Quirks and Quarks

Apr 15: AI scientist develops theories, bear hibernation and immobility risks, Canadian astronaut to the moon

Medieval monks moon science, a new view on the womb and the Earth with no moon.

Medieval monks moon science, a new view on the womb and the Earth with no moon.

A sedated bear that we see close up lies on a blanket with a dusting of snow all around it.
Hibernating brown bears have a protective mechanism to prevent blood clots from forming when they become immobile as they sleep the winter months away. (Ole Frøbert)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks

A new AI can develop scientific theories like a human scientist

Artificial intelligence has proved very useful in sorting through large amounts of data to find patterns and correlations, but until now it has taken a human to develop theories to make sense of those patterns. University of Maryland Baltimore County assistant professor Tyler Josephson was part of the research team that developed an AI system that can use mathematical and logical reasoning to build a theory based on real-world data, analogous to the way a human scientist does. This research was published in Nature Communications.

A collection of mathematical formulas written in white ink against a black background
A new kind of AI can develop theories based on mathematical relationships it sees in real-world data. (Marina Sun/Shutterstock)

A Canadian Astronaut on catching a ride to the moon

Canadian astronaut and former Canadian Forces fighter pilot Jeremy Hansen has been selected as one of the four crewmembers who will fly on NASA'S Artemis II mission which is planned to orbit the moon roughly a year and a half from now. CBC science reporter Nicole Mortillaro spoke with Hansen the day after the announcement of his trip.

Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen is dressed in his blue flight suit in front of a green sign that reads, "Dare to explore."
Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen. (CSA)

Understanding the secret of bear hibernation could help humans avoid blood clots

When humans are immobilized for long periods of time, we run the risk of developing potentially serious blood clots. Hibernating bears, however, don't face any such challenges. Ole Frøbert, an invasive cardiologist from Örebro University in Sweden and Aarhus University in Denmark, who studies hibernating brown bears thinks he's unlocked the secret to how they avoid blood clots. When bears go into hibernation, they make less of a specific protein that acts like the glue in blood clots — a factor that also kicks in after about 27 days in humans when they lose their mobility. Their research was published in the journal Science.

Researchers are crouched down beside a brown bear outside in the snow as a woman wearing a stethoscope listens to its heart and a man collects its blood sample.
Swedish researchers collect a blood sample from a sedated brown bear as part of their study investigating how hibernating bears manage to avoid getting blood clots. (Ole Frøbert)

Medieval monks watching the moon provided valuable climate data

Medieval monks in Europe made observations that have provided scientists today with clues about the volcanic activity that impacted the climate and may have influenced the start of the Little Ice Age. Monks noted the changes in colour and brightness of the moon, particularly during lunar eclipses. Atmospheric scientists, including Matthew Toohey from the University of Saskatchewan, understand those changes to be the result of aerosols produced during eruptions. His research was published in Nature.

A view on the womb — a new book looks at the neglected science of the uterus

Journalist-turned-midwife Leah Hazard had no doubt about the importance of the womb, since no human could be born without one. But the more she learned about the uterus, the more she was surprised about what scientists and healthcare professionals don't know about it — particularly when it comes to its function outside of reproduction. She explores what we know and what we still need to learn about the uterus in her new book, Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began.

A collage of a photograph of a woman next to a book cover.
Journalist-turned-midwife Leah Hazard writes about what we know - and what we're yet to learn - about the uterus in Womb: The Inside Story of Where We All Began. (Marilena Vlachopoulou/ECCO/HarperCollins)

Quirks Question: How would the Earth be different if it had never collided with the object that created the moon?

A listener asks: The moon was formed when the Earth collided with a small planet. How would the Earth be different if this collision never happened? For the answer we hear from Elaina Hyde, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy and the Director of the Allan I. Carswell Observatory at York University in Toronto.