Human-Powered Helicopter Wins Award (VIDEO)

Oh Canada! First you gave us William Shatner, now you give us a human-powered helicopter.

A team of engineers called AeroVelo has won a $250,000 award for creating a human-powered helicopter that could fly three meters off the ground for 60 seconds while keeping the cockpit within a ten-square-meter area. The American Helicopter Society sponsored this Igor I. Sikorsky Human Powered Helicopter Competition, and the prize money has been on offer for nearly 30 years.

Man-powering a helicopter is tough to do since humans don’t have strength to lift themselves off the ground without large rotors. Of course, large rotors are heavy, making it hard for a human to get the helicopter off the ground. This is the reason all those Renaissance-era experiments with birdlike flapping wings never worked. To cut down on weight, the team used super-light materials that are too delicate to be flown outdoors.

AeroVelo’s flight lasted 64.11 seconds, a world record, and reached up to 3.3 meters in altitude. As you can see from the video, drift was a problem with this and all other competitors, with the machine drifting up to 9.8 meters.

So will this be the new way to get to the hockey game? Probably not. The personal jetpack has been around for decades but never took off either. The Martin Jetpack company is trying to change that, although they haven’t yet made their jetpacks — which will probably cost in the six figures — commercially available yet. Popular Mechanics did an interesting article on why jet packs aren’t feasible.

Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield Makes First Music Video In Space

It’s official. We Canadians rock. If William Shatner and Bryan Adams aren’t enough for you, there’s Chris Hadfield. He’s an astronaut with the Canadian Space Agency and has become hugely popular with his videos about life aboard the International Space Station, answering such profound questions as how to cut your nails in space.

Now Hadfield is coming home. He’s turned over command of the ISS to Russian cosmonaut Pavel Vinogradov and will be departing on a Soyuz module, which will land in Kazakhstan today at 10:31 p.m. EDT. As a final sendoff, he’s made the first music video in space, a cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity.” Hadfield isn’t a bad musician, and the video has beautiful visuals of him on the ISS.

Put it on full screen, sit back and enjoy. It’s a great day to be Canadian.

Video: A Week In The Life Of The International Space Station

The International Space Station is one of the wonders of modern technology. A series of interconnected orbital modules are home to a rotating crew of astronauts and cosmonauts plus a host of ongoing experiments. While the ISS only gets into the news every now and then, interesting things are happening there daily.

Right now three astronauts – two American and one Canadian – are on duty up there along with three cosmonauts from Russia. This video is a weekly update showing what they did last week. The main work has been preparing for the arrival of the Dragon spacecraft, which will bring supplies and take some completed experiments and waste back to Earth.

Besides that, the crew has been conducting experiments, doing maintenance work on their spacesuits, troubleshooting a partial communications failure, training with the robotic arm, and answering questions from the public back on Earth.

The three astronauts even got a break for Presidents Day. I didn’t know they got days off up there. I wonder what they do? Stare out the window a lot, I bet.

The weekly update gets uploaded every Friday and there are daily updates throughout the week. You can followed them on the ISS website.

For more about this giant orbital laboratory take this video tour of the International Space Station.

Montreal man nears end of 11-year walk around the world

After nearly 4,000 days, 53 pairs of shoes and over 46,600 miles across 64 countries on 6 continents, Jean Béliveau is nearing the end of an 11-year trek around the world.

What started as a journey of self-discovery during a mid-life crisis, eventually became a mission to call attention to peace & nonviolence, especially for children around the world.

Setting off with a three-wheeled stroller that carried a “few fundamentals”, Béliveau began by walking through America, Mexico, Latin America, before venturing to Africa, Europe, Asia, Oceania and finishing by crossing Canada; from Vancouver to Montreal. Starting with just $4,000, he survived by receiving yearly installments of about the same sum from his wife and depended greatly on the kindness of strangers. The trip will officially come to a close when Béliveau is expected to arrive in Montreal on October 16th, where his wife & two grown sons will be awaiting his return.

Looking ahead, Béliveau says that he plans to write a book with the help of his wife although he will look back on this experience with nostalgia, is excited to have a bed forever. To learn more about his journey, visit Jean’s website.

Canada gets its very own dictionary

Canadians have long been quick to declare the differences with their American neighbors to the south. Whether displayed through a particularly fervent love for hockey or by virtue of the country’s publicly-funded healthcare system, there’s numerous if sometimes subtle differences. We can now add one more reason to the list – Canada has its own version of English.

OK, yes…I can hear you saying that “eh” doesn’t quite count as a word. But it turns out Canadian English is much more than that – enough that Canada has its very own dictionary made by publisher Harper Collins. The most recent version of the Canadian Dictionary, released in April 2010, provides an interesting run down of some distinctly Canadian words and phrases.

A few examples can be found here (PDF download). Ever heard of a toque? For those not up on their Canadian lingo, it’s a close-fitting knitted hat often with a tassel or pompom. Or what about a wanigan? As any Canadian worth their salt will tell you, it’s a watertight box or chest used by canoeists or lumberjacks to hold provisions. In honor of the dictionary’s release, Harper Collins is holding a short-story contest. All entries must contain ten Canadian words found on the PDF list mentioned above.

If you’re heading to Canada any time soon, make sure you grab yourself a copy to start practicing your Canadian. As respectful travelers, of course, it’s important we all speak some of the local lingo.

[Via Metafilter]