Science

Apocalypse Now?

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By Kent McDonald

T.S. Eliot probably had it right in The Hollow Men with his assertion that the end of the world would be heralded not by a bang, but a whimper.  Nevertheless, proponents of catastrophic events are popping up with ever-increasing frequency.  Wild speculation abounds, with the most popular theories implicating galactic alignment, rogue solar flares, and encounters with the putative Planet X.  At first glance, there exist three main tenets to each theory: annihilation of life on Earth, December 21, 2012, and absolute denial of accepted scientific theory.

Life on Earth will not continue indefinitely.  Stars have a finite lifespan, and our Sun’s is projected to expire in approximately 10 billion years.  About five …

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Sex, Drugs and Drosophila

alcohol-fruit-fly

By Julia Duszczyszyn

From an evolutionary standpoint, the brain’s reward system is there to reinforce behaviours and actions that are advantageous for one’s fitness. In reality though, the things that are reinforced are not always beneficial.

As you might have guessed, food, social interaction and sexual intercourse are all linked to the brain’s reward system. Many drugs, including alcohol, are also linked to the reward system and therefore addictions to food, social interaction, sex and drugs are common in nature.

Galit Shohat-Ophir and colleagues at the University of California used fruit flies, Drosophila melanogaster, to study ethanol …

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Are You in Pain?

hospital

By Ralph Yeung

The brain is a beautifully complex structure. Its complexity, in part, allows us to interpret, perceive, communicate and interact with our world. But it came at a price: complexity, in our case, necessitated specialization, and specialization required an isolated and consistent environment. This made our brains fairly sensitive to insult and any damage could cause drastic consequences for cognition and consciousness.

Such is the case for many patients who have experienced brain trauma, be that in the form of physical trauma, infection, stroke, or any other number of ways you could injure your brain. It’s not difficult to imagine then, how easily and …

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Exotic at Home

dart frog
(Cliff1066 via Getty Images)

By Leif Simmatis

Imagine your perfect pet.  Is it fluffy?  Cute with a wet nose?  Needs to be housebroken?  Now imagine your landlord’s reaction when you go out and get one of those for your bachelor apartment.  Suddenly, Fido or Sylvester seems less appealing and an alternative is necessary.  Budgies?  They squawk.  Fish? OK, done!

That is, unless you want to stand out a bit.  In this case, perhaps a small reptile or amphibian is a consideration.  There are a vast array of both wild-born (not recommended) and captive-born reptiles and amphibians available at Kingston’s pet stores.  But none, I guarantee, will spark a conversation as fast as the poison dart frog.

Of course, saying “the” is a massive misnomer.  Dart frogs are …

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Organic, or No?

By Olivia Kutlesa

There are several reasons to eat organic, but is eating healthier one of them? According to a study conducted by leading professionals at Stanford’s School of Medicine, the answer seems to be “hardly.” A team led by Dena Bravata and Crystal Smith-Spangler compared the benefits of eating organic foods to non-organic foods. They seldom found evidence that supports the idea that organic food is more nutritious, and though it may have less pesticide exposure they did not find they were associated with fewer health risks.

In order to confirm this bold conclusion, the researchers analyzed 237 papers based on various studies. However, the bulk of the studies scrutinized were those that focused on the impurities of food products. Researchers analyzed the different levels of nutrients, bacteria, fungi and pesticides found in both organic and conventional foods.

Their findings suggested no significant differences in nutrient levels …

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Cancer Research Update: Virotherapy

By Genevieve Chan

In your lifetime, you, or someone you know, will be diagnosed with cancer.

Although the mortality rate of cancer in Canada has dropped by 21% in men and 9% in women over the past 20 years, one Canadian is still diagnosed with cancer every three minutes. With billions of dollars invested in cancer research each year, one has to wonder: what answers has research yielded so far? Will we ever discover a cure?

Though not yet a cure, virotherapy has been been a renewed focus for cancer research in the past few years. In virotherapy, cancer cells are targeted by oncolytic viruses – viruses that are either naturally existing or genetically engineered to target tumour cells as the site of replication and destruction, while leaving healthy cells reasonably undamaged.

Viruses are acellular parasites that lack the structures

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Vitality Insurance

(Source: Tom Varco)

By Leif Simmatis

The human body is imperfect. This is a statement that most people could probably agree with from firsthand experience; how else can we describe our susceptibility to physical injury or our dependency on synthetic medications.

Imperfection leads to incompletion. That is to say that, in all of our necessary complex bodily processes, there are key factors still missing. The human body requires certain organic substances to perform many everyday reactions.  These substances are called vitamins.

Vitamins rarely cross our minds, which is interesting considering how vital they are to our survival. Luckily, we live in an age where most of the thinking regarding vitamins is already done for us. Deficiencies are uncommon because of varied diets and foods that are artificially fortified to provide us with many of the vitamins that we need.

Vitamins all play vital roles in metabolism (the word vitamin is derived

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DNA: Dark matter junk? Nope, it’s Actually useful

By Olivia Kutlesa

Since its’ colossal discovery in 1953, DNA has been of immense interest to the scientific world. This hereditary molecule is present in all life forms, transferred from parent to offspring, and confers all behavioural and morphological traits coded by genes. But until recently 99 percent of DNA was dismissed as ‘dark matter’ or even, as the media put it, ‘junk.’ These vast sections of DNA were named ‘junk’ because they lacked genes, stripping them of their ability to code for proteins.

Evidently, this “acclaimed” fact was difficult to grasp for scientists and on Sept. 5, 2012 the Encyclopedia of DNA Elements (ENCODE) project counterclaimed this fact by providing the first comprehensive view of how the human genome actually functions.

ENCODE has proved that over 80% of ‘useless’ DNA is involved

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Hit ‘Til it Hurts

The Golden Gaels varsity football team. (Source: Jeff Chan)

By Alison Rockley

Head injuries have recently become one of the most discussed issues when it comes to sports. This is rightfully so, because it has been found that it takes just one brutal blow to the skull to decrease a person’s longevity, both mentally and physically.

In the 2011 NHL season, with a total of 82 games, there were at least 90 serious head injuries reported; likewise, the 2011 NFL season reported a whopping 162 head injuries. William Moodie, Sci ’14, is a defensive lineman for the Queen’s University varsity football team. He says that Queen’s is seeing a similar trend. “By the time you get to the university level, there are not many players that have not suffered from a head injury or concussion,” he said.

Lately, high profile injuries to star players, such as Sidney Crosby, have caused fans and players alike to urge leagues to re-evaluate the rules regarding hits to the head. However, despite increased preventative measures

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The Facts About FroYo

By Catherine Owsik

There’s a new food trend in Kingston. We had a wave of new burger joints, followed by poutine palaces, and now it’s time for frozen yogurt (or froyo, for you hipsters) to hit the stage.

Menchie’s is one of the newest frozen yogurt shops to hit the Kingston scene.  It’s a chain frozen yogurt shop that allows you to pick your flavor (or multiple flavours if you’re feeling adventurous), pour however much you want, and put on as many toppings as you like from a buffet of options. The key is, you pay by weight  — 55 cents per ounce.

After multiple Menchie’s trips this summer …

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A Sinister Summer Sun

Today’s sunscreens come in a variety of options. Be careful which you choose, because some brands are very outdated. New FDA policy will have to force some of these bottles to be relabeled for 2013.
(Source: Owsik)

By Catherine Owsik

You walk around with that distinct redness, the bubbling skin and dropping flakes. It physically hurts, and everyone knows that it was caused by the sun. You think to yourself, ‘Next time, I will wear sunscreen.’ But what you may not realize is that many sunscreens, even those with a high SPF, may not protect you as much as they advertise … and a sunburn isn’t the worst that the sun can do to you.

There are two types of ultraviolet solar rays that reach the earth, UVA and UVB. UVB radiation has a shorter wavelength and doesn’t penetrate skin very deeply — they cause UV erythema, more commonly known as
a sunburn.

Up until recently, little has been known about UVA rays. We always knew that they constituted over 95% of the solar radiation hitting us, but we didn’t know how they really affected our bodies …

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Confirming the God Particle

The official announcement that the Higgs Boson had been discovered was attended by all the big names in physics. The event was even broadcast around the world via a live telecast.
(Source: CERN)

By Catherine Owsik

The search for the Higgs Boson particle has been ongoing for the past 10 years — it is one of the longest and most expensive physics investigations to date. Its existence is so meaningful and impossible to prove that for years the Higgs Boson was nicknamed “the God particle.”

On July 4, the research centre CERN (translated to the European Organization for Nuclear Research), announced at a press conference in Geneva that they had finally found the elusive particle. It was an announcement met with tears of joy, cheers and sighs of relief.

The Higgs Boson is theorized to be a subatomic particle, like electrons …

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