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The Neuroscience of Willpower

December 18, 2014 | Cathy | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

  Yes you can clouds
Image courtesy of

With 2014 drawing to a close, I have been thinking about New Year's resolutions, not that I make them, officially.  I think about what I would like to change, improve and accomplish for the next year, (yes, I know--resolutions).  I recently realized that I have been thinking about making the same changes ever since I was a teen.  It's strange that I accomplish everything I want and need to for work, but cannot do the same for my personal life.  

I am hoping to change that by going to a presentation, The Neuroscience of Willpower at North York Central Library at 7 p.m. on January 6, 2015.  Uri Galimidi will share simple, yet effective, neuroscience-based interventions that will help strengthen willpower, conquer undesirable habits, adopt new beneficial habits, increase the rate of success of meeting your goals, and help you become the best possible version of yourself.  In a nutshell: boost your willpower, change your life.

In the meantime, I might do some reading on increasing my willpower... or I might not.



  Neuroscience of everyday life
Willpower: rediscovering the greatest human strength by Roy F. Baumeister The willpower instinct: how self-control works, why it matters and what you can do to get more of it by Kelly McGonigal The neuroscience of everyday life by Sam Wang (DVD)
On second thought: outsmarting your mind's hard-wired habits by Wray Herbert This will make you smarter: new scientific concepts to improve your thinking by John Brockman Beyond IQ by Garth Sundem (eBook)


Calling all amateur scientists

December 12, 2014 | Carolyn | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Traité de la sphère
Public domain image. From Nicole Oresme's "Traité de la sphère".

For most of human history, all scientists were amateurs...

Are you among the many people who attend our science programs or pick up our monthly Free Science Events (PDF) calendars? If so, why not take your interest in science to the next level by becoming a citizen scientist?

What is citizen science, you ask? Here's a simple definition from " Lab Coats for All! A Layperson's Guide to Citizen Science ":

Citizen Science (CS) is a data-gathering technique that allows anyone to volunteer their time in support of scientific research projects.       

In other words, citizen science projects harness the power of the internet to allow non-scientists to participate in research. You can think of it as crowd-sourced science.

The Zooniverse, sponsored by the Citizen Science Alliance, is one of the largest and most popular web portals for research projects. Over 1.2 million people have registered to participate in projects such as:

  • Moon Zoo participants will use images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter to study the lunar surface
  • Planet Hunters monitor light curves recorded by the Kepler spacecraft to search for exoplanets
  • Penguin Watch volunteers study images of penguins  taken in Antarctica and the Southern Ocean to help scientists understand their lives and environment
  • Cell Slider participants contribute to cancer research by analyzing slides and classifying cancer cells

NOVA Labs is another citizen science portal. It's projects include:

  • Cloud Lab, in which participants classify clouds and investigate their role in tropical storms
  • RNA VirtuaLab volunteers start by practicing RNA folding and can go on to design RNA molecules that could potentially be used in future therapies


Would you like to learn more about the citizen science movement? 

The Incidental Steward: reflections on citizen science Citizen Science: public participation in environmental research   
Inspired by her involvement in environmental studies, the author celebrates the volunteerism that fuels the citizen science movement and urges others to become involved. This highly recommended book describes several popular citizen science projects and their impact both on research and on the general public.  

Would you like to learn more about the contributions made by amateur scientists?

It Doesn't Take a Rocket Scientist: great amateurs of science Bunch of Amateurs: a search for the American character The Species Seekers: heroes, fools and the mad pursuit of life on Earth
Be inspired by these tales of ordinary people who were responsible for some of our greatest scientific discoveries.    

available as a book, eBook and eAudiobook

Hitt examines the American love of innovation through the stories of contemporary amateur scientists.

The story of the amateur naturalists who discovered, collected and classified much of the Earth's biodiversity.

More Proof Extroverts Rule the World

December 5, 2014 | Maureen | Comments (9) Facebook Twitter More...

MistletoeNetworking as a path to success, open concept offices, the emphasis on group work at all levels of education – need more proof that extroverts rule the world? The restaurant chain TGI Friday’s in the UK has unleashed an introvert’s nightmare: mistletoe drones with cameras. The noisy drone zips around like a giant bug clutching a bedraggled bit of greenery, on a mission to make people kiss under the mistletoe, an age old Christmas tradition. Once a target couple is selected, the drone hovers over them, blasting them with a mighty, hair disheveling wind, while restaurant customers gawk and yell, bullying the couple into smooching. The whole thing is recorded on a "kiss cam" which is attached to the drone. I won’t be at all surprised if someone (possibly an inebriated introvert) knocks one of these snoops out of the air with their dinner plate before the end of the holiday season!

Kudos to comedienne Elvira Kurt for inducting these festive pests into her Cultural Hall of Shame (a segment on the CBC arts and culture radio program, Q). In light of recent events surrounding the former host of Q, Jian Ghomeshi, Elvira made the darkly comic suggestion that diners should be provided with an "air horn of consent" to blow, in order to fend off this high tech holiday harassment.

In the good old days, introverts could reconnoiter the territory at seasonal parties and plot mistletoe-free routes to the holiday eats, but thanks to an idea floated, no doubt, by an extrovert, mistletoe drones may become the must-have holiday party ice breaker. Imagine all the ways novelty drones can give grief to introverts in the brave new world of the future. What’s a poor introvert to do?

Quiet - the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talkingOne answer to that question: fake it. Many introverts mimic extroversion, putting on their party face when the situation calls for it. In her popular book Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking, Susan Cain argues that modern western culture prizes the extrovert ideal, and sees introversion as pathology, something that needs to be fixed. No wonder introverts fake it! Psychologist Brian Little calls this coping mechanism “pseudo extroversion” in his new book, Me, myself and us: the science of personality and the art of well-being. Little, who calls himself an “off the charts” introvert, delivers highly engaging lectures to his students in full-on pseudo extrovert mode.

If you liked Susan Cain's book, you’ll find much to interest you in Me, myself and us. (Little's focus is wider than the introvert/ambivert/extrovert spectrum.) Especially intriguing is his discussion of “neocortical arousal.” Introverts sometimes get a bad rap for being antisocial, but Little points to a theory that could explain their behaviour. According to the theory, introverts experience high levels of arousal in the neocortex zone of their brains when they are in certain situations. An environment in which an extrovert would thrive – let’s say a crowded restaurant where the air space is patrolled by pesky drones that peer pressure diners into seasonal snogging -- could send the introvert’s neocortical arousal levels through the roof.  

Me, myself, and usIntroverts can play at being extroverts, but it’s only a matter of time before the strain of acting out of character sends them running for cover. Faking extroversion too often can have a negative impact on an introvert’s health, Professor Little warns. To cope, he retreats to what he calls “a restorative niche.” He describes using the last stall in the men’s room as a “restorative niche” in between lectures at a military college in Quebec. He was quietly engaged in “arousal reduction” when the “loudest hummer” he'd ever heard burst into the men’s room, took the stall next to his, and started a conversation: “Hey, is that Dr. Little?” After the chatty extrovert discovered him, an extended “interstall” conversation followed, and the professor’s afternoon lecture suffered in quality because he was deprived of his quiet recovery time. Now Professor Little makes sure to pull his feet up when he uses a bathroom stall as restorative niche.

Yet more proof that extroverts rule the world: if introverts ruled, Dr. Little wouldn’t have to manage his neocortical arousal levels in bathroom stalls. Urban planners would make sure there were restorative niches available throughout the city.

To Professor Little and the one third to one half of the population who are introverts, may I offer this piece of advice: the next time you are pushed to the arousal brink, consider the library as a restorative niche -- it's one of the only indoor public spaces where you aren't pressured to buy, join in, or perform. Grab a book, magazine or newspaper, find a cozy corner, and let your neocortical arousal levels gently descend.

A final note: did you know the Norse god Baldr was killed with mistletoe? I'd avoid it, even if it isn't airborne. Take a look at these book titles and you'll see what I mean!


All books above except Blood and mistletoe: the history of the Druids in Britain are available in both ebook and book.

Me, myself and us: the science of personality and the art of well-being.

Quiet: the power of introverts in a world that can't stop talking.

Mistletoe image: Creative Commons

27 More Days until Christmas

November 28, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights - Street
Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Disney's Hollywood Studios

I just returned from a trip to Disney World. This trip has fully put me into the festive spirit. We attended Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party where all the characters were dressed in their Christmas attire, Cast Members handed out hot chocolate and cookies and we watched awesome holiday shows. There was also Mickey's Once Upon A Christmastime Parade, with a special appearance by none other than Santa Claus!

Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights - TreeThe decorations throughout all the parks were amazing. There were huge, beautiful Christmas trees at Epcot and Disney’s Hollywood Studios (we didn’t visit Animal Kingdom but I’m sure there was a beautiful tree there as well). In addition to the beautiful Christmas tree, Disney’s Hollywood Studios had the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights. It was breathtaking. I have never witnessed anything as beautiful as this during the holiday season. The whole street was lit up with beautiful Christmas lights. And at timed intervals, music would play and the lights would dance along with the rhythm. It is a must see.

So with just 27 more days until Christmas, I have started my Christmas decorating and shopping.

Do you need ideas or want to read reviews of Christmas gifts before you buy them? Check out Consumer Reports:

Consumer Reports OnlineConsumer Reports can be accessed online. The online database allows you to search for specific items or browse through different categories. There are also videos and the option to compare products.

Consumer ReportsThe print magazine is available at library branches. Some copies are borrowable while others are for in-library use. Please contact your local branch for more information.




Want to make your own gifts instead? How about baked goods and holiday candies:

Cookie craft Christmas  Christmas gifts from the kitchen  Christmas sweets  Sweet Christmas

And don’t forget the books about Christmas entertaining:

Christmas entertaining  Christmas family gatherings  The Christmas table  The Good Housekeeping Christmas cookbook

I hope everyone has a safe and happy holidays!

Free Science Events in Toronto for December 2014

November 27, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

The Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the December calendar (PDF).

December's highlights include:

  • December 4: Earth Exhales: A Volatile History, part of the Earth Sciences Seminar Series at the University of Toronto.
  • December 7: What is Happening with Monarch Butterflies? Citizen scientist Don Davies describes the current situation of monarch butterflies and what we can do to help.
  • December 18: Safe Winter Driving, learn what is required to maintain and regain control over your vehicle in specific types of skids, the vital principle of the natural laws of motion and your vehicle's limitations, and recommended winter tune-ups.

The Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

December's highlights include:

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these titles:

An introduction to our dynamic planet  Monarch butterflies  Driving techniques  The brain book

The baby's table  Ebola  Sams teach yourself HTML and CSS in 24 hours  The Allergy-Free Cook bakes cakes and cookies

An End to the Camelot Era

November 24, 2014 | Ann | Comments (4) Facebook Twitter More...

John F. Kennedy at Dealey Plaza in Dallas Texas on November 22, 1963.
This work is in the public domain because it was published in the United States between 1923 and 1963 and although there may or may not have been a copyright notice, the copyright was not renewed.

On November 22, 1963, the 35th President of the United States was assassinated by long-range rifle shots originating from the sixth floor window of the Texas School Book Depository. John F. Kennedy rode in an open-top limousine through Dealey Plaza in downtown Dallas, Texas and was struck in the neck and head by two shots at 12:30 pm. Texas Governor John Connally sat one seat ahead of JFK. He was also shot but survived. Jackie Kennedy was physically unhurt but was seen trying to save her husband's life. A lone sniper, Lee Harvey Oswald, was eventually captured and arrested for the crime.  

Two days later, on November 24, 1963, while Lee Harvey Oswald was escorted from the basement of the city jail at 11:20 am, a lone gunman stepped forward from the crowd and shot Oswald in close proximity much to the astonishment of the detective and officers accompanying Oswald. Jack Ruby was identified as the shooter. The front page of the Monday, November 25, 1963 issue of the New York Times reports both the State funeral of John F. Kennedy as well as the report of the public execution of Kennedy's assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.  

In January 1964, Jackie Kennedy requested a historian, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. to meet with her to record her experiences during the JFK presidency. These tapes were recently released for publication in 2011.  

Historic conversations on life with John F. Kennedy: interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., 1964  by Onassis, Jacqueline Kennedy, 1929-1994. EAudiobook of Jacqueline Kennedy historic conversations on life with John F. Kennedy, interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., 1964

Janny Scott's September 11, 2011 New York Times article, In Tapes, Candid Talk by Young Kennedy Widowprovides a glimpse into that conversation. During their recorded conversation, Jackie compared her husband's presidency period to that of Camelot.  

Jacqueline Kennedy's interpretation, though comforting, may contain questionable gaps. In The Guardian, Sarah-Jane Stratford's November 21, 2013 article, Referring to JFK's presidency as 'Camelot' doesn't do him justice, discusses how King Arthur's myth does not accurately capture Jackie Kennedy's romantic version of JFK's presidency. Stratford believes JFK deserves a more accurate historical interpretation of the events of that period.

Despite the different perspectives shared on that period in time, the events that unfolded in November over five decades ago remain instilled in current social media.  

The Society and Recreation Department has a wide selection of titles on American history in the 20th century including a well-stocked display on the Kennedy era.

Kennedy titles at the Society & Recreation Department
Photo courtesy of the Toronto Public Library

Below are more titles on this historical topic:

Four days in November: the original coverage of the John F. Kennedy assassination by Robert B. Semple JFK assassination logic: how to think about claims of conspiracy by John McAdams Killing Kennedy: the end of Camelot by Bill O'Reilly The hidden history of the JFK assassination: the definitive account of the most controversial crime of the twentieth century by Lamar Waldron
The Kennedy detail: JFK's secret service agents break their silence by Gerald Blaine The Kennedy half-century: the presidency, assassination, and lasting legacy of John F. Kennedy by Larry Sabato Mrs. Paine's garage and the murder of John F. Kennedy by Thomas Mallon Kennedy assassinated!: the world mourns: a reporter's story by Wilborn Hampton

The month of November honours conflicts and battles through 20th century history. This month also observes an event that still unites people to share in its mourning. 

Remembering Canada's Heroes

November 10, 2014 | Aleks | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Flander's Field

     November 11, a monumental date to all Canadians; Remembrance Day. Remembrance for the men and women who have served and continue to serve our country during conflict, war and peace. This year, 2014, marks 100 years since the declaration of war between the Axis and Allies. The Canadian War Museum has designed a beautiful resource for those interested in Canada's contributions in the First World War. They have brought together information in collaboration with pictures and objects from the war for public viewing. The Toronto Public Library Digital Archives also has a large collection of pictures from World War I and World War II


    The recent events in Ottawa have received nothing but an outpouring of support to Canadians worldwide. As the story unfolded in the following days, I could not resist feeling a sense of nationalism to be a part of such a great country amongst fellow Canadians who felt the same. The heroic acts of bravery by the Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers in light of our fallen soldiers, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Patrice Vincent brought a need to commemorate them.

    Canadians have an interesting history, one which include acts of selflessness, heroics, perseverance, and struggle that would eventually shape our country. The following is just a small glimpse into some of the more interesting and exceptional Canadian people and events.


Isaack Brock - Canada's hero in the war of 1812

    Isaac Brock is the best-known figure of the War of 1812. He is widely credited as the military leader who frustrated the United States in its ambition to invade and take over Canada. He was an interesting character such that when he faced a challenge to duel, he insisted the other man be a handkerchief's length away. His opponent was forced to back down. Brock survived family financial disaster and faced desertions and near-mutinies before his successful years commanding his regiment in Upper Canada. As military governor of the colony, he called up the militia to oppose the invading Americans and led his troops into the key Battle of Queenston Heights. He died in the Queenston battle, but his courage inspired his troops to victory -- and even brought tribute from his American foes.

Laura Secord - heroine of the War of 1812

    After dragging her injured husband off the battlefield during the War of 1812, Laura Secord (1775-1868) was forced to house American soldiers for financial support while she nursed him back to health. It was during this time that she overheard the American plan to ambush British troops at Beaver Dams. Through an outstanding act of perseverance and courage in 1813, Laura walked an astonishing 30 kilometers from her home to a British outpost to warn Lieutenant James FitzGibbon. Despite facing rough terrain, the ever-present danger of being caught by American troops, and rather delicate encounters with Native forces, Laura reached FitzGibbon just in time for the British to prepare and execute an ambush on American military nearby, forcing the U.S. general to surrender. Laura lived a very long time, dying at the age of 93. In her lifetime the government never formally recognized her singular feat of bravery, and much controversy still envelopes her legacy. 

Shake hands with the devil - the failure of humanity in Rwanda

    Digging deep into shattering memories, General Dallaire has written a powerful story of betrayal, naïveté, racism and international politics. His message is simple and undeniable: “Never again.” When Lt-Gen. Roméo Dallaire received the call to serve as force commander of the UN intervention in Rwanda in 1993, he thought he was heading off on a modest and straightforward peacekeeping mission. Thirteen months later he flew home from Africa, broken, disillusioned and suicidal, having witnessed the slaughter of 800,000 Rwandans in only a hundred days. 


The courage of the early morning - a biography of Billy Bishop, the great ace of World War I

    William Avery Bishop "Billy Bishop" survived more than 170 air battles during World War I and was given official credit for shooting down seventy-two German aircraft. Experts on aerial warfare acknowledge that his relentless air fighting techniques and skills as a brilliant individualist and marksman were unique and his record unsurpassed. He was the first man in British military history to receive the Victoria Cross, the Distinguished Service Order, and the Military Cross in one ceremony. Eddie Rickenbacker, an American fighter ace once said, "Richthofen usually waited for enemies to fly into his territory; Bishop was the raider, always seeking the enemy wherever he could be found ... I think he's the only man I ever met who was incapable of fear." His three years at the Royal Military College were disastrous – an epic of rules broken and discipline scorned. He often admitted that his special method of landing wrecked more planes than he shot down. In the days when fliers could rightly think themselves heroes for just having the courage to go up in the rickety plans, Billy Bishop won the respect of comrades and enemies alike. He was one of the new breed of warriors who met the deadly challenge of air combat and made the airplane a decisive military weapon.


 For those who are looking for reads about courage, survival, danger and resilience the following are a list of books acclaimed as truly inspiring and mesmerizing reads:  

Lone survivor the eyewitness account of Operation Redwing and the lost heroes of SEAL Team 10Band of brother - E company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne from Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's NestUnbroken - a World War II story of survival, resilience, and redemptionLiar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy- Four Women Undercover in the Civil WarA Long Way Gone- Memoirs of a Boy Soldier


Welcome to Jurassic Park

October 31, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Toronto vs Brooklyn
Toronto Raptors vs. Brooklyn Nets playoffs game. Photo credit: Shaheen Karolia (This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License.)

It all started back in April. The Toronto Raptors had a surprising season and won the Atlantic Division title and made it into the NBA playoffs. Although they ended up eliminated in the first round with a heart-breaking game 7 loss to the Brooklyn Nets, the fans came out in droves to support the Raptors.

Passionate Raptors fans packed Maple Leaf Square every single playoff game. It didn’t matter if it was a home or an away game. They were there. The media began to refer to the square as Jurassic Park.

And the fans came out again last Wednesday night. It was the first game of the season and Jurassic Park was back and alive.

Jurassic Park, the movie, actually had a huge influence on the team’s name. When the NBA expansion committee awarded Toronto with a franchise on September 30th 1993, the team announced a nationwide “Name Game” contest to name the team. Lots of names were submitted and Jurassic Park, being just released a few months ago, had a huge influence. T-Rex and Raptors were on the top 10 list. Finally on May 15th 1994, the team’s name was announced.

So what exactly is a raptor? Raptor is actually short for Velociraptor. Some interesting facts about the dinosaur from the National Geographic:

  • It was a feathered dinosaur.
  • It shared several similarities with birds, like having hollow bones and tending nests of eggs.
  • However, unlike birds, the raptor did not fly due to their short forelimbs, making liftoff impossible.
  • Possibly one of the more intelligent dinosaurs because it had a large brain proportionate to its body size.
  • It covered ground quickly, may have been able to reach speeds of 39 km/h.
  • They likely brought down their prey quickly with a long retractable claw on each foot and a mouth full of sharp teeth.  

The name seems kind of fitting then, right?

To find out more interesting facts about the raptor and other dinosaurs, take a look at these books:

Dinosaurs  Dinosaur odyssey  Feathered dinosaurs  Feathered dragons
The great dinosaur discoveries  How to build a dinosaur  Planet dinosaur  The Princeton field guide to dinosaurs

There are also websites, selected by librarians, with more information about dinosaurs. Here are a few:

The Toronto Raptors’ next game is tomorrow in Orlando. Let’s hope they can protect their egg (basketball), cover the court quickly and take down their prey, similar to the dinosaur they were named after. Let’s go Raptors! 

Entrepreneur in Residence: How to Realize Your Dreams?

October 25, 2014 | Charlene | Comments (0) Facebook Twitter More...

Napoleon Hill's book Think and Grow Rich! "sold out it's first print run in three weeks" in the late 1930s. Today, it is considered the greatest self-improvement books of all time." His philosophy of personal achievement has been an inspiration to many, including many successful well-known business leaders today.  

To learn more about his principles and philosophy of success, attend one of our programs at North York Central Library. Hear Sunny Verma and guest speaker Satish Verma discuss Napoleon Hill's secrets of success and examples of some well-know billionaires who put his formula to prosperity into practice. Learn how to create your destiny through entrepreneurship in this mind-opening seminar. No registration is required.  FREE.

When: Tuesday, October 28, 2014: 6:30 p - 8:00 pm - North York Central Library

Discover how you too can create your own brand of success in business and life. Try reading some of the suggested titles below:

The Science of Success The Magic Ladder to Success: The Wealth-Builder's Concise Guide to Winning!  The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires Think and Grow Rich for Women 


Free Science Events in Toronto for November 2014

October 25, 2014 | Jeannette | Comments (2) Facebook Twitter More...

The Science and Technology Department of North York Central Library compiles a monthly calendar of free science and applied science events in Toronto. Applied science includes health, gardening, pets and food; all subjects found in the department's collection. Here is the November calendar (PDF).

November’s highlights include:

  • November 9: How to Feed 9 Billion in 2050, the speaker will explore the question: is eating plants better for both human and environmental health?
  • November 13: Toronto Diabetes Expo, this event features onstage programming, complemented by an exhibitor area.
  • November 23: EcoFair, a family-oriented event that informs and inspires people to make greener choices in their homes and communities.

The Toronto Public Library also offers many free science and applied science events:

November's highlights include:

Can't attend a program or want to read more about the topics covered? Try some of these titles:

Feeding the planet  Mayo Clinic - The essential diabetes book  All you need is less  Authentic aromatherapy 

Photoshop CS6 essential skills  Breathing room  Arduino for beginners  Makers at work

This post was edited on October 27, 2014

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