Thursday, March 11, 2010

Science in Seconds

The day you've all been waiting for is finally here!

That's right, after months of promises, Science in Seconds is moving.

So click the link and follow us as we continue to bring you the same great science news, and help you move one step closer towards knowing everything.

Only now... there's video.

The Temporary Corpse

Death seems like such a downer. But want to know how to make your stay in the Afterlife a temporary one?

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Rat Laugh Pack

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It doesn't surprise me to learn that monkeys have a sense of humour. They'll steal your camera in the game parks and love to play with toys. Primates have an obvious comical side to them that cannot be denied. It also doesn't surprise me that dogs understand what is funny - think about the last time you watched your dog chase his tail....that is funny, no matter which way you look at it.

But rats!....I draw the line at rats. My very un-scientific observations about funny dogs and chimps mostly rely on the fact that they are cute. But scientists much more sophisticated than me say that rats can laugh. (Or have an evil-cackle...depending on your opinion on rats.)

To find out more, visit:

--Torah Kachur

Saturday, March 6, 2010


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Growing up in a landlocked prairie city, large undersea creatures have always made me…uncomfortable. Especially the octopus, which, as a child, I thought of as a big, squishy spider that would look you in the eye before swallowing you whole. Now, more and more scientific evidence is bringing their cunning, savvy, and intelligent nature to light.

The most recent example is a small species of octopus in the Caribbean that disguises itself as a flounder when swimming....

To find out more, visit:

~Rheanna Sand

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Question of Captivity

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Tragedy struck Seaworld Orlando recently when Dawn Brancheau, a 40-year old trainer with over a decade of experience, was killed by a 5.4 tonne orca named Tillikum. And as with all incidents involving animals kept in zoos and aquaria, this tragedy has become a rallying call for those who believe that animals should not be kept in captivity.

But amidst the calls of "Free Tilly!" and the radical demands that the whale be stoned to death, it's important to remember a few facts before taking rash action.

Zoos and Aquaria (and yes, as an AZA accredited institution, Seaworld can be included in this mix) serve two primary purposes. The first and most obvious is for entertainment and education. The reason people come to zoos is not to see exploitation and cruelty, but to see, interact with, and learn about animals. The second purpose is to engage in conservation and rescue efforts, and in fact these two purposes even complement each other. By getting people actively interested in the well being of animals, you increase the likelihood that they'll want to help them. It's hard to care about the plight of the snow leopard if you've never seen one before in your life.

Which brings us back to Tilly. While zoos in general may have a positive effect, what should be done with an animal who is clearly having difficulty in his current situation?

Most of the recommendations I've heard are both inane and irrational. Tilly can't be released to the wild, since having been in captivity for 28 years means he wouldn't know how to survive. Destroying him for something he didn't know he was doing seems pointless (many believe he grabbed onto his trainer's ponytail believing it to be a toy and simply started "playing.") And taking him out of the shows would be a punishment, plain and simple. The shows are called "enrichment" by the trainers for a reason; they're just as important for the health of the animal as the visitors.

The trainers know how careful they have to be around Tilly. And as hard as it is to believe, this incident doesn't make them care for him any less. Maybe in the future PETA will try to look at things from a few different angles before reverting to their talking points... but I doubt it.

- Brit Trogen

Let's get dirty

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We all did it as kids.... Admit it... we all dared our younger siblings to eat dirt. And, with enough double-dog-dares...they usually did.

But now, even toddlers are learning that the word 'dirty' applies to escalator railings, sink handles and door knobs. Helicopter-parents are telling their children not to touch this, or that, don't put that in your mouth, wash your hands...

When they should be saying "Eat Dirt...please"

Dirt and germs are good for you. Exposure to bacteria early in life is essential to developing a strong immune system. Keeping a sterile environment for you or your children is probably doing you way worse, than good.

Your immune system has a memory, the more germs it is exposed to early in life allow it to 'remember' these pathogens...

To find out more, visit:

--Torah Kachur

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Be Prepared

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Another massive earthquake has shaken the Americas, this time in the South. Chile was struck overnight with an intense 8.8 magnitude quake in the Pacific Ocean near the port of Concepcion.

To put it into scale, this quake is a thousand times more powerful than the one to hit Haiti in January. A thousand times stronger than one that killed an estimated 230 000 people. And yet the death toll in Chile has reached only 147 people so far. What made the difference?

In a word: preparedness. Being situated along the Pacific Ring of Fire, Chile calls itself a "seismic country" and has developed an effective network of seismic experts, emergency responders, and citizens who are well educated on earthquakes.

Apparently this area was due for a big one, as the Nazca tectonic plate has been sliding under the South American plate at a rate of 80mm per year. This makes for a very seismically active region, but the last major quake to hit this area was in 1835, famously witnessed by Charles Darwin during his travels on the Beagle. French and Chilean seismologists knew this one was coming, and say it fills in a major "seismic gap" they had observed in the record.

In both quakes, buildings collapsed, infrastructure was damaged, and lives were disrupted. But in Port-au-Prince, a city of about a million people, one in every five people died. In Concepcion, one in every 1700. That is the difference preparedness can make - preparedness that cannot happen under the continual exploitation experienced by the people of Haiti.

~Rheanna Sand