From Our Own Borealis Blog

Travel back to the Carboniferous


Hai Lin Wang, Nature Conservancy of Canada Alongside marshes and in forests and meadows lives a group of plants that […]

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Closing the gap between quantum and deterministic query complexity for easy to certify total functions

Recently, trying to keep with my weekly post schedule, I’ve been a bit strapped for inspiration. As such, I’ve posted a few times on a major topic from my past life: quantum query complexity. I’ve mostly tried to describe some techniques for (lower) bounding query complexity like the negative adversary method and span programs. But I’ve never really showed how to use these methods to actually set up interesting bounds. Since I am again short…

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Blockchain made physical: BlocKit

Caption: Parts of BlocKit Credit: Irni Khairuddin I’m always on the lookout for something that helps make blockchain and cryptocurrency more understandable. (For the uninitiated or anyone like me who needed to refresh their memories, I have links to good essays on the topic further down in this posting.) A July 10, 2019 news item on ScienceDaily announces a new approach to understanding blockchain technology, A kit made from everyday objects is bringing the blockchain…

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Controlling agricultural pests with CRISPR-based technology

CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats) technology is often touted as being ‘precise’, which as far as I can tell, is not exactly the case (see my Nov. 28, 2018 posting about the CRISPR babies [scroll down about 30% of the way for the first hint that CRISPR isn’t]). So, it’s a bit odd to see the word ‘precise’ used as part of a new CRISPR-based technology’s name (from a January 8, 2019 news…

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I’m fascinated by the power of stem cells: Q&A with Dr. Nicolas Pineault

I’m fascinated by the power of stem cells: Q&A with Dr. Nicolas Pineault Transplantation Stem Cells Friday, July 19, 2019 Obinna Okwelume For more than two decades, Dr. Nicolas Pineault has worked in stem cell biology. Since joining Canadian Blood Services in 2012 as a development scientist at the Centre for Innovation, he has conducted research in stem cells from cord blood, bone marrow cells and platelets. Dr. Pineault is an adjunct professor at the University…

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Keeping track of projects and prioritising work

One of the perennial discussions that crops up in science circles (both academic and non-academic) is how to keep track of projects and prioritise what to work on in away that doesn’t feel like using a parasol to combat a fire hose at close range. I know there are bits of project management software, but I have enough Gantt charts in my life, and nearly everyone in science has a spreadsheet program. Plus, it’s the…

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Is your data digital or just pseudodigital?

A rite of passage for a geologist is the making of an original geological map, starting from scratch. In the UK, this is known as the ‘independent mapping project’ and is usually done at the end of the second year of an undergrad degree. I did mine on the eastern shore of the Embalse de Santa Ana, just north of Alfarras in Catalunya, Spain. (I wrote all about it back in 2012.)The map I drew…

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#530 Why Aren’t We Dead Yet?

We only notice our immune systems when they aren't working properly, or when they're under attack. How does our immune system understand what bits of us are us, and what bits are invading germs and viruses? How different are human immune systems from the immune systems of other creatures? And is the immune system so often the target of sketchy medical advice? Those questions and more, this week in our conversation with author Idan Ben-Barak…

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Desalination and toxic brine

Have you ever wondered about the possible effects and impact of desalinating large amounts of ocean water? It seems that some United Nations University (UNU) researchers have asked and are beginning to answer that question. The following table illustrates the rise in desalination plants and processes, Today 15,906 operational desalination plants are found in 177 countries. Almost half of the global desalination capacity is located in the Middle East and North Africa region (48 percent),…

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