The First Dark Age

The causes of the first “Dark Age” have long been the topic of debate among historians and archeologists. Many ideas and theories have been put forward; none have found universal agreement. It’s commonly referred to in scholarly circles as “The Catastrophe.” Earthquakes, drought, migrations (or the more popular single-people migration theory), volcanoes, barbarian raiders, climate change and systemic collapse have all been blamed for the sudden collapse … (more–>)

Testing a Homeplug-Powerline Network

I’ve had some wireless issues for quite some time now. There are dead spots in the house – a central wall has metal ducts and a gas fireplace, which are beside the laundry room with its metal-enclosed washer and dryer. About 5-6m of metal interfere with the wireless signal. The modem is attached to the cable, which comes through the north side of the house, and … (more–>)

Chasing storms on Saturn

There’s a beautiful video about the Cassini mission and its images of the storms on Saturn at the New York Times website. It’s amazing to see what images and information science has given us about a planet 886 billion miles (1.4 billion kms) away and its odd collection of rings and 60 moons. Saturn’s storms Saturn takes 30 years to orbit the Sun and in January, 2014, began its … (more–>)

Neolithic site dig uncovers sophisticated structures

A Neolithic site in the Orkney Islands shows our ancestors had sophisticated building skills more than 5,000 years ago. According to a story in The Scotsman, A groundbreaking excavation of a 5,000-year-old temple complex in Orkney has uncovered evidence to suggest that prehistoric people were a great deal more sophisticated than previously thought. The archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar, which is still in its … (more–>)

Gangs of Feathered T-Rex

Imagine, if you will, an early morning scene in the late Cretaceous. The air is quiet as the day warms. At the edge of a large forest a plain of ferns ripples in the light breeze (grass would not evolve for another 20 or so million years). Under the canopy of the ancient beeches and maples, there is movement. Nothing fast, just a hint. A flash of … (more–>)

The Strange World of E-Writers

There’s always been a place for amateur or new writers to present their efforts and hope to see print: publications where you could submit your work and hope the editors found it good enough to print in an upcoming issue. That’s how some famous writers got their start, in the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 40s: Robert Howard, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Isaac Asimov and many more. … (more–>)

When good people do bad things in groups

The headline is taken from a piece on Science Daily on a study about how groups change personal behaviour and morality. The study is reported on the MIT website. I’ve seen that change myself, many times over the years, and most recently locally. The study adds intelligence on the neurology of how such group activity changed people. The report itself is called “Reduced self-referential neural response during intergroup … (more–>)

E-readers: worth the investment?

I have a passionate, somewhat obsessive, relationship with books. Real books: paper, ink and glue. Not digital books. I have a lot of books and I treasure each one like an old friend. I love reading – I read books at least an hour every day, and usually much more. The feel of a book in my hands is a comfort and a delight. I worked in book … (more–>)

Is silver safe as a medicine?

The short answer to that headline question – based on everything I’ve read of late – is no. It’s not that silver has no medical uses – one form has been used in dressings and bandages as an antiseptic (not, as is sometimes claimed, an antibiotic). Silver nitrate is sometimes used to treat warts and corns. However, the benefits and long-term risks of silver in any form – especially … (more–>)

Confused Science

In his book, The World in Six Songs, Daniel Levitin posutlates the ability to make or participate in music may have conferred an evolutionary advantage to early humans. It’s a reasonable hypothesis based on both archeological and anthropological evidence. And some paleontological finds, too. We know from remains of bone flutes and other instruments, that humans made music at least 40,000 years ago. What that music was like, what … (more–>)

Seeing evolution in action

The pop-science notion is that evolution takes a long time. Millennia, many millennia; even millions of years. But is that always true? Can one actually see and measure evolution in action? Can it happen in such a short time as to be recorded? Peter and Rosemary Grant say they have. And it’s the subject of a new book they co-authored based on their research. Their story was … (more–>)

What do we know about Bell’s Palsy?

Bell’s Palsy is one of those rare ailments, and one that annoys more than threatens, but can be difficult and socially awkward for sufferers. It’s also one that still baffles researchers as to its cause. And also for an effective treatment. According to, The name ‘Bell’s palsy’ comes from 19th-century Scottish anatomist and surgeon Sir Charles Bell, who discovered that severing the seventh cranial (or … (more–>)

The dangerous idiocy of the anti-vax movement

Measles is on the rise in Canada. There have already been many cases in 2014: in PEI, London, Ottawa, southern Alberta, Regina, Qu’Apelle, Calgary, Fraser Valley (320 cases), Hamilton, Halton, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Waterloo, Nanaimo and other locations. Eleven cases in Ontario this year alone. Nine in Alberta. That ancient, deadly foe we recently believed we had conquered, is coming back. And it’s going to kill children … (more–>)

Sunny with a chance of squirrels

What is going on in that furry little head of yours? I was standing on the porch one day last fall watching Bella, our terrier-cross dog, and latest addition to the Chadwick pack. She was watching Diego, our ginger tom cat who was watching something in the trees. Bella stared, then turned to look where Diego was looking. Together they stared at something I couldn’t see, … (more–>)

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