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Superconductors inspire quantum test for dark energy

Below a certain frequency threshold, the quantum fluctuations of empty space may contribute to dark energy -- much the way some materials become superconductors below a critical temperature. In 2004, Michael Mackey, of McGill's Centre for Nonlinear Dynamics in Physiology and Medicine (Associate member in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics and the Department of Physics), and Christian Beck of Queen Mary, University of London, claimed that the quantum fluctuations of empty space could be the source of dark energy and suggested a test for this idea. They didn't know then why it might work, but now the pair has come up with the theory behind the experiment.

Published: 3 Apr 2007

Creationism debate continues to evolve

The battle over creationism in the classroom is not unique to small-town America, prominent Canadian biologists warn. It's creeping into this country's public school science classes and it's up to parents to do something about it. Brian Alters, director of the Evolution Education Research Centre at McGill, is interviewed in the Toronto Star.

Published: 2 Apr 2007

The sciences: Greening the world

For graduate students, it's getting ever easier to be green, thanks to an interdisciplinary newcomer called sustainability science by some, and sustainable development by others. The challenge of figuring out how to keep the world in balance is now a boom area. Navin Ramankutty is an assistant professor at McGill, where he is helping launch a new undergraduate Earth System Science initiative. Is there a graduate program down the line? "We're talking, but one thing at a time." His students are interested, and so are others, around the country and the world.

Published: 30 Mar 2007

Engineers Without Borders

Engineers Without Borders promotes human development through access to technology. With a 24-hour bike-a-thon underway, McGill is to send three junior fellowship students to Ghana this summer to help with such projects as improved hygiene and better farming methods. The bike-a-thon is one of its main fundraising efforts at McGill.


Published: 30 Mar 2007

Dead pets, and really big lawsuits

The deaths of at least 14 cats and dogs from what appears to be tainted pet food have spurred more than a half-dozen class-action lawsuits. And along with money for vet bills, and the cost of the 60 million tins of recalled food, many are seeking added damages for owners' pain and suffering. Courts across North America already factor in the value of companionship in many different types of human relationships. Now the time might be ripe for similar calculations about animal friendship, says Wendy Adams, a McGill law professor. "There's a strong argument," she says. "You're not going to be laughed out of court."

Published: 29 Mar 2007

North by north housing

A design team led by affordable housing expert and McGill architecture professor Avi Friedman examines innovative ways of delivering housing to Canada's Innu people.

Published: 29 Mar 2007

Two for Killams

Two McGill researchers -- a legal expert and a civil engineering professor -- are among the five recipients of this year's $100,000 Killam prizes for outstanding career achievement in research. Roderick Macdonald is the F.R. Scott Professor of Constitutional and Public Law and A.P.S. (Patrick) Selvadurai is William Scott Professor and James McGill Professor in McGill's Department of Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics.

Published: 28 Mar 2007

His focus is on teaching

"It's about trying to help students to seek, discover, to confront the world with wide-eyed wonder." In awarding the Killam prize, Rod Macdonald was hailed by the Killam jury as one of the country's "most influential public intellectuals." Macdonald's main focus is on teaching, and during his six years as McGill's dean of law he made it a rule never to hire anyone who said they'd rather practise law than teach.

Published: 28 Mar 2007

Activist battles on in anti-puppy mill war

"Quebec has arguably the strongest animal welfare legislation in Canada, but its record of enforcement is one of the worst." Professor Wendy Adams, who teaches a course on animal law at the Faculty of Law at McGill, comments in the Gazette on allowing an alleged puppy mill to continue operating.

Published: 26 Mar 2007

Black-white U.S. life expectancy gap narrows

Researchers at McGill have found that the gap in life expectancy between white and black people in America has narrowed substantially, largely because of a decrease in deaths of young African American males from homicide and AIDS. The study, conducted by Sam Harper, a postdoctoral fellow in McGill's department of epidemiology, biostatistics and occupational health, and John Lynch, Canada research chair in population health, is published in the March 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Published: 18 Mar 2007

Wainberg adds fresh data to recent JMB study

Mark Wainberg, Bluma Brenner and colleagues at U de M presented new findings at an AIDS symposium in Montreal on Friday to add to a recently published eight-year study on transmission rates, published in April's Journal of Molecular Biology. Their study, out last month, showed that half of all HIV transmissions happen when newly infected people don't know they are carrying the virus. The new data, from 2,500 HIV patients in several Montreal clinics, dealt with transmission of drug-resistant HIV strains.

Published: 18 Mar 2007

Templeton Prize awarded to Charles Taylor

McGill professor emeritus Charles Taylor, a philosopher who says the world's problems can only be solved by considering both their secular and spiritual roots, was named Wednesday as the recipient of a religion award billed as the world's richest annual prize. Taylor, a professor of law and philosophy at Northwestern University, and emeritus professor of Philosophy at McGill, has won this year's Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries About Spiritual Realities. The award is worth more than $1.5 million.

Published: 14 Mar 2007

South Pole telescope to probe 'dark energy'

The South Pole Telescope, a 22-metre tall, 280-ton monstrosity housed in one of the coldest places on Earth, has successfully collected its first test observations. And now astrophysicists hope it will shed light on the mysteries of the universe. CTV speaks with McGill astrophysicist Matt Dobbs, who is involved in the project.

Published: 13 Mar 2007

Knowledge transfer

"There's a mountain of clinical practice guidelines and recommendations out there, unfortunately, they're collecting dust on shelves." Dr. Eddy Lang, an emergency doc and assistant professor of medicine at McGill, should know. A longtime disciple of evidence-based medicine, Dr. Lang works in the fast-growing and relatively new area of medical research known as knowledge transfer, or KT for short. The holy grail of KT is getting medical research results to make the leap into clinical practice.

Published: 12 Mar 2007

How touching

Haptics is the science of simulating pressure, texture, vibration and other sensations related to touch. Most of today's haptic devices rely on motors that either prod or vibrate the skin, but a new technology is emerging that is an even more flexible and effective means of stimulating the sense of touch: skin stretch. By laterally stretching the surface of the skin (without pushing or poking into it) it is possible to mimic the feeling of complex shapes and sensations. This is because the sense of touch seems to depend far more on the way in which the skin is deformed and stretched than it does on the degree of pressure applied. So it should be possible to recreate sensations purely by stretching skin, says Vincent Hayward, a researcher who first developed such a device at the Centre for Intelligent Machines at McGill University.


Published: 9 Mar 2007