Life on Mars

The 9 to 5 has prevented me from hitting full throttle on my blogging endeavours the last few months.  I may finally have struck a balance between work and blogging.  Over the next few months, I am going to write a number of posts on my favourite topic: The Universe . To start, let's look at the possibility of life on Mars.  The red planet has long been suggested as the next best rock in our Solar System to host life.  By that, I am not suggesting human-like Martians that you see on TV or the big screen (as this famous Martian image alludes). Instead it is quite likely that simple organisms might have existed back when Mars was more Earth-like. Here are some engaging arguments:  Mars water-scarred terrain - the planet has vast systems of canyons.  In fact, the "Grand Canyon" of Mars is 5 times longer and 4 times deeper than the one in the U.S. These rugged terrains suggest the forces of water and glacial ice once at work. Needless to say, water is a key breeding ground

Earthquake in New Zealand

New Zealand is still dear to my heart since my visit in April.  Therefore, it was shock to see in the news that a magnitude 7.4 earthquake struck Christchurch early this morning.  Miraculously, no fatalities or injuries were reported so that is great news! Hope the residents there can get back on their feet quickly and rebuild the city. -PTS

Evolution in Action

A recent study on evolution is shining the spotlight on the three-toed Australian skink. When it comes to reproducing, some skinks are foregoing egg laying by giving birth to live youngs. Apparently, lizards living in the warm lowlands of New South Wales (NSW) are literally putting all their eggs in one basket, while their colder mountain dwelling neighbours are favouring live births. Various species of reptiles were known to have made such transitions in the past.  Not often do you catch them in action however.  What are the pros and cons of each reproduction method? Egg laying is a less taxing feat on the mother as she does not have to carry embryos. The caveat is a tantalizingly high mortality rate.  As for live births, the fetus has a shelter for development at the expense of the mother. This is certainly an interesting discovery, especially when the lizards are literally living in my backyard here in NSW! -PTS

Money and Happiness

This article  attempts to portray the general belief that money cannot buy happiness.  I don't necessarily agree with the conclusion of the experiment and its validity has since been questioned.  Here is a more comprehensive article  explaining how you can still enjoy the various luxuries in life that have become routines because of money. They key lies in your attitude. I agree with most of the arguments here, but we can go one step further. I believe if you look at Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, once materialistic desires are met in life, there are other needs you can satisfy.  For instance, sitting atop the hierarchy are self-actualization needs.  Questions like Why was I put on this Earth? How can I live to the fullest? have been begging for answers since the beginning of humanity. These are also the precise reasons that this blog was created in the first place! My message to the rich: Direct your energy to making yourselves better, and more importantly, making this world a

Wikipedia Submission Pending...

I am sure most of us have used Wikipedia , but have you ever made a contribution to it?  I have edited articles in the past, but am looking to break new ground this time by submitting a new topic. This one is short and sweet, and hopefully will be accepted by the Wiki committee. Stay tuned... -PTS

Stephen Hawking Visits Waterloo

Stephen Hawking is spending a few weeks in Waterloo, Canada.  He even gave a presentation of his research to invited guests near the University of Waterloo, where I attended school.  I am sure he wowed the audience with his lecture.  I would certainly be impressed by someone of his stature! -PTS

Hagglunds - The Antarctic Ride

When visiting International Antarctic Centre in New Zealand, I came across the Hagglund.  It was the designated land vehicle for exploration of the ice-covered continent. I was impressed by the joy ride that they offered at the centre and did a little more research upon returning. What is a Hagglund? Hagglunds are all terrain vehicles (ATV) that are used for special navigation purposes. They are often utilized in unusual or hazardous terrains. Their uses are widespread, ranging from military load carriers, emergency medical services, firefighting, territorial exploration, wilderness search and rescue. It can also operate in extreme weather conditions like those in Antarctica.   Structure Hagglunds consist of two track-driven cars with fibreglass reinforced bodies, coupled to each other by an articulated steering joint. It can traverse across a wide range of terrains including paved roads, muddy swamps, snow- or ice-covered fields, mountainous slopes, and bodies of water (semi-sub

Walking on Glaciers

New Zealand was a joy to visit as it offers many scenic natural wonders!  In fact, much of its beauty seem to have something to do with glaciers.  For one, the scenic Milford Sound and its surrounding cousins in South Island were carved by glaciers long ago. As you travel northwards from the sounds, you will be met by two actual glaciers in Fox and Franz Josef .  We joined a walking tour on Franz Josef, the bigger of the two brothers.  The tour was an intriguing experience and I decided to do some research upon returning. What Are Glaciers?  Glaciers are perennial masses of ice that moves over land. They form when precipitation accumulates faster than it disappears on the surface of a terrain (a.k.a. ablation). As layers of ice and snow build upon each other, the granular ice at the bottom fuses to form firn.  Glacial Types Alpine glaciers - form on mountain slopes.  Those that form on valleys are called  valley glaciers . Franz Josef is an alpine glacier. Ice sheets - are ice

New Zealand Trip Ahead

Life is taking a hectic spin these days as the 9 to 5 is creeping past the 5!  Needless to say, part time blogging has taken a suffering.  It's not all bad, however.  I have a vacation coming up in New Zealand in two weeks.  Besides breathtaking sceneries, New Zealand's South Island is internationally renowned for its adrenalin inducing activities, such as jet boating, bungy jumping, sky diving, and the list goes on.  I have my eyes set on a few choices to get the juices flowing. To top it off, I will also squeeze in a glacier hike and may be a LOTR tour. The good news is we will be living out of a camper van so we have great flexibility on the itinerary; the bad news is we only have 8 days to do everything my wife and I wanted.  Time to plan it all out! -PTS

Meaning of Life and the Second Law of Thermodynamics

I know I am supposed to start a project on the origin of the universe.  But I came across this  interesting perspective on the meaning of life. The article claims that life is nature's way of releasing locked free energy in CO 2, in order to adhere to the second law of thermodynamics (entropy increases).  If this really is the case, then our mere existence already fulfills the purpose of life.  Whatever else we achieve in life is simply extra!    I refuse to subscribe to this theory because this puts me in the same class as a cockroach, except that I burn more energy and have a bigger contribution to entropy. Woohoo! However, it does raise a point in that the Earth we live on seems to be a intelligent system with its constituent organisms all serving a common purpose.  What will the next article say?  That all creatures are interconnected in a giant neural network like on  Pandora ? -PTS