Saturday, December 20, 2014

Mammals Pee for about 21 Seconds, Regardless of Volume or Size

Research has revealed that, regardless of the animal's size or the volume being excreted, most mammals take roughly the same amount of time - about 21 seconds - to urinate. Believe me, you've just become the most interesting person at the party. You're welcome.

Just think about that: a cat excretes about 1 teaspoon of urine in roughly the same amount of time as an elephant empties its 18 L (~5 gal) bladder!  How does this happen?  It's all in the urethra.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Science This Week (Dec 1-7, 2014)


HIV appears to be evolving into a less infectious and deadly virus.

A new health and social care journal will encourage public and patient involvement in research!

Biological explanations for mental illness make doctors less empathetic.

Dopamine makes you happy and helps you understand math.

A newly discovered, fast-acting malaria drug looks really promising.

Pre-malignant state can now be detected in blood, providing a diagnostic tool for blood cancers.

Why females live longer than males.


Different species - from mice to fish to bees - share the same "genetic toolkit" guiding their behavior.

Birds conform to local culture.

Tool-wielding crows are left or right beaked.

Humpback whales in the Arabian sea have been isolated for 70,000 years, making them the most genetically distinct humpback whales in the world. (Open Access)

Electric eels: nature's tasers.

Lasers have been developed to determine peak fruit ripeness.


A worm's gut bacteria is able to degrade plastics!

Turns out, you can hear coral reefs dying.

Anti-inflammatory drugs in the environment affect plant growth.


Italy's first female astronaut, Samantha Cristoforetti, is now up at the ISS!

What does Nature's new free-to-view program do for Open Access?

Why 10% of the population hates cilantro (weirdos).

And a pretty interesting video about what it would look like if the Earth was flat.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Twenty-Five Years Later

Embedded image permalinkToday is the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Massacre, where 14 women were killed at the École Polythechnique, and 14 more were injured.  These women were executed for the crime of trying to be engineers while also being women.

On December 6th, 1989, a 25-year-old man grabbed a hunting rifle, walked into the school that had rejected him, into an engineering class.  He told the men to walk out, and opened fire on the women.  Before killing himself, he said his motivation was to fight feminism.  He was angry at what he saw as women usurping his rightful position by studying engineering while he was not.  Sound familiar?

Unfortunately, not much has changed in the last 25 years, for women as a whole, and for women in STEM.  The massacre prompted the creation of a long-gun registry in Canada, which required the registration of all restricted and prohibited firearms in Canada, and which was scrapped by Harper in 2012, despite MAJOR backlash.  In that move, our government failed Canadian women, and forgot these 14 women in particular.  There are over 1500 missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, which our government refuses to do anything about!

As for women in STEM, you may remember a piece I wrote a few months on my experiences as a woman in science.  In it, I cited study after study demonstrating the discrimination against women in science.  My female colleagues (including some from other universities who read this article, not just women I know) echoed my sentiments in the article.  Men told me I needed to use non-feminist references if I wanted it to be taken seriously.

The problem is that the murder of these 14 women is personal to so many of us.  We know that we occupy the same spaces as these women, spaces that are seen and enforced as male.  That enforcement may be as simple as exclusion and discrimination, but there are people out there who are willing to assault and kill to maintain those male spaces.  The response to Shirt Gate, in which a woman called out Matt Taylor for his incredibly inappropriate shirt during the comet landing broadcast, is just an example of the type of backlash women get for wanting to occupy male spaces.  The women of Twitter (myself included) who used this shirt as an opportunity to show people just how exclusive science is to women were silenced, ridiculed, and threatened.  So tell me, have we really come a long way?

Janet Stemweld over at Scientific American wrote a great piece on the Montreal Massacre as well.  She says something at the end that really resonated with me, and so I'll leave it here for you:

I hope today that people will listen to women when we speak about our experiences in STEM, rather than argue that they are imagined.  Yes, the discrimination we face is small in comparison to what these 28 women faced, I understand that.  These women died for studying engineering.  They died because someone wanted to take them down a peg.  The exclusion of women in science, the discrimination, is one step away from threats - just as it is in society - and two steps away from violence.

So what is the legacy left by the Montreal Massacre?