Technology Science - Potholes tracked, mapped on phone app

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A Winnipeg company has developed a smartphone application to help motorists avoid potholes.

Called iPothole, the free app allows users to plunk a digital orange traffic cone on a map. The pothole is then marked by GPS and posted online, where it can be tracked on a website.

Created by Winnipeg-based Telenium Inc., the application also enable users to label the potholes three ways:

  • Small: one foot or less in diameter â€Â" portion of the road material is broken away. Holes and lumps.
  • Medium: one to three feet in diameter â€Â" quick swerve to avoid. Deep ruts.
  • Large: three feet or larger â€Â" road is not passable for most cars. Moon-like crater.

"It places a little cone on the map and that way the next person driving down the road can say, 'oh look, there's more potholes there. I should take a different route,'" said Telenium's Chris Friesen.

The new technology is a good way to avoid bursting a tire or wearing down your shocks, he said.

The company is in discussions with several cities, including Winnipeg, to integrate the technology into their systems, said Friesen.

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Technology Science - Suzuki at 75: An elder for the planet

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David Suzuki turned 75 Thursday and after a half-century of fighting for the planet, the Godfather of Canada's environmental movement is frustrated and worried.

The scientist, turned media celebrity, turned environmental activist, is looking back on his life and calling on Canada's seniors to provide guidance to the country's next generation of leaders.

"I keep emphasizing, I'm in the death zone. But so are every one of you who is an elder. Now get on with the most important part of your life. It's not just being able to go out and go golfing every day. It's being able to summarize what you've learned and pass that knowledge and experience on," Suzuki says.

His birthday thoughts aren't just for Canada's aged. On the eve of a federal election, Suzuki wants younger Canadians to step up as well.

'I mean, who wants someone with David Suzuki's stature saying that we're doing the wrong things,?'â€Â"Avrim Lazar, President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada

"We've got to have more involvement of people. We have to have more indication that we want our politicians to take this issue (the plight of the environment) seriously," argues Suzuki.

A look back

The Nature of Things, the CBC television science program Suzuki has hosted for more than three decades, celebrated Suzuki's 75th birthday Thursday with a special retrospective episode that also marked its own 50th anniversary.

The program, which debuted as a half-hour show in 1960, was one of the first to present scientific findings on climate change, AIDS, nuclear power and countless other subjects, and helped give international prominence to Suzuki, who became its permanent host and the face of the program in 1979.

David Suzuki, who celebrates his 75th birthday and the 50th anniversary of CBC's The Nature of Things Thursday, says Canadians must get politicians to take the environment seriously. David Suzuki, who celebrates his 75th birthday and the 50th anniversary of CBC's The Nature of Things Thursday, says Canadians must get politicians to take the environment seriously. Canadian PressWhile the Vancouver native commands the respect and adoration of vast numbers of Canadians, he has been a major thorn in the side to many of Canada's most important industries. In the early 1980s, he was an instrumental force in preserving South Moresby Island in B.C.'s Haida Gwaii archipelago from logging.

"He certainly was one of our most severe critics and because he has such public credibility, we don't like it at all. I mean, who wants someone with David Suzuki's stature saying that we're doing the wrong things," asks Avrim Lazar, President and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada.

Making an impact

Eventually though, Suzuki and the forest industry began seeing eye to eye. In 2010, industry and environmentalists signed the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which protects 29-million hectares of Canada's northern woodland. Lazar attributes Suzuki's success to his ability to get ordinary Canadians to take responsibility for their own actions.

"It's one thing for the consumer to say, 'tut-tut, I wish you (industry) were better.' It's another thing for the consumer to say, 'I want you to give me stuff that makes me feel good about myself not bad about myself.' And one of David Suzuki's contributions has been having the ordinary Canadian internalize this sense of responsibility," says Lazar.

David Suzuki has been host of The Nature of Things since 1979. CBC David Suzuki has been host of The Nature of Things since 1979. CBC Still Suzuki's profoundest effect has been on the Canadian environmental movement itself.

"I think David Suzuki has been our teacher, our friend, our inspiration, our environmental expert and trusted as such for decades," asserts Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada.

May first met Suzuki as an activist in Cape Breton Island, N.S. Though she has heard people tell her that Suzuki is slowing down in his old age, she doesn't buy it.

"I think the talk of legacy is a bit premature. We'll be doing this interview at his 95th birthday celebration. And we'll be talking about the extent to which David Suzuki might want to take some time off because he is now 95," jokes May.

With files from The Canadian Press

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Technology Science - Japan nuclear plant reactors cooled with freshwater

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Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers began pumping freshwater instead of seawater to cool reactors at the quake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant on Friday, amid concerns over leakage of highly radioactive water that injured two workers the previous day.

Seawater that has been used to cool the fuel rods during the emergency could be leaving a salt crust, increasing the difficulty of cooling the rods and adding to the risk of a meltdown.

A Japan Self Defence Forces auxiliary ship tows a U.S. navy barge, filled with freshwater to cool reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, in Tokyo harbour on Friday. A Japan Self Defence Forces auxiliary ship tows a U.S. navy barge, filled with freshwater to cool reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, in Tokyo harbour on Friday. Kyodo/Reuters

Tokyo Electric said it began injecting freshwater into the No. 1 and No. 3 reactor cores Friday afternoon and evening, and was also preparing to pump freshwater into the No. 2 reactor core.

On Thursday, three workers were exposed to water containing radioactivity 10,000 times the normal level while they were working in the turbine building of the No. 3 reactor. Two of the workers suffered radiation burns on their legs and required hospitalization.

On Friday, highly radioactive water was also found in the turbine buildings of the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, increasing the risk for workers attempting to deal with the nuclear crisis at the plant.

Earlier Friday, concerns were aired that the high radioactivity levels in water from the No. 3 reactor might have resulted from a breach of the reactor's containment vessel, raising the threat of wider contamination from a reactor that uses a more hazardous plutonium-uranium fuel mixture.

But a spokesman for the government's nuclear agency, Hidehiko Nishiyama, said there was no change in the pressure level to suggest a crack in the reactor's containment vessel. He said further investigation would be needed to determine how the radioactive water reached the underground area where the workers were contaminated.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said at a press conference Friday evening that current situation at the plant ''still does not warrant optimism.''

'We are not in a position where we can be optimistic.'â€Â"Naoto Kan, Japanese PM

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan sounded pessimistric in a televised address to the country Friday.

"The situation today at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant is still very grave and serious," Kan said. "We must remain vigilant. We are not in a position where we can be optimistic. We must treat every development with the utmost care."

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan delivers a message to the Japanese people at his official residence in Tokyo on Friday. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan delivers a message to the Japanese people at his official residence in Tokyo on Friday. Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images

He apologized to farmers and business owners around the plant for any damage He also thanked utility workers, firefighters and military personnel for "risking their lives" to cool the overheated facility.

The prime minister was speaking two weeks to the day after a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami set in motion unprecedented damage and explosions at the Daiichi nuclear site.

The nuclear safety agency has ordered the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., to improve radiation management, the Kyodo News reported on its website.

The government, which had originally told residents within a 20-kilometre radius of the stricken plant to leave, on Friday encouraged those within a 30-kilometre radius to leave voluntarily because the release of radiation from Daiichi is expected to carry on for sometime, Kyodo reported.

Engineers have been working round the clock trying to gain control of the plant 220 kilometres northeast of Tokyo two weeks after a magnitude-9.0 quake triggered a tsunami that engulfed the facility and knocked out itscrucial cooling system.

The plant has been releasing radiation, with elevated levels of radiation turning up in raw milk, seawater and 11 kinds of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and turnips.

Tokyo water concerns ease

After several days of concern about elevated radiation levels in Tokyo tap water, lower levels were reported late Friday at a Tokyo water purification plant, the Tokyo metropolitan government said.

The government's Bureau of Waterworks detected 51 becquerels of radioactive iodine per kilogram of water sampled Friday morning at the Kanamachi water purification plant in the capital's Katsushika Ward.

That's within the normal range for consumption and below the central government's limits of 100 becquerels for safe consumption by infants and 300 becquerels for adults, the local government said.

Tap water in several areas of Japan â€Â" including Tokyo â€Â" had earlier been found to have radiation levels considered unsafe for infants, who are particularly vulnerable to cancer-causing radioactive iodine, officials said.

The scare caused a run on bottled water in the capital, and prompted city officials to distribute the products to families with babies, Steve Futterman reported for CBC News.

Police who have finished checking Minamisoma City for radiation are screened for radiation contamination in Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan.Police who have finished checking Minamisoma City for radiation are screened for radiation contamination in Fukushima prefecture in northeastern Japan. Kyodo/Reuters

"Once they gave this warning a couple of days ago … it set the alarm bells going, and people don't want to use tap water now."

Distribution centres in Tokyo continued to hand out bottles of water to families with children under a year old, he said.

Officials are also grappling with a humanitarian crisis in the northeast, where hundreds of thousands of survivors remain camped out in schools and civic buildings two weeks after the tsunami swallowed up swaths of the coast. Much of the frigid northeast remains in despair and devastation, with the country struggling to feed and house homeless survivors, clear away debris and bury the dead.

Some 660,000 households are without water, and more than 209,000 lack electricity. Damage could rise as high as $310 billion US, the government said, making it the most costly natural disaster on record.

Police said the official death toll jumped past the 10,000 mark Friday. With the cleanup and recovery operation continuing, and more than 17,400 listed as missing, the final number of dead was expected to surpass 18,000, taking into account overlapping figures.

Japan's nuclear safety agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama, right, consults a staff member during a news conference on Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Tokyo on  Friday. Japan's nuclear safety agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama, right, consults a staff member during a news conference on Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, in Tokyo on Friday. Kyodo/Reuters

At the Fukushima nuclear plant, fires, explosions and spikes in radiation have hampered efforts to contain the nuclear crisis. High radiation levels have forced repeated evacuations, and more than two dozen workers have been injured, according to NISA.

Operators have been struggling to keep cool water around radioactive fuel rods in the reactor's core after the earthquake and tsunami cut off power supply to the plant and its cooling system.

Damage may have been done to the Unit 3 core when a March 14 hydrogen explosion blew apart its outer containment building. This reactor, the most troubled at the six-unit site, holds 170 tonnes of radioactive fuel in its core.

Previous radioactive emissions have come from intentional efforts to vent small amounts of steam through valves to prevent the core from bursting.

Meanwhile, damage to factories was taking its toll on the world's third-largest economy and creating a ripple effect felt worldwide. Nissan Motor Co. said it may move part of its engine production line to the United States because of damage to one of its plants.

"There is no doubt that we have immense economic and financial damage," Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda said. "It will be our task how to recover from the damage."

At the port of Sendai, new Toyota cars lie crushed in piles. At the airport, flooded by the tsunami on March 11, U.S. marines used bulldozers and shovels to shift wrecked cars that lay scattered like discarded toys.

With files from Kyodo News and The Associated Press

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Technology Science - Mangrove forests key to carbon sequestration: panel

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Mangrove, seagrass and tidal marsh ecosystems sequester up to five times more carbon than tropical rainforests, say marine scientists who are calling for their protection.

The scientists say that because carbon dioxide (CO2) builds up not only in the plants but also in the many layers of soil underneath, coastal ecosystems harbour carbon that is thousands of years old.

"We are now learning that, if destroyed or degraded, these coastal ecosystems become major emitters of CO2 for years after the plants are removed," Emily Pidgeon, marine climate change director at Conservation International, said in a release issued Thursday.

"In the simplest terms, it's like a long slow bleed that is difficult to clot. So we need to urgently halt the loss of these high-carbon ecosystems, to slow the progression of climate change," she added.

Pidgeon is part of a panel of 32 scientists, including those from the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO. The panel's goal is to advance science-based management of coastal ecosystems.

The panel estimates draining a typical coastal wetland, such as a mangrove forest or a marsh, releases 0.25 million tons of C02 per square kilometre for every metre of soil that's lost.

Between 1980 and 2005, 35,000 square kilometres of mangroves were removed from coasts around the world for human development or the creation of shrimp farms. That represents an area roughly the size of Belgium.

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Technology Science - Humans in North America earlier than thought

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The recent discovery of ancient tools in a Texas creek bed shows human settlers arrived in North America about 2,500 years earlier than originally believed, say archeologists.

"We have found evidence of an early human occupation … 2,500 years older than Clovis," Michael Waters from Texas A&M University said in a release.

The Clovis people â€Â" once thought to be the continent's oldest human culture â€Â" go back to about 13,000 years ago, which would make these newly discovered artifacts about 15,500 years old.

Over the past few years, scattered evidence has hinted at earlier cultures. But such evidence has been disputed in part because so few artifacts have actually been recovered â€Â" until now.

The excavation at the Debra L. Friedkin Site in Texas, where tools dating back 15,500 years have been found. The excavation at the Debra L. Friedkin Site in Texas, where tools dating back 15,500 years have been found. Courtesy of Michael R. Waters

Details of the excavation are published in Thursday's issue of the journal Science.

"This site contains some of the best evidence for early human occupation on the North American continent," said Steven Forman, an earth and environmental sciences professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

"What's really special about this site is we found artifacts below the well-known Clovis horizon," he said in a podcast released by the university.

The Clovis horizon refers to the layer of earth where their distinctive flute-shaped pointed tools have been found.

For many years, the Clovis people were thought to have arrived here from Northeast Asia by crossing the Bering Land Bridge, which once connected Asia and North America.

From there, archeologists had believed they spread out across the continent and eventually made their way down to South America.

Poking holes in Clovis theory

But recently, archeologists have highlighted various problems with this theory, starting with the fact that no Clovis technology has been found in Northeast Asia. And while Clovis-type tools were discovered in Alaska, they are all too young to be Clovis.

Meanwhile, the Texas excavation has revealed blades, scrapers and choppers in the 20-centimetre layer of earth below where Clovis artifacts had previously been found.

Anthropologist Tom D. Dillehay of Vanderbilt University, who was not part of the research team, said he is concerned that the separation of layers at the site "appears not to be as clear as the authors would have us believe."

University of Oregon archaeologist Dennis L. Jenkins said he was also initially skeptical of the find, commenting, "it would have been a hard sell" from many other researchers.

Jenkins, who three years ago reported discovery of 14,000-year-old evidence of human DNA in a cave in Oregon, said he was concerned that settling or rodents had mixed up the specimens in Texas.

But, he said, Waters' team had done "incredible, meticulous scientific work."

"I believe he's made the case," he said. Jenkins said he would have preferred carbon-dating of the specimens, but that couldn't be done because there was no organic material to be tested in the newly found layer.

Instead, the team used a new dating technique called luminescence dating, which measures light energy trapped in minerals such as feldspar and quartz formed centuries ago.

The archeologists now suggest that Clovis tools could have evolved from the tools found in the creek bed. That would mean the Clovis culture was actually homegrown and did not come from Asia.

"This discovery provides ample time for Clovis to develop," said Waters.

"People [who lived at the site] could have experimented with stone and invented the weapons and tools that we now recognize as Clovis … In short, it is now time to abandon once and for all the 'Clovis First' model and develop a new model for the peopling of the Americas."

With files from The Associated Press

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Technology Science - ISPs could do more to stop child porn: criminologist

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A Fredericton criminologist said internet service providers need to do more to ensure child pornographers aren't file-sharing images of child sexual abuse.

Michael Boudreau, the chair of criminology at St. Thomas University, said ISPs tend to turn a blind eye to the role they play in distributing illegal material.

Boudreau called child pornography the internet's "darkest side" and said it's a tough crime to pursue, but he thinks that could change if ISPs were held to a higher standard.

"Sometimes internet service providers tend to take the view, 'Well, we weren't aware.' Well, maybe they should start becoming more aware and working much more closely with police," said Boudreau.

"I'm certainly not saying they aren't doing anything and sitting on their hands, but I think they need to be more pro-active in terms of informing the police of when they suspect that websites are in their domain, or that they are being used to file share child pornography."

Boudreau's comments come after Wednesday's seizure of a million images of child sexual abuse from a Moncton computer. The RCMP's Integrated Child Exploitation Unit carried out five raids on homes around New Brunswick, leading to four arrests. The same day, a federal bill requiring ISPs to report images of child sexual abuse received royal assent. When the new law will come into force has yet to be determined.

Sgt. Greg Lupson, who speaks for the RCMP in New Brunswick, said in his jurisdiction an internet service provider has never directly reported to police a suspected child exploitation image being transferred over their servers.

"It's a topic that hasn't been addressed in New Brunswick. In other provinces there are other mechanisms and mandates in place that determine what level of co-operation will occur from the internet service provider standpoint," said Lupson.

"The assistance of ISPs is important to police and it greatly impacts the speed at which investigators investigating internet child exploitation are able to conduct their investigations," Lupson added.

Bill C-22 called 'feel good legislation'

Bill C-22 is being called "feel good legislation" by Tom Copeland, the chair of the Canadian Internet Providers Association.

Copeland said reports aren't being made voluntarily right now because ISPs don't come across the material.

"ISPs are so busy providing service to their customers, we don't go looking for the content that's in question. Certainly when ISPs are made aware of that content by their customers, we refer them to â€Â" the Canadian tipline for child pornography. They then interface with the appropriate law enforcement agencies," explained Copeland. is an undertaking of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection â€Â" a group that works with ISPs, federal and provincial governments, and law enforcement to block access to child sexual abuse images. Bell, Telus, Rogers, Shaw, MTS allstream, SaskTel, Videotron and Aliant are all partners in the effort.

"Politicians think, and to some extent law enforcement think that we seem to have this magic window into the internet. The reality is when the traffic crosses our network, it's all just bits and bytes," said Copeland.

Copeland favours a legislation model, similar to Manitoba's Child and Family Services Act, that takes the onus of reporting child pornography off the technology sector, obliging every Manitoban to report images of child abuse within the definition of the act.

"They've singled out the technology sector, or people providing online services without broadening that to be all of society. And what we've seen in the past is that providers of online services are probably the last ones to find this information," he said.

It's more than likely going to be a local computer shop that would stumble on it as a normal course of business, said Copeland.

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Technology Science - Worst rhino poaching in decade: conservationists

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Africa's rhinos face their worst poaching crisis in decades with organized crime syndicates killing more than 800 in the past three years alone, a global network of conservationists said Friday.

The two horns on each of the plant-eating, poor-sighted African rhinoceros sell like gold on the black market. Each pound can fetch tens of thousands of dollars in southeast Asia where the horns are thought to have medicinal value.

The Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature said poaching of the two different species of African rhinos is on the rise in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Kenya, due to well-equipped and sophisticated crime gangs.

South Africa alone lost 333 rhinos last year and so far this year has lost more than 70, according to IUCN, the world's oldest and largest environmental network. It said most rhino horns leaving Africa are ground into medicine for Asian markets, and Vietnamese are repeatedly implicated in South Africa's poaching trade.

Richard Emslie, a scientific officer with IUCN, said the remaining 24,990 rhinos on the African continent might start to decline again in numbers "unless the rapid escalation in poaching in recent years can be halted."

At last count there were 4,840 black rhinos and 20,150 white rhinos, an improvement from 2007 when there were 4,240 black rhinos and 17,500 white rhinos.

"Although good biological management and anti-poaching efforts have led to modest population gains for both species of African rhino, we are still very concerned about the increasing involvement of organized criminal poaching networks," Emslie said.

The U.N.'s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species banned the commercial trade in rhino horn in 1993.

But the horns are a key ingredient in Chinese traditional medicine, prized as a cure for everything from colds to impotence. They are made largely of the protein keratin, the same substance as human hair and nails.

Poachers are using helicopters, night-vision goggles and high-powered rifles to hunt and kill rhinos â€Â" equipment even African wildlife officials can't afford.

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Technology Science - Fisherman tackles sea lettuce problem

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A fisherman from Tignish has started up an Island-wide petition to help reduce sea lettuce.

Malcolm Pitrie, who has harvested clams for the last 11 years, said sea lettuce has been clogging up P.E.I. rivers and killing fish and shellfish.

As sea lettuce rots it sucks oxygen from the water, killing plant and animal life from entire sections of river systems.As sea lettuce rots it sucks oxygen from the water, killing plant and animal life from entire sections of river systems. CBC

It's forced him to move six times to different rivers.

There have been numerous efforts to reduce the problem, but Pitrie said it's time to be more proactive.

"My actions are to try to get something done with this, move forward with it," said Pitrie. "I don't want to put blame on anybody. Let's come up with a plan now. Let's get some money. If we have to get federal money, that's fine. But let's just get a plan going now and start fresh."

Pitrie's peitition so far has about 350 names. He's hoping to get 1,000 supporters and plans to present the petition to the P.E.I. legislature next month.

When sea lettuce collects on the water surface, it blocks light from reaching the riverbed, reducing other growth.

But the problem worsens when the vegetation dies. As the sea lettuce rots, it sucks oxygen from the water, creating what is known as anoxic conditions, which can kill all plant and animal life from entire sections of river systems.

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Technology Science - OMG! in new Oxford English Dictionary

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OMG! The exclamatory online abbreviation has won the approval of the Oxford English Dictionary.

The term â€Â"short for "Oh my God" â€Â" is one of dozens of new entries in the authoritative reference book's latest online update.

Other Internet-inspired expressions given the stamp of approval include LOL, "laughing out loud"; IMHO, "in my humble opinion"; and BFF, "best friends forever."

The dictionary says that although the terms are associated with modern electronic communications, some are surprisingly old. The first confirmed use of "OMG" was in 1917.

The new update, released Thursday, includes "flat white" â€Â" a type of milky coffee â€Â" and "muffin top," defined as "a protuberance of flesh above the waistband of a tight pair of trousers."

An Oxford English Dictionary is shown in New York on Aug. 29, 2010. The venerable dictionary has added internet-inspired terms to its latest online update. An Oxford English Dictionary is shown in New York on Aug. 29, 2010. The venerable dictionary has added internet-inspired terms to its latest online update. Caleb Jones/The Associated Press

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Technology Science - Loss of pain, smell share genetic link

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The gene responsible for the loss of our ability to feel pain is also involved in the loss of our sense of smell, an international team of researchers have found.

Professor Frank Zufall, of the University of Saarland School of Medicine, in Germany, and colleagues, report their findings online this week in the journal Nature.

The researchers tested three people in their 30s with a rare genetic inability to feel pain (congenital analgesia) and found they were unable to smell at all (a condition known as anosmia).

Interestingly, none of the subjects had been aware that they could not smell.

Being unable to feel pain sounds enticing, but people with congenital analgesia frequently bite their tongues, break bones or burn themselves without being aware of it, sometimes leading to severe damage.

On the plus side, two of the individuals in the study had given birth with completely pain-free labour.

It is known that the inability to feel pain is due to a particular defective gene (SCN9A), which codes for a particular type of sodium channel protein. These sodium channels are essential for pain nerves to be able to send messages.

The researchers wondered if the sodium channels could be important in smell detection too.

Knocking out smell

The team first showed that the olfactory sensory nerves that relay smell information in both humans and mice did indeed contain the sodium channels.

Then they produced a genetically-altered strain of mice that lacked the sodium channels and were unable to smell.

They compared these mice with normal mice, carefully recording the electrical activity of single nerve cells as the animals were exposed to smells.

Surprisingly, the nerve cells responded normally to smell, but the signals were not reaching further into the brain.

The sodium channels appear to be essential for triggering the release of neurotransmitter, which is essential for transmission of information from one nerve cell to the next.

Zufall sees this work as being of fundamental importance in understanding how the brain processes smell, but there could be other advantages.

"You can imagine a spray which you use to temporarily knock out your sense of smell", he suggests, "which may be useful for people working in situations with awful smells".

Smell (or lack of it) may be a side-effect we have to consider when we take a drug for severe pain in years to come, as several pharmaceutical companies are racing to develop pain relief drugs targeting these particular sodium channels.

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Technology Science - VLT monitoring cards to be mandatory in N.S.

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All video-lottery players in Nova Scotia will have to use a MyPlay card to gamble starting in April 2012.

The provincial government released its gaming strategy Friday.

The voluntary system involves gamblers using cards that are inserted into the VLTs, giving the player the ability to set a spending limit, to stop play immediately and to set a time limit.

Preliminary results from a Nova Scotia Gaming Foundation-commissioned study suggested that high-risk and problem VLT players were more predisposed to take advantage of the system and the features than low- and no-risk players are.

The government says it won't allow racinos, which is a combined horserace track and casino, or develop its own internet gambling site.

The moratorium on new VLTs will continue.

David Wilson, the minister responsible, said the strategy is a "socially responsible, sustainable and accountable approach to gaming."

In addition, the government is folding the Nova Scotia Gaming Corp. into the Department of Heritage and the Gaming Foundation into a new research body.

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Technology Science - Man. flood outlook worsens slightly

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An ice jam in Riverton, Man., forced the evacuation of 85 people from their homes in April 2009.An ice jam in Riverton, Man., forced the evacuation of 85 people from their homes in April 2009. (Photo courtesy Derek Bjarnason)

A major snowstorm that hit the northern U.S. earlier this week has escalated the risk of flooding in Manitoba.

However, the impact is not expected to be anywhere close to that being faced by Fargo, N.D., where the U.S. National Weather Service released its latest flood forecast earlier in the day and called for a 40 per cent chance of a record flood in that city.

In Manitoba, officials are still saying that with average weather conditions along the Red River valley south of Winnipeg, a flood slightly higher than 2009 is likely.

Unfavourable weather â€Â" a fast melt and above-average precipitation â€Â" could result in Red River water levels only slightly lower than the so-called Flood of the Century in 1997.

Many rivers, lakes to swell

The other major river in the province, the Assiniboine, is expected to flood along with its tributaries.

Forecasters said that with average weather, levels on the Assiniboine should be higher than during the most severe floods in recent memory: 1976 and 1995.

The Fisher River is also expected to flood, and a high water table in the area could also mean basement flooding.

The flood potential for the Souris River is also high, and low lying areas south of Melita, and near Souris will need diking.

The Shoal Lakes are expected to reach record high levels, even with average weather for the rest of winter.

A major storm hit the Dakotas, just south of Manitoba, on Tuesday.

More than 45 centimetres fell in the area and much of that snowmelt will drain into the Red River, which flows north into Manitoba.

"We have a lot of water to get through the system and it seems like it's all going to, probably, go at once," said Mike Lukes, hydrologist with the U.S. National Weather Service in North Dakota.

In some years, the spring melt is more staggered but it doesn't appear it will happen that way in 2011, he said, adding the major crest will likely occur in North Dakota in early to mid-April.

Lukes said the U.S. Army corps of engineers are working to protect the city.

"[They are] putting clay on the dikes and I think they have over two million sandbags filled already. So, you know, they are aware of the risk," he said.

Flood preps in high gear

The last flood outlook for Manitoba, released by provincial officials in February, called for water levels on the Red River to be 0.8 metres higher than during the flood of 2009 â€Â" provided the region experienced an average amount of precipitation up to the spring melt.

Unfavourable weather was likely to result in a flood as bad or worse than in 1997, forecasters said then.

The outlook on Friday is slightly worse, but not a whole lot.

Nonetheless, preparations for spring flooding are in high gear across much of southern Manitoba.

Wolverines cut grooves into the icy surface in early February.Wolverines cut grooves into the icy surface in early February. Sean Kavanagh/CBC

Ice on the Red River north of Winnipeg has been cut up after more than a month of operations.

Machines known as Wolverines began cutting 20-centimetre grooves into the icy surface in early February. Those grooves were then broken through by Amphibex machines.

The hope is to keep the ice flowing once the melt hits, and ward off jams that can cause havoc.

'We have the equipment spread out throughout the province, so we're out there doing what we can and we're not going to quit until mother nature forces us off the river.'

â€Â"Darrell Kupchick

In March 2009, the city of Selkirk declared a state of emergency after ice jams threatened to cause flooding in the city, 35 kilometres northeast of Winnipeg.

The following month, the swollen and fast-flowing Red River slammed into metre-thick ice jams south of Selkirk, forcing the water to jump the banks.

That created a flash flood that shoved large chunks of ice into riverfront properties in both the rural municipalities of St. Andrews and St. Clements.

The province's three Amphibex machines are now working to prevent ice jams elsewhere in Manitoba.

Teams are working on the Icelandic River in Riverton, the Portage Diversion and the Whitemud River near Portage la Prairie.

They plan to head to Brandon next, along with a number of smaller flood-prone communities.

"We're not out of the woods yet. We have the equipment spread out throughout the province, so we're out there doing what we can and we're not going to quit until mother nature forces us off the river," said Darrell Kupchick, who heads up a team of 30 people working on the ice.

Flood outlook summary

  • Spring flood potential in 2011 remains high for much of Manitoba, including the Red, Souris, Pembina, Assiniboine, Winnipeg, Saskatchewan and Fisher rivers as well as the Interlake region.
  • The flood potential is high due to above-normal winter precipitation, high river flows, very high soil-moisture conditions at freeze-up, above-normal snow-water content in the snowpack and an expected wetter spring.
  • Additional precipitation experienced in the southern areas of the Red River basin is expected to cause a slight increase in the river levels compared to predictions in the February flood outlook.
  • The spring flood potential is still dependent on weather conditions in the next few weeks until the spring melt begins.
  • The amount of additional snow and rain, the timing and rate of the spring thaw and the timing of peak flows in the U.S., Manitoba and other provinces will have a significant effect on flood potential.
  • Localized overland flooding is expected in most of central and southern Manitoba and could occur during the early part of the run-off period due to ice jams, snow blockages or frozen culverts in river channels, drains and ditches.

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Technology Science - Radiation found on 2 Japan tourists in China

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Two Japanese tourists who flew into eastern China have been found to have radiation levels above normal, Chinese authorities said Friday.

A government agency said the pair's radiation levels were found to "seriously exceed" levels considered safe. The agency did not provide exact numbers, however, making it impossible to evaluate whether the finding contradicted Japan's own assessment of the situation of a tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant.

Japanese health authorities say radiation in the air has not reached dangerous levels outside the immediate area of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, though some people who live near the plant have been decontaminated.

China's General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine said on its website that the two Japanese tourists were given medical treatment when they arrived in Wuxi, a city close to Shanghai, from Tokyo on Wednesday. The pair presented no radiation risk to others, it said.

The agency said the two were not from areas close to the nuclear power plant in northeast Japan that has been leaking small amounts of radiation since being damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. The plant lies about 220 kilometres north of Tokyo.

It gave no other details about their condition.

China's watchdog earlier said an abnormal level of radiation was detected on a Japanese merchant vessel when it arrived at Xiamen port in eastern China on Monday.

The ship belongs to Japanese transport company Mitsui O.S.K. Lines and left Tokyo on March 17.

The statement did not give further information about the exact levels of radiation, the ship crew or cargo.

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Technology Science - Alta. oilsands worker digs up rare dinosaur

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A Suncor oilsands worker near Fort McMurray, Alta., has unearthed a rare dinosaur fossil that could be 110 million years old.

On Monday, shovel operator Shawn Funk noticed a large lump of dirt with an odd texture and a diamond pattern in a shovel-load of material.

He shut down the shovel, and together he and supervisor Michel Gratton sent photos of the find to the Royal Tyrrell Museum in Drumheller, Alta.

What the fossil might look like once it's removed from surrounding rock.What the fossil might look like once it's removed from surrounding rock. Sup\pliedThe find intrigued experts enough that the museum sent a scientist and a technician up to Fort McMurray two days later.

Curator Donald Henderson believes the completely intact dinosaur skeleton is the earliest dinosaur ever found in Alberta â€Â" a 110-million-year-old fossil of ankylosaur, a rare land dinosaur with bony plates of body armour.

Ankylosaur was a squat, plant-eating quadruped with powerful limbs and a club-like tail probably used for self-defence.

“We’ve never found a dinosaur in this location,” Henderson said.

“Because the area was once a sea, most finds are invertebrates such as clams and ammonites," he said. "Marine reptiles have been found in the area before, but even these are not common.

"The last giant reptile removed from this area was an ichthyosaur found 10 years ago. To find an ankylosaur is totally unexpected here. Finding one of these animals anywhere is a rare occurrence.”

Scientists will return to Fort McMurray next week to supervise the removal and transportation of the specimen to the museum for further study.

"The good news is that the fossil is in 3-D," said Henderson. "The bad news is the rock is extremely hard. It's harder than the bone and it's going to take an awful lot of careful work to get it out."

“Suncor and its staff deserve a big thank you for recognizing this as a fossil and reporting it to us as quickly as they did,” said Andrew Neuman, the museum's executive director.

“This is a great example of a company calling to report a find and it turning out to be something of potentially major significance.”

By strange coincidence, the backhoe operator had just visited the Royal Tyrell last week, said Henderson.

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Technology Science - IPad 2 set to launch in Canada

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IPad 2, the second generation of Apple Inc.'s popular tablet computer, goes on sale for the first time in Canada on Friday.

Eager buyers were lining up outside Apple retail locations across the country as early as Thursday.

Eager customers lined up outside a Toronto Apple store to buy iPads more than a day before they were to be available. Eager customers lined up outside a Toronto Apple store to buy iPads more than a day before they were to be available. Tony Smyth/CBC

Apple started selling the newer version of its tablet computer in the United States earlier this month. It goes on sale in Canada, starting at 5 p.m. ET, and more than two dozen other international markets on Friday.

The massively popular devices start at $519 and top out at $849, depending on the model.

About a million of the devices were sold on the first day in the U.S. launch on March 11. The first version sold 500,000 units in the first week and crossed the one million unit mark in under a month.

Worldwide, the company sold more than 15 million of the devices in 2010, much more than analysts had expected.

Those who couldn't stand to bear the long lineups may have to wait awhile to buy an iPad 2 if retail stores end up selling out.

On, availability for all models of the iPad 2 is listed at three to four weeks.

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Technology Science - Que. report urges halt on shale gas drilling

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A highly anticipated Quebec report has recommended that the province halt a controversial natural-gas drilling practice, pending further study.

Within minutes of releasing the report Tuesday, the Quebec government announced it would respect its findings.

The province's environment minister said the practice known as "fracking" will only proceed, for now, under the rubric of the environmental study and not for industrial purposes.

Environment Minister Pierre Arcand also announced that any new exploration will only be carried out after public consultations are held.

"We will not make any compromises on health, safety, or respect for the environment," Arcand said.

He called it the most important report in the 33-year history of the Bureau d'audiences publiques sur l'environnement, commonly known as the BAPE.

The report by the environmental impact-assessment bureau said the shale-gas industry should stop hydraulic fracturing until more is known about its environmental risks.

Fracturing, or "fracking," is an increasingly common method to extract natural gas trapped underground.

The process -- which uses a mixture of chemicals, sand and water blasted into subterranean wells -- has raised concerns from environmentalists.

There are currently 29 wells in Quebec. Eighteen use fracking.

Environmental concerns

Quebec has granted dozens of oil and gas companies exploratory permits to drill in the lowlands along the St. Lawrence River.Quebec has granted dozens of oil and gas companies exploratory permits to drill in the lowlands along the St. Lawrence River. (CBC)Environmentalists have been calling for a moratorium on shale-gas development, saying the process needed to extract the gas poses serious risks.

But Quebec's oil and gas industry says the risks are slight compared to the potential economic benefits the industry could bring.

Quebec is home to one of the largest shale formations in North America, and supporters of the industry say it could bring $1 billion in annual royalties to the province.

Following a series of protests last summer, Arcand asked Quebec's bureau of public hearings into the environment to look into both the environmental and health impacts of shale-gas development.

The issue has continued to prove politically controversial.

In recent months, while the government said it was waiting for the study, local celebrities demanded a moratorium. Some exploratory wells were found to be leaking gas.

And there were reports from the U.S. of strange phenomena surrounding shale gas -- like frequent earthquakes.

Last week, in Arkansas, natural gas companies were ordered to temporarily stop injecting into wells after state authorities concluded the practice was linked to hundreds of earthquakes in the area in the past six months.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency asked Pennsylvania regulators to increase monitoring of wastewater discharges from the state's natural gas drilling industry.

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Technology Science - U.S. targeted EU on GM foods: WikiLeaks

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Senior U.S. officials in Paris advised the George Bush administration to launch a military-style trade war against the European Union for resisting genetically modified foods, according to newly released WikiLeaks cables.

The then U.S. ambassador to France, Craig Stapleton, asked the government to penalize the EU and particularly countries that banned the use of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The move came in response to a 2007 French ban on a GM corn variety made by U.S.-based company Monsanto.

"Country team Paris recommends that we calibrate a target retaliation list that causes some pain across the EU since this is a collective responsibility, but that also focuses in part on the worst culprits," wrote Stapleton in a December 2007 cable.

"The list should be measured rather than vicious and must be sustainable over the long term, since we should not expect an early victory. Moving to retaliation will make clear that the current path has real costs to EU interests and could help strengthen European pro-biotech voices," said Stapleton, who was then President Bush's friend and business partner.

GM foods are grown from crops that contain altered DNA so that they are resistant to disease, and grow faster and bigger, for instance.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates about 80 per cent of packaged foods sold in the U.S. and Canada contain GM food. Some animal studies have shown serious health risks, including infertility, accelerated aging, organ damage and birth defects, linked to such foods.

U.S. diplomats pushed GM crops: cables

Other newly released cables show U.S. diplomats around the world pushed GM crops as part of U.S. global food policy.

For example, the U.S. applied pressure to the Pope's advisers to champion such crops to counter the opposition by many Catholic bishops in developing countries who were vehemently opposed to it.

"Opportunities exist to press the issue with the Vatican, and in turn to influence a wide segment of the population in Europe and the developing world," said the cable.

However, the U.S. suffered a setback when one of the U.S.'s closest allies on GM, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the powerful Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pope's representative at the United Nations, withdrew his support for the crop, according to another cable.

"A Martino deputy told us recently that the cardinal had co-operated with embassy Vatican on biotech over the past two years in part to compensate for his vocal disapproval of the Iraq war and its aftermath â€Â" to keep relations with the USG [US government] smooth. According to our source, Martino no longer feels the need to take this approach," said the cable.

Other cables show U.S. diplomats working directly for GM companies such as Monsanto joined forces with Spain to persuade the EU not to strengthen biotechnology laws.

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Technology Science - Warner to rent movies on Facebook

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Warner Bros. and Facebook have teamed up to allow movie fans in the U.S. to rent films through the social networking site, starting with Christopher Nolan's 2008 Batman movie, The Dark Knight.

Warner Bros. said Tuesday that it is the first Hollywood studio to offer movie rentals through Facebook.

For 30 Facebook credits, or $3, consumers can rent movies through their Facebook account for 48 hours, including the option to pause and continue playing anytime within those 48 hours. Consumers can also post comments on the movie, interact with friends and update their status.

The page already has nearly 4,000 fans.

"Facebook has become a daily destination for hundreds of millions of people," Thomas Gewecke, president of Warner Bros. digital distribution, said in a release.

"Making our films available through Facebook is a natural extension of our digital distribution efforts. It gives consumers a simple, convenient way to access and enjoy our films through the world's largest social network."

The company, which offers the service only in the United States, says it plans to offer additional titles for rental and purchase over the coming months.

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Technology Science - Great Lakes water quality report to be tabled

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The International Joint Commission will issue its 15th biennial report on the quality of Great Lakes water in Detroit, Michigan on Wednesday morning.

The International Joint Commission reports on the progress of the governments in restoring the health of the Great Lakes.

John Nevin, from the IJC'S Great Lakes regional office in Windsor, Ont., said the report will table 32 recommendations to Canadian and U.S. governments aimed at improving water quality.

"This report really focuses on an issue that I think is critical to people living both in Windsor and in Detroit, and that is human health," said Nevin. "Is the water that we're drinking healthy, and what can we do to improve the quality of our water?"

Nevin, the IJC'S public affairs advisor, said the document deals with everything from whether it's safe to eat Great Lakes fish to the effects of ineffective waste water treatment. It will also address invasive species, ground water contamination, Asian carp, and the impact of algae blooms on the health of the lakes.

The report urges the two governments, which are currently renegotiating a binational water quality agreement, to include human health language of the agreement to show that the two countries "are committed to improving the quality of the Great Lakes water and protecting human health," Nevin said.

The other highlight in the report includes recommendations to protect public beaches "so that we don't have to end up with beach closures and worrying about getting sick when you go to the beach," said Nevin.

The report is scheduled to be released at 8 a.m. on Wednesday on the Commission's website, and a news conference will follow at 10 a.m. at Wayne State University. Canadian scientists from the IJC's Windsor office will be in attendance.

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Technology Science - Telus to boost B.C. networks

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Telus said it's planning to spend $670 million on its B.C. system this year. Telus said it's planning to spend $670 million on its B.C. system this year. (Chuck Stoody/Canadian Press)

Telus said Monday that it is planning to spend $670 million on its British Columbia networks this year.

The company said it plans to lay "thousands" of kilometres of fibre-optic cable for its Optik TV and high-speed internet services, and plans 76 new cell sites. It's also introducing a technology called HSPA+ Dual Cell that is intended to improve wireless broadband service.

The announcement Monday appears to be an increase in capital spending. Last year, the company spent $564 million across the country, its 2010 year-end report said.

Telus valued its property, plant and equipment at $7.72 billion at the end of 2010.

Wireless and its internet TV have been important drivers in the company's revenue growth. By the end of 2010, it had 314,000 Optik TV customers in British Columbia, Alberta and Eastern Quebec.

The company made profit of $1.09 billion ($3.22 a share) in 2010, compared with $1.06 billion ($3.14) in 2009. Revenue was $9.78 billion, compared with $9.61 billion.

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Technology Science - Discovery leaves space station for the last time

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Discovery, the world's most traveled spaceship, left the International Space Station on Monday for the last time, getting a send-off by the dozen orbiting astronauts as well as "Star Trek's" original Capt. Kirk.

The shuttle undocked from the station as the two craft sailed more than 320 kilometres above the Pacific, just north of New Guinea.

Station skipper Scott Kelly rang his ship's bell in true naval tradition, as the shuttle backed away. "Discovery departing," he called out.

This is the final flight for Discovery, which is due back on Earth on Wednesday. It's being retired and sent to the Smithsonian Institution for display. NASA's two other shuttles will join Discovery in retirement, following their upcoming missions.

Discovery's six astronauts got a special greeting in advance of their space station departure.

Actor William Shatner, who played Capt. James Kirk on the original "Star Trek" TV series, paid tribute to Discovery's voyages over the decades.

Space, the final frontier," Shatner said in a prerecorded message. "These have been the voyages of the space shuttle Discovery. Her 30-year mission: to seek out new science, to build new outposts, to bring nations together on the final frontier, to boldly go and do what no spacecraft has done before."

Shatner's words were followed by Monday morning's wake-up music, "Theme from Star Trek." It was the runner-up in a pick-the-wake-up-music contest sponsored by NASA. The No. 1 vote-getter will be beamed up Tuesday.

Discovery will have racked up nearly 150 million miles by trip's end, accumulated over 39 missions and nearly 27 years, and spent 365 days total in space. It flew to the space station 13 times.

Immediately after undocking, Discovery performed a victory lap around the orbiting outpost, where it spent the past nine days. The two crews beamed down breathtaking pictures of each other's vessel, with the blue cloud-specked planet as the backdrop. Close-up shots showed many of the individual compartments of the bigger-than-ever station.

"It looks beautiful," Kelly said of the shuttle.

Robonaut 2 yet to be unpacked

Discovery and its crew delivered a new storage compartment, as well as an equipment platform and the first humanoid robot in space. Both of the large items were successfully installed, and the shuttle astronauts even did some extra chores during their two extra days at the station. It ended up being a 13-day mission for Discovery.

R2 the robot, short for Robonaut 2, has yet to be unpacked. The space station residents hope to get to it in the next week or two.

The addition of the 21-foot-long, 15-foot wide storage compartment left the space station 97 per cent complete. The complex now has a mass of nearly 1 million pounds.

On the next shuttle flight, by Endeavour next month, a huge science experiment will be installed on the outside of the space station, wrapping up the U.S. contributions. Atlantis will blast off with supplies on the final shuttle mission at the end of June.

NASA is under presidential direction to focus more on outer space, beginning with expeditions to asteroids and then Mars.

American astronauts, meanwhile, will continue hitching rides to the space station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft, at great expense. The intent is for private U.S. companies to take over those ferry operations within a few years.

Mission Control, meanwhile, monitored a piece of space junk â€Â" an old rocket part â€Â" that possibly was going to stray too close to the space station on Wednesday. Experts wanted to wait until after the shuttle's undocking, before deciding whether the complex needed to move out of harm's way. But it was looking less likely that it would pose a concern, officials said Monday.

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Technology Science - Zuckerberg's dog on Facebook but blogger booted

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Chinese blogger and activist Michael Anti wants to know why he is less worthy of a Facebook account than company founder Mark Zuckerberg's dog.

Anti, a highly popular online commentator whose legal name is Zhao Jing, said Tuesday his Facebook account has been cancelled because he is using a pseudonym and not his real name.

He says his account was suddenly disabled in January when company administrators told him that Facebook has a strict policy against pseudonyms.

However, there is apparently no policy against poodlenyms, or any other type of dog names.

Zuckerberg recently set up a Facebook page for his new puppy, a small Hungarian sheepdog or puli called Beast, complete with photos and a profile.

The most recent post on Beast’s wall says: “I just took a dump and made Mark Zuckerberg pick it up. It was glorious.”

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Technology Science - Tickling astronauts' feet

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What does the skin on the soles of your feet have to do with balance? Quirks & Quarks interviews University of Guelph professor Leah Bent, whose experiments "tickling" the feet of astronauts aims to answer that question. She hopes this information will help her better understand how reduced skin sensitivity in seniors affects balance control.

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Technology Science - Social media password flap triggers investigation

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B.C.'s privacy watchdog has launched a formal investigation to determine whether the provincial NDP is breaking the law by demanding potential leadership candidates hand over the passwords to their social media accounts.

The Opposition party has asked candidates running for the April 17 leadership vote for the login information to their online profiles as it attempts to vet them for anything that could come back and haunt their campaigns, such as embarrassing photos or Internet postings. The New Democrats lost a candidate in the 2009 election after racy Facebook photos surfaced in the media.

But Elizabeth Denham, B.C.'s information and privacy commissioner, said in an interview Friday that she's concerned the party may be running afoul of provincial legislation.

The commissioner said privacy legislation sets limits on what information private entities â€Â" including political parties â€Â" can collect. That information must be reasonable, relevant, accurate and effective for whatever purpose it's being collected.

'Maybe there are other ways that they can meet that purpose without requiring the credentials of somebody's personal social networking site.'â€Â"B.C. Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham

Denham said she's concerned the NDP's policy doesn't meet those standards.

"At first blush, I think the idea of a political candidate having their full social media profiles examined and vetted appears to be problematic from a privacy perspective," she said.

"Social media profiles are really a mix of public information and private information. So giving somebody the keys to the castle, the password to a social media profile, really opens up a lot of information that an individual may want to keep private."

The party is currently in the midst of a leadership race to replace former leader Carole James, and each candidate must fill out a disclosure form detailing anything about their past that could become controversial.

Simons says no

Included in that form is a space for candidates to list the login and password information for their online accounts.

Nicholas Simons handed in his nomination package, complete with a $15,000 deposit, without his passwords, explaining that he hopes the party can figure out another way to scrutinize his personal life that won't be so intrusive.

Simons has said he's concerned not just for his own privacy, but for the privacy of anyone in his Facebook network, whose information would be readily accessible to anyone with access to his account.

Jan O'Brien, the NDP's provincial secretary, said the party gave the login information to an independent researcher, who signed a confidentiality agreement.

The researcher has already finished examining profiles for every candidate other than Simons, said O'Brien, adding that the party is working with Simons to find a compromise.

O'Brien defended the policy, noting politicians' lives are far more public than ordinary citizens.

"These candidates are seeking the top position in the party, they're asking the B.C. NDP to put all their resources behind them to become the premier of the province," O'Brien said in an interview.

"Our goal from Day 1 has been to work with candidates if there's anything that comes to our attention and help them get past it."

O'Brien said the party introduced the policy after racy Facebook photos forced Vancouver-area candidate Ray Lam to drop from the race during the 2009 provincial election.

Denham said her investigation, which she launched on her own without first receiving a complaint, should take a few weeks, after which she will make recommendations for the party.

Suggests alternative

"They want to make sure that there's not embarrassing information out there, I can understand the purpose," Denham said.

"But maybe there are other ways that they can meet that purpose without requiring the credentials of somebody's personal social networking site."

She suggested an alternative is educating candidates "about what kind of social media activity is appropriate, and how certain actions can actually hurt your reputation."

The policy also appears to violate Facebook's terms of service, which state: "You will not share your password ... let anyone else access your account, or do anything else that might jeopardize the security of your account."

Simons, who is still waiting to learn whether his refusal to hand over his passwords will affect his candidacy, welcomed the privacy commissioner's investigation.

"Because this is uncharted territory, what we really have here is someone who's willing to help chart it," he said in an interview.

"[The party and I] talk, and we're trying to figure out a mutual agreement that balances the party's legitimate needs to vet candidates and the legitimate equirement to protect individual privacy."

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Technology Science - Tuna catch and release could expand: study

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The study could allow for an expansion of the catch-and-release tuna fishery. The study could allow for an expansion of the catch-and-release tuna fishery. (Joey Gauthier)

A new study of the catch-and-release tuna fishery shows far fewer fish die after release than was previously believed.

The study could open the door to an expansion of the sport fishing industry on P.E.I.

The federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans has provided licences on the assumption that 11 per cent of tuna die after release. Fishermen argued this was too high, so they helped fund a study. Last summer 59 fish were tagged after capture off P.E.I. shores with technology that reports on their activity to a satellite.

Biologist Mike Stokesbury, who led the research, told CBC News Monday only two died.

"Anything below 10 per cent is thought of as pretty good," said Stokesbury.

"So 3.4 [per cent] is really good."

Joey Gauthier, head of the P.E.I. Tuna Charter Boat Association, said he knows more people who'd like to join the dozen boats currently offering a catch-and-release fishery. If DFO agrees with the study's findings, that could allow more licences.

"It'll just stretch it out," said Gauthier.

The catch and release fishery can be a big money maker for those involved. Last year Gauthier made almost nine times more from sports charters than fishing tuna commercially.

And this study suggests with catch and release the fish are still there for another season.

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Technology Science - Alien life existed, NASA scientist claims

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Multiple filaments and sheaths embedded in this meteorite could point to extraterrestrial life, says NASA scienist Richard Hoover. Multiple filaments and sheaths embedded in this meteorite could point to extraterrestrial life, says NASA scienist Richard Hoover. (Richard Hoover/The Journal of Cosmology)

A NASA scientist says he has found fossilized evidence of alien life in the remains of a meteorite, which if confirmed would bolster the theory that life is not restricted to Earth.

The claim that several types of meteorites contain fossils of microscopic creatures similar to cyanobacteria â€Â" also known blue-green algae â€Â" that originated beyond Earth has predictably created a stir, and 100 experts have been invited to review the research.

Astrobiologist Richard Hoover, who works at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Ala., made the claim in a study published online late Friday in the peer-reviewed publication, The Journal of Cosmology.

The journal's editor-in-chief, Rudy Schild, says Hoover is a highly respected scientist with a prestigious record of accomplishment at NASA. Nevertheless, Schild says he has invited 100 experts to review Hoover's findings and will publish their commentaries online this week.

"No other paper in the history of science has undergone such a thorough analysis, and no other scientific journal in the history of science has made such a profoundly important paper available to the scientific community, for comment, before it is published," the journal's website says.

Using a high-powered microscope, Hoover examined the freshly fractured inner surfaces of carbonaceous chondrites, the most primitive of all known meteorites. These meteorites contain large amounts of water and organic material â€Â" each of which is necessary for the kind of life found on Earth.

But inside the meteorites, which were discovered in the Antarctic, Hoover found bacteria-like creatures that he concludes did not come from Earth.

NASA distances itself from study

Carl Pilcher, who heads NASA's Astrobiology Institute, said the rocks have been handled for more than 100 years. He said they are likely contaminated with Earth microbes.

The space agency released a statement distancing itself from Hoover's study. In an updated statement Monday evening, NASA said Hoover did not have a Ph.D. â€Â" even though his paper in the journal lists him as a Ph.D â€Â" and questioned his expertise as an astrobiologist.

"Anyone can call himself an astrobiologist. That doesn't make it so," Pilcher told the Associated Press.

Hoover, whose specialty is the study of microscopic lifeforms in extreme environments such as glaciers and geysers, is not the first scientist to claim extraterrestrial life.

In 1996, NASA researchers published in the journal Science a study of a Martian meteorite found in Antarctica

That study suggested some of the crystals of magnetite â€Â" an iron-bearing, magnetic mineral found in the meteorite â€Â" were likely the result of biological processes because they looked so similar to those created by bacteria on Earth.

Other scientists have argued that the magnetite crystals could be produced by chemical and physical processes, and even created similar crystals in the lab by heating carbonates.

With files from The Associated Press

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Technology Science - Zombie ants controlled by fungus: study

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Scientists have discovered what they say are four different species of "zombie fungus" in the Brazilian rainforest, which take over the brains of their host ants, forcing them to move to a location ideally suited to the fungus before killing them.

In a study published March 2 in the journal Plos ONE, researchers from Brazil, the United Kingdom and the United States say they began to investigate after noticing different types of fungus growing out of the bodies of carpenter ants.

"This so-called zombie or brain-manipulating fungus alters the behaviour of the ant host, causing it to die in an exposed position, typically clinging onto and biting into the adaxial surface of shrub leaves," the authors write.

The fungus then grows â€Â" usually out of the ant's head and neck region â€Â" and releases its spores.

The fungus, Ophiocordyceps, was originally thought to be a single species, but the researchers determined that there were actually four species at work.

"It is tempting to speculate that each species of fungus has its own ant species that it is best adapted to attack," study leader David Hughes, an entomologist at Penn State University, told National Geographic.

"This potentially means thousands of zombie fungi in tropical forests across the globe await discovery," he told the magazine. "We need to ramp up sampling - especially given the perilous state of the environment."

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Technology Science - Nuclear shipments safe, agency head says

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Bruce Power wants to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes and across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden for recycling.Bruce Power wants to ship 16 decommissioned nuclear steam generators through the Great Lakes and across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden for recycling. (J.P. Moczulski/Canadian Press)

The head of Canada's nuclear safety commission defended his agency's controversial decision to allow Bruce Power to ship radioactive waste through the Great Lakes.

Michael Binder, president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that the decision was a transparent one that was based on science.

He told MPs that his agency did a thorough environmental and safety assessment of how Bruce Power plans to transport the radioactive material and is satisfied that it will be done safely and with no harm to residents or the environment.

Binder was the first witness heard by the natural resources committee, which is spending its next two meetings examining the nuclear agency's decision to allow the shipments through the Great Lakes and along the St. Lawrence Seaway. Representatives of the CNSC and Bruce Power were appearing as well.


On Thursday, the committee will hear from representatives of the Mohawk tribes of Kahnawake, Akwesasne and Tyendinaga, as well as the Union of Ontario Indians and other groups opposed to the shipments.

The shipments, which would carry 16 school bus-sized, radiation-contaminated steam generators from Tiverton, Ont., across the Atlantic Ocean to Sweden for reprocessing, were approved by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission on Feb. 4, but still face stiff opposition.

'And, it is safe'

Binder said a lot of "misinformation" has surrounded the decision. He told the committee that the shipment meets all of the regulatory agency's requirements, the ship is designed to carry the materials and the crew is well-trained to handle it. The plan is good for the environment and involves good waste management practices, he said.

"And, it is safe," said Binder.

But two environmental groups, the Canadian Environmental Law Association and Sierra Club Canada, said earlier Tuesday they are launching a court challenge over the decision.

"We have watched over the last five years the Canadian environmental assessment process and Canadian environmental law be steadily eroded and steadily reduced to less and less importance," said John Bennett, executive director of Sierra Club Canada, at a news conference in Ottawa.

Bennett said the groups will ask the Federal Court of Canada to review the legality of the CNSC's approval. They say a full environmental assessment must be done before a licence to transport can be granted.

Representatives from the Kahnawake, Akwesasne and Tyendinaga communities that are opposed to the shipments attended the announcement of the court challenge Tuesday, and they had a warning.

"We're prepared to do whatever's necessary in the coming months to stop this," warned Kahnawake Grand Chief Mike Delisle, who then added, "first and foremost we are going to take legal action and stand with our white brothers and sisters who have opposed this through the court system."

Bruce Power wants Studsvik, a Swedish company that specializes in decommissioning nuclear power plants, to reprocess the contaminated steam generators. Studsvik would separate the radioactive metal from the metal, and sell the clean metal on the scrap metal market.

The radioactive material â€Â" described by Bruce Power chief executive Duncan Hawthorned as being "the size of a ChapStick" â€Â"would come back to Canada for storage in an oil barrel-sized container.

Binder said millions of shipments of nuclear materials go in and out of Canada every year. At the end of his opening statement before the committee, Binder left MPs with what he described as his agency's "battle cry."

"The commission will never compromise safety," he said.

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Technology Science - No more free access to Canadian science journals

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Canadian Science Publishing took over NRC Research Press journals in fall 2010 and started charging for journal articles as of Jan. 1.Canadian Science Publishing took over NRC Research Press journals in fall 2010 and started charging for journal articles as of Jan. 1. (iStock)

The public has lost free online access to more than a dozen Canadian science journals as a result of the privatization of the National Research Council's government-owned publishing arm.

Scientists, businesses, consultants, political aides and other people who want to read about new scientific discoveries in the 17 journals published by National Research Council Research Press now either have to pay $10 per article or get access through an institution that has an annual subscription.

The new fees have been in effect since Jan. 1, but their impact will likely only become truly apparent over time as the cost of purchasing what are usually monthly or bi-monthly journals piles up.

Back issues published between the 1950s and December 2010 remain freely accessible online to Canadians.

The new fees apply only to articles published after December 2010. Back issues are still freely available online.The new fees apply only to articles published after December 2010. Back issues are still freely available online. (NRC Research Press)

In today's information-based society, many non-academics, including political aides, people who work at granting councils, businesses, consultants, journalists, non-profit groups and health-care professionals need to consult published scientific research, says Leslie Weir, chair of the Ontario Council of University Libraries and chief librarian at the University of Ottawa.

'People have cancelled something else to be able to keep this.'â€Â" Leslie Weir, University of Ottawa chief librarian

"You can't actually identify a group that doesn't need at least some access," Weir said. "The academic community, which is very supportive of open access, was very disappointed to see this change in direction."

Canadian Science Publishing, a not-for-profit company, took over NRC Research Press journals in September 2010 after a federal government review decided scientific publishing should not be a government function. However, it maintained free online access to new articles until December.

Weir said the journals, which publish research from around the world, represent the only scientific-focused press of its kind in Canada.

"It really is kind of a jewel," she said.

About 30 academic institutions across Canada have now lost access to some or all of the journals in the collection, said Weir.

Another 44 universities bought subscriptions to the full set of journals for $12,000 through an agreement negotiated by the Canadian Research Knowledge Network. The network's executive director, Deb deBruijn, says that price is very affordable. She suggested institutions that did not buy full subscriptions were likely interested in only a few of the journals or weren't very science-focused.

But Weir thinks some may not have been able to afford what she sees as a significant extra cost for libraries with budgets that are already stretched.

"People have cancelled something else to be able to keep this," she said of the libraries that bought full subscriptions.

'Very little' impact on scientists

Cameron Macdonald, executive director of Canadian Science Publishing, said the impact of the change in access is "very little" on the average scientist across Canada because subscriptions have been purchased by many universities, federal science departments and scientific societies.

"I think the vast majority of researchers weren't all that concerned," he said. "So long as the journals continued with the same mission and mandate, they were fine with that."

Macdonald said the journals were never strictly open access, as online access was free only inside Canadian borders and only since 2002.

In today's information-based society, many non-academics need access to new scientific research, says Leslie Weir, chief librarian at the University of Ottawa. In today's information-based society, many non-academics need access to new scientific research, says Leslie Weir, chief librarian at the University of Ottawa. (Robert J. Lacombe/Courtesy of Leslie Weir)

People in other countries had to buy subscriptions, which provided the bulk of the publisher's revenue. The rest of its funding came from the federal government's depository services program, which distributes published government information for Canadian libraries.

That was the funding that Canadian Science Publishing lost when it was privatized. It is using Canadian subscriptions to make up for that hole in its budget. Macdonald said researchers continue to have the option to make their articles open access â€Â" freely accessible around the world â€Â" if they pay the press a $3,000 fee, an option that has been available for three or four years.

But he admitted that option is only used for about 10 to 12 articles a year.

"Researchers are loath to spend valuable grant money on it," he said.

Victoria Arbour, a University of Alberta graduate student, published her research in the Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, one of the Canadian Science Publishing journals, both before and after it was privatized. She said it "definitely is too bad" that her new articles won't be available to Canadians free online.

"It would have been really nice," she said. But she said most journals aren't open access, and the quality of the journal is a bigger concern than open access when choosing where to publish.

"It's pretty prohibitively expensive to make things open access, I find," she said.

Weir said more and more open-access journals need to impose author fees to stay afloat nowadays.

Meanwhile, the cost of electronic subscriptions to research journals has been ballooning as library budgets remain frozen, she said.

So far, no one has come up with a solution to the problem. But Weir suggests that if publishers such as Canadian Science Publishing are committed to open access, they could make their articles available online after a certain period following publication.

She also would like other Canadian granting councils that provide public funding to researchers to follow the lead of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research and require research funded with public money to be openly available.

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Technology Science - Android beating Blackberry in operating market

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Google's Android mobile software grabbed the lead in popularity over Research in Motion's Blackberry system, according to the latest industry statistics released Tuesday.

Goggle's Android beats out RIM's Blackberry in mobile operating market.Goggle's Android beats out RIM's Blackberry in mobile operating market. (CBC), an online statistical service, said Android held a 15.2 per cent share of the mobile operating system market in the second month of 2011.

The improvement gave the Google-owned software company a small lead over RIM's older Blackberry system, which held a 14.5 per cent slice of the global market in the same month.

Android's monthly gain represented the first time the newer company surpassed Blackberry in market share, StatCounter said.

Android's lead over RIM was even bigger in the crucial North American market. Here, Android held a 26.4 per cent in February versus Blackberry's 22.2 per cent.

Bigger jump

More ominously, Android's gains show the technology upstart gaining speed in the rapidly growing mobile market.

"The momentum is certainly with Android which has almost tripled its market share over the last 12 months from 5.4 per cent to 15.2 per cent," said Aodhan Cullen, StatCounter's chief executive officer.

Globally, Nokia's Symbian system holds the largest share of the mobile software market at 30.7 per cent while Apple Inc.'s iOS offering locked down the number two spot worldwide at 24.6 per cent.

Interestingly, the Apple operating system has lost more than nine percentage points in market share in the global market during the past 12 months Cullen noted.

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