When you’re sick – or when your kid is sick – you want relief immediately. For many people, that means going to the doctor to get a prescription for antibiotics.

    It may surprise you to find out that doing so is often the wrong move. In the U.S., a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 25 per cent of the general population is under the mistaken belief that antibiotics can treat a cold.

    What are antibiotics used for?

    Antibiotics kill bacteria and stop bacterial infections. They will help if you have strep throat, bladder and skin infections, and some ear infections, which are all caused by bacteria. Antibiotics will not cure viral infections such as the common cold or flu.

    Sometimes a lab test is needed to identify whether you have a bacterial or viral infection, says Maryse Durette of Health Canada.

    “We try to avoid antibiotics when we can,” says Hoda Mankal, a nurse practitioner at the Carlington Community Health Center in Ottawa and the

    Read More »from When to take antibiotics... and when you should just stay home
  • Humanity, as a whole, continues to struggle with the ominous, impending idea that the global climate is changing.

    Many still deny it. Many others are searching for ways to cope.

    How delightful, then, to discover that pests, parasites and pathogens are way out ahead of us – with species already physically evolving to meet the survival challenges of a burgeoning new biosphere.

    “Some of the best evidence for climate change involves organisms shifting around the planet, moving north as things warm up in the atmosphere,” Dan Bebber, a senior lecturer in microbial biology at Exeter University in England, told Yahoo Canada.

    “They’re able to adapt very quickly to new conditions – whether that’s overcoming the pesticides and things that we use to try to combat them, or adapting to new climates. They can adapt to those quite quickly, and therefore we’re facing greater threats to our agriculture.”

    Bebber has recently compiled an intriguing summary of relevant research being conducted around the

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  • (Press Association photo)(Press Association photo)

    If you’ve been paying attention to medical news at all, you’ve likely heard about cancer immunotherapies, forms of treatment that harness the power of the body’s immune system to detect and erase cancer, but with fewer side effects than chemotherapy or radiation.

    Some leading immuno-oncologists say that the various treatments in various stages of development now may one day make cancer something people are able to live with. Many even talk about cures for major cancers in a decade or so. Not surprisingly, immunotherapy—which is actually a 125-year-old concept that was resurrected in the late 1980s—has won attention from media outlets like Time magazine, the New York Times, and “60 Minutes.” Science magazine decided it qualified for the “Breakthrough of the Year” title in 2013. Although the science is far from perfect, it does represent the first time that hype about a new approach to fighting cancer may actually be justified.

    Immune system booster

    Cancer immunotherapies exist in many

    Read More »from Trial cancer vaccines could change how we treat the disease
  • It has long been known that – to an extent – the human body can feel relief from suffering, even if the medicine we take doesn’t actually work.

    This, of course, is the placebo effect. It can seem very real.

    And now, new research suggests that people who have come to trust a placebo over time will continue to benefit from it – even after they know it has no physical effect.

    “The goal was to figure out if expectations and beliefs are truly required to induce placebo effects,” Scott Schafer, a PhD candidate in psychology and neuroscience at the University of Colorado Boulder, told Yahoo Canada.

    Subjects were repeatedly given a placebo treatment for pain. After four treatments, they were let in on the secret. For many, it didn’t matter.

    “If they believe it’s worked for a long enough period of time, and if we then remove that belief, we wanted to see whether the brain mechanisms involved with producing the pain relief continue to operate,” Schafer explained.

    “And the answer is yes, they

    Read More »from A placebo can work even when you know it's a placebo
  • NASA's view of the blue moon.NASA's view of the blue moon.

    Friday is one of those days that we only have once in a blue moon. 

    In fact, this Friday July 31,st  will actually be a blue moon when it turns full at 6:43a.m. ET. That's because it will be the second full moon in the month.

    Unfortunately, the rarity of the blue moon isn't quite as rare as it sounds since there is more than one kind of blue moon.

    This week's blue moon is all about the rarity of having two full moons in the same month. Usually that happens about once every 2.6 years, although in 1999 it happened twice in three months. The next time skywatchers are likely to see a blue moon is in 2018.

    “The terms seems a little convoluted as to why the term blue was used,” The Weather Network meterorologist and science writer Scott Sutherland tells Yahoo Canada News.

    “The Farmers' Almanac gives the original seasonal definition as being four full moons in a season rather than three full moons,“ says Sutherland.

    “It seems that may have just been following the system for naming all the

    Read More »from You won't see a blue moon like this again until 2018
  • California’s dreadful multi-year drought has left one of the world’s most hugely productive agricultural zones in dry and draining desperation.

    But a bold new water recycling scheme – greener, cleaner and far more efficient – is offering some urgently needed hope.

    In the state’s vast Central Valley, a company called WaterFX is developing a practical, potentially game-changing way to reclaim and clean agricultural waste water.

    “It’s typically thought that, because of the high energy consumption associated with distilling water – which is essentially boiling it – it’s not a good use of our energy resources,” WaterFX co-founder Dr. Matthew Stuber told Yahoo Canada.

    “However, once we couple it with renewable energy, it becomes a different proposition.”

    WaterFX's upcoming HydroRevolution project in California uses solar energy to turn waste water into steam, which cooks out all the impurities. As clean, fresh water condenses, that energy is released, recaptured and pumped right back into

    Read More »from Sun could hold key to solving California's water problems
  • Rabies spreading in New Brunswick raccoonsRabies spreading in New Brunswick raccoons

    They move like low, round shadows in the night.

    They are almost silent. But should you ever see one, you’ll also hear its silky, secret footfalls on the darkened city streets.

    They demolish garbage cans. And when we invent a better one, they think up all-new ways to trash our trash.

    They even wear cute little bandit masks, as if to say “Yeah, we know we’re thieves, but what are you going to do about it?”

    Raccoons. Sigh.

    Astonishingly clever, these big, persistent eaters of everything. Business is good for them. You almost never see a skinny one.

    But what if they weren’t here anymore? What if all the raccoons simply vanished, and you never again had to deal with shredded garbage at dawn?

    “Removing a mesopredator (raccoons are officially classified as mid-sized predators) from an ecosystem can have lots of unintended consequences,” Dr. Suzanne MacDonald, raccoon expert and psychology professor at York University, tells Yahoo News.

    Related link:

    What would happen if all the mosquitoes

    Read More »from What if we got rid of all the pesky raccoons? Much scarier things, expert says
  • Storm clouds in Alberta (DC Productions/Thinkstock)Storm clouds in Alberta (DC Productions/Thinkstock)

    You think your city is the stormiest?

    You may wonder how your city stacks up against others across Canada when it comes to record inclement weather. But ask a hundred people across Canada how bad their local weather can get, and many will claim they have the worst. However if we look at historical data, it turns out there are in fact some regions that are particularly prone to certain kinds of severe natural disasters, be they tornadoes or hurricanes, that make them stand out. 

     As far as the top five major cities go, here is our list from west to east that are prone to the worst weather bombs nature can throw at them:

    Flooded Caglary Stampede Grounds - June 2013Flooded Caglary Stampede Grounds - June 2013

    Calgary - Flooding

    Massive flooding caused by storms in the past century have swept through southern Alberta, and straight through the heart of Calgary, affecting hundreds of thousands of people, displacing countless number of residents and damaging homes.

    The most recent of which occurred in June  2013 when torrential rain caused a whopping downpour of 200mm in just 2

    Read More »from Forecast is looking grim: The most storm-prone cities across Canada
  • Driverless cars are becoming a thing.

    Google runs about a dozen of them on the roads of California and Nevada. They’ve logged over 1.7-million miles, and have been involved in 11 minor traffic accidents. That sounds low, but it’s more than double the national average of incidents per 100,000 miles, according to a recent posting on the Wall Street Journal’s Digits blog.

    (The driverless vehicles were apparently not responsible for the mishaps.)

    And now, researchers in California are kicking the tires on one of the logical extensions of this technology – driverless taxis. And the benefits could be endless.

    “A driverless car inherently has some advantages over a human-driven car, in terms of efficiency, because if it’s programmed correctly, it can accelerate and brake more smoothly, saving energy there,” says Jeffery Greenblatt, staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in a conversation with Yahoo Canada.

    “It can plan its route perhaps more optimally – although that

    Read More »from Coming soon to your street: driverless taxis?
  • So if the extraterrestrials are out there, are they small and cute like E.T.? Or are they remorseless monsters like the aliens in Alien? Do they have thin bodies and big eyes like just about any other extra-terrestrial in just about any other movie?

    Or, maybe, do they look like us?

    Prof. Simon Conway Morris is a paleontologist at Cambridge University in England. His new book, The Runes of Evolution, argues that the enormous number of Earth-like worlds now being discovered could – and should – give rise to Earth-like creatures.

    “Over a number of years I’ve been arguing that evolutionary convergence – the ability for similar, sometimes almost identical structures to evolve independently – is something which is not merely widespread, but is basically ubiquitous,” he says in an interview with Yahoo Canada.

    “The classic example being something like the eye of the squid and octopus, which developed separately from the eye of the human. It’s very, very common, and I think its importance is

    Read More »from What do aliens look like? The answer may be suprisingly familiar


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