Blues make a splash

The Varsity Blues women’s water polo team made it look easy against the Queen’s Golden Gaels. On Nov. 9, the Blues played two gruelling games to end the regular season. The Blues, playing at home in the Athletic Centre, wrapped up their last match of the season with fl air and steady confidence. Their 14-13 win over the OUA championship contending Carleton Ravens earlier that day gave the team momentum. In the following game against the Gaels, they maintained a seven-goal lead throughout the second half.

The Blues managed to hit most of their dry passes with dangerous efficiency, with an offence that had no problem penetrating the Gaels goal zone. They displayed physical dominance over Queen’s up front and in the mid-zone in the first half. Toronto scored from the middle when pressed back, expertly coordinating their passing game. The Blues’ defence was sharp, limiting any possible Queen’s counter-attack or offensive turn. Toronto kept ahead by at least five goals in the first half, giving the opposition no time to recover from their attack. The second half of the game saw a consistent and unshaken Toronto continue to play the same solid defence. Yet the Gaels managed to bolster their defence in stemming a fl urry of goals by stepping up their physical game and player marking.

Toronto scored a decisive 14-6 victory over the Golden Gaels with Casey Pottier and Nicole Brown leading the Blues’ scoring board with three goals each. The victory marked the end of the Blues’ successful 2008 season where they finished with seven wins and only one loss in their first game of the season against Carleton. The team will now prepare for the 2008 OUA Water Polo Championship at Carleton University on Nov. 22 and 23.

It’s time for Canada to invest in sports engineering programs

Developing sports technology programs in Canada will help to engineer a healthier and more prosperous future.

Sports equipment researchers and designers from Canadian universities say increased and prolonged financial support for such programs will aid not just elite athletes, but weekend warriors and industries as well.

Currently, there are no sports engineering programs for students at any level at Canadian universities.

The closest Canada has to any type of institution for sport equipment innovation is the Own the Podium (OTP) program, launched in January 2005.

After Canada failed to win gold at both the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal and the 1988 Winter Olympics in Calgary, the OTP program and its estimated $125 million budget pledged to help Canada win not just gold, but the most medals at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.

Martin Brouillette, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Sherbrooke, has researched and designed equipment for several large sports equipment manufacturers and Canada’s national speed skating team.

Brouillette explains that though the OTP program invests more in Canadian athletes than in the past and brings together Canada’s 13 winter sport federations along with several other national committees and organizations, it is likely temporary.

“The general feeling is that after the Olympics, all of this is going to die down,” Brouillette said. “My feeling is [the OTP] is a one time thing. There doesn’t appear to be a long term vision.”

For a permanent sports forum or organization to bring together trainers, nutritionists, coaches, and psychologists, Canada should follow the Australian Institute of Sports’ model.

“They actually integrate the entire sports community, including the scientists, into whatever they’re doing,” Brouillette said. “All the scientific aspects of sports are being investigated, including the technology.”

New training techniques are being developed for high performance athletes. The new technologies and products that arise from these interactions could be very lucrative.

“If we win more medals, people are happier and do more sports so they’re in better shape and we sell a bunch of gadgets and make a bunch of money,” Brouillette said. “But [Canada has not] evolved to the point where technology is important at the high performance level to the extent that other countries are doing.”

While on sabbatical in 2001, David Pearsall, lead researcher at McGill University’s Ice Hockey Research Group (IHRG), traveled to Cologne, Germany, where he saw the effect of combining researchers from different aspects of sports.

“[They have researchers] from traditional phys-ed to marketing to broadcast sports to sport medicine and equipment design,” Pearsall said. “So you have 10,000 students employed just in sport-related functions. It’s very viable.”

Pearsall has seen how this works in Canada. The IHRG’s collaboration with Bauer Hockey has led to several of its researchers being hired either by Bauer or another hockey equipment manufacturer.

“So that’s an example where by training people here actually helps draw in industry to stay in Canada,” Pearsall said. “Kind of like if you build [the sports programs, sports industry] may come in terms of huddling around the centres.”

Though there’s no shortage of students showing interest in sports technology programs, an institution’s fate depends on the demand for sports technology graduates from Canada, says Darren Stefanyshyn, a mechanical engineer and associate professor from the University of Calgary.

Working for large multi-billion dollar companies like Adidas and TaylorMade, Stefanyshyn noticed the lack of engineers on staff.

“Because the one thing I would hate is […] to set to up a program, train and educate the students in [sports engineering] and then have no place for them to go or no positions that are available,” Stefanyshyn said.

Graduates from any reputable engineering program would still find work; it just might not be in sports engineering. The disciplines underlying sports engineering are the same as mechanical engineering and biomedical engineering.

“It’s not the field in itself. It’s an application domain. You could be designing a golf club or hockey stick or could be designing landing gear,” Brouillette said. “The science, the technology, and the skills in doing that are all the same.”

Professor Roy Jones, head of Loughborough University’s Sports Technology Research Group in England, agrees with Brouillette.

“If you look around at, for example, how many graduates doing history degrees that we produce; well Jesus, how many historians do we need?” Jones said. “Our graduates— because they’ve gone to a decent university and they’ve undergone a good training program with their mind—they go everywhere.”

Pearsall feels that by combining Canadian and U.S. markets, there will be an opportunity to employ students wishing to work in the sports engineering field.

A top-down initiative would be the most feasible way to establish sports technology programs in Canada. However, developing these types of programs isn’t exactly at the top of any governments’ list.

“It’s not really up there. If you look at things like stem cell research and subatomic particles, they’re putting wads of money to make those things happen,” Pearsall said.

Even more difficult is achieving professional status from schools across Canada and the United States for sporting agencies like the IHRG.

Professional status would give sporting agencies more clout to make change happen, but anything to do with health promotion takes time.

“You’re looking at a generational change; something you need like 20 years to make happen,” Pearsall said.

Provost names committee on democracy in student government

U of T administors have struck a committee to set guidelines for student governments in order to ensure democracy and transparency. Cheryl Misak, VP and provost, ordered the committee after she froze the Arts & Science Student Union’s student levy funding this semester, citing improper conduct in their spring elections.

U of T admin is responsible for collecting and distributing student union levies, but has exercised the power to withhold funding if they suspect that its processes are not democratic, according to the Policy for Compulsory Non-Academic Incidental Fees.

“Nothing changes in terms of what the provost can and cannot do. Rather these guidelines will provide clarity on what the provost expects,” said Misak. The advisory committee appointed by Misak is made up of 10 students, seven professors, and two administrators. They will brainstorm recommendations for fair and democratic processes. Misak will take these suggestions to construct a final set of guidelines, used by both student societies and administrators.

“The issue with ASSU was one of the prompts for this committee,” said Misak. Former ASSU president Ryan Hayes resigned in September, after leaked emails obtained by the Varsity revealed collusion with elections officer Ausma Malik to ensure his election to presidency. However, the administration has seized union funds on other occasions.

Misak referred to a case in which Governing Coucil voted to transfer the membership and levy money of part-time UTM students to UTM’s full-time student union, instead of the downtown-based Association of Part-time Students. A total of 52 students voted in the referendum. The decision was rescinded after Ontario courts found that the referendum did not follow APUS rules.But APUS representatives said their case has nothing to do with why the committee was struck. ”In our case it was the university ignoring and not following their own rules about membership changes and fees,” said Joeita Gupta, APUS VP of internal affairs.”

According to their policy, a referendum by another student union on APUS’ membership is illegitimate.

Jill Matus, vice provost for students and a member of the committee, said the initiative is a step in the right direction. “Many students are craving this kind of guidance of transparency and clarity,” said Matus. “Guidelines that work with broad principles and are mutually agreed upon are much more useful. Nobody wants to impose concrete rules.”

Colum Grove-White, committee member and the new ASSU president, said the committee’s discussion is an opportunity to prevent the administration from intervening in student affairs.

“The onus now is on student leaders,” said Grove-White. “The way to prevent funds from being withheld in the future is for organizations to strengthen their constitutions.”

The student democracy committee will meet this Wednesday, and invites suggestions. Send your ideas by Nov. 21 to sheree.drummond@utoronto.ca, by mail (Room 225, Simcoe Hall), or by fax at 416-978-3939.

Science and religion should remain separate domains

Brian Alters is in vehement opposition of teaching creationism and intelligent design in scientific classrooms. Recently, U of T biology students had the opportunity to hear him speak about the issues surrounding evolution.

Macroevolution is the theory that all organisms on Earth are descended from a common ancestor or ancestral gene pool. Current species are merely one stage in the process of evolution, and their diversity can be accounted for by much speciation and extinction. In diametric opposition, Creationism maintains that a deity created the universe, and all that is in it. Another creationist tautology is that the Earth is thousands—rather than billions—of years old, a viewpoint that differs from the scientific community.

During his humourous presentation, Alters illuminated the role of creationism and its impact on the general population. The talk focused on the unscientific nature of creationism theory, and its misplacement in scientific classrooms. He showed a video illustrating that many accept intelligent design as a comfortable mix of science and religion. However, the number of people who accept the theory of intelligent design is not the issue for Alters. As illustrated in the controversial book, Of Pandas and People, religion has begun to permeate the domain of science. Alters made it clear that he believes domains for religion, such as temples, churches, and mosques, should remain separate from domains for science, namely classrooms.

Alters used the example of creationist-based museums, which display, among other things, exhibits in which dinosaurs and humans coexist, a phenomenon that never actually happened. He also explained the arguments on both sides of the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area District trial, in which he served as an expert witness. In 2005, Tammy Kitzmiller and eleven other parents successfully sued the Dover Area School District over its decision to present intelligent design as an alternative explanation to evolution.

During the question-and-answer period, Alters emphasized that people reject evolution because it undermines their faith. For many, accepting evolution might mean they having nothing to fall back on. Alters noted that “people do want to believe they will see their children again after they pass away, or their parents, or they want to know they will be rewarded for their good deeds.”

However, the two concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive. Alters cites an evolutionary biologist who believes very strongly in evolution, but states that it does not prevent him from believing in Islam. The resistance to new ideas can be a combination of scientific illiteracy, religious illiteracy and, most importantly, fear. In Alters’ view, it is difficult for the average person to grasp these concepts in such great depth.

In addition, the idea of evolution may not be accepted simply because it seems absurd at face value. “Suppose you told people two hundred years ago that you would take some dinosaur goo and metal, some guys are gonna get in, fly to the moon, put a flag on and play golf, come back out and become Senator!” says Alters. “Who would believe you?”

The field of evolutionary biology has many implications in society. According to Alters, “AIDS could probably be cured by evolutionary biology.” However, research is usually based on human needs and what is lucrative, and determining where life originated has no spin-off value. For this reason, research is not as focused on creating life in a lab as it is on finding new kinds of resistance to bacteria.

Alters discussed the creationism vs. evolution debate on a larger scale, explaining how it resonates differently in different parts of the world. France is particularly secular and has little problem with an anti-evolution stance. In China, there is no trouble with creationism at all—it is simply not allowed. Currently, Alters is conducting research in the Middle East and Pakistan, investigating the role of religion in early and later education. It seems that education at the middle and high school levels has many religious references and the Quran is interwoven with scientific facts. However, at the university level there is much more of a separation between religion and science, as topics are generally examined more objectively. What accounts for this difference? Alter noted that the scientific community does not allow religious undertones in publications, and that universities would lose credibility if they incorporated religion into scientific publications. Access to this type of information is particularly difficult due a sensitivity towards religious questioning.

Raised fundamentally Christian, Alters grew up thinking evolution was “bad” and was amazed at the strong clash of opinions about the issue. He attended Christian elementary and high schools before joining a seminary. His upbringing and the disputes to which he was exposed pushed him towards studying evolutionary biology at the University of Southern California, and completing a PhD in science education. He has written several biology textbooks and is a co-author of Defending Evolution, which aims to teach evolution effectively, despite recent controversies.

Private ‘university’ doesn’t deserve its name, says prof

World Trade University sounds like a pretty impressive name—too bad it’s a university in name only. And if B.C.’s public university professors get their way, WTU won’t even keep its name.

After British Columbia passed special legislation to grant WTU status, the school’s founder was caught in a series of lies.

Last Monday, the Confederation of University Faculty Associations of B.C. called on provincial officials to rescind legislation establishing the WTU.

The so-called school is a sham, says CUFABC, and tarnishes the image of the B.C. government.

Headquartered on a military base in Chilliwack, B.C., the private school was established by Sujit Chowdhury in November 2005, when the World Trade University Canada Establishment Act granted it degree status.

But so far, all it’s granted is a lot of suspicion.

“In three years, this institution hasn’t been able to design a viable degree program. It’s time for government to pull the plug on this failed experiment,” said Robert Clift, executive director of CUFABC, in a news release.

According to WTU’s web site, the school aims to “play a lead role in delivering high quality advanced world trade education programs to students from around the world.” But so far, business classes that were supposed to begin in 2007 have yet to open. False insinuations of international campuses and affiliation with the World Bank and the WTO have been exposed, after WTU went to considerable lengths in trying to tie itself to global institutions, including its online statement that it was founded as a “UN mechanism.”

“At various times, it was suggested that Mr. Chowdhury held a doctorate, which is not the case,” said Clift, who also pointed to WTU’s other false claims.

The National Post reported that WTU consists of only the “furnished, one-storey building in Chilliwack that it moved into three years ago.” The City of Chilliwack paid $1 million to renovate the building and leased it to WTU for $1 a year.

WTU withdrew its application to offer a Master’s degree in February 2008. The academic community speculates Chowdhury did so because the proposal would have been rejected by the Degree Quality Assessment Board, the body that authorizes degrees in B.C.

Though WTU has no students and cannot operate as a university, but it can still call itself one. In response to the professor’s call to revoke that privilege, B.C. minister of education Murray Coell said it was an “interesting idea.”
Sujit Chowdhury, the founder and president of WTU, has not spoken.

Blood-suckers demystified

Sanguivores—animals and insects that feed on blood—are often regarded with low esteem. Mention leeches or vampire bats and the average person is less than impressed, believing these species are on the hunt for human blood.

However, much of what has become common knowledge about blood-suckers is a myth. Dispelling these misconceptions is the focus of Bill Schutt’s new book Dark Banquet: Blood and the Curious Lives of Blood-feeding Creatures, in which he presents a comprehensive look at a variety of sanguivores.

The book is divided into three sections, the first of which takes readers through a tropical forest on the hunt for vampire bats. Schutt’s expert knowledge of these flying mammals makes for an engaging read. He illustrates the differences between the three types of vampire bat, while clarifying how they became associated with Dracula-related horror stories.

Leeches are the next species investigated. Schutt describes their storied history, from George Washington’s deathbed to their use in hospitals today. He also gives an in-depth look at how medicinal leech production has become a profitable industry, spawning companies like Leeches USA.

Finally, Schutt delves into the mysterious world of blood-sucking insects. From bed bugs to ticks, mites, and chiggers, he makes a good case for why you should leave that free couch on the curb. In a chapter aptly titled “Sleeping with the Enemy,” he explains why bed bugs—Cimex lectularis in particular—are able to thrive in human beds. “Generally, bed bugs respond negatively to light and actively seek out rough, dry surfaces that are at least partially darkened,” he writes.

In addition to his scientifically accurate accounts, Schutt provides the reader with historical information and the origins of terms, names, and ideas. Scientific concepts are presented in ways interesting for the expert yet easy to understand for those with no previous knowledge. Personal anecdotes and additional quotes from the likes of Charles Darwin round out this well-paced book.

Though Schutt’s descriptions are vivid and clear, Patricia J. Wynne’s striking illustrations are helpful visual aids. Throughout the book, they diagram species and ideas that are difficult to visualize, or that readers may not be familiar with. Schutt’s footnotes are another welcome inclusion, providing the reader with extra information and humourous asides.

Dark Banquet provides a wide-ranging guide to the world of sanguivory. While it won’t turn chiroptophobes into bat-lovers, readers will gain a new perspective on the curious lives of blood-feeding creatures.

Chem prof’s in her element

“I didn’t expect it at all,” she told the Toronto Star. “I hope I will be able to encourage more girls to get into this field.”

Professor Kumacheva’s work covers wide ground, especially the study of polymers.

A polymer is a chemical produced when small molecules join together to form larger ones.

Kumacheva has broken new ground by discovering how these particles link, leading to insights on how they can be made. The wide range of uses includes passport encryption, drugs that only target bad cells, and improving night-vision technology.

The professor, who holds six patents, has taught in Israel, France, and Oxford. But her students know her for her friendliness and determination.

“Professor Kumacheva is a very easy-going person. In meetings she’s very determined to get things done and make progress,” said Dan Voicu, an undergrad studying pharmaceutical chemistry and toxicology who worked with Kumacheva on polymer properties. “She always lets you know that you are a very important person in her lab, and she gives you a lot of freedom in what you do.”

Ethan Tumarkin, a chemistry grad student conducting lab work under Kumacheva’s supervision, agreed.

“Working with Eugenia is a very fast-paced, interesting, and exciting environment. Sitting and discussing the next step of a project with her usually leads to many new and fascinating ideas.”

Kumacheva first taught in the Soviet Union after earning her PhD in Chemistry. She arrived in Toronto in 1995 to study the morphology of multi-component polymer systems.

Since the Women in Science Awards program launched in 1998, it has annually awarded $100,000 to five laureates, one for each continental area, with the exception of 1999.

Gastronomy

As controversies around meat production grow, so does the practice of vegetarianism. It is common in many cultures around the world, often due to religious restrictions placed on consumption of meat or animal-based products. Amongst some of the most famous vegetarians are Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, and Socrates.

Vegetarianism is broader than the simple exclusion of meats. There are lactovegetarians, who consume milk and cheese but not eggs or meat; ovovegetarians, who exclude dairy and meats but consume eggs; and vegans, who eat only plant-based foods and exclude all meat, eggs and dairy products from their diet.

Canada’s Food Guide compartmentalizes a healthy diet into four main food groups, including meat, eggs, and dairy. How do vegetarians maintain their health with what seems like a gaping hole in their diet options?

There is a separate vegetarian food guide that acknowledges these exceptions and comprises modified food groups. It includes grains, legumes and other protein-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, and calcium-rich foods. For a typical vegetarian, satisfying the daily nutrient intake requirements is not as big a challenge as one might presume. Though meats are an important source of protein, B vitamins, phosphorus, iron, magnesium, and zinc, they can also be high in saturated fat. Many diseases can also be spread through the consumption of improperly cooked or stored meat. Tofu, soy-based products, beans, and legumes are an excellent alternative source of protein, and contain a multitude of essential nutrients.

In more restrictive diet practices, such as veganism, it becomes challenging to maintain a healthy diet. Nutrients such as zinc, calcium, iron, vitamins B2 and B12 as well as vitamin D are especially difficult to accommodate into a diet that excludes all dairy and egg products. While vitamin supplements and fortified foods are commonly incorporated into vegan diets, there are certain food sources that provide some important nutrients.

Zinc can be found in beans, nuts, seeds, and whole-grains. Calcium and iron can be obtained from almonds and leafy green vegetables. Vitamins B12 and B2 are in soy products, nuts, seeds, and meat analogues. The primary source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. Milk and non-dairy soymilk is often fortified with vitamin D for this reason.

Although it may sound like extra work to stay healthy as a vegetarian or vegan, many actually make the switch to vegetarianism because of the proposed health benefits. Vegetarian diets are often lower in fat and carcinogens, include higher antioxidant consumption, and contain more fibre. This translates to lower risk of obesity, lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart disease, some cancers and kidney disease, as well as better gastrointestinal health.