New sensor could help fight deadly bacterial infections

New sensor could help fight deadly bacterial infections:

Scientists have built a new sensor that can detect the potentially deadly E.coli bacteria in 15-20 minutes, much faster than traditional lab tests. E.coli can be transmitted in contaminated food and water, posing particular risks to children and the elderly. In the late spring of 2011 a serious outbreak of E.coli bacteria sickened thousands of people in Germany and killed more than 50.

A team of researchers from the Photonics Research Center at the University of Quebec in Outaouais, Canada, under direction of Professor Wojtek J. Bock and collaborators from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, have built a new sensor that can quickly and cost-effectively detect E.coli over a wide temperature range. The researchers describe the sensor in a paper in the journal Optics Letters.

“Using currently available technologies, which are mostly based on amplification of the sample, it takes several hours to days to detect the presence of bacteria. A fast and accurate detection alternative is, therefore, preferable over the existing technology,” said Saurabh Mani Tripathi, a physicist at the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, India. Faster tests for the bacteria could lead to faster treatment of patients, as well as to cheaper and easier environmental monitoring, he said.

The new sensor uses bacteriophages—viruses that can naturally latch onto and kill bacteria. The viruses are bonded to the surface of an optical fiber and will grab E.coli bacteria from a sample and keep them attached. When a beam of light strikes the surface, the presence of E.coli shifts the wavelength in a telltale sign of bacterial contamination.

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New fossil shows birds and pterosaurs flew side-by-side

New fossil shows birds and pterosaurs flew side-by-side:

Some pterosaurs were the largest flying animals ever seen on Earth. These extinct flying reptiles that lived above the dinosaurs’ heads could grow wingspans of up to 11 metres and dominated the skies of the late Cretaceous period, the last age of the giant reptiles.

Earlier pterosaurs are also known to have been as small as a metre across, but few such fossils from this period have been found. This has led to the idea that small-bodied pterosaurs disappeared because they were out-competed by early birds who forced them to evolve into much bigger animals.

But an exciting new pterosaur fossil has added to the growing body of evidence that small pterosaurs did continue to exist alongside their much bigger cousins.

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Ontario and Quebec are fighting tree-killing beetles with parasitic wasps

Ontario and Quebec are fighting tree-killing beetles with parasitic wasps:

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The Canadian Forest Service announced Wednesday it is releasing parasitic wasps in Ontario and Quebec this week in an effort to control the population of emerald ash borers.

Krista Ryall, a research scientist for the Canadian Forest Service, told CBC News that 1,600 of the non-stinging wasps native to China are meant to combat the emerald ash borers that have killed ash trees in more than 260,000 hectares of Ontario forests.

Emerald ash borers, also a native to China, were accidentally introduced to North America two decades ago, likely through unsecured shipping crates involved with international trading, says Ryall.

The CFS says emerald ash borers kill up to 99 per cent of ash trees in infested areas, because they have no natural predators here.

“When the species was introduced to a new environment, it found no natural enemies,” says Ryall.

Not anymore, it seems.

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When Making Piñatas Becomes a Full-Time Job To see more of…

When Making Piñatas Becomes a Full-Time Job

To see more of Christine’s creations, follow @lulafloradesigns on Instagram.

Four years ago, Christine Lucas (@lulafloradesigns) used cereal boxes to make 20 tiny piñatas for her wedding in Mexico. Today, she, her husband and her sister send out about 120 piñatas a week from Montreal. “I really didn’t expect it to be what it’s becoming,” she says. “People are crazy for piñatas, it turns out.” Soon after her nuptials, Christine’s wedding planner got in touch with an order from another bride. In 2014, Christine quit her job, opened her online shop and a business was born. “It means the world to me when a girl gets back in touch and says something like, ‘Oh my god, I’m dying! Can we be best friends?’ That’s how I want them to feel when they get their order,” Christine says. “These are for parties. For your wedding or for your kids’ first birthday. These are exciting moments.”

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Celiacs rejoice! Bug-eating plant enzymes could hold key to gluten digestion

Celiacs rejoice! Bug-eating plant enzymes could hold key to gluten digestion:

Calgary scientists have made a breakthrough that could help celiac patients digest gluten with the help of an enzyme from bug-eating pitcher plants.

Pitcher plants are like “disposable stomachs” that are filled with an enzyme-rich liquid that helps them digest insect prey, explained lead researcher David Schriemer.

The professor at the University of Calgary says preliminary research shows the enzymes in these so-called monkey cups are “enormously potent” in breaking down gluten, and could work in a human stomach.

Schriemer said in a few years’ time, people with celiac disease could take a pill containing these enzymes, which would allow them to fully break down gluten.

“The idea here is that you would take it like Beano,” he said.

“We’ve taken it all the way through to animal trials at this point, and it seems to work.”

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Meet the Rare Swimming Wolves That Eat Seafood

Meet the Rare Swimming Wolves That Eat Seafood:

They move like ghosts along the shorelines of Canada’s Vancouver Island, so elusive that people rarely see them lurking in the mossy forests.

British filmmaker Bertie Gregory was one of the lucky ones: He saw coastal wolves—also known as sea wolves—in 2011.

“There is something about being in the presence of a coastal wolf—they just have this magic and aura around them,” he says.

That experience inspired him to return and document the animals for National Geographic’s first YouTube series, wild_life with bertie gregory, which launches August 3.

“Coastal wolves are such a unique predator, and they are hunting in this absolutely epic landscape,” says Gregory. Roughly the size of Maryland, the island and its remote western fringes are still a wild frontier in the Pacific Northwest. (Read “In Search of the Elusive Sea Wolf Along Canada’s Rugged Coast.”)

Chris Darimont, science director at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation, has studied the carnivores’ unusual lifestyle for nearly two decades. He shared some intriguing facts about this little-seen population of gray wolf.

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Judge Frees Couple Convicted of Terror Plot That Was Planned, Funded and Led By Canadian Government

Judge Frees Couple Convicted of Terror Plot That Was Planned, Funded and Led By Canadian Government:

A Canadian couple found guilty of planting homemade bombs outside a government building will walk free after a court in British Columbia ruled the pair was entrapped by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) into carrying out a “police-manufactured crime”….

“This was a clear case of police-manufactured crime,” [BC supreme court justice Catherine] Bruce wrote in her ruling. “The world has enough terrorists. We do not need the police to create more out of marginalized people.”

The judge pointed to the couple’s mental capacity to back the assertion that the crime had been instigated by police….

The judge sided with defence’s argument that the couple had been entrapped during a five-month undercover police operation involving some 240 police officers.

“Without the police it would have been impossible for the defendants to carry out the pressure-cooker plan…” said Bruce. “The defendants were the foot soldiers but the undercover officer was the leader of the group.”

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Renowned Canadian scientist Ursula Franklin dead at 94

Renowned Canadian scientist Ursula Franklin dead at 94:

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Ursula Franklin, one of Canada’s most accomplished scientists and educators, died Friday in Toronto at the age of 94.

Franklin was born in Germany and moved to Canada in 1949 to improve her education after surviving the Holocaust.

The researcher joined the University of Toronto’s department of metallurgy and materials science in 1967, and became the institution’s first ever female university professor (a special designation accorded to a small portion of the faculty) in 1984.

“All her career, she was always the first and the pioneer and the woman,” said her daughter, Monica Franklin.

Franklin accrued a long list of awards and accomplishments throughout her long career. She was appointed to the Order of Ontario in 1990, and named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1992.

In what was arguably her biggest contribution to science, Franklin discovered radioactive substances in Canadian children’s baby teeth.

“It was a little disconcerting because it was my teeth,” her son, Martin Franklin, recounted. “I was seven or so at the time and while other children had the tooth fairy, mine were being tested for strontium-90.”

Franklin’s research helped sway world opinion against nuclear weapons testing during the Cold War.

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University of Saskatchewan researchers produce world’s first wood bison using in vitro fertilization

University of Saskatchewan researchers produce world’s first wood bison using in vitro fertilization:

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Creating bison in a laboratory sounds like a premise for an unusual science fiction movie.

But it’s a fact, and the proof is gambolling about on a U of S campus field.

“The babies look great,” said Gregg Adams, a reproductive specialist with the Western College of Veterinary Medicine.

“They’re keeping up with mom, and I’m really happy about it.”

It took a decade to get the idea from the drawing board to running around in a field, and Adams said its success has enormous implications for the species.

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Hummingbirds’ unique way of seeing prevents them from crashing

Hummingbirds’ unique way of seeing prevents them from crashing:

Hummingbirds have a unique collision avoidance system built into their brains that allows them to perform high-speed aerobatics in safety.

The super-agile birds, whose wings beat up to 70 times a second, can hover, fly backwards, and whizz through dense vegetation at more than 50 kilometres per hour.

How they manage to avoid potentially fatal crashes has remained a mystery until now. Researchers in Canada conducted a series of experiments which showed that the birds process visual information differently from other animals.

As they dart and dive at speed, they judge distance from the way looming objects appear to get bigger, and vice versa.

Other animals, from bees to human motorists, calculate distances from the rate at which objects cross their field of vision. Hence, a car driver can tell that telephone poles are near because they pass by swiftly. Conversely, far away buildings take more time to move across the visual field, giving an impression of distance.

For this reason, it is difficult to judge the closing speed of an object you are approaching head-on – a lesson taught to all aircraft pilots.

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