Sci Station Canada

Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Great Scientists, 16th C, The early Renaissance - Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 - 1519)

Leonardo Da Vinci, A Man of Both Worlds
ThinkQuest site by three high schoolers (in 1996) with material aimed at three levels: Novice, intermediate and advanced. Good concept with some seldom seen graphics, but thin on actual content

Leonardo, Scientist, Inventor, Artist
Based on an exhibition at the Museum of Science, Boston in 1996

Leonardo Da Vinci, Renaissance Man
Biographical material that shows how, as a Renaissance man, Leonardo was accomplished at a wide range of arts and sciences. Was this the reason that, for all his genius and many projects started, he rarely finished anything?.

Exploring Leonardo
Part of a motivating, interactive website, this section is aimed at late elementary school and encourages the user to get thinking themselves.

Leonardo, Portrait of a Dyslexic Genius
Not only does this author give intriguing evidence that Leonardo might have been Dyslexic but it states that his Helicopter drawing was made into a paper model!

Leonardo Da Vinci - University of St Andrews, Scotland
Excellent information focussing on Leonardo as a mathematician & scholar

Vinci, Leonardo's Home Town
Charming and useful site with many useful sections - The Leonardo Museum (models of his ideas), the Leonardo Library ...

Leonardo da Vinci's Adding Machine
A controversial replica built in 1968. Was it a machine for showing ratios or gears ... or was it a calculating machine? You be the judge.

ArtCyclopedia, Leonardo Da Vinci
Mainly links to Art Galleries that show examples of Leonardos work on the web but many useful biographical and background links

Leonardo Da Vinci, Web Museum, Paris
Critical analysis of his most influential paintings

Leonardo Da Vinci, (1452-1529)
Good biographical material

Google Web Directory: Arts>Art History>Artists>D>Da Vinci, Leonardo
Although biased towards his artistic life, this has many links to his scientific achievements.

Leonardo in Star Trek
Leonardo was Cpt Janeway's holgraphic companion, first seen on VOY Season 3 "Scorpion, Part 1" and featuring in VOY Season 4 Concerning Flight"

Episode summary of "Scorpion, Part 1"

Episode summary of "Concerning Flight"

"Phillips Star Trek Reviews
Some pointed criticisms of this episode although, like everyone, this reviewer is fascinated by the concept of Leonardo da Vinci on a starship!

"Sliding Away
Mostly about the exit of John Rhys Davis from the series "Sliders" but it also includes the actors thoughts on his appearance in this episode.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Alberta's Heavy Oil: The Trillion-Barrel Tar Pit

My colleague in Trek Science, Cyndi Jo has passed on yet another interesting lead. this month has an article entitled The Trillion-Barrel Tar Pit which extols the virtues of extracting the "Heavy Oil" beneath Alberta. It all sounds financially sound, especially as the industry is expecting technological breakthroughs that will make it's extraction even more economical.
I wonder at the lack of environmental monitoring, though. My google searches came up with little other than industry statements and university courses.
In fact the only Web Article I have found so far has been a rather dated piece on from Oct. 2002 that starts off "When Canada signs the Kyoto Protocol on climate change...". Well, we all know that that will never happen! The author's concern was that ...
"The problem is that it takes almost as much energy to produce tar sands as it generates. Indeed, it almost takes as much energy to mine, process, refine, and upgrade the bitumen oil out of tar sands as the oil-energy that would be produced from the tar sands."
"In the process much more carbon dioxide emissions are generated getting the tar sands oil out than would be the case with conventional oil. There are estimates that 5 to 10 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions come from processing tar sands as it does processing conventional oil."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting that one side or the other is right or wrong. It's just that I would feel a whole lot more comfortable with the industry if it had a strong, independant environmental watchdog watching it's every move. It keeps 'em honest.

Saturday, June 26, 2004

Kwaday Dan Ts'inchi - Long Ago Person Found

The British Herald newspaper for June 23 is running an article entitled "Frozen body to reveal old American mysteries" about the remains of a 700 year old body that was discovered preserved in ice in a glacier in August 1999. Considering the advances a similar "iceman" found in the Italian Alps in 1991 nicknamed Otzi, academics are hopeful that this messenger from the past will help them gain a clearer picture of the British Columbia area before "First Contact" with Eurasians in the form of Russian traders approximately 250 years ago.

For more see the website of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations and the B.C. Ministry of Sustainable Resource Management.

Another one from Cyndi Jo - Thanks!

Friday, June 25, 2004

Policies of Canadian political parties

Unfortunately in life politics cannot be avoided and on Monday, Canadians will go to the polls to elect a new government. The Mars Society of Canada has put together a website with the space policies of all the political parties that have responded, including so far ...

Liberal Party of Canada
New Democratic Party
Green Party of Canada
Bloc Quebecois

For your information so that you can make your vote count.

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

It wasn't as easy as it looked

In years to come they'll make a film of the X Prize and it will be as exciting as anything B & B have dreamed up! Universe Today ran the following based on a Scaled Composites News Release

A few hours after the historic flight of SpaceShipOne, pilot Mike Melvill and designer Burt Rutan revealed that the trip to space wasn't worry free. Far from it, in fact. A technical glitch in the early moments of the rocket burn caused Melvill to lose control, and SpaceShipOne rolled back and forth. He was forced to switch to a backup system to keep the spaceship from being destroyed. Training and backup systems carried the day, though, and Melvill was able to regain control of SpaceShipOne, and gain enough altitude to just barely reach 100 km (62.5 miles). At least one more test flight is planned to ensure this mistake is resolved before risking the pilot and spacecraft on an official X Prize attempt.

Just as with the pioneers of the air, The road to space will be paved by the daring, skilled and adventurous.

The birth of Space Tourism?

Did we see the birth of the Space tourist Industry on Monday with the Maiden spaceflight of SpaceShipOne? I'd bet money on it and I'm a tightwad of legendary proportions! The business analysts are weighing in already - The Space review ran a story last week entitled "How many winners?"
With more than 20 companies planning X Prize or similar vehicles, how many of them can actually be supported by the space tourism market? Sam Dinkin says that the magic number is most likely three.
... Space Adventures who were behind the tourist placements on the ISS has started taking bookings ...
Space Tourists Willing to Risk Their Lives
Summary - (Jun 21, 2004) Want to go to space? Well, you're not alone. More than 100 potential space tourists have put their money on the line, and have set aside a $10,000 deposit with Space Adventures so they can be one of the first to head up on a suborbital flight. The company recently did a survey with these clients to find out how much risk they'd be willing to take; 69% would be on the first flight of SpaceShipOne, regardless of the danger. The first flights on a suborbital spacecraft like SpaceShipOne are going to cost more than $100,000 initially, but prices should come down in the coming years.
... And what do the Canadian teams think? ...
"'I expect that by 2010 millions of people will have taken a flight into space,' Geoff Sheerin, team leader for Canadian Arrow - one of two Canadian teams vying for the prize - remarked to Asia Times Online." 'Most predictions of markets are either overly optimistic or pessimistic, I have never seen any experts in an industry get the future predictions correct.' Sheerin says that the market, though small, exists. 'Take for instance Mount Everest climbers; it costs $50,000 to get a license to climb it, not to mention all travel and logistical expenses, there is a five-year waiting list and a one-in-five chance that you won't make it back alive, and still there are over 200 attempts each year.' "
Feeney - ever the tease - is on-line as saying ...
"We're cheering him on," he said. "In fact, I will be down there for it. We're somewhere in the late summer time frame for an all-out manned flight into space. And knowing something of Burt's potential X Prize flights, we feel that we're actually extremely competitive against him on that."
In the Toronto Star, Sheerin is also quoted as saying ...
"I want to see people banging on Burt's door with cash in their fists, quite a bit of it, saying: `Can you take me next?'" said Sheerin, who plans to watch the flight live on television. What's good for one in this business, is good for all. Because it's profits that will inspire the industry. And that's the way to get the investment ... for people to see there's the potential for profit. If they see that, there will be people looking to invest in various sub-orbital tourist schemes."
..."Sheerin says that, in addition to rigorous technical safety analysis, engineers ask themselves a very basic question. What really drives the engineering team is: `Your mother's on board. Now how do you feel?'" he says. (The assumption, of course, is that the maternal bond is a good one.) ... Both Canadian teams, though they have dedicated sponsors, have yet to benefit from the Canadian version of Paul G. Allen, who invested a reported $20 to $25 million in Rutan's project. (If you happen to be such a person, Feeney or Sheerin would be delighted to hear from you.)
Feeney is even issuing a patriotic call for volunteers to help with his project. He's looking for people with special skills in composite materials like carbon fibre, along with skilled electricians, metal fabricators, welders and woodworkers. Good set builders from the film industry, he says, are welcome.
"It's a call to arms, in a way. It gives us a manpower fighting chance to beat the almighty (Burt Rutan) down south." If you're interested, show up next Saturday, June 26, at 60 Carl Hall Rd., Unit One, Downsview Park. Really.

Just like the aviation industry it will start off as the domain of the rich and famous - watch out for pop stars with astronauts wings - and eventually end up as another compenent of the Transport industry. The question is who will be the winners in the race to grab their section of this new industry? New Mexico? Saskatchewan? Woomera? [falls about laughing, thinking about the chances of that last one]
Yup, I've got my five dollars on it ... well I told you I was a tight wad!

Friday, June 18, 2004

Canadian firm to grab hubble and eyeball shuttle reports that MD Robotics of Canada, the makers of Canadarm, the Space Shuttle remote Manipulator, have been approached to "to work on a potential spaceflight mission to robotically service the Hubble Space Telescope ... a sole source Request for Proposal (RFP) to MD Robotics for the development of a robotic grapple arm and a double-armed dexterous robot ... to accomplish the hardware exchange ... to service the Hubble Space Telescope (HST), called the HST Robotic Servicing and De-orbit Mission (HRSDM)."

NASA is contemplating conducting either the HRSDM or a mission for disposal only of the orbiting telescope. If the HRSDM is approved, it must be accomplished before systems on Hubble fail and the observatory goes into a scientifically useless tumble mode.

The decision by NASA to link up with MD Robotics is being justified on several key factors. The Canadian firm has the only known system with the high level of maturity, NASA feels, needed to meet the critical schedule requirements for integration, test, training, and launch.

... In other related space work, MD Robotics recently got the NASA go-ahead to proceed with the development of an extension to the space shuttle's Canadarm to inspect the Shuttle's thermal protection system on-orbit. The Inspection Boom, almost as long as the Canadarm itself, will enable astronauts to survey the Shuttle's thermal protection system -- tiles and wing leading edge panels.

Now, no one more than me would like to see such a fantastic chance come the way of one of Canada's premier Space industry operators but for my money the CX Orbital Life Extension Vehicle is the best option for saving Hubble. Have a look at Dennis Wingo's Rebuttal to Comments by the Houston Chronicle and Robert Zubrin Regarding NASA's Hubble Repair Options Basically it gives details of the proposal for a Robotic mission (nice photo) to place Hubble close to the ISS so that it could be serviced by Shuttle missions that could use the ISS as a safe Haven.

Being Bilingual Could Protect Your Brain

Jun 14 2004 - courtesy of Cyndi Jo from SFI's own Science-Lab

MONDAY, June 14 (HealthDayNews) -- Being fluent in two languages could protect against age-related cognitive decline, says a study in the June issue of Psychology and Aging.
Researchers from York University in Toronto compared the results of 154 bilingual and monolingual middle-aged and older adults on the Simon Task, which measures reaction time and aspects of cognitive function that decline with age. All the bilingual people in the study had used two languages every day since the age of 10.
The study found that both older and younger bilingual people performed better than those who spoke just one language. Being bilingual offers widespread benefits across a range of complex cognitive tasks, the authors concluded.
More information
The U.S. National Institute on Aging has information about forgetfulness and aging.

Geriatric Bilingual Canadians rule! Oy!

Saturday, June 12, 2004

London Calling!

London, Ontario is well served by a wide range of Museums and Galleries that always have things going on as can be seen from the London Free Press: Today Section. For example the LONDON REGIONAL CHILDREN'S MUSEUM has "Science Sunday, the egg drop" and "High Diversity, the biodiversity in Canada" (till June 20) whilst, at the other end of the science experience spectrum, the CANADIAN MEDICAL HALL OF FAME has an interactive learning environment featuring a laureate portrait gallery, biographical sketches; The Brain and Mind, The Vital Flow and Mother and Child exhibits; interactive multimedia stations, stamp display ...

Don't wait for the day after tomorrow

If you are a fan of "The Day After Tomorrow", Saturdays National Post says that the Ontario Science Centre has a two-day presentation called "Disaster Flick Dos and Don'ts"

... explaining the science behind Hollywood disaster movies. An enhancement of the IMAX film Forces of Nature, the display also allows visitors to make the Earth quake, study tornadoes and more.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Taking the Longer View

The big news last week was that Burt Rutan and SpaceShip-One are planning their first sub-orbital crack at the 100Km high barrier On June 21st from the Mojave Civilian Aerospace Test Centre in California. How does that affect the other 26 teams, including two from Canada, competing for the Ansari X Prize? The global competition for $10 million (U.S.) is for the first team that can make two flights to the edge of space in a manned, reusable vehicle within two weeks with three people - or one and the equivalent ballast for the two passengers.

The two Canadian teams in the X Prize quest, the Toronto-based da Vinci Project and London's Canadian Arrow wish Rutan well.
"Of course we wish them the best of luck," said Brian Feeney of the da Vinci Project (who will hurtle into space in his Wild Fire rocket some time later this year after a launch in Kindersley, Sask.)
"If you want to wake up Bay Street and Wall Street, there's no better way than having one of us fly to 100 kilometres," said Geoff Sheerin, Canadian Arrow team leader. "So we're thrilled. In the end, we all want to win that prize. But the real prize is the industry. Burt (Rutan) will have people beating down his door, paying money to fly that vehicle ... We've been taught that space flight is very expensive. Really, all the X Prize vehicles are like the Cessna of spacecraft."

Feeney sounds pretty laid back about it ...

"The Wright Brothers may have been first in flight," said Brian Feeney ... told United Press International. "But you don't fly on Wright Brothers' aircraft -- you fly on Boeings and Airbuses."

Feeney also said he's not worried about the pressure from SpaceShipOne, which soared to 211,400 feet over the Mojave Desert on May 13.
"It could literally come down to the fastest turnaround time between (the required two) flights."

In fact he has taken this opportunity to "leak" his long range plans for the Canadian Space Tourist industry ...

if Brian Feeney has his way. The astronaut's company, Orva Space Corp., is considering offering sub-orbital flights from Saskatchewan on a regular basis as early as 2006. Although ticket prices could start at $100,000 US each, Feeney wants to drop the cost to $19,900 within five years.
"It's still expensive but is not the high end of extreme vacations," Feeney said. "You can go to Antarctica and the top of (Mount) Everest and to African safaris in the $30,000-$50,000 (cost) range," he said. The launch site is the airport in Kindersley, southwest of Saskatoon...

"The thing we're putting together is for people to spend five to seven days with us as part of an in-house training program and having both a lot of fun and a grand experience," he said. The space tourism craft itself will have room for the pilot and seven passengers.
"The ship will be unveiled late this year as the prototype and be flown for the first time around the end of next year," said Feeney.
"Our business plan is to do a limited number of flights in 2005 and determine what the costs are to us. Then we'll have a better idea (what to charge)...

"The whole point [of the X-Prize] is to open people's minds (to space travel) and to give them the realistic opportunity of being able to afford it," said Feeney, who hopes to capitalize on that market. "We've got a longer-term business plan to expand into the commercial sub-orbital business over the next 10 years. Where we're now developing the logistics to do two flights in two weeks (for the X Prize), we're going to try and do two flights every week (for the business), or at least once a week or every two weeks."

The seven-passenger rocket will launch from an aircraft thousands of feet in the air, rather than a balloon.
Feeney doesn't expect to find many passengers willing to pay the $100,000 fare but a few will help build the business by bringing in revenue. Accumulating capital will enable Feeney to lower the ticket price and attract more people until he can offer flights that are affordable and profitable.
"It's like owning an airline and flying your aircraft once a month. Your cost per seat-mile is going to be enormous until you begin to fly it every day with more passengers and more aircraft," he said. "We've got to do several flights to build that base."

He hasn't decided if the business will be based at Cape Kindersley but says he is leaning that way. Feeney hasn't made a final decision on space tourism, focusing instead on the X Prize for now. Most of the team's money has come from American sponsors and a few Canadian backers. Although businesses in this province have been asked, the response had been non-existent until recently. The team just signed three Saskatoon-based companies as sponsors: Kindersley Transport, Hinz Automation and Titan Crane.

The project [Da Vinci] is based in Toronto but has team members in Regina, Vancouver, Montreal and St. Petersburg, Russia. Those involved include rocket scientists and mission control experts from NASA.

Who was it said "History is made by men of vision"?