Sunday, September 7, 2008

The End of the World?

The Large Hadron Collider comes online Monday and starts doing weird things that the universe hasn't seen happen to its particles since around the Big Bang, apparently. For an easy-to-follow lay explanation, see this link, which beats the hell out of the biology songs cropping up on YouTube. Some are arguing that this thing could end our world by creating black holes on the planetary surface, but I feel that if black holes were that easy to make, we'd have them in our backyards. Or maybe that's where lost dryer socks really go.

In a similar vein, it's also the end of the longest minority government ever in Canadian history, as Stephen Harper asked Michaelle Jean to dissolve the Parliament this morning. We'll head to the polls for another election on the 14th of October - the 3rd time in 11 years - and we'll end up with another Conservative minority. Harper's strategy must have something to do with massive turkey consumption influencing voter choices, as last time we had elections just after Christmas.

This blog will get hijacked by incredibly amusing (and potentially vindictive and offensive) political tales every once in a while, because election time is my favourite. We'll start by ripping into David Emerson, the shifty representative from Vancouver who crossed the floor 2 weeks after being re-elected as a Liberal in his traditionally left-wing riding. His quotes in the CBC's article are gold - "I was never a Liberal," he says, seemingly forgetting the years 2004-2006 and missing the signs festooned around his riding during both those elections proclaiming him as a Liberal candidate. "I think I had a good shot at winning [this election]," he speculated, although a Conservative hasn't been elected in that riding since 1958, and his own Conservative opponent in 2006 finished 7, 000 votes behind the 2nd-place NPD candidate.

A particularly astute commenter on the CBC site theorizes that, although Emerson says he's leaving politics because of the commute from Vancouver to Ottawa, Harper will appoint Emerson to the Senate and his Cabinet, much like he did with Michael Fortier in 2006. Although I'm not sure that he'll end up as a Minster again, I think Harper will push Senate reform to the back-burner of this election campaign, and there will be another Senate appointment when he wins another minority. After all, it's not like Emerson would even have to show up for that job...


I don't have a lot to say on science today, although it was kind of gratifying to see an entire issue of Nature devoted to "Big Data" and its impact on science, which I touched on months ago. More on this to come later in the week, with incisive political commentary on the mousiness of Stephane Dion.

Another interesting tidbit - a huge ice shelf has broken free of our very own Ellesmere Island (the big one in the Arctic beside Greenland). This is not only just a sign of global warming and the problems we can expect, but also a none-too-subtle reminder that the fabled Northwest Passage will soon be open for business. We don't tend to think that much about borders in this country, but we definitely have them, and there is definitely territory under dispute in the Arctic between ourselves and the USA, Russia, and Denmark. Most of these disputed borders are in areas close to the Northwest Passage, and will become the subject of heated diplomacy between our countries as the prospect of profiting from goods shipped through this nautical shortcut to the Panama Canal becomes a reality.

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