Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald


July 31 - Best of Quirks: Evolution at its finest

Surfing remoras use physics to travel, beautiful rats comb poison into their fur, lizards build underground condos, snakes tie themselves in knots to climb poles, and more.

How remora 'sucker fish' use physics to surf on their whale hosts

Researchers discover how remoras are able to stay close to their host without being blown off by fast flowing water.

This gorgeous African rat combs poison into its fur to deter predators

Researchers observed the rats chewing poison bark, and don't know how they are unaffected

Jellyfish are the ocean's most efficient swimmers - here's how they do it

The animals create special vortexes in the water which act like a wall they can push against

Snakes tie themselves in knots to climb up slippery poles after endangered prey

The invasive brown tree snake slithered like no-one had ever seen before, using a technique researchers called 'lasso locomotion'

Australian monitor lizards build underground condos used by dozens of other species

Complex and deep helical burrows host lizard eggs and many other species

Do you feel lucky? A biologist explains we exist because of 'A Series of Fortunate Events'

Sean B. Carroll argues that understanding the randomness of the geological and chemical processes that gave rise to life as we know it can be perspective-changing

July 24 - Best of Quirks: PFAS Science

We look at the potential health effects about this new class of 'forever chemicals,' how they spread around the world - even to remote parts of Northern Canada - and the regulations that scientists say need to change.

A new class of 'forever chemicals' is an emerging threat to our health and environment

PFAS chemicals are in 98% of Canadians’ blood and could make COVID-19 infections worse

How 'forever chemicals' have come to contaminate even the most remote parts of Canada

Toxic PFAS chemicals travel the world by water and air from contaminated locations, but they can concentrate in the north.

'Forever chemicals' can have far-reaching consequences, need more regulation in Canada, scientists say

Chemicals known as PFAS are everywhere. They can affect the environment and your health — and may even make you more susceptible to COVID-19.

July 16 - Best of Quirks: Big Game Science

How Canadian grizzlies compare to fat bear week winners, researchers are eavesdropping on noisy lynx, the discovery of ancient female big game hunters, and more.

How Canada's grizzlies would fare during Fat Bear week

Research shows that grizzlies have been adapting to human encroachment on their habitat — but they pay a heavy price.

Grizzly Tinder: Bears rubbing up against trees may be their dating calling card

Researchers always suspected bears rubbed trees to communicate, but didn't know what was being said. Now, a new study is the first to find a link between rubbing trees and mating success.

Purring, fighting, chaos and crunching bones: these are the sounds of the Canada lynx

By attaching audio recorders to a top predator in the boreal forest, researchers were able to eavesdrop on Canada lynx as they slept, fought, and went on the hunt.

What well-watched wildlife does when humans aren't around

Researchers are using COVID-19 lockdowns to study how ecotourism changes bear behaviour in the Great Bear Rainforest.

In the ancient Americas, female big-game hunters were common

New study finds that in early hunter-gatherer societies, 30-50 per cent of big game hunters were female

July 10 - Best of Quirks: Great Women in Science

Jennifer Doudna talks CRISPR, Andrea Ghez discusses supermassive black holes, Suzanne Simard shares some wisdom from the forest, and more.

CRISPR pioneer Jennifer Doudna reflects on Nobel win, calls for 'responsible use' of gene editing technology

French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier and American biochemist Jennifer Doudna won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, marking the first time an all-female team has won any science Nobel.

Extreme astrophysics: new Nobel laureate Andrea Ghez's work on supermassive black holes

American astrophysicist Andrea Ghez won the 2020 Nobel Prize in Physics for her discovery of the black hole at the centre of the Milky Way.

Biomedical engineer Molly Shoichet wins Canada's most prestigious science prize for 'hydrogels'

Hydrogel give cells a more realistic three-dimensional space to grow in than a standard petri dish

A pioneering forest researcher's memoir describes 'Finding the Mother Tree'

Suzanne Simard has found that forest trees are connected with an underground circulatory system that allows them to communicate and share resources, and that 'Mother trees' are the most connected of all.

July 3 - Best of Quirks: 2020 Summer Science Special

Fishing with the boys, COVID garbage, recognizing Black birders and searching for cougar kills

A Fisheries biologist coped with COVID shutdowns by drafting his kids as research assistants

Their cottage lake was a research site and the three young boys caught fish and collected data

A stranded plastic pollution researcher maps COVID litter in her backyard

When her plan to research plastic pollution on an island in Alaska was canceled due to the global pandemic, one researcher turned her attention to COVID litter on the streets of Toronto.