Holiday Book Show


On today's edition of the Quirks Holiday Book show, we'll take you on a literary journey from the search for the elusive Higgs boson, to the hope and promise of gene therapy, to the remarkable images from the Hubble Space Telescope.


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The Higgs Boson: The Particle at the End of the Universe

On July 4, 2012, scientists at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva announced that they had made one of the biggest findings in physics in decades:  The elusive particle known as the Higgs boson had been, ever so briefly, created and, indirectly, observed.  This was a huge discovery, universally acknowledged in the science community as the greatest breakthrough of 2012.  It had taken thousands of scientists and billions of dollars to finally verify the existence of this previously theoretical particle.  But for non-specialists, the Higgs remains a bit of a mystery.  We know it's important, but why?  Well, Dr. Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology, has used his considerable talents as a science writer to explain that in his new book about the discovery.  It's called, The Particle at the End of the Universe: How the Hunt for the Higgs Boson Leads Us to the Edge of a New World.
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The Forever Fix - Gene Therapy and the Boy who Saved It

The idea of replacing defective or mutated genes within a person's cells, in order to treat a disease, was first conceived in the 1970's.  At the time, it was regarded as radical science. But in recent years, after some serious setbacks, gene therapy has broken new ground.  Dr. Ricki Lewis is a geneticist, professor and science journalist who has written the new book, The Forever Fix - Gene Therapy and the Boy Who Saved It.  It chronicles the evolution of gene therapy through the story of the 8-year-old boy whose successful treatment brought the procedure international attention.  Corey Haas was nearly blind as the result of a hereditary disorder, but his sight was restored by a gene therapy procedure that made medical history.

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Hubble's Universe

In 1990, our view of the universe changed dramatically, when the Hubble Space Telescope was launched, and a stunning new picture of the cosmos was revealed.  Since its launch, Hubble has made more than 1 million observations, and looked at more than 38,000 celestial objects. It has racked up more than 5 Billion kilometres, orbiting the Earth.  But its true value lies in the more than half-a-million images it has taken. Images of distant galaxies and constellations, as well as exotic objects, such as neutron stars and brown dwarfs, supernovae and pulsars.  Those spectacular images form the basis of a new coffee-table book, called Hubble's Universe. Its author is Terence Dickinson, the noted astronomer and editor of SkyNews, the Canadian astronomy magazine.      

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Quirks Question Show preview: Ice melting and earthquakes

Next week on the program, we'll have our annual Quirks Holiday Question Show, where we present the best questions that you've sent in over the past few months, and ask Canadian scientists to answer them. It's always a crowd pleaser, and one of our favourite programs of the year.  So just to whet your appetite, we have an extra question for you this week.

Alan Williamson from Kawartha Lakes, Ontario, writes: "As the Polar Icecaps melt and weight is displaced around the globe, will this put a new strain on the Tectonic Plate Alignment and produce more earthquakes?"  And Darcey Shyry from Vermillion, Alberta also wonders if the melting of the poles is related to earthquakes, because of the redistribution of water mass around the globe.
For the answer, we reached Dr. Mary Louise Hill, a professor of Geology at Lakehead University, in Thunder Bay. She says the melting ice and redistribution of water is not enough to affect Tectonic Plates and cause major earthquakes. But is does cause minor earthquakes, due to isostatic rebound, where the land gradually rebounds from the weight of the ice.

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Theme music bed copyright Raphaël Gluckstein, Creative Commons License by-nc-nd-2.0