• (Photo: Thinkstock)(Photo: Thinkstock)

    Stories broke across the Internet recently that researchers in France had discovered an entirely new microbial life form, living in the human digestive system.

    Is this the movie “Alien” coming to life? Are we doomed?

    No. It turns out the headlines like “Scientists think a whole new type of life form could be living in our guts” were running well ahead of the facts.

    There is, as of now, no new observed and captured living thing swimming around in your stomach.

    But there is some odd, unidentified DNA. And that alone is a really cool story.

    “What we’re trying to do is to identify a very strange gene in the environment – strange with respect to genes that we understand are related to known organisms,” says Eric Bapteste, an evolutionary biologist at Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris.

    “The research is in a very preliminary first step. The conclusion is not yet reached.”

    Read more:

    Your DNA can show up at crime scenes you were never at, study finds

    DIY biology: How amateur

    Read More »from DNA sequence found in human gut with significant difference to any known life form
  • Birmingham, England hospital conducts kidney Transplant on June 9, 2006. (Getty)Birmingham, England hospital conducts kidney Transplant on June 9, 2006. (Getty)

    Ontario businessman Mark Selkirk was diagnosed with acute alcoholic hepatitis in late 2010. To be eligible for a liver transplant he had to stay sober for six months. At the time of his diagnosis, he’d abstained for six weeks. He died two weeks later.

    Earlier this fall, Selkirk’s widow, Debra, filed a constitutional challenge in court against the provincial waiting policy. Her argument is that the six-month abstinence period discriminates against alcohol addicts and violates Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

    In early November, during an interview on CTV’s Canada AM she discussed her husband’s death: “You leave the hospital thinking he’s at peace and there was no future for him. The most difficult part is finding out some two or three years later that the most likely thing is, he wouldn’t have drank again and that his prognosis would have been really good.” She added, “As Canadians we have the right to healthcare regardless of the providence of our disease.” She said she’d

    Read More »from Organ recipients need to meet strict guidelines, even if family wants to help them
  • 3D Printed Model Guides Surgeons to Successful Treatment of Brain Aneurysm. (Business Wire)3D Printed Model Guides Surgeons to Successful Treatment of Brain Aneurysm. (Business Wire)

    A mother of three with a life-threatening brain aneurysm was recently saved by surgeons who were able to practise her complex surgery beforehand on a 3D-printed replica of her brain vessel anatomy, according to a press release.

    And, the ability to make 3D-printed models could help save the lives of many more patients in the future.

    “Surgeons at some of the world’s leading hospitals are now able to quickly pinpoint affected areas on individual patients and practice surgeries on realistic anatomical 3D-printed models,” explained Scott Radar, general manager of medical solutions at Stratasys Ltd., in a press release.

    “This is expected to dramatically minimize risks associated with delays and complications stemming from real-time, in-procedure diagnoses.”

    In the case of Teresa Flint, being able to experiment on a 3D-printed replica allowed her doctors to try out techniques and formulate a plan in advance of her going under the knife, said one of her doctors at The Jacobs Institute in

    Read More »from 3D printing lets surgeons practice surgery on life-like replicas before you go under the knife

    Megalodon tooth found in 1837. (Flickr/Géry Parent)Megalodon tooth found in 1837. (Flickr/Géry Parent)

    Over the last few weeks, giant shark teeth of enormous proportions have been washing up on shores of North Carolina. The teeth measure up to an unbelievable six inches long – about the size of an human adult’s hand.

    What makes these finds a bit unnerving is that these teeth we know belong to a monster that dwarfs even supersized versions of the Great White Shark. Called Carcharodon Megalodon, they are the largest ocean predator to have ever lived. Luckily for us, scientists say this nightmarish creature has been long extinct.

    Megalodon ruled the world’s oceans starting 16 million years ago. With a body the size of a city bus and a gaping mouth large enough to swallow a Volkswagen

    Read More »from Massive Megalodon teeth washing up on shores of United States
  • (Pamela Anderson/Instagram)(Pamela Anderson/Instagram)

    Baywatch babe Pamela Anderson recently announced to the world that she was cured of hepatitis C the exact way you would expect she would – via a nude photo whilst throwing her head back and smiling in a photo posted on Instagram.

    In the post, the beauty from B.C. wrote in part: “I am CURED!!! … I pray anyone living with Hep C can qualify or afford treatment. It will be more available soon.”

    Anderson, now 48, was first diagnosed with the liver disease back in 2002. It can take decades for noticeable issues, such as cirrhosis, to develop. The Hollywood star was fortunately able to get treated before that happened and now says she has no liver damage or side effects from having hepatitis C for 16 years.

    Back here in Canada far away from sunny Hollywood, Canadian doctors have been part of studies showing a once-daily combination of sofosbuvir-velpatasvir for a 12-week period is effective in curing the majority of patients, according to a new study just published in The New England

    Read More »from Not just for Pamela Anderson: New hepatitis C treatment could cure many in 12 weeks, study finds
  • Forensic DNA evidence is an invaluable tool for determining guilt and innocence in criminal investigations.

    Technology has reached a point where sub-microscopic samples – so-called “touch DNA” – can determine, well within a reasonable doubt, who handled what at the scene of a crime.

    But newer, even sharper technology may be about to call that into doubt.

    It is now becoming possible to detect other samples – “transfer DNA” – from people who were never at the crime scene.

    “Touch DNA usually refers to DNA that’s deposited by the skin onto an object if you touch it,” says Dr. Krista Latham, associate professor of biology and anthropology and the University of Indianapolis.

    “However, our study is suggesting that term might be misleading, because what we found is that DNA can be transferred to an object that a person did not have direct contact with.”

    In other words, your DNA can actually be found on objects you’ve never seen – and never, ever touched.

    A police forensic expert gathers evidence from a crime scene in Lahore, Pakistan October 1, 2015. (Reuters)A police forensic expert gathers evidence from a crime scene in Lahore, Pakistan October 1, 2015. (Reuters)

    In a paper published in the Journal

    Read More »from Your DNA can show up at crime scenes you were never at, study finds
  • Astronomers recently announced a discovery that has sent the scientific community for a loop, and it all has to do with finding oxygen on a mountain-sized dirty snowball millions of miles from Earth. And the reverberations may affect our hunt for alien worlds.

    Europe’s robotic explorer Rosetta has been orbiting the four kilometre-wide Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko for over a year and while astronomers already knew that this icy interloper and others like it harbor many of the essential chemical ingredients for life, now surprisingly it seems we can add reservoirs of oxygen to that list.

    According to the new study published in the journal Nature, what makes this finding even more perplexing is that despite oxygen being a molecule that breaks down quickly, which then combines to form other chemicals, the comet’s oxygen supply may in fact be quite ancient , having formed billions of years in the past out of the same primordial cloud the Sun, Earth and all the other planets formed.


    Read More »from Discovery of oxygen on a comet sets back search for Earth's twin
  • WatertowerWatertower

    They tower over almost every town and city.  People use them as landmarks.  We check them for town names to know where we’ve arrived. 

    They are, of course, water towers. 

    What exactly do water towers do? How did all that water get up there? What purpose do these strange, lumbering giants serve?

    “Water towers provide very localized water storage and pressure to small areas,” Lou Di Gironimo, general manager of Toronto Water told Yahoo News.

    “They provide operational flexibility by allowing any excess water to be stored for later consumption, while making water available in the event that water demand exceeds the ability to pump.”

    Water is heavy.  Water towers are tall, but they don’t catch falling rain.  So how do they get filled up? 

    “The water level in the tower is regulated by pumping from a nearby station,” Di Gironimo explained.

    “Flow is increased when the water level in the tower is low, and reduced when it is full.”

    There’s a lot of water up there.  Toronto’s four towers range

    Read More »from This is what water towers actually do
  • Preschoolers have been found to show a strong sense of self. (Thinkstock)Preschoolers have been found to show a strong sense of self. (Thinkstock)

    How early, in life, do we become ourselves? How soon do we know how we feel about ourselves?

    Sooner than anyone previously thought, according to a new study from the University of Washington. Researchers say our sense of self-esteem is squarely in place by the age of five.

    “Self-esteem is one of psychology’s most central constructs,” says Dario Cvenček, a research scientist at UW’s Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences (I-LABS).

    “Given its centrality in social and personality psychology, our work has been seeking to explore the origins of self-esteem in early development.”

    So how do you do something like that? Preschoolers aren’t nearly as fluent in word and thought as adults. Their parents may understand them clearly enough, but it’s not that easy for a researcher.

    “Previously, other work had shown that pre-schoolers know about some of their specific good features,” Cvenček explains.

    “For example, at very early ages, children can give verbal reports of what they’re good at, as

    Read More »from Self-esteem develops in people by the age of 5, new study finds
  • <span style=color: #333333; font-family: helvetica, arial, sans-serif; font-size: 11px; line-height: normal;>A jogger runs through a frosty landscape in Calgary, Monday, Feb. 8, 2010. Temperatures dropped overnight and an icy fog descended on the city making it look like a winter wonderland. The forecast is for above average temperatures and sun the rest of the week.</span>

    Winter is coming, Canadians, but we’re on track for one of the warmest ever.

    That’s according to AccuWeather Global Weather Center, which says El Niño once again is to blame.

    “We’re thinking this is going to be the second strongest El Niño on record,” senior meteorologist Brett Anderson told Yahoo Canada by phone from AccuWeather’s headquarters near State College, Pennsylvania.  “It’s definitely one of the top two, with the one in 1997/98 being the strongest on record. That has a lot of influence on the weather right across Canada, in the winter especially. This will be one of the warmer winters on record, definitely in the top five.”

    So all of the hopeful skiers in Vancouver who purchased ski passes for Grouse, Cypress or Seymour mountains—those hills that are a short drive from the city centre—may well be out of luck.

    Western Canadians should expect above- to well above-normal temperatures as a prevailing westerly flow delivers milder Pacific air across the region for the 2015-16

    Read More »from Canada's winter forecast may turn out to be one of the warmest ever


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