Quirks & Quarks

Apr 30 - Avian flu outbreak, prehistoric art and firelight, the dingo genome and more…

Joggers save calories, Canada’s space tourist and what tsunamis do to marine life

Joggers save calories, Canada’s space tourist and what tsunamis do to marine life

Queen’s University graduate student Gillian Phillips jogs along Lake Ontario in Kingston (Mohammad Mohammad)

On this episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald

Avian flu outbreak not currently a threat to humans, but awful for our feathered friends

Outbreaks of the highly pathogenic avian influenza strain H5N1 have been popping up across Canada, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of wild and domestic birds. The virus is believed to have emerged in Europe, and was first spotted in Canada in December, spread by migratory birds as they travel around the world. The flu can cause severe illness in birds, and has a high mortality rate, sometimes killing 80 per cent of a flock in a matter of days. We speak to Canadian bird flu expert Dr. Shayan Sharif about how scientists are tracking this virus and why this outbreak is spreading so quickly and doing such damage.

Prehistoric people enjoyed "moving pictures" by combining rock art and firelight

Hunter-gatherers may have enjoyed dynamic, moving pictures thousands of years before the first movie was shown. Andy Needham, an associate lecturer at the University of York's Department of Archeology, and his team of archeologists examined 50 engraved stone tablets created 15,000 years ago. They determined that the uniform pattern of heat damage found on the artworks were due to being placed close to fires. By recreating an ancient fireside scene, researchers found that the stones, when placed by the flickering light of a fire, create the illusion of animated pictures. The research was published in PLOS One.

(Submitted by Andy Needham)

The dingo genome tells a story of an animal that's not quite dog or wolf

Researchers have sequenced the genome of the Australian dingo, allowing them to compare it with domestic dog breeds and the Greenland wolf. Even though there are similarities to both, Matt Field, an associate professor of bioinformatics at James Cook University in Cairns, Australia, and his team found that dingoes have significant differences from dogs modern. Dingo evolution has followed its own path over many thousand years in the unique Australian environment as they were isolated from other canines. His research was published in Science Advances.

Sandy, a three week old dingo pup found abandoned in the Australian desert had its genome sequenced for the study (Barry Eggleton)

Joggers may be trying to make an effort, but mostly we run as efficiently as possible

Recreational runners may try to exert themselves during their exercise, but Jessica Selinger, a neuromechanics researcher at Queen's University in Kingston, has found that humans' natural tendency is to run at a speed that conserves calories. By studying data from thousands of wearable fitness trackers, the team found that regardless of distance travelled, runners tended to stay at a consistent speed that uses the least amount of energy. It seems the evolutionary drive to conserve energy is fighting our desire to burn calories while exercising. The research was published in Current Biology.

A $50 million dollar ticket bought a wealthy Canadian the dream of space travel

CBC senior science reporter Nicole Mortillaro talks to Bob McDonald about the recent space voyage of businessman Mark Pathy. Pathy was part of the first completely private mission to the International Space Station, and wealthy tourists like him could be a big part of the future of humans in space. You can also read Nicole's piece on the trip.

Mark Pathy, a Canadian entrepreneur from Montreal, waves to students during an on-orbit interview. Pathy was part of a four-person crew to the International Space Station as part of the first private crew to the station, done with the Texas-based company Axiom Space. (Mark Pathy)

Quirks Question - What do underwater volcanoes and tsunamis do to marine life?

Jamie Kinsman of Pointe-Claire, Quebec asks about what happens to marine life when an underwater volcano erupts and produces a tsunami. The answer comes from Mark Jellinek, professor of geophysics at the University of British Columbia.



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