Nature’s first issue

One hundred twenty-two years isn’t a very long time, really; certainly not on a geological scale (so, did dinosaurs live 150 million years ago, or 150,000,122 years ago?) and not even on the scale of human history, at least not for the most part. (Can you name the important advances made between 1100 and 1222?) …

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Wind

A few years ago National Geographic, in an article on Saskatchewan, mentioned that we sometimes have a little wind. (I trust I’m not revealing any secrets.) But, one man was quoted as saying, “In Saskatchewan, we don’t consider it really windy until we have whitecaps in our bath water.” Wind and Saskatchewan seem to go …

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Soil

  Most of us think of soil as something to be washed out of clothes, swept off floors, or avoided after a rainfall. We use expressions such as “dirt cheap,” indicating a pretty low regard for the stuff. But that’s just because we think of soil as boring and unimportant. It’s actually an amazing substance …

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Colour

Those who are old enough to remember Paul McCartney as a Beatle probably also remember longing for a colour television. (Nowadays, of course, you hardly ever see a black and white one.) There was something about watching television in colour that made even programs like My Mother the Car sparkle. And as for Star Trek–wow! Human beings have …

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Nutrition

Considering the number of books written on the subject, the stacks of pamphlets available at any doctor’s office, and the fact that a column concerning it already appears in weekly newspapers across the province (I used to edit a weekly newspaper, so I know), you could consider it an act of hubris that this week …

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The physics of fizz, the chemistry of cool

Ah, summertime! Time to get away from it all; to sit in the shade with a cold soft drink or a bowl of delicious homemade ice cream (such as the batch I made Saturday). Doesn’t seem very conducive to thinking about science, does it? Think again. Consider that soft drink (or any other bubbling brew) …

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Sleep

  “To sleep, perchance to dream. Aye, there’s the rub . . . “ Aye, there’s the rub indeed–the rub being, nobody’s really sure why we sleep. Or why we dream. Or why either is important. Some scientists doubt that dreaming is of any great importance. They don’t have those doubts about sleep. We know …

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Ozone

Submitted for your consideration: a blue, pungent gas that used to be simple oxygen –but now is something quite different. You are about to enter…the O-Zone. Ozone, at first gasp, doesn’t seem like something to be concerned about. Normal oxygen molecules–the ones we breath–consist of two oxygen atoms. Add one more, and you get ozone. …

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The greenhouse effect

Presumably, by now, you’ve heard of something called the “greenhouse effect.” (If you haven’t, we’ll pause briefly while your next-of-kin checks to see if you’re still breathing.) The term “greenhouse effect,” as usually used today, refers to the predicted gradual warming of the Earth due to an increase in various gases in the atmosphere, primarily …

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Zero: much ado about nothing

Several centuries ago Shakespeare titled a play Much Ado About Nothing. If I gave these columns titles, that’s what I’d call this one–not because I think I write as well as Shakespeare, but because that’s what this column is about: nothing. Nothing is very important. Um, what I mean is, the concept of nothing is …

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Measuring temperature

G. D. Fahrenheit, Anders Celsius and William Kelvin may sound like prospects for the Roughriders’ defensive backfield, but they probably wouldn’t work out very well. For one thing, they’re all dead. For another, they weren’t football players, but scientists–and two of them, at least, are household names, which is far less common for scientists than …

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Music

Want to start an interesting discussion? Go up to someone and say, “I think Barry Manilow represents the pinnacle of music in the rock era.” Assuming you can avoid being locked and/or beaten up, you will have demonstrated the fact that music is a topic of great interest to just about everyone. Topics of great …

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