Artsci budget loses four per cent

The Faculty of Arts & Science budget will decrease by 4 per cent this year, making 2008 the tenth consecutive year of cuts. The faculty’s base budget has been slashed by an average of 3.3 per cent annually since the academic year 1999-2000, and a total of $41.8 million has been removed.

Rather than cutting costs centrally, as has been the norm over the past seven years, costs are being handed over to individual units under the faculty. Each department, college, center, and institute will lose 4 per cent of its budget, except for the smallest.

“Despite making cuts we are doing everything in our power to ensure that we continue to offer the courses students need to fulfill their degree program requirements,” said interim Arts & Science dean Meric Gertler, “and we have succeeded in doing that.” Gertler said that the faculty had increased the number of total spaces offered in courses year after year despite the loss in budgets.

Many departments have been forced to cancel courses to negotiate the cuts. While the “Dean’s Promise” ensures that course cancellations don’t keep students from graduating in their last year, removed courses mean students have to go out of their way to cover requirements.

Danielle Sandhu of Woodworth College, who is finishing her Peace and Conflict Studies program this year, was disappointed when she found that a course she needed to compete her program was not being offered this year. Having declared POL 417 as a requirement for her program at the end of her first year, Sandhu had to request for a substitute course, and wait to have it approved by the program director.

“It was not a difficult process, but I was disappointed because I had been waiting three years to take that course, due to all the pre-requisites” said Sandhu.

“The support for undergraduate education is not what we would like it to be,” said Alex Bewell, chair of the Department of English. Bewell said it is the responsibility of Queen’s Park to increase funding.

Chair of the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Christina Kramer, said that her department had to resort to external funding to stay afloat. “We are very fortunate that we have successfully raised external funds from many communities, funds which help support language study in Polish, Ukrainian, Macedonian, and Croatian as well as Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian.”

“The cuts force us to concentrate on our core mission, which is providing language, literature, and culture classes in ten different languages,” she said. “Other activities have already been diminished and we had to cancel a very popular second year course.”

“It speaks to U of T not seeing a priority in liberal arts education, humanities, and social sciences,” said UTSU VP external Dave Scrivener. “The University can make more money and get private funding from sciences, engineering and other professional faculties.”

U of T has increased revenue by raising tuition fees and international student enrolment. Tuition fees increases this year averaged 4.26 per cent across all programs and departments for domestic students.

However, according to Gertler costs have risen faster than tuition fees. He also pointed out that tuition fees account for only about one third of the faculty’s revenue.

Gertler and Scrivener agreed that the provincial government needs to increase funding. Currently, the provincial government is responsible for 40 percent of the operating budget.

“I think the most important thing is to make the case as clearly as we can to Queen’s Park that the grant revenues have to increase. It’s just impossible to continue to offer a high quality education so long as our grant revenue is declining,” said Gertler.

With files from Naushad Ali Husein

When particles collide

On Sept. 10, scientists and citizens tuned in for the successful startup of what is being touted as the greatest experiment in particle physics: the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Found underground at the CERN laboratories near Geneva, the world’s largest particle accelerator is the result of 14 years of collaborative efforts that bridged languages and nations, including contributions from several University of Toronto scientists.

“It’s a fantastic moment,” said LHC project leader Lyn Evans about the collider’s first successful particle steering. “We can look forward to a new era of understanding about the origins and evolution of the universe.”

Before entering the main particle accelerator loop, positively charged particles called protons are channeled through a series of circular paths, in which superconducting magnets increase their velocity. As the protons are shifted to larger and larger circular paths, they approach the speed of light. At this point, energy added through magnetic and electric fields makes the particles heavier. The final stage of the LHC channels these “heavy” particles into the main accelerator, an underground tube with a circumference of 27 kilometers, located at the France-Switzerland border. Once inside, the particles are split into two channels and travel around the final track in opposite directions. The collision of these two groups of high-speed particles occurs at unprecedented levels of high energy. The results of these collisions should allow scientists to discover the fundamental forces and particles that were at work in creating the universe.

The LHC hopes to validate the Standard Model, which according to U of T Physics Professor Robert Orr has “allowed us to understand the behaviour of the minute particles that make up matter.” While the Standard Model represents everything humans currently understand about particle physics, there are several phenomena left unexplained, including the origin of mass. It is thought that the “Higgs Mechanism” may be the answer, in which case a so-called Higgs boson particle would exist. The Higgs boson, occasionally referred to as the “God Particle,” is theorized to be the crucial link in explaining how matter has mass. This elusive entity has not yet been revealed by less powerful particle accelerators. U of T’s role in the LHC project is focused on the ATLAS (AToroidal Lhc ApparatuS) experiment, one of the goals of which is and attempt to find Higgs boson particles.

At an event held by the Department of Physics last week, U of T ATLAS team members revealed that preliminary data is promising. Dr. Richard Teuscher, an experimental physicist at U of T, works with the LHC at CERN. He indicated that the next step is studying the calorimetric component, which investigates the heat of reactions or any physical changes that occur.

While this initial startup is a monumental moment in history, Dr. Teuscher is quick to note, “We will need several years to find the needles in the haystack such as the Higgs boson.” Two to three years worth of LHC data will be required in order for scientists to make meaningful analyses about Higgs boson particles. Due to the relative low Higgs boson production rate, for every few hours the collider is running, scientists estimate that only one of these sought-after particles will be generated.

The first stage in unraveling the universe’s origins has already yielded positive results. The operational LHC gives a preliminary picture of what occurs during the time of collision. LHC collaborators point out that it will take several weeks to months for the particles to reach the critical speeds necessary to surmise creating the Higgs boson particle.

Concordia: No friend of Facebook

On Sept. 1, Concordia University prohibited access to Facebook and other social networking websites on school computers due to security concerns. The university said spam and viruses related to Facebook could damage its internal network, which services approximately 50,000 students, faculty, and staff members. In addition, admin said the openness of personal information on these sites could lead to numerous phishing scams.

The ban only applies to desktops, so Facebook addicts can still get a fix through a wireless connection and in residence.

Astronomy tours offer stellar view

Only on the roof of the McLennan Physical Laboratories building can you experience something of astronomical proportion.

On the first Thursday of every month a free talk and tour is given by a PhD student or a specialist in the field of astrophysics. The 45-minute lecture on modern astrophysics begins at 9:10 p.m., followed by a public viewing through the telescope atop the McLennan Labs building.

PhD student Kaitlin Kratter has been the quick-witted lecturer for the past week, amusing the audience with knowledge and humour. “Asteroids,” she quipped one night. “Can’t live with them, can’t live without them.” Her presentation includes illustrations that highlight astronomical findings aided by satellites and attendees are able to ask questions throughout the talk.

On this particular night, the lecture hall is packed with attendees of all ages. One audience member asks, “Can a large enough asteroid cause destruction on earth?” Kratter answers that only an asteroid with the width of approximately one kilometer could cause significant destruction. A bright-eyed 10-year-old sits to the right of the hall with his father; the audience is stunned when he correctly answers a question about an asteroid’s orbit.

The large refracting telescope is the night’s highlight. Usually when the sky is clear, the state of the art facilities allow for excellent viewing of the heavens. Double stars, the moon, and even Jupiter can be seen through the telescope. When the weather is uncompromising, a virtual telescope is available as PhD students patiently answer questions, while taking viewers on a virtual tour.

People of all ages are encouraged to attend with free refreshments available. Even if you’re not into astrophysics, Thursday night astronomy tours provide a point of view any star gazer can appreciate.

U of T stargazers first to photograph planet

A group of University of Toronto astronomers have become the first to photograph a planet orbiting a star similar to our own sun. Using the Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea in Hawaii, the scientists were able to capture images of the pair, which reside over 500 light-years away.

Further tests will confirm without doubt that the planetary object is indeed orbiting the star. Despite recent discoveries of planets lying outside the solar system, none have been found alongside a companion star.

“This is the first time we have directly seen a planetary mass object in a likely orbit around a star like our sun. If we confirm that this object is indeed gravitationally tied to the star, it will be a major step forward,” said David Lafrenicre to the U of T Bulletin.

The discovery poses a new problem for astrophysicists. The distance between the two objects challenges theoretical models that dealt with the nature of planet and star formation.

“This discovery is yet another reminder of the truly remarkable diversity of worlds out there and it’s a strong hint that nature may have more than one mechanism for producing planetary mass companions to normal stars,” Professor Ray Jayawardhana told the U of T Bulletin.

Did you know that not all bees live in hives?

Solitary bees, more commonly known as mason bees, do not live in hives. Instead, they live in a nest constructed entirely by the female. Unlike social bees, solitary bees are able to live independently, which is where they get their name. They can provide shelter and sufficient food for their brood all on their own. All female solitary bees are fertile and carry out the roles that both worker and queen bees fulfill in a hive. Unlike honeybees, they do not produce honey or beeswax.

These bees serve a specific ecological role in pollinating many flowering plants. It is claimed that Albert Einstein said, “If the bee disappears from the surface of the earth, man would have no more than four years to live.” This supposed quote still resonates today. Most species of non-solitary bees visit flowers in order to collect nectar, a process in which they accidentally pick up pollen. This leads to pollination of the next flower they visit. Pollinators are therefore a medium that flowering plants utilize for sexual reproduction.

Solitary bees purposefully collect pollen from various kinds of flowers. Compared to other types of bees, they transport a greater amount of pollen, due to advanced carrying structures on their bodies. These structures are extremely useful for this species; they often mix pollen with nectar to make a pollen-nectar paste, which is used to provide nourishment for their brood in the nest.

Instead of a hive, solitary bees nest in tubular spaces, such as holes in wood, hollowed out reeds or twigs, or underground tunnels. Female solitary bees lay their eggs in “cells” in the nest. They fill these cells with the pollen-nectar paste, which serves as a source of food for their larva. One nest may contain several cells, each nourishing a larva.

Occasionally, solitary bees are used in the place of honeybees for commercial pollination. They only sting or attack if they are physically threatened, since they have no hive to guard. This makes them a friendlier species, prompting gardeners to set out mason bee houses to attract them to their gardens as pets.

Welcome to the O.C.

The O.C., short for Osgoode Chambers, opened its doors Wednesday,

Sept. 10. Catering exclusively to York University’s law students, the residence is made up of 137 units, with bachelor, one-bedroom, and two-bedroom suites. Monthly rent ranges from $707 to $1,072.

Patrick Monahan, the law school’s dean, said the residence would help recruit out-of-province students and build the community.

U of T’s law faculty does not have its own residence. Students are invited to apply to the graduate residence, Graduate House.

Women’s rugby team give it a try

The Varsity Blues women’s rugby team launched their 2008-09 season on Sept 10 with a well-deserved victory against the York Lions, taming their opponents with a score of 15-10 on U of T’s back campus.

The excitement among the players and their supporters was palpable. The young, promising Blues stand to benefit from the experience and grit of their OUA all-star scrum-half, Megan Boyles, who will be hanging up her cleats after this season.

“Knowing that Megan is in her final year means that we have the opportunity to start developing other players into the roles she fills on the team—both as a player and as a leader,” said Blues head coach Shannon Smith.

In their opening game against York, the entire team shone on the field.

The Blues launched the opening salvo early when Sonya Kuziw pushed the ball across the goal line with dogged determination, giving the Blues a 7-0 lead. Dominating the left side of the field with sustained drives, the possibility of a blowout seemed likely. The Lions, however, fortified their backline defense, denying the Blues several opportunities to score a try. At the end of the first-half, the Lions probed into the Blues’ territory, yet remained scoreless.

The Blues resumed their strong driving game in the second-half, with crisper passing by the flankers, as well as cleaner rucks. To their credit, the Lions maintained a stubborn defense of their goal line, thwarting the Blues’ attacks. As the second-half progressed, the Lions’ offense improved. They moved the game away from the right touchline into the centre of the field, where they strung several passes into coherent plays.

Boyles sapped the swelling energy of the Lions by increasing the Blues’ lead to 10-0 with a deft penalty kick. Instead of submitting, York countered with a hard won try. With the score 10-5, the game became a back-and-forth battle between both teams. Eventually, the Blues’ Brittany Evans scored her team’s second try of the game, boosting their lead to 15-5.

The Lions roared, unleashing spirited but desperate runs. The Blues demonstrated that their backline could be obstinate, denying their opponents passage to their in-goal area. When the Lions’ offense came alive, it was too late. The game ended with the Blues winning 15-10.

A delighted Boyles gushed about the potential of the team. She described her fellow players as exhibiting commitment, intensity, and participation—elements that the coaching staff will be able to build on. Playing in her final year, Boyles hopes to contribute by helping teammates to build on these positives.

Coach Smith shares Boyles’ optimism. “I like the make up of our team this year,” said Smith. “We’ve got a very talented class of rookies and it makes selections hard. It’s great for the program to have players of a high caliber coming in and challenging the veterans for spots. It means everyone has to work hard all season long to earn that starting spot week after week. Right now we have about 22 ladies who would all be excellent starters on the field. That’s the exact position any coach wants to be in.”

While the Blues fell to the Laurier Golden Hawks 20-10 last Sunday, their season looks promising. On the strength of their optimism and talented players, the Blues will enjoy considerable success this season, especially if they adhere to the old adage—try, try, try again.