Monday, 10 February 2020


     In today’s troubled and dangerous world we need to pause to appreciate and support widespread world co-operation. How gratifying to see so many research groups freely sharing their findings, implying humanity is one. Far too many for one blog, so let us start with Canada’s 37,610,646 people - 0.48% of the world total.
     Back in 1972 Canada and Russia faced off in the world’s hockey summit. Vladislav Tretyak, the famed Russian goalie who propelled his team to one goal shy of a tie and is now a member of the Duma, and is co-chair of the Canada-Russia Parliamentary Friendship Group. His partnerships in Canada and the USA are many and valuable.
      The largest Canadian science outlet, The Canadian Science Publishing, produces annually some 2,300 research articles in 24 journals distributed to 125 countries.
     In 2013 a study ranked Canada 4th after the USA, UK. and Germany in science research but a laggard in exploiting its achievements. Since 2016 the Canadian government has invested $10 billion in assisting science research, yet in 2018 it slipped to 7th place mainly by being outspent. The rise in university science students from the USA and Europe due to the anti-science stance of the Trump administration and Bexit will take years to make an impact. But, progress is well underway, yet still inadequate to defeat climate change:
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics: We do need to take notice and admire the amazing leap from embryo to a science research powerhouse in 20 years. Perimeter Institute (PI) was founded in 1999 in Waterloo, Ontario, with a $100 million grant by Mike Lazaridis, founder of Research in Motion that made the Blackberry wireless handheld devices. In 2005 the province of Ontario’s Ministry of Research and Innovation initiated a $50 million commitment, then in 2008 Lazaridis added $50 million.
PI’s mission is to do pure physics research with few restraints in buildings designed by physicists for physicists. Research areas include: Condensed Matter, Cosmology, Mathematical Physics, Particle Physics, Quantum Fields, Strings, Quantum Foundations, Quantum Gravity, Quantum Information, and Strong Gravity.
Directors: The first director, Howard Burton, 1999-2007, initiated a popular monthly public lecture series, an international summer school, a teachers’ workshop, and numerous student and teacher seminars. After leaving PI he created Ideas Roadshow.
     To replace him, Lazaridis lured a high profile Cambridge professor, Neil Turok, director of their Centre for Theoretical Cosmology. In 2003 he founded The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences that has spread from South Africa to Senegal, Cameroon, Ghana, Tanzania, and Rwanda.
Stephan Hawking and Turok were friends who worked together. Excited at the promise of PI, Hawking endorsed Turok’s move. He visited PI twice, was joyfully involved, and gave his name to a new building, The Stephen Hawking Centre. Hawking and Turok believed that the universe cries out for simple, principled explanations and that PI was the ideal setting to pursue answers.
Turok led PI to become a research powerhouse in physics with over 150 resident researchers and 1,000 visiting scholars. In June 2018 he was appointed to The Order of Canada. He resigned the directorship in February 2018 to concentrate on research at PI.
     A worldwide search for a successor chose Robert Myers, a Canadian already a PI researcher who was world renowned for his work on Black Holes, String Theory, and Quantum Entanglements. Myers argues it is vitally important that we do daring research into uncharted places., such as:
The PI Quantum Intelligence Lab (PIQuIL) (pronounced pickle) integrates academic and industry research while focusing on pure science. They use Artificial Intelligence to help design the next generation of quantum materials and computers.
Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) In 2007 astronomers found a faint pulse from a distant galaxy that emitted more energy in milliseconds as our Sun does in 80 years. The hunt for more Fast Radio Bursts (FRB) detected 25 in 10 years. The new Chime, located in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia with some 50 scientists from PI, the Universities of British Columbia, Toronto, and McGill, and the National Research Council became involved in 2017. Chime has 4 fixed half cylinder wide-angle telescopes that sweep the skies as the earth turns. They collect daily a million gigabytes of data, far too much to save to disk. Researcher Kevin Smith’s team developed algorithms that ran a hundred times faster than believed possible. The FRB search went from a crawl to a gallop that made the cover of Nature in 2019 with 13 FRB discoveries followed by another larger batch including 8 repeaters,
TRIUMF, a joint venture of 7 universities, is Canada’s national lab for nuclear and particle physics and related sciences. It is located on the campus of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. Founded in 1968, it attained the world’s largest cyclotron in 1976 and included nuclear medical research. It has a staff of 500 with 1,000 annual international researchers.
Women: PI continues to advance the participation of women in advanced science. It invites annually some 30 women holding masters degrees to attend a month-long course exploring PI opportunities and offering supervised PhD courses. In March it hosts 200 high school girls to describe careers in science. It explains the difficulties and rewards, emphasizing that failures can be expected but are tools for learning and successes. In fact one of the women advising these students was a straight A student when she ventured into science, believing herself a failure when her efforts earned only Ds. Persevering, she is now a top scientist.
The International Summer School for Young Physicists (ISSYP) started in 2003 with 20 Canadian students, later adding 20 international ones. Field trips have included SNOLAB in Sudbury, Ontario.
The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory, 2 km down in an arm of the working Creighton nickle mine is the world’s deepest science research lab. It’s staff of over 100 concentrates on neutrino and dark matter research. It is a 10-hour day for 8 hours of science research. First the ultra clean room must be checked for air quality, then workers take a 5-minute elevator ride down to the arm, to walk 1.5 km to the room, scrubbing mine dust from their clothing before showering and dressing in clean coveralls before entering the work room.
     A new $30 million dark matter research facility is planned in the next 2 years and a $150 million one in 4 years with the United States collaborating.
Marine Research: With long coastlines bordering the Atlantic, Arctic, and Pacific oceans, Canada provides data on a wide variety of oceanography research topics. In 2007 The University of Victoria initiated Ocean Networks Canada that runs the NEPTUNE and VENUS undersea projects as well as smaller offshore observatories at Cambridge Bay, Campbell River, Kitamaat, and Digby Island. NEPTUNE (Northeast Pacific Undersea Networked Experiment), based in Barkley Sound on the west coast of Vancouver Island, covers the small 250,000 sqkm Juan de Fuca tectonic plate that is plunging under the huge North Atlantic plate at 3 inches a year. VENUS (Victoria Experimental Network Undersea) is based at 3 locations along the Salish Sea (SW BC and NW Washington State). Over 850 km of seafloor cables send over 200 gigabytes of data daily from over 2,000 sensors. This is freely available to researchers.
The Institute of Ocean Services, Sydney, BC, is one of nine major research centres operated by Oceans and Fisheries Canada.
14 Canadian Arctic Research Stations (showing the startup year):
     Canadian High Arctic Research Station (CHARS): Designed and built with Inuit participation has a modern 4,800 sqmetre main building in Cambridge Bay, Victoria Island, 2019. Churchill Northern Studies, Churchill, Manitoba, 1976, Atmosphere Watch Observatory, Alert, NE Ellesemere Island. 1986, Flashline Mars Arctic Research Station, Devon Island, Nunavut, 2001, Igloolik Research Centre, Igloolik, Nunavut, 1975, Iqualuit Research Centre, Iqaluit, 1978, Kluane Lake Research, Kluane Lake, Yukon, 1961, McGill Arctic Research Station, Axel Heiberg Island, Nunavut, 1960, Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), Eureka, Nunavut, 1993, Resolute Nunavut Station, Resolute, Nunavut, 1947, Tundra Ecosystem Research Station, (TERS). Darling Lake, NWT, 1994, Ward Hunt Island Observatory Research, Ward Island, Nunavut, 1957, Western Arctic Research Centre, Inuvik, NWT, 1964, Whapmagoostui, Quebec, 1971,
And also a disgrace:
     Mould Bay, Prince Patrick Island, weather station in 1948 was one of a network of high Arctic weather stations built by Canada and the United States. The US ended its participation in 1972. It was abandoned in 1997 and the decision to close it came in 2002. $8 million was allocated to a clean up that met delays. By 2008 most of the clean-up money was missing. In 2017 the 2-storey building was assessed unrepairable.
But, then, we have Alert on the NE coast of Ellesmere Island:
     The world’s most northern inhabited community, closer to Moscow than Ottawa by 80 miles or 150 km. First settled in April 1950 as a weather station, the RCAF moved in to build a wireless station in 1957 to enjoy Russian broadcasts. In 1958 control was transferred to the Army. With the addition of RCN the name became in 1968 Canadian Forces Station Alert. After the 11 Sep 2001 attacks funding was increased and the RCAF resumed command. In 2008 maintenance was given to private contractors.
     The first woman arrived in 1980, the first female commanding officer was Major Cowan in 1996, the first female station warrant officer in 2017.
    The peak population was about 250. The 2016 census reported 62. Automation and budget cuts reduced human residents.
Universities: Worldwide, universities are great at sharing students, faculty, and data.
Canadian Universities: Of the world’s 1,250 research universities, Canada has 96 with 1.8 million students. Four rank in the top 100 and 9 in the top 300. Among the 36 nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Canada ranks first in the percentage of people holding university degrees. Canada actively encourages worldwide university students, both to study in Canada and to stay after graduation. In 2018, 10,950 did stay The Federal government has contributed $148 million over 5 years to help fund recruitment that provides 170,000 jobs. In 2018 there were 572,415 (8%) of the student total. 2019 welcomed 700,000.
     About 84% of foreign students select universities in Ontario, British Columbia, and Quebec while other provinces have earned strong adherents. For instance: In 2017 Dalhousie in Halifax, Nova Scotia had 3,000 from 115 countries, Memorial University, St. John’s, Newfoundland with 4 satellite campuses ranks first in Canada for student satisfaction, attracting in 2019 3,200 students from over 90 countries who account for one third of its graduates.
Climate Change and Energy:
     Canada is blessed with reliable and diverse sources of energy: oil, natural gas, hydroelectricity, coal, nuclear (uranium), solar, wind, tidal and biomass. Canada is the world’s 5th largest energy producer and the 8th largest consumer. Frictions are present as areas like Alberta and Newfoundland who rely on fossil fuel profits have to contend with regulations imposed by environmentalists eager to speed climate remedies. Both sides are using science to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
     The Bank of Canada has inaugurated long-term studies on how to meet economic and environmental goals and stay within the 2015 Paris Agreement goal of limiting climate increases to the 1.5 - 2.0 Celsius range. World temperature has already increased 1 degree caused by greenhouse gases released mainly by the industrialized world with great harm to the non-industrial world.
     Canada has committed $2.65 billion for 2020-21 to help poorer nations fight it and has combined this with enhancing the role of women in agriculture, in reforestation, in designing and making cooking utensils that reduce greenhouse emissions, and in business ventures.
     Canada has benefited in that its growing season has increased 2 weeks and moved 80 miles north in 50 years, permitting agriculture to increase, but costs have so far outweighed benefits. For instance fossil fuels that were trucked in over ice roads over frozen permafrost to remote locations have to be flown in at great expense. Devastating fires, floods, soil erosion, refugee increases are all due to melting permafrost with its huge methane release. Land use must adapt quickly.
Wind Farms: Some 300 wind farms provide 6% of Canada’s energy. The first one was built in Alberta in 1993. Now every province has them. Only Nunavut and Northwest Territories do not. They require batteries to store power, kill over 300,000 birds annually, are noisy and to many unsightly. So, research is ongoing.
The Struggle:
     Life on this planet has always been a mix of heaven, hell, and purgatory with much of the latter two of our own making, mainly from those who worship the God of Greed. This time survival for all dictates co-operation. Make it so!

                                                                           Ye Olde Scribe, George

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