A "science column" I wrote several years ago, my science-writer's take on the famous poem "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," has had remarkable life. It appeared in the newspaper, of course, but it was originally written for for CBC Saskatchewan’s Afternoon Edition radio program, and first read at one of their Christmas open houses (a different one from the one at which I sang “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!“
), it’s been published or posted a few times since. A couple of years ago it got a lot of attention because it was noted by Ed Yong at Discover Magazine‘s website
. I recorded a podcast of it, which you can listen to here
. And now...ta da!...the ...
All right, this time it’s for real: I’m pulling the plug on my weekly science column (I haven’t written one for about a month anyway).
And it’s all MailChimp
MailChimp is actually a great way to send out nicely formatted HTML newsletters, and I’m very glad to use it for that purpose. However, MailChimp also allows you to track how many of your nicely formatted HTML newsletters are opened by your putative subscribers, and in the case of the science column, it’s not pretty.
I currently have 457 subscribers to my science column. When I was sending out the column as just an ordinary email, I could justify spending the time on ...
Sometimes science is focused on really big questions: where did life come from? How did the universe begin?
But sometimes, the focus is much smaller. Sometimes, researchers set out to answer a simple question, one that many people have perhaps asked, but no one has ever set out systematically to answer.
A question, for example, about trees.
Trees are everywhere. You’d think there’d be very little to learn about them at this late date. But there are still questions to be asked and answered.
For example...why do the tallest trees all top out at about the same height? And why are the leaves of those trees all pretty much the same size?
That was the ...
You don’t have to be very old to remember a time when we didn’t know if there were any planets anywhere else in the universe beyond those in our own solar system.
Oh, sure, scientists and science fiction writers had long assumed these extrasolar planets existed, but the stars were so distant it seemed nearly impossible to ever be certain.
But all that changed in 1995, when we found the first planet outside our solar system. It was another four years after that before we found proof of other planetary systems: that is, stars orbited by more than one planet. (You can’t really call them “solar systems” if you’re being properly pedantic, ...
(A slightly updated version of a New Year's perennial of mine...)
It's almost 2013, which means it's time to take down your old Harry Potter calendar and put up your new one (if you’re my 11-year-old daughter).
Okay, so maybe you have a Teddy Bears calendar instead, or a Glee calendar. The point is, for us, a calendar is a much an aesthetic and/or advertising medium as it is a way to see what day of the week it is. But in reality, every calendar is the amazing product of thousands of years of history.
A calendar is a system of marking off days, weeks, months and years. It allows us ...
There's a great song called "Christmas Cliches
" in which the singer expresses a love of all the Christmas things that come 'round year after year, from plywood reindeer on the roof to Johnny Mathis on the radio. One of the reasons we love Christmas (those of us who do, and you can certainly count me among that number) is that warm sense of tradition, of things that, despite all the changes in the world from year to year, you can count on remaining constant. It's an island of stability in a tossing sea of chaos, to coin an overblown metaphor.
So here's a Willett Christmas tradition. Originally written for CBC ...
Long-time readers of my column will be aware of how closely I like to keep tabs on aerotarandusdynamics, the shamefully under-studied science of flying reindeer.
I am pleased to note that there has been a small but significant development in aerotarandusdynamics research this year, but before I get to that, perhaps I should recap some of what I’ve written before on the topic, just to refresh your memory.
“Aerotarandusdynamics” comes from aero, air, tarandus, the latter part of the scientific name for reindeer, Rangifer tarandus, and dynamics, moving. Hence, aerotarandusdynamics is the study of reindeer moving through the air.
How do reindeer fly? That, of course, is the central question of aerotarandusdynamics.
For any object ...
We’re coming up on the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere: at the latitude I live at, in Regina, Saskatchewan, that means that today the sun rose at 8:49 a.m. and will set at 4:54 p.m. We’ll lose a few more minutes yet before the winter solstice.
That’s not a lot of daylight: we spend two-thirds of our day in darkness this time of the year, and of course further north it’s even worse, until you get to the Arctic and twenty-four hours of sunlessness.
Thank goodness for artificial light! It means we can live pretty much as we want without being a slave to the natural ...
I first wrote about coffee in a science column back in the dawn of time, so long ago that it began, “Let’s get one thing straight. I don’t drink coffee...”
Since as I type this I am on my second...or maybe third... good-sized cup (oh, all right, mug) of the stuff, something has clearly changed in the intervening years.
And guess what? Apparently that’s all to the good of my health.
Oh, I know, anyone of adult years remembers news stories about coffee drinking being bad for you, but as more research is done, quite the contrary has emerged as the scientific consensus: drinking coffee is good for you. To the extent that ...
If I told you something has been built in the Australian outback in the past couple of years that can be solidly argued is one of the most important technological advances in decades, would you have a clue what I was talking about?
You wouldn’t? Well, I wouldn’t have either until this past weekend when I read an article by Jonathan Margolis
from The Observer newspaper in England.
A little humbling, but you can’t keep up with everything. Anyway, now that I have heard about it, I’m quite excited: because it is there, in a seaside desert outside Port Augusta, three hours from Adelaide, that a company called Sundrop Farms