Tag Archives: Impossible

‘Impossible’ EmDrive Actually Is Impossible, Comprehensive Test Shows

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Humanity has come a long way in understanding the universe. We’ve got a physical framework that mostly matches our observations, and new technologies have allowed us to analyze the Big Bang and take photos of black holes. But the hypothetical EmDrive rocket engine threatened to upend what we knew about physics… if it worked. After the latest round of testing, we can say with a high degree of certainty that it doesn’t

If you have memories from the 90s, you probably remember the interest in cold fusion, a supposed chemical process that could produce energy from fusion at room temperature instead of millions of degrees (pick your favorite scale, the numbers are all huge). The EmDrive is basically cold fusion for the 21st century. First proposed in 2001, the EmDrive uses an asymmetrical resonator cavity inside which electromagnetic energy can bounce around. There’s no exhaust, but proponents claim the EmDrive generates thrust. 

The idea behind the EmDrive is that the tapered shape of the cavity would reflect radiation in such a way that there was a larger net force exerted on the resonator at one end. Thus, an object could use this “engine” for hyper-efficient propulsion. That would be a direct violation of the conservation of momentum. Interest in the EmDrive was scattered until 2016 when NASA’s Eagelworks lab built a prototype and tested it. According to the team, they detected a small but measurable net force, and that got people interested. 

There was plenty of skepticism about the Eagelworks results, and other teams haven’t been able to duplicate the results. A team from the Dresden University of Technology has completed a comprehensive new test, attempting to replicate the results from Eagelworks. And they found nothing — zero thrust was generated by the Dresden EmDrive as electromagnetic radiation bounced around inside the resonator. 

The Dresden EmDrive is an exact copy of the NASA Eagelworks setup.

The team also sought to explain the Eagelworks results, which they did by varying the experimental design. The Dresden researchers used better measurement techniques to show that the EmDrive doesn’t produce thrust, but by tweaking the measurement scale and changing resonator suspension points, they got the same small apparent thrust as NASA. That confirms the Eagelworks thrust was actually just a thermal effect. The researchers also speculate Eagelworks cherry-picked the data by reporting random fluctuations in a way that didn’t represent the full data set. 

This really does feel like the end of the road for the EmDrive. Unless someone can identify some huge element of physics we have missed, there’s no way this engine can function as described. EmDrive proponents will have to pack it in unless they want to end up like cold fusion cranks from the 90s. That’s just science in action, but it’s also a bit of a bummer because the EmDrive would have changed the world if it wasn’t a fantasy.

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Around the rings in 180 days: Vincent De Haître’s seemingly impossible goal to compete in Tokyo and Beijing

It’s a goal so lofty and steep two-time Canadian Olympian Vincent De Haître isn’t quite sure he’ll be able to get to the top.

But he’s going to put his body through “hell” trying to do it. 

De Haître is a dual-sport athlete, a cyclist and speed skater nicknamed “Quadzilla” because of the size of his quadriceps and whose favourite saying is “uphill is the quickest way to the top.”

Within the next 12 months, he hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in July with Canada’s cycling team and then six months later, in February 2022, on completely different equipment, line up in the Beijing Olympics as a member of Canada’s long track speed skating team.

For the 26-year-old from Ottawa, it’s too tantalizing not to try. De Haître is just wired differently. In the same way that 12 other Canadian Olympians were — the select few high performers who have successfully competed in both Summer and Winter Olympics for Canada over all the years. 

It was already going to be difficult enough for De Haître trying to get to Tokyo after having competed at the 2018 Olympics in PyeongChang. A couple of years isn’t a lot of time to prepare in the best of circumstances. He could have never predicted a pandemic was going throw everything into disarray for himself and thousands of other Olympians worldwide.

It’s forced him into training another year on the bike, with skating interspersed in between. It’s also trimmed the already slim window in between Games by a year, making the switch from bike to skates in Beijing seemingly impossible. But he’s willing to try. 


Vincent De Haître with his bike on the velodrome in Milton, Ont. (Alexandra Sienkiewicz/CBC Sports)

Quick turnaround between Games

There are 180 days between the closing ceremony in Tokyo and the opening ceremony in Beijing. The thought of that quick turnaround sends De Haître into a bit of a panic. 

“People have done it. But trying to do it at the same time in the midst of a pandemic is just about the hardest way you can do it,” he told CBC Sports. “If you know a pandemic is coming, don’t try to do two sports at different Olympics.”

His love for both sports goes back to when he was 10 years old, when he was skating and BMX’ing around Ottawa. Does he have a favourite?

He laughs, almost anticipating the question, and responds the same way he has his entire life.

Whichever sport I’m doing at that time is my favourite. The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I love cycling and skating and going fast.– Vincent De Haître

“Whichever sport I’m doing at that time is my favourite,” De Haître said. “The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. I love cycling and skating and going fast.”

Now he’s attempting to turn his two loves into history, competing in the Summer and Winter Olympics in two different sports in one of the shortest amounts of time between the two an athlete has ever attempted. 

Trying to wrap his head around all of the training programs, nutritional plans, physiotherapy sessions is nothing short of mind-numbing. So he’s trying to keep it simple. 

De Haître who normally resides in Calgary, is living in a rented accommodation in Red Deer, Alta. his parents are helping pay for — it’s the only place he’s able to speed skate right now. 

He did have the choice of traveling from Calgary to the outdoor oval in Red Deer and then back most days, but that would have meant about three hours in a car. For someone who has been battling back injuries for years, that was never going to be an option. 

So, like so many of us in this pandemic, he’s cooped up alone. His only outlet is going to the track to skate — alone —  throughout the week. He says it’s a small price for trying to achieve his goal.. 

“There are pros and cons to everything. I don’t have a coach around. But I don’t have to drive a lot,” De Haître said. 

These are some of the most crucial days in a seemingly never-ending journey for De Haître as he’s now decided to make some technical changes to his skating. He’s never had downtime like this before to work on the little things.


De Haître has already competed at two Olympics as a speed skater – in PyeongChang in 2018, above, and Sochi in 2014. (THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Rough blueprint

“I feel pretty [lousy.] But that’s what happens when you’re trying to make a change,” he said. “My brain says that’s not how we’re supposed to be doing this. And then it all supposedly clicks.”

That word — supposedly — is used a lot when De Haître talks about the plan he and a small village of people have come up with to get him to both Olympics.

He does have somewhat of a blueprint to work from; De Haître has competed in two Games as a speed skater already — Sochi in 2014 and then four years later in PyeongChang. He switched to cycling during some of those off-seasons. 

In Sochi, he posted a top-20 finish in the 1,000 metres and was named Speed Skating Canada’s long track rising star of the year. Then that summer he competed at his first major international event in track cycling — the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow — where he finished fourth in the team sprint and seventh in the 1 km time trial. 

But the Commonwealth Games aren’t the Olympics. And there wasn’t a pandemic. 

Cycling told me they needed me to attend all training camps. It was pretty much the same for skating. I had to be committed to both.– Vincent De Haître

At the 2018 Olympics, De Haître was suffering from a severe heel injury that held him back and left him wondering what might have been. So in a lot of ways, De Haître had to make the best sales pitch of his life to two sets of national teams that he could be an asset to the cycling and speed skating teams while in Tokyo and Beijing. 

He did most of that negotiation on a 14-hour road trip from Victoria to Calgary last March, just a week before the Olympics were postponed. He was coming home from a cycling training camp that had just been cancelled in the early days of the pandemic. That’s when he started calling his coaches, high-performance committees and all other support staff to start mapping out what it would take to get to Tokyo and Beijing and if it was even possible.  


De Haître trains with Canada’s cycling team at the velodrome in Milton, Ont. in November. (CREDIT)

Wear and tear on body

“By May there was some clarity,” he said. “Cycling told me they needed me to attend all training camps. It was pretty much the same for skating. I had to be committed to both.”

De Haître committed at that moment. Since the summer he’s been splitting his time between training outdoors or indoors on a stationary bike and also training for skating, in less than ideal conditions with restrictions changing almost daily. 

Now, in what would be considered the cycling off-season, he’s fully devoted to the ice until at least March. All the wear and tear and different use of muscles is taking its toll on De Haître.

“Your body adapts and develops tissue. That goes away when you’re not using it. And then when you go back to that, you’re not as strong,” he said. “My legs are strong from cycling but I didn’t have the body to handle it. If you take a Honda Civic and put a V-8 [engine] in it, there are other things you need to do to that car to make it work.”

Keeping his body together is a monumental task that his physiotherapists are not taking lightly. De Haître couldn’t be more grateful for it. He estimates that a normal turnaround time for what he’s putting his body through would take months. His physiotherapists have trimmed it down to a few weeks. 

I’m motivated by how many people are surrounding me. It reinforces they have belief in me that I can do this.– Vincent De Haître

“It’s really intricate. It’s easy to get lost in all the details. But in the simplest form, there are a lot of people helping me make this happen,” he said.

“It’s really motivating. There’s pressure. I feel pressure. But I’m motivated by how many people are surrounding me. It reinforces they have belief in me that I can do this.”

De Haître has already been named to Canada’s cycling team, which provides him some relief in a time when it’s hard to get any concrete answers on anything. But he’s far from being in the clear.

Perhaps what’s most incredible about this double Olympic-sized task is that by the time he competes in Tokyo, it will have been more than a year and a half since his last competitive cycling race. 

As soon as he’s done competing in Japan, he’ll have four months to prepare for Canada’s Olympic speed skating trials to try to make it onto the team for Beijing. And to make it even more remarkable, when he finally gets back to skating, he will not have competed in a competition since the 2018 Olympics. 

The margin of error is immeasurable. Any setbacks or injuries now could derail the entire thing — and he’s already had a career littered with injury and setbacks. There can’t be many missteps along the way now and De Haître knows it. 

“I have to make it work to my advantage. That’s how athletes need to work in their heads so they can believe in themselves. You have to find a way to make this an advantage,” he said. 

“I believe the work [with] we’ve done, I can make this work.”

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It’s impossible for Ontario to hit least-restrictive green zone by Christmas, experts say

Ontario’s top doctor is hopeful that the entire province could be in the least-restrictive green zone by Christmas — even when the holidays are just over five weeks away and coronavirus cases are surging.

But medical experts say there’s zero chance of that happening and are once more questioning the thought process of Ontario’s chief medical officer of health, who is directly informing Premier Doug Ford’s public health decisions.

Ontario has routinely been topping records for new daily coronavirus cases in the past week or so.

“How is it possible that we could come close to approaching the green zone by the end of December, which coincides with the time that [the province’s] modelling shows we could be at 6,500 cases per day with over 400 patients in the ICU?” said Dr. Michael Warner, medical director of critical care at Michael Garron Hospital, in a video he posted on Twitter. “So this begs the question, why is there such a disconnect between what Dr. Williams says and what I view from my perspective at the bedside?

“That’s a question that I don’t have the answer for — but it’s a question that we should all be asking, because Dr. Williams is the person who advises the premier, and the premier is the person who makes decisions.”


Williams made his Christmas statement during Monday afternoon’s provincial news conference.

“If we all do what we’re supposed to do and do it well and consistently and keep at that, we can get these numbers down as we did before, and bring them down to levels so you bring them from the red, to the orange, to the yellow, and I would like to think everybody would be in green, especially before the time of Christmas,” Williams said.

WATCH | Dr. David Williams says Ontario could be in the green zone by Christmas, if people follow public health guidance:

Ontario’s medical officer of health says he is hopeful that the entire province could be in the green zone by Christmas. 0:28

Warner isn’t the sole voice out there saying there is absolutely no way that can happen.

Ashleigh Tuite, an epidemiologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, said the math just doesn’t add up. Ontario would need to see declining growth in cases in many health units for that to be a possibility, she said, and that isn’t happening.

“Absent a massive shift in how we manage the pandemic in the province, we won’t all be in green by Christmas,” she said.

Biostatistician Ryan Imgrund, who is currently working with hospitals and public health units including Ottawa and Peel, told CBC News that it’s “statistically impossible” for Ontario to get every region into the least-restrictive green zone by Christmas.

“Dr. Williams’s statement shows he doesn’t understand the statistics, or he doesn’t have access to basic measures like the effective reproductive value [or Rt],” Imgrund said, referring to how many people on average would be infected by one person with the coronavirus.


At the province’s daily news conference on Tuesday, both Ford and Health Minister Christine Elliott said Williams was looking at the situation optimistically.

“I don’t think it’s something we can count on at this point,” Elliott said. “I think he is being very optimistic, that is of his nature.”

Ford said he’s hopeful that things will improve in the coming weeks but also said, “I’d be very cautious at Christmas.”

To be in the the province’s green zone, a region would need a weekly incidence rate of below 10 new weekly cases per 100,000 people, with per cent positivity below 0.5 per cent and Rt values below one. The province’s own documents say that in the green zone, hospital and ICU capacity is adequate, and contact tracing is taking place — something Toronto had to largely abandon, thanks to surging case counts. Parts of the province that are currently in the green zone include Thunder Bay, Peterborough and Algoma health units.

By contrast, many of Ontario’s most populous regions are currently in the red zone, which includes a weekly incidence rate of more than 40 per 100,000, a test positivity rate of greater than 2.5 per cent and an Rt of greater than 1.2.

In other words, the gulf between red zones and green zones is wide, and to this point, isn’t closing.

See the province’s latest thresholds for yourself in the following PDF. If you can’t see the document, follow this link.

“When I look at the province’s own data … really without exception, we are so far away from being in the green zone — particularly in the red zones,” Warner said, noting that ICU admissions, hospitalizations and deaths are all increasing.

“That is impossible for the entire province to be in the green zone.”

Several medical experts have previously questioned Williams’s advice to the premier, though Ford has repeatedly stood by his chief medical officer of health, who he says works tirelessly for Ontarians.

Williams was appointed by the previous Liberal government in February 2016. He was previously the medical officer of health for the Thunder Bay District Board of Health.

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Fun to watch, almost impossible to defend, ‘lacrosse’ goal causing fits for NHL goalies

Johnny Gaudreau stood on the Calgary Flames bench in a state of shock after Andrei Svechnikov scored the first lacrosse goal in NHL history against David Rittich.

It was Oct. 29, and the left-shooting Svechnikov had cradled the puck on the blade of his stick, wrapped around the right side of the Calgary net, and whipped it through the tiny gap between the post, the cross bar and Rittich’s head.

Sure, Gaudreau hoped the goal would be waved off because of a high stick. And sure, he bemoaned the fact that Svechnikov pulled off the seemingly impossible in a game Calgary would go onto lose 2-1. 

But at the same time, he couldn’t help but realize he was witnessing the start of something the NHL had never before seen.

“That’s a very hard thing to do,” Gaudreau said with admiration. “When you try it in summer or practice — even without a goalie — it’s tough to do. So to see him pull it off in the NHL, and against an NHL goaltender, it’s pretty cool to see.

WATCH | The evolution of the lacrosse goal:

We first saw it done by Mike Legg in 1996 at the University of Michigan. It took 24 years to be done in the NHL, but now the lacrosse goal has happened three times this season. How’d the unique move reach hockey’s highest level? 2:43

“We were just in shock and awe when that happened. Not many guys can pull that off. It’s fun to watch.”

Fun to watch for forwards, perhaps. But for goalies — and the defencemen paid to protect them — the lacrosse goal is a problem to be solved.

It’s a new threat to consider when certain players are parked in the area known as Wayne Gretzky’s office behind the net.

“It’s tough,” says St. Louis Blues netminder Jordan Binnington. “It’s a new play, and I think it’s kind of fun for coaches to find a way to adapt and for goalies to figure out a new way to stop. You just use your hockey sense and trust your reads to try and handle it.”

In truth, the lacrosse goal is nothing new. In the 1996 NCAA West Regional semifinal, Michigan forward Mike Legg shocked the hockey world when he scooped the puck and whipped it behind Minnesota goalie Steve Debus.

Legg’s stick on the play ended up residing for a time in the Hockey Hall of Fame for its part in what is simply known as “The Michigan.”

Flash forward 26 years. Svechnikov scored the first NHL lacrosse goal on Oct. 29. He repeated the feat on Dec. 17 against Connor Hellebuyck and the Winnipeg Jets. 

On Jan. 14, Nashville’s Filip Forsberg proved the lacrosse goal is not a one-man phenomenon, lifting the puck on his blade and shovelling it under the glove of Edmonton netminder Mike Smith.

“The young kids are super skilled coming up now,” says Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom. “With social media and YouTube, they learn new tricks and all that stuff is going to be more creative.

“Players are getting more creative and more confident to pull it off in games. It’s obviously fun for the fans.”

The lacrosse goal is clearly fun, but debate rages around the actual legality of the play — especially considering Rittich took a stick through the face mask on the Svechnikov marker.

Stick must be below shoulders, crossbar

Under the current rules, a lacrosse goal is legal as long as the stick of the shooter is below the shoulders and the crossbar. As for the safety issue, “accidental contact” on a high stick is permitted “if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion.” 

“I really think it’s just the risk you have to take playing the position,” says Calgary goalie Cam Talbot. “I know more guys are trying it now they’ve seen it done. It’s not going to change the way I play on my post or anything like that.

“They’re exciting goals. If you’re skilled enough to pull that off, all the power to you.”

Talbot is also relying on his defencemen to read the play in real time and, if possible, hack the would-be attacker’s stick before the puck is launched.

Defencemen are becoming aware that it’s an option for some players– Calgary’s Noah Hanifan

“The more you see it, the more D-men are becoming aware of it,” says Calgary rearguard Noah Hanifin. “You’re aware of what players tend to do those things. It’s pretty unique, but defencemen are becoming aware that it’s an option for some players.”

Option or not, Vancouver goalie Thatcher Demko isn’t about to reinvent his playing style in the name of preventing lacrosse goals.

“It’s kind of one of those in-game reads where whatever you’re seeing might help you stop the puck,” Demko says. “You just do it, whether it’s throwing your head or maybe using your opposite hand and knock it down. It’s just a quick read. 

“I don’t think it’s a thing where you need to change your system of play. You have to have some awareness for it, like ‘oh this guy has a little bit more time than normal, what are his options?’ That kind of thing, but you’re not going to change anything really.”

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No, The Impossible Whopper Won’t Make Men Grow Boobs

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Plant-based meat substitutes are becoming increasingly popular as the quality increases and costs fall. You can even buy an Impossible burger from Burger King now. This situation has clearly caused some alarm among meat producers, and they’ve dug up some old pseudoscience to try and convince people that meat substitutes are bad for them. A livestock trade publication called Tri-State Livestock News (TSLN) has resurrected the claim that soy causes feminization in men. Don’t clutch your pearls — there’s no evidence for that

The post on TSLN covers several points, none of which are free of spin. Veterinarian James Stangle complains about protein measurements, GMO status, and more. The most outrageous claim is that the Impossible Whopper has 44mg of estrogen, which is 18 million times more than a beef burger. He warns that too much plant-based meat will cause men to grow breasts, which is at best a half-truth. 

TSLN as a publication is aimed at people in the livestock and farming industries, so the goal here is probably to give them talking points that sound legitimate. However, some conservative news outlets have started repeating these claims, too. What Doctor Stangle doesn’t explain is that an Impossible Whopper doesn’t actually contain any estrogen. What we’re really talking about here is a class of molecules called isoflavones that are structurally similar to estrogen. Many isoflavones can act as a “phytoestrogen” that activate estrogen receptors in the body. 

The structural similarities of some phytoestrogens and estrogen (bottom).

Some in the medical community have expressed concern over the effects phytoestrogens could have on people, but no study has yet to show compelling evidence of negative effects. Not everyone metabolizes isoflavones in the same way, but the hormonal impact of phytoestrogens seems generally weaker in most people than the native biological hormones. Someone who is particularly sensitive to phytoestrogens and consumes a huge amount of foods rich in them can exhibit some hormonal changes. There are several anecdotal reports of this is the literature, but that’s all they are — anecdotes. So, saying an Impossible Whopper has 44mg of estrogen is profoundly misleading on several levels. The one case in which a man developed breast tissue as a result of eating soy was from a 2008 case in which the man had been drinking three quarts of soy milk a day. Drinking too much iced tea can cause kidney failure. Drinking too much water can literally kill you. There is no special, unique, or particular risk to eating soy. Also, 5G does not cause cancer

Most doctors no longer consider isoflavones in soy to be an issue — after all, we get plenty of phytoestrogens in our diet from oats, rice, beans, and even beer. That hasn’t stopped certain internet communities from calling people with whom they disagree “soy boys,” with the implication being that they have been feminized by eating soy instead of meat. Doctor Stangle perpetuates this nonsense with his misleading article.

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Don Cherry says Sportsnet made it ‘impossible’ for him to clarify his Coach’s Corner comments

With his weekly TV platform gone, Don Cherry entered the podcast world on Tuesday, saying Sportsnet executives “made it impossible” for him to clarify the remarks that got him fired.

The former Coach’s Corner co-host was dismissed after 38 years for “offensive and discriminatory” comments made during the Nov. 9 segment on Hockey Night in Canada.

“Evidently I said something that upset Sportsnet and they canned me,” Cherry said during Tuesday’s 30-minute launch of the Don Cherry Grapevine podcast with his son, Tim. “I offered to explain [what I meant by my words] … not an apology but I was going to smooth it over. And they made conditions that made it impossible to do it. I just couldn’t do it …”

On that broadcast, Cherry criticized people who don’t wear Remembrance Day poppies using words many believed were aimed at Canadian immigrants.

“You people … you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,” Cherry said alongside co-host Ron MacLean. “These guys paid for your way of life that you enjoy in Canada, these guys paid the biggest price.”

‘I lived in a vicious world’ for 38 years

Cherry said he talked about many other subjects during the final Coach’s Corner.

“Nothing was mentioned about that. Nothing. Just two little words seemed to set everybody off,” Cherry said. “But, hey, that’s the way life is. I lived in a vicious world and I lasted 38 years. Happy to be there for 38 years. If I gotta go, I’m glad I’m going out on my shield.”

Cherry noted he has received support from many people, including truck drivers who have given him the thumbs-up and fire-fighters beeping their horns to show their support.

Sportsnet president Bart Yabsley issued a statement condemning Cherry’s remarks on Nov. 10, and during an NHL broadcast that night ​​​​​​MacLean issued a brief  apology. On Saturday’s show, MacLean delivered a five-minute monologue explaining why he chose to continue doing Hockey Night in Canada despite Cherry’s dismissal.

WATCH | Ron MacLean’s emotional monologue on the end of ‘Coach’s Corner:’

Ron MacLean spoke during the 1st intermission of the Leafs/ Penguins game to address the Don Cherry situation and what he called the “end of an era.” 4:44

Cherry, 85, said on the podcast he was disappointed in MacLean but said he is “still a friend.”

Tim Cherry told the Toronto Sun on Monday the plan for the podcast, is to tape and post it each Monday during the hockey season. Much of Tuesday’s podcast focused on Cherry’s memories of his coaching career and Maurice (Rocket) Richard.

Tim Cherry was also critical of Sportsnet.

“It’s a different world out there with the cancel culture,” he said. “They had their eyes set on you [Don], they had their guns set on you I think this year for sure. I think there was a lot of fake outrage.”

Cherry, a native of Kingston, Ont., joined Hockey Night in Canada in 1980 as a playoff analyst and was so popular that he was kept on as a colour commentator. CBC later created Coach’s Corner as a vehicle to showcase Cherry, with MacLean eventually replacing Dave Hodge as Cherry’s sidekick.

Known for his outlandish suits and thumbs-up gesture, Cherry occasionally weighed in on off-ice topics during his popular first-intermission program, and sometimes those views landed him in hot water.

Hockey Night and its games moved to Sportsnet when Rogers landed a lucrative 12-year broadcast rights deal with the NHL that began in 2014. Hockey Night in Canada is still broadcast on CBC in a sub-licencing deal with Rogers Media, which owns Sportsnet.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman opted not to weigh in on the Cherry developments during a keynote interview appearances at the Primetime sports management conference in Toronto on Monday but offered a few words afterwards to reporters.

“I believe the CBC has had a number of statements, we’ve had a number of statements, Don has spoken and I’m not going to start another news cycle,” Bettman said.

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Why it’s hard — but not impossible — for Republicans to rival Trump in a primary

About a year out from an election, a first-time U.S. president who rode his outsider status to the White House struggles to work effectively with Congress, leading five lawmakers from his own party to announce an effort to dump him as the candidate. 

No, this is not a Donald Trump-related story you missed amid all the scoops coming out of Washington these days. Remarkably, it happened 40 years ago, as a group of Democrats felt their party needed stronger leadership than what president Jimmy Carter possessed. 

Carter was elected president in 1976, but members of Congress hoped Senator Edward Kennedy would rise to be the Democratic candidate in the 1980 election. Kennedy did in fact try, but Carter survived the challenge.

It’s fair to say that Trump has struggled more at governing than the three modern presidents who faced an intra-party challenge — a list that in addition to Carter includes Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.

“The real question is: What is it that gets a sufficient number of Republicans to turn against the president, so that either he’s impeached or he’s vulnerable to a serious primary challenge?” said Elaine Kamarck, author of Primary Politics: Everything You Need to Know about How America Nominates Its Presidential Candidates


The three challengers, so far, for the Republican nomination are, from left to right: William Weld, Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh. (Mark Kauzlarich/Reuters, Sean Rayford/Getty Images, Julius Constantine Motal/Associated Press)

So far, three Republican candidates have announced their intent to run against Trump: former Massachusetts governor William Weld; former South Carolina governor and U.S. congressman Mark Sanford; and Joe Walsh, a former U.S. congressman from Illinois.

There are no rumblings, despite the Ukraine storyline and its inherent impeachment risk for Trump, that more Republicans are about to come forward. Bigger names, such as Mitt Romney and Nikki Haley, haven’t dared.

If you’re a Republican with presidential ambitions, “I think the feeling is you’d be a kamikaze, and [it’s] better off keeping your head down and just surviving the moment,” said Jon Ward, a senior political correspondent at Yahoo and the author of the 2019 book Camelot’s End: Kennedy Vs. Carter and the Fight that Broke the Democratic Party.

Challengers believe future of party at stake

Indeed, Sanford, Walsh and Weld have embarked on a Herculean task never accomplished under the modern primary system. (President Lyndon Johnson, facing mounting opposition to the Vietnam War and strong early primary results for Democrats Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy, simply decided not to run for re-election in 1968.)

Former California governor Ronald Reagan gave Ford a scare in 1976, and George H.W. Bush in 1992 had to defend his conservative bona fides against Pat Buchanan, who railed against illegal immigration and China’s unfair trade advantages.

In the cases of Ford and Carter, economic conditions led to dissatisfaction with the occupant of the Oval Office. The U.S. was officially in recession and dealing with an international oil embargo under Ford, while Carter’s time coincided with both high unemployment and inflation. Bush saw the economy swoon as he mounted his re-election campaign in 1992, with unemployment climbing over seven per cent for the first time in years.

Trump has presided over a robust economy. Despite some sobering economic indicators and forecasts and his application of divisive tariffs and Federal Reserve Board insults, there hasn’t been widespread pain for middle-class voters.

“The sand is running out of the hourglass for any kind of recession to match up with the timeline you’d need to challenge him [on that basis],” said Ward. 

Trump has been criticized over last year’s Helsinki summit and shifting positions on U.S. troops in Syria and Afghanistan. But Kamarck argued that “foreign policy tends not to move voters.”


Patrick Buchanan, a one-time Republican presidential candidate, smiles as he holds a 12-gauge shotgun on the 1992 campaign trail in Phoenix. (Chris Wilkins/AFP/Getty Images)

Even if the conditions are ripe for a challenge, Kamarck said that a strong narrative is crucial for a new candidate to be taken seriously. 

“To take on your party, you need to be for something that’s bigger than yourself,” she said. 

Reagan, for example, made a case for leaner government after the Nixon and Ford administrations added agencies and programs. Meanwhile, Ted Kennedy thought the Democrats had abandoned their New Deal roots, with Carter increasing the military budget but not pursuing major health care reform.  

Buchanan characterized his bid to unseat Bush as nothing less than “a contest for the soul and heart of the Republican Party.”

Trump dismisses would-be challengers

In 2019, the situation is different.

“Here, the problem with Trump is Trump,” said Kamarck. That’s certainly the way Joe Walsh has framed it. 

“I’m running because [Trump’s] unfit,” Walsh told ABC News. “Somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative. The country is sick of this guy’s tantrum — he’s a child.”

But Walsh may not the best messenger for that theme. He himself was accused of making Islamophobic and other problematic statements during his years in Congress and as a radio host. Walsh said the divisiveness of Trump’s rhetoric has helped him see the error of his ways.


The other two candidates are making a play for more moderation in the way a U.S. president behaves and governs.

Sanford, who lost a congressional primary in 2018 after occasionally criticizing Trump in the preceding two years, highlights the current administration’s excessive debt and deficit spending.

“I think as a Republican Party we have lost our way,” Sanford said.

Weld, who four years ago was the vice-presidential candidate for the Libertarian Party, also cites the deficit — as well as Trump’s inaction on climate change. 


It’s not clear if Trump can differentiate his three challengers. He has referred to them in the singular: “They’re a joke. They’re a laughingstock.”

Yahoo’s Ward thinks there are signs that some Republicans are tiring of Trump’s behaviour — and polls showing decent support for launching impeachment hearings have surprised some observers.

Delegates could in theory switch

The early stages of the Republican primary process in recent years have often seen a message of moderation drowned out by more strident voices — even before Trump. Republican challengers like televangelist Pat Robertson (1992) and libertarian Ron Paul (2012), for example, had strong Iowa caucus showings before more conventional voting demographics rejected them.

Roadblocks have been put up to make the process more formidable for any Trump challenger, with about a half-dozen states saying they won’t even hold Republican primaries. After the early February Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary, there are no other primaries until Super Tuesday in March, when several states are in play.

But not all state primaries require voters to be registered Republicans. And unlike rules on the Democratic side, candidates don’t get right of approval over the delegates they accrue. 

“By not having primaries, Trump is trying to avoid an embarrassment,” said Kamarck. “On the other hand, he’s losing some control over the process of picking the delegates.” 


A delegate holds up a sign for Ted Cruz during the Republican National Convention in July 2016. (Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

At the Republican convention in Cleveland in 2016, there were last-minute efforts to throw support behind Ted Cruz, but they fizzled. Dozens of former Republican administration officials who worked in national security sounded the alarm then over a potential Trump presidency. 

Assailing his temperament and character, they wrote in a statement that Trump “appears to lack basic knowledge about and belief in the U.S. Constitution, U.S. laws and U.S. institutions.” They also worried that he would abandon allies and provide embarrassing moments on the world stage.

Trump campaign officials have taken steps to prevent remorse over his candidacy emerging again at the 2020 convention. The Republican National Committee approved a non-binding resolution declaring its “undivided support for President Donald J. Trump and his effective presidency.” The key word is non-binding. If more allegations of corruption emerge, it could result in a drumbeat for a Plan B.

“The political reality is, if Trump is mortally wounded and it’s March or even May [2020], if it’s bad enough, a political party can find a way to ditch the sitting president and find someone else,” said Ward.

While super-delegates and party officials have tended to rubber-stamp the will of primary voters at modern conventions, they are not bound on each and every ballot. 

“Convention delegates can, in fact, abandon the president,” she said. “There’s no legal reason they can’t do that.” 

The odds are still hugely in favour of Trump being the 2020 Republican nominee. But if he takes the party down with him in a comprehensive general election loss, Kamarck thinks it’s a strong bet Republican Party primary and convention rules could be rewritten as a bulwark against an “erratic and chaotic” candidate.

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The Lord of the Rings: Gollum Builds a Game Around an Impossible Main Character

Daedalic Entertainment has announced that it’s working on a new adventure game centered around one of the most iconic characters in all of fantasy. The Lord of the Rings: Gollum — unfortunately the only art or asset available is the logo shown above — will focus on the titular character’s life before at least some of the events discussed in JRR Tolkien’s novels.

In a recent interview, Daedalic Entertainment CEO Carsten Fichtelmann discussed the developer’s plans for the character. “We’re concentrating on the character of Gollum, and we’re telling his story before we learn about what happens to him in the books,” Fichtelmann said. “So it’s definitely new content that we’ll see.”

This won’t be the story of the version of Gollum popularized by Andy Serkis, because Daedalic Entertainment has the rights to Tolkien’s books, not the Peter Jackson movies. Fichtelmann says Daedalic’s story will “tell Gollum’s story from a perspective never seen before, in any storytelling medium, all the while staying true to the legendary books of J.R.R. Tolkien.”

That’s not going to be easy. Tolkien’s legendarium is, well, legendarily difficult to adapt for video games. But of all the characters we could possibly follow during a different period of their lives, Gollum is probably going to be the hardest to capture in a manner that’s both true to what Tolkien wrote and actually fun to play.

The Most Interesting (and Possibly Worst) PC in the World Middle Earth

Consider what we know of Gollum’s life. While pre-Ring Sméagol is described as inquisitive and curious-minded, he had already turned dark before he found the Ring, becoming obsessed with “roots and beginnings” and ceasing to look at the natural world around him. “His head and eyes were downward,” Tolkien writes. As Gandalf explains to Frodo, Gollum’s possession of the Ring began with the murder of his friend, Déagol. Sméagol, as Gollum was then-known, used the Ring for petty grievances and hurtful purposes. In return, his relatives grew to scorn and despise him.

He became sharp-eyed and keen-eared for all that was hurtful. The ring had given him power according to his stature. It is not to be wondered at that he became very unpopular and was shunned (when visible) by all his relations. They kicked him, and he bit their feet. He took to thieving, and going about muttering to himself, and gurgling in his throat. So they called him Gollum, and cursed him, and told him to go far away; and his grandmother, desiring peace, expelled him from the family and turned him out of her hole. He wandered in loneliness, weeping a little for the hardness of the world.

Gollum follows the river Anduin into the Misty Mountains, then finds his way beneath them. There, Gandalf says, he “wormed his way like a maggot into the heart of the hills, and vanished out of all knowledge.”

The Hobbit Formerly Known as Sméagol is neither hero nor anti-hero. He is obsessed solely with his own desires and needs, seeking literally nothing but to retrieve his Precious or, failing this, to be as close to it as possible. Frodo travels to Mordor because he believes he must. Sam goes for love of his Master. Gollum? Gollum wants a fix. Of all those who possessed the Ring, he appears to understand its nature the least, despite possessing it for the longest period of time of any character save Sauron.

Gaming is full of fell-eyed heroes and murderous anti-heroes, but I’m hard-pressed to remember a well-loved character that steals and devours children in their cradles. Gollum does. He isn’t simply described as evil, but as broken, despicable, pitiful (to those like Frodo, who had some understanding of his torment) and wretched. He bites, kicks, grovels, spits, and whines, not just at the end of his life, but throughout his entire ownership of the Ring.

Gollum-Shadow-of-War

It’s like Doom, only you play a local vagrant with severe mental problems and a profoundly unhealthy meth habit. Gollum as depicted in Shadow of War.

Gollum didn’t go on adventures, unless you count being tied up and dragged around by others. He may have plumbed the Misty Mountains with the vague goal of finding secrets, but they eluded him. Here’s Tolkien:

All the “great secrets” under the mountains had turned out to be just empty night: there was nothing more to find out, nothing worth doing, only nasty furtive eating and resentful remembering. He was altogether wretched. He hated the dark, and he hated light more: he hated everything, and the Ring most of all.

Tolkien’s depiction of Gollum is unremittingly grim. Many of his characters are motivated by a desire for the Ring, but Gollum is the only character willing to murder to get it before he’s even touched it. While I am not a formal Tolkien scholar, this distinction seems significant. While the Ring may possess some power to mesmerize on sight, it primarily influences the individual who physically possesses it. No other character, including Boromir, is instantly driven to kill upon a glimpse of the band. Sméagol is either affected by a larger degree than other characters or was intrinsically willing to murder for a trinket without any “assistance” from the Dark Lord.

Gollum is a fabulously interesting character and I love his inner monologue with his own fractured personality as much as Fichtelmann does. I’m also open to the idea that the right game, built the right way, could somehow square this particular circle. But honestly, it doesn’t seem as though it’ll be possible if the goal is to remain true to the books.

Gollum isn’t noble, heroic, or even anti-heroic. He is depicted as entirely self-interested and self-absorbed, and while he may occasionally show a glimmer of human emotion, Sméagol — the personality that embodies these traits — is depicted as the weaker, subordinate mind that loses arguments to Gollum outright. There is no Hero’s Journey for him to embark upon. He is a character virtually devoid of redeeming values who saves Middle Earth by tripping. The degree to which he possesses a will of his own is itself debatable.

Gandalf notes Bilbo’s self-description of himself as “thin and stretched” in The Fellowship of the Ring and declares that this is “A sign that the Ring was getting control.”  He also tells Frodo that there was only “a little corner of his [Gollum’s] mind that was still his own” and that there is little hope for him. Ultimately, even that small hope is false. Gollum may save Middle Earth, but he does not find redemption. The power of the Ring is stronger than he can withstand. If we are sympathetic to Gollum, I would argue, it is because Tolkien shows us that Frodo will inevitably share his fate one day. Choosing pity over cruelty bought Frodo and Bilbo time and minimized the harm they took from holding the One Ring over the short-to-medium term. It was never enough, in and of itself, to change the long-term outcome of attempting to possess “a trifle that Sauron fancies.”

A game built on Tolkien’s Gollum would seem to revolve entirely around acts of petty cruelty, the joys of catching fish in pitch-black caves, and an existence defined by murder, hatred, and (possibly, depending on time period) a burning need for something he’ll never possess again. Setting the story in the distant past would simply invite the player to experience the beginning of the wretched tale rather than the end. Tolkien gives no sign that the miserable creature’s existence ever included the kind of adventure that players typically want to experience. This makes it difficult to imagine an enjoyable game that would remain true to Tolkien’s own work, unless maggot-worming, foot-biting, weeping, and a nonstandard arrangement of phonemes that would make Yoda blush have all become far more popular game mechanics than I’m aware of.

Now Read: 

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NASA Says Terraforming Mars Is Currently Impossible

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Mars has long been seen as a potential second home for humanity, but it won’t be a comfortable place to hang your hat until we’ve addressed the lack of breathable air. According to NASA, fantasies about terraforming the red planet are premature. A new analysis of Mars and its composition shows that we’re nowhere near being able to terraform the planet with current technology. Elon Musk can put away his nukes.

The Mars of today is a cold, presumably lifeless rock. The primary reason for that it that its atmosphere is only about 1 percent as thick as Earth’s. It can’t retain enough heat to maintain a pleasant temperature with liquid surface water. Scientists agree the first step in making Mars habitable is to increase the atmospheric thickness to kick off a greenhouse effect.

On Earth, carbon buildup in the atmosphere is causing an increase in global temperatures. That’s exactly what we want on Mars. The only greenhouse gasses that exist in any appreciable amount are carbon dioxide and water vapor. The NASA-sponsored study looked at how much gas we could release into Mars’ atmosphere. It leverages all the new scientific observations taken by missions like Curiosity, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, and the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) spacecraft.

To terraform Mars, you want the atmosphere to approach Earth-like density. Mars is famous for its frozen carbon dioxide ice caps, which is why Musk suggested nuking them. However, the study notes this would only boost Mars’ density by 0.6 percent compared with Earth. If you add carbon-bearing minerals, that gets you 1.2 percent closer. There may be a wealth of carbon dioxide trapped inside water ice molecules, but these so-called clathrates would only add another half a percent at best.

With all the easy stuff out of the way, Mars’ atmosphere would only be a little north of 3 percent as dense as Earth’s. Even if you get into energy-intensive operations to separate carbon absorbed into the surface, you’ll only add another 4 percent. The study estimates all sources of greenhouse gasses on Mars would only get you to 6.9 percent Earth density. That’s not enough to warm Mars or support human life.

So, we should not expect to terraform Mars any time soon. The technology to add more gases to the planet is beyond us for now. It’s possible in the future we may be able to steer comets into the planet to add more density to the atmosphere, but that’s just science-fiction for now.

Now read: Most Martian Dust Probably Came From a Single Geological Formation

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Super Bowl LII Trailers: 'Avengers: Infinity War,' 'Skyscraper,' 'Mission: Impossible – Fallout' and More!

For some, the Super Bowl has become a sort of second Christmas where good little movie fans the country over get the gift of epic, explosive new trailers, and this year was as exceedingly bountiful.

Between the multi-million-dollar ads for beer, snacks, cars and telephone networks were a slew of high-octane first looks and exclusive sneak peeks at some of the biggest films hitting theaters this year, as well as some of the most eagerly anticipated new series.

From some exciting, never-before-seen glimpses at Solo: A Star Wars Story and some pulse-pounding scenes from the upcoming Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, there was a little something for everyone who loves blockbuster adventures. Check out all of the greatest trailers that premiered during this year’s Super Bowl below.

Avengers: Infinity War

The Cloverfield Paradox

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

Mission: Impossible – Fallout

A Quiet Place

Red Sparrow

Skyscraper

Solo: A Star Wars Story

Castle Rock (Hulu)

Jack Ryan (Amazon)

Rise (NBC)

The Voice (NBC)

Westworld (HBO)

Among the many trailers, there was also an exclusive look at the highly secretive new comedy Dundee — a long-awaited addition to the Crocodile Dundee franchise starring Danny McBride as Dundee’s adult son who comes back to Australia to explore his dad’s homeland, where he’s guided by the endlessly charming Chris Hemsworth.

The only thing is, Dundee isn’t a real movie. As it turns out, the expertly crafted fake trailer is actually part of an elaborate marking campaign promoting Austrailian tourism, but it does leave you wondering if Dundee was something you’ve always wanted to see but never knew it.

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