SMCC Heads Up May 23 - How babies learn, calcium and heart disease risk, and new hope for tinnitus treatment PDF Print E-mail
The Goldilocks effect: Babies learn from experiences that are 'just right'
How do babies begin to make sense of the complex world around them? Eye tracking devices and statistical modeling during an experiment in which babies were shown various playful items in animated videos suggests a “Goldilocks effect". Experiments suggest their attention is focused on stimuli that are not too simple, not too complex; but somewhere in between that is just right.

Open wide and twist to the side - a new “organ” for baleen whales
Large baleen whales have a number of unusual anatomical and physiological adaptations for eating, including lunge feeding, where a whale swims speedily and then opens its mouth exceptionally wide, simultaneously rotating its jaw to capture gigantic quantities of small prey. How they coordinate this extraordinary feeding method was poorly understood but has been examined in detail in a new study that includes researchers at UBC. A new sensory organ that helps to coordinate jaw opening, closing, and rotation is described.

Punishing beliefs?
Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Punishing wrongdoers is an important component of well-functioning modern societies, but does belief in a God allow individuals to "outsource" punishment and reduce an individual's motivation to support punishment at a societal level? Five experiments by psychology researchers, including those at UBC and the University of Waterloo find that in general, the answer is yes.

Do calcium supplements increase heart attack risk?
Calcium supplements taken to reduce the risk of bone thinning (osteoporosis) may increase the risk of heart attack, according to new research. Researchers suggest that calcium is an important component of a balanced diet, but that calcium supplements, which cause unnatural spikes in calcium in the blood stream (compared with calcium from food), may be harmful to the heart.

Mars rocks - with organic carbon
Organic carbon - carbon bound in organic molecules - has been found in 10 of 11 Martian meteorites analyzed using imaging spectroscopy, by researchers including those at the University of Alberta. Representing about 4.2 billion years of Martian history, the confirmed presence of organic carbon on Mars has implications for understanding the planet's carbon budget, carbon cycle, chemistry, detection of life, and how to detect organic compounds during future missions to Mars.

Crystals predict the future of volcanoes
Examining the growth of crystals deep within the magma chamber of a volcano, scientists have linked these crystals to increased seismicity and gas emissions prior to volcanic eruption, shedding new light on pre-eruptive activity and providing the possibility for improved forecasting of future eruptions. Related visuals and audio are available.

Relief for ear-rings?
The Lancet
Tinnitus, a mild to debilitating ringing in the ears, is a common condition affecting 16 to 21 per cent of adults at some point over their lifespan. A newly tested treatment for tinnitus based on cognitive behaviour therapy shows promise for widespread use.

Killing the killer cells
A drug, thioridazine, that successfully kills cancer stem cells in humans may help avoid the toxic side effects of traditional cancer treatments, say researchers at McMaster University.


Café scientifique: Managing medications from hospital to home: can we do better? May 23, Montreal

Café scientifique: Stem cells : Myths, controversies and realities, May 23, Montreal

Café scientifique: Prescription Medications – Who is Minding the Store? May 26, St. Martins, NB

Congress of the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics, including the Association of Canadian Community Colleges’ Annual General Meeting, Halifax, May 26-29  

95th annual Canadian Chemistry Conference and Exhibition in Calgary, May 26-30, Calgary
Highlights include the future of solar cells, using chemicals from marine invertebrates for drug discovery, designing responsive polymer materials, and much more. For more details see the program on the website.

Council of Humanities and Social Sciences Conference, May 26 - June 2, Waterloo

National Fish and Wildlife Conservation Congress, May 27-31, Ottawa.
Science tidbits at the meeting:
Monday 28th: Estimating Carnivore Density in Remote Areas; Coyotes, Caribou and Black Bear; Restoring Atlantic Salmon to Lake Ontario; Comparing Natural vs Engineered Wetlands
Tuesday 29th: Science-based policy for wildlife management, climate change and polar bears, managing data for fur-bearing animals, salmonid restoration, invasive species in the Great Lakes, chronic wasting disease and risk to humans.
Wednesday 30th: Bird conservation plans, managing moose, the future of hunting and conservation, fisheries management and the public’s role
Thursday 31st: Challenges and Opportunities for the Sustainable Use and Conservation of Wildlife Species    

Canadian Meteorological and Oceanographical Society (CMOS) and the American Meteorological Society (AMS) Congress 2012, May 29 to June 1, 2012, Montreal

Café scientifique: Broken, Busted and (a Bit) Worn Down: Rehab science supporting movement for improved health and aging, May 30, Kingston

Association des communicateurs scientifiques Annual Meeting, May 30, Montreal

Café scientifique: Epigenetics: Are we more than the sum of our genes?, May 31, Toronto

Canadian Science Writers’ Association Congress 2012, June 2-5, Windsor, ON

Story Tips:

Sockeye salmon in decline

Does passing close to salmon farms early in life weaken the ability of sockeye to compete for food with pink salmon in the open ocean? Perhaps, according to new research published by SFU researchers in Conservation Letters. Sockeye may pick up viruses, bacteria, or parasites as they pass by salmon farms. Other factors likely implicated in their decline include competition with pinks in the open ocean, and climate change warming the waters.