News and events

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 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.

Canadian Team Tops Space Elevator Contest Posted: October 24, 2005

A team from the University of Saskatchewan managed to get their robot the highest up a tether "to space" as a first step in a NASA initiative to build a space elevator. The idea is to use a thin but unimaginably strong ribbon tethered to an orbiting satellite. People and cargo would travel up the ribbon to space. This is the first year of the contest, and though nobody won the $50,000 prize, the Canadian team's robot reached 12 meters, higher than any of the the other six competitors.

Canadians Win Lasker Prize for Stem Cell Discovery Posted: September 18, 2005

Ernest McCulloch and James Till of the University of Toronto won this biggest prize in medical science for ingenious experiments in 1961 that first identified a stem cell - the blood-forming stem cell - which set the stage for all current research on adult and embryonic stem cells.

Einstein Festival at University of Waterloo Posted: August 22, 2005

EinsteinFest at the Perimeter Institute explores our rapidly changing civilization at the turn of the century and sets Einstein’s prolific contributions in context with the science, philosophy, politics, art and music of the day.

Canadian Scientists Make Photovoltaic Breakthrough Posted: January 10, 2005

Graduate student Steve McDonald working in Ted Sargent's University of Toronto Electrical Computer Engineering group has developed a low-cost plastic-based optoelectronic material that can harvest light energy at about 5 times the efficiency of current photovoltaic cells. What's more the material can be sprayed on clothes or cellphones. The group's discovery was published in Nature Materials this week.

California Sturgeon Found in Canadian Waters Posted: December 7, 2004

A lost tribe of green sturgeon has been found as part of the global census of marine life led by Canadian marine biologist Ron O'Dor at Dalhousie U. in Halifax. “Researchers were tagging the sturgeon in the rivers of California. We regarded them as purely river fish, but were unsure quite how far they travelled. Then we got a surprise. The tagged fish started showing up in the open ocean off Vancouver Island in Canada. That kind of thing just makes you think how little we know, even about familiar fish.”

Canadian Government Mounts Science Website Posted: October 19, 2004

Get the latest Canadian science news at a government of Canada website devoted to Canadian science and technology news, careers, and achievements. Kind of like, but better funded.

Spinal Cord Damage May be Repairable with Canadian Technique Posted: August 23, 2004

University of Toronto researchers headed by Molly Shoichet have published a method to facilitate nerve cell repair that could ultimately lead to treating severed spinal cords.

Probiotics--Good Bacteria Posted: July 26, 2004

Canadian scientist Gregor Reid at the University of Western Ontario, in London, Ontario studies the billions of good bacteria that live in and on our bodies. He has patents for food supplements called probiotics, mostly lactobacillus strains, that can combat intestinal and vaginal infections. "We've shown that beneficial bugs stop the expression of seriously harmful toxins from bad bacteria such as E. coli 0157:H7, hamburger disease," says Reid. Find out more at the Canadian Research and Development Centre for Probiotics.

One Million Scientists in Canada Posted: May 6, 2004

According to the latest census data (2001) 1,003,810 out of a total national workforce of 15,872,070 Canadians chose science-related careers. That's 6.3%. Based on earlier studies this level of science participation is similar to countries such as France, USA and Germany, but lags behind England, Sweden and Japan. You can view the details at Statistics Canada's Website. NOTE: Male/Female ratio is 79% male, 21% female scientists in Canada.

Canadian Scientist Has New Earthquake Theory Posted: March 31, 2004

Earth Sciences professor Andrew Calvert of Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia has connected the occurrence of hundreds of earthquakes in the last 10 years to the grinding of overlapping rocks trapped between two of the tectonic (structural) plates that form the surface of the Earth. Read his article in Nature.

Canadian Discovers a Better Way to Fix Nitrogen Posted: February 10, 2004

A Canadian chemist has invented a new way to turn nitrogen into ammonia, one of the most important reactions in the chemicals industry. The research, published in this week’s Nature, could lead to improvements in a 90-year-old chemical reaction that makes the fertilizer that helps feed about 40% of the world’s population. Read more at Michael Fryzuk's website at the University of British Columbia.

Canadian Nobel Prize Winner Dies Posted: October 16, 2003

Bertram Neville Brockhouse died Monday, Oct 13 at the age of 85. Brockhouse was the only Canadian-born Nobel laureate to spend his entire life in Canada. He shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in physics for designing the Triple-Axis Neutron Spectroscope.

Alexander Graham Bell Not Canadian and Not Telephone Inventor Posted: July 21, 2003

While many people think that Alexander Graham Bell was Canadian, he was not. He was a Scottish-born American with a summer home in Canada. Now it comes to light that he may not have been the first to invent the telephone. That distinction now goes to the Italian-American immigrant Antonio Meucci.

Canadian Geometer Coxeter Dies Posted: April 7, 2003

H. S. M. (Donald) Coxeter died March 31, 2003 at the age of 96. Known as the "Greatest Living Classical Geometer", Coxeter was a huge contributor to the area of mathematics known as "plane geometry"--something he took to the highest levels. Learn more about Coxeter.

Canadian Gets Antibiotics From Mosquitoes Posted: March 18, 2003

Simon Fraser University biologist Carl Lowenberger wants to know why mosquitoes don't get sick from the infectious diseases they carry. He has isolated several immune system molecules (peptides) from mosquitoes that protect them from harmful pathogens. Perhaps these molecules can become the basis for improved antibiotic drugs for humans. More at Lowenberger's homepage.

Canadian Space Shuttle Experiments Posted: January 17, 2003

Two Canadian experiments are flying aboard space shuttle mission STS-107: the OSTEO-2 bone loss experiment conducted by Toronto scientists Leticia G. Rao, Tim Murray and others; and an experiment by teams in Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan on growing protein crystals that could help fight cancer and diabetes.

Canadian Research Revises Meteor Science Posted: December 2, 2002

Earth's upper atmosphere is hit once a year by objects that release energy equivalent to a five kiloton bomb, a Canadian meteor physicist,Peter Brown, of the University of Western Ontario claimed in a recent Nature article. Brown bases his findings on data from US Department of Defense satellites scanning the Earth for evidence of nuclear explosions.

Canada Creates Large Virtual Supercomputer Posted: November 2, 2002

A team of computer scientists at the University of Alberta have developed CISS (Canadian Internetworked Scientific Supercomputer), the software and social infrastructure for a Canada-wide metacomputer. CISS open source software will go nationwide November 4, 2002 to attack a chemistry problem involving the energies of chirality or "right or left handedness" of molecules. This problem which would normally take 3 - 6 years of computing time should complete in one day on CISS. While software is a major component, Paul Lu, a CISS researcher says, "Much more time and arm-twisting has been spent to convince people to include their systems in CISS. We accept, and are trying to work with, human nature. Technologists ignore human factors at their own peril."

Canada's Space Telescope Posted: August 2, 2002

UBC astronomer Jaymie Matthews says Canada's first space telescope contains "the most accurate light meter in the world." The telescope should be able to "see" into distant stars and to detect the light from possible planets orbiting them. The telescope was extremely cheap to build, costing 300 times less than the Hubble telescope. It will be launched in April 2003 atop a Russian rocket. Matthews hopes the Canadian telescope will confirm or disprove the existence of other planets which so far can only be inferred from the wobble of some stars.

Canadian offers natural solution to spruce budworm problem Posted: May 12, 2002

Carleton University researcher Dr. J. David Miller believes that a family of needle-loving fungi holds the key to stopping the 10 to 15 year cycle of destruction wreaked by the spruce budworm, Choristoneura fumiferana, on Canadian and American forests. Miller discovered that older, natural (not-replanted) forests harbour a "good" anti-budworm toxin-producing fungus. He has found a way to safely innoculate seedlings with it.

Canada's Sharing Attitude Attracts Top Scientists Posted: April 10, 2002

Leading neurologist David Colman will move himself and his research team of 15 researchers from New York to Montreal where he will become the director of the Montreal Neurological Institute at McGill. Colman's stated major reason for the move: "In the States, the individual scientist is stressed, and that creates a system where everyone grabs, and no one is encouraged to share. In Canada, there is a lot more collaboration and sharing."

Canada Underinvests in Science Posted: March 12, 2002

A study by Save British Science, now known as the Campaign for Science and Engineering claims that, of the G7 nation governments, only Canada and Italy invest less in research and development per capita than the UK. Canada invests only 0.21% of its Gross Domestic Product in research. The report also claims Canadian businesses spend US$358 per worker on research and development compared to Americans who spend US$1065 per worker.

Canadian Scientists Go Faster Than the Speed of Light Posted: February 2, 2002

Physicists, Alain Haché and Louis Poirier, at the University of Moncton, using what they call a "coaxial photonic crystal" have managed to send electromagnetic pulses a significant distance at three times the speed of light. The remarkable project breaks no laws of physics. In essence, they use cavitation at the tail of the pulse to drive the front wave forward. The result could exert a profound influence on information networking systems. PhysicsWeb has the story.

Canadians begin catalogue of human proteome Posted: January 11, 2002

Now that scientists have worked out the human genome, the next task is to figure out the human proteome, the total set of proteins the genome encodes. Researchers at the University of Toronto are using supercomputers to do it. In this week's Nature, working with colleagues in Heidelberg, Germany, Canadian geneticists led by Mike Tyers and Michael Moran use a supercomputer to unravel the highly complex interaction of the thousands of proteins coded in the genome of yeast. Their key finding: each protein is involved in numerous interactions and therefore new designer drugs targeted to specific proteins could have serious side effects. Visit Tyer's Lab website to get an idea of the complexity involved.

Canadian Scientists Question National Security ID Schemes Posted: December 11, 2001

Canadian computer scientists Andrew Clement (U of T) and Felix Stalder (Queens) claim on a website sponsored by Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility that none of the recently proposed national identification schemes spawned by the events of Sept 11 clearly state which problem they try to solve and how exactly they would contribute to reducing the danger of terrorism. The scientists point out that such ID systems do endanger our civil liberties. Even more, by relying on the wrong approach to security, the new measures may actually create a false sense of security that leaves us more vulnerable than before.

Vancouver bio tech firm to supply US military Posted: December 4, 2001

A Canadian biotechnology firm is working with the U.S. Army to develop a nasal spray vaccine that would protect against plague.

ID Biomedical will help ward off the threat of "Black Death" as a bioterrorist weapon.

The Vancouver company's proteosome vaccine technology causes protective immune responses at the mucosal surfaces lining the respiratory tract, including the nose, throat and lungs.

Parasite genome stripped to bare essentials Posted: November 23, 2001

"This is an exciting time for parasitology," says Patrick J. Keeling of the University of British Columbia, in a News and Views article in this week's Nature magazine refering to the discovery by French researchers that the parasitic microsporidion Encephalitozoon cuniculi has a genome less than 0.1% the size of the human genome and is even smaller than the genomes of many bacteria. Its genes have little ‘junk’ DNA between them. This has nearly erased the genomic record of the organism's evolutionary history, making it difficult to determine how it originated. According to Keeling, other emerging genome sequences will "usher in an age of comparative parasite genomics." If E. cuniculi is an indication, he concludes, "many ‘rules’ are about to be broken." Visit Keeling's lab.

Male garter snakes mimic females to get warm Posted: November 15, 2001

Australian scientists studying Canadian garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis parietalis) suggest in this week's Nature magazine that slow and sleepy male garter snakes might mimic females to fool other males into warming them up. These 'she-males' produce female pheromones at the end of hibernation, causing them to become engulfed in large 'mating balls' of amorous males — sometimes containing more than 100 snakes.

Canadian scientist explains source of ocean colour Posted: November 4, 2001

"The single most important independent factor responsible for the colour of the open ocean is free-floating, microscopic phytoplankton," says Shubha Sathyendranath, an expert in underwater optics and current head of Remote Sensing and Marine Optics at the Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML). Sathyendranath is the first person to use satellites to map diatom distribution in the North Atlantic.

Science Teachers Association of Ontario Conference Posted: September 9, 2001

The creator of this website, Barry Shell, spoke at the STAO Conference : A Science Odyssey Nov 1-3, 2001. The talk focused on the functions, features, and production of with free open-source Unix software and low cost computer hardware.

Canadians Solve Missing Neutrino Mystery Posted: July 19, 2001

The 30-year-old "Missing Solar Neutrino Mystery" has been solved in Canada. The first, long-awaited, scientific results from the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory were released in early July 2001. These results offered the first direct and definitive proof that electron-neutrinos produced in the sun's core undergo transformations into muon- and tau-neutrinos en route to the earth. See the details at

Global Change Conference Posted: July 10, 2001

The Global Change Open Science Conference is being held in Amsterdam July (10-13) just prior to the continuation of the Kyoto Protocol (COP6) meeting in Bonn. This novel conference will present the latest global change research and spell out the major challenges that are facing humanity. For more information, see the International Geosphere and Biosphere Programme.

Women at the Frontier of Excellence Posted: April 7, 2001

The late great Nobel laureate Michael Smith donated much of his prize winnings to promote Canadian Women in Science. The Society for Canadian Women in Science and Technology used the money to produce Women at the Frontier of Excellence. 8AM - 6PM, April 7, 2001.