Archive for the ‘Canada’ Category

The Scots are renowned for their whisky but, for the second year in a row, whisky from another country has been named the best in the world.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye, a Canadian malt whisky, was awarded 97.5 marks out of 100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible, earning it the title of world whisky of the year.

Despite its stellar reputation in the whisky world, not a single Scottish whisky made the top five.

Jim Murray’s 2016 World Whiskies of the Year
1. Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye (Canada) – £47 a bottle
2. Pikesville Straight Rye (USA) – £33 a bottle
3. Midleton Dair Ghaelach (Ireland) – £180 a bottle
4. William Larue Weller Bourbon (Bot.2014) (USA) – £65 a bottle
5. Suntory Yamazaki Mizunara (Bot.2014) (Japan) – £45 a bottle

Editor of Scotchwhisky.com Becky Paskin said: “While it’s disappointing that Scotch has been omitted from Murray’s top five again, it’s heartening to see that he’s included a real mix of whiskies from around the world that aren’t all selected from the luxury sphere.

“The absence of Scotch, however puzzling, has no bearing at all on the quality of whisky coming from Scotland. Interest in world whisky is increasing and drinkers are likely to want to experiment with the medley of styles and flavours available.

“It’s important to remember that, whether you agree with Murray’s top five or not, this is just one man’s opinion. My advice would be to go out and taste these whiskies for yourself.”

Despite not winning the coveted whisky of the year award, Scotland’s Glenfarclas 1957 Family Cask 2110 did win the single cask of the year award.

Whisky expert Murray tasted more than 1000 whiskies before deciding on the Crown Royal and called it a masterpiece: “Rye, that most eloquent of grains, not just turning up to charm and enthral but to also take us through a routine which reaches new heights of beauty and complexity.

“To say this is a masterpiece is barely doing it justice.”

Tom Sandham, one half of the Thinking Drinkers, said: “The news of a Canadian winner might surprise some, but it shouldn’t.

“The country has extraordinary whisky heritage. And rye is one of the original grains in North American whiskey production, it has long been re-asserting itself with connoisseurs and leading bartenders who use it in classic cocktails. So to see it break through here is evidence of the grains’s resurgent popularity.

“But remember this is only one view, and a nice bit of publicity for man, brand and whisky as a whole, but the only way you’ll determine what you like is if you try things. Lots of different things. The great thing about whisky is that a wider demographic is now engaging, which is excellent because there are hundreds of stunning whiskies being made all around the world right now.”

Yvonne Briese, Vice President of Crown Royal said: “Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye showcases the rye whisky that has been such an integral component of the Crown Royal Deluxe blend since 1939. This is a testament to the unbelievable blending and distilling that’s been taking place in Gimli for over 75 years.

“We are thrilled that Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye has been named World Whisky of the Year.”

Some whisky connoisseurs were sceptical of the win, with specialist whisky author Charles MacLean telling The Times the success of foreign winners was a marketing ploy: “You should compare like with like. These whiskies from around the world are all made to be different. Canadian whisky allows for all sorts of additives, such as prune juice to sweeten it.

“This is forbidden in Scotch, which has strictly defined terms of how it can be made. It must have the flavour derived only from the raw materials: barley, water and yeast. Nothing may be added.”

However, Murray defended his choice robustly: “Last year people were shocked when I gave [Japanese whisky] Yamazaki the award – until they tasted it. Then they saw it was not the affront to Scotch they first thought and something truly extraordinary.

“This year, doubtless there will be many more eyebrows raised because rarely is Canada mentioned when it comes to the world’s top whiskies. But, again, I have no doubt people finding the bottling I tasted will be blown away with this whisky’s uncompromising and unique beauty. It certainly puts the rye into Canadian rye.”

If you have a goldfish, and you are kind of over that goldfish, to the point where you are now wondering whether it might be best to set that goldfish free, please rethink that decision.

That’s the request from the Alberta government, which is trying to get Canadians to refrain from dumping out their fish tanks into ponds. Because those ponds are filling up with those discarded goldfish, which are getting really, really big in the wild.

Or, as the CBC notes: “Goldfish the size of dinner plates are multiplying like bunnies.”

“It’s quite a surprise how large we’re finding them and the sheer number,” Kate Wilson, aquatic invasive species coordinator at Alberta Environment and Parks, told the broadcaster.

According to CBC News:

In one case, the municipality of Wood Buffalo pulled 40 of the domestic fish species from a stormwater pond.

“That’s really scary because it means they’re reproducing in the wild, they are getting quite large and they are surviving the winters that far north,” said Wilson.

“Their size is limited in the tank, but when you release it into the wild, that doesn’t exist anymore,” Wilson told The Post.

Like other species of carp, the domestic goldfish Carassius auratus will basically keep growing as long as water temperatures and food resources support it. There are obviously limits — you’re not going to accidentally create fishzilla if you overfeed your goldfish — but given a big body of water with tons of food and warm summers, a fish is bound to get supersized.

Then you end up with a bunch of goldfish bruisers competing with local fish for resources, and you better believe the fish you flushed will give native species a run for their money. Plus, some scientists say, goldfish feces might help support certain types of algae, leading to algal blooms that further disrupt the eco-system.

The CBC reports that a campaign designed to curb this trend, called Don’t Let It Loose, will “focus on educating Albertans about the dangers of releasing domestic fish into nature.”

If people are dumping their aquariums, Wilson explained, they’re also dumping the water it holds, which can carry disease and parasites. What’s more, the goldfish can survive in poor water conditions, she said, and “could be competing with our native species for both food and habitat.”

A placenta sustained you and every person ever born for 9 months, serving as your lungs and kidneys and pumping out hormones while you developed in the womb. Problems with this disk-shaped mass of tissue can contribute to everything from preterm births to diseases of middle age. Yet when a baby is born, hospitals usually throw the placenta away.

“It’s the least understood human organ,” says Alan Guttmacher, director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in Bethesda, Maryland. “A large part of the scientific community never thinks about the placenta at all.” He and others hope to change that, however, by rallying researchers and funders, including other parts of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), around an effort to better understand the underappreciated organ. At an NICHD-sponsored workshop last week, some 70 researchers laid out their ideas for what NICHD calls the Human Placenta Project, including ways to better monitor the placenta during a pregnancy, and drugs to bolster it when it falters.

The human placenta forms primarily from cells that develop from the outer layer of fetal cells that surround an early embryo. Early in pregnancy, these trophoblasts invade the uterine wall and later develop a complex network of tiny projections called villi, which contain fetal blood vessels. This treelike structure of villi absorbs oxygen and nutrients from maternal blood; fetal waste and carbon dioxide meanwhile diffuse into the maternal bloodstream. Other specialized cells link the developing placenta to the umbilical cord. To avoid rejection by the mother’s immune system, the placenta employs various tricks, such as not expressing certain proteins. The placenta’s role during pregnancy is “an incredibly interesting biological time” that offers lessons for everything from cancer to organ transplantation, says physician-scientist Kimberly Leslie of the University of Iowa in Iowa City.

A malfunctioning, too small, or weakly attached placenta can starve the fetus, stunting its growth, and can also contribute to preeclampsia, or pregnancy-related high blood pressure, a condition that occurs in up to 6% of pregnancies and can require premature delivery of a baby. Adult diseases, too, ranging from cardiovascular disease to insulin resistance, seem to be linked to abnormal placenta morphology for poorly understood reasons.

During recent strategic planning at NICHD, researchers concluded that the placenta deserved closer study. “It came up repeatedly,” Guttmacher says. He expects that the Human Placenta Project will focus on understanding both the normal and abnormal placenta in real time during the course of pregnancy. It will also look for possible interventions—for example, a drug that would spur the growth of an abnormally small placenta.

Some at the workshop hope to adapt ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging techniques now used to study the heart and brain to measure blood flow and oxygenation in the placenta. Injecting tracers, however, may be sensitive ethical territory. “People are very scared of doing things to pregnant women,” said placenta researcher Nicholas Illsley, of Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, at the meeting. Another idea is to probe the mother’s bloodstream for cells and nucleic acids shed by the placenta as a window into the function of the organ.

Researchers also mused about creating a “placenta on a chip” that would mimic the tissue in the lab or developing molecular sensors that could monitor the placenta throughout pregnancy. “This sounds like science fiction, but if you showed me an iPhone 20 years ago, I would have said this was science fiction,” said Yoel Sadovsky, of the Magee-Womens Research Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, at the meeting.

Attendees described a few immediate goals. One is to come up with standard definitions of a normal and abnormal placenta. Placenta morphology varies widely, and those from a healthy pregnancy can still have visible abnormalities, whereas those from sick babies often look completely normal, says systems biologist Brian Cox of the University of Toronto in Canada. Even before the NICHD meeting, the international community of placenta researchers had begun to coordinate their efforts by planning a website that will list existing placenta biobanks and help match collaborators.

At a time when NICHD’s budget is flat, money could be a limiting factor for the Human Placenta Project, which Guttmacher hopes will fund its first grants in 2016 and go for a decade or more. He expects that in addition to setting aside new money for the project, NICHD may give extra weight to high-quality grant applications focusing on the placenta. NICHD’s own contribution may be only “in the millions” of dollars, Guttmacher says. But he says eight other NIH institutes have expressed interest in contributing, as has the March of Dimes, an organization long focused on maternal and infant health. At long last, a throwaway organ may get the attention it deserves.

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2014/06/nih-gears-closer-look-human-placenta

Pedophiles’ brains are “abnormally tuned” to find young children attractive, according to a new study published this week. The research, led by Jorge Ponseti at Germany’s University of Kiel, means that it may be possible to diagnose pedophiles in the future before they are able to offend.

The findings, published in scientific journal Biology Letters, discovered that pedophiles have the same neurological reaction to images of those they find attractive as those of people with ordinary sexual predilections, but that all the relevant cerebral areas become engaged when they see children, as opposed to fellow adults. The occipital areas, prefrontal cortex, putamen, and nucleus caudatus become engaged whenever a person finds another attractive, but the subject of this desire is inverted for pedophiles.

While studies into the cognitive wiring of sex offenders have long been a source of debate, this latest research offers some fairly conclusive proof that there is a neural pattern behind their behavior.

The paper explains: “The human brain contains networks that are tuned to face processing, and these networks appear to activate different processing streams of the reproductive domain selectively: nurturing processing in the case of child faces and sexual processing in the case of sexually preferred adult faces. This implies that the brain extracts age-related face cues of the preferred sex that inform appropriate response selection in the reproductive domains: nurturing in the case of child faces and mating in the case of adult faces.”

Usually children’s faces elicit feelings of caregiving from both sexes, whereas those of adults provide stimuli in choosing a mate. But among pedophiles, this trend is skewed, with sexual, as opposed to nurturing, emotions burgeoning.

The study analyzed the MRI scans of 56 male participants, a group that included 13 homosexual pedophiles and 11 heterosexual pedophiles, exposing them to “high arousing” images of men, women, boys, and girls. Participants then ranked each photo for attractiveness, leading researchers to their conclusion that the brain network of pedophiles is activated by sexual immaturity.

The critical new finding is that face processing is also tuned to face cues revealing the developmental stage that is sexually preferred,” the paper reads.

Dr. James Cantor, associate professor at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Medicine, said he was “delighted” by the study’s results. “I have previously described pedophilia as a ‘cross-wiring’ of sexual and nurturing instincts, and this data neatly verifies that interpretation.”

Cantor has undertaken extensive research into the area, previously finding that pedophiles are more likely to be left-handed, 2.3 cm shorter than the average male, and 10 to 15 IQ points lower than the norm.

He continued: “This [new] study is definitely a step in the right direction, and I hope other researchers repeat this kind of work. There still exist many contradictions among scientists’ observations, especially in identifying exactly which areas of the brain are the most central to pedophilia. Because financial support for these kinds of studies is quite small, these studies have been quite small, permitting them to achieve only incremental progress. Truly definitive studies about what in the brain causes pedophilia, what might detect it, and what might prevent it require much more significant support.”

Ponseti said that he hoped to investigate this area further by examining whether findings could be emulated when images of children’s faces are the sole ones used. This could lead to gauging a person’s predisposition to pedophilia far more simply than any means currently in place. “We could start to look at the onset of pedophilia, which is probably in puberty at about 12 or 14 years [old],” he told The Independent.

While Cantor is correct in citing the less than abundant size of the study, the research is certainly significant in providing scope for future practicable testing that could reduce the number of pedophilic crimes committed. By being able to run these tests and examine a person’s tendency toward being sexually attracted to underage children, rehabilitative care and necessary precautions could be taken to safeguard children and ensure that those at risk of committing a crime of this ilk would not be able to do so.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/05/23/study-finds-pedophiles-brains-wired-to-find-children-attractive.html#

by Daniel Politi

It sure sounds far-fetched but a story in the Beijing Times claims China is considering building a high-speed train that would connect China’s northeast with the United States. The project would cross Siberia and the Bering Strait to Alaska, and then go across Canada into the United States, according to the English-language report published in the state-run China Daily. To cross the Bering Strait into Alaska, the railway would need a 125-mile underwater tunnel, which implies it would be around four times the length of the tunnel that crosses the English Channel, notes a very skeptical Washington Post article on the report.

China Daily claims that the technology to construct such a long underwater tunnel already exists and will be used to build a tunnel to connect China’s Fujian province with Taiwan. “Right now we’re already in discussions. Russia has already been thinking about this for many years,” said a railway expert cited by the Beijing Times, according to the Independent’s report on the story. The train would reportedly travel at around 220mph, meaning the entire trip between the United States and China would take around two days.

What is being called the China-Russia-Canada-America line is one of four large-scale international high-speed rail projects the country wants to build, the Guardian writes, citing the Beijing Times:

The first is a line that would run from London via Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Kiev and Moscow, where it would split into two routes, one of which would run to China through Kazakhstan and the other through eastern Siberia. The second line would begin in the far-western Chinese city of Urumqi and then run through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Turkey to Germany. The third would begin in the south-western city of Kunming and end in Singapore.

http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2014/05/10/china_mulls_construction_of_a_high_speed_train_to_the_u_s.html

Thanks to Kebmodee for bringing this to the attention of the It’s Interesting community.

A battered diamond that survived a trip from “hell” confirms a long-held theory: Earth’s mantle holds an ocean’s worth of water.

“It’s actually the confirmation that there is a very, very large amount of water that’s trapped in a really distinct layer in the deep Earth,” said Graham Pearson, lead study author and a geochemist at the University of Alberta in Canada. The findings were recently published in the journal Nature.

The worthless-looking diamond encloses a tiny piece of an olivine mineral called ringwoodite, and it’s the first time the mineral has been found on Earth’s surface in anything other than meteorites or laboratories. Ringwoodite only forms under extreme pressure, such as the crushing load about 320 miles (515 kilometers) deep in the mantle.

Most of Earth’s volume is mantle, the hot rock layer between the crust and the core. Too deep to drill, the mantle’s composition is a mystery leavened by two clues: meteorites, and hunks of rock heaved up by volcanoes. First, scientists think the composition of the Earth’s mantle is similar to that of meteorites called chondrites, which are chiefly made of olivine. Second, lava belched by volcanoes sometimes taps the mantle, bringing up chunks of odd minerals that hint at the intense heat and pressure olivine endures in the bowels of the Earth.

In recent decades, researchers have also recreated mantle settings in laboratories, zapping olivine with lasers, shooting minerals with massive guns and squeezing rocks between diamond anvils to mimic the Earth’s interior.

These laboratory studies suggest that olivine morphs into a variety of forms corresponding to the depth at which it is found. The new forms of crystal accommodate the increasing pressures. Changes in the speed of earthquake waves also support this model. Seismic waves suddenly speed up or slow down at certain depths in the mantle. Researcher think these speed zones arise from olivine’s changing configurations. For example, 323 to 410 miles (520 to 660 km) deep, between two sharp speed breaks, olivine is thought to become ringwoodite. But until now, no one had direct evidence that olivine was actually ringwoodite at this depth.

“Most people (including me) never expected to see such a sample. Samples from the transition zone and lower mantle are exceedingly rare and are only found in a few, unusual diamonds,” Hans Keppler, a geochemist at the University of Bayreuth in Germany, wrote in a commentary also published in Nature.

The diamond from Brazil confirms that the models are correct: Olivine is ringwoodite at this depth, a layer called the mantle transition zone. And it resolves a long-running debate about water in the mantle transition zone. The ringwoodite is 1.5 percent water, present not as a liquid but as hydroxide ions (oxygen and hydrogen atoms bound together). The results suggest there could be a vast store of water in the mantle transition zone, which stretches from 254 to 410 miles (410 to 660 km) deep.

“It translates into a very, very large mass of water, approaching the sort of mass of water that’s present in all the world’s ocean,” Pearson told Live Science’s Our Amazing Planet.

Plate tectonics recycles Earth’s crust by pushing and pulling slabs of oceanic crust into subduction zones, where it sinks into the mantle. This crust, soaked by the ocean, ferries water into the mantle. Many of these slabs end up stuck in the mantle transition zone. “We think that a significant portion of the water in the mantle transition zone is from the emplacement of these slabs,” Pearson said. “The transition zone seems to be a graveyard of subducted slabs.”

Keppler noted that it’s possible the volcanic eruption that brought the deep diamond to Earth’s surface may have sampled an unusually water-rich part of the mantle, and that not all of the transition-zone layer may be as wet as indicated by the ringwoodite.

“If the source of the magma is an unusual mantle reservoir, there is the possibility that, at other places in the transition zone, ringwoodite contains less water than the sample found by Pearson and colleagues,” Keppler wrote. “However, in light of this sample, models with anhydrous, or water-poor, transition zones seem rather unlikely.”

A violent volcanic eruption called a kimberlite quickly carried this particular diamond from deep in the mantle. “The eruption of a kimberlite is analogous to dropping a Mentos mint into a bottle of soda,” Pearson said. “It’s a very energetic, gas-charged reaction that blasts its way to Earth’s surface.”

The tiny, green crystal, scarred from its 325-mile (525 km) trip to the surface, was bought from diamond miners in Juína, Brazil. The mine’s ultradeep diamonds are misshapen and beaten up by their long journey. “They literally look like they’ve been to hell and back,” Pearson said. The diamonds are usually discarded because they carry no commercial value, he said, but for geoscientists, the gems provide a rare peek into Earth’s innards.

The ringwoodite discovery was accidental, as Pearson and his co-authors were actually searching for a means of dating the diamonds. The researchers think careful sample preparation is the key to finding more ringwoodite, because heating ultradeep diamonds, as happens when scientists polish crystals for analysis, causes the olivine to change shape.

“We think it’s possible ringwoodite may have been found by other researchers before, but the way they prepared their samples caused it to change back to a lower-pressure form,” Pearson said.

http://www.livescience.com/44057-diamond-inclusions-mantle-water-earth.html

canda

Aboriginal children were deliberately starved in the 1940s and ’50s by Canadian government researchers in the name of science.

Milk rations were halved for years at residential schools across the country. Essential vitamins were kept from people who needed them. Dental services were withheld because gum health was a measuring tool for scientists and dental care would distort research.

For over a decade, aboriginal children and adults were unknowingly subjected to nutritional experiments by Canadian government bureaucrats.

This disturbing look into government policy toward aboriginals after World War II comes to light in recently published historical research.

When Canadian researchers went to a number of northern Manitoba reserves in 1942 they found rampant malnourishment. But instead of recommending increased federal support to improve the health of hundreds of aboriginals suffering from a collapsing fur trade and already limited government aid, they decided against it. Nutritionally deprived aboriginals would be the perfect test subjects, researchers thought.

The details come from Ian Mosby, a post-doctorate at the University of Guelph, whose research focused on one of the most horrific aspects of government policy toward aboriginals during a time when rules for research on humans were just being adopted by the scientific community.

Researching the development of health policy for a different research project, Mosby uncovered “vague references to studies conducted on ‘Indians’ ” and began to investigate.

Government documents eventually revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 aboriginals, most of them children.

These experiments aren’t surprising to Justice Murray Sinclair, chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The commission became aware of the experiments during their collection of documents relating to the treatment and abuse of native children at residential schools across Canada from the 1870s to the 1990s.

It’s a disturbing piece of research, he said, and the experiments are entrenched with the racism of the time.

“This discovery, it’s indicative of the attitude toward aboriginals,” Sinclair said. “They thought aboriginals shouldn’t be consulted and their consent shouldn’t be asked for. They looked at it as a right to do what they wanted then.”

In the research paper, published in May, Mosby wrote, “the experiment seems to have been driven, at least in part, by the nutrition experts’ desire to test their theories on a ready-made ‘laboratory’ populated with already malnourished human experimental subjects.”

Researchers visited The Pas and Norway House in northern Manitoba in 1942 and found a demoralized population marked by, in their words, “shiftlessness, indolence, improvidence and inertia.”

They decided that isolated, dependent, hungry people would be ideal subjects for tests on the effects of different diets.

“In the 1940s, there were a lot of questions about what are human requirements for vitamins,” Mosby said. “Malnourished aboriginal people became viewed as possible means of testing these theories.”

These experiments are “abhorrent and completely unacceptable,” said Andrea Richer, spokesperson for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Minister Bernard Valcourt.

The first experiment began in 1942 on 300 Norway House Cree. Of that group, 125 were selected to receive vitamin supplements, which were withheld from the rest.

At the time, researchers calculated the local people were living on less than 1,500 calories a day. Normal, healthy adults generally require at least 2,000.

In 1947, plans were developed for research on about 1,000 hungry aboriginal children in six residential schools in Port Alberni, B.C., Kenora, Ont., Schubenacadie, N.S., and Lethbridge, Alta.

One school for two years deliberately held milk rations to less than half the recommended amount to get a ‘baseline’ reading for when the allowance was increased. At another school, children were divided into one group that received vitamin, iron and iodine supplements and one that didn’t.

One school depressed levels of vitamin B1 to create another baseline before levels were boosted.

And, so that all the results could be properly measured, one school was allowed none of those supplements.

The experiments, repugnant today, would probably have been considered ethically dubious even at the time, said Mosby.

“I think they really did think they were helping people. Whether they thought they were helping the people that were actually involved in the studies — that’s a different question.”

http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/07/16/hungry_aboriginal_kids_used_unwittingly_in_nutrition_experiments_researcher_says.html