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Who in the world is talking about Halifax: dropping science edition.


A Titanic error

—from England, Houston and Winston-Salem

When Titanic news happens, our morbid link to the disaster often gets our town mentioned on lips around the globe. It happened five years ago, when the so-called Unknown Child—a nameless infant who was buried in Halifax's Fairview Lawn Cemetery along with 120 other victims of the sinking—was identified by DNA testing as Eino Viljami Panula, a 13-month-old Finnish boy. His nearest relative, a 68-year-old Finn named Magda Schleifer, came to Halifax to visit the grave with her daughter and a film crew in tow, and I was only one of many journalists who interviewed her at the time and helped tell her story far and wide.

This week, the baby is back. ""Unknown Child' of Titanic gets new identity after tests" reads the headline in the Winston-Salem Journal. The Houston Chronicle says a researcher who helped make the 2002 identification "said his team was wrong and that the child was actually a 19-month-old boy from England. Ryan Parr said additional DNA tests showed the boy is Sidney Leslie Goodwin, whose family perished on the ship."

"Although the Goodwin family has been informed of the discovery," reports the BBC, "it is not known whether they have any plans to visit the cemetery." If they do, let's hope they leave the film crew at home.

So much to sea

—from Ottawa, Toronto and Fort Frances, Ontario

The scientists who sent a submarine deep into unexplored areas of the Atlantic discovered lots of new marine life. And public relations gold. The Ottawa Sun quotes a member of the team, ""It was amazing,' said Ellen Kenchington, a research scientist at the Bedford Institute of Oceanography in Halifax. "You're looking at something down there, there's no light, it's so deep and you know no human eyes have ever seen these things before, and it's almost like you feel like you're the first man on the moon.'"

The Fort Frances Times says prior studies "provided information on life forms down to only 500 metres—far less than the 2.5km that Kenchington and her team reached with the underwater vehicle. One of the most important discoveries was a type of xenophyophore—a single-cell animal the size of a grapefruit that previously had been found only in the deepest part of the mid-Atlantic." Another finding, mentioned in the Toronto Star, is that "around the Grand Banks, they saw extensive evidence of the effects of bottom trawling. The floor was swept clean and large rocks were overturned by the big nets that drag along scooping up fish and virtually everything else in their path. Kenchington said that will be part of the information they take to fisheries managers to determine what marine areas should be closed off and protected."

The final frontier

—from Toronto

As soon as the weather in Florida co-operates, NASA is sending a mission to Mars. (First slated for Friday, August 3, launch has been postponed until Saturday at the earliest.) Aboard the Phoenix Mars Lander is climate-testing equipment the Globe and Mail says has a Halifax connection, thanks to the involvement of Dalhousie scientists. The Globe quotes the Canadian Space Agency's Alain Berinstain saying the Americans needed Canuck help because "we in Canada have a lot of expertise in understanding the atmosphere of Earth." A fancy way of saying nobody complains about the weather like we do.

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