Quirks & Quarks

For the past 35 years, Quirks & Quarks has taken us to the cutting edge of scientific inquiry. Host Bob McDonald presents the people behind the latest discoveries in the physical and natural sciences — from the smallest sub-atomic particle to the largest objects in the sky and everything in between. The program also examines the political, social, environmental and ethical implications of new developments in science and technology. Quirks & Quarks is a program for those of us fascinated by the world above, below and around us.

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Episodes

Quirks & Quarks Earliest Human Tooth Decay

The diet of hunter-gatherers living in Morocco, between 13,000 and 15,000 years ago, contributed to tooth decay. The remains of 52 individuals were studied, and all but three suffered from tooth decay. The research — led by Dr. Louise Humphrey from the Department of Earth Sciences at the Natural History Museum in London, England — found that a diet heavily ...
  • 2014
  • 00:07:43
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/12/2014

Quirks & Quarks Bats Hunt Frogs by their Ripples

Frog-eating bats are using every possible cue to track frogs, right down to the ripples in the water made by the frog's movement when it calls.  Dr. Mike Ryan, a professor of zoology at the University of Texas, Austin and Research Associate at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, and his team — led by post-doctoral researcher Wouter Halfwerk ...
  • 2014
  • 00:11:03
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks Between Man and Beast: The Gorilla and the Victorians

Until about 150 years ago, the gorilla was considered a mythical beast. No European had ever seen one, and its very existence was only rumoured. All that changed, however, when a young, unknown French explorer named Paul du Chaillu turned up in London in 1861 with a load of gorilla skeletons and stuffed gorillas skins that he had collected in ...
  • 2014
  • 00:14:28
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks Stormy Weather on Brown Dwarfs

Brown dwarfs are strange interstellar objects that are similar to giant planets in size and sometimes temperature, but more massive and luminous, like stars. Dr. Stanimir Metchev, an astrophysicist at Western University, has been studying the weather on brown dwarfs, and found that all brown dwarfs are home to extreme storms, featuring winds of hundreds or thousands of kilometres per ...
  • 2014
  • 00:08:14
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks Generating Electricity Within the Body

One challenge for medical devices that are implanted within the body — such as pacemakers, drug pumps or neural stimulators — is power. Generally, they're powered by batteries, but when the power runs out, the batteries have to be replaced, requiring further invasive surgery. Professor John Rogers, from the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at the University of Illinois ...
  • 2014
  • 00:08:58
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks Bacteria that Breathe Antimony

Most organisms breathe oxygen and use it to turn their food into usable energy, through the process of respiration. But some bacteria can respire other elements instead of oxygen, including many that are toxic to us. Chris Abin, a PhD candidate at the University of Georgia, has found what may be the first microbe ever discovered that can breathe a ...
  • 2014
  • 00:08:16
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks Seeing Through a Falcon's Eyes

Falcons are deadly hunters that can rocket towards their prey at upwards of 300 km/h to take them on the wing. But how do they make sure their speed kills their prey — and not themselves? Dr. Suzanne Amador Kane, a physicist at Haverford College in Pennsylvania, has been studying the question with new technology. She collaborated with falconers to ...
  • 2014
  • 00:08:21
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks How Snakes Fly

It is well known how quickly and efficiently snakes can slither across the ground. But a group of snakes called Chrysopelea use similar movements to help them sustain flight. These one-metre-long snakes use their signature "S" shape to swim through the air, as they glide down from the tree-tops in the rainforests of Southeast Asia. But that's not all. Dr. ...
  • 2014
  • 00:08:38
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks Dogs Catch Cancer

Canine transmissible venereal tumor, or CTVT, is an unusual contagious cancer that affects dogs around the world. Live cancer cells are transmitted from dog to dog during mating. Dr. Elizabeth Murchison, a cancer geneticist at Cambridge University, has sequenced the genome of this cancer. The results suggest that it has survived continuously for 11,000 years. The genome also reveals a ...
  • 2014
  • 00:09:08
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014

Quirks & Quarks Extreme Speeding Stars

Stars like our sun travel in orbits within galaxies, such as the Milky Way. But about 15 years ago, scientists discovered some huge, hot stars that were going so fast that they were flying right out of our galaxy. Dr. Kelly Holley-Bockelmann, an astronomer at Vanderbilt University, leads a research team that discovered, for the first time, smaller, sun-like stars ...
  • 2014
  • 00:07:49
  • 13-14
  • Added on: 02/10/2014