Bats

In medieval paintings, both angels and demons have wings–but angels have birds’ wings, and demons have bats’ wings. Bats have suffered a serious image problem throughout most of western history. (They fare better in the Orient, where they are often considered a symbol of good luck.) It’s probably got a lot to do with their …

Continue reading

Locomotion

Walking, crawling, hopping, slithering, creeping, gliding, leaping–the ways animals (and people) get from place to place are endlessly diverse. This ability to move is one of the main differences between most animals and most plants, and has a definite survival value, because when the glaciers start pushing south or food or water fails, species that …

Continue reading

Snakes

  There are few creatures that evoke such violent reactions from people as snakes. Some people are fascinated by them; at lot more are terrified by them. However you feel about them, I hope you’ll at least agree they’re interesting, because they’re what I want to talk about this week. Here at the Saskatchewan Science …

Continue reading

Numbers

“1, 2, 3, 4! What are we all counting for? “5, 6, 7, 8! Ain’t our number system great?” All right, so maybe you won’t hear thousands of people chanting it at a street demonstration–it’s still an interesting question. (The question in the first line, that is; the question in the second is rhetorical.) What …

Continue reading

The mystery of the missing mass

The Mystery of the Missing Mass is not, as you might first suppose, the title of an Agatha Christie novel about a church service that failed to occur on schedule. It is, rather, one of the hottest (or coldest, depending on which theory you subscribe to– never mind, I’ll explain later) issues in the study …

Continue reading

Disease

In the 14th century, bubonic plague–The Black Death–swept Europe, killing 25 million people, one quarter of the population. In the 18th century alone, smallpox killed 60 million people worldwide. Measles kills 900,000 people annually, mostly in developing countries. Respiratory infections such as influenza kill up to two million people annually. Intestinal infections such as cholera …

Continue reading

Measurement

A few weeks ago I wrote about the bicentennial of the metric system. This week I want to return to the topic of measurement because I had such an overwhelming response to that column. Our ability to measure sets us apart from, say, llamas and horned toads, because measurement is the process of counting how …

Continue reading

Luminescence

Glow, little glow-worm, shimmer, shimmer . . . Have you ever wondered why glow-worms shimmer? Probably not, especially if, like me, you wouldn’t know a glow-worm from a tapeworm and wouldn’t care to meet either one. But maybe you’ve seen fireflies dancing in the dark, or, on a more practical note, been thankful for the …

Continue reading

Microscopes

For Christmas the year I was seven years old my parents gave me a microscope, and I’ve loved microscopes ever since. There’s nothing like your first look at a drop of water teeming with microscopic life, or for that matter your first look at dozens of other everyday things, like salt and hair, magnified a …

Continue reading

The metric system

Two years ago, France marked the 200th anniversary of its revolution. It’s no coincidence that just one year later we marked the 200th anniversary of another kind of revolution: the birth of the metric system. Whether this is a reason for celebration or mourning depends on how you feel about the System Internationale d’Units, the …

Continue reading

Earthquakes

There’s something inherently horrifying about earthquakes. Probably it’s because we are accustomed to thinking of the ground beneath our feet as being, well, “rock-solid.” When that ground gets the shakes, it gives us a pretty good case of them, too. Earthquakes are defined as “a fracture or implosion beneath the surface of the Earth, and …

Continue reading

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Part of the Saskatchewan Science Centre’s mandate is to demonstrate that it is possible to excel in the world of science “even” in Saskatchewan. The quotation marks are intentional: it’s the attitude embodied in the use of that word we would like to dispel. The fact is, top-notch, world-class science and Saskatchewan are not mutually …

Continue reading

Easy AdSense Pro by Unreal