York scientist’s project probes space’s effects on body

Steve MacLean (BSc ‘77, PhD 83) knows first hand the struggles of completing even the simplest of tasks in space, reported the Toronto Star Dec. 1. MacLean, the Canadian astronaut who in September did a space walk of seven hours as part of the mission of the shuttle Atlantis, recalls how difficult it is to reach out and touch objects when beyond the bounds of Earth’s gravity.

While scientists have long known that hand-eye coordination suffers in space, they still aren’t sure why. An experiment by York neuroscientist Barry Fowler will blast off as part of the shuttle Discovery mission set to launch on Dec. 7 in search of an answer. “We don’t really understand the process, so we need to study it,” said MacLean, a York alumnus who demonstrated the experiment entitled Perceptual Motor Deficits in Space.

“It has important, practical applications for space, both now in terms of making sure, in emergencies, we understand what’s happening in eye-hand coordination,” said Fowler, a member of York’s new Faculty of Health, which does research across a host of disciplines including kinesiology, vision research and space science. “And, in the future, it will help determine what we do with long-term voyages and people adapting (to space.”

While Fowler was reluctant to make any claims about the impact of the research here on Earth, he said it could give us more insight into aging. It’s possible, he said, that changes that happen with loss of gravity also happen when a person ages. “Science is about serendipity,” he said. “You let people do basic research and anything can happen.”

  • Science broadcaster Jay Ingram was among those who visited York for the media conference about Fowler’s project. He profiled the York team’s work in a seven-and-half-minute item on Discovery Channel’s “Daily Planet” program Nov. 30.

  • The event was also mentioned on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” program Nov. 30.

The Internet won’t kill ‘old media’

The news media today is besieged by declining readership, fragmented audiences and new technologies disrupting and threatening the so called “old media,” wrote Paul Barter, a lecturer on technology in business strategies at the Schulich School of Business, in the National Post Dec. 1. But the retail industry offers lessons for today’s media industry.

It wasn’t that long ago that everybody was predicting that online retailers like Amazon.com would be the death knell for bricks and mortar retailers. But a funny thing happened on the way to the funeral: Consumers behaved differently than predicted and successful retailers experimented, learned from mistakes and improved the overall shopping experience for customers.

There is no arguing that the retail industry has undergone seismic changes in less than a decade. Successful retail is now multi-channel: Customers using various channels to make their purchases. For the customer, retail is not some sort of an “either or” proposition where you buy online or in a store.

York University student assaulted at gunpoint

The National Post reported Dec. 1 that a young York University student was sexually assaulted at gunpoint about 9pm, Wednesday, the third such attack in the area in nine days, police said yesterday, including an incident on Nov. 18 and another on Nov. 25. In all three cases, victims described the attacker as a black male, about six feet tall, in his mid-20s to early 30s, with short or shaven hair.

”We take it very seriously when a student alleges sexual assault and her attacker hasn’t been caught,” said Richard Fisher, York’s chief marketing & communications officer, adding that he doesn’t believe crime is more of an issue at York than anywhere else. “I think you get it anywhere in Toronto whether it be a university campus or not.”

  • A police spokesperson, when asked if police suspected the same man was responsible for the incidents, told the Toronto Star, Dec. 1, “we haven’t ruled that out.” Following the first attack, York stepped up security patrols on foot and in vehicles “slightly beyond” the perimeter of the campus, University spokesperson Richard Fisher said.

  • The Globe and Mail reported Dec. 1 that police were warning that a sexual predator may be targeting York University students, after the second assault near the Keele campus in just more than a week.

  • Hodari Clark, vice-president of the York Federation of Students, spoke about students’ safety concerns on Global TV News Nov. 30. One of those students, Caitlin Murphy, was interviewed by City-TV the same day.

Ontario unveils law reform commission

Mere weeks after the federal government caused a stir in the legal community by killing its Law Reform Commission, Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant has announced the creation of a very similar creature, reported The Globe and Mail Dec. 1. Unveiling the Ontario Law Commission at a Toronto symposium yesterday, Bryant took pains to contrast the attitude of the two governments toward law reform.

Bryant said he is structuring the new commission in such a way that it will be impervious to future political meddling by governments that don’t care for law reform. He said the commission will be inextricably attached to seven law schools in the province. “It must be ideologically indestructible,” he said. Bryant said the commission will be a partnership between York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, the deans of the seven Ontario law schools, the Law Society of Upper Canada, the Law Foundation of Ontario and his ministry. Toronto radio stations also reported on the new commission.

  • It is welcome news that Ontario Attorney General Michael Bryant is investing in justice by resurrecting the province’s own law reform commission, wrote the Toronto Star Dec. 1 in an editorial. After a decade-long vacuum, the new Law Commission of Ontario will provide a valuable independent forum for researching and recommending reforms to the legal system, and once again put Ontario at the forefront of justice policy.
    Recognizing the need for “an independent diagnosis and prescription of the justice system,” Bryant has forged a partnership among York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School, the deans of the province’s law schools, the Law Foundation of Ontario, the Law Society of Upper Canada and his own ministry to establish a new law commission.
    This will give scholars, judges, lawyers and others an independent forum in which to examine sensitive social policy issues that governments may not want to tackle. By insulating it from political meddling, Bryant has ensured that the commission can feel free to give the justice system impartial scrutiny, and push legal frontiers, on behalf of all of us.

Wiggles watchers comment on cast change

Greg Page may be leaving the Wiggles for health reasons but Canadian kids will continue to see the exuberant yellow-shirted singer on Treehouse TV for the foreseeable future, reported Canadian Press Nov. 30. A spokeswoman for Corus Entertainment said the Canadian broadcaster has no plans to purchase episodes featuring Page’s replacement, Sam Moran.

Maggie Toplak, pyschology professor in York’s Faculty of Health, said her 20-month-old son noticed no difference whatsoever when the pair attended the group’s live Toronto show Nov. 3. “It seemed like a lot of the other kids didn’t notice either,” said Toplak, a clinical developmental psychologist. “When they introduced Sam, there seemed to be more of a reaction from the parents. I think the kids were caught up with the show.”

On air

  • Steve Bailey, humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, took part in a panel discussion about the world-is-ending fears, on TVOntario’s “The Agenda” Nov. 30.