News and events

NASA data show Arctic saw fastest August sea ice retreat on record Posted: September 26, 2008

Following a record-breaking season of arctic sea ice decline in 2007, NASA scientists have kept a close watch on the 2008 melt season. Although the melt season did not break the record for ice loss, NASA data are showing that for a four-week period in August 2008, sea ice melted faster during that period than ever before.

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When healing turns to scarring: Research reveals why it happens and how to stop it Posted: September 18, 2008

For the first time, research from The University of Western Ontario has revealed the mechanisms involved in the origin of scarring or fibrotic diseases, as well as a way to control it. The study, led by Andrew Leask of the CIHR Group in Skeletal Development and Remodeling, is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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Canadian Scientists find first pregnant turtle fossil and eggs Posted: August 27, 2008

A 75-million-year-old fossil of a pregnant turtle and a nest of fossilized eggs that were discovered in the badlands of southeastern Alberta by scientists and staff from the University of Calgary and the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology are yielding new ideas on the evolution of egg-laying and reproduction in turtles and tortoises. It is the first time the fossil of a pregnant turtle has been found and the description of this discovery was published today in the British journal Biology Letters. The mother carrying the eggs was found near Medicine Hat in 1999 by Tyrrell staff while the nest of eggs was discovered in 2005 by U of Calgary scientist Darla Zelenitsky.

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Mucous breakthrough in mice holds promise for cystic fibrosis Posted: July 29, 2008

A London, Canada scientist studying cystic fibrosis (CF) has successfully corrected the defect which causes the overproduction of intestinal mucous in mice. This discovery by Dr. Richard Rozmahel, a scientist with the Lawson Health Research Institute, affiliated with The University of Western Ontario, has clear implications to understanding and treating this facet of the disease in humans. CF is a fatal, genetic disease characterized by an overproduction of mucous in the lungs and digestive system. More about CF on our page about Lap Chee Tsui.

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Researchers find key to saving the world's lakes Posted: July 21, 2008

After completing one of the longest running experiments ever done on a lake, researchers from the University of Alberta, University of Minnesota and the Freshwater Institute, contend that nitrogen control, in which the European Union and many other jurisdictions around the world are investing millions of dollars, is not effective and in fact, may actually increase the problem of cultural eutrophication. It turns out that phosphate may be more likely to cause the problem. Visit the Experimental Lakes Area website, where the research took place.

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In unique stellar laboratory, Einstein's theory passes strict, new test Posted: July 3, 2008

Taking advantage of a unique cosmic configuration, astronomers have measured an effect predicted by Albert Einstein's theory of General Relativity in the extremely strong gravity of a pair of superdense neutron stars. Essentially, the famed physicist's 93-year-old theory passed yet another test.

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Asteroid-hunting satellite a world first Posted: June 26, 2008

Canada is building the world's first space telescope designed to detect and track asteroids as well as satellites. Called NEOSSat (Near Earth Object Surveillance Satellite), this spacecraft will provide a significant improvement in surveillance of asteroids that pose a collision hazard with Earth and innovative technologies for tracking satellites in orbit high above our planet.

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UBC physicists develop 'impossible' technique to study and develop superconductors Posted: June 23, 2008

A team of University of British Columbia researchers has developed a technique that controls the number of electrons on the surface of high-temperature superconductors, a procedure considered impossible for the past two decades.

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New discovery proves 'selfish gene' exists Posted: June 20, 2008

A new discovery by a scientist from The University of Western Ontario provides conclusive evidence which supports decades-old evolutionary doctrines long accepted as fact.

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Identifying Canadian freshwater fish through DNA barcodes Posted: June 18, 2008

New research by Canadian scientists, led by Nicolas Hubert at the Université Laval in Québec and published in this week's PLoS ONE brings some good news for those interested in the conservation of a number of highly-endangered species of Canadian fish.

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Aging brains do become wiser Posted: June 12, 2008

A University of Alberta researcher in collaboration with researchers from Duke University has proven that wisdom really does come with age, at least when it comes to your emotions.

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Save $1 billion and 800 lives Posted: June 11, 2008

The economic burden of alcohol abuse costs each Canadian $463 per year. In fact, the direct health care costs for alcohol abuse in Canada exceed those of cancer. Released today by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), the Avoidable Cost of Alcohol Abuse in Canada 2002 report estimates that, even under very conservative assumptions, implementing six reviewed interventions would result in cost savings of about $1 billion per year and a savings of about 800 lives, close to 26,000 years of life lost to premature death and more than 88,000 acute care hospital days in Canada per year. This pioneering study is Canada's first systematic estimate of the avoidable costs of alcohol abuse, and the first study of its kind worldwide.

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Siminovitch and Taylor inducted into hall of fame Posted: April 21, 2008

Louis Siminovitch and Richard Taylor are inducted into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame on April 24, 2008. Siminovitch is a Canadian research pioneer in human genetics of muscular dystrophy and cystic fibrosis. Taylor won the Nobel prize in 1990 for verifying the quark theory.

Vogt Day 2008 at UBC Posted: March 28, 2008

On Sunday, May 4, 2008, a symposium will be held to honour Erich Vogt at UBC's Hebb Theatre, featuring talks by Physics Nobel Laureates and leaders in Canadian science & technology, with a reception to follow. Vogt is one of the giants of Canadian science, having served as (among other things) a founder and later Director of the TRIUMF accelerator laboratory, as UBC's Vice President for Faculty and Student Affairs and as the first chair of the Science Council of B.C. Vogt played a leading role in the development of Science World BC, the Vancouver Institute and the B.C. Cancer Foundation. However, perhaps his greatest contribution was four decades of teaching first year Physics to enthralled students at UBC.  For more information about Erich Vogt and his achievements, visit the TRIUMF website.

New Canadian robot arm added to space station Posted: March 18, 2008

Astronauts on the space shuttle Endeavor have completed the assembly of a giant Canadian robot arm called Dextre outside the International Space Station. They attached a 1.5 m metal boom to its front for holding equipment and tools. The robot’s 3 m arms will be used for experiments and for maintenance of the space station. The astronauts added a holder for three tools under the 3,400-pound robot’s right arm and a pan-and-tilt color camera on its body so operators can observe its work. The $209 million robot, which has passed initial operating tests, will be attached to the station’s Destiny laboratory module. More at the Wikipedia entry on Dextre.

Canada criticized internationally for disregarding science Posted: February 22, 2008

A February 2008 edition of the journal Nature has criticized Canada's Conservative government's "manifest disregard for science". They cite the government's recent closure of the office of national science adviser. The office used to offer advice on global science and technology issues and how government can better fund and support Canadian science. In addition, the Conservative government recently decreed that Environment Canada scientists must route all media enquiries through Ottawa for an "approved" response so the government could control the position of Canadian science of global climate change. Finally, the Conservative government cabinet failed to attend a reception for Nobel Prize winning Canadian scientists last week in Ottawa. If you want to express your concern for our country's poor international image regarding Canadian science, and the way this has come about due to Conservative government actions and policies, please write your MP by looking up the address on the government's contact page, or write the Prime Minister directly, or Jim Prentice the minister of Industry who is now responsible for science research funding.

Stats Canada points to benefits of science PhDs Posted: November 23, 2007

According to Macleans Magazine, Science and engineering PhDs were, in 2001, nearly twice as likely to work in the private sector as PhD holders from other disciplines, and only 38 per cent of them worked in educational services, compared to 60 per cent of PhD holders in other fields. The Statistics Canada report also looked at location. Ninety per cent of scientists and engineers live in urban areas. The highest concentration is in Kingston, dubbed the “science and engineering capital of Canada,” with its two universities, a college, and teaching hospital. The concentration of scientists and engineers employed by the federal government also played a role as Ottawa-Hull came in second. Scientists and engineers living in Vancouver earned the highest average salary in Canada at $89,179, while the lowest was found in Edmonton at $73,527. Men with science PhDs outnumber women four to one.

Canadian study finds weight-loss pills not worth the risk Posted: November 21, 2007

University of Alberta medical researchers reviewed 30 studies of weight loss pills such as orlistat, sibutramine and rimonabant and found that on average they help users shed only 3-5Kg. What's more the side effects are not worth the risk. The research was led by Dr. Rajdeep Padwal in the Department of Medicine at the U of Alberta.

Try the science.ca SMS poll Posted: November 3, 2007

One of the most popular questions on science.ca is about eye colour. People want to know why their eyes are the colour they are. They also want to predict the colour of their children's eyes, and they also frequently ask why their eyes are changing colour.

Canadian Team First in Space Elevator Contest Posted: October 21, 2007

A team of students and alumni from the University of Saskatchewan have again provided the winning robotic climber for this year's Elevator:2010 Competition in Utah (October 19 and 20, 2007). This is the second consecutive year the team's climber outperformed all others. The Space Elevator is a system based on a super-strong ribbon going from the surface of the Earth to a point beyond geosynchronous orbit. The tether is held in place by a counterweight in orbit. And so, as the Earth rotates, the tether is held taut. Vehicles would then climb the ribbon powered by a beam of energy projected from the surface of the Earth. Such a space elevator is not possible today, but researchers around the world are working on the technologies that will be required. The Canadian contribution from USask is a method of powering the elevator with a beam of light projected by lasers on the ground. Visit www.usst.ca for more information including a video.

Canadian science has tremendous world impact Posted: August 14, 2007

In a May 2007 report, Thompson Scientific, a company that tracks refereed scientific publications and the citations they contain, gave Canada a glowing report. With little more than 0.5% of the world’s population Canada produces 4.65% of the world's scientific publications.

Citations are references in formal scientific research papers that refer to previously published research. If such research is cited frequently by other scientists it generally means it contained a valuable discovery that was influential. Based on citations collected between 2002 and 2006, on average Canadian research is cited 7% more than research from the rest of the world. In 21 of the 22 scientific fields tracked (excepting economics & business), the impact of Canadian research met or exceeded the world average, with particularly strong performance in space science (57% above the world average), clinical medicine (34% above), and physics (+31%). These  findings are reported on Thompson's inCites website.

In another 2005 review, Thompson shows that among the 145 top-performing countries in all fields, Canada ranked #6 for citations, #6 for papers, and #16 for citations per paper. Canada leads the world in the following fields in terms of volume published as well as impact based on citation indexes: Psychology, Geosciences, Ecology/Environment, Economics, Education, Space Science, Clinical medicine, and Physics.

Canadian computer scientist "solves" checkers game Posted: July 29, 2007

Professor Jonathan Schaeffer at the University of Alberta in Edmonton has led a team that computed every possible outcome of the 500 billion billion possible positions in the game of checkers or draughts. His program, Chinook, can now play a perfect game from any position. The team proved that the best outcome of any starting point is a draw. The results were published in a paper in the July 19, 2007 journal Science.

Genetic Disease Map Hosted in Canada Posted: July 12, 2007

Dr. Stephen Scherer, Senior Scientist and Director of The Centre for Applied Genomics at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto will lead a consortium of scientists from Canada, England and USA in the mapping of copy number variants (CNVs)-- the amount of copies of a particular gene in the genotype of an individual. Evidence shows that in some cases gene copy number can be elevated in people predisposed to various diseases. The goal is to create a detailed map of CNVs in the human genome. The map will be located and made available to the world's researchers at Database of Genomic Variants hosted by SickKids.

New Science, Technology and Innovation Council Posted: June 15, 2007

Howard Alper will chair Canada's new Science, Technology and Innovation Council. The council will report to the Minister of Industry. It will be a non-governmental advisory body that provides evidence-based policy advice on science and technology issues and produces regular national reports that measure Canada's Science and Technology performance against international standards of excellence.

Canadian scientist wins the Benjamin Franklin Medal for physics Posted: April 23, 2007

Physicist Art McDonald, director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), will share the Benjamin Franklin Medal for physics with Yoji Totsuka of the University of Tokyo. The prize is awarded in recognition of their discovery in 2001 that neutrinos have mass and can change from one type to another.

Canadian Wins 2007 King Faisal Prize for Medicine Posted: February 21, 2007

Fernand Labrie of Laval University in Quebec city shared the US$200,000 King Faisal International prize for medicine with Patrick Walsh of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The prize is awarded by the King Faisal Foundation of Saudi Arabia. Labrie won for his work developing a hormone-based therapy to manage prostate cancer.

Journal of Irreproducible Results Printed in Canada Posted: February 19, 2007

The science humour magazine, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, though it is published bimonthly from San Mateo, California, is actually printed in Lachine, Quebec at Transcontinental O'Keefe. The editor Norman Sperling says cost saving is not the main reason the JIR is printed in Canada. He gets better service from the Canadian printers and the paper is better. Check out the website and consider subscribing.

Canadian Science Reveals Pregnant Mona Lisa Posted: January 15, 2007

A group of scientists from Canada's National Research Council's Institute for Information Technology in Ottawa used an advanced high resolution colour 3D laser scanner to record the Mona Lisa at the invitation of the Louvre. An article in the January 2007 issue of Art News magazine describes how the Canadian imagery shows that the woman was wearing a previously invisible gauze veil only worn by pregnant women in the Renaissance period. You can check out the data yourself at the NRC Giaconda website.

U of Toronto Scientists Reverse Diabetes in Mice Posted: December 15, 2006

An auto-immune researcher together with a pain researcher at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children (U. of Toronot) as well as one in Calgary have found a link between diabetes and the nervous system. Hans-Michael Dosch led a team that was able to inject pain receptor neuropeptides into diabetes-prone mice to reverse established diabetes with no bad side effects.

Canadian Geologists May Solve Bangladesh Arsenic Poisoning with Lentils Posted: November 29, 2006

Up to 80 million people in Bangladesh and India suffer from arsenic poisoning as a result of the water supply. Two Canadian researchers at the University of Saskatchewan Canadian Light Source Synchrotron are using X-ray absorption spectroscopy to analyse blood and tissues collected from people in Bangladesh. Graham George and Ingrid Pickering think selenium in lentils could counteract the poisonous effects of arsenic.

New way to find ice-loving bacteria Posted: October 13, 2006

A Canadian scientist at Queens University has developed a way to isolate bacteria that survive in extreme cold. Virginia Walker, a professor of biology and President of the Genetics Society of Canada uses microscopic "ice fingers" to isolate bacteria which have properties to interact with, and modify, ice. The bacteria have many potential applications from improving the consistency of ice-cream to the creation of better snow making machines. Read more at the Queens News Centre.

Canadian Software Proves What Neil Armstrong Said Posted: September 30, 2006

Peter Shann Ford, a Sydney, Australia-based computer programmer used Canadian sound editing software called GoldWave (from St. John's, Newfoundland) to analyse the first words of Apollo astronaut Neil Armstrong when he set foot on the moon. According to the research, he said, "That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind." Not "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. NOTE: The science of this news story has since come under heavy criticism. Hence the result may not be true.

Canadian Astronaut to Work on Space Station Posted: September 10, 2006

Canadian astronaut Steve MacLean is set to make a spacewalk after he successfully rocketed to orbit aboard space shuttle Atlantis Sept. 9, 2006. MacLean, on his second spaceflight, joins five other astronauts on the first construction mission to the International Space Station since the Columbia disaster of 2003. The Nepean, ON native will play a crucial role in increasing the station's power. Using the robotic Canadarm, he will manoeuvre a set of solar panels from the shuttle to the station. He will then perform a spacewalk on Sept. 13 to release locks on the panels, allowing them to track the sun. (Elizabeth Howell reporting)

Faintest Stars Detected by Canadian Led Team Posted: August 18, 2006

Astronomer Harvey Richer at the University of British Columbia used the Hubble telescope to study white dwarfs in star cluster NGC 6397, which is 8500 light years away. The light detected is the equivalent of a birthday candle on the moon.

Astronomers have used white dwarfs in globular clusters as a measure of the universe's age. The universe must be at least as old as the oldest stars. White dwarfs cool down at a predictable rate. The older the dwarf, the cooler it is, making it a perfect "clock" that has been ticking for almost as long as the universe has existed. Richer and his team are using the same age-dating technique to calculate the cluster's age. NGC 6397 is estimated to be nearly 12 billion years old.

Canadian Scientists Discover Gene for Depression Posted: July 28, 2006

Canadian scientists have identified a gene that makes some people susceptible to major depressive disorders. Speaking at the Forum of European Neuroscience earlier this month, Professor Nicholas Barden of Centre Hospitalier de l'Université Laval in Quebec explained, “This is a major breakthrough in the realm of psychiatry and will have groundbreaking implications for diagnosis and the development of new anti-depressant treatment.”

Canadian Scientists Develop Drug to Stop Alzheimer\'s Posted: June 14, 2006

University of Toronto researchers led by Joanne McLaurin at the Centre for Research in Neurodegenerative Diseases have found a small sugar molecule called scyllo-cyclohexanehexol (AZD-103) associated with Alzheimer's disease. In mice with Alzheimer's disease the drug prevents the formation of amyloid plaques thereby preventing further cognitive damage and memory loss. It does not reverse existing damage. Human trials have been approved and will begin later this year.

Canadian Helps to Learn Cause of Pioneer Anomaly Posted: June 11, 2006

Pioneer space crafts 10 and 11 were launched about 30 years ago. Now as they reach the very edge of our solar system they appear to be moving somewhat slower than expected. What is causing this Pioneer Anomaly? Nobody knows, but a Canadian freelance scientist in Ottawa, Viktor Toth, has written software to analyse vast amounts of telemetry archived over the years, to make it available to the public. It is hoped that the availability of the data will help solve the mystery.

Sensational Scientists wins national book award Posted: May 1, 2006

The book based on this website, SENSATIONAL SCIENTISTS by Barry Shell, published by Raincoast Books, won the 2005 Canadian Science in Society Youth Book award.

New Book: Sensational Scientists Posted: February 2, 2006

Tired of reading this website on your computer? The 24 major profiles on science.ca are collected in a new book. SENSATIONAL SCIENTISTS by Barry Shell, published by Raincoast Books is available now in most bookstores across Canada. Soon to be released in the USA. Read the review at CM Magazine.

Common antidepressents may affect the immune system Posted: January 27, 2006

A team of Canadian and US researchers co-lead by Dr. Peta O'Connell at the Robarts Research Institute in London, Ontario have found that SSRI drugs like Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil that treat depression may also affect the user’s immune system.

It appears that serotonin is passed between key cells in the immune system, and that the chemical is specifically used to activate an immune response. Researchers do not know yet if the effect will be beneficial or a damaging to the human immune system.  Read more about this research from an article on the Robarts website.