Science communication: just as important as science

If you don’t communicate the science, you may as well never have done it. An important responsibility for any scientist is sharing their passion for their work and its relevance to society. This means effectively communicating with other scientists both within and outside their field, but also the general public or the layperson. Why should […]

Celebrity gossip: why I can’t look away

I have a terrible habit. At the very end of the day, when I’ve finished my busy workday at the office, done every chore at home, cooked every meal and my daughter is asleep, I crave a light entertaining escape from the daily grind. It’s usually about 10 pm, and instead of picking up a […]

Trevor Hall and the fruitful darkness: music of the heart and spirit

I’m at a spiritual retreat in Maui, Hawaii, in 2016 and singer-songwriter Trevor Hall solemnly plays harmonium. In deep concentration, he sings a prayer in Sanskrit to the fierce Hindu Goddess Kali Ma. He explains why she is portrayed with skin as black as night, fangs, a necklace made out of human skulls and a […]

5 questions about capoeira you may regret asking

In recent decades, capoeira has become increasingly popular, spreading from Brazil throughout the world. Here in Canada, there is a multitude of groups and styles of capoeira to choose from. I’ve been training capoeira for most of my adult life, practicing the most traditional form called Capoeira Angola. My friends and family often can’t quite figure […]

Are influenza vaccine policies based on good science?

It’s almost flu season and public health departments all over the world are fervently promoting influenza or flu vaccines. Like in the US, the Canadian government recommends the flu vaccine for the entire population over the age of 6 months. However, the majority of Canadians pass on getting a shot. Less than one-third of Canadians […]

Single parents worldwide: Statistics and trends

Single parents were very common in the 17th and 18th centuries. The most common cause: death of a parent. Approximately 1/3 to 1/2 of all children in this era experienced the death of a parent during childhood. Since then, medical advances and improvements in sanitation and maternal care have significantly reduced mortality of people in reproductive age. […]

Why we should worry about comets, asteroids and mass extinctions

Every once in a while, the Earth presses the reset button on life. Virtually all plant and animal species that have ever existed on Earth are extinct today. The fossil record and geological data show that mass extinctions occur periodically when life on Earth undergoes short periods of intense stress. Yet mass extinctions play a vital role in […]

The history of pharmacy and medication

Pharmacy is derived from the Greek word pharmakeia, meaning “use of drugs, medicines, potions, or spells; poisoning, witchcraft; remedy, cure.” The practice of pharmacy has been around for thousands of years, and healing with medicinal plants is as old as mankind itself. There is evidence that Neanderthals used pain-killers and antibiotics to self-medicate as early as 49,000 […]

Is your grandma on dangerous meds?

Many people can relate to this story: my grandma was suffering from chronic pain from arthritis, anxiety and insomnia. On top of her blood thinners, cholesterol drugs and other medications, her doctor prescribed Ativan (a benzodiazepine) as a sleeping aid and anti-anxiety medication, and OxyContin (an opioid), which is at the root of our current […]

Morality and the University of Duality

Good vs. evil, light vs. dark, peace vs. war, love vs. hate, body vs. soul, mind vs. matter, us vs. them. The dichotomy between contrasting concepts can be referred to as duality or dualism, which suggests conflict between two opposing ideas. Duality as a learning tool Over the course of our human lives, we must […]

Chaim Tannenbaum’s long-awaited debut album is finally here

The first time I heard Chaim Tannenbaum’s extraordinary singing was on Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s album The McGarrigle Hour, which was recorded at a gathering of friends and family in 1998. In particular, I was struck by the poignancy and luminance of Tannenbaum’s vocals on the traditional song, Dig my Grave. I thought, “Who is this guy?!” […]

Home with Ram Dass

I’ve just returned from one of the most powerful spiritual experiences of my life: the Ram Dass Retreat in Maui. I’d previously read some of Ram Dass’ books, listened to many of his lectures and heard podcasts of people that had attended his retreats. By myself, I can read and theorize; I’ve only experienced fleeting, elusive glimpses of […]

A brief history of biofuels: from ancient history to today

Biofuels were once our primary fuel Biofuels and bioenergy are as old as civilization itself.  Solid biofuels like wood, dung and charcoal have been used ever since man discovered fire, and are still used today for cooking and heating in many communities in developing countries. Even liquid biofuels such as olive oil and whale oil […]

Blues sensation Steve Hill finds his true voice

Steve Hill is a guitar virtuoso and one of the top stars on the Canadian blues scene. What makes him unique is his ability to simultaneously sing and play guitar, bass and drums. He is an exceptionally skilled, raw and gritty blues incarnation of the one-man band. Steve Hill began his one-man odyssey with Solo […]

Montreal and New York comedians unite for three nights of stand-up

Montreal stand-up comedy fans were thrilled when a revitalized Comedyworks reopened in February of last year. Local comedy icon and Comedyworks regular, Peter J. Radomski, emceed the grand inaugural weekend. One year later, he is invited to headline five upcoming shows at Comedyworks taking place on three consecutive nights (Feb. 25-26-27, 2016). For the occasion, […]

What is true love?

  Like world peace, enlightenment and unicorns, romantic love has always eluded me. I had a very brief and disastrous relationship with my daughter’s father. He now (thankfully) lives over 7000 km away in another hemisphere of the planet. Since then, I’ve tried online dating, offline dating, younger men, older men, single dads, bachelors, and […]

Drones, the apocalypse and rock ‘n’ roll: Muse live in Montreal

I’m particularly susceptible to male rock singers with clear high voices, like Freddie Mercury of Queen, Thom Yorke of Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness, and of course Matt Bellamy, lead singer of the British band Muse. Seduced by Bellamy’s soaring  vocals, theatrical musical arrangements, fiery guitar solos and heart-stopping riffs, I bought a […]

The curious history of the Christmas tree

The Christmas tree is one of the most iconic winter traditions of modern culture. It graces homes and office buildings all over the world and it has been accepted as a symbol of the holiday season by Christians, many other faiths as well as the secular community. The Christmas tree has been a subject of controversy for […]

A review of The Weeknd in concert in Montreal

The ghost of the artist who goes by the name of The Weeknd has been haunting my psyche for months. By ghost, I mean five albums worth of dark, brooding beats coupled with outrageous lyrics sung in a high melodic voice reminiscent of Michael Jackson. I’ve been listening obsessively to The Weeknd’s music since late […]

Growing older while female: power, stereotypes and Hollywood

This morning, my 6-year old daughter found a few stray white hairs on my head and said, “Wow mom, you’re going to be an old lady soon!”. I’ll be turning 37 in a few weeks, yet 40 – the beginning of a new era – is just around the corner. I’m sure I’ll still look and feel […]

Artificial intelligence, military robots and consciousness

This summer, CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, Elon Musk, physicist Stephen Hawking, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and over 1000 leading experts in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics signed an open letter warning of a “military artificial intelligence arms race” and called for a ban on “offensive autonomous weapons”. These weapons have been described as the […]

Americans ignore us? Why worry?

This blog post is a guest article written by my father, Tony Webb, a retired banker living in Toronto (and a relative of Shakespeare). He discusses American disinterest and ignorance about Canada, and why it’s probably better that way. This writer has had several vantage points from which to view Canada, his adopted country. Born and raised through secondary […]

Everybody’s working for The Weeknd

I’ve recently discovered and can’t stop listening to the music of The Weeknd, a singular Canadian talent who is rapidly becoming one of the biggest acts on the planet. The 25-year old singer, songwriter and producer is known for his dark, hypnotic R&B, angelic pop voice and lewd lyrics. In 2011, he was a relatively […]

Relationships edition: A watched pot never boils

They say a watched pot never boils – waiting for something with eager attention seems to take a very long time. We’ve all been there. For example, a friend of mine was distraught with anxiety about whether a man she recently met would ask her out for another date. The smallest of his actions led […]

From agnostic to gnostic: from ignorance to knowledge

I used to refer to myself as an agnostic, or someone who neither believes nor disbelieves in the existence of God. I used this as a safe haven to avoid the ridiculous debates between modern militant atheists and the radical religious right, both blindly believing in their own paradigms. Ironically, my atheist peers have repeatedly […]

Honey: liquid gold

While visiting my parents last week, my father remarked, “I’ve never seen your skin so clear”. My secret is a substance that I’ve always had in the kitchen but that I now also keep in the bathroom. Called the “food of the gods” or “liquid gold”, honey has unique nutritional and medicinal properties that go well beyond […]

Toronto ain’t so bad after all

I’m spending Saint-Jean-Baptiste or “la fête nationale”, a public holiday celebrating the province of Quebec and it’s culture, in Toronto, Ontario. I’m a fluently bilingual Montrealer, visiting my American father and my Quebecoise mother who live in Toronto. Sacrilege you say? I don’t think so.   Most Montrealers, whether English or French speaking, view Toronto as […]

Hermeticism: the nexus between science, philosophy and spirit

Last week, I summarized the history of alchemy in Europe, the Middle East, India and China. Alchemy is tradition spanning millennia that influenced the development of modern chemistry, medicine, philosophy and psychology. Western alchemy blends Greek, Egyptian, Islamic and Jewish traditions, and is a branch of Hermetic philosophy, which is based on the works of […]

Alchemy: how a tradition spanning millennia became modern chemistry

Alchemy is generally seen as an archaic proto-science based on superstition that is of little interest to the modern chemist. In truth, chemistry owes much to alchemy, which covers philosophical traditions and chemical history spanning several millennia in the Middle East, China, India and Europe. Alchemy has played a significant role in the development of […]