Science Café

Explore science through Carleton University’s popular Science Cafés, held twice a month during the fall and winter terms at the Sunnyside Branch of the Ottawa Public Library at 1049 Bank Street (at Aylmer Ave in Old Ottawa South). Each café begins at 6:30 p.m. with a 20-minute talk by a scientist followed by a 40-minute open question and answer period.

Come and join us for a lively discussion around a scientific issue of the day. Be prepared to be informed, engaged and even amused, as our professors share their scientific discoveries with you. All are welcome.

For more information, please contact the Faculty of Science by email at odscienceatcarleton [dot] ca or by telephone at 613-520-4388.

View the archives

 

Winter 2019


Wednesday, Jan. 16

2019: UNESCO International Year of the Periodic Table of the Elements. Fun and Insights on the 150th Anniversary of Mendeleev's First Table

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Jeff Manthorpe
Department of Chemistry

 

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On March 6, 1869, at a meeting of the Russian Chemical Society, Dmitri Mendeleev publicly presented his periodic table for the first time. The intervening 150 years since this revolutionary revelation have seen fascinating developments in the atomic sciences of chemistry and physics – and a few gaffes along the way, too.

The periodic table’s sesquicentennial and the importance of chemistry to the modern world have led UNESCO to declare 2019 as the International Year of the Periodic Table. Celebrate this scientific milestone by hearing about what a fascinating character Mendeleev was, as well as some of the major scientific and human stories that have advanced the periodic table from fewer than 60 elements to 118.


Wednesday, Jan. 30

From Molten Magma to Modern World: Exploring the Early History of Earth

 

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Hanika Rizo
Department of Earth Sciences

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Rocky planets like the Earth formed in the first hundreds of millions of years of our solar system. The planet grew through the addition of planetary bodies by impacts, whose energy and associated heat release caused extensive melting of surface rocks, creating of magma oceans. By far, the most important chemical changes of our planet occurred at those times, such as the formation of the Earth’s metallic core. Those early geological processes have lead to the formation of our modern, habitable world.

But how do we know all this? How do we know the age of the Earth, or that it was a molten ball of magma at some point early in its history? Rocks are usually the geologists’ fossils or time capsules that help them elucidate the geological past. However, there are no rocks from that period. Early cataclysmic events such as giant impacts, plate tectonics and crustal recycling have left no geological record. In this presentation we will see how we have been able to find evidence from Earth’s early history, and that this evidence may still lurk in our planet’s interior…


Wednesday, Feb. 13

Deep Underground, Looking for Dark Matter

 

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Simon Viel
Department of Physics

 

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Dark matter is one of the main mysteries in fundamental physics today. Everything we can see directly around us is made of ordinary matter, yet our most recent models predict that there exists more than 5 times more dark matter than ordinary matter in the Universe. Scientists around the world are trying to detect dark matter, including researchers working on the DEAP experiment located at SNOLAB in Sudbury, Ontario. Dr. Viel will present the evidence for dark matter, followed by a discussion of one of the ways we look for it: in underground detectors using liquid argon targets.


Wednesday, Feb. 27

Chronic Pain: Uncovering a Path Towards Better Treatments

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Michael Hildebrand
Department of Neuroscience

 

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The inability to effectively and safely treat chronic pain is one of the major public health challenges facing Canada today. One in five Canadians experiences chronic pain, imposing huge personal and societal costs. The failure to develop new treatments for chronic pain may be partly due to the large divide between mechanistic studies in animal pain models and the jump to direct testing of specific therapeutic candidates in humans.

In this presentation, Dr. Hildebrand will discuss “good” versus “bad” pain, how currently used pain medicines work, and how future pain therapeutics need to be developed to specifically block the “bad” forms of chronic pain. He will then describe ongoing research in his lab investigating how dysfunctional signalling in the spinal cord drives chronic pain in both animal and human tissue models.  Through a unique collaboration with a neurosurgeon (Dr. Eve Tsai) at the Ottawa Hospital they are able to test which pathological pain mechanisms are conserved across species. This research has the potential to shed light on the most suitable targets for new therapeutic approaches to treat pain.


Wednesday, March 13

Encrypt, Decode: The Role of Math in Information Security Throughout History

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Daniel Panario
School of Mathematics and Statistics

 

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For centuries, mathematics has provided methods and ideas to hide information. These mathematical methods enable us today to communicate with some degree of security and privacy.

In this talk, we visit a few key ideas used many times along history to encrypt messages. The basic fundamental primitives employed are substitutions and transpositions. We exemplify both the cryptographic methods used as well as the mathematical ideas required for some of these methods. Examples will be drawn from the Roman empire, the middle ages and the renaissance period.

The mathematics employed until the 19th century was relatively simple. In the 20th century, with the advent of computers, the required level of mathematics intensified. We conclude the talk by briefly commenting on current used cryptographical methods, introduced in the 1970's, and on potential future developments for the area for the 21st century.


Wednesday, March 27

Nature's Green is Golden: The Health Benefits of Green Spaces in Canadian Cities

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Paul Villeneuve
Department of Health Sciences

 

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The built environment of cities plays an important role in the health of residents. Having access to green space has a several direct and indirect health benefits. Epidemiological studies have shown that individuals who have access to nature tend to have healthier babies, improved mental health, and lower risks of developing a number of chronic diseases. Nature also plays an important role in reducing harmful environmental exposures to air pollution, and noise. Dr. Villeneuve will discuss this research including several of the studies he has led. These include Ottawa-based assessments of associations between greenness and physical activity, and environmental exposures studies in and around the Central Experimental Farm.