Science Café 2012-13

Fall/Winter 2012-13

Abizaid-2011-1.jpgWednesday, September 26, 2012

Social inequality and brain plasticity: Neuroscience’s next decade agenda

Amedeo D’Angiulli | Department of Neuroscience


With the introduction of non-invasive neuroimaging, in the last five years the research on social environment stimulation and social status has moved from animal models to human neuroscience. I will review some of the cutting edge discoveries that have been made in developmental social cognitive neuroscience, with particular reference to neurobehavioural plasticity. I will then link these findings to societal issues and how neuroscience can provide solutions to some secular issues, especially through translational neuroethics. I will outline an emerging agenda for the next decade and demonstrate that we need less sensationalism on "mind-reading" neuroimaging and more talk on understanding the neuroscientific rationale of interventions targeting children and families.

Fourney-2011-a.jpgWednesday, October 10, 2012

Kindles, iPhones, & Facebook: The staggering complexity of "simple" technology.

Anil Somayaji | School of Computer Science


Easy-to-use information technology is pervasive. Such apparent simplicity, however, is the product of enormously complex hardware and software. Modern microprocessors have billions of transistors and the software that they run is measured in tens of millions of lines of code. This talk will describe the chips and code at the heart of e-readers, smartphones, major websites, and other computer-powered systems. It will also attempt to explain why this technology is so complex.

Gorelick-2011-1a.jpgWednesday, October 26, 2011

From Basic Research to Innovation: Making Molehills out of Mountains

Sean Barry | Department of Chemistry


Basic research at Canadian Universities is undertaken using a complex mixture of government and non-government funding, class time, volunteer hours, and dedication on the part of researchers. How does this translate into a benefit for Canada? How does implementing this research into innovative ideas and industry happen? A case study of University innovation (putting copper metal in microelectronic devices) will be presented to highlight the interesting and sometimes unusual road that science discovery can follow.

Panario-2011-1.jpgWednesday, November November 7, 2012

Mammals on Ice: Biochemistry of Winter Hibernation

Ken Story | Department of Biology


We all know that mammals are warm-blooded and that for humans a drop in core body temperature of only a few degrees can be lethal. However such strict adherence to a high constant body temperature is not a feature of all mammals. Hibernators readily abandon this concept and let their bodies chill to near 0°C while entering a deep torpor. Our lab studies the biochemical mechanisms that are used by hibernators such as ground squirrels and bats to regulate torpor and allow metabolism to function properly at very low body temperatures. In this presentation, I will talk about these adaptations that allow some mammals to endure life in the cold and how our understanding of these mechanisms could lead to advances in medicine, organ preservation and even long term space flight.

Manthorpe-2011-1.jpgWednesday, November 21, 2012

The glycaemic index: is it a useful nutrition labelling tool?

Alfred Aziz | Department of Neuroscience


The glycemic index (GI) is a classification system that ranks carbohydrate-containing foods according to their effect on blood glucose and has implications for the dietary management of and prevention of diabetes. I will explore the evidence behind the GI and the limitations and obstacles for its use as a labeling tool to guide consumer’s choice.

McFarlane-2011-1.jpgWednesday, December 5, 2012

Your Cell Phone: Friend or Foe?

Christine Laurendeau | School of Computer Science


Who owns a cell phone? Well, who doesn’t, nowadays. We read a lot in the newspapers about the possible effects of cell phones. We see signs in medical offices. We hear announcements on airplanes. Is your cell phone safe, or is the best tool you've ever owned actually trying to kill you? After this talk, you will understand how cell phones communicate, how a cell network is organized, the difference between radio signal frequencies and power levels, and how these may affect humans and other devices. You'll be able to describe the reasons for safety concerns, and more critically interpret and put in context what you read and what you are told about cell phones. Don't miss your chance to impress your friends with your knowledge!

Holahan-2012-1.jpgWednesday, January 16, 2013

From 19th century dye to 21st century drug: The fascinating life and times of Methylene Blue

Jeff Manthorpe | Department of Chemistry

Since first being made in 1876, Methylene Blue has gone from being used to stain cells in medicine to being a medicine itself — it's been explored in treatments for cancer, cyanide and carbon monoxide poisoning, malaria and several other areas. On January 16, Dr. Jeffrey Manthorpe from the Department of Chemistry will discuss its perhaps most fascinating use of all – its capacity to treat methemoglobinemia, a rare condition that causes the skin to appear blue./p>

Wong-2012-1.jpgWednesday, January 30, 2013

Social stressors inflaming your brain: The impact on depression and anxiety disorders

Marie-Claude Audet | Department of Neuroscience

In addition to hormones in your blood and neurotransmitters in your brain, stress can also affect your inflammatory immune system. One source of stress that appears especially potent in eliciting these changes is social interactions, and particularly the dominance status displayed during social contacts. On January 30, Dr. Marie-Claude Audet from the Department of Neuroscience will review scientific evidence showing that social stressors may promote inflammation. She will also explain how inflammation in the brain may contribute to the emergence of depression and anxiety.

Dujmovic-2012-1.jpgWednesday, February 13, 2013

What is the Higgs Boson? Exploring a celebrated scientific breakthrough

Thomas Koffas | Department of Physics


On July 4, 2012, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, announced the discovery of the Higgs Boson. The Higgs Boson describes the missing piece of the puzzle that would give mass to the objects in our Universe. On February 13, join Dr. Thomas Koffas from the Department of Physics and learn about this elusive particle and the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) experiments that lead to its discovery. Dr. Koffas will also explain why the Higgs Boson is described by Maclean’s magazine as “the biggest scientific achievement of a generation.

Burns-2012-1.jpgWednesday, February 27, 2013

Chaos: Finding order in disorder

Dave Amundsen | School of Mathematics and Statistics

From the "butterfly effect" of weather prediction, to the vagaries of the stock market and the intricate beauty of snowflakes, examples of chaotic behaviour surround us. But what is chaos? Is it a manifestation some underlying random process? Is it a "catch all" for effects which we do not know or cannot resolve? On February 27, Dr. Dave Amundsen from the School of Mathematics and Statistics will talk about the mathematical theory of chaos, and how it applies to a wide range of every-day phenomena. You will learn that behind the mysterious, seemingly random nature of chaos lies a rich, intricately-woven structure. With this comes deeper understanding but such complexity also brings limitations. Through various examples we will explore how order emerges from disorder!

Hellemans-2012-1.jpgWednesday, March 13, 2013

Assessing volcanic hazard: Scientists and the public

Brian Cousens | Department of Earth Sciences

Scientists are often involved in projects that include a component of risk or hazard to the public. Geological hazards, including volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and landslides, have a severe impact on people and the economy. However, emergency planning managers at various government levels do not include volcanic hazards in their planning scenarios. On March 13, Dr. Brian Cousens from the Department of Earth Sciences will discuss workshops that include participants from geological organizations, public protection agencies, and social science agencies that serve to get the science message out and educate the science community on how best to communicate the issues to the public.

Lapointe-2012-1.jpgWednesday, March 27, 2103

Turtles in fishnets: What happens to accidentally caught turtles, why does it matter and how do we stop it from happening?

Nicholas Cairns and Lauren Stoot | Department of Biology

The capture of non-targeted species, or bycatch, is a major threat to aquatic biodiversity but is often overlooked in freshwater fisheries. This is a common side effect of commercial fishing and can affect a wide variety of animals from pike to platypus. Turtles are of particular concern as they are commonly found alongside commercially important fish but because of their need for air, turtles can drown. Juvenile turtles have naturally low survival rates and take many years to reach breeding age so populations rely on long-lived adults breeding many times to maintain themselves. In eastern Ontario there is a small-scale fishery which primarily targets sunfish but often accidentally collects adult turtles. On March 27, graduate students Nicholas Cairns and Lauren Stoot will address this multi-dimensional issue from the natural history of turtles, to the un-natural effects of bycatch and the concerns of managers and fishers.

Agil-2012-1.jpgWednesday, April 10, 2013

Defibrillating the canary: Coral reefs last gasps

Nigel Waltho | Department of Biology

Coral reefs are recognized as the rainforests of the ocean. The coral reefs’ rich habitat complexity and species diversity support fisheries and tourism worldwide. However, recent natural and anthropogenic onslaughts have compromised the ecological integrity of these systems past their breaking point. Coral cover, a proxy measure for coral health, has dropped from 55% in the 1970s to less than 5% today. In the face of global warming the prospects for coral reefs is even further compromised. On April 10, Dr. Nigel Waltho from the Department of Biology will explore some of the onslaughts that have wreaked havoc on the coral reefs systems, and some of the grassroots efforts empowered to do something about it. Too little too late? Only time will tell.

Gilchrist-2012-1.jpgWednesday, April 24, 2013

Depression and manic depression: Do they affect you? What can be done?

Frank Feiner | Department of Neuroscience

Mood disorders are the most common psychiatric illness and, next to heart disease and stroke, disable more people than any other medical condition. They are the subject of enormous preclinical and clinical research efforts, and great strides have been made in their treatment. Nonetheless, they are widely misunderstood by the general public, underdiagnosed by healthcare providers, and not optimally addressed even when identified. On April 24, Dr. Frank Feiner from the Department of Neuroscience will illustrate how mood disorders can be recognized, summarize the available therapies, and describe novel interventions that are unfolding.