Posts in Sketchy Science
The Butterfly Effect: Grow Weed to Protect Monarchs

If you grew up during the 90's in Southern Canada, Northern Mexico, or anywhere in between, you probably have some fond memories involving Monarch butterflies. While the best that most insects can hope for is humans not noticing them, Monarchs have attained a special place in many people’s hearts mostly because they don’t bite and are strikingly beautiful. The orange, black and white wings of these creatures are so well known that they are probably the default image many of you think of when you hear the word “butterfly.”

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Getting the Coal Out: Scrubbing the air in Canada's most populous province.

Canada has some pretty strong stereotypes associated with it. As residents of the Great White North, my partner and I, in this illustrated science romp we call Sketchy Science, have endured decades of ridicule, usually from our friends and neighbours to the south. In the end though, the stereotypes are often things to be proud of. Canada is usually depicted as an untamed wilderness of adventure and possibility. Unfortunately, like any other first world country, Canada is mostly an urban place. Sure, our large land area and small population result in vast forests and mountain ranges, but that is largely because 81% of us live in cities.

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Indecisive Evolution: Where did whales come from?

It is tempting to think of evolution as a linear process. You start with some primitive creature like an amoeba or a slug and over time you get rid of the slime, add some legs, maybe a bit of fur and you’re on your way to something more advanced. Unfortunately this is utterly and completely false. Natural history is full of examples of animals that just don’t change no matter how much time you give them. Crocodiles and sharks are two well-known examples but the clad of stubborn animals also includes horseshoe crabs, dragonflies, coelacanths and nautiluses, just to name a few. Other animals oppose the idea of straight-line evolution in an entirely different way: they change, and then change their minds about changing.

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New Orleans is Sinking… No, Seriously.

A couple weeks ago, we took an internet-fueled trip to China to earn about the fight against the Gobi Desert which is threatening to consume Beijing. The Chinese government and its people are hard at work trying to erase the environmental degeneration that has led to their battle with the so-called “yellow dragon” but they aren’t the only people who are at risk of losing their homes to a pissed-off planet. You may not realize it, but the people of the state of Louisiana are up against their own dragon, only it is bluer, wetter, and a whole lot bigger.

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The Worst Inventor in the World: The Story of the Ozone Hole

Saving the world is a lot trickier than Bruce Willis makes it seem. The more we learn about humanity’s influence on the processes of nature, the more we understand that we live on a complex little marble full of very dynamic and challenging systems. For that reason, it is often very frustrating when we try to undo some of the harm we have caused. Climate change in particular is enough to make people switch off and wait for a new topic. It is a big unruly problem and it often seems like no matter what we do, we can’t fix it. However, recent evidence from Antarctica is beginning to show that the changes we make can have positive effects.

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How to Fight a Desert: China’s War on Sand

Beijing is a pretty important place. China’s capital and largest city is not only home to over 21 million people, it is the seat of power for the world’s most rapidly developing country. Consider the fact that over the past three years, China has used more concrete than the United States in the entire 20th century and you can begin to understand how quickly the world’s most populous country is catching up to the west.

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Giant boat-knives and other bad decisions: The tale of the basking shark.

The ocean is full of sea monsters. That is a pretty well established fact. Any parent who has ever told an insomniac child, awake and trembling at 3AM, that there is no such thing has clearly never seen a picture of a giant squid or an angler fish. Sea monsters range from the very small (jellies) to the unfathomably enormous, but few are as impressive as the basking shark (known to science by the delightfully gladiatorial name of Certorhinus maximus).

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Eat Like an Aardvark: How Entomophagy Just Might Save the World

The world we live in is becoming an increasingly crowded place. As of this article, there are about 7 billion people living their lives; and by 2050 the number is expected to be as high as 9 billion. On one hand, that means that there will be more opportunities for making new friends, but on the other, it means that those of us who are already here are going to have to get better at sharing.

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Living the Sin: The Strange Lives of Three-Toed Sloths

Very few people would envy the lives of three-toed sloths. Native to the rainforests of Costa Rica, these animals are famous for moving incredibly slowly (they climb at a maximum speed of 8 feet per minute), and sleeping up to 20 hours per day. What most people don't realize is that sloths are unique among mammals in a lot of ways that might explain their apparently laziness.

 

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