(Image cred: Boston Public Library)
Covergalls, Tiga boots, kitchen planning and irons - these are just a few of the innovations made by women, for women
Covergalls, Tiga boots, kitchen planning and irons - these are just a few of the innovations made by women, for women
Did you know that Canada processes a whopping 2.86 million tonnes of potatoes a year — into things like frozen French fries, instant mashed potatoes and chips? Unfortunately, all of that processing translates into a lot of potato waste. But recently — at the University of Alberta — a team of innovative researchers found a way to put these potato processing leftovers to good use...by transforming then into a biodegradable plastic! Watch this short, educational video — developed by the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum — to find out how it works.
Pssst! Want to know how we can use potatoes to keep food fresher, longer?
By transforming them into a new type of plastic wrap!
In Canada, we process a whopping 2.86 million tonnes of potatoes a year – into things like frozen French fries, instant mashed potatoes, and chips.
But with damaged potatoes, broken pieces, peels and wash-water - potato processing means a whole lot of potato waste to deal with!
Researchers at the University of Alberta found a way to put this potato waste to good use – by transforming it into a biodegradable plastic.
First, they extract starch from the potato waste. Next, they chemically transform the starch molecules and form them into a stretchy, plastic film.
This plastic keeps food fresh—just like regular petroleum-based plastic wrap—but it also allows us to be kinder to the Earth!
The plastic wrap we use today is a large source of pollution. It does not break down easily in the environment, so it piles up in landfills. We can’t recycle it, and it’s made from non-renewable resources.
Because this new plastic wrap is made out of plant starch, it leaves no trace in the environment and we can compost it. Plus, it makes something useful from what used to be garbage!
Thanks to the researchers, this new generation of plastic wrap could soon help us replace a polluting product with one that’s a lot more earth-friendly!
Now that’s what I call a-PEEL-ing!
In the late 1980s, Canadians began to realize that carbon dioxide emissions, global warming, greenhouse gases, and fossil fuel emissions posed a serious problem. In response, several regional bodies began to introduce environmental policies. To meet targets set in these policies, automobile manufacturers reluctantly began production of electric vehicles (EVs), ushering in the third wave of electric vehicles.
Two cars were actively marketed to meet the demands of a Californian zero-emissions vehicle law. In 1992, Ford released the Ecostar, which ran on a sodium-Sulphur battery and had a travel range of 160 km. In 1996, General Motors released the EV1 which could travel 145 km on a lead-acid battery powered engine.
By 1998, both companies had stopped producing the vehicles due to a lack of public demand. The California Air Resource Board was forced to drop their emissions targets from 10 percent to four percent by 1998, and then from four percent to two percent in 2001. As a result, the California Air Resources Board switched their focus from zero-emissions vehicles to partial-emissions vehicles, better known today as hybrids.
Toyota was the first automobile company to willingly and actively recognize that combustion engines – specifically those that burned fossil fuels – accounted for a large portion of greenhouse gases.
“You asked for it, you got it, Toyota”
Electric and hybrid vehicles had previously been criticized for being too expensive for the average individual to purchase. In 1998, Toyota began to mass produce a hybrid vehicle called the Prius. In doing so, they made the hybrid car affordable to the average consumer and created a large market.
Hybrids like the Prius operate on battery power until the battery is drained, whereupon the gas engine engages. The Prius owner’s manual explains that “the Prius is a new kind of car called a hybrid, combining a sophisticated gasoline engine with a powerful electric motor. The Prius power system is completely self-contained. So, unlike all electric-only vehicles, Prius never needs to be recharged from an outside source” .
Due to the Prius’ self-charging function and its mass production, people across the globe found this automobile affordable and convenient. In October 1998, the Toyota Prius was introduced to Canada at the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa, Ontario. It was very successful, selling 14,000 cars in Canada and 1.7 million world-wide.
A new player came onto the scene in 2006 with the unveiling of the Tesla Roadster, Tesla’s first electric vehicle, which wouldn’t reach the consumer market until 2008. A battery-electric sports car, the Roadster could travel 393 km on a single range, and while it qualified for many government incentives, the price was prohibitive for many buyers and the vehicle itself was poorly received by critics.
Since that time, Tesla has refined their production and now offers various models at more affordable prices. This, in combination with the growing concern about climate change, has meant that the market for electric vehicles has increased steadily. While there are still many challenges to be faced as production for electric vehicles increases, it seems that electric vehicles are not only part of the past but the future as well.
In September 2016, I started a master’s degree in Public History at Carleton University. My research was supposed to explore the representation of American foreign policy in video games, but things changed. As part of the degree’s requirements, I had to complete a summer internship. I was very lucky to be awarded such an internship at the Canada Science and Technology Museum (CSTM). Since my research was on video games, I was given the opportunity to do work related to that subject. My task seemed simple enough: start assessing the software in the museum’s artifact collection and write a research report on the preservation of born-digital artifacts (i.e. objects whose primary and original form is digital). I soon discovered, however, that while much had been written on the subject of digital preservation, there existed no widely accepted methodologies or “best practices” documents for how to effectively preserve born-digital artifacts—particularly in the museum context. Needless to say, I had my work cut out for me. When I started reading up further on the subject, I was struck by how James Newman—Professor and Senior Lecturer in Film, Media, and Creative Computing at Bath Spa University—started his monograph Best Before: Videogames, Supersession and Obsolescence. “Videogames are disappearing,” he writes: “No really, they are.” He proceeds to explain that, because of bit rot, which is the degradation of housing media and the digital information stored on them—and the degradation of the platforms (consoles, computers, etc.) and peripherals used to access this information—video games eventually become unplayable. On top of that, the video game industry’s practice of continually developing new games and consoles causes older ones to become obsolete. The more I read, the more I realised how right Newman was. This realisation caused me to change the focus of my research. I would now investigate video game preservation and attempt to propose a solution.
"Videogames are cultural heritage artifacts worthy of preservation . . .
Deadplay suggests a first essaie in ensuring videogames are adequately preserved for future study."
Following the completion of my internship, I was awarded the Garth Wilson Fellowship at the CSTM, enabling me to continue working on my new research from within the museum. I decided to focus on two games I found in the CSTM’s collection during my internship, Joust (artifact no. 2002.0384.001) and Seven Cities of Gold (artifact no. 1995.0822.029), and develop a methodology to preserve them. My first instinct was to play the games. After all, video games are meant to played. The museum had the platforms for both games, but there was a serious problem: they had not been powered up in over 25 years. Computers and game consoles have capacitors which, if they are not powered up periodically, have a high risk of exploding. This meant that I could not play either game at the CSTM. Newman’s warning suddenly became tangible and I realised how dire the situation was. To prevent what I came to see as the death of video games, I decided to begin developing a methodology capable of preserving video game technology as well as video game play.
My Master’s major research project culminated in the creation of a podcast and website which investigate videogame preservation and proposes some solutions to this complex and pressing issue. It is entitled Deadplay and can be accessed through the project’s website, —all of which can be annotated through an embedded overlay.. Here, you can find the podcast’s audio files, its complete script, a further reading list, and some complementary material
Videogames are cultural heritage artifacts worthy of preservation. They are both digital and physical, inspire and are inspired by other forms of media, reflect and are products of our cultures. Deadplay suggests a first essaie in ensuring videogames are adequately preserved for future study.
If you were trapped in the Museums’ collection warehouse during the zombie apocalypse- what would you use to defend yourself? Dave and Museum Conservator Erin Secord examine the creepier side of the Museums’ collection in this special, zombie-themed episode.
Dave: It’s something we all need to prepare for, the potential for a zombie attack. How can the collection at the Canada Science and Technology Museum help us survive? Find out, in this edition of Science Alive!
Dave: I’m with Erin Secord, she’s a conservator here at the Canada Science and Technology Museums and Erin, so you suggest, when the zombies attack, the best way to defend yourself is with a chainsaw.
Erin: Absolutely- line up for those zombies and take the heads right off.
Dave: So because it’s fast and quick?
Erin: Yep, it’s quick, it’s reliable, in the Museum we have over thirty so if you lose one you can always come back and get another.
Dave: And the particular good thing about this one is the blade’s already on…
Erin: Ya, the blade’s already on, and it’s made in Canada, so you know it’s going to work in our winters.
Dave: Now so what happens when the gasoline, kerosene, whatever you’re using for fuel runs out? What’s the next thing you could use?
Erin: The next thing I would come for is our collection of scythes and blades. We have a huge amount of axes in the collection. With scythes, you can get a couple feet away from that zombie and take the head right off.
Dave: Now just so everyone knows, what does a scythe look like?
Erin: A scythe has a long stick, and a curved blade. If you can imagine the Grim Reaper walking around, the scythe kind of looks like that.
Erin: So you can really get some force on that thing.
Dave: So Erin we’ve learned how to protect ourselves from the Zombies, but what about us as humans, what do we need to stay alive and stay healthy?
Erin: Sure, well I imagine after the zombie attack, we’re not going to have access to our regular fire, ambulance, first aid.
Erin: So the first thing I would go for after my chainsaw and my axe or scythe, would be this Civil Defence Fall Out Shelter Medical kit.
Erin: Now, maybe I’m not worried about fall out or radiation, but it does contain a lot of first aid supplies that would be useful after the Zombie Apocalypse.
Dave: And what was this box built for?
Erin: This was actually for a 300 person fall out shelter, so you can imagine during the height of the Cold War people were worried about atomic bombs dropping all over North America, so this is a kit that would be in a public building that had a fall out shelter in the basement. Its got things like phenyl barbital, swabs, penicillin, water purification tablets- all things that would be useful in a Zombie Apocalypse.
Dave: So bandages,
Erin- Yep, and cotton balls.
Dave: But this expired in 1967, so how much of it is still good?
Erin: Well a lot of the dried goods are going to be fine, I’d probably steer clear of the phenyl barbital..
Erin: You know, 50 years expired, but I think a lot of the supplies here are useful, they’re also packed and ready to go. You can just throw them in your grab bag and you’d be out of the way and clear of zombies!
Dave: So this box is fully tightly packed, there’s not a square inch of space left in there?
Erin: Yes, it’s pretty tightly packed. We’ve never opened it, but we have studied it with the lid closed. We actually took a bunch of x-rays of the inside, to make sure nothing was broken and it’s fully intact, never been touched!
Dave: Awesome there you go! Some practical advice on what to do when the zombies attack with Erin Secord, she’s a conservator here at the Canada Science and Technology Museums. Thank you Erin!
Dave: Thank you Dave!
In the fall of 2016, the Canada Science and Technology Museum will be opening their travelling exhibition Game Changers at Science North in Sudbury. On this episode of Science Alive, Dave chats with assistant curator and gaming guru Sean Tudor about all the elements that make up a great video game. From story to graphics to great audio- it’s Game On at the Museum!
Dave: The Canadian video game industry is worth 3 billion dollars a year, but- how do you make a Game Changer? Grab some snacks and dim the lights- it’s time for Science Alive!
Dave: We’re with Sean Tudor, he’s an assistant curator here at the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Now Sean, we’re playing video game if you were to create a video game where would you start?
Sean: I’d start with the story. I’m a big story guy- I’d start with- what do I want to do in this game? Why am I playing this game, and what makes me want to continue playing this game?
Dave: So what are some examples of video games that have amazing stories?
Sean: The ‘Mass Effect’ trilogy by Bioware out of Edmonton has an amazing story. ‘The Last of Us’ is a pretty big, modern story. Historic stories? ‘Super Mario Bros’ has a story.
Dave: (laughing) No
Sean: Ya, ‘Super Mario Bros.’ has a story- you don’t just rescue the princess..
Dave: (laughing) What’s the story in ‘Super Mario Bros.’?
Sean: You rescue the princess, because only she can change the mushroom kingdom people back into toads.
Dave: Of course!
Sean: That’s why you rescue her.
Dave: That’s a historical reference right there.
Sean: There you go.
Dave: Do people want stories in their video games?
Sean: Some people do, some people don’t, and that’s why you still get games without stories, those casual games, you get ‘Farmville’ and other games that are just there to engage you in the moment. A lot of app games right now don’t necessarily have the highly complex stories in them, they are maybe derived from games with highly complex stories.
Dave: So from the story you look at things like graphics. How do game developers start with a blank sheet of paper, or a blank computer screen and create these graphics?
Sean: So much like any literary story, a game’s story can start to set the tone, it can give you an environment, it can give you- whether it’s middle aged, futuristic, is it hyper-fantastical? What art style am I going to choose? Am I going to choose hand craft- like Yoshi’s mini world that Nintendo just put out, or paper-craft, or am I going to choose cell-shaded like ‘Viewtiful Joe’ or hyper-realistic like ‘Crisis’, so the story sometimes sets the tone for what graphic style you’re going to use.
Dave: And game developers will use motion sensors, or motion detectors as part of this too?
Sean: Yeah, if you’re doing a hyper-realistic game, even some non-hyper-realistic games, cartoon-y games will use motion tracking suits- little dots cover your skin tight suit, and they have to keep track of three dots on your suit at all times so they can triangulate what your motion is going to be.
Dave: I guess they use that for the sports games too?
Sean: Ya, the sports games is where it came about. It came about originally in the study of Human Kinetics, and transferred to movie and video games. So the big games that we can think of that are Canadian produced are NHL, and the FIFA games.
Dave: Now, game play. I guess sooner or later you have to decide what happens when you push ‘A’ and what happens when you push ‘B’.
Sean: Yes, that’s part of game play, that’s the user interface side of the game play. But- what about the game play of deciding- is it a platform, is it an adventure style game, is it a puzzle-based game. What type of game play mechanic are you going to use that’s fundamental? Not necessarily which buttons you’re going to use, but how is the game going to play?
Sean: A Zelda game, for example is an adventure puzzle- right?
Sean: The core mechanic, yes you’re off on an adventure someplace but the big thing is puzzles to complete your dungeons. Yes there are battles, but it’s puzzles.
Sean: So, is it a first-person shooter game? That is a game mechanic.
Sean: So that’s what I mean by game play.
Dave: And then, sound is a huge part of all this?
Sean: Yeah! If I took out my Game Boy right here, and I was playing ‘Tetris’ on it, and it started playing Flight of the Bumblebees instead of the Tetris, type A music…
Dave: Well, it’s a custom theme song- they wrote a theme song for ‘Tetris’.
Sean: Exactly! So audio is part of that story and the gameplay, it sets the tone for the experience that you’re going to have. And when someone messes with that, it changes the experience you’re going to have as a player.
Sean: A modern example would be Ubisoft’s ‘Child of Light’ game. There are some criticisms of the game play aspect, but the audio aspect is really good. They got Coeur du Pirate, a local French-Canadian artist to do all the piano work, and it’s an artistic game, and the on the other layer they still have a foley artist doing the actual sounds.
Dave: Sure, and ‘Halo’ has an orchestra!
Sean: Yea! ‘Halo’, the ‘Final Fantasy’ by Square-Enix, they have an orchestra. There’s orchestral tours, if you go on Youtube- are we on Youtube now? If you continue on Youtube, you can do video game glee clubs, where glee clubs will sing video game music. This is how iconic the music becomes in our psyche.
Dave: And you’ve put together an exhibit called Game Changers so people can actually come and try these games?
Sean: Yea, we’re going to invite people to come in, try the exhibit. It opens in Sudbury in October of 2016 and then it’ll be in Ottawa in the fall of 2017 with the reopening of the Canada Science and Technology Museum.
Dave: Very cool, here with Sean Tudor, he’s an assistant curator here at the Canada Science and Technology Museum!