Winter PEG 2019

The Watch

The Watch





Pipeline talk often polarizes Canadians, but in Belgium, it invites a conversation that’s downright merry. In the famous city of Bruges, a 3.2-km underground pipeline carries as much as 6,000 litres per hour of beer from an historic brewery and restaurant to a bottling plant outside of town. That’s right. Bruges has a beer pipeline. The pipeline was first proposed 10 years ago—in a pub, perhaps?—as an alternative to transporting beer by truck along the city’s bumpy cobblestones. The idea stuck. OZONE HOLE SHRINKS TO 1982 SIZE Just like some waistlines, the hole in the ozone is prone to expansion and contraction. Still, data released by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October were significant enough to make headlines. The numbers revealed that the hole had shrunk to the size it was back in 1982, when it was discovered in the first place. This is somewhat akin to waking up one morning to find out you now fit into the clothes you wore when you were a teenager. Although the world’s huge reduction in the use of chlorofluorocarbons has been credited with helping rebuild the ozone—it could fully recover by 2030—the recent big shifts are something different. The size of the ozone relates to abnormal weather patterns in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica. The patterns have, scientists say, drastically limited ozone depletion in September and October of 2019.

It took $5.6 million and five years to build the line, but finally cold beer began flowing beneath the feet of residents and tourists alike. The pipeline has reduced the brewer’s carbon footprint, and it keeps the beer more carbonated than other transportation options. It’s given beautiful and historic Bruges—often called the Venice of the North—another claim to fame. Yes, the beer pipeline is a first for Planet Earth. Cheers to that.

BACK TO THE MOON The moon continues to loom large in the U.S. space program. In fact, NASA recently issued a final call to the commercial space industry to submit designs for lunar landers. Those would be the kind that carry people. It’s part of the agency’s new Artemis program, announced in the spring. Artemis is actually a renaming of several earlier programs aimed at returning people to the moon and creating a presence in space. The program has several components, including: • a space station that orbits the moon • a powerful rocket launch system to carry the station into space • a space capsule for carrying four to six people to the station The U.S. hopes to get humans back on the moon by 2024—a deadline set by Vice President Mike Pence earlier in the year when he said his country is in a new space race. It’s an ambitious goal, given that it’s four years earlier than the previous one. To meet the deadline and kickstart a lunar economy, the Trump administration has been engaging with private aerospace firms. NASA has already awarded $45.5 million to 11 American companies—among them Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin—to develop landers. New research shows that rats can learn to drive tiny motor vehicles. And they find it relaxing. After designing an appropriately simple and little car, researchers at the University of Richmond in Virginia taught a group of rats to use their new wheels to collect food. The study adds to the long list of tasks that scientists have successfully taught rats. They can navigate mazes, press bars, recognize objects, and pick up their kids from soccer, for example. OK. We made the last one up. By analyzing rats’ hormones before and after driving, researchers learned that the rats appeared to experience less stress and anxiety after getting out and about. This suggests that learning a new skill could be calming for them. No data yet on rat road rage.

IS THERE ANYTHING RATS CAN’T DO? Into the ever-expanding file of rat skills goes driving cars—albeit small ones. - photo courtesy University of Richmond

Nine smaller companies have been contracted to carry robotic spacecraft to the moon to collect data and do research.

SPACE VIEW SAGE III on the International Space Station helps measure elements of Earth’s atmosphere, including changes to the ozone hole. - photo courtesy NASA/Langley Research Center

MOON SHOT PREP A stack consisting of the Orion crew and service modules for Artemis I is lifted out the Final Assembly and Test Cell, November 11. This is one of many stages of work and testing that remain before the complete vehicle is ready for service. - photo courtesy NASA/Rad Sinvak

44 | PEG WINTER 2019

WINTER 2019 PEG | 45

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