Short-Sighted Conservative Thinking

This is an unfortunate misstep by our government. For a party that has claimed to be a supporter of Canadian industry, for a party that has claimed it wanted to stop the “brain drain”, for a party that has claimed a desire to maintain and improve Canada’s standing in the world, for a party which acknowledges some kinship with the policies of George W. Bush, this decision makes no sense.

The federal government has turned down a request by Canada’s space industry to support a contract that would have allowed the companies to build the European Space Agency’s Mars surface rover, CBC News has learned.

The decision stunned the companies and has left the ESA scrambling to find a new partner, as no European firm is adequately prepared to match the technical abilities of Canadian firms to build its ExoMars rover.

The ESA wanted Canadian space companies — considered world leaders in robotics — to build the rover for its planned exploration of Mars by 2015. The rover would have a far more sophisticated robotics package than the current U.S. platforms in use.


The project required no additional funding from Ottawa, but was contingent upon $100 million over 10 years from the existing CSA budget being redirected to the program by restructuring priorities and cancelling or postponing other projects, according to documents obtained by the CBC.


The project had the approval of the United States, which also wanted Canada to continue its robotics role and had signed off on Canadian firms to design at least the robotics component on equipment and vehicles used on its planned mission to the moon in 2020.

Surely there is no industry more important to our future than our high tech sector. Surely there are few places where we can demonstrate our leadership than in the realm of space exploration. And surely, with the Bush Administration long proposing a moonbase by 2020, and its continuing support of NASA, this was one item where the Conservatives would have been welcome to follow their partners down south?

Under the Conservatives, Canada’s participation in America’s proposed Moonbase plan is also in doubt.

Damn stupid.

People Power. No, Really: People Power

The list of intriguing technologies in the realm of alternative energy gets longer and longer. This article talks about the potential use of human foot traffic to generate power.

The average human being generates about eight watts of energy with each step, most of which is expended as vibration. It may not sound like much, but take the 30,000 or more people who pass through a major-city subway hub at rush hour, and suddenly you’ve got serious power. That’s usually a problem for architects and engineers, who have to design structures to withstand such small but persistent pressure. But the Facility, a London architecture firm, sees it as an opportunity. The company proposes putting small hydraulic generators in floors to capture vibration and convert it into electricity.

The Facility will roll out a prototype energy-harvesting staircase next year and ultimately use the technology, dubbed the Pacesetter, as part of a larger project to revamp London’s South Central subway stations. “For each footstep we can harvest three to five watts of energy,” says Claire Price, the director of the Facility. “In a rush-hour period in this country, some of the larger stations experience 34,000 people walking through it. At three to five watts, you’re generating a lot of kilowatt hours, enough to power all of the lighting and audio equipment within the building and beyond.” Price and her company are also developing a similar unit to be placed in train tunnels — essentially, as Price describes it, “a microgenerator that resonates in tune with passing trains and that will generate power that will then power a series of wire-free L.E.D. light units, such as street lamps.”

The potential here is obvious. Consider planting these devices in the stairwells of Bloor-Yonge station, which sees almost a million people pass through each day.

And Now For Something Completely Different: What if Mary Poppins Was a Horror Movie

You know, I always wondered about her. Don’t ever make her angry…

Courtesy Smart Canucks and Cameron Dixon

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