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UBC Reports | Vol. 49 | No. 6 | Jun. 5, 2003


Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in May 2003

Compiled by Brian Lin

Blame Harry Potter

UBC Canada Research Chair in mathematical economics Ivar Ekeland says school children are losing interest in learning math -- and Harry Potter is at least partly to blame.

Ekeland told the National Post that the magic and sorcery glorified by the popular books discourage children from wanting to understand the real world through science.

“It’s evasion,” said Dr. Ekeland. “It’s telling you, ‘Science can’t help you, but perhaps magic will.’

“It’s a symptom of a lack of faith in science, and a lack of interest in reality in society, that translates into this kind of literature.”

Don’t Panic

Following the discovery of a case of Mad Cow Disease in Alberta, UBC microbiologist Bob Hancock told CTV National News that the question that needs addressing is whether any other animals are affected.

“I don’t think Canadians should be changing their eating patterns unless this becomes a much more widespread problem in cattle. I believe that it’s okay to eat beef at this stage,” Hancock said, broadcasting from UBC Public Affairs’ on-campus TV studio.

Live on Farm, Avoid Allergies

UBC assoc. prof. Helen Dimich-Ward says growing up around farm animals may protect children from allergies and asthma.

Dimich-Ward and colleague C. M. Trask surveyed 1,158 4-H Club members, aged eight to 20 and found that allergic symptoms were lower among those who lived on farms when the survey was taken or who had lived on farms.

Dimich-Ward told The Globe and Mail that it is not yet absolutely clear that endotoxins are the protective mechanism. Contact with farm animals was not the only factor in her study that appeared to have a protective effect.

Shut Off Bad Breath

Studies suggest almost 50 per cent of Canadians have chronic bad breath or halitosis.

Three years ago, the Breath Testing Clinic at UBC became the first clinic in North America to use gas chromatography, a sophisticated technology that can distinguish between different types of sulphur gas and give specific measurements for each gas.

“This allows me to diagnose the type of bad breath and treat it accordingly,” Ken Yaegaki, the clinic’s director, told the Calgary Herald.

Once the problem has been diagnosed, most clinics will suggest a stepped-up oral hygiene program. Antibiotic mouth rinses may also be prescribed, followed by a maintenance regimen of milder mouthwash.

Ferry Fire a Close Call

UBC professor Roger Boshier told BC CTV that the Queen of Surrey ferry fire was a close call and passengers should consider themselves very lucky.

“This was a very dangerous situation,” said Boshier, who specializes in accident prevention. He added that the 300 plus passengers on the Queen of Surrey would have been in danger if the fire had been any worse.

“There wasn’t a ferry captain in the world who would want to have to evacuate 300 passengers into life rafts off a large ferry like that,” said Boshier. “Because they know that during practices and particuarly during real incidences, things go wrong.”

“This was a very near miss. Unfortunately, the federal authorities have got away with it this time because there has been no loss of life, but it was very close and very serious.”

Smallest Seahorse Found

Biologists have discovered the world’s smallest known seahorse hiding amid the coral off Indonesia.

The pygmy seahorse averages 16 millimetres in size, smaller than most fingernails. Scientists originally mistook it for a juvenile of another seahorse species.

McGill University doctoral student Sara Lourie led the identification study for UBC-based Project Seahorse.

Lourie named the species Hippocampus denise after the woman who took the pictures, Denise Tackett. Lourie told BBC Online the name means “wild or frenzied”, which seemed appropriate.

Thunderbird Totem to Rise Again

One of the twin symbols of native students at UBC is about to be resurrected.

The Victory Through Honour totem pole is about to be resurrected. The original totem was presented to UBC’s Alma Mater Society in 1948, as was the right to use the popular Thunderbird crest.

But a half century of weathering and a vandalism incident two years ago now leaves the totem in fragments in a campus warehouse, reports the Vancouver Courier.

Anyone wishing to contribute to the project should contact Sid Katz at UBC’s community affairs office.

U.S. Students Flocking North

The number of students from the United States attending school in Canada, whether high school or university, doubled to slightly more than 12,000 in 2001 from around 6,500 in 1990, according to recently released figures from Citizenship and Immigration Canada.

At the undergraduate level, UBC has tripled its U.S. enrolment to 241 this year from 69 students in 1998-1999.

“Canada is a safe, international, nearby location,” Donald Wehrung, director of the International Student Initiative told The Globe and Mail.

Second-year student Anne Thompson said the agricultural science program at UBC drew her immediately. The Seattle resident acknowledged that tuition is much cheaper than in the United States. Some of the U.S. private colleges she applied to would cost around $22,000 (U.S.) a year. At UBC, her tuition is about $14,000 (Canadian) a year.

“I just really like living in Canada,” said Thompson. “Especially at this time, looking back at these last two years, I’m really grateful to be in Canada.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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