View More

Dr. Lyudmila Trut and a human-friendly fox, 1974.

Foxes have a reputation for being elusive, canny, shy. . . in other words, foxy. Wild foxes in captivity are innately aggressive and fearful of humans – not friendly at all. With a great deal of patience, you may be able train one to be more docile, but it would not be a dog-like pet. However, if you have a slightly weird desire for a pet fox that will behave more like a cocker spaniel than a wild fox, you may be able to get one from a genetic research institute in Russia.… Read the rest “The Curious Case of the Friendly Russian Foxes”

View More

Blue-green algae on western Lake Erie on September 26, 2017. The border between the United States and Canada runs down the centre of the lake. Landsat 8 image. Source: http://spaceref.com/onorbit/orbital-view-of-algal-blooms-in-lake-erie.html

The natural  history of Lake Okeechobee, at 730 square miles the largest lake in Florida, is intimately entwined with that of the surrounding Everglades. Before the twentieth century, water from the north would drain into the lake, and when the water level rose high enough, it would “sheet-drain” into the southern Everglades.… Read the rest “BLUE-GREEN ALGAE: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UGLY”

View More

Many people like bacon. More than like milk, or country and western music, or Donald Trump. According to the website Statista, in 2018 more than 80% of Americans said that they eat it, and 18% say they don’t (1.8% aren’t sure; say what?). As an unreconstructed omnivore (I’m trying, vegans, I’m trying) I too eat bacon on occasion. And being analytically compulsive, I’m curious — how many calories does it contain? In particular, “side bacon”, the kind most people eat (even Canadians eat mostly side bacon).… Read the rest “How Many Calories in Bacon?”

View More

Samuel Hahnemann, father of homeopathic medicine.

A paper published in the June 30, 1988 issue of the high-profile scientific journal Nature shocked the biomedical research world. Its anodyne title, “Human Basophil Degranulation Triggered by Very Dilute Antiserum Against IgE”, probably didn’t cause any non-scientists to choke on their breakfast cereal. But in the eyes of the mainstream scientific world, the article made a radical claim: Pure water, admittedly with a special history, could generate an immune reaction in a test tube.… Read the rest “The Fading Memory of Water”

View More

The discovery of oil in the province of Alberta in 1947 soon led to the desire to transport it to the west coast of Canada, and in 1953 oil began to flow through a pipeline built by the Trans Mountain Pipeline Company (route of all pipelines discused in this post in red on the map above). The pipeline took oil from Edmonton, the capital of Alberta, over the Rocky Mountains, to Vancouver on the coast of British Columbia.… Read the rest “Using Numbers Instead of Adjectives to Evaluate an Economic Decision”

medium rare hamburger View More

This post falls into the category of “Molecular Gastronomy”. That term may be a bit silly, since everything about food is molecular. But when it comes to food there’s usually something to be said for taking a look under the hood. This will be about cooking a hamburger that’s better than what you get at your favourite fast food joint. So if you don’t eat meat, and don’t even want to read about eating meat, exit now.… Read the rest “The Science of Better Burgers”

View More

In April 2017 I published a post titled “Why is there so much talk about Epigenetics?”. I think I did a pretty decent job explaining what Epigenetics is, and why it is such a critically important part of biology. The gist is, that the regulated output of our genomic information depends on Epigenetics. This is achieved by specific chemical groups and protein along the chromosomes that control their expression into the proteins and other products needed for the life of a particular cell.… Read the rest “Why there is so much talk about Epigenetics”

View More

Baseball is the subject of many artistic creations and scientific studies. Movies such as “Field of Dreams”, “Bull Durham”, and “Moneyball” depict baseball embedded in the larger American culture. Books such as the elegant “Game Time: A Baseball Companion”, by Roger Angell, are a literary pleasure even for someone only peripherally familiar with the game. And baseball has also engendered a broad culture of analysis through applied physics. The pitch is an object of particular fascination for the physics-inclined baseball fan.Read the rest “fastball: movement and speed”

View More

Peter Nowell and David Hungerford in 1960

Chronic Myeloid Leukemia (CML) is not a cancer you hear about very often. That’s not because it isn’t serious — until recently, it carried a frightening prognoses. Until about 2000, newly diagnosed CML patients had a 5-year survival rate of 31%. But we don’t hear much about CML because it is a rare disease, and affects far fewer people than cancers of the breast or prostate, or lung cancer.Read the rest “Chronic Myeloid Leukemia: a Molecular Diagnosis”

View More

Dr. Brian Druker and Ms. LaDonna Lopossa, one of the earliest patients to benefit from Gleevec

Rob Schick is the Branch Manger of the Baird Wealth Management Group in Portland, Oregon. Most people would probably consider him lucky. For starters, Portland is one of the most desirable cities in the United States to live in. He and his wife have three grown children, one of whom works at the same company. In addition to his success in business, Rob Schick’s efforts on behalf of the Knight Cancer Institute, where he has helped raise millions of dollars for research, were nationally recognized in 2015 by a National Community Service Award from the Invest in Others Foundation.Read the rest “Chronic Myeloid Leukemia: A Molecular Solution”