Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald


Snapping science, male pregnant seahorse placentas, astronauts in Labrador and more…

Slacklining, skateboarding robot, aerosol COVID and Maori soot in Antarctica.

Researchers studying finger snapping find it's 20 times faster than the blink of an eye

Inspired by Marvel's Infinity War, this study reveals why Thanos's epic finger snap in gauntlet is impossible, but it also tells us more about the biophysics of snapping than previously known.

Pregnant male seahorses grow a placenta to nurture their young

The seahorse dads' kangaroo-like brood pouch undergoes a transformation when they get pregnant so it can supply oxygen and nutrients to their young.

Why an ancient crater in Labrador is the perfect place for astronauts to train for a moon mission

Mistastin Lake Impact Crater, in northern Labrador, is considered to be one of the best places on Earth for astronauts to learn about the moon’s geology. Recently, astronauts spent two weeks hiking and camping in the crater to train for a potential moon mission.

An agile robot that can skateboard, slackline and even fly

CalTech’s human-like robot LEONARDO was able to walk a few years ago, but its unique combination of legs and drone-like propellers gives it remarkable abilities.

This Canadian physicist knew years ago that infections like COVID-19 could be airborne

Canadian physicist Lydia Bourouiba says her research showed in 2014 that the two-metre social distancing public health guidelines were outdated.

700 years ago Maori land clearing left a sooty signature in Antarctica, researchers find

Ice core samples suggest that human influence on the atmosphere goes back centuries before the industrial revolution.

Nov 20: Finding the COVID resistors, Herzberg gold medal winner, green glitter and more…

Smashing an asteroid, why we have ‘Useful Delusions,’ and mosquito size questions.

Running out of gas in B.C. underlines our dependence on fossil fuels

Bob McDonald's blog: An greener all-electric future could be less vulnerable to disruption.

Scientists are trying to find out why some people don't get COVID-19

Researchers are recruiting subjects who were exposed to COVID-19 and whose immune systems show no sign of encountering the coronavirus. The people who show resistance to infection could be the key to treatments in the future.

Trapping light earns physicist Sajeev John Canada's most prestigious science prize

University of Toronto physicist Sajeev John won Canada's top science price for 2021: the $1-million Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal.

Glitter comes in many colours, but these scientists are making a green alternative

Regular glitter can contaminate the environment thanks to the microplastics, metals and pigments that make its shimmering colours. Researchers in the UK have created a sustainable glitter made from plant fibre that is just as sparkly.

NASA is smashing a spacecraft into an asteroid to test a planetary defence system

The Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission will deliberately smash a spacecraft into an asteroid to see if it can be thrown off course.

Why 'Useful Delusions' can sometimes make us vulnerable to misinformation

The host of the Hidden Brain podcast argues in his book 'Useful Delusions: The Power and Paradox of the Self-Deceiving Brain' that in some contexts, delusions can be a good thing.

Why are mosquitoes larger in spring than in the fall?

Insects that develop in cold temperatures are frequently larger.

Nov 13: Vaccine prevents cervical cancer, Atacama comet evidence, bees sound the alarm and more…

Cane toad cannibalism and 100th anniversary of insulin.

Canadian VR technology will aid isolation effects on a simulated long duration space flight

Bob McDonald's blog: The virtual reality experience was designed to simulate the 'overview effect' that sparks a sense of awe in astronauts when they look down at Earth from space

HPV vaccine works 'remarkably well' to prevent cancer, according to UK study

Rates of cervical cancer dropped by 87 per cent in women who got the vaccine when they were 12 to 13 years old.

12,000 years ago an exploding comet turned part of a desert into glass

A swath of the Atacama desert in Chile is covered with slabs of broken glass made from fused soil, which contains particles like those found in comet samples.

Asian honeybees sound a screamy alarm when murder hornets attack

Researchers recorded the alarm call, which summons bees to defend the hive.

Cane toad tadpoles in Australia are cannibalizing smaller cane toad hatchlings

The invasive cane toad hatchlings have evolved an escape strategy to evade cannibalism, but it comes at a price.

100 years after insulin treatment was invented, researchers hope to ditch needles once and for all

In 1921, Dr. Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolated the hormone insulin at the University of Toronto, saving millions of lives. On the 100th anniversary, we look at new research that could finally cure diabetes for good.

Nov 6: Whale appetites feed ocean ecosystems, water vapour and climate change and more…

Sabre-tooth sociability, shedding light on bioluminescence.

Two new approaches to recycling can reduce waste and lower carbon emissions

Bob McDonald's blog: Recycling metals from batteries and difficult-to-recycle plastics could keep these materials out of landfills

Baleen whales eat much more than we thought — and fertilize the oceans doing it

In the most detailed study of their diets yet, researchers found baleen whales eat an average of three times more each year than previously estimated. All that food turns into iron-rich feces, which is important in the ocean's nutrient cycle.