Sci Station Canada

Friday, April 30, 2004

Canadan Arrow moving house

In other news on the Canadian entrants to the X-Prize, The Canadian Arrow Space Centre on Fanshawe Park Road East is looking for a new home. Their current facilities are being taken over by another London business success story, Hudson Boat Works, one of the world's top three racing-boat makers.

Arrow may end up moving out of London altogether.

"Everything is up in the air," said Geoff Sheerin, team leader of Canadian Arrow. "I need to find a new location and I may need to move out of London," he said. "I'm not sure the money we need to propel this project is in this community. So, just from a financial perspective, we may have to move."

Canadian Arrow has been offered financial incentives to move. Windsor and Sarnia have expressed interest .. the big prize for Arrow and London isn't the contest but a new industry -- space tourism. Sheerin said a study by a Texas consulting firm estimated an established space tourism industry would generate about $95 million US in business each year and upward of 650 local jobs. Globally, it's estimated space tourism will eventually become a multi-billion industry as the world's wealthy elite look for ways to have fun. And that's an industry the city doesn't want to lose, says Steve Glickman, director of business growth and retention for the London Economic Development Corp.

...The Canadian Arrow team successfully tested its 25,900-kilogram thrust engine for its rocket last month Canadian Arrow Engine Test is a Go!. It's expected to launch an unmanned flight off a barge in Lake Huron in the next few months, followed by a manned flight later in the year. The uncertainty of where the company will locate has delayed the space centre's plans to train astronauts. But work on the X Prize project continues. Sheerin said he remains confident the Arrow can meet the Jan. 1 deadline for the prize.

Slip of the tongue?

Peter Diamandis, chairman of the international X Prize competition is reported on as saying "“We do expect the X Prize to be captured within three to five months,” ...

So far, the leader appears to be SpaceShipOne, an entry led by aerospace engineer Burt Rutan and his company Scaled Composites. With a launch license already in hand, and several test flights under his belt, Rutan appears poised to snag the X Prize. But Diamandis added that other teams are also well on their way, including the Canadian Da Vinci team headed by Brian Feeney, which has secured a launch license in Canada.

Da Vinci have got a Launch licence? Back up a bit, fella, is that a slip of the tongue or what? The only two private organisations that I have heard of that have been issued Licences are SpaceShipOne and XCor (who are not connected with the X-Prize) Is the Da Vinci team more advanced in their bid for space than we have been led to believe?

Tuesday, April 27, 2004

Scientific Reporting in Journalism

I commented in a recent post to SFI-Canada that a report on Global Warming in Canada should be perhaps be taken with a grain of salt because it was journalism.

Research from the University of Alberta would seem to suggest otherwise. They found that only 11 per cent of newspaper articles based on studies in top-flight scientific journals contained "moderate to highly exaggerated claims." Another 26 per cent contained "slightly exaggerated" claims. And, even when those excesses occurred, the researchers found, journalists were not necessarily the source of the problem. Rather, scientists and the scientific journals that published research routinely hype their findings, and reporters make the mistake of parroting them..

The difference between popular journalism and scientific reporting is that it is one of the tenets of science in print - "Thou shalt always document thy sources!" The power of the news media to shape public opinion is self-evident and they should be accountable for their content. I always look for the tell-tale signs - has the author added his byline? Has he given his sources?

The oldest evidence of human impact on the marine environment?

John Smol of Queen's University in Ontario & Marianne Douglas from the University of Toronto have found that lakes near abandoned Thule whaling sites are often loaded with nutrients and contain many types of diatoms that are different from those found in other lakes.
Take for example the Thule people who abandoned Somerset Island about 400 years ago, probably due to a decline in bowhead whales. James Savelle of McGill University, the archaeologist on the team, estimated that the Thule people used up to 60 percent of each whale carcass."They used bones (for rafters and wall supports), blubber for heat and the meat as food," Smol said. "They were an ecologically efficient people."
Efficient certainly, but they still made an impact on their environment by the waste products they left behind. This must though be put into context: we are talking about microscopic evidence of their impact here, not the destruction of forests and waterways. If modern man can say that they have as little effect on the environment as the Thule people we can truly say we have walked softly.

Sick Kids

One thing I'll be doing is to draw attention to the work of organisations, companies and institutions in Canada in general but the South East in particular. Take for example The Hospital for Sick Children, which is affiliated with the University of Toronto, whose work was recently reported in the April 23, 2004 issue of the journal Science. In conjunction with the Yale University School of Medicine they have found that a compound in the spice turmeric corrects the cystic fibrosis defect in mice.

Cystic fibrosis (CF) is a genetic disease that affects approximately 30,000 Americans (70,000 worldwide) and causes the body to produce an abnormally thick, sticky mucus that accumulates in the lungs and digestive system. People with CF have difficulty absorbing nutrients from food and develop recurrent lung infections. These lung infections and the subsequent pulmonary damage are often fatal. The median age of survival for people with CF is in the early thirties...
The Hospital for Sick Children... is Canada's most research-intensive hospital and the largest centre dedicated to improving children's health in the country. Its mission is to provide the best in family-centred, compassionate care, to lead in scientific and clinical advancement, and to prepare the next generation of leaders in child health.


Welcome to Sci Station R14, the Science Officers Log of the USS Magellan, a Star Trek Fan Club centred on Quebec and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. My name's Alan but I also answer to the name Kirok of L'Stok - Okay, so I'm a Trekkie: so sue me! Better still we'll settle it with Bat'leths at dawn!

I like science in my fiction and a little fun in my science. I'll be giving you links to breaking science related news stories along with a bit of comment. Needless to say, this is my personal Log and any comments do not reflect those held by the USS Magellan or Starfleet International.