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March 2012


March 31, 2012 | Grace | Comments (0)

Large Hadron ColliderEveryone is curious about how the universe came to be.  But, we often leave it up to scientists to figure it all out.  Was it God?  Was it the Big Bang?  Or was it some other unknown fantastical power we have yet to theorize about and/or discover?   Learning and uncovering our roots is overall, complex, confusing, frustrating, exciting and extraordinary.  

Physicists today have made a giant leap forward with the development of the Large Hadron Collider or LHC.  What, may you ask, is the LHC?  Well truthfully I had a little trouble understanding it myself, but I found a tonne of resources that cleared the air. 

The LHC is a giant accelerator, sitting beneath the ground between France and Switzerland.  It is intended to push beams of ion and proton particles at the speed of light (or close there to it).  When the beams collide it’s supposed to help scientists learn more about the universe and from what it’s made. The Standard Model is one such theory that the LHC is made to test.  Some experiments have already answered a few questions, but there’s still a lot that they’re trying to answer. 

For instance, a theoretical particle known as the Higgs Boson Particle has yet to be proven.  The Higgs Boson is supposed to reveal information about mass.  Why does it matter that matter has mass, and  why does it matter that some matter does have mass while it seems that others don’t matter? Confused emoticon

Do you know the answer?  If so, then send your answer to the following address:

European Organization for Nuclear Research
CERN CH-1211
Genève 23

Just for clarification purposes, this is NOT my contact info.  The LHC is part of a project maintained by an organization known as CERN, The European Organization for Nuclear Research.  Thousands of scientists from hundreds of countries contribute to the LHC project, and do so in the hopes of finding answers.

The Science and Technology Department at the North York Central Library has some strong resources that may peak your interest about this topic. 


Massive by Ian Sample

Science journalist, Ian Sample, and his book, Massive : The Missing Particle that Sparked the Greatest Hunt in Science has provided an introduction to the history of particle physics with emphasis on the search for the Higgs Boson particle.   Know the drama behind it all with tales about costly lab accidents, crazy ballyhoo, sabotage, and the fear of the destruction of the earth.  *shiver*


Present at the Creation by Amir Aczel 

Present at the Creation: The Story of CERN and the Large Hadron Collider by Amir D. Aczel is an engaging title written by one of the world’s most inspired mathematician and science author.  Is Higgs Boson on the brink of discovery?  Will we at last be able to know the nature of dark matter?  Can scientists re-create the birth of the universe?   Learn about the development and progress of accelerator technology as Aczel guides you through the fascinating world of particle physics. 


God Particle by Leon LedermanNobel Prize winner Leon Lederman uses sassy humour to propose the construction of the Superconducting Super Collider in his book, The God Particle: if the universe is the answer then what is the question?  This laureate in physics notes that, if constructed, the Superconducting Super Collider would be the fastest particle accelerator in the world.  His goal is to find the Higgs Boson, which he’s dubbed the “God Particle.”  Beginning with an imaginative conversation with Greek philosopher Democritus, moving into the playful beleaguering of other theorists (apparently Galilelo could be a pain in the butt), and diving into the varying facets of particle physics, Lederman knows how to turn a complicated subject into a magnetic read. 


Also checkout the How Stuff Works Website for a more in-depth look at how the LHC works.

The LHC has certainly been an accelerator in more than one capacity.  Perhaps soon we'll know more about the universe and its existence.  In the meantime, we'll read more, wonder less, and enjoy the power behind particle physics.


Income Tax Clinic at North York Central Library will resume on Tuesday, April 3

March 30, 2012 | Linda | Comments (0)

The Income Tax Clinic at North York Central Library will resume on Tuesday, April 3, 2012, at 9:30 a.m.

We recommend you arrive early. The clinic operates on a "first come, first served" basis.

This is a FREE, community income tax program offered by volunteers who are trained by the Canada Revenue Agency. It is available to single persons with incomes under $25,000, families with an income of under $35,000, or one adult with child with incomes under $30,000.

Volunteers will help individuals to fill out their 2011 Income Tax Returns. Interest income must be under $1,000. Please note: the program runs from February 28 - April 27, Tuesdays to Fridays only, on a first come, first served basis. The Clinic will be closed on April 6. Hours are 9:30 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.

Please call 416-395-5614 if you need additional information.

Psychiatry's Shifting Sands

March 9, 2012 | Carolyn | Comments (0)

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA), is the standard reference used in the diagnosis and classification of mental illness. The current version was revised in 2000, and a new edition is due in 2013.

DSM2The first edition of the DSM, published in 1952, was 130 pages long and listed just over 100 disorders. The current version describes nearly 300 disorders in 943 pages.








Every revision of the DSM is controversial, as some disorders are added and others dropped, and diagnostic criteria are changed. Criticism of the process ranges from allegations of cultural bias to suggestions that pharmaceutical companies exert a growing influence over the psychiatric profession in general and the APA in particular.

This time around, public debate is focused on a proposal to replace the three existing autism diagnoses with a single one - autism spectrum disorder. A recent New York Times article summarizes the concerns of many patients and families.

Another concern is the medicalization of human emotional experiences, such as grieving, which many people consider normal. An editorial in the February 18 issue of the prestigious medical journal The Lancet is critical of the proposal to classify grief as depression: Living with grief.

The American Psychiatric Association has created a website for the DSM-V to make the proposed revisions available for public review and comment.

Here are some books that explore the changing landscape in psychiatry:




Prescriptionsfor the mind




For a satirical look at the business of psychiatry you might like to read:                                                                                                                                                                                            Index.aspx
The Psychopath Test: a journey through the madness industry by Jon Ronson. Also available as an eBook and an audiobook.                       

Newcomers to Canada and Income Tax

March 5, 2012 | Linda | Comments (0)

NewcomersAre you new to Canada? As confused about income taxes as the rest of us?  Join us Tuesday evening, March 6, 2012, at 6:30 in the Auditorium at the North York Central Library for our Newcomers to Canada and Income Tax seminar.

A representative from the CRA (Canada Revenue Agency) will explain taxpayer responsibilities, taxpayer rights, when to file & what you need to file an income tax return. She will explain what benefits the Agency administers, who is eligible, and how to apply.

Everyone is welcome, even if you have been here awhile.

Call 416-395-5613 to register --or just walk-in. We would love to see you.

You can also come to the free Income Tax Clinic on the Concourse level of the library. Tuesday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., until April 27th. It is offered by volunteers trained by the CRA. Click on the link for more information.

Here are a couple of books for you to check out, as well.

78 tax tips       Index

Guilty pleasures: apocalyptic fiction

March 3, 2012 | Maureen | Comments (31)

There are those of us who take delight in books which we would hesitate to discuss in some circles, for fear it might call into question our taste, our intelligence, even our mental stability. We might nod and smile while the latest Pulitzer or Giller prize winner is being discussed, while shoving our own book deeper into our bag. I once knew someone who neatly wrapped his book covers in brown parcel paper, so no one would know what he was reading on the subway. (Pointing out that this made him look far shadier than if he’d just let his geeky book covers show, fell upon deaf ears.) Well, today, I’m coming out of my reading closet. Maybe you can too. Rip the paper of shame from your book covers, Toronto!

It seems the perfect time for me to confess, considering the end of the Mayan long count calendar, December 21, 2012, will be here before we know it, which, according to some, is Doomsday, aka, the end of the world. Some react to this by stockpiling canned chili, heirloom seeds, and titanium crowbars (highly recommended by The Zombie Survival Guide because they are lightweight, simple and versatile-- great for prying open crates and doors, and for self defense). Not me. Instead, I indulge in apocalyptic fiction. This genre has it all: marauding bands of evil doers revelling in the breakdown of the rule of law, pandemics, asteroids, mutants, aliens, heroes, scavenging, ragged survivors who cup their grimy hands around the fragile flame of civilization...

And now for the quiz portion of this blog post: in my informal, non-systematic survey of apocalyptic fiction, I gathered data on the various modes of demise (or near demise) of humanity. Which do you think was the most popular choice by authors? Your choices are: 1)Aliens  2)Disease  3)War  4)Impact event  5)Ecological disaster  6)The Sun  7)Technology 8)Supernatural  9)Unspecified

The answer will be found at the end of this post. While you mull it over, here are a few of the books in the genre I have enjoyed, with my brief comments. Click on the images to reserve one of these books.

The Stand            Stephen King (pandemic)

  I think of King's epic of doom as apocalypse old school; it's a classic good against evil tale in which man is the author of his own destruction; this one is a consistent favourite on best apocalyptic fiction lists.

The road                Cormac McCarthy (unspecified)

As far as I know, the only book in the genre to win a Pulitzer prize; if any book could scare you into building a bunker and hoarding canned goods, this would be it.

Lucifer's Hammer   Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle (comet impact)

All hell breaks loose when a comet slams into earth. Won the Hugo award for best science fiction novel in 1978

The Nine Billion Names of God                       Arthur C. Clarke (don't want to be a spoiler) 

 In this short story, Clarke imagines one of the most unique causes of the end of the world in apocalyptic fiction



Hothouse                  Brian Aldiss (ecological)

A strange tale of a post-apocalyptic world in the distant future where plant life dominates, and animals and devolved humans are nearly extinct; this book is like a detailed fever dream (but in a good way)

The sheep look up    John Brunner (ecological)

Strictly speaking, pre-apocalyptic, but the apocalypse is just around the corner in this cautionary tale of environmental degradation



Childhood's End     Arthur C. Clarke (aliens)

This book proves all apocalyptic fiction isn’t about defending your hovel with a machete (another must have item for your end of days kit, according to The Zombie Survival Guide). Alien overlords alter the course of human affairs. Radically.

The Taking          Dean R. Koontz (don't want to be a spoiler)

I can't say a word about this book without saying too much. I found it in a rental cottage and spent the next two rainy days trapped inside it, dying to find out what was behind all the terrible doings...


If you'd like to read in this genre, Wikipedia has a list of apocalyptic fiction that might keep you busy until the end of the world. The list includes novels, short stories, and comics, as well as film, television and games.

Quiz answers:

War won by a large margin, second place goes to ecological disaster, disease came in third, technology was fourth and aliens placed fifth.

I'd like to leave you with a clip from one of my favourite Twilight Zone episodes, "Time enough at last", in which Henry Bemis finds the silver lining in the apocalyptic storm cloud.

P.S. You've made it all the way down to the bottom of this post, so I figure you might share in my fiction fetish. Maybe you can help me. I am currently rerereading Arthur C Clarke's Childhood's end and there's a bit of dialogue that I'm stumped by. Here's the scene. No one on earth has seen the alien overlords. Stormgren, the only human on earth who communicates with the alien top dog, talks with him in a small room, but never sees him. In this scene, he is describing the room to a scientist, in hopes that the scientist can devise an apparatus to allow them to finally get a glimpse of the alien overlord:
(Stormgren): " far as I can tell the air comes through the speaker grille. I don't know how it leaves; perhaps the stream reverses at intervals, but I haven't noticed it. There's no sign of any heater, but the room is always at normal temperature."
(Duval): "Meaning, I suppose, that the water vapor has frozen out, but not the carbon dioxide."    
"Stormgren did his best to smile at the well-worn joke."
Joke? Guess you have to have an understanding of water vapor and carbon dioxide to get it...Does anyone get it? Why is it funny?

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