Climate change: Kilimanjaro weeps


Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

Originally published in the Toronto Star on July 12, 2006.  As  the ice caps melt on the mountain tops, politics is defeating intelligence in the debate over Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s a quick synopsis of An Inconvenient Truth, the global-warming movie that has ignited a firestorm in the U.S. and inexplicably nothing in Canada Al Gore says that carbon dioxide levels are going through the roof on account of fossil fuel burning. He correlates carbon dioxide levels with hotter temperatures, and calls it “global warming.” Continue reading

Copenhagen conference: An open letter to Rex Murphy


This letter is a response to a programme on Cross Country Canada, a radio programme hosted by Canada’s famous curmudgeon Rex Murphy.  The topic of the programme was the Copenhagen climate conference, and it originally aired in December 2010.  The message of my letter was this:  sometimes one does not have the right to an opinion. Rex never replied. Continue reading

Science: Five experiments that wow!


From physicsworld.com

From physicsworld.com

Originally published in the Toronto Star on May 15, 2007.   Thousands of experiments are taking place right now. Experiments with people. Experiments with animals.  As your eyes scan these words, thousands of others are scanning the universe, craning for a glimpse of its birth. Still more peer through microscopes of all shapes and sizes, from optical to electron. Some of these experiments are old, some are new. Two would almost certainly be disallowed under modern ethical standards. All of them will make you think. Continue reading

Love and Science: The Chemistry of Chemistry


Originally published in the Toronto Star on November 18, 2003.  In which we discover that ‘madly in love’ means something entirely different to a scientist

“I know I love her, Weebo. Every neuron in my limbic system is saturated with phenylethylamine.”
— Flubber, starring Robin Williams

A taut throat, pounding heart and shortness of breath might well describe symptoms of some terrible disease, and yet it’s remarkable how easily we can transpose them with the temperaments of love.  Are the lyrics of the lovesick — yellow stomach butterflies, deafening heartbeats, insomnia under a balcony — mere metaphors or empirical biology? Scientists have had a lot of success dissecting the love phenomenon. But far from contradicting the musings of Shakespeare in As You Like It (“Love is merely a madness; and, I tell you, deserves as well a dark house and a whip as madmen do”), research has only confirmed the spooky kinship of insanity, ailments and love. Continue reading