Purpose To find the most likely winner in the science, technology and environment category.
Hypothesis The odds favour powerhouses, such as The Walrus, Maclean’s and Report on Business. Award-magnet explore is also a strongÂ specimen.
Materials 10 Canadian magazine articles:
- explore, “The Amazing Survivorbear” [.pdf of article] by J.B. MacKinnon
- L’actualitÃ©, “Gentilly: la centrale de tous les soupÃ§ons” by ValÃ©rie Borde
- Maclean’s, “This tiny thing will rock the universe” by Nicholas KÃ¶hler
- Maisonneuve, “Age of the Algorithm” by Ira Basen
- Report on Business, “A Pipeline Runs Through It” [.pdf of article] by Nathan VanderKlippe
- Report on Business, “Not So Clear Cut Anymore” by Doug Saunders
- Report on Business, “Where Asbestos is Just a Fact of Life” by John Gray and Â Stephanie Nolen
- The Walrus, “A Rock and a Hard Place” by Chris Wood
- The Walrus, “Climate Controlled” by John Lorinc
- Vancouver Review “Sockeye Fever” [.pdf of article] by Terry Glavin
Procedure Read articles. Form opinions. Make notes.
Observations MacKinnon’s tale of a polar bear on an epic survival trip is both a metaphor and adventure story. The works by Borde, VanderKlippe, and Gray and Nolen take us through the social and political effects of things started in the lab, but they are light on hard science. For for the hard stuff, see KÃ¶hler’s story of Â experiments on subatomic particles and how the findings could blow the doors open on 20th-century physics. Basen delves into every journalist’s nightmare: the world of online content farms in which an algorithm dictates what you write about and you get roughly $0.03 a word. (That last sentence was so horrific I had to close my eyes as I wrote it.) Saunders profiles activist Tzeporah Berman and charts the evolution of environmental activism. Wood’s examination of the process of fracking for natural gas hasÂ disappointinglyÂ few plays on the word “frack” (e.g. “frack off,” “mother fracker,” “fracked up the environment,” etc.). The headline should have riffed on the line from There Will Be Blood: “I fracked up your milkshake.” Trust me. It totally works. Lorinc writes about the big, scary ideaÂ of geoengineering: that we’ve really messed up the planet so now we have to really mess with it to “fix” things. Talking about geoengineering, like the birds-and-bees talk, is something you should discuss before it’s too late. Glavin takes a mytho-poetical look at the declining salmon stocks on the Fraser River. Glavin’s prose is rollicking and his is the only work that both tries to explain mysteries of nature, while still keeping them mysterious.
Conclusion Despite my fracking criticisms, I think Wood’s article is the strongest work in the category. His writing is engaging; his story is well-crafted; and he handles the technical stuff deftly. His article also happens to cover all three items in the category’s name: science, technology and environment. There you have itâ€”science has spoken!