Flower Power: The Physics of Pollination

Pollination seems like a simple task, but complicated physics are at play. Photo by: Si Griffiths The BioPhiles Blog has been quiet these days and I’m only just now starting to emerge from under a mountain of teaching work, grant proposals, and funding reports. But last month, BioPhiles made a guest appearance at GotScience.org, with an article about the physics of pollination.  To read all about flower power and the blossoms that withstand more G-forces…

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Lupine Invasions

Roadsides, ditches, and railway lines in Norway are awash with colour right now.  The lupines are in bloom, and the dense swathes of purple, pink, and white blossoms stacked into perfect pillars brighten the countryside. I love the vibrant colours, but have to stop to remind myself that these are not the friendly wildflowers of my Canadian childhood. Lupinus polyphyllus is a wildflower in Canada, but is an invasive species in Europe that has taken…

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Responsible Citizens Catch Fish and Climb Trees

I’m sitting, staring intently at the red and white striped bobber floating just at the surface of the water. It rocks soporifically in time with the boat lulling me to near sleep until my five year old eyes are distracted by the shiny blue dragonflies tracing lazy figure eights overhead. That’s when it happens. The rod jolts in my hands and I panic as I see the tip of it arcing towards the water, the red and…

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Planning the Perfect Alien Invasion

There are alien invaders just outside your back door, but they probably aren’t of the extraterrestrial variety. Image by Carrol MacDonald It sounds like a conspiracy theory: there are invaders all over the world, lurking in plain sight. The thought of it immediately calls to mind fantastical Dr. Who-worthy plots where little green martian men wear the skins of humans and walk among us while they plot the ultimate destruction of all mankind. In truth,…

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Roses are Red, Violets are Blue

Violets are blue, but that’s not the half of the story. Photo by: Marie L. Davey Valentine’s Day may have passed, but it is still evidenced by the discounted chocolate and wilting roses in the shop windows, and the childhood rhyme “Roses are red, violets are blue…” that is echoing incessantly in my head. The repeated rhyme has gotten me thinking: of all the things about Viola to remark on, their sometimes blue colour is…

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New Year’s Resolutions

  A recent open letter in Nature from scientists at the University of Exeter raised a lurking issue about environmental sustainability in research just in time for scientists looking to make New Year’s resolutions. The authors highlight that the average lab scientist produces just under a tonne of plastic waste in their annual quest for knowledge, and they call on funding agencies to introduce incentives to foster greener lab practices. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of plastic…

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Christmas Cannons

Nothing says Christmas in my house like the smell of sibling rivalry, so it seems appropriate to share a biology-themed sibling showdown that includes a Christmas favourite. When it comes to decking the halls, any interior decorator will tell you the European mistletoe I recently wrote about is the golden child, no contest. Ask a biologist, and sibling rivalry steps in. My personal favourite? The ugly cousin: the Dwarf American mistletoe, Arceuthobium. It might not…

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Mistletoe Magic

The European mistletoe is a hemiparasite that steals water and nutrients from host trees, but whose green leaves photosynthesize and produce sugars as well. Photo by: Hans Braxmeier T’is the season here at the BioPhiles and this week’s species extraordinaire is the European Mistletoe of Christmas carol fame, Viscum album. Its dark green foliage and shiny white berries make it perfect for decking the halls and creating holiday romance, but from a biologist’s point of…

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Who’s Reading Scientific Articles?

Hey readers, where do you get your science? Dr. Paige Jarreau (@FromTheLabBench) from Louisiana State University wants to know! I’ve teamed up with Dr. Jareau, the Canadian blog network Science Borealis, and 20 other Canadian science bloggers to conduct a broad survey of science blog readers. We want to know who’s reading science, where they’re from, what content is important to them, and what your trusted sources for science are. The survey takes just 5…

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Perfect Patterns: Science in Autumn Leaves

The bliss of crisp air, golden light, and the deeply satisfying scuffling of shoes through piles of dry leaves is what makes autumn my favourite season. The fall leaves are especially fascinating to me. A few cold nights can make the trees burst into flaming golds, oranges, and reds, all evidence of chemistry and physics in action. The degradation of chlorophyll, the green pigment in leaves, unmasks these vibrant hues, and there’s something poetic about…

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