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Dying with dignity: opinions vary

Quebecers afflicted with an intolerable terminal illness may soon be able to seek the help of a doctor to end their suffering. A panel of legal experts has recommended that the provincial government allow what it is calling “medical assistance to die” in rare cases where a patient is close to death, but unable to endure the physical or psychological pain. But not everyone agrees with the panel’s controversial findings, which were announced in Quebec City on Tuesday. […] Canada’s father of palliative care, Dr.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Scientist at work: Russian comforts on Antarctic ice

(Michael Becker, a doctoral student at McGill University, was a scientific diver on an expedition to Lake Untersee, Antarctica, this is part two in a series of blog posts for the NYT): Fieldwork in the polar latitudes is often 50 percent science and 50 percent logistics. When the weather goes bad the science drops quickly to zero. That’s the position we found ourselves in as we waited to depart our transit town of Cape Town, South Africa.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Phosphorus footprint shifting dietary habits

Increased use of phosphorus in food products since the 1960s is now putting pressure on the sustainable supply of the essential mineral, warn researchers. Between 1961 and 2007, rising meat consumption and total calorie intake resulted in a 38 percent increase in the world's per capita "phosphorus footprint", according to a research by Canada's McGill University.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Who needs drugs when you've got music?

It happened again last Saturday. And boy, when it hit me it felt great — though it left me a little shaken. … Time to call Daniel Levitin for some answers. He's the guy who wrote a fascinating book called This is Your Brain on Music. The McGill University professor confirmed that I'm far from alone in experiencing these very strong reactions to music. And it seems my analogy to drugs wasn't far off. "It's not surprising that we have these intense reactions to the environment and that they can be said to be similar to drug states," Levitin told me. "They are drug states.

Published: 18 Jan 2013

Blood pressure and painkiller mix cause kidney problems

People who take a combination of blood pressure drugs and certain painkillers are at increased risk for serious kidney problems that doctors should watch for, Canadian researchers say. People who are prescribed a combination of blood pressure medications and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or NSAIDs are often at high risk of kidney injury, which is associated with about half of potentially preventable deaths in hospital.

Published: 11 Jan 2013

Why hackers are so much funnier than you are

The popular stereotype is that hardcore techies are, well, humor-challenged. But software hackers are another matter. Despite his inability to keep a straight face when a reporter calls asking about supreme moral vigilance in the programming world, Bob Nystrom is living proof that hackers thrive on humor in ways other techies rarely do... You’ll hear much the same thing from Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist who spent three years living with hardcore software hackers and recently documented the experience in a book called Coding Freedom: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Hacking.

Published: 11 Jan 2013

Muslims engage in quest to understand evolution

More than 850 delegates flocked to a seminal conference in London on Saturday about the compatibility of modern evolutionary theory and Islamic theology – despite scaremongering and the refusal of Islamic student societies to participate. Determined organisers had overcome pressure to cancel by changing the venue from Imperial College to Logan Hall at the University of London. The event was the brainchild of the Deen Institute, which runs courses to promote critical thinking among Muslim students and kindle rational dialogue within Islam.

Published: 11 Jan 2013

Accessible learning for students with disabilities

McGill University takes the lead implementing Universal Design… As a McGill University student with a learning disability, Cedric Yarish hates when professors rely on “chalk and talk.” What helps him with his attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is when professors engage students in discussion, present their material in a variety of interesting ways and provide options for student evaluation, such as a choice between exams or papers or other types of multimedia projects.

Published: 10 Jan 2013

McGill study probes secrets of elderly fitness

Why do some seniors struggle to get up off the coach, whereas others hit the gym as if they were decades younger? A husband and wife research team at McGill wondered just that and embarked on a study to try to determine what makes some age better than others.
Their quest has led them to invite 14 elderly athletes to Montreal for a series of tests. “I recruited, scouted and picked out all of the winners who came in first, second and third in their events and invited them all to Montreal for the week,” explained McGill Exercise Physiologist Tanja Taivassalo.

Published: 10 Jan 2013

Canada missing out on pharmaceutical research

(John Bergeron): Canada is a strong nation economically, with a $1.7-trillion gross domestic product and spending on research and development in excess of $30 billion annually. By any measure these numbers are among the best in the world. But pharmaceutical research, once strong, is in decline in this country.

Published: 10 Jan 2013

NHL on its way back, but will hockey fans follow?

After months of waiting and hoping, hockey fans reacted with a mix of emotions Sunday to news of a tentative agreement between the NHL and its players.

Published: 10 Jan 2013

Regular Cervical Cancer screen should start after 25

Canadian women should start being routinely screened for cervical cancer at a later age than previously recommended and do it less frequently than has been the norm until now, new national guidelines recommend. The guidance suggests cervical cancer screening should begin at age 25 and continue until age 69, at three year intervals. For years, women were advised to get an annual Pap smear, though in recent years a number of countries have lengthened the intervals between tests. Dr.

Published: 10 Jan 2013

How do environments talk to genes?

A report elucidates the widely recognized, but poorly understood, concept of gene-environment interaction, finding a molecular mechanism in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder: demethylation of a glucocorticoid response element in the stress response regulator FKBP5 that depends on both the risk allele and childhood trauma. [Review on epigenetics and childhood trauma by McGill's Moshe Szyf.]

Read more at Nature Neuroscience

Published: 10 Jan 2013

Ground water, running on empty

The underground aquifers that store more than 90 percent of Earth's liquid freshwater are at risk of being sucked dry. A study published in Nature in August showed that annual demand from the world's 783 large regional aquifers is 3.5 times the amount that is replenished. The impact could be profound: Groundwater sustains nearly 2 billion people and provides almost 40 percent of crop irrigation worldwide. Tom Gleeson, a hydrologist at McGill University, calculated each major aquifer's footprint—the area needed to sustain its use—and compared that with the actual size of the aquifer.

Published: 10 Jan 2013

Mapping the world's vertebrates

A biodiversity map drawn up by British naturalist Russel Wallace in 1876 depicting how life evolved on our continents has been updated after 136 years.  Technological advances and data on more than 20,000 species have allowed a team of 15 international researchers 20 years to map biodiversity in greater detail.  The map shows the division of nature into 11 large biogeographic realms and how they relate to each other, the journal Science reports.

Published: 10 Jan 2013