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How a hole drilled by Canadians may have led to a baby boom in rural Iceland

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Forty years after researchers from Halifax helped drill a hole nearly two kilometres into the ground in rural Iceland, locals still remember the project, not so much for its geological findings, but for the spout of hot water it unexpectedly unleashed — and the midnight hot tub parties it brought to their isolated fishing village.

In 1978, a group of students and researchers from Dalhousie, led by now-retired professor James Hall, travelled to Reydarfjordur in eastern Iceland to spearhead an international mission to understand the geology of the ocean’s crust.

Marcos Zentilli was a young professor at Dal when the megaproject, funded by institutions in Canada, Germany, Denmark and Iceland, got underway.

Zentilli said back then, the idea that the ocean floor is spreading and that continents move around — in other words, the theory of plate tectonics — was still gaining acceptance, and “not everybody believed it. It was a little bit like global warming today.”

The hole was drilled to a depth of about 1.9 kilometres. (Submitted by Johann Helgason)

Researchers had tried to drill into the ocean floor from ships, but that proved expensive and there were lots of failures. Drilling from islands was seen as a cheaper alternative.

After erecting a huge tower, the team managed to drill the hole 15 to 20 metres deeper every day. Amid June snow flurries, researchers like Zentilli were tasked with describing, measuring and boxing all the cylinders of rock extracted from the hole.

“It was a lot of work,” Zentilli recalled in a recent interview.

Then, something went wrong. At 1919.73 metres, the drill would go no further.

“We got stuck,” Zentilli said. “They decided that we were not getting the results we had expected … and then they decided to stop.”

But something also went right. Warm water started spurting out of the hole.

If there’s one thing to know about Icelanders, it’s that they love their warm water.

Dalhousie University professor emeritus Marcos Zentilli travelled to Iceland in 1978 to work on the project, which unexpectedly brought hot water to the Earth’s surface. (Submitted by Johann Helgason)

Samuel Sigurdsson runs the Olis gas station in Reydarfjordur, and while he didn’t live there in 1978, he said tales of the hot spring abound to this day.

Locals in the village of just a few hundred hauled a large, stainless steel tub from a nearby cheese factory and placed it under the spout.

“It was very popular,” said Sigurdsson. “It was just like a small swimming pool. You can imagine how nice it was, from the dark winter cold night after a beer in the pub, to go there.”

The communal hot tub was big enough to fit 10 or 15 people, he said. But two people was all it took to produce at least one unanticipated byproduct of the drilling project.

“As the story says, there was a few babies made there,” Sigurdsson said. “I was not there myself, but the story tells that that is the reason for many kids who was made there.”

After the project’s discovery of geothermal energy in the area, holes were drilled in the nearby town of Eskifjordur, Iceland. Buildings in that community are now heated with geothermal energy. (Submitted by Johann Helgason)

Johann Helgason was involved in the drilling project and now works for the National Land Survey of Iceland.

He said the discovery of the hot spring in Reydarfjordur was significant because the area wasn’t previously believed to have much geothermal potential.

But after the project wound up, drilling in nearby Eskifjordur revealed enough geothermal energy to heat the entire village.

“For us in Iceland, the finding had economic value,” Helgason said. “Having hot water is equivalent to finding an oil well in a sense except it’s much purer.”

This pool in Eskifjordur is heated with geothermal energy. (Submitted by Johann Helgason)

As for the original hole, Zentilli made a trip back to Iceland last year for the first time since the 1970s and went on a pilgrimage of sorts to find that epic fountain.

“I was walking around and suddenly a farmer was fixing a fence and found it very strange having this tourist looking around his farm and he came and he says, ‘Can I help you?'” Zentilli said.

Once Zentilli explained what he was looking for, the farmer was determined to show him the hole, buried beneath a metre and a half of gravel and now connected to pipes that heat all the farm’s buildings.

“I said, ‘But that’s crazy, you have things to do.’ And he said, ‘No, no no, it’s important, you came here all this way. I’ll show you it.'” Zentilli said.

Farmer Asmundur Svavarsson digs out the wellhead to show retired Dalhousie University professor Marcos Zentilli. (Icelandic Institute of Natural History website)

The man spent about an hour and a half digging and eventually uncovered the legendary hole in the ground.

It’s unlikely the Icelandic farmer would be willing to shovel all that gravel away for just anyone, but tourists interested in the drill project can go and see for themselves the cylinders of rock that were extracted 40 years ago.

Initially shipped to Halifax, they were later returned to Iceland and are now stored in a museum in Breiddalsvik.

A geologist with the Icelandic Institute of Natural History said while the rocks have generated a lot of interest among geologists, in general, “drill cores are not something people seek to see.”

Rock extracted from the end of the drill hole, at 1919.73 metres deep. (Hrafnkell Hannesson)

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Top 5 Analytics Trends That Are Shaping The Future

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Digital transformation is increasingly becoming the focus for many CIOs around the world today—with analytics playing a fundamental role in driving the future of the digital economy.

While data is important to every business, it is necessary for businesses to have a firm grip on data analytics to allow them transform raw pieces of data into important insights. However, unlike the current trends in business intelligence—which is centred around data visualization—the future of data analytics would encompass a more contextual experience.

“The known data analytics development cycle is described in stages: from descriptive (what happened) to diagnostic (why did it happen), to discovery (what can we learn from it), to predictive (what is likely to happen), and, finally, to prescriptive analytics (what action is the best to take),” said Maurice op het Veld is a partner at KPMG Advisory in a report.

“Another way of looking at this is that data analytics initially “supported” the decision-making process but is now enabling “better” decisions than we can make on our own.”

Here are some of the current trends that arealready shaping the future of data analytics in individuals and businesses.

  1. Growth in mobile devices

With the number of mobile devices expanding to include watches, digital personal assistants, smartphones, smart glasses, in-car displays, to even video gaming systems, the final consumption plays a key role on the level of impact analytics can deliver.

Previously, most information consumers accessed were on a computer with sufficient room to view tables, charts and graphs filled with data, now, most consumers require information delivered in a format well optimized for whatever device they are currently viewing it on.

Therefore, the content must be personalized to fit the features of the user’s device and not just the user alone.

  1. Continuous Analytics

More and more businesses are relying on the Internet of Things (IoT) and their respective streaming data—which in turn shortens the time it takes to capture, analyze and react to the information gathered. Therefore, while analytics programspreviously were termed successful when results were delivered within days or weeks of processing, the future of analytics is bound to drastically reduce this benchmark to hours, minutes, seconds—and even milliseconds.

“All devices will be connected and exchange data within the “Internet of Things” and deliver enormous sets of data. Sensor data like location, weather, health, error messages, machine data, etc. will enable diagnostic and predictive analytics capabilities,” noted Maurice.

“We will be able to predict when machines will break down and plan maintenance repairs before it happens. Not only will this be cheaper, as you do not have to exchange supplies when it is not yet needed, but you can also increase uptime.”

  1. Augmented Data Preparation

During the process of data preparation, machine learning automation will begin to augment data profiling and data quality, enrichment, modelling, cataloguing and metadata development.

Newer techniques would include supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning which is bound to enhance the entire data preparation process. In contrast to previous processes—which depended on rule-based approach to data transformation—this current trend would involve advanced machine learning processes that would evolve based on recent data to become more precise at responding to changes in data.

  1. Augmented Data Discovery

Combined with the advancement in data preparation, a lot of these newer algorithms now allow information consumers to visualize and obtain relevant information within the data with more ease. Enhancements such as automatically revealing clusters, links, exceptions, correlation and predictions with pieces of data, eliminate the need for end users to build data models or write algorithms themselves.

This new form of augmented data discovery will lead to an increase in the number of citizen data scientist—which include information users who, with the aid of augmented assistance can now identify and respond to various patterns in data faster and a more distributed model.

  1. AugmentedData Science

It is important to note that the rise of citizen data scientist will not in any way eliminate the need for a data scientist who gathers and analyze data to discover profitable opportunities for the growth of a business. However, as these data scientists give room for citizen data scientists to perform the easier tasks, their overall analysis becomes more challenging and equally valuable to the business.

As time goes by, machine learning would be applied in other areas such as feature and model selection. This would free up some of the tasks performed by data scientist and allow them focus on the most important part of their job, which is to identify specific patterns in the data that can potentially transform business operations and ultimately increase revenue.

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Waterloo drone-maker Aeryon Labs bought by U.S. company for $265M

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Waterloo’s Aeryon Labs has been bought by Oregon-based FLIR Systems Inc. for $256 million, or $200 million US.

The acquisition was announced Monday. 

Dave Kroetsch, co-founder and chief technology officer of Aeryon Labs, says not much will change in the foreseeable future.

“The Waterloo operations of Aeryon Labs will actually continue as they did yesterday with manufacturing, engineering and all the functions staying intact in Waterloo and ultimately, we see growing,” he said.

“The business here is very valuable to FLIR and our ability to sell internationally is a key piece of keeping these components of the business here in Canada.”

Aeroyn Labs builds high-performance drones that are sold to a variety of customers including military, police services and commercial businesses. The drones can provide high-resolution images for surveillance and reconnaissance.

The drones already include cameras and thermal technology from FLIR. Jim Cannon, president and CEO of FLIR Systems, said acquiring Aeryon Labs is part of the company’s strategy to move beyond sensors “to the development of complete solutions that save lives and livelihoods.”

‘A piece of a bigger solution’

Kroetsch said this is a good way for the company to grow into something bigger.

“We see the business evolving in much the direction our business has been headed over the last couple of years. And that’s moving beyond the drone as a product in and of itself as a drone as a piece of a bigger solution,” he said.

For example, FLIR bought a drone company that builds smaller drones that look like little helicopters.

“We can imagine integrating those with our drones, perhaps having ours carry their drones and drop them off,” he said.

FLIR also does border security systems, which Kroetsch says could use the drones to allow border agents to look over a hill where there have been issues.

“We see the opportunity there as something that we never could have done on our own but being involved with and part of a larger company that’s already providing these solutions today gives us access not only to these great applications, but also to some fantastic technologies,” he said.

Aeryon Labs has done a lot of work during emergency disasters, including in Philippines after Typhoon Hagupit in 2014, Ecuador after an earthquake in 2016 and the Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016.

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Inuvik infrastructure may not be ready for climate change, says study

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The Arctic is expected to get warmer and wetter by the end of this century and new research says that could mean trouble for infrastructure in Inuvik.

The study from Global Water Futures looked at how climate change could impact Havipak Creek — which crosses the Dempster Highway in Inuvik, N.W.T. — and it predicts some major water changes.

“They were quite distressing,” John Pomeroy, director of Global Water Futures and the study’s lead author, said of the findings.

Researchers used a climate model and a hydrological model to predict future weather and climate patterns in the region. They also looked at data gathered from 1960 to the present. 

If greenhouse gas emissions continue at their current rate — which Pomeroy said they are on track to do — the study projects the region will be 6.1 C warmer by 2099 and precipitation, particularly rain, will increase by almost 40 per cent.

The study also found that the spring flood will be earlier and twice as large, and the permafrost will thaw an additional 25 centimetres. While the soil is expected to be wetter early in the summer, the study said it will be drier in late summer, meaning a higher risk of wildfires.

John Pomeroy is the director of Global Water Futures. (Erin Collins/CBC)

“The model’s painting kind of a different world than we’re living in right now for the Mackenzie Delta region,” Pomeroy said.

He noted these changes are not only expected for Havipak Creek, but also for “many, many creeks along the northern part of the Dempster [Highway].”

Pomeroy said the deeper permafrost thaw and a bigger spring flood could pose challenges for buildings, roads, culverts and crossings in the area that were designed with the 20th century climate in mind.

He said the projected growth of the snowpack and the spring flood are “of grave concern because that’s what washes out the Dempster [Highway] and damages infrastructure in the area.”

Culverts and bridges may have to be adjusted to allow room for greater stream flows, Pomeroy said. And building foundations that are dependent upon the ground staying frozen will have to be reinforced or redesigned.

Pomeroy said the ultimate solution is for humans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“This study is the future we’re heading for, but it’s not the future we necessarily have if we can find a way to reduce those gases,” he said.  

“It’d be far smarter to get those emissions under control than to pay the terrible expenses for infrastructure and endangered safety of humans and destroyed ecosystems.”

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