Wednesday Night #1588

Written by  //  August 6, 2012  //  Wednesday Night Authors, Wednesday Nights  //  No comments

Mars rover Curiosity lands on surface of Red Planet what fantastic news for the U.S. and world space community! We watched it (or at least the JPL team) live, thanks to PBS and confess to some teary moments. Given the incredible number of sequences that had to go right – Challenges of Getting to Mars: Curiosity’s Seven Minutes of Terror, the success was truly a tribute to the huge talents and teamwork of both scientists and engineers. No doubt in the weeks and months ahead we will become blasé about the reports coming back from Curiosity, but tonight – and this week – the excitement will be palpable and any other topic pales by comparison.

But, other topics there are. We will only touch on a few as we are far too excited to concentrate on much more than the Mars adventure.

Appropriately, this Friday, the Westmount Science Camp, the successful project led by our friend Nigel Penney, will hold its closing Open House at Victoria Hall from 9 to 3:30. Nigel says “Kids of all ages are welcome! There will be many hands-on activities, with science volunteers from McGill and the Neuro. The Open House will be hosted by the final camp group (11-13 year olds) from the camp.” We are sure that some of these youngsters, inspired by the Mars landing, will go on to great discoveries of their own. Do try to come and see what they have done this summer.

As most of you know by now, Catherine Gillbert has conquered Kilimanjaro and should be safely back on flat land. We are indeed proud of her achievement!

The Olympics continue to delight, amaze and sometimes dismay. Arcane rules frustrate some competitions and along with the almost inevitable triumphs of the Michael Phelpses and Usain Bolts (what an incredibly appropriate name), there are always heartbreaking stories of athletes who gave their all and were frustrated by events beyond their control. Generally, we hear nothing but good things from friends who are there and Mayor Boris Johnson continues to entertain, but there will always be the naysayers like Dr. Doom ROUBINI: ‘The London Olympics Are An Economic Failure As London Is Totally Empty’ and the over-the-top controls like the ‘Brand Police’ .

As for the rest of the world, or those who are not glued to the Olympic reports, it is small surprise that Kofi Anan has resigned from his thankless task of trying to negotiate some sort of settlement of the Syrian conundrum. Someone else will be called upon to take up the burden and one name that has been suggested is that of Martti Ahtisaari, a former president of Finland and a renowned mediator who was awarded the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of three decades of work in resolving international conflicts.

France has, according to the China Daily, okayed military intervention in Mali, as long as it is African military intervention. Not sure where that will go. Kudos, meantime, to Kyle Matthews for his excellent piece Mali’s Mayhem published on Project Syndicate.

While Europe’s problems are not getting any less important, the South China Sea remains a center of dispute with much posturing by China and the U.S. and no resolution in sight.

After that quick and depressing survey, we must point to Dr. Rodrigue Tremblay, who has just published a gloomy assessment of the state of the world Why Are Things Crumbling Around Us…and Could Easily Get Worse? As always, his ideas are provocative and well argued, and unlike most such commentaries, he does offer solutions.

The exchanges between the two Davids continue, this time on gun control – unfortunately a timely debate in light of Sunday’s Sikh temple shootings
David (Jones) The gun debate: Americans simply won’t surrender their right to bear arms vs David (Kilgour) The gun debate: More regulation in the U.S. will result in less gun violence in Canada

The Quebec election campaign will, no doubt, be front and center for the next four weeks. Possibly, the most intriguing element will be what the striking students do and will there be a split amongst them. Now that Leo Bureau-Blouin is a PQ candidate, he no longer sports the red square and has, as we understand it, suggested that he is running to represent all the people in his riding of Laval-des-rapides (at least, he’s hoping not to offend any more than necessary). Remember Mme Marois and the PQ explaining during the spring that its decision to wear the red square didn’t mean it opposed fee hikes, or supported rowdy protests, but rather was meant as an expression of support for the student cause?
Meanwhile, his former colleague, the ever-present Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, who is only a spokesman and never a leader, has announced that students who are members ofCLASSE will vote over a nine-day period, starting Tuesday, on heading back to school when it reopens mid-month. But they are faced with “an overriding strategic dilemma: to suspend the fight, or keep it up and risk helping to re-elect the Charest Liberals”. This should be fun.
In the process of putting together a comprehensive list of parties, leaders and local candidates, we note that only the LPQ/PLQ offers an English version of their website. The PQ offers no option – but then we wouldn’t expect them too, would we, and the CAQ offer Google translation… not a particularly reliable way of ensuring a clear message.

The Enbridge/Northern Gateway debate has just heated up with Heritage Minister James Moore speaking somewhat out of turn (for a member of Stephen Harper’s cabinet) to say “This project will not survive public scrutiny unless Enbridge takes far more seriously their obligation to engage the public and to answer those very legitimate questions about the way in which they’ve operated their business in the very recent past” Canadian minister slams Enbridge, casts doubt on Northern Gateway pipeline plan Now what?
Not wishing to leave you without a high note, we are delighted to suggest this item The Front Fell Off  from the past – no less relevant today.

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