This is Why … Geese Are Yoga Gurus

(An ashy-headed goose demonstrating its exceptional balancing ability; image from Shutterstock.com) The other day I spent some time exploring the “arm” at Guelph Lake, curious to see how far up the Speed River I could get in my kayak before bottoming out. (Turns out, not very far. Water shoes would have been a good idea. I definitely need to try this earlier in the season when the water is higher.) (map of Guelph Lake with…

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This is Why … Falling on the Ice May Have Saved My Life

(images from Shutterstock.com unless otherwise noted) On an icy cold morning at the end of February, I tentatively headed down the slope behind our house, on my way out for some daily exercise. As I stepped off a retaining wall down to the walkway below, my foot went right out from under me and I crashed down, hard. The small of my back came down on the edge of the six-inch high concrete step as…

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This Is Why … Rainbows Have Nothing to Hide

A few weeks ago during dinner there was a sudden burst of sunlight in the midst of a rain shower. Knowing that these were ideal rainbow-making conditions, we jumped up from the table and ran out to investigate. Sacrificing our meal was entirely worth it: this photo was taken just a few hundred metres down the road from our house. Once again, I am blown away by the beauty of physics in the world around…

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A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to the Lecture Hall…

As I strode across campus to meet my second-year physics students in our Electricity and Magnetism class a few years ago, it suddenly struck me that I had the makings of a fantastic opportunity tucked under my arm. My teaching assistant had returned their last assignment of the semester to me, so I quickly formulated my plan. As I entered the room and prepped for our session, I projected a stern and serious air, quite…

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This is Why … Campfire Smoke Follows You Around

They said someday you’ll findAll who love are blindWhen your heart’s on fireYou must realizeSmoke gets in your eyesJerome Kern and Otto Harbach, 1933 (“Watching the Campfire” by Mr Moss is licensed under CC BY 2.0) Despite legions of campers swearing to the contrary, campfire smoke does NOT actually follow you around like your friend’s labrador retriever who really, really, really wants that wiener you just roasted. Of course, if there was no wind, if there were no complex…

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This is Why … The Snowflake is “Six-Cornered”

Image: https://www.shutterstock.com/g/Bobkov+Evgeniy Back in 1611, Johannes Kepler, court mathematician to the Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II, found himself flat broke in the lead-up to the holiday season. (Apparently Rudolf didn’t pay his court all that regularly.) As he wandered across the Charles Bridge in Prague, he noticed a delicate snowflake attached to the lapel of his coat and marvelled at its geometric beauty. Why does the snowflake always appear ‘six cornered’?, he wondered. Never five…

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This is Why … The Beautiful Game is Beautiful Physics

(Image of football/soccer player in the rain under stadium lights, from Shutterstock.com) A few days ago, my football-obsessed cousin, James, commented on Twitter on a video of an incredible header by superstar athlete Cristiano Ronaldo, concluding that the “laws of physics don’t apply to [Ronaldo]”. It wasn’t intentional, but a statement like that is a bit like waving a red flag at a bull and I was definitely intrigued. So here’s the full clip and…

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This is Why … campfire smoke may have played a surprising role in our evolution

(campfire image from Shutterstock) Like me, you may have spent a significant amount of time around a campfire this past long weekend. Singing songs, roasting marshmallows, debating the optimal wood configuration, discussing the connection between campfire smoke and eating placenta …. No? Not the last one? Well buckle your seatbelts, kids, let’s dive right in! Although there are many who love the lingering smell of campfire in their hair and clothing, there is plenty of…

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This is Why … Whales Nap in the Upright Position

Our younger daughter, Mara, loves to read things like Weird But True! – filled with tons of interesting facts about the natural world. Mealtime conversations are often peppered with such declarations as “elephants drink 800 glasses of water a day!”, to which I would typically respond with something like “I’m glad I don’t have to load the dishwasher in that family!” You never know where the discussions will start or end, and mealtimes are often…

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This is Why … Water Striders and I Are Kindred Spirits

(Shutterstock.com ID 1724117857) A couple of summers ago I signed up with the Wellington Sculling Club for their Learn To Row* program. Coached by an amazing group of people, I successfully completed the course and joined as a full member, but I still have plenty to learn so I head down to the lake as often as I can. The other morning, after putting the gear away, I stood on the dock watching a swarm…

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