About This Site

I’m Vern Paetkau, a life sciences academic with a post-retirement interest in scientific matters that affect our everyday life. Welcome to my “Common Science Space” website. Like the late David MacKay, I believe we need facts and numbers, not more adjectives, to try to understand the important science and technology issues of the day. There are many such issues, including health, global climate change and energy. In addition, there are some things that are just plain. . . interesting, or fun, that I want to write about.

Feel free to respond to anything you see on the site, or to suggest topics. If you disagree with something, or have additional information, let me know, and please tell me what you are basing your comments on. I’m happy to learn and to change my opinions, and the contents of the site, based on new information.

The picture at the top shows men harvesting “Marquis wheat”, which was one of the first products of genetic science to affect agriculture in North America. Marquis was created by crossing the old-country “Red Fife” (now of renewed interest to bakers as a tasty heritage grain) and “Hard Red Calcutta”, which matured earlier. The resulting hybrid, called “Marquis”, ripened early enough to yield crops during the limited growing season of the Canadian prairies, but was of such high quality that it quickly became the wheat of choice on millions of acres from Nebraska to Saskatchewan.

The men in the picture are stacking the bound sheaves of wheat into piles called “stooks”, which would later be forked onto wagons and taken to stationary harvesters. The scene looks disarmingly bucolic; in fact, stooking was backbreaking labour.