Edmonton Journal from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada on December 26, 1993 · 48
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Edmonton Journal from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada · 48

Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Issue Date:
Sunday, December 26, 1993
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D6 The Edmonton Journal, Sunday, December 26, 1993 Science & Medicine VL . J MARK LOWEY Calgary Herald c oal mining "pulled the plug out" of Turtle Mountain and triggered the deadly Frank Slide, a new geological study of the 1903 Crowsnest Pass disaster reveals. Without human interference, "the Frank Slide might have moved in a less disastrous manner and may already have done so in prehistoric times," says the study by Calgary geologist Peter Jones. "My feeling is the mine pulled the plug out" Jones also discovered that, contrary to previous geological and historical findings, Turtle Mountain is not unique in being susceptible to massive slides. The Rocky Mountains are likely riddled with similar unstable slopes all highly sensitive to a natural or man-made disturbance. "I believe that this is a genuine hazard, and it's something civil engineers should know about," Jones said. "It's a hazard that has been underestimated." His peer-reviewed research was recently published in the Bulletin of Canadian Petroleum Geology. Jones is an internationally respected expert in structural geology. He grew up in the Crowsnest Pass, about 270 km southwest of Calgary. IDs curiosity about the Frank Slide intensified in 1957, when he was sitting in his geologist's trailer at a well site. Without warning, part of the mountain slope above the site gave way and crashed down, partly burying his trailer. "I couldn't get out of it until they dug me out," Jones recalled. That mini-slide got Jones thinking about Turtle Mountain. The geological interpretation of the Frank Slide hasn't been updated since 1903, when part of the "mountain that moves" thundered down and killed 70 people in the coal mining town of Frank. In the last couple of decades, geologists have developed a more sophisticated understanding about the formation and structure of the Alberta foothills. Jones, a pilot, took aerial photographs of Turtle Mountain's structure and the surrounding topography. He also did research on the ground. J ago, the Rockies emerged when two ancient " 1 continents collided. Masses I of rock were thrust 1 pactuarrl hvprc fnlHintf and overriding each other in what's called an "overthrust belt." Simply folded and relatively stable mountain ridges are called "anticlines." But the geology of mountains is often more complex. Many anticlines in the Rockies rest on top of "thrust faults" rock layers left geologically unstable from the folding process. Jones's research shows Turtle Mountain is a massive anticline overlying numerous thrust faults. In addition, the faults are folded over within the mountain. Imagine shingles on a roof. On the west slope of Turtle Mountain's Cellular phones meet radiation standards Users of hand held cellulartele-phones are exposed to levels of radiation well within U.S. safety standards, according to a study for the National Institutes of Health. Cellular phone safety became an is.sue in February after a St. Petersburg. Fla., man said he was suing a cellular phone-maker and the service provider because his wife, a frequent cellular phone user, died of brain cancer. The service provider was later dropped from the suit, which is still pending in a Florida court. The industry reacted immediately by announcing it would pay for government-approved research to determine whether radio waves from cellular phones pose a cancer risk. The current study, by scientists at the University of Utah, was funded mainly by a grant from the NIH. Met "aw Cellular Communications Inc., the largest cellular phone service company in the U.S.. also provided funding. Ora Gandhi, chairman of the university's Department of Electrical Engineering, and his colleagues studied 10 hand held cellular phones from four manufacturers. They investigated specific absorption rates of electromagnetic energy on the head. neck, shoulders and upper torso when a cellular phone is held against the ear. The amount of radiation absorbed by human tissue is four to five times lower than levels considered safe by the American National Standards Institute and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, the study found. Modified calf expected to produce big bucks A genetically modified calf born in Finland could produce milk containing large amounts of an expensive cell-growth factor used to treat severe anemia, scientists say. It is one of several animals produced by n'searrfuTs to m;ik- nm- natural sub stan--s in l;inf r vohinn-s !!i;in an- mi A geologist believes the Rockies are riddled with unstable slopes, waiting for a man-made or natural disturbance to set off another disaster like the 1903 Frank Slide SLIDE AREAS 4 Grassy Mountain Lille (Abandoned) Bluff Mountain Slide Bluff Mountain Hillcrest Mountain Herald Giaphie roof, the wedge-shaped rock shingles are all pointing up, wide bases at the bottom. They're relatively stable. But on the east slope, the east-thrusting mountain-building process has pushed all the shingles on top of each other. Many have turned upside dow n. These overturned rock wedges make Turtle Mountain's east slope extremely unstable, Jones noted. "The whole weight of that mountain is resting right on top of that wedge." The elements erode and weaken the tops of mountain slopes. Now imagine the point of one overturned shingle located below the unstable rock wedges perched on Turtle Mountain's east slope is chipped out. Everything above would start to move. ble with the current methods of using modified bacteria, yeast or cell cultures. Researchers in the U.S. two years ago announced the first successful creation of so-called transgenic animals goats that produced a protein used to treat heart attacks. The Finnish calf, bom Dec. 17, has a copy of the human red cell growth factor pro ducing gene in each ce said Juhani Jannc. head of the four year project that produced the an mal Red cell growth factor, or erythro- poeitin. is used to treat severe anemia, especially in patients with artificial kidneys, and as a supplementary medicine for AIDS and cancer patients. "This medicine cow is really worth bil lions." said Jannc. w ho is a professor of biotechnolo gy at the University of Kuopio. 380 kilometres north of Helsinki. When fully grown in two years, the calf should produce milk containing the growth factor, which currently costs the equivalent of about $107 million a pound, said Janne. He said the single calf could produce up to 80 kilograms of erythropoeitin a year, compared with present annual world demand of about 20 kilograms. Smoking linked to leukemia , 4 Blairmore y. ' 14 7""s flBellevue Turtle Mountain jK xolv 4 u 0 1 2 1 , Frank I TV. km Slide I v' .: WVrv w t i . . Add one more cancer leukemia to the list of malignancies that smoking appears to be linked to. n-N-arrhers in the ".S reported in The town of Frank lies at the base of Turtle Peter Jones While the west slopes of the Rocky Mountains are stable, many eastern ones contain faulted and folded-over rock layers, making them susceptible to slides That's exactly how coal mining triggered the Frank Slide, Jones said. The mine's main tunnel, about 680 metres long, ran horizontally near one of the highly sensitive wedge points on the east slope of Turtle Mountain. Miners worked the coal from vertical seams, dug upward from the main shaft. In the weeks prior to the landslide, pressure from above was so great these seams kept squeezing shut, snapping wooden reinforcements like toothpicks. Finally, on April 29, 1903, the mine "pulled the plug out." Thirty million cubic metres of rock perched on top of the wedge rushed like a killing locomotive down the east slope of Turtle Mountain. House-sized slabs of limestone hurled through the air. It took just 100 seconds to cover a 2.67-square-km area up to 30 metres deep. Jones stressed that no one should blame the coal miners for the tragedy. No one knew about Turtle Mountain's unstable structure. "It's not a matter of blame, because nobody was thinking in those terms at that time." The 1912 government-appointed Daly the Jtnmuil of the National Cancer Institute that compared to non smokers, older smokers had twice the risk of acute myeloid leukemia and triple the risk of acute lymphocytic leukemia. Cigarettes might explain as much as 37 percent of the acute leukemia among people 60 and older, according to the study of more than 1.200 people, half of whom had leukemia. Earlier studies might not have picked up as strong an association between smoking and increased risk of leukemia because they did not distinguish among types of the cancer, the researchers write. While no detailed biological mechanism has explained an association between leukemia and smoking, the researchers write that the link makes sense because cigarette smoke contains benzene and other compounds associated with leukemia, and because smoke byproducts can be found in the blood of smokers. They urged that future studies of leukemia patients dis tinguish among types of the cancer, so that any link can more easily be found. V ... ...N ..... Mountain, which remains draped in the UNSTABLE commission, which investigated the Frank Slide, did cite the mining activity as a contributing factor. But the commission also concluded that Turtle Mountain is geologically unique which Jones rejects. "Turtle Mountain appears to be a typical Alberta foothills structure," he says in his published paper. "And the east flank of any similar structure has a similar propensity for slope failure that is many times greater than its west flank." ones presents evidence of an ancient slide a couple of kilometres north of the Frank Slide on Bluff Mountain. All Like Turtle, BlufT Mountain is a huge anticline whose east slope is fractured by folded thrust faults, he said. At least 50,000 years ago, a creek slicing through rock at the bottom of Bluff did the same thing as the coal mine at Turtle undermined an unstable rock wedge. The material poised above came tumbling down. Jones's evidence indicates that the Bluff Mountain slide was colossal 10 times greater in volume and mass than the Frank Slide. Precautions urged after rare AIDS case A report of a rare transmission of the AIDS virus from an infected child to another toddler in the same home serves as a reminder that precautions against contact with blood should be universal, say health officials. The transmission, reported by New Jersey researchers in the New Etiyhnui Journal of Medicine, probably occurred after the infected child's blood came in contact with the other child. The affected child often experienced nosebleeds and bleeding gums, and the second child may have had a cut Officials from the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention say in an accompanying editorial that such rare cases can Ik' prevented by applying the same precautions at home as are applied n medical settings when a person is known to be infected or the person's infection status is unknown. That means avoiding contact with the lerson's blood or other bodily fluids, by cleaning contaminated surfaces with bleach, and by not sharing razors or toothbrushes, among other measures. NASA plans mission to observe asteroid NASA announced plans this month to launch the first spacecraft to orbit an asteroid, the first project in a new program to fly smaller, simpler and cheaper space science missions. An unmanned spacecraft is to be launched toward the asteroid Eros in February After a circuitous journey that will take it through the asteroid belt that lies between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter and bring it back to the Earth for a gravity boost the 765 kilogram craft is to arrive at Eros in December I9!J8. The goal of the $230 million mission, known as the Near Earth Asteroid Hendezvous. or NEAR, is to measure the asteroid End study its composition, geology and magnetic fields for a vear or more from orbit v I I I ... .v v- -. i . y j f : t . File photo rubble of the historic landslide " believe that this is a genuine hazard, and it's something civil engineers should know about It's a hazard that has been underestimated. " geologist Peter Jones Unlike the limestone blocks that flew and scattered below Turtle Mountain, the Mesozoic and Paleozoic rock that gradually slid down Bluff Mountain's east slope stayed relatively intact The material created a dam up to 200 metres high in w hat is now called Gold Creek valley. Trapped behind the dam, the creek formed a lake five km long and a least 110 metres deep. Jones calls this ancient water body Lake Lille. It's named after the now-abandoned mining town of Lille, which sprang up in the valley 50,000 years later. Long before the miners arrived, however, Gold Creek broke through the dam and re-established its course around the toe of the Bluff landslide. The level in Lake Lille dropped, and the old lake bed became a broad flat-lying area of swamp and meadow. "In historical times, the meadow provided a suitable site for the town of Lille," says Jones's paper. There are other unstable east slopes similar to Turtle and Bluff mountains in the Crowsnest Pass, Jones said. Above Highway 3, the Lizard range of the Livingstone mountains is also perched on overturned rock wedges. But, Jones said, "it isn't being disturbed, that's the important thing . . . it's not a critical situation, like Turtle Mountain was." Jones said it would be wise to catalogue the unstable slopes throughout the Rocky Mountains, especially where future development might disturb the geology. Meanwhile, scientists continually monitor Turtle Mountain's activity. Jones believes the mountain's eroding east slope will move again some time in the future. But, he predicts, the next slide won't be nearly as destructive as the 1903 tragedy still scrawled across the valley like a huge, pale scar. mm mm Q What shape of lightning rod works best and hou does it work? A Research a decade ago found that the English design for a lightning rod. with a blunt tip. has a better chance of attracting lightning and completing a circuit that carries the electrical charge harmlessly to the ground than the spiky rod invented by Benjamin Franklin. In a thunderstorm, discharges of electricity from thunderclouds flow toward the ground in rapid steps, known as leaders. An upward charge of electricity propagated by a lightning rod connects with the downward current to complete a circuit A tremendous surge of electricity leaping upward along the circuit produces the flash of crackling light that in a dramatic optical illusion, appears to fie heading downward. No harm is done, as the rod dissipates the electricity by grounding it through a wire. Dr. Charles B. Moore, a professor of physics at the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro, reported on research showing the electric fields above the blunter rods are as much as twice as strong as those alwive the sharp rods and extend much farther. Moreover, he said, the sharp rods create around their tips a dense sheath of electrified, or ionized, particles, that reduce the probability of lightning's striking the rod. Franklin was initially mistaken alxiut how a lightning rod worked. In 1750. he discovered that static electricity could be silently conducted away from a charged metal sphere by a nearby iron needle He suggested that thunderstorm electricity might Ik? dis charged and dissipated in the same manner with elevated and pointed iron rods connected to the earth by a wire. Later, he realized that the rods mirht also intercept lightning and conduct it to the ground.

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