• Around the world, fresh water is increasingly being seen as a dwindling resource.

    In California, an epic drought is threatening a huge portion of American agriculture. The need there is beyond critical.

    Meanwhile, up here in Canada, a whopping 31 per cent of all the water on the continent is draining away into inaccessible places like Hudson Bay and the Arctic Ocean.

    Oh, and we’re already sharing the vast waters of the Great Lakes with our increasingly thirsty neighbours to the south.

    The more we have – and aren’t even using – the more and more they need.

    “You just have to look at the history of Canada to figure out what’s inevitably going to happen,” warns Lloyd Alter, a blogger and editor at TreeHugger.com.

    “At some point, I believe the Americans are either just going to take the water, or we’re all going to make some deal and sell it.”

    Alter has just written a fine and comprehensive article on the past – and future – of Canada’s water supply. The stakes are high, he warned.


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  • Sometimes, science is a work in progress.

    The lofty goal has not been attained.

    But the object of the search is so sweet and compelling, it’s cool to hear from someone who’s actually trying to get it done.

    Case in point? Invisibility cloaks.

    The ultra-cool concealment gizmo immortalized in the Harry Potter books and countless other fantasy classics continues to not exist. But it’s no longer through a lack of effort.

    “An invisibility cloak has always been something that fascinates people,” said Zi Jing Wong, a PhD candidate in mechanical engineering at UC Berkeley.

    “We have tried to use nanotechnology to create a very thin layer of metallic nanostructures. These were carefully designed in such a way that you can change the local response of the light, so that when you see from very far, the object looks like it’s not there.”

    Wong is part of a team of researchers whose newly published study involves a bold attempt to actually render microscopic objects invisible.

    “Unfortunately, at

    Read More »from Invisibility cloak in sight?

    The DeLorean-style golf cart in actionThe DeLorean-style golf cart in action

    Those of a certain vintage will always list Back To The Future as one of their favourite movies of all time. It allowed those of us born in the 70s and 80s to dream of a futuristic car with a Flux Capacitor that could take us through time. And it inspired Lucas Evanochko and David Heykants of Dual Divisions to build a golf cart that looks like a futuristic car that can take us back through time.

    The two were called upon to take on the project as part of Red Deer College’s 30th Annual Golf Classic, a fundraising event that provides much needed resources to the institution’s athletics programs. The cart is a spot-on rendition of exactly what you’d think a DeLorean Back To The Future golf cart complete with its own Flux Capacitor should look like. Dual Divisions built the cart, and Evanochko “lit it up,” as he said.

    Bright rainbow coloured buttons in the dashboard (which look like just like the bright switches we remember from the movie) play all of the catch phrases you’d remember from

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  • A close-up view of the icy mountains and flat ice plains on Pluto in this photo released Sept. 17 (Reuters)A close-up view of the icy mountains and flat ice plains on Pluto in this photo released Sept. 17 (Reuters)

    It’s the little planet that was – then wasn’t – and now is again (sort of).

    Now officially listed as a “dwarf planet,” icy, tiny Pluto still has not been formally reinstated as the ninth planet in our solar system.

    That’s because other, similar worlds (called Kuiper Belt objects) have been discovered lurking out on the far edges of the solar system. If Pluto’s a full planet, then they would have to be, too.

    The eyes of humanity were upon it back in July, when NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft took stunning photos in a fly-by, following a nine-and-a-half year, 4.6-billion kilometer journey from Earth. Those photos are being released this month, including a new crop published by NASA just today.

    A near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains on Pluto taken by New Horizons. (Reuters)A near-sunset view of the rugged, icy mountains and flat ice plains on Pluto taken by New Horizons. (Reuters)

    It may have an identity crisis and be a little misunderstood, but there are still plenty of cool things to know about our tiny, icy fellow cosmic adventurer:

    1) Pluto was discovered in 1930, by American astronomer Clyde Tombaugh. His photographic plates revealed a tiny, faint object moving

    Read More »from Ten things you might not know about Pluto
  • Workers install photovoltaic solar panels at the Gujarat solar park REUTERS/Amit DaveWorkers install photovoltaic solar panels at the Gujarat solar park REUTERS/Amit Dave

    Climate change is a divisive issue.

    Fossil fuel fans tend to deny it exists. Supporters of alternative solar and wind energy shout that the world will end if humanity doesn’t change course.

    The stakes are high. Confrontation doesn’t appear to be helping.

    So, why not just side-step it?

    From the counter-intuitive science desk comes an intriguing new study out of UC Berkeley.

    Researchers say the best way to move forward may be to stop cracking down so hard on carbon emissions, and hugely step up investment in clean alternatives instead.

    “Most of the carbon pricing that has been put in place so far is very weak. It doesn’t do a lot to move things along,” Nina Kelsey, a Berkeley post-doctoral scholar, told Yahoo Canada.

    “We’re less interested in deciding if a certain policy is good or bad. We’re more excited about asking, okay, if you want to tackle the climate problem, how do you build the coalition to get you there?”

    Faced with a carbon fight that can only get nastier, these researchers

    Read More »from Best way to fight climate change? Stop fighting
  • When you’re lying on a couch, watching TV and eating snacks, your body is expending the lowest amount of energy it can.

    And when you’re at the gym? Working out? Hard?

    Your body is expending the lowest amount of energy it can.

    That’s the finding of an intriguing new study from Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. Researchers are revealing that any time your body adjusts – to a new activity level or to any form of physical obstacle – it always picks the option that expends the least energy.

    Couch potatoes of the world, rise up!

    (Or stay right where you are. Apparently it doesn’t matter.)

    SFU PhD candidate Jessica Selinger is part of a team that studied the ways people adjust when their normal walking is impeded by an outside limitation.

    “What we found is that people will change really fundamental characteristics of their gait,” Selinger told Yahoo Canada.

    “These are characteristics that you would have had over years and years of your life, for millions and millions of steps. And

    Read More »from Our bodies are hardwired to be as lazy as possible
  • Right now, biohackers are more likely to discover tastier cheese than a super-virus. (Photo: Thinkstock)Right now, biohackers are more likely to discover tastier cheese than a super-virus. (Photo: Thinkstock)

    For the uninitiated, biohacking or Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYBio) might sound like kind of creepy, more like something out of a Frankenstein movie. But the time for it appears to have arrived: amateur science enthusiasts are cutting and pasting DNA and playing with the molecular biology of organisms.

    “While hacking simply refers to the idea of tinkering with something by taking it apart and playing with it, DIYBio is simply looking at biology as if it were something that anyone could do,” explained Ron Shigeta, Chief Science Officer at IndieBioSF, a DIYBio biotech accelerator in San Francisco, Calif. 

    “When science takes on the hacker attitude that you can play with a technology, it frees up innovation and new kinds of discoveries can happen. People think of useful things like real-time blood alcohol monitoring, or milk produced by yeast instead of a cow.”

    A big part of why it’s gaining momentum now is a new gene manipulation tool called CRISPR/CAS, which has opened up levels of

    Read More »from DIY biology: How amateur scientists are playing with genetic code
  • Nick Dasko and his dog Sheena (Courtesy Nick Dasko)Nick Dasko and his dog Sheena (Courtesy Nick Dasko)

    Nick Dasko says he is a better person when he has a dog by his side. 

    “I have depression and I find it easier and I’m more relaxed and happier when I have a dog around,” he says about his four-legged companions. “Having a dog around is so helpful in so many ways for anyone with any sort of mental health issues.”

    Dasko, who makes his home in Toronto, adopted his first dog in 2010 and soon saw his health change for the better. 

    “I also have Attention Deficit Disorder and I take Adderall for it, which is a stimulant,” he says explaining that the Adderall increased his blood pressure so much that he had to be put on medication to control it. “Within about eight weeks of getting Sheena [his boxer] I was off the blood pressure medication.” 

    Dasko is one of the many people who have found pet ownership to be beneficial to overall health. Stories like his are why Dr. Kate Hodgson thinks pets should be included in healthcare conversations family physicians have with their patients. 


    Read More »from Why pets should be included in discussions with your doctor
  • (Photo: Thinkstock)(Photo: Thinkstock)

    Have you ever been put in the uncomfortable position of having a lover argue about the condom? Now you have even more research on your side to shut those excuses down. Guys, take note. Science is onto you.

    Some bold claims are being made after a recent study on condom-related erectile dysfunction, specifically that men who complain about reduced sensation while wearing protection are, well, liars.

    A closer look at the data provides a more complex view of the situation. Published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine, the seven co-authors of the article come to some interesting conclusions. The existence of condom-related erectile dysfunction wasn’t one of them.

    What the study did conclude was that men who reported “Condom-Associated Erection Problems” (CAEP) were significantly more likely to also experience signs of erectile dysfunction when having sex without a condom, too.

    On its own, the detailed findings aren’t entirely revolutionary. But paired with earlier findings on the

    Read More »from Using a condom during sex doesn't actually reduce male pleasure, study finds
  • The driverless carts being tested in Singapore

    Back in June, I told you about driverless taxi cabs.

    Now the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology is zeroing in on a simpler, smaller, more subtle approach:

    Driverless golf carts.

    But they’re not for golf courses. Not yet, anyhow.

    “We are trying to build a light-weight vehicle that will tackle the problem of autonomous navigation at low speed in local environments,” said Daniela Rus, a professor in MIT’s Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

    “And then, using golf carts, we’re trying to show that we can achieve mobility on demand with a group of self-driving vehicles.

    Many major cities now have bicycle sharing programs, where pedal-powered commuters rent a bike to get to work. Rus told Yahoo Canada she has similar ambitions for her carts.

    “Bicycle ride-sharing systems are really great, but the bug is that most people tend to go to the same places,” Rus noted.

    “So after some number of hours, those stations end up being over-flooded with bicycles,

    Read More »from Driverless golf carts coming to the “fore”


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