Science Café 2010-11

Fall/Winter 2010-11

Gorelick-2010-1.jpgWednesday, September 15, 2010

Female-male differences: Are there any?

Root Gorelick | Department of Biology


There are no universal female-male differences between individuals with two copies of each chromosome. What about individuals with only one copy of each chromosome, such as eggs and sperm? Even here, differences are at best subtle, but may make us reluctant essentialists. I will discuss implications for evolutionary, feminist, and trans theory.

Bulte-2010-1.jpgWednesday, September 29, 2010

Everything you always wanted to know about turtle's sex but were afraid to ask 

Greg Bulte | Department of Biology


Virtually unchanged for 220 million years, turtles are unmistakable ‘living fossils’ that exhibit a surprising diversity of adaptations allowing them to succeed in most environments including the warmest desert and the biggest ocean. This success is partly driven by a fascinating array of reproductive strategies, from environmental sex determination to sperm storage.

Morin-2010-1.jpgWednesday, October 13, 2010

Thermometers, barometers, ham sandwiches, and Borsuk-Ulam theorem)

Pat Morin | Department of Chemistry


We explore the Borsuk-Ulam theorem and its surprising applications For example, no matter how badly you make a ham sandwich, it's always possible to cut it, with one slice, so that both parts have the same amount of ham and bread: perfect for sharing. For another example, at any given time, there are two points, on opposite sides of the earth, that have the same temperature and barometric pressure.

Cousens-2010-1.jpgWednesday, October 27, 2010

Geological Calamities Near and Far: Icelandic Volcanic Eruptions to Ottawa Earthquakes 

Brian Cousens | Department of Earth Sciences


During the spring and summer of 2010, life in Ottawa was punctuated by two earth science events:  the eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland and the magnitude 5.0 earthquake in eastern Ontario and western Quebec. Both events, near and far away, had dramatic local impacts on Ottawa residents.

Bose-2010-1.jpgWednesday, November 10, 2010

How to get to where you want to go when you are forgetful and don't have a map

Prosenjit Bose | School of Computer Science


Planning a route from point A to point B is a fundamental task that is performed regularly in various contexts. Driving, hiking, sending an SMS, making a call, and surfing the web are all activities that involve the planning of some route. We discuss finding routes but add a little twist. You have no map and you forget almost everything.

sawakuchi-2010-1.jpgWednesday, November 24, 2010

Painting tumors with proton beams: a novel and precise way to treat cancer

Gabriel Sawakuchi | Department of Physics


Energetic proton beams produced by particle accelerators are currently being used to treat cancer patients. Proton beams can precisely kill the cancer cells located in the tumor volume while sparing health tissue and organs at risk that surrounds the tumor. This talk will give an overview of proton therapy and highlight its advantages over conventional photon and electron radiation therapies.

thomson-2010-1.jpgWednesday, December 8, 2010

Up close and personal radiation treatments for cancer

Rowan Thomson | Department of Physics


Radioactive sources placed next to or inside a tumour may be used to treat cancer, e.g., breast, prostate, and ocular cancers.  This presentation will focus on research aimed at improving the accuracy of these treatments and personalizing treatments for individual patients. Prospective and potential future treatment techniques will be described.

Gordon-2011-1.jpgWednesday, January 12, 2011

Chemistry of money

Peter Gordon| Department of Chemistry


Why were gold and silver the metal of choice for early currencies? What metals are used today to make coins, and why? How do anti-counterfeiting measures work and what are the next steps in money manufacturing technology? I will discuss the chemistry behind these topics and more.

McKeague-2011-1.jpgWednesday, January 26, 2011

Chemistry of wine and chocolate

Maureen McKeague and Erin McConnell| Department of Chemistry


It would be rather difficult to imagine our world without either the delicious pleasure of chocolate or the vibrant, moving flavours of wine. Despite this, it is easy to imagine either of those without the one academic discipline they are both very dependent on: that of the age-old craft of chemistry. Every subtle hint of vanilla in your favorite bottle of red and every sumptuous taste of cocoa owe their existence to the science behind them, and the chemists who experiment and perfect their flavours. This talk will be focused on the interesting, artistic chemistry behind two of your favorite indulgences.

Crutchley-2011-1.jpgWednesday, February 9, 2011

Chemistry of ancient coin patina

Robert Crutchley | Department of Chemistry


The ancients minted coins in gold, silver, bronze and copper and, because there were no banks, in times of trouble, wealth was hidden away, perhaps never to be recovered. Some coins were offered as a sacrifice to the Gods (e.g. a wishing well) or simply lost. The chemical transformations that occurred over two thousand years depend on soil or water conditions and can result in beautiful patinas that are highly prized by collectors.

Smith-2011-1.jpgWednesday, February 23, 2011

Mass Spectrometers: Keeping an ‘ion’ your safety and health

Jeff Smith | Department of Chemistry


Have you ever met a mass spectrometer before? You may think not, but in all likelihood, you have. Mass spectrometers are increasingly used in a variety of security, forensic and health applications worldwide. Some of the most interesting and relevant applications in society will be discussed.

Sundararajan-2011-1.jpgWednesday, March 9, 2011

From the quill to the ink jet printer: Marking paper through time

P.K. Sundararajan | School of Computer Science


At first, it was an invention that nobody wanted. The inventor was living from hand to mouth in a small apartment in Astoria, New York. Come and learn about the history of xerography: the scientific principle behind it, the materials used, and how it was later adapted to laser printers.

Gorelick-2011-1.jpgWednesday, March 23, 2011

How maple trees produce maple syrup

Root Gorelick | Department of Biology


Tree leaves produce sugars via photosynthesis, transporting sugars downwards through bark cells. Tree leaves suck water up from the roots, transporting water upwards via capillary action through hollow pipes in wood. How then do maple trees transport sugars (watery maple syrup) upwards during early spring before leaves grow?

Dix-2011-1.jpgWednesday, April 6, 2011

Seismicity of the Ottawa region

George Dix and Dariush Motazedian | Department of Earth Sciences


Despite being far from a tectonic plate boundary, Montreal and Ottawa rank right behind Vancouver for Canadian seismic risk because they are in the Western Quebec seismic zone. This zone extends northwest to Maniwaki, parallel to the Ottawa River. Low energy (M1-2) earthquakes occur on a weekly basis, with three greater (>M5 - 6.2) events recorded since 1935, including June 23, 2010. This history reflects a long-lived geological framework of faults extending back 600+ million years, with seismic risk also amplified in Ottawa due to earthquake ground motion interacting with soft postglacial sediments that rest on bedrock.