Friday, May 20, 2022

BIG Exclusives

Policies that took energy security for granted have put much of the world in a tough spot

Not too many years ago in the late 20th century, governments were really focused on energy security. They realized that cheap, abundant, and reliable energy supplies were essential to support industry, housing, transportation – and, indeed, our very lives. Resource-rich countries such as Canada and the United States restricted the amount of oil and natural gas that could be exported, ensuring that decades of reserves remained for domestic consumption. Resource-poor countries including Japan scrambled...

Fracking 101: Just the fracts

When I graduated from university and started my job at Shell Canada as an interpreter, I was trained on the basics of the petroleum system. To clarify, an “interpreter” in this context does not mean that I was hired to translate Greek to English. I do speak Seismic quite fluently, though, and my role as an interpreter was to translate sounds of a different type – the mysterious sound waves contained in seismic data...

Putting global emissions in perspective

Every activity, natural or manmade, from breathing to driving, generates emissions of some kind. Certain emissions are worse than others, causing pollution or, in large quantities, affecting the composition of the atmosphere. Greenhouse gases (GHGs), in particular carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4), generated by modern industry, transportation, and agriculture, have been rising steadily since the industrial revolution. These emissions are implicated in manmade influence on climate. Figure 1 shows the relative proportion of...

Climate change and energy: context for the great debate

Fifteen thousand years ago, humans walked across the Bering Strait from Asia to North America. How, you ask, did humans walk across an 80-metre-deep body of water? It was not a biblical miracle; it was because the strait was dry. Sea level was more than 100 metres lower than it is today. All that water was locked in the ice that covered much of the planet at the time. What was to become Calgary, Alberta, a city...

A look back at causes of death in the first year of COVID-19

Am I a bad person for getting excited by the discovery that the 2020 data was available in the Alberta Death database? I was anxious to dive into the information that could put that strange year in context, and perhaps shed some light on what to expect going forward. Mixed messaging, alarming on all sides, had been propagated throughout 2020 by all types of media; headlines and commentators gravely reporting the latest cluster of...

Exploring potential biases in estimating vaccine effectiveness

Since the COVID vaccines were first given emergency approval in the United States, Canada, and much of the world, the question of their effectiveness has been top of mind. We showed that vaccine effectiveness (VE) is part of the rational decision to vaccinate or not in this article, Prisoner’s dilemma and vaccination as it helps define the utility of vaccinating. Most recently, we discussed the VE against severe outcomes in Alberta, Canada, for the booster (3 doses), 2...

Capturing carbon – the science and the subtleties

Modern humans have, through their daily activities, been liberating carbon at a furious pace. By “carbon”, I specifically mean carbon dioxide, or CO2, which is a naturally occurring gas molecule made up of one carbon atom and two oxygen atoms. Growing concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere accelerated due to human activities have been linked to unwelcome climate changes, and there have been considerable political and scientific efforts to reduce these concentrations. The CO2 molecule    As detailed...

The best missed prediction: disease severity 50% lower than we predicted

Updated data from Ontario as of Jan. 15 shows vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization has dropped to just below 40%, and has stayed at about that level for two weeks. The vaccine effectiveness against new cases remains below zero, but has climbed in the last few days. The vaccine effectiveness against ICU admission dropped moderately and is holding in the mid to upper 70s. We have been following the COVID data in Ontario, Canada, as a...

Music, mathematics, and physics Part 3 – harmony and chords

Brian Russell (middle) jamming in Plaza Santa Ana, Madrid, in 2018. (Photo by Natasha Hunt) In the first part of this series – Music, mathematics, and physics – I explained why we have 12 notes in western music. In Part 2 – Music, mathematics, and physics Part 2 – musical scales – I looked at scales, which is the way these 12 notes are grouped together. In this third article, I will discuss harmony and chords,...

Omicron update: vaccine effectiveness against ICU admission holds at 80%

In a series of recent articles, the Canadian province of Ontario’s COVID data has been examined as a proxy of the Omicron variant’s surge for other jurisdictions in North America. In our last update on this series – Omicron update: vaccine effectiveness against hospitalization drops sharply - we noted that the vaccine effectiveness (VE) against cases remained negative and that the VE against hospitalization had dropped abruptly. This update, using data released Jan. 5, shows four key...