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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: 10Jan2013

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: 10Jan2013

Games for science

Scientists are using video games to tap the collective intelligence of people around the world, while doctors and educators are turning to games to treat and teach. […] “MSA is probably one of the most important tools in bioinformatics today,” says Jérôme Waldispühl, a bioinformatician at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. But the computer algorithms employed to perform MSA don’t guarantee perfect accuracy, so Waldispühl and colleagues created Phylo — an online game that transforms the MSA problem into a simple puzzle that anyone can play.

Published: 10Jan2013

Exposing food falsehoods

Let’s start the new year on sound footing by addressing some nutritional falsehoods that circulate widely in cyberspace, locker rooms, supermarkets and health food stores. As a result, millions of people are squandering money on questionable, even hazardous foods and supplements. For starters, when did "chemical" become a dirty word? That’s a question raised by one of Canada’s brightest scientific minds: Joe Schwarcz, director of the Office for Science and Society at McGill University in Montreal. Dr.

Published: 10Jan2013

Amnesia and the self that remains when memory is lost

(McGill's Dan Levitin): Tom was one of those people we all have in our lives -- someone to go out to lunch with in a large group, but not someone I ever spent time with one-on-one. We had some classes together in college and even worked in the same cognitive psychology lab for a while. But I didn't really know him. Even so, when I heard that he had brain cancer that would kill him in four months, it stopped me cold…

Published: 10Jan2013

Opinion: Quebec attitude changing - for the better

(Chris Barrington-Leigh, economist at McGill University’s Institute for Health and Social Policy): Over the last 25 years, Quebec has gone from by far the least happy province in Canada to one of the most content places on the planet. What happened?

Read more at The Gazette

Published: 10Jan2013

2013 in Quebec countdown to a reckoning

(Antonia Maioni, Associate professor of political science at McGill University):  Most of North America counts down to New Year's through images from Times Square in New York. For most Quebeckers, however, the holiday tradition is an annual Bye-Bye comedy revue. From Bye-bye Jean Charest to Bonjour Charbonneau commission, 2012 served up plenty of political fodder. The new year in Quebec promises to be just as interesting. Here are five things to watch for.

Published: 10Jan2013

Sorry Mr. Sinatra, I have had quite few regrets in 2012

(Desautels' Karl Moore): No regrets, none at all. Over the last couple of years I have read a number of retiring CEOs asked by various newspapers whether they have had any regrets, all that I read said they had no regrets.  My initial reaction was to roll my eyes; I found this a bit much because in my career, I have and have had many regrets.

Read more at Forbes

Published: 10Jan2013

Deer antlers could have athletes skating on thin ice

(Joe Schwarcz): It was back in 1961 that I had dinner with the Montreal Canadiens. Well, not exactly with them. But I did eat in the old Texan restaurant across the street from the hallowed Forum, at the same time that my boyhood idols, “Boom Boom” Geoffrion, Jean Béliveau, Dickie Moore, Bill Hicke (my favourite), Jacques Plante and the rest of that legendary team were digging into their pregame meal. And I vividly remember what they were digging into. Steak! That was standard fare for athletes at the time. The more protein, the better the prospects for butt kicking.

Published: 10Jan2013

Why does Canada have a maple syrup cartel?

It may seem bizarre that Canada has a maple syrup cartel at all. But think of it this way: Quebec, which produces about 77% of the world’s maple syrup, is the Saudi Arabia of the sweet, sticky stuff, and the FPAQ is its OPEC. The stated goal of the cartel, in this case, is keeping prices relatively stable. The problem with maple syrup is that the natural supply of it varies dramatically from year to year. “It’s highly dependent on the weather,” explains Pascal Theriault, an agricultural economist at the McGill University in Montreal.

Published: 10Jan2013