Home News Canadian science’s “big questions” opens to the public eye

Canadian science’s “big questions” opens to the public eye

by Archives October 23, 2007

After 25 years of financing research, the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) has produced 12 Nobel Prize laureates, perhaps a testament that CIFAR has a flair for the “big questions”.
This year, Canada’s most impressive scientists are brought to the public eye as CIFAR celebrates its 25th anniversary. In celebration, CIFAR, which made a presentation last Tuesday at the Centre des Sciences in Montreal, is touring Canada presenting its research on the “big questions” of science in the years to come.
CIFAR is a non-profit organization funded by both the government and the private sector, including universities, corporations and individuals.
“The researchers who work in these programs really are world leaders in their field. The research that they do is very highly regarded. And they’re really working at the top level of excellence and a lot of people in Canada don’t know that,” said Patchen Barss, Director of Communications and Media Relations for CIFAR.
In every town CIFAR visited, three researchers, each working on a project in one of the 12 research programs financed by CIFAR, explained their projects and the potential impact of their work in their respective field of science.
Victoria Kaspi, professor in the department of physics at McGill University opened the forum discussing her research on the universe. Her team tries to unravel the cosmic secrets of our world in the most fundamental sense, hoping to understand the nature of the universe.
Thanks to this research, Kaspi can see even where there is no light in space. Using pulsars, particular stars which emit light at regular intervals, she can determine distances between the center of galaxies as well as detect their movements by measuring the time it takes the light to bounce back and forth. This phenomenon is called “pulsar clocks”, because the stars emit light at regular and predictable intervals which allow a degree of accuracy.
“Thanks to pulsar clocks, we can ‘see’ those black holes [located at the center of moving galaxies],” she said.
Her research will allow her to study dark matter and perhaps even explain what 96 per cent of the universe is made of.
Research Chair at Sherbrooke University, Louis Taillefer is looking at superconductors – malleable, metallic materials that have virtually no electrical resistance. Where as conventional transistors offer much more resistance, superconducters allow electrical currents to flow infinitely within a closed-circuit. He believes the potential in harnessing their properties could lead to a revolution in scientific discoveries.
As superconductors’ advanced properties are usually available only at very low temperatures, Taillefer’s research is aiming at making it possible to have superconductors at room temperature.
To explain what impact the results of his research could have, Taillefer used an analogy between the light bulb which diffuses light in an incoherent manner and a laser which is coherent. He compared them to the transistor currently used to amplify electric signals. “If the laser is to a light bulb what the superconductor is to a transistor, I leave it to you what mind boggling possibilities lies ahead.”
A study of society, directed by Mich

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