Mesa of sedimentary rock coloured by sunset

Rocks rock!

This image from the Grand Canyon comes to you from Schurs Astrophotography.

I like that they refer to the growing dark after sunset as the Earth’s shadow.

Canadian Badlands Trail

The Canadian Badlands Trail

Unbeknownst to me, we’ve been following part of the Canadian Badlands Trail, leading to spectacular scenery and areas of scientific interest.

That pesky border

In the wake of a failed terrorist bombing of a Detroit-bound plane (thank Murphy for failures!), taking a plane to the U.S. is even slower and more intrusive than ever. I don’t know why the airlines haven’t installed one good bomb sniffer to sample the air over the ticket lines. Canada had the technology 10 or 15 years ago, just up the road at MDS Sciex, to sample air from a corridor, a cargo container, or blowing from a building and detect the chemicals in it, including drugs or plastic explosives. I’ll bet they could use fans and ducting to have all the lineups sampled by one or two machines. There’d be no need for patting down passengers’ legs or scanning them into virtual nudity, and the cost would soon be made up by hiring fewer patters or gymnoscanners.

But s’welp me, if one more American tells me the border is an unnecessary nuisance and we should just get rid of it, I’m going to suggest that the U.S. petition for admission to the British Commonwealth as Lower Saskatchewan.

Thinkoholic’s pictures


Thinkoholic has some lovely pictures of Europe, including an Austrian salt mine and ripe walnuts on the tree. Like chestnuts, they form inside a thick, green skin, which dries up and splits open. There are also pictures of Venus fly-traps, lakes, mountains, gondolas, biking through Switerland, and a host of other entertaining subjects.


Astronauts from the space shuttle Discovery started their space walk at 18:12 Eastern time. You can see it on Nasa TV.

Ancient fertility rite or early football? Bottle-kicking

Bottle-Kicking, originally uploaded by Documentally.

I found this story on flickr in the form of a photodocumentary of an old village custom.

The full story is at “Bottle-kicking in Hallaton.”

Mexican swine flu jumps to Alberta pigs

A farm worker came back from a visit to Mexico April 12 and went to on a farm two days later. This seems slightly odd to me, as every time I cross the border I’m asked if I have visited any farms in the last week. That should raise some caution about travelling between foreign countries and farms.

The swine on an Alberta farm have become ill with the Mexican swine flu (H1N1 subtype). That gives it another place to recombine and another pool to live in. We could have alternating epizootics and epidemics. Great.

Recombinomics blog adds:

Co-circulation of human and swine H1N1 provide significant opportunities for adaptation to the human host via recombination.  Two polymorphisms are already fixed in seasonal flu, H274Y for Tamiflu resistance, and E627K in PB2 which allows the virus to more efficiently replicate at lower temperatures.

These changes can lead to adaptation in humans, as well antiviral resistance.  Therefore, the evolution of the H1N1 over the summer will be closely monitored.  The current H1N1 has already acquired tandem human H1N1 polymorphism in HA, which may have led to the species jump from swine to human.

Thus, the efficient transmission from swine to human and vice verse, raises concerns that further adaptation to humans can lead to a fall pandemic similar to 1918.  The species jump indicates the virus can adapt to a new host, and additional acquisitions over the summer continue to be a cause for concern.

Mother gives birth in Canadian skies

Abrupt labor is unusual, but a mother who has had a couple of children cansometimes  deliver another child very quickly. A pregnant woman has given birth over Canada. A Ugandan woman has given birth to a healthy baby girl on a plane from Amsterdam to Boston while flying over Canadian airspace.

Baby Sasha was born Wednesday to the applause of other amazed Northwest Airlines passengers, as flight 59 flew over Halifax, Canada.

The mother, whose name was withheld by the airline, was assisted in giving birth by two doctors who were returning from vacation, The Boston Globe said.

“She (Sasha) looked perfect. She opened her eyes and she was very happy,” Dr Natarajan Raman said.

“Even though we didn’t have a labour room delivery set up, everything went perfect.”

Sasha, weighing 2.7 kilograms, was born five minutes after her mother went into labour and about 90 minutes before the Boeing 757 landed in Boston, where child and mother were taken to Massachusetts General Hospital as a precaution.

US officials said that since Sasha was born over Canadian airspace, she should be a Canadian citizen.

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