Thursday, May 3, 2012

Octopus killing a seagull - THE KRAKEN WAKES

Octopus killing a seagull off Ogden Point breakwater

I love octopuses. Smart, powerful, adaptive, and deadly.

These are the first ever photos of a Giant Pacific Octopus catching and killing a Glaucous-winged seagull.

And they provide two important lessons: One, always carry a camera with you because you may happen upon a scientifically important event. And two, keep an eye out for the unusual.

I loved finding and booking this story for my local CBC morning show, On The Island. 

Take a listen to Ginger Morneau, the woman who took these photos.
Here she is speaking with CBC On The Island host, Gregor Craigie.

And this is where I found this story.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Neal Stephenson talking about REAMDE

Neal Stephenson is a writing hero of mine - who else can right a gripping, 200 page long gunfight?

No one, that's who.

And a couple of months ago I persuaded CBC Books to let me interview Neal about his latest novel, Reamde.

In short, this novel is about what happens when billionaire gaming executives, Chinese hackers and the Russian mob, as well as a few jihadists, collide over a simple little computer virus.

(Whoa, a little upper case crazy but I HAVEN'T POSTED IN MONTHS!)

I also touch on his online co-authored book - the Mongoliad.

If you have read Neal Stephenson, than you know why he is awesome.
If you haven't, GO READ HIM!

Here's the interview (ps. the Strombo blog liked it.)
Also check out Neal's site.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Spark 143 - They let me do a thing on couponing

I'm on Spark this week, talking about the online community of coupon hackers and how we actually trade paper coupons through the mail, and how we teach each other how to get the best deal.

If you are wondering why there is a picture of a baby playing with pill bottles, take a listen.

Now for a few tips for those just starting out in the world of coupon hacking:

1. Look for coupons you will actually use. If you are trying to save money, there’s no point getting coupons for items that you wouldn’t regularly use. However, be open to breaking your brand loyalty, and experimenting with similar products.

2. Use coupons on sale items. You will save a lot of money if you combine a coupon with an item already on sale. Which leads me to this point – when you collect coupons in a store, NEVER use that coupon in that store. In store coupons tend to only appear on regularly priced items. Take those coupons, and find the best deal.

3. Keep organized – coupons will save you money, but if you don’t know where your coupons are, or when they expire, you are throwing money away.

4. Watch the forums – hundreds of thousands of Canadians are crowd sourcing deals every day. Take advantage!

Special thanks to Opera Bob Gibb for taking time out to talk about Air Mile hacking.

This is what happens when you read too much science...

You end up doing a spoof on the reversal of the magnetic poles on public radio because a friend knows you're a nerd.

This is what went to air on the CBC Iqaluit morning show, Qulliq, with host Abraham Tagalik.

Probably the only time I will ever be called a doctor, but not the last time someone says my name wrong.

And if you didn't like that, it's Peter Sheldon's fault.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Prepping the "Planet Hunter" with Les Saddlemyer

The Gemini South Observatory by moonlight, home of the GPI.

Planets, planets everywhere, but what do you use to look at them with?

Telescopes. Or more specifically, the multi-million dollar plug and play instruments that telescopes use.

You see, telescopes are platforms for equipment.
Electromagnetic radiation (light, x-rays, radio waves, etc.)is gathered in for other devices to record the data.

Picture a telescope, like the big optical telescopes on Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

Big mirrors and lenses focus light onto a focal point. That light is then looked at by multiple devices that are searching the skies for different things.

One device might be calibrated to figure out the difference in emissions across a stars surface, others might be looking for specific wavelengths of light in nebulae.

And others will look for planets in other solar systems.

The Gemini Planet Imager (GPI) will provide near InfraRed adaptive optics-corrected coronagraphic high contrast imaging to enable searches and characterization of extra-solar planets.

And it will be hooked up to the Gemini Observatory, with it's telescopes in Chile and Hawaii.

Built by Americans, Brits and Canadians, this device will change how we view the universe.

We are now at the radio part of the post.

In early January I went up the hill to the NRC Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics, on Vancouver Island, BC, to check out the Gemini Planet Imager.

In a basement lab space sat the device, a big blue metal box that looked about the size of a large welding rig pulled behind standard truck.

(Sorry, no pictures. I have a hard enough time handling my microphone.)

I met up with Les Saddlemyer. He's the HIA Project Manager and Systems Engineer for GPI. Or, the excited guy who is 6 years into a project that will take another few to complete, but man when it's done, we'll have a whole new galaxy!

Les and his team and his team were prepping the big blue box for it's move to UC Santa Cruz Laboratory for Adaptive Optics. THe GPI should be up and running by late 2012

Big geek that I am, I was really excited.

Take a listen.

In case you're interested, this is a simulation of a GPI image

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Caveman tweeting and SPARK

No better reason to blow life into this cadaver of a blog than a national piece of radio.

Spark this week is featuring, amongst other great radio pieces, my story about Caveman tweeting and the beginnings of writing.

So what is the basics of the story? Humans have been on the road to writing for a long time. Conventionally, we have placed the origins of written language to between five and ten thousand years ago in China ( check out ancient Chinese Neolithic writing.)

But, for many years archaeologists have had niggling suspicions that the roots of writing go back tens of thousands of years.

A deep time when humans were just getting by in a world of new neural pathways, big carnivores and climatic change.

Now, Genevieve von Petzinger, a PhD student at UVIC, is changing our view of our ancient world.


For more info on Genevieve and her work at the Bradshaw Foundation.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Bug Highway in the Sky - an exemplar of science radio

Robert Krulwich is a master of storytelling.

He's one of those few people who can take almost any piece of information and turn it into intelligent, and fun, radio. As someone who hopes to continue in the radio craft, and one day actually get to focus on science storytelling, Krulwich is an example.

Take his radio piece "Bug highway in the sky." Krulwich crafts a five minute piece that not only brings the sky alive, but also brings the scientists who do the research alive. This a rare thing.

When science gets on tv or the radio, the research is prominent, like it should be. But the motivation of researchers are often left behind. This is a problem. As a veteran CBC radio doc producer once yelled at me, "People are the story." By combining the facts with the scientists voices of wonder, an echo of how we interact with the world comes alive. Why talk about the world if we do not include ourselves in it?

But enough of my radio pontificating - here's the story

And then there is this fancy little adaptation.

Check out all the bonus features at Krulwich Wonders...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

What a lack of understanding about science will do to you.

It might be fun, but rainbowing can lead to permanent brain damage.
And drugs and new age crystals, that will do it to you, too.

A rainbow is the refraction and reflection of light within a droplet of water suspended in the atmosphere. This refraction and reflection is happening all the time, but only at certain angles can our eyes perceive them. Rainbows are a product of observational aspect.

For me that beats anything some god, spirit guide or dead relative can do.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Six for Science

1. When Sperm Whales ruled! Or, The precariousness of being the biggest predator in a changing world.

2. The deep dark Atlantic is a living hotbed of biological diversity.

3.The whales are screaming over noise pollution.

4. In the rush to protect the Gulf Coast, sea bird nests are being trampled.

5. The best map of the night sky yet, and what it can tell us about the formation of the universe.

6. How blogs by scientists (not geeks like us) can help science.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Science Hero: Hedy Lamarr

Having a young daughter has changed how I view the world, and how I view science.
Many of the most important discoveries in science and technology have been made by women.
Radiation, the basic structure of DNA, the foundations of modern mathematical theory are just a few.

I've never thought of myself as sexist, but when I try to think of the names of women in science, I can't name more than a handful. This will not do when I am trying to inspire my daughter to follow in the path of the smartest people in the world.

And there were few people smarter, or more charismatic, than the actress Hedy Lamarr.

Not only was she the first star to appear naked in film, but she also invented the technology that underscores our wireless world - frequency hopping.

Heres a primer on Hedy from the BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT.

Information Pioneers: Hedy Lamarr from Information Pioneers on Vimeo.

Hedy Lamarr, inventor and multi-faceted intelligence. Hedy Lamarr, Science Hero.