Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald

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Jun 19: Fish out of water get smarter, a star's disappearing act, echidna's 4 headed penis and more…

Sponges get a move on and the multi-generational impacts of DDT
Analysis

Could a Canadian company's new project finally make fusion power a reality?

Bob McDonald's blog: Vancouver-based General fusion uses a unique technology to duplicate the heart of a stars. It's one of several fusion projects underway around the world.

Amphibious fish out of water get a brain boost from exercise

Researchers put amphibious fish through a land-based exercise program and found they got smarter and their brains grew. This may help explain what happened when our ancestors left the oceans hundreds of millions of years ago.

A large star that pulled a disappearing act may be a new kind of 'blinking giant'

The giant red stars likely have a binary companion with a large disc that eclipses the star over a period of months.

Echidnas have a unique 4-headed penis but only use half at a time

Using 3D models, researchers have been able to learn more about the strange genitalia of the short-beaked echidna, including how it functions.

They're not speedy, but these seafloor sponges are on the move

Sponges are generally thought to be stationary, but evidence to the contrary has been observed on a submerged Arctic ridge

Sick legacy — how DDT exposure from the past can affect many generations to come

Study indicates that the granddaughters of women who were exposed are more likely to menstruate early, become obese and develop breast cancer

Jun 12: Missions to Venus, learning instant replay, wrens spectacular duet and more...

Puppies born for communication, the bubble behind the vaccines and question of blood types
Analysis

Europe and NASA to send three new spacecraft to Venus

The U.S. will send an orbiter and a descent probe, and the Europeans will send an orbiter to try and get a better insight into how Earth's near twin became such a hellscape.

Visiting Venus — NASA announces 2 new missions to Earth's evil twin

VERITAS, an orbiter, will get a global view of the planet and the DAVINCI+ probe will sample the chemical constituents of the atmosphere

Your brain replays new skills at superspeed during rest periods to boost learning

This high-speed instant replay in the brain during breaks in learning is thought to amplify a person's ability to pick up a new skill.

Wrens synchronize their brains in order to sing spectacular duets

Plain-tailed wrens sing songs with such quick alternating notes that it sounds like a single bird

New study shows puppies are born able to understand and communicate with humans

Dogs can follow cues and communicate more effectively with humans than most other animals, including our own closest relatives, the primates. A new study involving hundreds of 8-week old puppies suggests that dogs are born with this ability to communicate with us.
Q&A

Meet the Canadian scientist who paved the way for groundbreaking mRNA COVID vaccines

Pieter Cullis developed an essential technology for the most successful COVID vaccines — the packaging that protects the delicate vaccine payload and delivers it to our cells.

Do great apes have the same blood groups as humans?

A, B, O and AB. Our closest relatives have the same blood groups as we do, with subtle differences

Jun 5: Shark extinction event, caffeine can't keep you functional, the pachyderm's proboscis and more…

Prey eat a predator, and learning about land use from Indigenous science
Analysis

Is recreational fishing technology getting ahead of the regulations that protect fish?

Bob McDonald's blog: Scientists are warning that things like drones and underwater cameras may be tilting the playing field too much against the fish

Sharks were almost wiped out in a mysterious extinction 19 million years ago, new study finds

A new study found a 90-per-cent decline in shark abundance and diversity, but no clear cause.

Caffeine fail: New study shows it can keep you awake, but can't keep you functional

This study of 276 participants is the first to investigate the effect of caffeine on the ability to follow complex procedures after being deprived of sleep

How an elephant's trunk acts as a "muscular multitool"

An elephant’s trunk can be used for feats of strength like smacking away potential predators, but can also be used to pluck the smallest bits of vegetation from the ground. Now, new research is shining light on just how impressive these appendages are.

Normally herbivorous sea urchins turn the tables on a predatory sun star

Fisheries scientists see surprising predator-prey role reversal in an unintentional experiment

How Indigenous science could help us with our sustainability and diversity crisis

Several recent studies show that history provides examples of how humans can have a positive effect on the landscape — we just need to look to the past to learn how.

May 29: Salmon virus origins, municipal microbiomes, a robot arm that can feel and more…

Wolves reduce car accidents, and a new book looks at ‘Mom Genes’
Analysis

More electric cars on the road will mean increased mining for what goes in their batteries

Bob McDonald's blog: Considering the environmental and social impacts of mining to ensure green technologies will benefit people and the planet.

Salmon CSI — A virus in BC's wild salmon came from salmon farms, research suggests

Scientists used genetic tools to map out a viral family tree to track it to its source, which they say was likely eggs imported for aquaculture from Norway.

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