In the News

UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 11 | Nov. 3, 2005

Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in October 2005

Compiled by Randy Schmidt

The World is More Peaceful than at Any Time in 12 Years

In a story carried by Associated Press, Reuters and United Press International, and picked up in many Canadian, U.S. and international dailies including the Globe and Mail, Washington Post and the Guardian, Andrew Mack unveiled the first Human Security Report at the United Nations.

Mack, who is director of the Human Security Centre at UBC’s Liu Institute of Global Issues, led an effort to track political violence around the world and found, among other things, conflicts seem to be down 40 per cent since 1992, and the deadliest conflicts (those with more than 1,000 battle-deaths) are down by 80 per cent.

“What is actually the case is that we’ve seen this extraordinary improvement across the board in nearly all forms of political violence, except international terrorism, which doesn’t kill a lot of people. And yet most people believe things are getting worse,” said Mack, in the Globe and Mail.

Something Else to Lose Sleep Over: Getting Sick

According to recent studies reported in dozens of major media outlets throughout the U.S. and around the world last month, too little or erratic sleep may heighten people’s risk for a variety of major illnesses including cancer, heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

“We’re shifting to a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week society, and as a result we’re increasingly not sleeping like we used to,” said Najib T. Ayas of the University of British Columbia, in The Washington Post. “We’re really only now starting to understand how that is affecting health, and it appears to be significant.”

A large, new study, for example, sampled nearly 10,000 adults in the United States and found that lack of sleep may disrupt hormones that regulate appetite, resulting in a greater chance of obesity.

Bathtubs, Black Holes and Theoretical Physiscs

Theoretical physicist Bill Unruh, a world-recognized expert and professor at the University of British Columbia, says part of understanding black holes might come from developing a sonic model.

“At that point where the velocity of the water is just equal to the velocity of sound, sound trying to get out is pulled back in just as fast as it’s trying to get out. So you have a surface that’s just like in a black hole where light can never escape, except here you have a surface where sound can never escape.”

You can see this happening whenever you drain a bathtub, he explains in an article in the Toronto Star.

“As the water gets shallow enough, eventually the water flowing out the plug hole is going faster than these waves can travel and you get the analogue of a black hole in your bathtub. The interesting thing is because the water is always swirling as it goes out of the bathtub, that’s actually an analogue to a rotating black hole,” he says.

Time Out: Take this Job and Shelve it

Executives who take a mid-career break often return to work with new perspectives and renewed energy, says Marc-David Seidel, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

Many top executives are taking a break from work in their 40s and 50s, using the time to re-evaluate their careers and personal lives reports the Globe and Mail.

The time away from work can be used to sharpen skills or investigate options in another industry. “[I]f you are looking for a new challenge, if you are trying to change to a better industry, you should build your skills and be prepared to give a convincing story that will be helpful when you look for a new job,” Prof. Seidel says.

Prof. Seidel also advises people to leave their jobs in a way that does not cause friction. “Don’t leave people high and dry because, if the organization gets damaged by your departure, that will come back to haunt you and damage your future career,” he recommends.

Theory: Attractive Males Pass Genes that Put Daughters at Risk

UBC graduate student Arianne Albert has proposed a theory that implies females may be better off choosing less attractive mates because they will produce daughters who are fitter.

Albert worked with Zoology Prof. Sarah Otto to proposed the evolutionary model of sexual selection that was published in Science. Explaining the theory in related stories printed in the Ottawa Citizen, Winnipeg Free Press, Calgary Herald and Vancouver Province, Albert said that when a female mates with a flashy male, his traits may also be passed on to the daughter and put her at a disadvantage.

“With humans, you could think about it as being something as minor as hip width,” she says of the theory’s possible applications.

“Say males with narrow hips are more attractive, which is pretty accurate, I think. But if he’s going to make his daughters have narrow hips, that’s going to be bad for them because they’re going to have a hard time during childbirth.”




Fall Congregation

Fall Congregation ceremonies at UBC will be held Wed. Nov. 23 and Thurs. Nov. 24 at 8:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. each day at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts. On Nov. 23, an honorary degree will be given to Shirley Thomson, a leading advocate for creative and performing artists in Canada. For more information about Congregation and to view ceremonies live via webcast, visit