Canopy: A community project foreseeing a greener society

Concordia’s Greenhouse hosts a project inspired by a utopian concept, to be presented April 22

After making your way up to the 13th floor of the Hall Building and passing through an inviting doorway, you might suddenly notice the smell of fresh soil as hoses on a “mist” setting crowd your sinuses. An overwhelming presence of life makes itself known; a sort of hidden life, perhaps. 

You’ve stumbled upon Canopy; The Hidden Life of Humans: a project that unites science with arts and crafts in pursuit of the idea that we, as humans, may one day be able to move civilization above the ground into canopies. 

Maddy Schmidt, who recently graduated from Concordia with a major in design, conceived the idea in August of last year while walking through Montreal and spotting a planter erupting with vines and other vegetation. 

At the same time, Schmidt was listening to a Radiolab podcast about copepods: small crustaceans found in various aquatic habitats, and even in above-ground ecosystems among trees. In their episode Forests On Forests, Radiolab states that about 50 per cent of all terrestrial beings live in trees.

“I saw this crazy web of vines, and they were all linking onto each other. It looks like they’re holding each other. I saw them linking onto the fence,” said Schmidt. “I saw them linking onto other plants. And I was like, there’s this completely interconnected world, it was so mind-blowing.”

The Canopy co-creator immediately called her longtime friend, first-year photography major Liliane Junod, out of inspiration. The “partners in vine” brainstormed ideas for a project honouring the concept of humans living from the top down, rather than the ground up.

The idea of the project is to hang all sorts of house plants, such as pothos, also known as devil’s ivy, around the Hall Building’s greenhouse. They would be linked together with grapevines and hung on trellising made from recycled materials. 

The Canopy team is gathering material from Facebook groups that are designated for sharing recycled materials, such as Creative Re-use: Ø Waste, or CRØW.

Canopy will be hosting a workshop in collaboration with Concordia Precious Plastic Project (CP3) and Concordia University’s Centre for Creative Reuse (CUCCR), on April 4 from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.. Anyone is welcome to attend. 

CP3’s portion of the workshop will entail drawing lantern designs and learning how to transform them into illustrator outlines, which will then be cut into recycled plastic sheets with laser-cutters. 

The second part of the workshop, led by CUCCR, will focus on making arts and crafts with recycled materials, and techniques such as sculpting, drawing, painting, and printing will be taught by Concordia’s fine arts students.

“The end result of this project is going to be an exhibition where we create this magical canopy space in the greenhouse, and we’re going to include our artists from the community,” said Junod. “We’re excited to have not just people in fine arts, for whom art is their entire life, but also anybody. So we want to put forth the message that everyone can create for this.”

One of the Canopy team’s keywords is optimism, and their goal is to keep the community lighthearted when thinking about the environment.

“We really want this project to be as uplifting as possible,” says Schmidt. “Of course, we’re addressing tons of systemic issues, methodologies, but we’re exposing them through something much more artistic and colourful.”

The Canopy team is calling on any students from the Fine Arts, Arts and Science and JMSB faculties who are willing to lend a hand between now and the day of exhibit on April 22. 

You can visit the project’s Linktree @canopythloh for more information.


Space Concordia flies to Poland for European Rover Challenge

Space Concordia competes in the eighth edition of the European Rover Challenge in Poland

Last weekend, Space Concordia (SC) competed in the 2022 edition of the European Rover Challenge (ERC), an international space and robotics event based on real-life scenarios from European Space Agency and NASA missions. The event is centred around technological developments for space exploration, the ultimate goal of the ERC being to eventually become a benchmark and test trial for planetary robotic activities. 

The competition allows teams from all over the world to present their mobile robot designs and compete against each other. 

SC is dedicated to the development of space technology and is organized into four divisions: robotics, rocketry, spacecraft and space health. The student organization was founded in 2010 and has since grown to over 150 members at Concordia.

From Sept. 9 to 11, the Robotics team travelled to Kielce, Poland, to test out its own Rover robot in a Martian-like environment.

This year’s ERC was held on the world’s largest artificial Martian track in the Kielce University of Technology. Eleven people from Space Concordia joined the competition in-person. 

The team ran into some complications that limited the amount of time they had to assemble the Rover. This prevented the team from completing one of the four tasks they had set out to do: navigation, maintenance, science and collection and probing. 

“The assembly was frantic but we did it,” said Philippe Fernie, mechanical co-lead for the Robotics team. “We got the Rover at three o’clock on Friday which was the first day of competition and everyone got together to assemble it. We got it done within four hours, which is very fast.” 

The team still managed to go through three of the ERC challenges. The various tasks included trying out a hypothesis they wanted to test in a Martian environment and manoeuvring the Rover to put probes into the soil and scoop out dirt to conduct some tests. These exercises allowed the robotics team to practice with their Rover in real-life conditions. 

“It really helped the team too, I think, to see if the Rover could actually perform the tasks and be out in an actual competition environment rather than just seeing it go around the University,” said William Wells, the technical lead and software co-lead from the Robotics team. 

Wells explained that each year, the ERC changes the artificial Martian track to model a different type of location on Mars. 

“This year it was a volcanic location […] it was really cool to actually see it and get to put a Rover out there and drive around,” Wells said.

After the stress of the competition, the team is tired yet happy to have had the opportunity to attend the ERC and practice their skills. 

“It was an incredible experience actually getting to go to a competition in person because most of us on the team never got to go to an in-person competition since the pandemic,” said Wells.


Concordia researchers pioneer early-stage cancer identification nanotechnology

Dr. Muthukumaran Packirisamy, Concordia professor and research team member, is quite optimistic about the future of cancer screening technology.

Concordia researchers have developed a new method of identifying and locating cancers in their early stages by using nanotechnology. Their work was published in the scientific journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, and Dr. Muthukumaran Packirisamy, a key member of the team, could not be happier with the technology’s progress.

According to the research paper, the team has been able to accomplish great feats. The research focuses largely on capturing extracellular vesicles (EVs) via the technology they developed. Packirisamy defined what these are and why they’re significant. “EVs serve as the liquid, the glue that binds cells to each other — they are the most important method cells communicate, and that’s what makes EVs so crucial in our process.” The researchers created a “magnetic particle based liquid biopsy chip for easy capture of EVs […] and simple isolation using a magnet,” as stated in their paper.

The process, which Packirisamy has been involved with for years, is one that begins with these EVs. As the paper states, “These vesicles contain a myriad of substances like RNA, DNA, proteins, and lipids from their origin cells, offering a good source of biomarkers.” A biomarker is any trait in a given cell or organelle whereby different phenomena can be identified. The paper continues: “The existing methods for the isolation of EVs are time-consuming, lack yield and purity, and expensive. In this work, we present a magnetic particle based liquid biopsy chip for the isolation of EVs by using a synthetic [compound].”

Packirisamy tried his best to break it down. “The best and simplest way I can explain it to you is like this: imagine you want to examine grains of sand. We’ve taken a soccer ball, covered it in oil, and rolled it in sand so it can stick.” The sand in this scenario refers to traces of cancer in cells; the soccer ball refers to the researchers’ nanotechnology and the oil represents the biomarkers.

“One of the reasons we’ve been doing this research is because the traditional ways of detecting cancers can be quite invasive,” said Packirisamy. As stated in a paper published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, “An invasive procedure is one where purposeful/deliberate access to the body is gained via an incision, percutaneous puncture, where instrumentation is used.”

“Not only is the invasiveness of the entire procedure a significant trauma to the patient, it is also a trauma for the doctor. What we’ve been asking ourselves in this process is how can we study the progress and monitor the process without being invasive? This is where our project comes from,” Packirisamy added.

The significance of this research is that this biopsy chip would make the process of cancer detection much quicker and less intense than the traditional invasive method.

According to the Canadian Cancer Society, approximately two in five Canadians are expected to develop cancer in their lifetimes, and about one in four Canadians is expected to die from cancer. With a toll of 28.2 per cent of all deaths, cancer is the leading cause of death nationwide.

“Through our chip, we can test on a variety of bodily fluids to see if we detect anything. If we find something, we can trace where a potential tumour could be coming from based on the fluid’s trajectory.” When a drop of any kind of bodily fluid is run through the chip, the EVs get attached to these nanoparticles of fluid, like grains of sand onto a soccer ball, allowing them to be separated and analyzed by the researchers.

After combing through the meticulous details involved in this entire process, Dr. Packirisamy took a deep breath and reflected on his work and way of thinking. “You know, I started research 36 years ago in the ‘80s — my formal background is in mechanical engineering. I was designing really big machines: engines, aerospace equipment, you name it. Over time, I got interested in the opposite of what I was working on. I started getting curious about nano-machines. I then began the process of miniaturizing my research. What interested me in the power of nanotechnology was the extreme proximity in the field’s relationship to minute things. That’s what really intrigued me. I see the potential to get smaller and smaller because, essentially, that’s what constitutes the bigger level. That was the philosophy I was into. As you get deeper and deeper, all the boundaries within scientific disciplines get fuzzy, and that’s what fascinates me. The interdisciplinarity of what we do is beautiful. Across various minds, understanding the connection, that is truly wonderful. And that’s what the future needs. I want others in science to break out of their comfort zones. We’re all interested in reducing human pain, and the best work comes from collaboration. Together, we can break through boundaries.”


Graphic by James Fay


Concordia PhD candidate reaches new heights in bioprinting development

After years of research and development, Hamid Ebrahimi Orimi and his team have made great strides in researching and developing new bioprinting technologies

How has illness impacted you and your loved ones? Every year, millions of people are affected by health issues relating to their organs. While the industry surrounding organ donation saves thousands of lives, it simply isn’t enough. Although the field of bioprinting is nowhere near the stage of the reprinting and transplantation of organs, progress is being made incrementally in the eventual recreation of human tissue here at Concordia by PhD candidate Hamid Ebrahimi Orimi and his team.

Among those in the field of bioprinting, Orimi stands out. As he earns his PhD in mechanical engineering at Concordia, he is also part of a team of bioprinting experts in Montreal. The team is composed of researchers and supervisors from Concordia’s Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as from the Université de Montréal. The team has been working on a new and innovative approach that could have massive impacts in the field.

So what is bioprinting? Bioprinting technology utilizes biomaterials to replicate natural tissues, like those found in human organs. The process involves a special method of layering to simulate biological tissues. These materials are referred to as bio-inks. Based on Orimi and his team’s technological advances, their newly developed equipment can synthesize droplets of these bio-inks at much quicker rate than other kinds of bioprinters. 

What makes the developments of this team so unique is that they have been able to “validate the feasibility of bioprinting primary adult sensory neurons using a newly developed laser-assisted cell bioprinting technology, known as Laser-Induced Side Transfer (LIST).” Through the team’s research, a type of bioprinting technology has been created through the use of lasers. Their paper on the subject was published in the scientific journal Micromachines. The development of this laser has been a game-changer.

As Orimi himself put it, “I’ve been working on this for the past five years — my PhD work has led me to all these discoveries. I’ve spent years on the development of this auto-mechanical device, which will be able to develop cells needed for bioprinting.”

Since the start of this project, the team has come a long way. “One of our main challenges was about developing the capillary cells properly through the LIST. However, we’ve seen progress in other areas. My colleague, for example, has used the laser technology to work on the cells of the cornea, where there are no blood vessels”, said Orimi.

Because capillaries are the smallest of blood vessels, recreating their cells through the LIST is quite challenging at the moment. The development of tissues that don’t contain capillaries has been sped up because of this.

Since the publication of their paper in Micromachines earlier this summer, further developments have been made. While the paper from July mentioned that the viability of the neuron cells was around 87 per cent on average, “we are now looking at a viability rate of around 93 to 95 per cent,” Orini stated.

For those less familiar with the terminology, there is a distinction to be made between the viability of cells and their functionality. As Orimi put it, “the viability refers to whether or not the cells can survive in the proper substrate (proper substrate: a surface where an organism grows). Functionality is about if they communicate with other cells and mimic behaviours found in human tissue.” While functionality seems to be the bigger concern at the moment, the viability of the bioprinted cells is only improving as research continues.

According to Orimi, the development of their LIST will only accelerate bioprinting technology. What the team hopes to do is to use their laser to assist in the manufacturing of medication. 

“Currently, labs primarily use mice and other animals when doing their research. By the advancements of bioprinting, they would be able to test on manufactured human tissue, which would be better for the accuracy of the drugs.”

The prospects of bioprinting, thanks to the work of dedicated researchers across the world, are looking bright. While there is still a long way to go, Orimi and his team are positive that their laser technology will be of great use as they continue their research.


Photograph by Oona Barrett


Can I believe in science and magic?

A little faith in magic, maybe spirituality, is a great way to connect with yourself, and explore the mysteries of this universe.

Are science and faith at odds?

Some would say that science and faith are polar opposites, others say that science is a form of faith.

This idea stumped me. Is magic (anything in the realm of mystical, religious, or faith-based that we can’t verify with evidence) at odds with what we know about the natural world (scientific discovery)? While magic and faith share characteristics, they’re not quite the same.

Faith is an ingredient in magic. Faith is also an ingredient in science. 

Magic and science, in these terms, are not directly connected, but share a relationship through continuity. Faith touches both magic and science, which got me thinking, do they share any other traits in common?

Let’s examine.

Curiosity of the unknown has driven many great minds to the craft of theorizing, experimenting, and documenting. This is, loosely, the world of science. The scientific method, in all its practicality, is a honed ritual.

Curiosities that can’t be captured and examined in our experiments, but persist in theory, have found their place in spiritual and religious methods, namely, the documenting and ritualizing of magic moments and experiences.

Evidence is the basis of all scientific purpose and discovery. Experiments must be unbiased and uninfluenced, and scientists go through great pains to accomplish this task. Scientists look for empirical evidence, that is, whatever they can observe with their five senses, to answer questions and confirm theories. Within the scientific world, there are some who rely on logic alone, skeptical of anything perceived through the senses. The principle is, if you can verify that 1 + 1 = 2 with basic deductive reasoning, not firsthand experience, then maybe you can verify other things without having to experience them too.

Meanwhile, in magic, evidence is understood in anecdote and intuition, rather than objective data collection. You cannot control, predict, or measure the setting wherein someone encounters God, or feels déjà-vu. This can lead to skepticism. But if we choose to limit ourselves only to that which we can verify with our senses, or with our logic, we’re left wholly unequipped to examine the mysteries that reach outside of the short net we cast into the abyss.

There are so many animals that enjoy a completely different experience of living in the world that we share, just because they have different senses to experience the world, and different brains that process those experiences. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to experience echolocation like bats, or send and receive empathic social messages like sperm whales.

When I think about it, our experiences are gathered from our five measly senses, and processed by our wee little three-pound brain —  that’s pittens! 

Take this example. I have seen swear-on-my-life, unexplainable, consistent magic with my own eyes. Truly. I experience it on a near-daily basis. It all comes from a book I own, “The Tao of Leadership,” which interprets the spiritual teachings of Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, and marries them with modern psychology, thanks to the author, John Heider.

The 95-page book compiles the philosophies of the eastern religion Taoism that’s centered on the principle that Tao is a way of being. When you move in tandem with this principle, you move in harmony and are at one with the universe. “The Tao of Leadership” takes the principles of Tao and applies them to practical situations that a leader faces in group dynamics, the self, and the world at large.

When I look to the book for direction, I take it and ask a question that is plaguing me, like one does  when reading tarot cards. I sit with the question for a moment. In the mindfulness practice, they call this a mindful pause. I open the book, and advice pours out. The words on the page are like the advice of a wise grandmother or a consoling friend — the kind of direction I’m in need of at that moment. It has yet to confuse or disappoint me.

Discovering this book has deepened my faith, curiosity, and calmed my skepticism of anything that doesn’t produce concrete evidence. 

A point of reflection: have you ever had an experience, thought or feeling that deepened your appreciation for anecdotal evidence, and the experiences of other people, or even the experiences of animals, who perceive the world through different senses and different brains? Was this catalyst something you can explain or study through science?

It’s delicious to stoke a boundless curiosity usually reserved for children, and it’s been good for my health. The box has four walls. On the other side of the wall, there’s conversations with books, conversations with plants and animals, who knows what else?

Sharing this western culture that celebrates evidence, it’s likely that you, like me, believe in science. But my question to you is, do you believe in magic?


Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam

Simply Scientific: What do we know about Déjà vu?

Have you not read this article before? Pretty sure you haven’t. You might just be experiencing déjà vu.

Ever had a conversation,

That you realize you’ve had before,

Isn’t it strange?

Have you ever talked to someone,

And you feel you know what’s coming next?

It feels prearranged. – Iron Maiden

Despite scientists’ attempts to find an explanation for déjà vu, they haven’t yet reached a conclusion. For now, hypotheses are all we have. But, a few years ago, the scientific community started targeting their research around the most plausible cause: memory.

In 400 AD, philosopher St. Augustine was already wondering about this phenomenon, however, the expression “déjà vu” was first introduced and popularized by philosopher and medium Émile Boirac in 1876. Before science got involved in the topic, people would link déjà vu to premonitory dreams and even reincarnation.

From a scientific perspective, a potential cause of déjà vu has been researched in studies of epilepsy. According to a 2012 report published in the medical journal Neuropsychologia, there is a strong correlation between déjà vu and the seizures that occur to those who suffer from temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE). TLE is a type of epilepsy that affects the hippocampus of the brain, which is crucial for learning and memory. Experts then suggested that déjà vu, just like a seizure, could be prompted by a local neurological dysfunction in which neurons happen to send signals at random, giving us a feeling of familiarity. Nevertheless, it is still uncertain whether déjà vu could be explained by physiological similarities between a healthy brain and the brain of a patient with epilepsy, as mentioned in an article of Cortex journal.

Another possible explanation, explored in 2012 by Colorado State University psychology professor Anne M. Cleary, is that our brain could be associating a present situation with the memory of an experience that we cannot consciously recall. To test this theory, Cleary put 74 participants in a static virtual reality (VR) simulation “to demonstrate that an identical spatial layout to a previously viewed but unrecalled scene increases the likelihood of reported déjà vu for an otherwise novel scene.” Even though this theory is now largely accepted, a question remained: what is the relation between déjà vu and the feeling of premonition?

In 2018, Cleary and her collaborator Alexander B. Claxton conducted a similar experiment, but this time, with an animated VR simulation. They suggested that déjà vu could be an illusion of prediction. The study showed that many participants often thought they knew what would happen next based on what they had previously seen while being unable to predict an outcome. Therefore, déjà vu seemed to have something to do with thinking about the future, but not much to do with premonitions, though the study “[has] not ruled out the possibility that memory-driven déjà vu can, in other situations, drive actual predictive ability.”

Ever had a conversation that you realize you’ve had before? Whether you think it’s a glitch in the matrix or a special ability, the lack of knowledge surrounding the mysteries of the brain makes it difficult to come up with a thorough answer regarding the causes of déjà vu. Who knows, maybe 60 to 70 per cent of us really are psychics. It feels prearranged. Isn’t it strange?


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Simply Scientific: Why do we dream?

Ever dreamed of something so interesting that you wake up thinking “Wow! How did my brain come up with that?” Well, there are a couple of different theories on the origin of dreams.

In 1977,  Harvard psychiatrists J. Allan Hobson and Robert McCarley came up with the Activation-Synthesis Theory. Their theory is that dreaming is the brain’s way of processing information that we gather throughout the day. It chooses what to disregard and what to store in our memories.


When we enter a deep sleep cycle, circuits in our brains become active. The circuits send signals that travel from our spinal cord to the brainstem––which is responsible for our body’s unconscious functions like regulating heart rate and breathing. From there, the signals travel to the middle part of the brain––called the limbic brain––which controls our senses, emotions, and memories. When we sleep, our brain activates this sector and it begins to process information and thoughts. That is how we dream.

Hobson says “Dreaming may be our most creative conscious state.”

In fact, we dream four to 10 times every night. When we enter the Rapid Eye Movement sleep (REM), we dream every 90 to 120 minutes. This deep state of sleep allows us to dream more vividly, which results in us remembering our last dream.

I think we can all agree that dreaming is strange.

Did you know that our brains cannot invent faces? So, every face we see in our dreams, we have actually seen somewhere. What is even crazier is that about 12 per cent of people dream in black and white. Even blind people have the ability to visualize images in their dreams.

However, our daily encounters are not the only causes of dreams. Emotions also have a big part in what we imagine. Trauma, sadness, anxiety, and guilt can lead to nightmares. Women are more likely to have more nightmares than men. Reducing stress in our daily life is said to be the best way to have more positive dreams and better sleep.

Dreaming is fascinating. We can use dreams as a tool to teach us more about ourselves. Yet, even today there are some things that science cannot explain. Could dreams predict the future? I guess only time will tell.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Simply Scientific: Leap Year

Every four years, a leap year occurs. No, it’s not a worldwide event where people take a leap by changing a habit nor is it a fun activity where everyone jumps at the same time. Instead, a leap year is when there is an extra day to the shortest month, February, and 2020 happens to be one. But why exactly do we have leap years?

A day is calculated by the number of hours it takes for the Earth to make a full rotation on its axis, and a year is

Meme by 8shit

calculated by the number of days it takes for the Earth to orbit the sun. In practice, it was established that the Earth takes 365 days to orbit the sun, with each day taking 24 hours. However, it actually takes 365.24 days to orbit the sun, or roughly a quarter of a day longer. Quick math shows that every four years, this little addition equates to almost a full day, which is added as Feb. 29.

However, this doesn’t occur every single fourth year. The slight difference of 0.24 days every year is not exactly a quarter of a day (that would be 0.25 days), and this difference eventually adds up. In fact, we lose three days every 400 years from this and skip a leap year every now and then as a result.

There are rules as to when to skip leap years. First, a year to add an extra day to has to be divisible by four. Second, a leap year cannot occur in a year divisible by 100. However, there is an exception to that rule: that would be the third rule. If a year can be divided by 400, a leap day can be added. This is why the two last leap years in years divisible by 100 happened in 1600 and 2000.

And there it is! Leap years and their exceptions!


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Simply Scientific: do you have an internal monologue?

Do you have an internal monologue? Can you have a mental argument with yourself? Talk yourself in and out of things? Amp yourself up?

A recent Twitter trend has shown that not all people do.

A 2017 study led by Elinor Amit, researcher for Harvard’s Department of Psychology, explains why some individuals think visually—sometimes literally in pictures—and others more conceptually abstract.

To summarize the study, “people create visual images to accompany their inner speech even when they are prompted to use verbal thinking, suggesting that visual thinking is deeply ingrained in the human brain while speech is a relatively recent evolutionary development.”

While this research focuses on the interdependence of visual and verbal thought processes, Twitter users were fascinated with the idea that not everyone has an inner monologue.

At The Concordian, five out of 21 staff identify explicitly as only having interior monologues, 13 out of 21 have both, and four identify as having no inner monologue at all. Those without inner monologues said that they don’t have one unless they think about having one and most of their actions, written and spoken ideas are based off instinct or what feels right in the moment.

This thought variation is described as a “robust phenomenon,” meaning that these results are highly dependent on a variety of circumstances, making it an unreliable statistic. For example,  the number of languages learned and spoken as a young child, and one’s connection to visual, auditory, and written media can have an effect. It is also possible for one to think tactically, having to actually be doing or saying something in order to absorb information and really understand it.

The very phenomenon is linked to a part of the brain that processes external sound, and in overactive brains can cause overthinking or anxiety. Researcher Mark Scott from the University of British Columbia explains how auditory hallucinations—hearing your thoughts—can be associated with schizophrenia, but picturing thoughts—thinking abstractly—on the other hand, isn’t necessarily linked to visual hallucinations.

Are your thoughts like sentences you hear? Tweet us @theconcordian  


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Simply Scientific: Why does my clementine have seeds?

The first thing you do is grab two of them. Not three. If you grab three, then go ahead and take a fourth. You just don’t eat an odd number of clementines. 

Palpate it. Feel around its lumpy cool surface. Press a little with your fingers to confirm that the rind is only lightly gripping the fleshy walls of the pulp beneath. 

Mmm. Yes. That’s good.

For good measure, or maybe to prolong the anticipation, roll it around on the table under your palm. Gently. Every quarter inch of it.

Now, it’s almost time. Aim for the region around the pedicel, the slightly swollen part around where the stem was once attached.

Some will use their fingers for this part. This could leave a zesty residue under your nail. Maybe you like it that way, you silly bean.

But I prefer not to have sticky fingers. Call me dainty; I’ll plead guilty as charged. I use my teeth to break through the skin instead and taste that first spurt of citrus. 

Then, peel. One long strand. Some will make an orange-peel flower and that’s good too. 

Now you have it, that soft, bulbous, delicious fruit. Halve it with both hands. Pull a segment off. Put it in your mouth. Bite and feel the juicy…

SEED!? There’s a seed???

Disappointed? Understandable. The clementine’s seedlessness is one of its biggest draws, after all.

Why do some clementines have seeds and others don’t? The answer is simple. But first, a little history.

Brother Clément Rodier was a French missionary who helped run an orphanage in Algeria in the late 19th century. He introduced hundreds of fruit trees, ornamental trees and rose bushes to the orphanage’s land. He also enjoyed experimenting and developing hybrid plants and fruits. Hybrid plants or animals come from the naturally occurring or artificially induced sexual reproduction of two different breeds, species or genera.

Sometime around 1900, Rodier found a tree with fruit redder than a mandarin orange; not as sweet, but delicious nonetheless. It was the product of a mandarin flower having been cross-pollinated with a sweet orange (or just orange) tree. This new variety of mandarin orange was eventually called clementine in honour of Rodier.

Now, seedless fruits are a naturally-occurring mutation in many plants. It’s even been suggested that certain species have evolved in such a way that seedless fruits serve as decoys to distract herbivores from eating viable ones.

It’s certainly a trait desired by grocers and consumers, since the absence of seeds makes for a better eating experience, as well as a longer shelf-life.

Trees of seedless clementines are reproduced by grafting, which essentially involves sticking a clementine branch into any old stump. These seedless varieties come from being self-incompatible, which is sometimes a side-effect of being a hybrid (sort of like with a mule, which can’t reproduce). In this case, that means that the pollen from identical seedless clementine trees can’t physically reach all the way down to the ovary (plants have ovaries) at the bottom of the flower. The tree still produces fruit, but without pollination, it develops no seeds (sort of like chickens who lay sterile eggs when there’s not rooster around).

But that’s not the whole story, obviously. There is in fact at least one breed of clementine whose reproductive organs are self-compatible. And seedless clementine trees can be pollinated by this breed and by other varieties of orange, through a process called cross-pollinisation. All you need is a bee.

Growers cover their orchards with netting to keep the little buzzers off, but they can never be 100 per cent sure that a pollinator won’t somehow get through. And that means that sometimes, what was otherwise going to be a beautiful moment in your day, becomes a mildly disappointing one.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Simply Scientific: Viruses

The Coronavirus is a family of viruses that produce symptoms which can range from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS.

With the recent outbreak around the world originating in Wuhan, China, the World Health Organization (WHO) began working on ways to minimize its spread. But how exactly does this virus function?

Viruses are interesting in that they are both considered living and non-living things, according to different experts. Why? Because they are not made of cells, but they have the interesting ability to replicate.

Viruses are shaped like spiky tennis balls. The “body” is called a virion with proteins (spikes) on its surface that dictate how the virus will affect someone. Depending on the shape of the spikes, the viruses can connect to cells from different parts of the body. In the case of the Coronavirus, it attaches itself to lung cells––resulting in pneumonia-like symptoms.

When this happens, the virus binds itself to receptors on the cells and hijacks them to override their DNA reproduction process. The virus sends in its genetic information to be duplicated by the cell’s ribosomes––which are the DNA’s reproductive machines. The cell becomes a reproductive hub for the virus.

Once the new virus  is big enough, it begins exiting the cell’s membrane, usually killing its host in the process. Its next destination? Other cells to replicate again and again. Wonderful! You’re now a virus- making organism.

But your body is not dumb. Au contraire, when your cells start dying and degrading, your body immediately senses this and triggers an immune response. Ever heard of a fever, runny nose, cough, chills? Those are not actually triggered by the virus, but in fact your body’s response to its invader! Now you can blame your own body for having to drink gross tasting cough syrup.

Eventually you get over your symptoms and get rid of the virus. However, it is too soon to say what will happen with the Coronavirus as the WHO is still researching the outbreak. For more information on how to protect yourself against the Coronavirus, visit the WHO website.


Graphic by @sundaeghost


Space Concordia is reaching for the stars, and the millions.

Space Concordia unloaded all the new projects they are working on––such as a Mars rover and plans to send a satellite to the International Space Station––at their annual info session on Jan. 24.

The info session included an announcement that they are participating in a USD $1 million competition to launch a rocket to space.

Hannah Jack Halcro, the president of Space Concordia, described the group as a grassroots, student-run space agency at Concordia University.

“We really function as a standalone space agency that has many projects going on at once,” said Halcro. She explained that while most schools’ space groups focus on a single project, such as rocketry, Space Concordia has four divisions, all creating different projects.

Its newest project, Space Health, began just last year. It focuses on ways to improve astronauts’ physical health while in space. They are researching and experimenting on ways to create a complete medical lab the size of a computer microchip. To do this, Space Health needs to understand how various cells and chemicals react to being in zero-gravity.

According to Halcro, Space Health is working with the Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (SEDS) to use a parabolic flight, which is a modified airplane that simulates zero-gravity. This will help Space Health gather information on how cells react in zero-gravity.

The Robotics division is currently working on creating a Mars rover. It plans on competing in the Canadian International Rover Challenge in August.

The Spacecraft division has temporarily stopped competing. Instead, it’s focusing on a contract with the Canadian CubeSat Project, which was announced by the CSA in 2017. The project is to create a type of satellite called CubeSat, and launch it into space from the International Space Station in 2021.

“It’s not like launching a rocket where you get it back,” said Halcro, who explained this satellite will be the most advanced satellite they have created, as it will be going to space and handled by astronauts at the International Space Station. Space Concordia will have to ensure the satellite won’t jeopardize the safety of the astronauts.

“It’s going to be in space for a long time,” said Halcro. “It needs to work with international law, there are a lot of restrictions.”

The Rocketry division has competed four times at both the Intercollegiate Rocket Engineering Competition and Spaceport America Cup. In the 2018 Spaceport America Cup, the Rocketry division had to design a supersonic rocket for the competition to break the sound barrier. They won the competition with the highest altitude of over 30,000 feet. Halcro stated that winning that competition made the Rocketry Division want to move on to bigger things, and it has signed up for the Base 11 Space Challenge in May.

The challenge is to build a rocket that will leave earth’s atmosphere and go into space. The winning school will be awarded USD $1 million.

Halcro explained that this competition will be the most difficult one Space Concordia has ever done, as this rocket must travel 100 kilometers to reach space––90 kilometers higher than any space rocket the group has built before.

Another difficulty is that Space Concordia will have to develop another type of engine to reach their goal. For the Base 11 Space Challenge, they must build their own ‘liquid’ engine, which uses kerosene and liquid oxygen. Space Concordia has previously only used store-bought ‘solid’ engines, which are basically an explosive tube that detonates in one direction.

“You light the fuse, you run away, and then it goes,” said Halcro, who explained that Space Concordia is not allowed to make their own ‘solid’ engines because they are like bombs.

“There is no way we are going back to shooting 30,000 feet rockets after this,” said Halcro, stating that no matter what happens at the competition, Space Concordia will continue to expand its skills and try the impossible.

Space Concordia has always had a dream,” said Oleg Khalimonov, the chief executive of the Rocketry division. “If you wanna go to space you always got to dream big. We don’t care how unlikely it is, but we are going to try either way.”


Photo and graphic by Laurence B.D. and @sundaeghost

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