Space stations

  Having recently written about the Human Genome Initiative and the Superconducting Super Collider, it behooves me to write about the third “big science” project now in the works, Space Station Freedom. There was some question last year whether Space Station Freedom would ever be built–the U.S. Congress was considering dropping it from the budget. …

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The Saskatchewan Science Centre

Our world is largely shaped by science and technology. (Consider television!) The pace of such science-driven change is astonishing–and accelerating. Today’s young people will face a world we can barely imagine, and to do so successfully, they must be comfortable with and knowledgeable about science and technology. But are they? Comfortable, maybe, but knowledgeable? Hardly. …

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Golf

‘Tis the season to chase little white balls over big green spaces, and to contemplate, while combing through waist-high grass, the history and science behind your endeavours. The Romans played a game called “paganica,” chasing a feather-stuffed ball around the countryside with a bent stick, but the Scots usually get the credit (or blame) for …

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Superconductivity

  You’ve probably heard of “The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.” Well, now there’s something else that’s coming in from the cold: superconductivity. Superconductivity is not something that orchestra directors aspire to; it refers to a discovery made 80 years ago at the University of Leiden (Holland) by Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, who was …

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Exercise

I hate exercise. It’s uncomfortable, sweaty, and cuts into quality TV time. Unfortunately, it’s good for you. Exercise is physical exertion for the purpose of improving physical fitness. (If it’s for any other purpose, we call it “hard work.”) Modern fitness programs got their start in Prussia in the 1800s (which should tell you something). …

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Auroras and meteors

If you’re in the habit of looking up at the night sky, there’s a good chance you’ve seen two very interesting sights: northern lights and falling stars. The proper name for the northern lights is “aurora borealis.” Aurora was the Roman goddess of the dawn, their version of the Greek goddess Eos; borealis basically means …

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The Human Genome Project

I’ve written before about the genetic code and how it writes a description of each of us using an alphabet of only four letters: the four bases that are contained in deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), adenine (A), guanine (G), cytosine (C) and thymine (T). Every organism has different proportions of these four bases. Two strands of …

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Stars

  Twinkle, twinkle, little star, How I wonder what you are . . . Stars have always fascinated humans.  At the dawn of history, and probably even before, wise men watched the stars and learned to read them as markers of the turning of the seasons.  They attributed magical powers to the stars (a belief …

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Flight

In this age of 747s and Concordes and supersonic jet fighters, it’s sometimes hard to realize that airplanes have existed for less than a century. Even manned gliders, which came before powered airplanes, have only been around for slightly over a hundred years. In fact, 1991 was the 100th anniversary of the first glider flight …

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Lucifer’s Hammer: the asteroid threat

Haven’t had anything to worry about for a while? Here, let me fix that… Sometime around the end of the ’70s I read a book called Lucifer’s Hammer, by Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven. It was a good book (a bestseller, in fact), but out of all its memorable scenes the one I remember best is …

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Green technology

There is a tendency for people to see “technology” and “environment” as mutually exclusive terms. Technology is sometimes portrayed as the cause of the world’s environmental problems, and the abandonment of technology as the cure. Well, it might be true that the world’s overall environment would be in better shape if we’d all stuck to …

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Rise of the cyberbooks

Don’t look now, but here come the cyberbooks. No, cyberbooks aren’t the villains in an episode of Dr. Who, but it’s true their arrival may well signal a kind of revolution–and the first shot in that revolution has already been fired in (where else?) Japan, in the form of a new high-tech gadget called the Data …

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