Looking for something to boast about this Canada Day? Here's a tidbit for you: a Calgary teen is about to become the youngest person to ever go into space.
The 17-year-old boy is among 440 space "tourists" who have already purchased tickets on an interstellar flight on billionaire Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic spaceships. The teenager, who chose to remain anonymous, is waiting for final tests to be completed before he embarks on his adventure through the cosmos.
While most teenagers would be happy getting their driver's licence at 16, this young Calgarian has loftier hopes when it comes to travelling from A to B. His agent, Michael Broadhurst, says his client "had the money for the space trip put down for him when he was 16. He's 17 now and he will fly at 18."
As the only under-18 passenger on the list, the teen has to wait for his birthday to roll around before he can be admitted on the Virgin Galactic flight. But it may well be a few years before he is ready to take part on the magnificent voyage.
In the meantime, his family have refused interviews. According to the Space Today website, Russian cosmonaut Gherman Titov holds the current record as the youngest person to go to orbit. He was 25 when he flew in August 1961.
Apparently 23 Canucks — 17 men and six women, many of them hailing from Calgary — are due to join the teen on reserved Virgin Galactic flights, which reportedly cost $US200,000 a "seat".
The travellers are an eclectic international group: from entrepreneurs to adventure lovers, to the uber-rich who are going "because they can afford to do almost anything".
Confirmed flyer, 56-year-old Torontonian, Stephanie Anevich, admits she never thought of becoming an astronaut. "It's never been in my blood,'' she said. ''I don't even like roller-coasters. I don't like going up in them. They scare me."
So far deposits for the flights total $55 million. After being launched from a mother ship, a two-piloted rocket plane would take six tourists about 110 kilometres above Earth, where they would briefly experience weightlessness.
Branson estimated that the first flight will take place in about a year's time.
"Obviously we want to be 100 per cent sure that we got every single little safety detail right," he added. "But the moment we're ready to go, we'll be going."
Branson predicts that the cost of space travel will become more affordable in time.
If you could afford a ticket, would you go?
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to children, claiming a ban would infringe the First Amendment. In other words, video games have the same rights to free expression as books and movies.
The 2005 California law allowed for fines of up to $1,000 for selling or renting video affects sales and rentals to those under 18. Similar laws were rejected by courts in six other states, including Michigan and Illinois.
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 72 per cent of American households play computer and video games, spending $25.1 billion on video games and accessories in 2010 alone.
President and CEO of the association, Michael D. Gallagher claimed the Court's ruling reaffirmed that "parents, not government bureaucrats, have the right to decide what is appropriate for their children".
The State of California maintained that, in spite of a voluntary rating system already in place, the ban was in the interest of protecting children against increasingly interactive video games, which allows players to simulate and "act out" violence rather than just watching.
And it goes without saying, some retailers and parents are not scrupulous about what games kids play.
Despite some dissent among Supreme Court members, the ruling was viewed as an historic win "for the creative freedom of artists and stories everywhere."
In Canada, most provinces already have laws in place restricting the sale of restricted titles to those under 17. But California went one step further, banning games in which a player has the "option" to kill, maim, dismember or sexually assault an avatar.
Should the Canadian government attempt to piggyback California's move, it could meet with similar resistance due to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Should freedom of expression take priority over the protection of children who aren't yet mature enough to process what they see? Is it up to the Government to act as the ultimate parent?
According to a new study, our kids are spending way too much time being carted around in strollers. Researchers fear that such physical inactivity may be a contributing factor to the rising level of childhood obesity.
At a recent presentation to the Canadian Paediatric Society conference in Quebec, researchers, who studied the habits of 1,000 children for the report, claimed that 80 per cent of one-to-two-year-olds spent more than half of their time outdoors in strollers. A quarter of children aged between three and five spent half of their outdoor time running around, while the rest was spent strapped in.
But Dr. Yoni Freedhoff, an obesity specialist, warned that such studies miss the point. \What we are seeing with kids getting larger is our environment -- not the fact that they are being pushed in a stroller but the fact that we are eating awful foods,\" he said. \"We have a ridiculous and toxic food environment and to try to put the blame on strollers is completely asinine.\"
Today's Parent editor, Sandra Martin, begs to differ. She told CTV news that such studies should make parents think twice before strapping their child in.
\"It is less convenient for parents who have to keep an eye on a child who is walking around in a busy amusement park or in a zooÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ but that is a part of parenting,\" she admitted. \"It's not always convenient.\"