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Brian Minter: COVID helping to connect us back to nature – Vancouver Sun



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Many respondents indicated that they would be gardening because it gave them something creative to do while stuck at home during the pandemic. They appreciated that it also provided them with a source of exercise and helped them cope with stress.

Over 80 per cent surveyed felt they had been very successful in their gardening activities this year. Nearly 86 per cent of homeowners, many of them new gardeners, planned to continue gardening and about half of them said they would be expanding their garden space.

Surprisingly, growing flowers, either annuals or perennials, was, by far, the most popular activity. Planting shrubs and trees was next, and growing vegetables rounded out the top-three garden priorities. About one-third of the folks interviewed ranked container gardening high on their list, and about half said indoor gardening was very important to them. When asked, “Why garden?” the most frequent responses were to add beauty to their lives or to beautify an outdoor space.

We, in Canada, are seeing the same trends. More people are beginning to realize the important connection between growing plants and better health. Starting plants from seed, nurturing seedlings, learning to deal with the challenges of weather and pests, and recognizing the need to provide good organic nutrition are all things that connect us to nature, which in turn leads to a more positive state of mental and physical health.

As we strive to eat a healthier diet, there has been a huge growth in windowsill gardening. Growing micro-greens and herb gardening are now significant year-round activities, resulting in these natural herbs and spices adding nutrition and unique flavours to our foods. Today, folks are growing a wide range of herbs from around the world, particularly those from Asia and South America. Herbs also add new fragrances to our containers and attract bees and other pollinators to our gardens.

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Twenty new COVID cases in New Brunswick as Edmundston region enters lockdown – The Record (New Westminster)



FREDERICTON — Public Health officials in New Brunswick reported another 20 cases of COVID-19 in the province Sunday, just hours after one of the province’s hardest-hit areas began a 14-day lockdown.

Nine of the new cases are in the newly locked-down Edmundston region which now has 144  of the province’s 334 active cases.

Ten of the new cases are in the Moncton region and there is one new case in the Miramichi area.

Health officials say the Edmundston lockdown is needed to curb a rise in daily infections that they fear is about to get out of control.

As of now, non-essential travel is prohibited in and out of the area, which borders Maine and Quebec’s Bas-St-Laurent region. 

The order also forces non-essential businesses, schools and public spaces to close, including outdoor ice rinks and ski hills. 

Provincial officials say they will evaluate the situation in the region every seven days, and cabinet may extend the lockdown if necessary. 

New Brunswick has had 1,124 COVID-19 cases and 13 related deaths since the pandemic began.

Five people are in hospital, including two in intensive care.

“We will be more confident in our decision making, and zone restrictions are more likely to be eased, if more New Brunswickers, in all health zones, who have symptoms get tested,” Dr. Jennifer Russell,  chief medical officer of health, said Sunday in a statement.

The Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton regions are in the red level of the province’s pandemic recovery plan, with the rest of the province at the orange level.

A handful of schools in the province are also poised to make the move to remote learning amid the surge in local infections.

Monday will be an operational response day at Andover Elementary School, Perth-Andover Middle School and Southern Victoria High School in Perth-Andover, as well as Donald Fraser Memorial School and Tobique Valley High School in Plaster Rock.

Students in those schools will learn from home starting Tuesday.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 24, 2021. 

The Canadian Press

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Most stable laser transmission: world record set by Australian and French researchers – World Record Academy



Perth, Western Australia, Australia–Scientists from the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research
(ICRAR) and the University of Western Australia
(UWA) teamed up with researchers from the French National Centre for Space Studies
(CNES) and the French metrology lab Systèmes de Référence Temps-Espace
(SYRTE) at Paris Observatory; by combining the Aussies’ phase stabilization technology with advanced self-guiding optical terminals, it allowed laser signals to be sent from one point to another without interference from the atmosphere, thus setting the new world record for the Most stable Laser transmission of a laser signal through the atmosphere.

The team set the world record for the most stable laser transmission by combining the Aussies’ phase stabilization technology with advanced self-guiding optical terminals. Together, these technologies allowed laser signals to be sent from one point to another without interference from the atmosphere.

Lead author Benjamin Dix-Matthews, a Ph.D. student at ICRAR and UWA, said the technique effectively eliminates atmospheric turbulence. “We can correct for atmospheric turbulence in 3-D, that is, left-right, up-down and, critically, along the line of flight,” he said. “It’s as if the moving atmosphere has been removed and doesn’t exist. It allows us to send highly stable laser signals through the atmosphere while retaining the quality of the original signal.”

Photo 1: UWA’s rooftop observatory. Credit: ICRAR.

The result is the world’s most precise method for comparing the flow of time between two separate locations using a laser system transmitted through the atmosphere, The reports.

ICRAR-UWA senior researcher
Dr. Sascha Schediwy said the research has exciting applications. “If you have one of these optical terminals on the ground and another on a satellite in space, then you can start to explore fundamental physics,” he said. “Everything from testing Einstein’s theory of general relativity more precisely than ever before, to discovering if fundamental physical constants change over time.”

The technology’s precise measurements also have practical uses in earth science and geophysics. “For instance, this technology could improve satellite-based studies of how the water table changes over time, or to look for ore deposits underground,” Dr. Schediwy said.

There are further potential benefits for optical communications, an emerging field that uses light to carry information. Optical communications can securely transmit data between satellites and Earth with much higher data rates than current radio communications.

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SpaceX Launches Rocket With 143 Satellites – The Most Ever Flown On A Single Mission – Forbes



Elon Musk’s company SpaceX has successfully launched the Transporter-1 mission, breaking the record for the most number of satellites ever flown on a single rocket.

Today, Sunday, January 24 at 10 A.M. Eastern Time, the company’s Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida, with 143 commercial and government satellites on board.

The satellites were launched into a sun-synchronous orbit, one that stays in constant daylight, about 500 kilometers above Earth’s surface.

About eight minutes later, the bottom section of the rocket returned to Earth and landed in the Atlantic Ocean on a floating barge called Of Course I Still Love You – a norm now on SpaceX launches.

The launch was the first in SpaceX’s new “Rideshare Program”, designed to launch many satellites at a time and enable organizations to reach space at a lower cost.

SpaceX has launched rideshare missions before, notably its SSO-A mission in 2018 with 64 satellites on board, but this new program is intended to greatly expand the launch opportunities on offer.

It cost just $5,000 per kilogram to place a satellite on this rocket, or $1 million for 200 kilograms. The total mass of all the commercial satellites on board was about 2,700 kilograms, equating to almost $14 million.

The launch of 143 satellites broke the previous record for the most number of satellites on a launch, set by India in 2017 when it launched 104 on a single rocket.

The satellites on board included 48 satellites from Earth imaging company Planet Labs, a small NASA mission called V-R3x to test ways to track small spacecraft in Earth orbit, and 36 small communications satellites from Swarm Technologies.

Ten of SpaceX’s own satellites in its controversial Starlink internet mega constellation were included, which reached the milestone of 1,000 satellites launched last week.

The total mass of the satellites on board was about 5,000 kilograms.

However, the large number of satellites on board – while impressive – has caused some concern, specifically regarding space traffic management.

SpaceX did not release a detailed manifest of the satellites on board, meaning the purpose and nature of some of them was unclear at the time of launch.

“One of the problems is that we don’t even know for sure what all of the 143 satellites are,” astronomer and spaceflight expert Jonathan McDowell from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics told SpaceNews.

With some of the satellites being as small as a shoe box, they will be hard to track in orbit, a necessity to avoid collisions with other satellites.

This single launch alone will increase the number of active satellites in orbit by about five percent, given there are only about 3,000 active satellites currently orbiting Earth.

Or, in other words, one out of every 20 active satellites now in orbit were launched on this Transporter-1 mission.

Nonetheless, the launch is a huge milestone for SpaceX, letting it offer a new type of service unmatched by any other launch provider.

At $5,000 per kilogram, the flight was far cheaper for the satellites on board than on a rival commercial rocket.

For example, the New Zealand-based launch company Rocket Lab offers space on its smaller Electron rocket at about $20,000 per kilogram.

However, while these smaller launchers can’t match SpaceX on price, they can offer a dedicated launch to a specific orbit with a short wait time.

SpaceX with its rideshare missions, on the other hand, can only launch multiple satellites into one orbit, posing some issues to then move the satellites elsewhere.

Still, the service has clearly proven popular, and a Transporter-2 mission is expected later this year.

Now many will be hoping, if these launches are to become more regular, that more can be done to safely manage the large amounts of satellites deployed in orbit.

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