• The latest buzz on coffee may have you rethinking your morning rituals, or at least rescheduling them.
     
    The reputable and popular science guys at asapscience.com are suggesting that you are never more awake than when you awaken, and probably aren't doing yourself any favours by heading straight for the java, if that's your habit.

    "What if I told you, you'd been drinking your coffee incorrectly the entire time?" ask investigators Greg Brown and Mitchell Moffit, founders of the site.

    In fact, claim the roundly-endorsed web scientists and recently published authors, it is between 8 a.m and 9 a.m. that most people's bodies are producing the natural hormone that makes us all alert and ready to take on the day. (For the medically curious, the hormone your body makes is called cortisol – the stuff that will help you decide to fight a grizzly bear or run away and hide.) You're better off waiting until after 9 a.m. for that first hit of coffee, they say, when your body's natural rhythm is more in

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  • Artist's rendering of dinosaurs watching asteroid fly towards earth (Thinkstock)Artist's rendering of dinosaurs watching asteroid fly towards earth (Thinkstock)

    Creationist preacher Ken Ham, founder of the Creation Museum in America, recently announced he has conclusive proof that dinosaurs co-existed with Adam and Eve.

    As if Adam and Eve didn’t have enough to deal with.

    There is no point even attempting to use science to disprove this. Science and Ken Ham are about as far removed as – well – dinosaurs and the Garden of Eden.

    The brilliant baseball writer and statistician Bill James used to say you can test whether an idea is true by seeing whether its logical consequences actually exist. Pitching is not 90 per cent of baseball, for example, because hitting, running and fielding obviously chew up more than ten per cent.

    Armed with that axiom, let’s go looking for dinosaurs!

    Pyramids: Ancient Egyptian pharaohs would never have had to enslave an entire people to build their spectacular tombs if they could have just hooked up a couple of Brachiosaurs and got them to haul all the rocks. Of course, these ginormous, unfathomably strong sauropods

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  • Pollution billboard (Courtesy of Snapshot)Pollution billboard (Courtesy of Snapshot)

    Okay, this is either very cool or really creepy – and we want to know what you think.

    The South China Morning Post reported last week that an innovative DNA technology – which can deduce the shape and appearance of a person’s face from a DNA sample – is being used to shame litterbugs in Hong Kong.

     The giant city is being inundated with literally thousands of tons cigarette butts, used coffee cups, discarded newspapers and other forms of casually tossed away and unsightly waste.

     So here’s what can happen now:

     You toss some garbage onto a Hong Kong Street.  It gets picked up, and tested for DNA.  An American company – Parabon Nanolabs – uses the DNA to create an approximate picture of your face.  Then giant marketing agency Ogilvy & Mather Hong Kong puts your face on a billboard at the site of your littering offence as part of a shaming campaign called “The Face of Litter.”

     

    A photo illustration of a man who littered. (Courtesy of Snapshot)A photo illustration of a man who littered. (Courtesy of Snapshot)

     But, to put it mildly, there are some ... inaccuracies. 

    No matter how good this face-deduction process is

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  • Image of a yeast cell. Photo credit: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere. Image rights: Creative CommonsImage of a yeast cell. Photo credit: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere. Image rights: Creative Commons

    It is a central axiom of biology that all living things on the planet are – however distantly – related.

    A fascinating new study is proposing new ways to combat genetic diseases, taking advantage of humankind’s surprisingly strong common ancestry... with baker’s yeast.

    “It doesn’t look anything at all like humans, but yeast is a very, very distant cousin, separated a billion years ago,” Prof. Edward Marcotte of the the Department of Molecular Biology at the University of Texas at Austin tells Yahoo Canada.

    “But we still share a lot of genes in common.”

    Around 4,000 genes, it turns out. That’s one-fifth of the 20,000 genes that make up the human genome.

    “The test that we did was to take yeast cells, break the yeast gene, and provide it with DNA from the human equivalent,” Marcotte explains. “We put in the corresponding human DNA, then asked whether the human DNA could keep the cells alive?”

    “We tested a little under 500 such pairs of genes between humans and yeast, and almost half of

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  • A couple sits on the sand of Sydney's Manly Beach as they watch blue bioluminescent waves. (Reuters)A couple sits on the sand of Sydney's Manly Beach as they watch blue bioluminescent waves. (Reuters)

    This week as night fell on southern Tasmanian seashores they appeared to light up the waters with a bizarre glowing sea of blue stars.

    While glowing, rolling waves around Hobart made it look like scenes straight out of the alien Avatar movie, the jaw-dropping phenomena is in fact a natural light show sparked by billions of tiny marine organisms.

    Fluorescent plankton known as dinoflagellates are sea creatures that are barely visible to the naked eye and are commonly referred to as algae. Whip-like projections called flagella allow them to swim fast while internally they produce their own form of bioluminescence. And when they occur in great numbers, they can form intense and spectacular phosphorescent blooms around beach areas as they become agitated by the turbulent surf.

    They can become extremely common, up to a million critters per milliliter during blooms like you have with the fabulous spectacle happening in Tasmania, said bioluminescence expert Thomas E. DeCoursey from Rush

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  • I’ve been a boy/dude/guy/man for over half a century. Many times I’ve heard my gender dismissed as macho, chauvinistic, uncaring, insensitive and militaristic.

    But never before have I been told that all males – of all species – might be biologically redundant.

    “Obviously, to reproduce sexually, you need males,” Prof. Matthew Gage of the University of East Anglia in England told Yahoo Canada. “And of the eight million or so multi-cellular species on planet Earth, nearly all use sex to reproduce.”

    But there’s an efficiency problem, he said.

    “Half of the individuals in most species contribute almost nothing to offspring production – they don’t lay eggs or have babies or anything like that. In most of those species, males do nothing apart from supply sperm to the female for fertilization.”

    Gage and his colleagues set out to unravel the riddle: why do males actually exist?

    “As an evolutionary biologist, I wanted to understand why there is sexual reproduction, when there are all these

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  • Sunrise (Thinkstock)Sunrise (Thinkstock)

    While summer officially kicks off in just over a month’s time, many Canadians have already enjoyed some beautiful weather, but weather forecasters are keeping their eye on El Niño conditions currently brewing in the Pacific and what it may have in store for us.

    When the surface of the equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean becomes abnormally warm due to prevailing winds, El Niño-meaning ‘little boy’ in Spanish- develops, frequently impacting weather patterns across the entire North American continent.

    The brunt of its effects are usually felt across western and southern regions, particularly pronounced during winter. However, if El Niño packs a larger punch then it can even lead to noticeable dampening of tropical storm and hurricane activity in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean during the season due to increasing westerly wind shear.

    The current El Niño was officially declared by the US-based National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in March. And just this past week the

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  • (Jared Tarbell on Flickr)(Jared Tarbell on Flickr)

    Scientists appear to have discovered a new, exotic state of matter and hopes are high that it may one day help revolutionize superconductor technology.

    The Japanese-led international team of researchers came up with the new-found matter, which they are calling a Jahn-Teller metal, that surprisingly simultaneously shows characteristics of a magnet, insulator and a superconductor that works at relatively high temperatures.

    While we may be familiar with states of matter all around us like solid, liquid and gas (and even plasma) there are a whole slew of weird man-made alternatives that have been discovered in recent decades like supercritical fluids, condensates and degenerate matter, just to name a few. All of these are defined by changes in their temperature, heat capacity and pressure and are not found normally in nature but instead made in the laboratory.

    This latest discovery, recently published in the online journal Science Advances, involves something called buckyballs, a pure

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  • Astronomers announced this week that they have discovered a galaxy lying more than 13 billion light years from Earth, breaking the record for the most distant of these giant islands of stars ever glimpsed by human eyes.  While its portrait is not much to look at, the feeble, infrared light from this baby galaxy left on its journey when the universe was only 5 percent of its present day age.

    Using the keen vision of the Hubble Space Telescope in combination with the 10 meter-wide mirrors of the twin Keck Observatory in Hawaii, astronomers were able to hunt down and identify the galaxy, dubbed EGS-z8-1, as one of the brightest and most massive objects known in the early Universe. The science team’s measurements also show that the young galaxy is furiously forming new generations of stars - at rates estimated to be at least 80 times that of what we see in today’s galaxies like our own Milky Way.

    With the Big Bang estimated to have occurred approximately 13.7 billion years ago, this newfound

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  • A Buddhist monk salvages a statue of a Buddhist deity from a monastery damaged by the earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)A Buddhist monk salvages a statue of a Buddhist deity from a monastery damaged by the earthquake in Kathmandu, Nepal. (AP Photo/Niranjan Shrestha)

    As the death toll from the magnitude-7.8 earthquake that hit Nepal this past weekend continues to climb, naturally many inevitably ask where’s the next big one is going to hit? After all, the Himalayan region is only one of many tremor hotspots scattered around the globe.

    While scientists are still not able to predict timing of when large tremors will happen next, they do know that they will occur where tectonic plates are under strain.  A 2012 study found that of the 15 most massive earthquakes of the 20th century,  87 percent of the them occurred along what are known as fracture and subduction zones,  where one tectonic plate slides underneath another.

    Some of the most high risk countries where this can occur include Chile, Japan, New Zealand and Turkey. The larger cities have taken steps in having building codes to mitigate effects of earthquakes.  However since we contract models and risk assessments based on data that covers only a little over century, scientists figure there are

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