Highlights of media coverage in May 2012. Compiled by Gudrun Jonsdottir


Bikeability index

Xinhua News Agency, CBC, the Calgary Herald and others reported the launch of online ‘heat maps’ indicating bikeability in North American cities. The research, conducted by researchers from UBC in partnership with Seattle-based Walk Score® and Simon Fraser University, is expected to help cities measure and improve their cycling infrastructure, the key to increasing ridership.

“We wanted to provide a user-friendly tool to gauge the bikeability of cities and neighbourhoods that would help planners identify areas that would benefit from additional infrastructure, while encouraging people to hop on a bike,” said Mike Brauer, a professor at the School of Population and Public Health.

One step closer to a universal flu vaccine

Researchers have found a potential way to develop universal flu vaccines and eliminate the need for seasonal flu vaccinations.

They found that the 2009 H1N1 “swine flu” vaccine triggered antibodies that protected against many other types of flu. Rather than binding to the head of proteins, they bind to the stem, or the hemagglutinin (HA), making them much more effective, reported the New York Daily News, the Bangkok Post, the Toronto Star and others.

“Current flu vaccines target the head of the HA to prevent infections, but because the flu virus mutates very quickly, this part of the HA changes rapidly, hence the need for different vaccines every flu season,” said lead researcher John Schrader, director of UBC’s Biomedical Centre.

Hedge funds

Hedge funds can help struggling U.S. companies emerge from bankruptcy protection rather than be liquidated, says a study reported on by Financial Times, the Globe and Mail, the Financial Post, the Vancouver Sun and others. Co-authored by Sauder School of Business professor Kai Li, the researchers examined 474 Chapter 11 filings between 1996 and 2007. Hedge funds have more room for flexibility than mutual and pension funds, allowing them to make strategic investments in failing companies, concluded the researchers.

Happy parents

The Globe and Mail, the Daily Mail, the Times of India, the National Post, the Toronto Star and others reported on a new study stating that parents experience greater levels of happiness and meaning in life than people without children. Researchers from three North American universities, including UBC, conducted a series of studies in the U.S. and Canada.

Study co-author Elizabeth Dunn, of the Department of Pysychology, said: “This series of studies suggest that parents are not nearly the ‘miserable creatures’ we might expect from recent studies and popular representations.”

Analytical thinking and religion

 CNN, the Los Angeles Times, Nature, the Huffington Post and others reported on a new UBC study stating that analytical thinking can decrease religious belief. The study found that the strength of religious belief weakens after subjects performed analytical tasks like mathematical computations and other mental challenges.

“Our goal was to explore the fundamental question of why people believe in a God to different degrees,” said lead author Will Gervais, a PhD student in the Department of Psychology.


Snakehead fish

An amateur video of what looks like an invasive snakehead fish in Burnaby’s Central Park Lagoon caused quite a stir with the Vancouver Sun and the Globe and Mail seeking expert advice from UBC scholars.

Michael Russello, an associate professor of biology at UBC’s Okanagan campus, said that the fish could be a threat to B.C.’s ecology and aquatic life. “It’s a big problem down in the States,” Russello said. “[The fish] have a primitive lung that allows them to move across land to other water bodies.”

Snakehead fish are being sold live in Richmond, which surprised Chris Harley, an associate professor of zoology. “It doesn’t make sense to cater to live sales,” he said, adding it increases the risk of the invasive species being released into local waters.