The concept of extraterrestrial life is often associated with outlandish science fiction hypotheticals, little gray Martians, and conspiracy theorists donning tin-foil hats. Despite its seemingly fantastical nature, scientists continually look towards the vastness of space seeking to answer the big question: Are we alone? Around 778 million kilometers away from Earth, Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, Europa, orbits the gas giant. This formerly inconspicuous moon has been the one of the centerpieces of discussion ever since scientists discovered ice on its surface in the 1970s.1,2 With recent groundbreaking findings, deniers of extraterrestrial life have certainly been given even more of a run for their money.
Let’s take a moment to imagine the vastness of our universe. All that is visible to us through our gigantic telescopes is unimaginable to our minds. Yet, all that is visible to us makes up a tiny slice of our universe – just 4 percent. The remaining is made up of dark energy and dark matter. Today, we focus on the illusive dark matter which constitutes around 23 percent of our universe. How did we discover matter we cannot see? How is dark matter different to ‘normal’ matter? Most importantly, what is dark matter? I’ll give you a hint for the last one. We don’t really know yet. Let’s forget you read that last sentence and quickly move on.
How many times have you downloaded Duolingo, fired up to learn Portuguese or Korean, only to give up after losing your 40-day streak? Even after 40 days, you think, I still only know how to say “Hi, how are you?” It’s easy to get discouraged, but if it’s any solace, our struggles with learning new languages are mostly biological.
You’re at a party. It’s pretty relaxed, people are chatting and you’re sitting in the living room with a friend. All of a sudden, “Last Friday Night” booms through the speakers. In a second, everyone is on the dance floor. “Yeah, we danced on tabletops, and we took too many shots / Think we kissed but I forgot / Last Friday night” Throwback after throwback plays, and by the end of the night your throat hurts from singing and you’re giddy from laughing with your friends. But what makes just one song capable of completely shifting the mood of so many people for an entire night? That’s a great question — it all has to do with the effect of nostalgia!
Pterosaurs, birds, bats, and insects were the first to evolve the ability to fly, and in modern times, insects, birds, and bats are capable of true flight. So how exactly did this nearly 400 million year old process first start?
Black widow spiders are a group of venomous spider species. Their venom contains a dangerous neurotoxin called latrotoxin that, while not fatal, can cause pain, cramps and vomiting in humans. While most of us would be nervous about working with these spiders, Dr. Andrade has been studying them since she obtained her Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree at the University of Toronto Mississauga.
To kick off Specials Week 2021, we speak with Dr. Sophie Juliane Veigl and Dr. Lynn Chiu on how the philosophy of science communication can enhance the work of scientists, philosophers, and science communicators alike.