Where Did that Itch Come From?

Much of what goes on in our brains happens without our awareness. The cells in our brain constantly exchange messages with various parts of our body through nerve cells called neurons, which pass on messages via electrical impulses. We see, hear, feel, taste, and are aware of our body sensations and position, not at the…

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Can Lightning Strike Twice?

Lightning is caused by an electrical charge, which builds up between a cloud and an elevated object on the ground. Since there is a strong attractive force between positive and negative charges, lightning is very energetic, but unpredictable in its timing and effect. Lightning can be attracted to the same object repeatedly, either during a…

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Just Where Am I?

I reflected recently on how technology has changed map making. In ancient times map makers had to face innumerable dangers, disease and shipwreck, in their efforts to make an accurate survey of a coastline. And mapping the interior of a country involved battling deserts, mountains and impassable rivers. Even after the field data was collected,…

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Effective Chemical Defence Systems

The most numerous species on Earth are the insects. They outnumber humans by several hundred million to one. For beetles alone, we’ve identified over 300,000 different species. Many beetles have a very versatile and effective defence system. Take for example, the bombardier beetle. Whenever the bombardier beetle is threatened by an enemy, it blasts its…

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An Unsung Hero of Science

I recently reviewed some of the inventions of a Canadian mechanical engineer called George Klein, who died in 1992.  Klein has been called the most productive inventor in Canada in the twentieth century.  He was an unsung hero of science, who played a key role in some of Canada’s greatest engineering achievements. As a boy…

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Chased by the Shower Curtain

One of the annoying properties of hanging shower curtains is their persistence in trying to embrace you when you take a shower. The main reason for this frustrating tendency is the speed with which the water moves from the shower head.  Fast moving drops of water drag air nearby along with it, causing a circulating…

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How Long Will I Live?

The life expectancy tables used by insurance companies give a clear picture about our longevity.  This explains why smokers pay fifty percent more on their insurance policies.  Research has verified that the cost of smoking entails more than the money spent on cigarettes. Life expectancy in Western countries has been increasing steadily over the last…

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Where Do Camels Store Water?

Even though camels can plod through the desert for days with very little water, it’s a myth that they store water in their humps and stomach. Unlike most mammals, a camel does not have layers of fat under its skin.  A camel’s fat is accumulated in its hump.  When food and water are scarce the…

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Just Where Is Cyberspace?

These days people talk about cyberspace as if it were a new location out there in regular space. Cyberspace is not spacial the way your house is. When people talk about cyberspace, they’re talking about a virtual place, generated by computers communicating. Cyberspace is information. It’s the word we now use for that huge network…

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Warm Blooded Plants

Few people realize that some plants can actually thermo-regulate themselves. They behave as if they were mammals by altering heat production to keep their temperatures surprisingly constant. Plants with the ability to warm themselves include philodendron, Jack in the Pulpit, Skunk Cabbage and many members of the Lily family. Experiments on some species of philodendron…

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