The World Without Us, Summer Science I: I'd Like To Be, Under the Sea, Summer Science II: Dem Ponds, Dem Ponds, Dem Dry Ponds, Summer Science III: Climate Change and Arctic Hunting, Voyager's 30th Anniversary

 

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The World Without Us

worldwithout.jpg The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

Look anywhere and you can see the mark humanity has left on the planet. From the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China, to more modern structures like the CN tower or the Sydney Opera House, the Earth is covered in monuments to civilization. But how permanent is the landscape we've created? If all the humans were to suddenly leave, would visiting archaeologists from other planets in the future find any evidence of our existence? That's the question posed by Alan Weisman in his new book, "The World Without Us." Mr. Weisman travelled the world speaking with engineers and scientists about how long our cities would last if humans didn't maintain them. He discovered that our mark isn't as permanent as we might think, which, he says, is actually good news. And if we want to avoid the eventual collapse of human society, the tools are available to reverse our current environmental crisis.

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Summer Science I: I'd Like To Be, Under the Sea

ropos_sponge.jpg An unidentified species of sponge at the bottom of the Gully

Dr. Ellen Kenchington had a unique opportunity this summer to discover a brand-new world. It wasn't a whole planet, but it was an alien landscape two-and-a-half kilometres under the Atlantic Ocean, and yet practically right on her doorstep. Dr Kenchington is a research scientist with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography. This summer, she used the Canadian ROPOS submersible to look deep into the Sable Gully, a huge canyon system about 200 km off the coast of Nova Scotia. The Gully is a Marine Protected Area in which fishing is forbidden, and as the submarine explored it, Dr. Kenchington was thrilled to discover some weird and wonderful undersea life.

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Summer Science II: Dem Ponds, Dem Ponds, Dem Dry Ponds

smol_ponds.jpg Dr. Smol examines a dry pond - photo Marianne Douglas

Dr John Smol and his colleagues have been studying small ponds in the high Canadian Arctic for more than twenty years. Sediments in these ponds have preserved a record of the biology and climate of this sensitive ecosystem, going back to the last Ice Age. Previously, they had discovered signs of accelerating climate warming, going back well more than a century, in the sediments. Now, the signs of warming are a little more obvious. The ponds are drying up completely. Dr. Smol is a professor of biology at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change

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Summer Science III: Climate Change and Arctic Hunting

jamesford.jpg Dr. Ford at a hunter's camp at Igloolik Point

As the Arctic warms, the animals, plants, the ice, the land and the weather are all changing. That is a problem for those who live off the land in the North. Subsistence hunting is still very important for Northern peoples, and Dr. James Ford, a postdoctoral fellow in Geography at McGill University in Montreal, is studying how changing conditions are affecting the Inuit's ability to hunt. He's found that the shorter winter season, thinner sea ice, and less predictable weather are all conspiring to make hunting more difficult and more dangerous.

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Voyager's 30th Anniversary

goldendisc.jpg Voyager's Golden Disc

Thirty years ago this week, a tiny space probe set off from Cape Canaveral on a historic journey that would take it past the largest planets in our Solar System, and then, with a little help from Jupiter's gravity, on a continuing trip among the stars of the Milky Way. The craft was called Voyager 1 - even though it launched 2 weeks after its twin sister, Voyager 2. Both craft contained a message encoded onto a gold record, bolted to the side of the spacecraft. It was called the Golden Record, and it was spearheaded by the famed astronomer Carl Sagan. Sagan was a strong believer in the possibility of other life in the Universe. And he knew that the twin Voyager spacecraft presented a rare opportunity to send an actual artifact to an alien civilization - if one existed. Bob McDonald reflects on Voyager's remarkable voyage.

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Theme music copyright Raphaël Gluckstein. Creative Commons License by-nc-nd-2.0