McGill headliners: Bones, tones and New York Times groans

McGill headliners: Bones, tones and New York Times groans McGill University

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McGill Reporter
January 12, 2006 - Volume 38 Number 09
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Home > McGill Reporter > Volume 38: 2005-2006 > January 12, 2006 > McGill headliners: Bones, tones and New York Times groans

McGill Headliners

Bones, tones and New York Times groans

Last year alone, his picture graced the front page of the Globe and Mail and Maclean's called him a "wunderkind." Yet more exposure for Sid "The Kid" Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins? Nope, he's Tom Hudson, director of the McGill University and Genome Quebec Innovation Centre, one of the movers and shakers of the HapMap project that has tracked the millions of variations in the human genome.

Most recently, the "rock star geneticist" (as he was so immortalized in the pages of this very publication in November), was profiled in Newsweek, which called him "one of the world's premier investigators of genetically linked disease." Can a spot on Letterman be far off?


Speaking of Letterman, Qu├ębec Science published its own Top 10 list in its year-end issue. Sifting through some 70 scientific papers published between November 2004 and October 2005 to glean Quebec's 10 most significant discoveries of 2005, lo and behold, a trio of McGillians cracked the coveted list.

Victoria Kaspi, astrophysics professor, saw her own star rise early last year when she was part of a team that discovered a dense globular star cluster at the center of our Milky Way. The cluster, called Terzan 5, contains a record 24 pulsars, two of which are rotating at nearly 600 revolutions per second - roughly as fast as a household blender.

It only seems natural that a discussion of Terzan would lead to Africa, where paleontologist Hans Larsson and his team discovered the fossilized remains of a pair of 250-million-year-old carnivorous amphibians last spring. No sweet little salamanders, these meat-eating monsters are similar to crocodiles in shape. The larger of the two previously unknown species probably measured up to three metres in length.

Jeremey Jass, associate chair and director of research in the Department of Pathology, was part of an international team that demonstrated that, in some cases, colorectal cancer can be inherited. Not only will these findings help early detection among high-risk families, they can also lead to an understanding of the genetic defect that may provide important insight into the basic cause of the common non-inherited forms of the same cancer.


Robert Zatorre, professor of neuroscience, got a tip of the hat in the December 3 issue of the Wall Street Journal for his work in understanding the way our brains process music. Brain scans show that discordant sounds stimulate reactions in a different part of the brain than do harmonious sounds. Of course, that begs the question: which part of the brain processes Britney Spears songs?


Finally, here's a lesson for all you budding journalists out there. On December 18, the New York Times ran an article about the reclusive Ariaal tribe in northern Kenya. It was a very entertaining look at how anthropologists have been flocking to this remote desert enclave for years to study the tribe and quiz bemused members about everything from their sex life and body image to their marriage customs and basic bodily functions. Alas, the article referred to John Galaty as "an anthropologist at McGill University in Toronto." Oops.

Yes, even the venerable New York Times can fumble the fact checking ball on rare occasions. It brings to mind Stephen Leacock's observation that "I have always found that the only thing in regard to Toronto which faraway people know for certain is that McGill University is in it." Indeed.

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