York Martian-fog study finds thick haze, ‘diamond dust’

Nights on Mars are shrouded in icy fog that turns to scattered precipitation, according to a new study of weather near the red planet’s north pole, wrote National Geographic News online April 4.

The finding marks the first time that fog has been directly observed on the neighbouring world, adding to evidence that modern Mars experiences a type of ongoing water cycle akin to Earth’s.

"Because the atmosphere is so thin on Mars, there is nothing to keep in the heat overnight, so the ground cools off very quickly," said study co-author John Moores, a [post doctoral fellow and] planetary scientist at York University [Faculty of Science & Engineering].

"Heat from the air is lost to the ground, so the air close to the ground gets colder, and as that pocket of (cold) air gets larger," more water vapour in the atmosphere condenses into ice crystals, and the fog gets thicker, Moores said.

"The fog starts closer to the ground and rises in height over time, so the cloud gets thicker and thicker and higher and higher as the night goes on," he added.

Eventually the icy haze begins to shower the ground with a light sprinkling of snow-like particles. The shower is not quite snowfall, the scientists say, but is perhaps more akin to the "diamond dust" that falls from the skies on some cold nights in Earth’s Arctic regions.

"Because we have the fog," Moores said, "that means that there is a reservoir of water [in the atmosphere] to interact with subsurface water on a daily basis."

The Martian-fog study was published in the Feb. 25 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.

Elizabeth May takes her quest to join the leaders’ debates to court

What’s the standard for letting a leader into the debates?, wrote The Globe and Mail April 5, in a story about a court action by Green Party leader Elizabeth May to get a place in a televised election debate.

The Green Party hasn’t yet argued in court for a particular new standard, but it filed an affidavit from Fred Fletcher, a York University emeritus professor of political science, who offered some potential standards. “If the broadcast consortium is searching for a formula other than representation in the House of Commons, it could require that participants be required to represent a political party that is either represented in the House of Commons OR has nominated candidates in a specified number of constituencies AND received a minimum share of the popular vote in the previous election,” he stated in the affidavit.

  • Green Party leader Elizabeth May has been invited to a party leaders’ debate but likely won’t attend — a coalition of small or fringe political parties are hosting their own public forum this month, wrote Postmedia News April 4.

The “Other Parties Discussion” is tentatively scheduled for April 23 at York University. A Saturday was picked to allow non-professional politicians with day jobs to participate.

Tory legacy leaves little to attract women voters

Could the hand that rocks the cradle be the one to rock the vote? asked Toronto Star columnist Antonia Zerbisias April 1. That’s what some political scientists maintain as they consider the possible outcomes of the May 2 federal election.

But are the Tories chasing any but the most traditional, and wealthy, women? And are there enough of them to make the difference between a minority and majority?

“This really buys into a kind of romantic nostalgia for a family that people think existed and worked better than families today,” observes Linda Briskin, a professor in York University’s School of Women’s Studies. “But, in fact, it never really existed for most working people and the dual-parent, single-income earner is virtually disappearing all over the world.”

This isn’t bad just for women, it’s also affecting men, says Briskin. “Here are these men struggling to find their own place and defining themselves as workers, breadwinners, heads of households and all of that language that Harper invokes — but it’s not possible for men anymore.”

The result of five years of Harper?

Women, say critics, have effectively been shunted to the sidelines, silenced during this election campaign, with no organizations to stand up for their rights. “We’re not hearing women’s voices,” says Briskin. “The lack of democracy inside the Harper government, its way of running the country, its socially conservative ideological agenda, specifically affects women. It is a great disservice to hearing women’s experiences.

“The whole message that we can’t fund social programs, that there isn’t enough money, is really a direct attack on women and families,” she continues. “Take the money to be spent on jets and jails, it’s an enormous amount against what’s being funded into social programming initiatives.”

Sun burns CBC in bid to hype tabloid TV

Since the [federal election] writ was dropped 10 days ago, the Sun chain of newspapers has run more than half a dozen articles accusing the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation of political bias, effectively running parallel commercial and ideological campaigns, wrote The Globe and Mail April 5.

The attacks are helping to fuel the chain’s ongoing marketing campaign for the April 18 launch of Sun TV, which is promising "Hard News and Straight Talk."

The attacks are evidently unprecedented in Canadian election history. "I’ve been looking at media coverage of elections since the sixties, and I don’t remember anything like this," said Fred Fletcher, a professor emeritus of communication studies and political science at York University.

On air

  • Gail Fraser, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, spoke about a spill of synthetically based drilling mud at the Henry Goodridge oil rig off the coast of Newfoundland, on CBC Radio St. John’s April 4.
  • Andrew Watson, a PhD student in history at York, spoke about the federal election campaign, on BNN-TV’s “Squeezeplay” April 4.