March 23rd, 2022

Academia in Romance

by Da Beattie

Since this is a school blog, we assume you are at least somewhat into academia. Although it’s a competitive place, there are many exciting things going on, like tests, papers, studying, research.

All of these things and more are in The Love Hypothesis by Ali Hazelwood.

Tropes like fake dating combined with backstabbing research colleagues, politics, and money, The Love Hypothesis is a love story set in graduate school.

If you weren’t set on graduate school yet, this book might sell you. Although not always realistic (who kisses random men in the hallway?), The Love hypothesis is a book for graduate students who are romantics at heart. If you don’t have any enemies, and you haven’t fallen in love with your best friend, The Love Hypothesis is here to show you that fake dating might be the best trope of them all.

The blue and pink animated cover features a science bench complete with a volumetric flask, a test tube rack, and a somehow stain free white lab coat.

Although set in science academia, this book combines the hardships applicable in all academia with the utopia of romance.

If you are looking for a funny uplifting book with lots of science jokes and puns, this book is a great way to procrastinate studying.

January 30th, 2022

Striped Horses in Trouble!

January 31st is International Zebra Day! If it is your first time hearing of this, read on to learn more about this holiday and the role this unique animal has in the ecosystem. 

 According to the Nikolaev Zoo in Ukraine, International Zebra Day was initiated by conservation organizations, including the Smithsonian National Zoo and the Conservation Biology Institute, to raise awareness about the zebras’ plight to help preserve and protect this unique wildlife.   

There are three main species of Zebra in Africa: plains, mountains, and Grevy’s, which are classified based on their coat pattern, social behaviour, and geographic distribution.

Plains Zebras, also known as the common zebras, are the most abundant of the three species. They are characterized by thick stripes that run down their bellies, and they inhabit the savannas of East and South Africa. Unfortunately, they are now extinct in Burundi and Lesotho. 

The Mountain zebras have a similar coat pattern to plains zebras but with a white underbelly. These zebras have historically resided in mountain grasslands in southwestern Africa, from the southern parts of Africa through Namibia and into southwestern Angola. Today, the surviving subspecies, Cape Mountain Zebras are only found in the Mountain Zebra National Park, Gamka Mountain Reserve, and Kamanassie mountains in South Africa. The second subspecies of mountain zebra, Hartmann’s Mountain Zebra, are distributed in four populations across Namibia and three conservation areas in the Northern Cape, South Africa. 

In the 1930s, the Cape Mountain Zebras were hunted to near extinction down to a population size of about 100. Later in 1998, the population grew to an estimated 1,200. Since then, there has been a steady increase in the population to 1,389 in national parks and nature reserves. 

Grevy’s zebras, however, have suffered the most significant reduction in Africa. They are now mostly restricted to areas in the Horn of Africa, specifically Kenya and Ethiopia, and are extinct in Somalia and Sudan. Distinguishably different, Grevy’s zebras have thinner stripes and a white underbelly.  

Despite their differences, they are affected by human activity throughout Africa similarly. Zebras were and still are, hunted for their meat and distinctive skins. They are losing their habitat due to the spread of civilization throughout Africa. This human expansion has caused a loss of grazing and water holes to agriculture and livestock, making it more difficult for zebras to access food and water. Poor access to food and water sources results in many creatures flocking to a single water hole in a particular area, increasing disease transmission amongst zebras. Furthermore, climate change has worsened the frequency and duration of droughts, another threat to the species.

While Plains zebras are classified as “near threatened” on the IUCN’s Red List, Mountain zebras are marked as “vulnerable” and Grevy’s zebras as “endangered”.   

So, you may ask, why should this matter? Well, zebras are unique animals not only in their physicality but in the role they play in the ecosystem.   

These majestic striped horses graze on rough vegetation such as dry grass, leaves, and twigs. By feeding on the low-quality plant matter, they reduce old-growth and clear the course for new leaves and grasses, increasing the quality of the vegetation for other herbivores. 

Fun Fact: 

Zebras are hindgut fermenters and can digest the rough low-quality forage through this process, allowing them to extract more nutrients out of small quantities of feed. 

Moreover, zebras are an important food source for many African carnivores, with about 30% killed by lions and hyenas. In return, these carnivores help reduce the zebra population and remove the sick individuals, which would otherwise overwhelm the food resources in the region and spread disease amongst the herd, respectively.  

Zebras also serve as insect population controls as they consume pretty much the same plant matter as insects. Without large herbivores like zebras, the insect populations would increase significantly, which can cause problems for farmers. Insect predators such as reptiles will also increase where insects reside. 

Hope this gives you a glimpse of wildlife and that you have grown to appreciate the importance and uniqueness of zebras! 


January 13th, 2022

All About Viruses

By Da Beattie

It’s coming up on two whole years of being in a pandemic, and some people are still confused as to what a virus is. Whether you are a non-science student, or my family members, this general post aims to tackle the basics. What is a virus?

Viruses are parasites that can multiply only in living cells and rely on host processes to reproduce. Thus, are deemed “non-living”. The simplest viruses are named viroids, which are circular single-stranded RNAs of plants. Other simple viruses include prions. Prions are normally expressed proteins that when their structure becomes altered, the misfolded protein induces proper protein to misfold and aggregate. The individual prion proteins that are misfolded can act as seeds for infectious spread. The most known example of human prion infection is the laughing death, Kuru, which arose due to ritualistic cannibalism. 

Viruses follow general rules with exceptions that this article will not cover. All viruses have a genome. This can be RNA or DNA. Single-stranded or double-stranded. Negative or positive sense. And while you might not know what all these terms mean, the general idea is that like living organisms, there is significant diversity. Unlike living organisms, larger viruses have larger genomes. 

Viruses also have a capsid, which is like a shell of protection made up of protein. Some viruses may be enveloped, which is the term for viruses covered by a lipid bilayer. 

Although viruses are given a bad rep, especially now during a pandemic, many viruses do not cause harm. Opportunistic infections only cause harm in immunocompromised individuals. In fact, some viruses have evolved to be a part of the human genome. The protein Syncitin-1 comes from an endogenous human retrovirus that is responsible for the fusion of cells forming the placenta, which suggests that infection of a virus in the past allowed the evolution from an egg laying species to a placental species. 

Now that the basics are covered, you probably want to know, what are coronaviruses? 

Coronaviruses are positive strand RNA viruses. Compared to negative strand viruses, positive strand viruses can be directly translated to make proteins. Like many viruses including influenza, bats are the reservoir for coronaviruses. Coronaviruses are enveloped viruses that produce subgenomic RNAs through discontinuous extension/template switching. A complicated process in which the details are not relevant for a general understanding of viruses. 

There are three main ways in which viruses may mutate and generate diversity. Antigenic drift is the term for point mutations. Antigenic shift is the term for when segmented viruses reassort their segments. And recombination is the term for interactions between two segments. Although coronaviruses are not segmented and cannot undergo antigenic shift, they can generate diversity through recombination. 

Antigenic Shift: reassortment of virus segments to generate diversity

So, if you have made it past the science dump and are still reading you might be wondering, how many more variants will occur before the pandemic becomes a seasonal flu situation? The answer is, I don’t know. But leave it up to your imagination and the possibilities are endless.  


MGY378, Microbiology II: Viruses. Department of Molecular Genetics and Microbiology, University of Toronto Winter 2021. 

January 12th, 2022

Scientific Breakthroughs and Their Impact on the Earth

By Da Beattie

DNA is the genetic information for all living things. Although you cannot see it from the naked eye while looking at a given organism, it is hard to believe that it was once unknown. First discovered by Friedrich Miescher in 1869, it was James Watson and Francis Crick that identified the double-stranded helix structure and became well known. This discovery, on top of many more, has provided the basis for many new technologies such as Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and gene therapy. 

Physics nowadays sounds very complex to the average person. The Nobel Prize in Physics in 2021 was given to Syukuro Manabe and Klaus Hasselmann “for the physical modeling of Earth’s climate, quantifying variability and reliably predicting global warming” and to Giorgio Parisi “for the discovery of the interplay of disorder and fluctuations in physical systems from atomic to planetary scales.” However, back in 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus theorized that the universe revolved around the sun which was a different belief from the thought that everything revolved around the Earth. It was Galileo that proved Copernicus’ theory by using a telescope to show the different phases of Venus that resulted from orbiting around the sun. 

Louis Pasteur, famously known for many things including pasteurization also discovered fermentation. He was the first to show that fermentation occurs due to microorganisms that can be killed by heat. This has saved many people from the diseases of unpasteurized foods like eggs and milk. This confirmed the germ theory which provided the basis for vaccines and antiseptic surgical techniques. 

Isaac Newton discovered gravity at the age of 23. Newton also defined the three laws of motion: (1) an object will not change its motion unless a force acts upon it, (2) the force of on object is equal to its mass multiplied by acceleration, and (3) that when two things interact, they apply forces of equal magnitude in opposite directions. Gravity is the concept that underlies the satellites that orbit Earth. The International Space Station (ISS) has allowed us to view the Aurora australis from space. 

If you are worried that the best scientific findings have unfortunately already been discovered, think again! These discoveries, followed by many, many more, have allowed modern-day science to exist and thrive. Whether it is a drug to cure cancer or an organism to reverse global warming, there are and perhaps always will be new curiosities to uncover, new and old problems to solve with up-and-coming research.

As Walt Disney once said, “if you can visualize it, if you can dream it, there is some way to do it.” Let your imagination run wild, for the answers are out there if you dream to find them.


January 6th, 2022

The Best Books of 2021 (Romance, Fantasy, and Young Adult)

by Da Beattie

If you’ve been following this blog for a long time, then you know I am a big fan of the library and reading. Here is my top ten list of books in 2021. 

The Wedding Ringer by Kerry Rea

Shipped by Angie Hockman

Defy the Night by Brigid Kemmerer 

As If on Cue by Marisa Kanter

The Spanish Love Deception by Elena Armas

A Psalm of Storms and Silence by Roseanne A. Brown

Our Violent Ends by Chloe Gong

Always, in December by Emily Stone

Better Than the Movies by Lynn Painter

When Sparks Fly by Helena Hunting 

November 27th, 2021

The Kinds of Christmas trees

by Da Beattie

If you haven’t figures out already, I love Christmas!!! Although my previous article explains some of the pros and cons to fake and real Christmas trees, this post is dedicated to the different kinds of real Christmas trees.

There are many types of evergreens that are exploited for holiday use. The genus Abies, also known as the firs, comprise the most common Christmas trees. Mistletoe, which I know best from Justin Bieber’s song, is a parasitic plant that parasitizes larger trees.

The main Christmas tree trees are Pines, Firs, Spruce, and Cypress. Firs are coniferous trees that are thick and bushy. Pine trees are also coniferous but they have a less filled out look. Spruce trees are also less filled out and provide a more rustic look. And Cypress trees, although less common as household Christmas trees and more commonly used as yard trees, are tall and narrow.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in NYC is specially chosen and composed of multiple trees to fill in the gaps of larger trees. Some places have even made trees out of objects such as wine bottle tree.

For a fun at home activity, try making a 3D Christmas tree out of paper or out of gingerbread and sugar cookies!

Sources used


November 18th, 2021

Christmas Tree Farms

by Da Beattie

It’s November and for many that means Christmas! While we Canadians have already had Thanksgiving, there is no reason to wait to start your Christmas cheer!

Like the Halloween and pumpkin debate, there are many pros and cons to disposable versus reusable plastic Christmas trees.

Although real trees are single use, trees take in carbon dioxide and produce oxygen and are biodegradable. Although they are cut down, and their emissions released, the Christmas tree industry continues to plant new trees which can offset the carbon emissions.

On the contrary, most fake trees, although re-usable and convenient, are made of PVC, which during production, emits a significant amount of carbon. Fake trees are also normally produced across the ocean and then transported to other countries compared to real trees which are typically grown more locally.

Eventually, upon disposal of a fake tree, many of these plastic trees contain other materials and plastics which make them hard to recycle, thus they end up in landfill. Real trees, as stated previously are biodegradable and can be shredded and composted.

Although it may seem that real trees could be better for the environment, fake trees have many benefits. They are easier to set up and take down. After multiple years of use, they are more economic. They are also able to stay decorated year round and do not have the same branch thickness differences real trees have and therefore they are easier to decorate and can remain in your house for a longer period of time.

Overall, the debate of disposable versus reusable, also known as real or fake trees has many pros and cons. As a Christmas aficionado, I of course, have a mixture of real and fake trees that go up every December 1st.

Source used

November 10th, 2021

November 1st: “What should I do with all these pumpkins?”

by Simran Randhawa

Okay, so, somehow?? It’s November?? I swear it was like 2020 two days ago, but no, it’s November 2021. I’m shocked.

Anyway, October was our thrilling spooky season, and I went trick-or-treating because I still pass for sixteen (especially when I wear a mask), but now it’s November. So, why do I still see pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns outside homes? Granted, people are busy, but it’s the second week of November – people!! You should have your Christmas lights up already!!

But seriously: on November 1st, you might be wondering, “What should I do with all these pumpkins?”

There are many eco-friendly options out there for reusing pumpkins post-Halloween. For one, pumpkins, like any other fruit or vegetable, works as an excellent natural fertilizer for your garden and grass. Depending on the size of the pumpkin, you should cut it into smaller pieces to speed along decomposition. Then, put the pumpkin pieces out in the sun or bury them with thin layers of dirt with worms and insects so that nature can run its course. Don’t forget to remove the candles or any wax from inside the pumpkins before you do this.

Another option is to use it in your food! You can get really creative here: pumpkin pie, pumpkin spice latte, pumpkin soup, baked pumpkin bread – the list can go on and on! Now, I’m not a major cook or anything, but I would love to give any of these a try.

If your pumpkins are still in great shape, you can still use them decoratively! For example, you can create bird feeders or food bowls (for yourself or your pet). There are also pumpkin pots and planters, or maybe a decorative piece for inside your home. If you’ve painted on your pumpkin something scary, you can paint over it again with something beautiful or a cliché saying like: “Live, Laugh, Boo” (bad joke, I’m so sorry, I tried).

What I’m getting at is that there are options.

Sure – there’s always the compost bin. This is probably the easiest and fastest option for those who don’t have time to reuse their pumpkins decoratively or in their food. But not everyone has the option to compost because their regions don’t have compost systems in place. So does that mean going out of your way to compost in another region? I hope not – and this is where you get the government involved.

Some of us may not care at all about any of this and may continue to leave our pumpkin decorations to rot while they wait to be picked up by the dump truck. Don’t let another pumpkin waste away in a landfill. We can literally use it as soil to make our planet stronger or feed it to our pets or leave it for the squirrels (unless they’re painted on – I repeat, do not let painted pumpkins near animals). All I’m saying is that we don’t have to waste anything. All it takes is some patience and creativity, time and interest.

November 3rd, 2021

#TeamSeas and their Goal to Raise $30 Million before 2022

By Simran Randhawa

On October 29th, 2021, Jimmy Donaldson, popularly known as the YouTuber and philanthropist, MrBeast, started trending on YouTube with another eco-friendly challenge for viewers: to help clean the seas. Collaborating with Mark Rober, a fellow Youtuber and former NASA engineer, MrBeast hopes to beat his previous record with #TeamTrees, where he helped raise over 20 million dollars in planting 20 million trees before January 01st, 2020, by raising over 30 million dollars with #TeamSeas and cleaning up over 30 million pounds of waste from rivers, beaches, and oceans.

I first came across the #TeamSeas campaign while watching the latest video on Doctor Mike’s channel, who is a YouTuber and medical professional educating viewers about the realities of medicine and the life of family care practitioner (no, I’m not studying medicine – I just prefer Doctor Mike over Grey’s Anatomy – I said what I said!). In his video, Doctor Mike introduces his partnership alongside other creators around the world with #TeamSeas.

I’m not too big on social media but I’ve always loved seeing individuals with money, influence, and means use their platform for eco- and just initiatives. That’s when I did some research, came across MrBeast’s and Mark Rober’s videos on #TeamSeas.

As I write this article, MrBeast’s video with #TeamSeas has over 29 million views, but I’m sure that by the time you read this, it’ll have much more. In his video, MrBeast is set on one of the dirtiest beaches on Earth, polluted with garbage, lots and lots of plastic, and… underwear? Working with a large group of volunteers, MrBeast and his friends clean up the entire beach by picking it up, using sifts, and filling up an entire parking lot with garbage and recycling bags. He also had a group clean another beach nearby once informed by locals about it. After 4 days of cleaning, MrBeast and the volunteers cleaned up over 60 000 pounds of trash!

Mark Rober also shared a video with #TeamSeas and in collaboration with MrBeast where he competes with him and hundreds of volunteers on who can collect the most trash. Rober showed his viewers how he would collect trash differently from his competitors on the beach with the help of his one and only teammate: the 004 Interceptor of The Ocean Cleanup, or as he calls it, “floating 50 ton trash-eating robot.” In the end, MrBeast and the volunteers collected 62 738 pounds of trash from the beach, beating Rober and the 004 Interceptor which collected 37 824 pounds from the river. Despite MrBeast’s win, this trash-collecting machine is a great product that can do the work of hundreds of volunteers all by itself.

Other YouTubers are also getting involved with the eco-friendly campaign and raising awareness on their channels, and both MrBeast and Rober brought this issue to Jimmy Kimmel Live on November 02nd – continuing to spread awareness with their platforms and others’! In less than a week, MrBeast’s campaign for #TeamSeas raised 10 million dollars (and it might be more when you read this)!

Every dollar you donate is one less pound of trash in the ocean, and the goal of 30 million dollars can remove 30 million pounds!

So, go, donate now! Volunteer! Spread awareness! MrBeast used his platform to encourage necessary change, as did Mark Rober. Maybe it’s time for us to use our influence in that same way, even if it’s just holding ourselves accountable for what change we can make in this world. After all, it’s our future and our home on the line.

October 5th, 2021

Where the Leaves Fall

By Da Beattie

It’s officially Fall! While the weather may be a bit warm for jackets and cozy flannels, the leaves are changing colour and the apple orchards and pumpkin patches are open.

If fall fruit is not your passion but you still want amazing fall photos, Hockley Valley Provincial Park is one of the best trails. Along the Bruce Trail, Hockley Valley can be accessed by Hockley Valley Road where a gravel parking lot runs 100m away from the trailhead down the street. After walking alongside the road for a small distance, the trailhead is an entrance on the side of the road that starts with a small hill taking you into the forest.

For hiking lovers, the trail and its side trails can be nearly a four-hour hike with many ups and downs and clear streams and tiny waterfalls. Although the parking lot may come across as busy and the trail is often quite narrow, the long trail is quiet and running into other hikers is rare.

Although the ground can be uneven, this is an amazing hike for beginners as the trails are well-marked.

There is no need to plan in advance! The trail and the parking lot are free and accessible from the main road.

With the leaves starting to change, the park is only going to get more beautiful!

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