Archives for category: Science and Technology

The Christie family has always been private about the famed author’s health, but an analysis of her later books suggests that she may have been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. 

Ian Lancashire, an English professor at the University of Toronto, analyzed 16 of Christie’s novels, written over a span of 50 years by feeding the text into a computer program. The computer then analyzed frequency of different words and phrases. He found that there was a discrete change in Christie’s language beginning in her 70s. For example, in Elephants Can Remember, Christie used 20 percent fewer words than in her earlier works. In other words, the vocabulary she employed had shrunk by one-fifth! At the same time, she used more “indefinite” words, such as thing, anything, nothing, and something.  

When Elephants Can Remember (1972) came out, it was panned by the critics for being poorly plotted and full of errors. My own review of the book will be years away, if I stick to my Agatha Christie challenge. (And if I still have enough vocabulary to write a blog posting!)

Interestingly, the central character of the book is a female novelist struggling with memory loss as she tries to help Hercule Poiroit solve a crime. In an interview, Lancashier notes that Christie may have sensed her declining mental ability and made it an essential element of the book. 


Canada does better than the USA on most standard of living indices including life expectancy, health care, and education. Canada even bests the USA on social issues such as marriage equality and immigration.

Moreover, Canada has this image of being environmentally progressive. It’s a land of virgin forests, pristine lakes, and snow capped mountains. However, according to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada produces more garbage per capita than any other developed country in the world. That’s right, Canadians are big garbage producers!

Here’s one statistic where the USA isn’t number one.


Canada does better than the USA on most standard of living indices including life expectancy, health care, and education. Canada even bests the USA on social issues such as marriage equality and immigration.

Moreover, Canada has this image of being environmentally progressive. It’s a land of virgin forests, pristine lakes, and snow capped mountains. However, according to the Conference Board of Canada, Canada produces more garbage per capita than any other developed country in the world. That’s right, Canadians are big garbage producers!

Here’s one statistic where the USA isn’t number one.

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, I read that asteroid mining was in the near future. It turns out, it still is.

All the news about the meteorite that struck Russia last week (and the close passage of an asteroid) got me wondering what ever came of those grandiose plans to harvest asteroids and comets for the benefit of mankind. 

Actually, there is a lot going on. Planetary Resources, for example, is new company that aims to sell resources extracted from asteroids. Asteroids contain precious metals like platinum and iron, and comets have minerals that produce jet fuel. These objects could provide Earth with an abundant supply of raw materials for the foreseeable future. And with private ownership rights in outer spaces still undefined, private companies like Planetary Resources could make a killing. Is this an investment opportunity or just science fiction hyperbole?

Critics of the asteroid mining business have questioned the ability of companies like Planetary Resources to make a profit; even though, studies have found that around 7 500 asteroids exist, with a value of between $1 billion and $25 billion each.

The logistics of mining asteroids are daunting. Nevertheless, I will be paying close attention to this issue for the next few years. It may be a long shot, but it would be wonderful if space mining actually took off. 

When I was a kid in the 1970’s, I read that asteroid mining was in the near future. It turns out, it still is.

All the news about the meteorite that struck Russia last week (and the close passage of an asteroid) got me wondering what ever came of those grandiose plans to harvest asteroids and comets for the benefit of mankind. 

Actually, there is a lot going on. Planetary Resources, for example, is new company that aims to sell resources extracted from asteroids. Asteroids contain precious metals like platinum and iron, and comets have minerals that produce jet fuel. These objects could provide Earth with an abundant supply of raw materials for the foreseeable future. And with private ownership rights in outer spaces still undefined, private companies like Planetary Resources could make a killing. Is this an investment opportunity or just science fiction hyperbole?

Critics of the asteroid mining business have questioned the ability of companies like Planetary Resources to make a profit; even though, studies have found that around 7 500 asteroids exist, with a value of between $1 billion and $25 billion each.

The logistics of mining asteroids are daunting. Nevertheless, I will be paying close attention to this issue for the next few years. It may be a long shot, but it would be wonderful if space mining actually took off. 

Solar Car
From Honda
Durham University
Solar Car

Here’s a little excitement in the field of solar power. These cars look so cool, who cares if they don’t run at night. Solar cars are probably not ready for the mass market (they may never be), but they’re improving every year as technology finds better ways to harness the power from the sun. Each year the World Solar Challenge holds a solar car race. The competition features a field of competitors from around the world who race across the Australian Outback from Darwin to Adelaide, a distance of 3 021 km (1 877 mi). Last year’s winner averaged approximately 91 km/h (56 mp/h). There are other races too, including the American Solar Challenge, the South African Solar Challenge, and the Dell-Winston School Solar Challenge.



Solar Car
From Honda
Durham University
Solar Car

Here’s a little excitement in the field of solar power. These cars look so cool, who cares if they don’t run at night. Solar cars are probably not ready for the mass market (they may never be), but they’re improving every year as technology finds better ways to harness the power from the sun. Each year the World Solar Challenge holds a solar car race. The competition features a field of competitors from around the world who race across the Australian Outback from Darwin to Adelaide, a distance of 3 021 km (1 877 mi). Last year’s winner averaged approximately 91 km/h (56 mp/h). There are other races too, including the American Solar Challenge, the South African Solar Challenge, and the Dell-Winston School Solar Challenge.



“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
Mark Twain


Next time you take a sip of your favorite champagne or sparkling wine remember that it’s dirt and grime that causes the bubbles to form inside the champagne flute. 

Gérard Liger-Belair, an associate professor of physical sciences at the University Reims Champagne-Ardene, used sophisticated photographic equipment to observe what really happens inside a glass of champagne. 

The bubbles consist of carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in the liquid during the fermentation process. Scientists have long known that these CO2 molecules need a niche of some sort to form bubbles. In a perfectly smooth glass, the molecules would evaporate singly and invisibly. Conventional wisdom is that tiny pits and gouges in the wall of a champagne flute serve as bubble-formation sites. But Dr. Liger-Belair found that the imperfections of an average wine glass are too small for that purpose. Instead, what gives birth to the bubbles are dirt and dust particles on the glass surface, or cellulose strands from the dish towel used to dry the glass. These specs of grime are the perfect gathering places for the CO2 molecules.

Wow, isn’t science fascinating. 

“Too much of anything is bad, but too much Champagne is just right.”
Mark Twain


Next time you take a sip of your favorite champagne or sparkling wine remember that it’s dirt and grime that causes the bubbles to form inside the champagne flute. 

Gérard Liger-Belair, an associate professor of physical sciences at the University Reims Champagne-Ardene, used sophisticated photographic equipment to observe what really happens inside a glass of champagne. 

The bubbles consist of carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in the liquid during the fermentation process. Scientists have long known that these CO2 molecules need a niche of some sort to form bubbles. In a perfectly smooth glass, the molecules would evaporate singly and invisibly. Conventional wisdom is that tiny pits and gouges in the wall of a champagne flute serve as bubble-formation sites. But Dr. Liger-Belair found that the imperfections of an average wine glass are too small for that purpose. Instead, what gives birth to the bubbles are dirt and dust particles on the glass surface, or cellulose strands from the dish towel used to dry the glass. These specs of grime are the perfect gathering places for the CO2 molecules.

Wow, isn’t science fascinating. 

I want one of these: a functional and sturdy bicycle made completely of cardboard. These bikes would be great for traveling. When you arrive in a new city, just buy a cardboard bicycle and discard it when you leave (or even resell it). Imagine how much money you would save on public transportation, not to mention the convenience of having your own wheels. It sounds almost too good to be true.