The Next Canadian Astronaut

This guy is everything you expect in an astronaut.  At least that was my first thought when I was looking at his biography.  David St. Jacques was one of only two candidates (along with Jeremy Hansen) chosen in the 2008 Canadian Astronaut draft, the third in our nation’s history. He has a degree in Engineering Physics, a Ph.D. in Astrophysics, and is a medical doctor.  And that’s just his formal education.  He’s an avid mountaineer, cyclist, skier, and sailor.  Not to mention his advanced certification as a scuba diver, his commercial pilot’s license, and his ability to converse in Russian, Spanish, and Japanese. And so...

Review: IMAX: A Beautiful Planet

I recently had the opportunity to watch a brand new IMAX feature, called A Beautiful Planet.  It features incredible views of the Earth from space, captured by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.  Most of the footage was taken during Expedition 42 on the ISS, starting with the arrival of Samantha Cristoforetti, Terry Virts, and Anton Shkaplerov aboard the Soyuz TMA-15M, and ending with their departure. Much of the film was focused on the views of Earth, the scenic diversity of life and land that can only be seen from space.  It was difficult to see the effects of humans during the day time,...

Motivation Monday: Start Now!

Now! Right now! Forget about reading this post, go out and do that thing that you should be doing to make your life better. Go! Now that we got that out of the way, let’s talk about why starting now is better than starting later.  There are so many excuses you can make when there’s something you want to do.  “There’s not enough time,” “I need to learn more or build a skill first,” “That just isn’t possible for me,” “I have to give up everything I have now.” It’s hard to start something new and work toward something different...

A Lonely Universe?

Life in the universe is a fascinating topic.  The simplest question: Are we alone? It breeds so many deeper and more profound scientific questions, like “How many habitable planets are there?” “How likely is life to develop on any given planet?” and “How long can a civilization survive?” We can’t answer them definitively, but we can narrow it down. The Drake equation, shown above, was first developed by Frank Drake, the head of the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI), in 1961.  He took the question of are we alone and made it quantifiable, in a probabilistic way.  It lets us...

Motivation Monday: Forms of Distraction

What distracts you from doing the things you need to do? What keeps you from moving forward? We all know the common distractions – TV, games, alcohol, social media, etc.  But when you’re working on a particular goal, things that can seem positive can actually prevent you from achieving it.  You may not realize it, but there are plenty of counterintuitive forms of distraction. Let’s say that, like myself, you are working out at the gym, and you’re built up a pretty solid routine.  You go in the morning, go to work, and have your evenings free for other pursuits.  Now...

Space Mice With Liver Disease

Mice are a common laboratory animal for pre-human testing.  Everything from drugs to medical treatments to surgeries have been tested on mice, and the effects of spaceflight are no exception.  Animals such as Laika the dog and Rhesus monkey Albert 1 have had their own test flights, but mice offer an easy alternative when there’s not much extra room on a spacecraft. In a recent study, mice flown on the space shuttle Atlantis were shown to have developed early signs of liver disease.  Could humans in space exhibit the same symptoms? “Prior to this study we really didn’t have much information...

Motivation Monday: Uncertainty

In the world of science, there is no definite measurement.  In any quantity, there is what we call an uncertainty.  In a simple example, let’s say you were using a ruler to measure the length of a rope.  You line up the rope along the ruler, and take a reading.  But how sure are you that the rope was perfectly lined up with the end of the ruler? How certain are you that your reading was correct? There is always uncertainty.  It extends more broadly in life. I’m at a point in my life where I’ve been in the working...

Motivation Monday: Seasonal Downside

I am still here.  It’s been more than a week since I’ve written a word on the digital page, meaning there is a lot to catch up on for a guy who is trying to write a blog post every day.  But it happens, sometimes there are vacations, busy weeks at work, and crises to manage.  Life happens, yet still I continue.   Today’s motivation post will talk about part of the reason for my shift, and how I may be the only person who sees a changing season as a frustration, even if it is the long-awaited Spring. If you...

Motivation Monday: The Shared Path

“No man is an island; entire of itself; Every man is a piece of the continent.” -John Donne It’s easy to feel alone sometimes.  We feel as if our feelings of anger, shame, or sadness are ours alone.  The rest of the world, in the meantime, is happy, confident, and energetic.  As a counter to this you’ve probably heard that we compare our behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel.  Well not only is that true, but it’s also true that we are not the only ones to feel these emotions.  We, as humans, never realize how much deeper our similarities...

The Essence of Science and the Fringes of Reality

Data is fascinating.  And what’s even more fascinating is that the laws of nature produce predictable patterns in data.  For example, if you toss a coin 100 times and measure how many times heads comes up, you’ll get a number between zero and 100.  If you repeat that experiment again and again and again, you’ll get different values each time, but usually the number will be around 50, and 50 will come up more than any other value if you repeat the experiment enough times.  If you plot this data, with the # of heads in 100 coin tosses on...