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

“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

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

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

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.”