• Clouds in the sky (Thinkstock)Clouds in the sky (Thinkstock)

    From unusually warm and dry in the west to a very frigid and snowy east, folks across entire North America have experienced some downright weird weather this past year. 

    That blob off the west coast is an unusually large and persistent area of above-normal sea surface temperatures.that has been averaging anywhere from 2 to 4 degrees Celsius above normal over the past 1.5 years or so,said Brett Anderson, chief meteorologist with accuweather.com.

    Scientists actually began noticing something strange was brewing back in Autumn 2013 when a circular mass of water, that was about 1,000 miles across and 300 feet deep, simply wouldnt go away as it had been expected. Now it stretches from Mexico all the way up to Alaska.  And it sure has made its presence felt across the country, especially this past winter.

    Recent studies indicate that this "blob" has been caused by a persistent area of strong high pressure over the northeast Pacific and along the West Coast.,said Anderson.

    The impact

    Read More »from 'Blob' in Canadian west will continue to shape weather for coming seasons
  • The conventional wisdom regarding memory-loss diseases such as amnesia and Alzheimer’s has long been that all affected memories are erased or destroyed.

    But a new study from MIT is suggesting a possible alternative: that while the ability to access memories may vanish, the memories themselves may still be fully intact and encoded within the brain.

    “If you ask a neuroscientist what we know about memory, most people will say we have these pathways, or traces, that are formed in the brain, and these are somehow required for us to recall information accurately,” MIT researcher and study co-author Dheeray Roy told Yahoo Canada.

    “In cases of amnesia, a lot of people would believe these traces actually are non-existent, and that’s the underlying cause of the disease. Our study came in, I think, to ask whether amnesia truly is a storage-type issue, or whether some memories do persist and there is just no way to access them – and can we do something about it?”

    A technology called optogenetics

    Read More »from Scientists shine a new light on memory loss
  • Three months after social media went crazy about #TheDress and the mystery of why people see it in different colours, folks are still trying to figure out what the science behind this optical illusion is.

    As many as 10 million tweets went out about the image of the horizontally-striped dress in just the first week of it appearing online. Was it black and blue or white and gold?

    One particular explanation put forth by self-described neuromarketer and researcher Diana Derval that has making the rounds involves the number of classes photoreceptors or cones in the retina of the human eye - which can range from two to four. The more types of cones, the more of the colour spectrum that can be seen.

    In this article Professor Derval showcases a spectrum of colours and asks readers to take an online test to see how many variations or shades of colour they can distinguish. 

    Try it: How many colours do you see?

    How many colours do you see? (Courtesy of Prof. Diana Derval, Expert in Neuromarketing)How many colours do you see? (Courtesy of Prof. Diana Derval, Expert in Neuromarketing)

     According to the author,  about 25% of the population should be able see all the

    Read More »from How many colours do you see? Popular vision test debunked
  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos samples cooked cockroach at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. (Reuters)Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos samples cooked cockroach at the Explorers Club Annual Dinner. (Reuters)

    What would you say to a moist mealworm muffin or some salted, crunchy grasshoppers? Chances are good that most folks in North America and Europe would probably turn their noses up to these novel food items.

    Entomophagy has remained more of a novelty here and has not been able to catch on despite the grand idea of it being a sustainable source of food for an ever growing world population.

    This is despite a 2010 UN report stating that insects offer fewer negative environmental impacts than most mainstream foods. Even former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan chimed in saying in a recent interview with The Guardian that eating insects is good for the environment and balanced diets.

    So while insects have been a viable and favourite protein source in many cultures around the world, can perceptions and acceptance in western society ever change?

    It is estimated that as many as 2 billion people from South and East Asia as well as many African and South American countries all have

    Read More »from Insects under-appreciated for their taste, nutritional value in North America: researcher
  • 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

    Read More »from Science says you're probably drinking your coffee wrong
  • 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

    Read More »from No, people and dinosaurs didn't roam the earth at the same time
  • 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

    Read More »from Cool or creepy? China finds a way to shame people who pollute
  • 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

    Read More »from 'Partly human yeast' may hold key to some genetic diseases
  • 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

    Read More »from How tiny organisms light up seashores with glowing blue waves
  • 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

    Read More »from Why do males even exist?

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