Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald


Jan 15: Seed dispersal and climate change, the Local Bubble, pint-sized war-horses and more…

Seeing memories form in an animal and a vaccine mixing study that didn’t quite happen

Microplastics accumulating in rivers and in the air but solutions are available

Bob McDonald's blog: Two studies outline the sources and the ubiquity of microplastic pollution in the environment, but if we stop this at its source, we can reduce potential harm.

Plants can't adapt to climate change when seed-dispersing animals are lost

Half of the world's plants need animals to spread their seeds. When those animals are gone, plants won't be able to migrate in order to survive in a changing climate.

The Earth is at the centre of a cosmic bubble created by supernovae

The 1000 light-year across 'Local Bubble' was swept clean of gas, dust, and other star-forming materials by as many as 15 supernovas over the past 14 million years

Medieval knights rode pony-sized war-horses into battle

Archeologists in England examined the remains of hundreds of medieval warhorses and found they were about the size of a modern pony, despite the load they carried into battle.

Scientists have seen new memories forming in an animal for the first time

Researchers have successfully captured the first images of memories as they are being formed, after mapping the changes to the brains of zebrafish as they stored information.

How an important study of vaccine mixing in Canada got undermined by COVID chaos

An important clinical trial looking at details of safety and immune-stimulating effects of mixed doses was undermined by changing vaccine protocols and bureaucratic complexity.

Jan 8: Protecting cattle from wolves without killing, Shark antibodies to fight coronaviruses and more…

Wildlife DNA in the air, Tiny fish do the wave and why smoke is different from clouds

How the James Webb Space Telescope is so different from Hubble

Bob McDonald's blog: The telescope's large size makes it much more difficult to deploy in space, but it will give us a clearer view of the universe than ever before

This Alberta rancher has been called a 'wolf lover' for using no-kill methods to protect cattle

Alberta ranch manager Joe Engelhart shot his last wolf 19 years ago. Now he’s the focus of a study on how to manage the predators without killing them, while working a 22,000-hectare ranch about 100 kilometres south of Calgary.

Shark antibodies could be a tool to fight future coronavirus outbreaks

The tiny size of shark antibodies means they can bind to coronaviruses in ways human antibodies can't, and this can bolster their ability to prevent infection

Sniffing out animal DNA in the air could help monitor endangered species

Scientists have shown that DNA from air samples can be used to detect a wide range of animal species. The researchers found they could not only capture the DNA of animals living in a zoo, but also the DNA of the animals' food, and the urban wildlife outside.

Tiny fish do 'the wave' to scare off predatory birds

Small fish found in sulphur springs in Mexico take part in a coordinated ‘wave’ type action to confuse predatory birds

Why does smoke disperse but clouds seem to stick together?

The particles that make up smoke and clouds have important differences, which explains how they appear.

Jan 1: Our annual holiday listener question show

It’s time for another edition of our ever-popular listener question show, where we find the experts to answer your questions like: why do we retain scars? What’s the evolutionary purpose of menopause? And why are mammals’ body temperatures 36 C?

Looking back at a booming year in space

Bob McDonald's blog: From low-Earth orbit to the far reaches of the universe, 2021 was a big year for space

Dec 18: Holiday science book show

In a holiday tradition we look at a handful of books that you might want to pick up for reading in the cold winter months, or to give to that special science-minded person on your "nice" list.

High-tech astronaut sleeping bag may alleviate health problems on long journeys to Mars

Bob McDonald's blog: Life in microgravity leads to vision problems and potentially other serious health issues, such as body fluids accumulating in the upper body. The sleeping bag may counteract this problem

Why humans should embrace our role as meddlers of nature — so that we can do it better

In a new book, an evolutionary biologist explores how humans have re-shaped our environment for the past 50,000 years, but also how we’ve recently gotten much much better at it — to the point where we now have an opportunity to use our tinkering skills for good.

Are we getting closer to practical fusion power? A new book says … maybe

The Star Builders investigates the current state of fusion research, which the author suggests is closer than ever to becoming a source of plentiful, carbon-neutral and reasonably safe power for an energy hungry world.

How to convince a science denier to reconsider their beliefs

A science philosopher's new book, 'How to Talk to a Science Denier,' explores the research into the best ways to engage with people who anti-scientific views.

Dec 11: Sounds of a coral reef, the message in young blood, ants communicate with vomit and more...

The wildlife of Fukushima, NASA’s new space telescope and forests and carbon sequestration

'Hut' on the moon is the latest imagined alien artifact

Bob McDonald's blog: Seeing buildings, faces or animals in photographs of other worlds is an interesting example of a phenomenon called pareidolia, which allows us to see faces in clouds as well.

Whoops, croaks, groans and growls are the sounds of a healthy coral reef

Scientists trying to understand how animals were recolonizing a restored reef in Indonesia used underwater microphones to listen for animal life, and they got an earful.

Young blood can rejuvenate old mice — and scientists are starting to understand why

Scientists have identified one possible mechanism for why transfusions of blood from young mice to older animals can rejuvenate muscle, brain and organ tissue.