Quirks & Quarks

Oct 1: Redirecting an asteroid, rainforest politics, wildlife and COVID and more…

Megalodon was a monster, Indigenous perspectives on Astronomy

Megalodon was a monster, Indigenous perspectives on Astronomy

Image of the DART spacecraft approaching the asteroid Dimorphos (NASA)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald:

The DART mission – Has NASA shown it can save us from disaster?

Earlier this week a NASA spacecraft called DART (the Double Asteroid Redirection Test) crashed into a 160 metre wide asteroid called Dimorphos 11.3 million kilometres from Earth. The point of the exercise was to alter the asteroid's orbit. It was a rehearsal for when we may need to deflect an asteroid away from hitting Earth. Although the results aren't fully known yet, the mission seems to have been a huge success.  Bob speaks with Canadian researcher Derek Richardson, the Dynamics Working Group Lead on DART and professor of Astronomy at the University of Maryland.

A man is seen from the chest up, in a black windbreaker, looking off in the distance. A tree canopy is in the background.
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro is running for re-election. Some scientists say that this election will determine the future of the Amazon rainforest. (AP Photo/Marcelo Chello)

What has the 'Trump of the Tropics' done to the lungs of the planet?

Four years ago when Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil, scientists expressed alarm at what it might mean for the vital and vulnerable Amazonian rainforest. Now as Brazilians are voting whether to replace him, we revisit those concerns. We speak with Daniel Nepstad of the Earth Innovation Institute about what another Bolosonaro term might mean for further damage to Brazil's important rainforest ecosystem, and global efforts to battle climate change. 

The iconic European robin was unphazed by the COVID lockdown according to a study of bird behaviour in the U.K. (Wren Kathleen Bell)

Birds in North America benefited from COVID lockdowns. In the UK, not so much

A new study has shown that lockdowns in the UK didn't benefit birds the way previous work had shown they prospered in North America. In the tighter confines of the UK landscape, lockdowns meant people spent more time in the green spaces birds used – backyards and parks – which meant increased disturbance for some sensitive species. Miya Warrington from the University of Manitoba's Natural Resources Institute and Department of Biological Sciences, was part of the study team, and her research was published in Proceedings of The Royal Society B.

Recent 3D modeling shows that megalodon was 16 metres long and weighed in at 60 tons, much larger than previous estimates (J. J. Giraldo)

Megalodon was truly a monster

A new reconstruction suggests that the extinct giant shark Megalodon was twice as big as we previously thought – which makes it a true superpredator. Recent 3D modelling by John Hutchinson, a professor of evolutionary biomechanics from the Royal Veterinary College in England, suggests it was 16 metres in length and weighed 60 tons. This monster could probably eat an orca in several bites. This research was published in Science Advances.

Mi'kmaw astronomer Hilding Neilson says considering Indigenous perspectives can create a more inclusive field of study. (Submitted by Hilding Neilson)

Mi'kmaw astonomer says we should acknowledge we live under Indigenous skies

Mi'kmaw astronomer Hilding Neilson thinks we should go beyond land acknowledgements and think about sky acknowledgements as well, since we live under Indigenous skies. An astrophysicist at Memorial University, Neilson has been working to integrate Indigenous knowledge and methodologies into Astronomy. He speaks to Bob McDonald about those perspectives, and some of the challenges he's faced in bringing them to the Canadian astronomical community.