Topic: bob mcdonald's blog

Bob McDonald's blog: Interstellar asteroid shows uncanny parallels to sci-fi storyline

The first sighting of an unusually shaped visitor from another solar system is a scenario that fits almost exactly with that portrayed in the science fiction novel, Rendezvous With Rama.

Science imitates nature to improve solar cells

To make the surface of solar cells less reflective, and therefore absorb more light, scientists turned to a black butterfly for inspiration.
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Nobel laureate tells science like it is

Science is a group effort, and this year's Nobel Prize in Physics could have been shared with thousands.
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U.S.-Russia moon station agreement proves space has no borders

A new agreement between American and Russian space agencies proves space is a truly international regime, notes Bob McDonald, host of CBC's Quirks & Quarks. He looks back at how the two countries evolved from rivals to partners in space exploration.
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The problem with Star Trek aliens: Bob McDonald

If we ever discover alien life, it's a good bet they'll look far stranger than we've imagined.

Scientists want to sail the seas of Saturn's moon Titan

Saturn's moon Titan has oceans made of methane. What would it be like to explore them, and how would we do it? CBC's Bob McDonald looks into the possibilities.

'We sent a spaceship to the stars!': Remembering Voyager 2

Forty years ago, NASA launch the Voyager 2 spacecraft on a multi-million-year journey. CBC's Bob McDonald recounts what it was like to be there for that historic moment and reflects on the message from Earth the spacecraft carries into interstellar space.
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It's worth the drive to totality: perspectives from an eclipse chaser, Bob McDonald

A veteran eclipse chaser gives a preview of the solar eclipse that will be visible in the U.S. in August.
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Planting trees can't counter carbon emissions: Bob McDonald

Trees absorb carbon dioxide, but we just can't plant enough to absorb all our fossil fuel emissions.
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Science knows no borders in the Middle East: Bob McDonald

A new light synchrotron to be constructed in Jordan signals scientific cooperation in a region plagued by conflict and rivalry.
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How 11 deaf volunteers helped launch the space age: Bob McDonald

Eleven deaf volunteers underwent astronaut stress training because of their unique immunity to space sickness.
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Robots boldly go where no one has gone before: Bob McDonald

For space exploration, robots deliver a lot of bang for your buck.
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A note of optimism on a day of worries: Bob McDonald

The very long list of woes affecting the Earth can generate a feeling of hopelessness and dread about the state of this unique blue planet we live on. But if hopelessness prevails, change will not happen.
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Blocking out the sun to fight global warming: Bob McDonald

The concept of geoengineering is controversial but proponents say we have no choice.
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Trump's proposed NASA cuts take aim at Earth science

Officials at NASA were delighted that U.S. President Donald Trump's budget proposal allocates $19.1 billion for the agency, down only 0.8 per cent from last year, but the proposal also cuts several programs to study the Earth.
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Waste not on World Water Day: Bob McDonald

Our water supplies seem to be running low because we keep taking from the source. It's time to turn our attention to another huge source, the water we throw away.
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SpaceX moon mission as daring as first voyage: Bob McDonald

Elon Musk wants to take a giant leap forward with a new rocket and a similar trip around the moon during a time of political unrest.
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Finding life on 7 exoplanets will be a challenge: Bob McDonald

New high-powered telescopes will probably have to detect signs of life rather than life itself.
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Citizen Science: You could find Planet 9

Anyone with an internet connection could join the ranks of Columbus, Magellan and Galileo.

It's Alive! Algae Survive 16 Months Exposure To Space

Algae was exposed to extreme heat and cold on the outside of the International Space Station and survived.
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Hatch that trapped astronauts in deadly fire on display: Bob McDonald

The Apollo 1 fire in 1967 was the first accident in the U.S. to involve the loss of a crew. Lessons learned from that tragedy helped the space program get to the moon.
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Science 'Trumped' by belief: Bob McDonald

Donald Trump has stated clearly that he believes climate change is a hoax and that vaccines cause autism, two topics that have been clearly proven by science to be untrue. Now, he has a team of players that are carrying these beliefs to other levels of government.
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Spelunking on Mars: Bob McDonald

Exploring the deepest caves on Earth could help us find life in outer space.
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Preparing for the big strike: Bob McDonald

Our living world has been sterilized by encounters with large space rocks that slammed into us. It's time to prepare.
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Climate change as seen from space: Bob McDonald

NASA's climate science is under threat, but new animation released by the agency illustrates how important it is that research continue.
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Virtual reality a sickening experience

A new study shows that women experience more virtual reality-related motion sickness.
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A planet's worth of human-made things has been weighed

The collected weight of everything human beings have made — from buildings to ballpoint pens — is staggering.
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Cassini's grand finale: a death dive into Saturn

The Cassini mission proves that robotic spacecraft are the true explorers of our solar system.
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World leaders wade into water to fight climate change

Leaders at the United Nations COP 22 Climate Summit move water to the forefront because when the effects of global warming show up, we usually see water behaving in some destructive way.
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Donald Trump needs a science education: Bob McDonald

Scientists worry about the impact of Trump's views on everything from climate change to vaccines.
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Alien contact? Don't jump the gun: Bob McDonald

According to two Quebec astronomers, unusual signals coming from 234 sun-like stars suggest that alien civilizations could be reaching out. If true, this would have a profound effect on our understanding of our place in the universe. But here's why we can't rush to that conclusion.
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Why it's so hard to land on Mars: Bob McDonald

Almost 60 per cent of robot missions to Mars have failed for one reason or another. Here's why it's an enormous challenge to land safely on the Red Planet.
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For want of a better battery: Bob McDonald

Battery technology has a long way to go to meet the rising demands of our electrical devices and vehicles. After decades of neglect, is a new battery revolution under way?
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Nanotechnology on the cusp: Bob McDonald

The Nobel Prize in Chemistry awarded this week for developments in nanotechnology heralds a new era in science, akin to the discovery of electromagnetic induction 185 years ago. And like electricity, nanotechnology could influence the world in dramatic ways, not even imaginable today.
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Rosetta boldly went where no one has gone before: Bob McDonald

The Rosetta spacecraft by the European Space Agency was the first to rendezvous with a comet. The mission which ended this week was a remarkable success, proving once again, that robots are the true explorers of our solar system.
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Polar bears not the only animals affected by disappearing ice: Bob McDonald

This year saw yet another dramatic loss of sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. The iconic image of a polar bear stranded on a small ice floe has come to symbolize this change in the North, but many other animals and even plants are feeling the changes as well.
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Discovery of Franklin expedition ships pits science against tourism: Bob McDonald

Measures need to be taken to ensure the wrecks of the Franklin expedition, the most recent of which - the HMS Terror - was found this past week, are protected from tourists and looters, writes Bob Macdonald.
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Star Trek at 50, fiction meets fact: Bob McDonald

Host Bob McDonald reflects on technologies Star Trek predicted that we saw come true.
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Give yourself a No Device Day this summer: Bob McDonald

The sun is blazing and the breeze is soft. Now that summer is officially here it's time to put away those screens and look up.
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Hydrogen continues to be a fuel of the future: Bob McDonald

Hydrogen holds promise as a replacement for fossil fuels, but it is being held back by a lack of infrastructure for producing it cleanly, and for storing and transporting it safely.
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Warming temperatures and melting glaciers are accelerating Arctic warming: Bob McDonald

2015 was a record year for high temperatures and melting glaciers in western Greenland, an effect that is amplifying itself and could lead to accelerated warming in the Arctic.
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Investment in renewable energy exploding — but not in Canada: Bob McDonald

For the first time, worldwide investments in alternative energy have exceeded investments in new fossil fuel projects, but Canada is still behind the major players, writes Bob McDonald.
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Mars: from God of War to habitable planet: Bob McDonald

Our fascination with Mars has gone from myths to our best hope for life on another world, and perhaps for a new home for humans. On May 30 the Red Planet makes its closest swing past Earth in 11 years.
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We can't fight climate change without tackling agriculture emissions: Bob McDonald

Agriculture is responsible for roughly one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions, and two new reports released this week found that unless we change our farming and practices and consumption habits, we won't meet the reduction targets we've committed to.
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Finding habitable planets is one thing, finding life quite another: Bob McDonald

There appear to be more planets in space than stars. But proving that life is out there will be difficult; connecting with it, nearly impossible.
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Mercury transit a rare celestial event, but don't look directly at it: Bob McDonald

The planet Mercury will pass in front of the sun on Monday in a rare event called a transit. It will be visible across Canada during the day, but don’t look directly at the sun with your eyes to see it, Bob McDonald writes.
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New space telescope's giant gold mirror unveiled: Bob McDonald

The James Webb Space Telescope, the successor to the Hubble, will launch in 2018. But it will be too far away to be repaired, so everything has to go right, Bob McDonald writes.
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Politicians need science awareness: Bob McDonald

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's attempt to explain quantum computing is a symbolic and welcome change from the anti-science stance of the Harper government, Bob McDonald writes
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Forget the Enterprise — starships of the future will be small: Bob McDonald

Space exploration in the future will be done by tiny spacecraft, not giant ships like the Enterprise.
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Citizen science helps with big data: Bob McDonald

Volunteer citizen scientists can help researchers collect and analyze tons of data on many topics.
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Inflatable module headed to International Space Station

In space, weight equals money. So lightweight inflatable modules might be the future of space exploration and living.
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Why we need a green industrial revolution: Bob McDonald

Green technology is expanding — some reports have suggested at a faster pace than any other sector of the Canadian economy — and if we support related industries in Canada, it could grow the way the fossil fuel industry did, with new jobs and skill sets, Bob McDonald says.
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On World Water Day, do something to conserve our most precious resource: Bob McDonald

As the climate warms, the world may face a water crisis. But there is much that can be done to conserve the valuable resource, Bob McDonald writes
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Cashing in the energy chips in Las Vegas: Bob McDonald

There is no shortage of clean energy on Earth, just a shortage of technology to capture it. But if those technologies are truly going to make an impact, they have to make economic sense as well, Bob McDonald writes.
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Scott Kelly, Mikhail Kornienko's year-long mission a crucial step on road to Mars

We can adapt our bodies to the challenging environment of a long trip to Mars, but adapting our minds will be a bigger challenge.
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Dealing with another plastic problem: Bob McDonald

In Canada, we do a pretty good job of hiding our trash underground, but we could do a better job of reducing the amount that goes in there in the first place. It's time for industry and governments to step up.
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Despite tragedy, Virgin Galactic presses on: Bob McDonald

Space tourism company Virgin Galactic unveils its new space plane this week, a successor to one destroyed in a tragic accident in 2014. The company is forging ahead, despite serious setbacks, confident it can make space travel safe for citizens.
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Detection of gravitational waves marks new era in astronomy: Bob McDonald

The announcement Thursday that elusive gravitational waves have been detected for the first time heralds a new era in astronomy that could be as important as Galileo’s first use of the telescope.
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Why fusion power is the ultimate clean energy goal: Bob McDonald

German Chancellor Angela Merkel pushed the startup button on a new fusion reactor this week, raising hopes that truly clean energy may finally be only a decade or so away. But it’s a promise that’s been '10 years away' for the last half-century.
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Challenger Disaster: 30 years later, there's no room for complacency

This week marked the 30th anniversary of the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster, a tragedy that might have been avoided if the people in charge had not become complacent.
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How did we miss Planet 9? — Bob McDonald

While scientists are excited about the latest evidence of a new planet beyond Pluto, actually seeing it will be more difficult than spotting galaxies at the edge of the universe.
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Why competition is good for the space race: Bob McDonald

Space flight is in a transition from hugely bureaucratic, over-budget government contracts in the past, to private companies that must deliver a product efficiently or they are out of business. Competition keeps the costs down and will make space flight more widely available.
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Visiting Mars on Earth: Bob McDonald tours the Atacama desert

One of the best places on Earth to test spacecraft destined for Mars or the moon is the Atacama desert in Chile. Visiting there certainly feels like a trip to Mars, but it is definitely still planet Earth.

The top science stories of 2015: Bob McDonald

Bob McDonald compiles the most significant science stories that he covered this past year on CBC Radio's Quirks & Quarks.
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Fiction, fact, fantasy: We need them all in the movies

Once again, Hollywood has captured the imagination of the world with the release of the latest Star Wars film, following on the success of The Martian in the summer. One is pure fantasy, the other science-based, but both can inspire young people and scientists to reach higher.
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If China cleans up its smog, we all benefit: Bob McDonald

Stifling smog conditions in Beijing this week closed schools and factories and forced people to wear masks in the streets. If China cleans up its air as London did, after the Great Fog of 1952, we get a boost for climate change as well.

Why a climate tipping point matters: Bob McDonald

Warming the atmosphere two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels may cause irreversible changes that could lead to global disasters, Bob McDonald writes.
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A low-carbon future doesn't mean losing our lifestyle: Bob McDonald

People fear that weaning ourselves off fossil fuels means giving up the very comfortable lifestyles we have enjoyed for the last century. Not true, writes Bob McDonald.
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World Toilet Day is no joke: Bob McDonald

More people worldwide have mobile phones than toilets. It’s a problem that especially affects the health of women and children.
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Space junk problem needs to be dealt with: Bob McDonald

The mantra 'reduce, reuse, recycle' has been employed for decades to handle our garbage here on earth. It’s time now to apply those same rules in space, writes Bob McDonald.
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Can Canada avoid the Fossil Award at UN climate talks?

Canada's new government has a chance to polish our damaged reputation at the upcoming UN climate talks in Paris.
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Forget life on Mars, how about life inside moons?

There has been a lot of focus on searching for life on Mars. But its surface is very inhospitable. Icy moons, on the other hand, provide warm, wet environments that are much more comfortable for life, and those oceans exist today.
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Quirks & Quarks at 40: Celebrating science, the discoveries to come

So much has changed in our scientific knowledge since Quirks & Quarks went on the air in 1975, but so has the way science journalists gather that science news. Despite the technological developments, enormous challenges remain for humanity, writes Bob McDonald.
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Canadian's Nobel Prize in Physics highlights why basic science matters

Basic science, such as understanding the nature of neutrinos, is fundamentally important to society,writes Bob McDonald.
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Spelunkers, cliff climbers needed for Mars mission: Bob McDonald

NASA announced this week that it had found direct evidence of flowing water on Mars. But if we are to search for life in that water, it's going to take mountaineering and caving skills that are beyond the visions of both NASA and Hollywood.
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Blood moon eclipse - lunacy and literacy come together Sunday: Bob McDonald

This weekend's "blood moon" eclipse is not a sign of impending doom, but rather a rare celestial event that should be enjoyed.
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We need a 'fuel gauge' for marine fish levels: Bob McDonald

A report released this week says the number of fish in the oceans has halved since 1970, in a plunge to the 'brink of collapse' caused by over-fishing and other threats.
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The long and winding road to Pluto: Bob McDonald

The historic flyby of Pluto this past July, by the New Horizons spacecraft, was just the latest in a 50-year series of robotic missions to explore our solar system.

Canada's action on climate change still 'inadequate': Bob McDonald

Canada is lagging behind other countries on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. So why isn't climate change an election issue?

Pluto, Ceres and an exciting summer for space exploration: Bob McDonald

Four robotic spacecraft will be exploring alien worlds during this summer season - each one very different from the others.

Philae's bad luck could be a bonus: Bob McDonald

Scientists at the European Space Agency were delighted this week as the robotic comet lander Philae phoned home. Its survival after seven months in hibernation could extend its life beyond expectations.
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Hawaii shows world the way to a zero-carbon future: Bob McDonald

Hawaii's new law requiring it to be 100 per cent dependent on renewable energy for electricity generation by 2045 sets an example for the world, writes Bob McDonald.
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Ozone treaty a success - now how about climate change?

An international agreement to ban ozone-depleting chemicals, signed in 1987 in Montreal, is showing results in the atmosphere. The Montreal Protocol is considered one of the most important climate treaties in history. But can we do it again with climate change?

More science funding for schools key to our future: Bob McDonald

The non-profit organization Let’s Talk Science has received $12.5 million from the federal government for the next five years to extend its hands-on science activities to students and educators across the country. This is a big win, writes Bob McDonald.

Act locally to counter climate change: Bob McDonald

Scientific papers on climate change, environmental activism and criticizing the government are not the way to move forward towards a low-carbon lifestyle. A new report says real change comes from the community, writes Bob McDonald.
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Space junk roulette: What are the odds of being hit?

The fall from space of an out-of-control Russian spacecraft into the Pacific Ocean this week relied on fairly good odds that no one would be hurt by debris raining down from the sky. We got lucky this time; but it's time to start taking action on space junk, Bob McDonald writes.
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Mercury, Pluto probes: Life and death at opposite ends of solar system

One robot spacecraft ended its life on Mercury this week, while another set its sights on Pluto, writes Bob McDonald.
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Happy birthday Hubble, but Canadian astronomers are making you obsolete: Bob McDonald

As the Hubble Space Telescope ages , Canadian technology will enable huge telescopes on the ground to see ten times better.
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ISIS's archaeological vandalism destroys knowledge and history: Bob McDonald

The willful destruction of the ancient Iraqi city of Nimrud by ISIS militants earlier this month has been condemned by UNESCO. As Bob McDonald writes, this archaeological vandalism is another attempt to erase, then re-write history.
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Are we getting closer to finding alien life?: Bob McDonald

If the chemicals for life are common across the galaxy, and water, essential for life, is everywhere, why haven’t we found any alien life-forms out there?
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Howling at the moon, and at scientific myths

Myths and legends, such as those about the full moon, are an important part of culture. But when direct scientific evidence proves the contrary, we have to make a choice between what we believe in and what evidence tells us is the truth, writes Bob McDonald.
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Astronaut twin study could provide valuable data for Mars mission

American astronaut Scott Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend a year aboard the International Space Station. Meanwhile, Kelly’s identical twin brother Mark will be monitored on the ground in the first twin study of its kind.
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Fossil-fuel-free future plan pitched by Canadian scientists

A report by more than 60 Canadian scientists points to a realistic, clean, sustainable future for our country, one that won't destroy the economy, writes Bob McDonald.

Was 1610 the start of the Age of Man? Bob's Blog

A group of scientists is suggesting the year 1610 as the beginning of what has become known as the Age of Humans, a new epoch in the Earth’s history in which the dominant agent of change is humanity, writes Bob McDonald.
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How Dawn, New Horizons cross huge distances: Bob McDonald

The New Horizons mission to Pluto and the Dawn mission to Ceres demonstrate two approaches to space travel - the brute power of rockets, versus advanced solar-powered ion propulsion.

Cold weather doesn't mean climate change isn't happening: Bob McDonald

It’s hard to think about climate change while most of the country is in a deep freeze. But while this part of the planet is freezing, other parts are baking, which is why climate change requires a global perspective.
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DSCOVR satellite to offer Earth a much-needed selfie

A new satellite called the Deep Space Climate Observatory that launched this week will provide a unique picture of the whole Earth, as well as valuable data about the planet, writes Bob McDonald.
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Pluto, Europa missions could reveal alien life: Bob McDonald

Two ice worlds, Pluto and Europa, are closer to being explored by robotic spacecraft, and both could be our best bets for finding extraterrestrial life in our solar system.
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Fire at Mars test habitat shows dangers of manned mission

A fire at a simulated Mars habitat, located in the Utah desert, demonstates the dangers that a manned mission to the Red Planet might face.
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Face time, not Facebook time, essential for kids

Childhood obesity, too much screen time, sedentary lifestyles, and cyberbullying are the new threats to the health of young people. One solution is to tear the kids away from their devices and tell them to go outside and play … with other kids.