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The Qinghai-Tibet Railway boasts more than 450 bridges as it crosses three major mountain chains and five rivers. The railway reaches a maximum elevation of 5,072 meters above sea level. Photograph is by Zhenming Wang.China made history on July 1, 2006, when the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opened for passenger service. The railway is the highest-elevation passenger train in the world and the first to connect central China with Tibet, providing a controversial but arguably economically significant link between Tibet and the rest of China. Stretching about 1,142 kilometers, the railway runs from Golmud in China’s Qinghai province to Lhasa, Tibet’s capital. Most of its length is above 4,000 meters in elevation, and 50 kilometers is above 5,000 meters.

Passengers are given oxygen masks to use at some of the higher elevations! 

See: http://www.geotimes.org/current/feature_railroad.html for the complete article.

I am (or rather, someone else at my office is) looking into whether our software was used for this project, but with 100 permafrost engineers and 200 geotech engineers involved, I’d be amazed if they weren’t using SLOPE/W, TEMP/W, SIGMA/W and possibly even QUAKE/W on a regular basis.

(Meanwhile back in the West, technology isn’t quite so advanced–I can’t seem to leave a blank line between my paragraphs today!)

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A fascinating story of bringing the past to the present. 

Back in 1918 there was an influenza outbreak that killed thousands of people.  Also in 1918 scientists had only just discovered the existence of viruses in general, and the influenza virus in particular wasn’t identified until 1933.

Fast-forward to 2006.  Using the genes of victims of the 1918 outbreak, Canadian scientists have reconstructed the virus.  Not just a model of it, they’ve made a fully-functioning virus!  They even infected some monkeys with it (in the lab of course), which suffered the same fate as those thousands of people nearly 100 years ago.

The next trick is to extract genes from fossilized dinosaur bones.  Or has that been done already…?

Forget about Y2K–the space shuttles just have a Y problem!

The space agency likely will not attempt to launch past December 17 since flight controllers want Discovery on the ground before the new year.

Shuttle computers are not designed to make the change from the 365th day of the old year to the first day of the new year while in flight. A potential solution to the problem has not been thoroughly tested.

(From News24.com.)

We’re hoping tomorrow’s scheduled shuttle launch gets delayed at least a few days, because then we may be able to watch it!

Some inspiring news I found amidst all the strife going on in the world today:

Illness unmasks generous ‘Secret Santa’

I just read this on MSNBC:

An Iraqi official, who spoke to The Associated but declined to be named for personal reasons, refused to say how many vehicles were in the convoy, who hijacked it and how the freed captives were released, explaining that he didn’t want to jeopardize the work of U.S. and British forces.

A U.S. Embassy official, who refused to be identified because he was not authorized to release the information, told The Associated Press that the convoy included 43 heavy trucks and six security vehicles. Some of the hijackers were dressed as Iraqi police and those men took away 20 vehicles, he said.

Go Iraqi official!!  It makes me so mad to read things like the second paragraph, where someone discloses information but refuses to be identified because they know they’re not supposed to be talking.  First off they shouldn’t talk!  Secondly the paper shouldn’t publish what they say.  Third the reporter should be legally forced to disclose his source and the source should be fired, fined, and jailed.  He’s putting people’s lives at risk.

Anyway, I was very happy to see the Iraqis have more sense and civility than American embassy officials, though it is kind of funny that the reporter used up a whole paragraph to say that someone didn’t say anything.

Now we’re talking!!

Canada Post is joining a handful of other countries in introducing “Permanent Stamp“.  They have no monetary amount listed on them, just a “P” for “Permanent”.  Buy them today at 51 cents, and when the price increases to 52 cents in January, you can still use them (for domestic lettermail only).  (Actually they say they’ll also accept today’s 51 cent stamps even after the price increase.)  It’ll save them money because they won’t have to print so many 1-cent stamps.

The Planned Bow Tower

That big glass & steel building towering over the Calgary skyline is the new “Bow”, EnCana‘s headquarters when it is completed in 2011.  Construction is scheduled to start next summer.

Pictures are from EnCana’s web site and are Copyright © EnCana Corporation. All rights reserved.

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