Quantum Cooling and Absolute Zero

Here in Canada as the days get warmer we really appreciate how temperatures can change. Winter seems deathly cold in comparison as we soak in pleasant sun rays and bathe in a new sea of rapidly jiggling air molecules. What are the limits of temperature though? For instance, how cold can something really get? The answer is simply the temperature that coincides with when the molecules around us completely stop vibrating. This happens to be about -237 degrees Celsius or 0 degrees Kelvin. It’s commonly referred to as absolute zero. It’s not a temperature that can be reached but we can get close by taking advantage of Quantum Cooling. Achieving temperatures below 4 Kelvin requires using quantum phenomena. I came across a brilliant video explaining how this works and I really think anyone who wants to understand this process for the first time should watch it. As a brief overview, atoms of Helium-3 and Helium-4 are combined in an apparatus with a pump so that the the less dense Helium-3 liquid is forced to dissolve and move through the Helium-4. The Helium-3 atoms are taken from where they sit on top of Helium-4 and moved into a dilute phase which causes cooling. The video also discusses some more intricate properties of these Helium atoms and how they work. Go check it out!

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The key to survival: turtles

Did you know that turtles could (possibly) save your life?

Scientists have recently been studying western painted turtles, which are known for their amazing ability to freeze solid during the winter and come back to life in the Spring. That’s correct – during the coldest time of the year, this animal’s blood and internal organs are completely solid, and yet, they can recover without any tissue damage once they awake from their “deep slumber.”

Hoping to understand and replicate this power in human beings, scientists at UCLA have paired up with the National Human Genome Research Institute of the US to take a closer look at the turtles’ DNA. With any luck, they may be able to find the key components which can contribute to future innovations in the medical field. Their hopes are that frostbites and hypothermia would no longer cause serious consequences, such as a loss of body appendages. Furthermore, similar developments in medical repair technology can also be used to counter the currently life-threatening heart attacks which are the leading cause of death in several countries around the world. Who could’ve guessed that turtles may be the key in a major medical advance?

One last fact: these turtles can also hold their breath for up to four months during hibernation. If humans could do that, we would consume a way smaller amount of oxygen and expel only a fraction of the CO2  that we do right now… the possibilities are endless.

To conclude, even extremely slow-moving and (literally) cold-blooded animals can make a great difference in our lives, so don’t forget to appreciate Mother Nature and pitch in a hand in preserving our diverse wildlife!

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Quantum Computing Has Arrived

The local quantum computing company D-Wave has recently made news headlines around the world. Founded in 1999, the research technology company has come a long way in their goal of making practical quantum computing a reality.


Before we get into that though I would like to take this opportunity to say, I told you so. 😛  https://functionofarubberduck.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/37/

Two years ago the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin, bought a quantum computer from the company that tech blogs pegged to be valued around $10 million. The D-Wave One System is now being upgraded to the D-Wave two which CTO and Cofounder Geordie Roe says is 500 000 times faster. That means a lot when it’s predecessor already operates at speeds unobtainable by conventional computers standards! Continuing on this path they plan to release a new computer every two years, and they seem well on their way. They recently secured $30 million in a new equity round from investors.

But what does that really mean and what are the applications of this technology?

(If you haven’t read my previous post on the power of quantum computers I suggest you read that to get a good idea of some of the background revolving around these amazing applications of physics.)

Quantum computers exceed at completing tasks quickly that would take conventional computers years. At the quantum level bits of matter can be represented as combination of their 0 and 1 states.  These computers can read and manipulate these combinations simultaneously which makes them very powerful tools. The quirk of quantum mechanics that enables this is called superposition.

With this extra power quantum computers are able to work tasks that involve identifying objects within pictures, solving problems in academia like testing scientific theory, and working with overwhelming and complex data. These computers also are optimized for learning and a solid tool for developments in artificial intelligence.

Quantum computing has arrived.

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Music Medicine

Do you love listening to music but people keep tell you to stop?
Well, tell them this.

According to psychologists from McGill University, music has numerous benefits:
– Manages mood
– Relieves stress
– Boosts immunity
– Helps with social bonding

Manages mood: This is already known. For instance, I always listen to music when I am feeling down.

Relieves stress: Daniel Levitin, a co-author or a review published in the journal “Trends in Cognitive Science,” states “People who received the music had lower anxiety levels than people who had the drugs (Valium) and without side effects”
(The lower anxiety levels evident by the reduction of a stress hormone, cortisol)

Boosts immune system: Music activates neurons in the brain stem in sync with the beat

Social bonding: Do you not discuss with people and friends about music? Because I sure do.

So the next time you’re feeling depressed or particularly stressed, don’t take drugs; listen to music!

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Monster insects. Seems like an oxymoron, right?



Well, here goes a short blurb from an issue of the Globe and Mail:

“One of the most ferocious insects you’ve ever heard of – it’s the size of a quarter – is set to invade Florida this summer,” reports Live Science. The Sunshine State can expect to see an explosion of shaggy-haired gallinippers, a type of giant mosquito. “As insects go, gallinippers are particularly formidable. Their eggs lie dormant for years, awaiting the floodwaters that will enable them to hatch. Even in their larval stage, gallinippers are so tough they’ll eat tadpoles and other small aquatic prey. And as adults, the voracious pests feed day and night. .. Their bodies are strong enough to bite through clothing, and they’re known to go after pets, wild animals and even fish.”

Psorophora ciliata  gallinippers  compared to Asian tiger moquito

(To the left is the gallinipper; on the right is a typical mosquito.)

Wow. You wouldn’t want to see those around! I then did some more research on my own and found out that…

– fortunately, only female gallinippers bite. Male gallinippers drink flower nectar instead!

– usually, their large size gives away their presence when they are about to bite a human. However, those who were bitten reveal that the bites felt like stabs.

– also due to their large size, some insect repellents won’t even work on them!

Finally, we are lucky that in BC the weather is not ideal for these creatures to live in. However, be warned that this summer might not be the best time to go to Disneyland!

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FSL session summary

This post is about a session we had a while back at Future Science Leader’s at Science World. It summarizes what we did, and if you are interested I hope it gives you a glimpse into what we get to do as part of the program.

On February the 5th we were given presentation tips, and our, now evaluated, lab reports back. We were reminded to slow down our speech and tell a story while remaining concise whenever we present information orally. We did a few activities that practiced putting this into affect. The key advice we received was to remember who our audience would be, why they care, what we wanted them to do, and what they should understand. This all helped prepare us for our upcoming chemistry presentations. Near the end of the session we were given back our lab reports from a chemistry lab we completed over the past two sessions. The lab reports were evaluated as if they were first year university reports which made it a very valuable preparation for us as we will likely be attending university and doing similar lab reports someday. In the very near future (next week) we will be hosting a mock town hall to present arguments over the construction of a titanium dioxide plant as well as show some amazing science demos.

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Cubes, Pyramids, and more!

With the unveiling of the 6th generation Rubik’s cube, I am going to do a blog post on Rubik’s cubes. I fist started to get interested in Rubik’s cubes August 2012, when I went over to my friend’s house. As he showed me all the cool things he could do with the hundreds of Rubik’s cubes he has (an exaggerating, but not by much), I decided that I wanted to learn. So he taught me, and I practised for a few days. As I got better and better, I was also more intrigued by this toy, which was simple but complicated at the same time. I looked up some facts on it. There are over 43 quintillion possible possible permutations of a Rubik’s cube, taking into account the physical limitations of the cube. So, you probably won’t be able to solve a Rubik’s cube if you are trying to do it randomly. On the bright side, the greatest number of moves it takes to solve any of the 43 quintillion possibilities is only 20 moves. There was no elegant mathematical proof to show it, a team of mathematicians just borrowed Google’s computing power to try all the combinations using brute force, while reducing the cases that were necessary to check. Some cases are exactly the same, except for the colors, and some were identical if it weren’t for it’s orientation. Cases like these reduced the cases needed to be checked, and with the ever growing computing power steadily solving away, they finally proved that 20 is the most turns you need to perform to solve any permutation. This is called “God’s number” because you would need to be God to know the optimal solution for each permutation.

I will leave you with some decidedly different “twisty” puzzles. Can you solve any of the following?



These are not too exciting- They are just bigger versions of the familiar 3x3x3 cube.

super X 

Here’s something more exciting. It’s a 3x3x3 cube, with long diagonals added in. This cube is still not too weird yet-it still retains it’s cubic shape however you twist it.

 mirror cube

This one is called the mirror cube. All three layers have different heights. The result is a hard to manage mess, shown on the right.


Moving away from cubes, now. How about a pyramid?



This puzzle is called the pentaminx. It’s almost a sphere, and I’m not even sure how many faces it has!


new rubik's cube

I have one last cube to show you. This one is a 2x2x2 with an extra twist to it. Actually, it has 6 extra twists. Each face of the cube comes with a rotating dial with numbers, which you have to put in order in addition to matching it’s colours. Have a great spring break!

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Addction to Junk Food

Binging? Don’t worry. It’s not you.

These companies rely on deep science and pure science to understand how we’re attracted to food and how they can make their foods attractive to us,” states Michael Moss (Yes. Science is everywhere folks).

Numerous aspects affect the rate of attraction that we feel for snacks: taste, texture, and even the crunch. “It’s partly the noise, the noise amplifies, through the jaw bones connected to your ears, and you can hear the crunch quite loudly when you bite. But it’s also the physical requirement to chew on something and crunch it. It just distracts you and pours your mind onto what you’re eating.”
According to a study funded by Unilever, potato chips seemed more fresh and crisp when the sound of the crunch was more prominent.
Another fact is that when food dissolves quickly in the mouth, like chocolate, we tend to eat more as our brain thinks that no calories have been ingested. 

So how do we resist these delicious temptations? Appreciating the power of the salt, fat and sugar in these “junk” foods could potentially prevent people from binging on these products.

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Happy brain-awareness week!

This week, it’s brain-awareness week! Believe it or not, not everyone has a brain! In the below article I will be talking about two special cases: one where a girl only has half a brain, and one where a boy was born without a brain.


Cameron is a girl in the US who, since she was little, would have seizures so often as every 20 minutes. Needless to say, due to these violent seizures her life was greatly disrupted, she often suffered various injuries,  and by the end, her speech abilities were rapidly dwindling as well. Doctors concluded that she had Rasmussen’s syndrome: a rare autoimmune disease that causes destruction of one side of brain. With this, they decided to perform a complex surgery on her, removing that damaged half of the brain. Children’s brains have an amazing ability to grow and develop – doctors hoped the surgery would be successful because in  young kids, the healthy side of the brain can easily learn to take over and control the functions of the removed side. As expected, Cameron became paralyzed on one side after the surgery, but just as doctors had hoped, she regained her ability to control that half of her after only 4 weeks of therapy. One of the innovative machines which helped her recover was a split-belt treadmill: with the purpose of reteaching the brain walking patterns, the two belts moved at different paces to temporarily eliminate her slight limp. With the help of doctors and her parents, Cameron is now a healthy and normal 11-year-old.


Nickolas was born without a brain: he suffered the rare condition called anencephaly, which means that all he had was a brain stem. Doctors said that he would die a couple hours after birth, but the little boy managed to surprise everyone by living more than 3 years. During these three years, he had to take many medications for pain and seizures. Moreover, although it is said that children without a brain cannot display emotions or think, his family believes that he had underwent mental growth. Statistics show that one in every 10000 children are affected by this condition: commonly, it is caused when the mother has a low intake of folic acid during pregnancy, and although it has not be explained why, Hispanic mothers have a higher risk of having children born with anencephaly. Unfortunately, almost all of these babies die shortly after birth; Nickolas was truly a miracle child.


This brings me to the point, that while most of us have a healthy brain, it is important to understand how to take care of the brain. Even as grown up humans, we are still susceptible to many diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. Here are some tips for maintaining a healthy brain!

1) engage in complicated activities that would stimulate the brain. These can be physical (ex.sports you don’t usually play) or mental (ex. crossword puzzles.)

2) eat healthy foods such as: flax seed, fish in general, nuts, and fruits. Brain-healthy foods should be low in cholesterol, low in fat, and relatively higher in antioxidant content, amongst the  many other suggestions.

3)  be social! Interacting with other people can help you relieve stress.


Try searching up some other tips and learning more about the brain on your own! 🙂 Happy brain-awareness week!!


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There are many scientists and researchers trying to extend the human life. Even right now, there are multiple products out there that claim they help anti-aging. Some of these products include skin care products, nutrition, and vitamins and supplements. However, medical experts say that many of these products have not shown to affect the anti-aging process. Some researchers believe that with future breakthroughs of tissue rejuvenation, stem cells, etc., will eventually give people the ability to have indefinite lifespans.

But, there are many obstacles in extending the human lifespan. These include disease when getting older and being more vulnerable to accidents.

The longest a human has ever lived was 122 years. Many of the lab mice tested on have a lifespan of 4 years. Another reason it is hard to conduct testing would be that mice, and humans have genetic differences. Therefore, it is impossible to develop something or a product that will benefit everyone.

Right now, it’s best not to get your hopes up about living forever! But we can do somethings that will help us live longer. The most important one is to keep healthy. We can achieve this by eating a healthy diet and exercising. This also includes mentally healthy. Something else that also may help are supplements.

Researchers in this specific field have many ideas about this subject such as nanotechnology, cloning, genetic modification. For more information feel free to search it up and read more about this!

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