In some cases, recurring dreams that emerge during childhood can even persist into adulthood. (Shutterstock)

Claudia Picard-Deland, Université de Montréal and Tore Nielsen, Université de Montréal

Having the same dream again and again is a well-known phenomenon — nearly two-thirds of the population report having recurring dreams. Being chased, finding yourself naked in a public place or in the middle of a natural disaster, losing your teeth or forgetting to go to class for an entire semester are typical recurring scenarios in these dreams.

Noor Gillani, The Conversation

We’ve known for some time now our universe is expanding, and in recent years discovered this was happening considerably faster than we’d expected.

A volunteer gets an injection of Moderna’s possible COVID-19 vaccine on July 27, 2020. Moderna announced Nov. 16 that its vaccine is proving highly effective in a major trial. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink)

COVID-19 vaccines: How Pfizer's and Moderna's 95% effective mRNA shots work

Julian Daniel Sunday Willett, McGill University

The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a massive allocation of resources towards producing solutions, from identifying life-saving medications, tracking how the virus spreads and ultimately to preventing infection with vaccines.

As a physician scientist, I study how the virus has evolved over the pandemic, since any changes in the virus could also change the effectiveness of current treatments. On Nov. 9, Pfizer announced preliminary trial results showing that a vaccine it developed with BioNTech was about 90 per cent effective. That was followed up nine days later with final trial results and two months of safety data, indicating a 95 per cent effectiveness rate.

Make an informed decision based on the facts. Lightspring/Shutterstock

Mark Maslin, UCL

The science of climate change is more than 150 years old and it is probably the most tested area of modern science. However the energy industry, political lobbyists and others have spent the last 30 years sowing doubt about the science where none really exists. The latest estimate is that the world’s five largest publicly-owned oil and gas companies spend about US$200m each year on lobbying to control, delay or block binding climate-motivated policy.

This organised and orchestrated climate change science denial has contributed to the lack of progress in reducing global green house gas (GHG) emissions - to the point that we are facing a global climate emergency. And when climate change deniers use certain myths – at best fake news and at worse straight lies – to undermine the science of climate change, ordinary people can find it hard to see through the fog. Here are five commonly used myths and the real science that debunks them.

Currently, stem cell based treatments are still mostly experimental, and while some results are encouraging, several clinical trials have failed. (Shutterstock)

Katharine Sedivy-Haley, University of British Columbia

When I was applying to graduate school in 2012, it felt like stem cells were about to revolutionize medicine.

Stem cells have the ability to renew themselves, and mature into specialized cells like heart or brain cells. This allows them to multiply and repair damage.

If stem cell genes are edited to fix defects causing diseases like anemia or immune deficiency, healthy cells can theoretically be reintroduced into a patient, thereby eliminating or preventing a disease. If these stem cells are taken — or made — from the patient themselves, they are a perfect genetic match for that individual, which means their body will not reject the tissue transplant.

Because of this potential, I was excited that my PhD project at the University of British Columbia gave me the opportunity to work with stem cells.

However, stem cell hype has led some to pay thousands of dollars on advertised stem cell treatments that promise to cure ailments from arthritis to Parkinson’s disease. These treatments often don’t help and may harm patients.

The world’s smallest frog can fit on a dime. E.N. Rittmeyer et al. (2012)

Nicola Di Girolamo, Oklahoma State University

The biggest animal in the world is easy to see, if you know where to look. Living in every ocean except the Arctic, the blue whale is the largest animal on Earth — weighing as much as 200 tons with a heartbeat that can be heard up to two miles away.

But the smallest animal in the world? Even if you knew where to look, could you see it? To track down the tiniest creature, scientists had to first decide what they were looking for and then, where they might find it. The first question – “What is an animal?” – is something that scientists have debated for centuries.

I am an exotic animal veterinarian especially fascinated by these types of questions.

Ghost particles: how galaxies helped us weigh the lightest neutrino – and why it matters

The Crab Nebula is a remnant of a supernova, a source of neutrinos. NASA, ESA, J. Hester and A. Loll (Arizona State University)

Arthur Loureiro, UCL

Even when you close your eyes at night, 100 billion neutrinos produced in the sun will pass through them – travelling close to the speed of light, but never hitting anything. Neutrinos are extremely elusive and only weakly interact with matter around them: nature’s true ghosts. Until very recently, these tiny particles were believed to be massless.

In the late 1990s, researchers demonstrated that neutrinos constantly change between three different types (flavours or species), which affects how they interact with matter. This is something they can only do if they have mass – a discovery that was granted the Nobel Prize in 2015. From these particle physics experiments, we know that at least two of the three neutrino species have mass.

Kepler’s forgotten ideas about symmetry help explain spiral galaxies without the need for dark matter

M81 spiral galaxy. NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA/Harvard-Smithsonian CfA

Chris Jeynes, University of Surrey and Michael Parker, University of Essex

The 17th-century astronomer Johannes Kepler was the first to muse about the structure of snowflakes. Why are they so symmetrical? How does one side know how long the opposite side has grown? Kepler thought it was all down to what we would now call a “morphogenic field” – that things want to have the form they have. Science has since discounted this idea. But the question of why snowflakes and similar structures are so symmetrical is nevertheless not entirely understood.

Modern science shows just how fundamental the question is: look at all the spiral galaxies out there. They can be half a million light years across, but they still preserve their symmetry. How? In our new study, published in Scientific Reports, we present an explanation.

Cameron Webb, University of Sydney

A new school year, and another battle between bloodsucking parasites and the kids they love to live on. But the real casualties are the stressed-out parents and carers trying to keep their kids free of lice. Here are some tips for delaying the inevitably tricky task of lice treatment for as long as possible.

Remind me, what are head lice?

Head lice (Pediculus capitis) are insects found almost exclusively in the hair on human heads. These parasites aren’t found anywhere else on the planet.

They’re perfectly designed to scuttle up and down strands of hair, feeding on blood from the scalp of those infested. They typically feed about three times a day, spending up to 15 minutes on each occasion.

While their bites may cause some mild irritation, lice don’t spread bugs that make us sick.

Head lice don’t live long – not much more than a month. The adults lay eggs (commonly known as nits), which typically hatch in around a week or so. This life cycle is simple, but crucial for identifying and eradicating infestations.

You want to remove the adult lice, then treat again two weeks later to get rid of the newly hatched lice before they have a chance to lay more eggs. By Blamb/Shutterstock
It’s worth investing in a lice comb. By Jiri Hera
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One in six healthy people report problems with bloating. Alice Day/Shutterstock

Vincent Ho, Western Sydney University

Your trousers fit when you put them on in the morning. But come mid-afternoon, they’re uncomfortably tight – and you didn’t even overdo it at lunchtime. Sound familiar?

Around one in six people without a health problem and three in four people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) report problems with bloating. In fact, for people with IBS and constipation, bloating is their most troublesome symptom.

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Is medicine cure? Treatment? Healing? Understanding? Or a bit of all those things. Kenishiroti/Shutterstock

Alex Broadbent, University of Johannesburg

What is medicine? We recognise it in all societies past and present. But the nature of medicine differs so greatly from place to place and time to time that it’s difficult to offer a single answer. So what is it that we see in common between a traditional healer’s throwing of bones and the cardiologist’s incisions?

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zhu difeng/Shutterstock

Julie Broderick, Trinity College Dublin

The effect of exercise on health is profound. It can protect you from a range of conditions, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. But the type and amount of exercise you should do changes as you age. To ensure that you are doing the right type of exercise for your age, follow this simple guide.

Childhood and adolescence

In childhood, exercise helps control body weight, builds healthy bones and promotes self-confidence and healthy sleep patterns. The government recommends that children should get at least one hour of exercise a day. As a tip:

  • Children should try a variety of sports and develop skills, such as swimming and the ability to hit and kick a ball.

  • Lots of non–scheduled physical activity is great, too, such as playing in playgrounds.

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Increasing the amount of exercise is one way to use the energy stored in fat cells, or to ‘burn’ fat. HoonQ/

David Prologo, Emory University

Many of us may be considering “burning some fat” so we feel better in our bathing suits out on the beach or at the pool. What does that actually mean, though?

The normal fat cell exists primarily to store energy. The body will expand the number of fat cells and the size of fat cells to accommodate excess energy from high-calorie foods. It will even go so far as to start depositing fat cells on our muscles, liver and other organs to create space to store all this extra energy from calorie-rich diets – especially when combined with a low activity lifestyle.

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A fly’s eye view of a rapidly approaching swatter. Cameron Webb (NSW Health Pathology), Author provided

Cameron Webb, University of Sydney and Bryan Lessard, CSIRO

Summer in Australia is defined by sport, but the most-played sport isn’t cricket or tennis – it’s fly swatting. Have you ever tried to swat a fly? You can swipe, slap, slash or swoosh your hands at these sometimes-annoying backyard pests and almost always miss.

Fly swatting is as challenging a sport you’ll face this summer, but why is it so hard to squish these little beasts?


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