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Dialogue 2006 #4

 

Imagine a June evening in south central Canada or the nearby United States. As dusk deepens, tiny dots of light appear on bushes, grass or in the air. The tiny lights seem to flash in code. These remarkable lights are fireflies. The more we learn about these insects, the more amazing they appear. This is certainly not a case of familiarity breeding contempt. Adult fireflies are beetles, but unusual beetles. They possess the ability to produce light within their bodies. The adult phase, which many of us have seen, is short and spectacular. Most adult fireflies last only a few days and their principal purpose is to reproduce. Read the rest of this entry »


Montana Bound

Montana Bound

Intermediate

Four times a year, a group of scientists who recently participated in more than one million dollars worth of research into radiometric techniques for estimating the age of rocks, now conduct meetings to communicate the results of their research to the public. These scientists sought a fundamental correction to the usual assumptions that the earth is extremely old. Read the rest of this entry »


How’d you like to live the life of a snake? For one thing, you’d find getting around much different without arms and legs. But then dust would be a big part of your diet. Blah! Scientists have learned that snakes use their forked tongues for tasting and smelling. Even with its mouth closed, a snake can stick out its tongue; an amazing feat indeed. These slithering reptiles smell their prey by picking up scents from the air and from dust on the ground in order to find their next meal. The tongue then carries these particles to a specialized organ located on the roof of the mouth, called the Jacobson’s organ. This sense organ performs a chemical analysis of the ingested particles. Think of the salivating smells from some fine cooking. A snake bites the dust of the ground not so much for nutrition but for smelling his way to his next meal. Read the rest of this entry »


Proteins Like Origami

Proteins Like Origami

Intermediate

When I was 19, I had a summer job in a hospital laboratory in Sherbrooke, Quebec. The hospital was fairly small, as it served an English community of perhaps 20,000 to 30,000 people in the extended region. Read the rest of this entry »