In the News

UBC Reports | Vol. 51 | No. 12 | Dec. 1, 2005

Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in November 2005

Compiled by Basil Waugh

Cow-tipping: No Leg to Stand On

Several international and national dailies, including the Times of London and the Globe and Mail, reported on a study by UBC scientists that debunks cow-tipping as an urban, or perhaps rural, myth.

According to Margo Lillie and student Tracy Boechler of the UBC Department of Zoology, physics would require five people to exert enough force to push over a cow standing with its legs straight. Fewer people could exert the required amount of force to tip a static cow, but this is only theoretical as cows do not sleep on their feet and are easily disturbed.

“I suspect that even if a dynamic physics model suggests cow-tipping is possible, the biology ultimately gets in the way. A cow is simply not a rigid, unresponding body,” Dr. Lillie told the Times.

UBC Students Design Space Elevator for NASA Competition

NASA recently challenged space engineers across North America to design a “space elevator,” a system that delivers cargo from Earth to space along miles of super-strong tether, using only light as a power source and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional space launch.

Of the many university and corporate teams that entered NASA’s recent competition, Team Snowstar, a student team from UBC, was voted most likely to succeed in 2006. The team was profiled in major U.S. media outlets including CNN, USA Today and MSNBC.

“Having always seen space travel as the next step in human development, I jumped on the opportunity to get involved,” said Team SnowStar’s Simon Hastings to National Graphic magazine. “It wasn’t about the money, but about the feeling of being part of something bigger than myself and accomplishing something meaningful.”

Technology Could Transform Urban Landscape for Disabled

UBC undergrads have discovered a way to enable people living with disabilities to control crosswalk signals and household electronics using everyday cellular phones.

The findings focus on Bluetooth technology, which is now standard in cell phones and laptops. By fitting public facilities with Bluetooth-enabled transmitters, the student team effectively turned cell phones into universal remote controls.

In an interview with the Ithaca Journal in New York, UBC electrical and computer engineering prof. Dave Michelson said that Bluetooth-enabled transmitters already exist, so installing them into public facilities wouldn’t require a lot of money or time — all that is required is industry and government support.