for Monster Squid on Discovery Channel on Sunday, Jan. 27 at 7:00. And now please excuse me while

SQUEEEEEEEAAAAAL

omg omg omg omg omg omg omg

SO EXCITED!!!!!!!

Alas, Jezebel’s Lindy West, whose article alerted me to this tentacled awesomeness, does not share my squee.

Hadfield Tweets Photos From Space

We posted on Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield preparing to launch into space aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft in early December. Weather conditions at the Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan were frigid, but the launch went off without a hitch. Hadfield is now aboard the International Space Station (pictured), where he is scheduled to take over as commander in March.

To commemorate New Year’s Day he delivered greetings to Canadians from space in both English and French, and tweeted pictures of different bits of Canada taken during one of the ISS’s passes over the country. Saskatchewan isn’t represented. But he’s got shots of Calgary, Toronto, Quebec City, Lake Winnipeg, the Rockies and more.

To read about his greeting and see the images visit CBC.