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Discovery declassified

There was an astonishing revelation at McGill's recent conference on pulsars. The pulsar was first observed in 1967 by Jocelyn Bell Burnell, and the Nobel Prize in Physics for its discovery went to her supervisor, Professor Antony Hewish. In fact, pulsars had previously been noticed by a U.S. army sergeant. Some 40 years later, Charles Schisler revealed his secret to a Montreal audience of scientists and researchers.

Published: 21 Aug 2007

Arctic ice at all-time low

There is less sea ice in the Arctic than ever before recorded, thanks in part to a warm, sunny summer, and the melting season isn't even over. Bruno Tremblay, assistant professor of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at McGill, is planning a research cruise to the Russian Arctic in September. He has been observing updated maps of the sea ice extent, which show the quickly melting ice. "I never thought it would go that low that fast," Tremblay said. "There's still a month of melting in front of us, and we're already past the record of 2005."

Published: 21 Aug 2007

In pursuit of pulsars

A conference co-organized by Vicky Kaspi and Andrew Cumming, celebrating the 40th anniversary of the discovery of the first radio pulsar in the summer of 1967, will be hosted by the pulsar group at McGill, August 12-17, 2007. Important discoveries of the last 40 years will be highlighted, addressing the most interesting and topical areas of neutron star astrophysics today. Some 200 astrophysicists from around the world will be assembled for the conference.

Published: 14 Aug 2007

Experimental MS vaccine proves safe in early trial

An experimental DNA vaccine to fight multiple sclerosis is safe and may also be effective, results of a small McGill trial suggest. The vaccine, called BHT-3009, works by preventing the immune system from attacking the myelin sheaths that protect nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. "This was an early trial of a new class of drugs for autoimmune disease in general and for MS in particular," said lead researcher Dr. Amit Bar-Or, of McGill's Montreal Neurological Institute. The findings were published online Monday in Archives of Neurology and are expected to be published in the October print issue of the journal.

Published: 13 Aug 2007

Baseball umps show racial bias

Umpires may be playing favourites on the field, according to a new study co-authored by McGill researchers. Their research shows umpires monitoring Major League Baseball games are more likely to make calls in favour of the pitcher if they share the same race or ethnic background. More than two million pitches over three seasons of MLB games were analyzed during the study by Christopher Parsons, an assistant professor of finance at McGill's Desautels Faculty of Management. His colleagues at the University of Texas and Auburn University co-authored the study.

Published: 13 Aug 2007

Call it 'Black Box Cathedral'

Arthur Kaptainis of the Gazette writes that visually, it's the pits, but aurally, the Multimedia Room at the Schulich School of Music is heaven. "It is the musical recording equivalent of a wind tunnel or particle accelerator," music dean Don McLean says of the facility, or rather its rosy future.

Published: 10 Aug 2007

Going green on campus

Montreal's campuses are going green at an unprecedented pace and scale, and it's clear the drive to change is coming mostly from the students themselves. At McGill, green projects large and small are gaining momentum.

Published: 10 Aug 2007

Major Inuit health survey drops anchor in Nunavut

The largest Inuit health survey ever conducted in Canada has begun in southern Hudson Bay, with doctors and other medical staff travelling across Nunavut aboard an Arctic icebreaker to test and interview Inuit about their well-being. The Nunavut Inuit Health Survey, also known as "Qanuippitali?" which translates to "How about us? How are we?" is led by McGill's Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, headed by Prof. Grace Egeland. The $8-million project is part of International Polar Year research, with researchers from universities in Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba.

Published: 8 Aug 2007

This Cousteau comes with batteries

A team from McGill, York and Dalhousie universities is hard at work refining AQUA, the world's first amphibious robot. AQUA is a mechanized marine biologist capable of walking on land and swimming underwater -- and it doesn't run out of air, disturb organisms during surveys or suffer decompression sickness at depths below 30 metres. "Like many robots before, AQUA is bio-inspired," says McGill's Chris Prahacs, one of the robot's original designers. "Visually and in the way it moves, AQUA could best be described as a turtle -- though it has six flippers instead of four."

Published: 4 Aug 2007

Making and breaking memories

In 2000, Dr. Karim Nader of McGill's Department of Psychology turned the study of memory on its head when he proved that it is possible to dull excessively painful memories with certain drugs. In an Q&A interview, Dr. Nader is asked to share his insights into memory making and breaking.

Published: 26 Jul 2007

Nobel mentoring

Ava-Ann Allman, 25, a doctoral student in psychology at McGill, is one of three young Canadians nominated by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council to attend the annual Lindau Meetings in Germany where, this week, 18 Nobel Prize winners are sharing their wisdom with up and coming scientists and economists from around the world.

Published: 4 Jul 2007

Scientists find drug to banish bad memories

In a new study, revealed in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, psychiatrists at McGill and Harvard used an amnesia drug, propanolol, to "dampen" the memories of trauma victims. Prof. Karim Nader of McGill said, "When you remember old memories they can become 'unstored' and then have to be 'restored.' As the memory is getting restored, we gave patients a drug that turns down the emotional part of the memory. It left the conscious part of the memory intact, so they could still remember all the details but without being overwhelmed by the memory." The research suggests memories can be manipulated because they act as if made from glass, existing in a molten state as they are being created, before turning solid. When the memory is recalled, however, it becomes molten again and so can be altered before it once more resets.

Published: 3 Jul 2007

First baby born from egg matured in lab and frozen

The first test-tube baby created from an egg, matured in the laboratory and then frozen has been born in Canada, in a breakthrough offering hope to women with cancer and others unsuited to normal IVF treatment. "We have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to do this and, so far, we have achieved four successful pregnancies, one of which has resulted in a live birth," Hananel Holzer of the McGill Reproductive Centre in Montreal said in a statement. The research was presented to the 23rd annual meeting of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology on Monday.

Published: 3 Jul 2007

Surge in self-injury cases

International experts who gathered at McGill this week report an extraordinary surge in cases of non-suicidal self-injury by teenagers, apparently seeking release from the emotional distress of a detached world that is moving too fast and demanding too much. "Some people refer to it as the new anorexia," Nancy Heath, a professor in McGill's department of educational psychology, told the Gazette.

Published: 26 Jun 2007

Immigration, not Blair, changed face of Britain

The end of this month marks two important changes in British life: July 1 marks the official start of a smoke-free Britain in all public places, while tomorrow will mark the official end of Tony Blair's tenure as prime minister. McGill political scientist Antonia Maioni writes in the Toronto Star that, in both cases, we are witnessing the end of an era. These changes are minor, however, compared with the problems of immigration and cultural integration that Britain faces, which question the very core of what it means to be British.

Published: 26 Jun 2007