Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald


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

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.

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

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’

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.

Cities have a unique microbiome, just like your gut

By swabbing the subway systems in 60 cities, researchers were able to figure out each city’s unique microbial signature and uncover a treasure trove of new bacterial and viral species never found before.

Robotic arms get a performance boost by getting touchy-feely

Researchers have come up with a new way of connecting brain-controlled robotic arms - by tapping into the sense of touch. This gives users the ability to complete tasks at a level that’s comparable to able-bodied people.

Wolves can reduce collisions between cars and deer, saving lives and money

The reintroduction of wolves to a landscape may be the cheapest and most effective method for reducing car-deer collisions

'Mom Genes' explores the radical biological transformations of motherhood

Science writer Abigail Tucker says becoming a mother is arguably the most profound developmental shift adult humans go through after adolescence

May 22: Solving our sand crisis, nuclear quasicrystals, Voyager hears an interstellar hum and more…

Breathing through our intestines, a toilet revolution and dark matter in our galaxy.

Mega-satellite constellations could lead to chain-reaction spacecraft pile-ups in orbit

Bob McDonald's blog: Astronomer Aaron Boley and Legal scholar Michael Byers are raising the spectre that new fleets of tens of thousands of communication satellites could lead to catastrophic orbital chain-reaction collisions.

Digging up solutions for a looming global sand crisis

Sand is the most extracted resources on the planet — we mine 50 billion tonnes a year of it— more than even fossil fuels or metals. And that's leading to disappearing beaches, loss of habitat, and even sand mafias.