We had a great party last nite at Spice Route. Good wine from Dan Akroyd's winery, and a lot of interesting nibbles. But I know you really want to hear more of the great quotes from these amazing speakers at Idea City.
Curtis Suttle, a CIFAR scientist, and microbiologist on viruses, provided some amazing information about the smallest life forms.
"You are actually carrying around five to 10 kilos of bacteria [in your body] right now."
"95 per cent of the living material in the oceans is microbial, by weight."
He also told us that of the new DNA sequences they are mapping for microbes, more than 90 per cent represent undiscovered organisms.
Trying to use Typepad on the Macs here is making me sympathetic with Mark Chen, the cosmologist who spoke about the search for dark matter happening two kilometres under the surface of the Earth in Sudbury. At one point he explained why he could not show us the short video clip he had planned: "My movie is collateral damage in the Microsoft vs. Apple battle." It turns out that the atoms we are familiar with only constitute about 4.6 per cent of the universe. The rest is dark matter and dark energy.
Alan Broadbent, one of those guys with a list of titles as long as your arm, spoke about the need for governance reform for Canadian cities. He summed up the situation as follows: "Cities are like Blanche Dubois in A Streetcar Named Desire -- dependent on the kindness of strangers." He noted that Toronto exports tax funds amounting to about $15 billion annually to the rest of the country. "If we could keep even $1 billion of this, we could realize our dreams, and the whole country would be better off."
Bill Marovita, a senator from Illinois and gun control activist, gave us shocking statistics about gun crime and children dying from guns in the U.S. The truly shocking part was the stories he told about the NRA efforts to stifle political change in this area. He also shared for us his hope for a change of government in the U.S. in November. "Never in my lifetime has the U.S. been held in such disrespect, disregard and distrust as it is today. If Obama is elected, it would send a message to the world that America is back." I only wish I could have written more of these inspiring words. I sure hope he is right.
I'm not going to take time to add links or pics, but I think you would be as fascinated as I was to learn about the 100 square foot house that Jay Shafer lives in. He also builds these gems for other people. (You can find out more at www.tumbleweedhouses.com). He said something that we should all emblazon above our desks or on our office doors: "If a project doesn't seem absolutely necessary from the get-go, I don't even start it."
I'm going to wrap by telling you a bit of what Ezra Levant had to say. He's a far right-wing writer and I wasn't expecting to agree with much of what he said. However, he spoke about how out of control the human rights commissions now are in Canada (as a victim himself), and how they are now truly abridging our rights to free speech.
Much of this is due to complaints from parts of the Muslim community, who believe that being offended is tantamount to being discriminated against. Levant noted that it is OK to make fun of every other religious group, and even to make offensive art using other religious symbols. The public pressure amounts to a "soft jihad" where we lose our confidence, start to doubt ourselves, and self-censorship becomes pervasive.
Levant believes this trend has "devastated our western traditions of healthy vigorous debate." He believes that the proper response to offensive speech is social control (eg. ostracism).
What is less political, and more relevant to our pursuits was this thought that he closed on: "You need to hear ideas you don't like because all progress depends on it."
It's so joyous to take a walk with these brilliant minds. Now, off to grab a snack before the late afternoon session starts, and another party tonight!