Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

Have you ever noticed how things sometimes disappear?


Yesterday I was driving along past the bank and decided to get some cash. I usually keep a small purse inside my big handbag.


When I run an errand, I like to take the smaller one to feel freer while leaving the big one behind.


Anyhow, I thought my debit card was in this small purse so only grabbed that one. As I excited and locked the car, my fingers were already searching for the card that I keep in it’s own protective sleeve. While walking briskly, I touched various cards, tissues, notes, toonies and change, realizing I could not feel the distinctive sleeve. Annoyed, I stopped walking and looked inside the purse until I took everything out. I had to come to the conclusion the debit card was not there.


Watching for cars backing up, I returned to my car and checked my large purse’s zippered compartment. It wasn’t there. Wallet? After going through it 3 times, I saw it wasn’t there either.


Upset, I got back into my car and drove home thinking it had to be somewhere in the house. On the table, in the closet, in a pocket maybe. I thought back to the previous few days. Another busy week it had been and remembered using the card at the art store a few days before. I thought I remembered shoving the cards and receipt in the pocket of my black coat.


When you lose something, your mind tries to reconstruct the past. But memories are not always totally reliable. We live such a distracted life that there are always a few pieces of information missing.


I got home and dumped everything out of my bag to no avail. I searched my house, pockets of my coats and pants, the office, even the garage (maybe I put it somewhere and don’t remember). I opened the computer and checked my account, no transactions since the one I remembered on Monday, which reassured me. I gave up looking for it after two hours.


All this got me thinking about things that disappear and how odd it always seems.


One time, we came back from a week-end trip to find my daughter had thrown a house party. One month later, my son wanted to wear the engraved cross I was safekeeping for him in my drawer. I was surprised and upset that it had disappeared from my bedroom bureau. I searched for it for six more months, refusing to believe that a party guest had gone through my things and stolen his property. I felt guilty for losing it and still think about it 20 years later…


Another time, when I was cleaning out a night table, I realized a very precious photo was no longer there. Do we do things and then forget about them? Where was that photo? To this day, I have never found it. This happened about 10 years ago, yet every now and then, I go through all my stuff again in the hopes of finding it.


Don’t socks disappear all the time? Where do they go? It is almost as if there is an alternate reality out there.


My friend’s i-pad disappeared in a strange way. She was there, she never saw anything. Probably stolen…



Distraction or selective attention is partly to blame. I recently read the book “Why we make mistakes” by Joseph T. Hallinan. It explains how it is impossible to be 100% present all of the time and “how we look without seeing, forget things in seconds and are all pretty sure we are way above average”. A very interesting read!


I used to be proud of being able to multitask yet research is clear that multitasking does not exist per say. We only shift our attention and each time we do, this uses seconds and the brain has to re-adjust, making both tasks less efficient.


Other things that sometimes disappear are people, friends, lovers and neighbours through move, break up, death, change of heart.


Everything and everyone will disappear one day. This is life, impermanence.


Things get misplaced

Things get forgotten
Everything shifts and changes

Everything will disappear one day
We try to hang on to people and things

But all we can do is enjoy them while we can

For all is disappearing every second that we live

While something new sprouts and takes its place


As for my debit card, I found it this morning, in the zippered pocket of my white coat, so it wasn’t lost after all. I was so sure I was wearing the black one, I never checked that one until today.


Thank you for reading and enjoy every second of your reality!





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Enviroart par Suzanne Bélair



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There is hope for cleaning up our oceans thanks to a 21-Year-Old who started the process. This young man is leading the way to the largest ocean cleanup in history slotted to begin by 2020.

Watch this video published by The Huffington Post: https://www.facebook.com/HuffingtonPost/videos/10153666021071130/

or go to the official site: http://www.theoceancleanup.com/



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The decision finally came down this week when Judge Bruce Cohen of the B.C. Supreme Court said “In my view, salmon farms should not be permitted to operate unless it is clear that they pose no more than a minimal risk to the FraserRiver sockeye salmon”


I still don’t get why it cost millions of dollars to get a verdict that was evident since many years already, but here it is and  by a credible impartial authority so this is very good.


Fish farms off the coast of Vancouver have been a subject of controversy for a long time. The many problems associated with the pollution it generates and the numerous damages to the environment they inflict are extensive. Many research papers dating back to 2007 and even prior have linked industrial fish farms to the decline of ocean fisheries and ecosystems.


Salmon raised in fish farms are commonly infected with salmon lice (Lepeophtheirus salmonis). This in turn is transmitted to the wild juvenile pink salmon and has rapidly lowered wild sockeye salmon populations. According to research, the salmon mortality induced by this factor alone is usually over 80%. Already in 2007, it was predicted that if outbreaks were to continue, local extinction was certain, and that a 99% collapse in these populations was to be expected in four salmon generations. All research pointed to salmon farms as responsible for those parasite outbreaks blamed for the eroding capacity of the coastal ecosystem to support wild salmon populations.


But again, it is the looming of an economic crisis in the industry that triggered the government to act and order this inquiry three years ago. The drastic decline of the stock in the Fraser river, that went from 100 millions to a meager one million spawners from 1992 to 2009 finally woke up the government to the issue. Judge Cohen seems to think the trend can be reversed if certain steps are taken like containing diseases in hatcheries, investing in research and redirecting Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) to protecting wild salmon habitat instead of concentrating on pleasing industries. His 75 detailed recommendations will surely be studied with attention by the government as well as lawyers for fish farmers who will no doubt try to bring some arguments against applying a lot of them if their clients are affected at all.


Fish farms should definitely not be located near corridors used by wild salmon to migrate. The judge calls for a freeze on development of fish farms in the DiscoveryIslands and even talks about a total ban if research shows that the industry is responsible for the decline of wild stocks. Other factors affect the decline of the salmon: finger pointing also went the way of infectious diseases, contaminants and climate change, all consequences of man’s interference with nature, a lot of it consequences of fish farms.



What is not mentioned in the report, or at least that I didn’t hear about are the consequences of the collapse to other wild life in the area dependent on the salmon in the Fraser river. One example is the bears that feed on the salmons and leave the carcasses to feed small animals and fertilize the grounds of the forest, the decline thus affecting the very life and biodiversity of the forests that surround the river.


All in all thought, the document is a major breakthrough that, if listened to seriously and acted upon responsibly could turn the decline around or at least slow it. The fact that it shone a light on a major issue that environmentalists have tried for years to bring to the forefront is in itself a good thing. It makes no apologies about linking Fisheries and Oceans Canada who emit permits for new fish farms and the industry, with the contamination of our oceans. DFO has the “lead federal role in managing Canada’s fisheries and safeguarding its waters” this certainly includes protection of the habitat of wild stocks, a part of their mission that has been shrinking over the years to the profit of economy and lobbying on the part of fish farms.

For more on fish farming in B.C. see my blog (in french): http://enviroartfr.wordpress.com/2007/12/26/la-culture-du-saumon-menace-les-stocks-de-saumons-sauvages-selon-une-recente-etude/

And the the folowing article: Krkosek, M. et al. 2007. Declining Wild Salmon Populations in Relation to Parasites from Farm Salmon. Science. 318- 5857: 1772 – 1775

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Consumers in the United States are getting ready this week for public hearings over the safety of a genetically modified salmon that will be, if approved, the first gene-altered animal to enter the North American food chain.

The fish was genetically designed in a laboratory in Prince Edward Island and is engineered to grow twice as fast as a normal wild salmon. The company AquaBounty Technologies has been waiting for 10 years for approval to market. For some reason, the U.S. FDA has decided to regulate the salmon according to the rules for veterinary drugs instead of new food products. The concern is that a drug-evaluation process does not allow for sufficient scientific examination of food-safety issues.

Although the FDA stated that the salmon appears “as safe to eat as other Atlantic salmon” after a preliminary analysis of the scientific documentation provided by the biotech firm, it seems that the science behind the company’s food safety evaluation would not be rigorous enough to meet the FDA’s standards for product approval, some of the studies being based on clearly insufficient sample sizes, some as few as half a dozen fish when it came to assessing allergic reactions.

What is also scary with this whole issue is that if this genetically modified salmon gets approved by the FDA, it would pave the way for other genetically modified animals to enter the food chain in the U.S. In Canada, AquaBounty requires Canadian Food Inspection Agency approval to sell its product and is only in the very early stages of that process.

These fishes are bred to be infertile. The company therefore claims that they carry low risk of escaping into the ocean and contaminating wild stocks, but a Low risk is not a No risk. And one can easily imagine how disastrous contamination of wild stocks by a fish twice its size would be.

The CEO of AquaBounty also claims that this Atlantic salmon is identical in every regard to wild Atlantic salmon when it comes to nutrition and texture. That is precisely what some consumers are afraid of. The fact that the company claims it has an identical product would make it almost impossible to distinguish in the fish counter from the wild counterpart without labelling, which the industry vigorously opposes. Plant-based genetically modified food in the U.S. is not currently labelled as such. There could be an exception though, if the salmon is to be regulated as a veterinary drug, since these are usually labelled.

Generally, genetically modified food (plant base) advocates oppose the labelling claiming it is a “disadvantage” to consumers who fear the product. But shouldn’t we know what we put into our own body? This attitude from the industry that claims to know better than us and control what we eat is appalling to me but speaks loud and clear about their influence on governments and the aggressivity with which they push their products without regards for our safety and the well-being of the planet. Short term economic vision is what you call this.

Some pro-industry individuals claim that this technology, by getting the salmon to maturity quicker, would increase the supply and decrease prices. Isn’t this what we did with chicken with total disregard for animal welfare, handling of waste and pollution? Isn’t it what brought us to the point where these poor chickens are given growth hormones to grow and antibiotics to survive until their bones break because of the abnormal weight of their deformed bodies? Isn’t it what we are doing with all the industrial farming without much regard for consequences? Increasing the supply and decreasing prices would be disastrous for the fish themselves, for the wild stocks, for our oceans, for the future of our planet.

What is too bad about all this is that the issue being looked at by the FDA, and that gets all the attention, is limited to food safety when a much larger global view should be addressed.

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In October 2007, the Science & Vie magazine (1081: 84-89) reported that a team of researchers had just highlighted the neuronal way a souvenir takes before arriving to the lapse of memory. This team of scientists from the Center of neuroscience and the Institute of cognitive sciences of the University of Colorado thus seems to indicate that it are possible to forget certain memories if one decides to do so. Thanks to cerebral imagery technique, scientists now understand the process of memorizing and have identified the three specific areas of the brain involved. The three stages of memory are: the encoding (the memorizing of the feelings and details of the souvenirs), the storage which preserves them and the recovery when the incident is being recalled.  The lapse of memory can thus have three causes connected to one of these stages. By means of the functional imagery by magnetic resonance (FIMR), researchers identified the area of the brain which was most active when the patients forgot the memories as being the pre-frontal region of the cortex, located in front of cranium. Indeed, this zone takes control over the other areas generally involved in memory retention and prevents their normal activation (the amygdala which deals with the emotions, the hippocampus for the memory and the visual cortex as well as the thalamus which deal with the visual treatment), preventing the preservation of the memory. Another experiment, this time conducted with rats, made it possible to identify a drug able to erase a memory selectively. Psychoanalysts have different opinions regarding the therapeutic effectiveness of erasing bad memories. Some think that it is important to remember the traumatism in order to work past it because, according to them, certain events can never be completely forgotten and can resurface later with adverse consequences. In fact, the experiment proceeded over a short period of time and gives no indication whether the memory is forgotten forever or if this is only a short term situation. However, this opens new possibilities for the treatment of post-traumatic stress, phobias or other emotionally traumatizing experiences.

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