OTTAWA — Opposition parties are right to be suspicious of the Liberal government’s efforts to withhold details around the firing of two scientists from a high-security infectious disease lab earlier this year, according to one expert on Parliamentary accountability. For months, the head of the Public Health Agency of Canada has resisted calls to provide information to a Parliamentary committee around why the two Canadian scientists, Xiangguo Qiu and Keding Cheng, were fired in January. The committee’s latest efforts on Monday to view documents related to the firings have also been resisted by the government, who says it would breach the Privacy Act and jeopardize national security. Kathy Brock, professor at Queen’s University and an expert on issues of Parliamentary process and accountability, said the legal argument presented by the federal government could potentially be valid, but nonetheless appears to follow a trend of lacking transparency by the Trudeau government. The Liberals, she said, have refused to release documents related to everything from the SNC-Lavalin scandal, to calls for a partial disclosure of contracts signed with COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers, citing cabinet confidences and the need to protect commercial sensitivity, respectively. Government has also redacted documents tied to the WE Charity scandal as well as recent calls for more details around the procurement practices of Shared Services Canada.
Science & Technology
Fewer than 40 years after humans discovered Tiehm’s buckwheat, a Nevada plant with yellow flowers, they may drive it to extinction in pursuit of electric vehicles, a technology widely hailed as being environmentally friendly. Environmentalists say the benefits of Tiehm’s buckwheat could be vast, but its full significance is unknown. What’s certain, they say, is that guarding Tiehm’s buckwheat is important for preserving biodiversity on Earth. The flower is so newly discovered that it hasn’t been studied thoroughly, they say. But botanists say they’re impressed with Tiehm’s buckwheat’s ability to thrive where few species can — poor soil that’s full of boron and lithium. That lithium in Nevada, and elsewhere in the world, increasingly has the attention of businesses and governments. Ioneer, an Australian mining company, has said it’s ready to break ground on a lithium mine later this year on the land where Tiehm’s buckwheat grows. Under the barren soils lies 146.5 million metric tons of lithium and boron. The project has been valued at $1.265 billion.
April in the U.S. came out colder than normal (despite what NOAA say), which has extended the nation’s stark cooling trend observed over the past five years. And now, into the second week of May, the Arctic is still refusing to abate as it delivers record low temperatures and record mid-spring snow to many states. A fresh round of unseasonable polar chills is plunging southward as I type… The MSM is blaming this rare phenomenon on blocking in Greenland, which, although true, isn’t the full story. CBS News writes: “You may have noticed that cool temperatures have been slow to lessen their grip this spring. That’s because there is an atmospheric condition that meteorologists call a blocking pattern near Greenland. This is when a ridge of high pressure — you can think of it as a mountain of warm air in the atmosphere — gets stuck over the Polar regions of eastern Canada and the North Atlantic. The result is cold pockets of air that would normally be way up north get pushed out and displaced south across the northern U.S. This stubborn pattern has been around since the beginning of April. In fact, we can trace this pattern all the way back into winter when Texas and the Central U.S. suffered with historic cold. In climate, these blocky patterns are sometimes tough to break down, especially when they are as robust as what we saw this past winter.” Research shows “blocking persistence” increases when solar activity is low, and that this blocking can lead to weather patterns becoming locked in-place at high and intermediate latitudes for prolonged periods of time. During a Solar Minimum — such as the one we’re still struggling to escape from now (of SC24) — the jet stream’s usual Zonal Flow (a west–east direction) reverts to more of a Meridional Flow (a north-south direction). This pattern exaggerated further during a Grand Solar Minimum, and explains why regions become unseasonably hot or cold and others unusually dry or rainy for extended periods of time.
More vaccines could make the world safer, but non-Western vaccine makers face mistrust. Countries such as China, Russia, India and Cuba are developing and distributing their own COVID-19 vaccines, marking a biotechnology milestone for many of them. Here’s a closer look at how they’re doing it and what that means for the world, including Western countries such as Canada.
Using lasers to create the displays of science fiction, inspired by Star Wars and Star Trek. They may be tiny weapons, but BYU’s holography research group has figured out how to create lightsabers — green for Yoda and red for Darth Vader, naturally — with actual luminous beams rising from them. Inspired by the displays of science fiction, the researchers have also engineered battles between equally small versions of the Starship Enterprise and a Klingon Battle Cruiser that incorporate photon torpedoes launching and striking the enemy vessel that you can see with the naked eye. “What you’re seeing in the scenes we create is real; there is nothing computer generated about them,” said lead researcher Dan Smalley, a professor of electrical engineering at BYU. “This is not like the movies, where the lightsabers or the photon torpedoes never really existed in physical space. These are real, and if you look at them from any angle, you will see them existing in that space.” It’s the latest work from Smalley and his team of researchers who garnered national and international attention three years ago when they figured out how to draw screenless, free-floating objects in space.
In the desert just north of Las Vegas, a long white metal tube sits at the base of the mountains, promising to one day revolutionize travel. That is where Virgin Hyperloop, whose partners include Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is developing the technology for passenger pods that will hurtle at speeds of up to 750 miles an hour through almost air-free vacuum tunnels using magnetic levitation. “It will feel like an aircraft at take-off and once you’re at speed,” said co-founder and Chief Executive Josh Giegel, who gave Reuters an exclusive tour of the pod used in its November test run, where it was propelled along a 500 meter (1,640 ft)tunnel. “You won’t even have turbulence because our system is basically completely able to react to all that turbulence. Think noise-canceling but bump-canceling, if you will.” Off-white materials and a back mirror make the pod seem bigger and more “inviting” for new users, Giegel said. “This pod was really the embodiment of ‘How do we take something that’s an idea and make it into something that’s a reality for us to sit in?’ Giegel said. The pods will seat 28 passengers and could be customized for long and short distances and for freight.