Delaney highlights Canadian content on NASA’s Phoenix Mars lander

Paul Delaney, professor of physics & astronomy in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, spoke about NASA’s latest mission to Mars with the Phoenix lander and the MET instrument package that uses technology developed by York professors, on CTV News July 10. From the transcript:

Delaney: Phoenix will launch in early August, and if all goes well on May 25 of next year we will touch down literally in the arctic circle, the northern reaches of Mars. And not quite on an ice cap, but hopefully in an area where ice is only a few centimetres below the surface so that the probe when it gets down to business will be able to dig a trench and pull some of that rock and ice onto the spacecraft and do some really neat analysis.

The meteorological package, which is on board Phoenix. Now, this is a fairly complicated probe. It’s going to be digging down. It’s also going to be looking up, because we need to characterize the environment. And that is what the MET package – the meteorological package – is going to do. It’s going to keep an eye on the temperature, keep an eye on the pressure, keep an eye on the wind. But it’s also going to use a lidar, which is basically a laser-radar system, send that into the atmosphere and look at the reflected pulses of laser light back into the lander and characterize the composition of the atmosphere. This is really neat Canadian technology. In fact, all built here in Toronto.

And Phoenix is not roving around the place. It’s settled in the northern reaches. It will do what it needs to do over a three- to six-month period. But the sad part is that because it is so far north the sun will eventually set. And when it sets the solar panels lose power, the mission will come to an end…. Three months is the primary science objective. If we get that far we will be very, very happy. We’re hoping – because these probes really have got longevity on their side – we’re hoping that it will push the extra three months. But literally when the sun goes down that’s it, the power disappears.

Judge tells stalled Black jury to resume deliberations

The jurors in the fraud trial of former media baron Conrad Black have been sent back for more deliberations, after they told the judge Tuesday afternoon they were unable to reach a unanimous verdict, wrote CBC News online July 11. The fact that the jurors are having difficulty reaching a verdict is not a surprising development, given the amount of time that has transpired since the case went to the jury, said James Stribopoulos, a professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School. "I think anyone watching the trial closely who knows anything about the criminal justice system can’t be taken aback by this development," he told CBC News. Stribopoulos said the question, now, is how extensive is the disagreement among the jurors and which defendant does it concern?

Canadian rates of marijuana use surpass those in the US and the Netherlands

A new study shows Canadians surpass Americans and even the Dutch when it comes to trying marijuana, but drug policy experts say it’s not a cause for concern, wrote the Canadian Press July 10. Alan Young, criminal law professor in York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, who launched a constitutional challenge to Canada’s marijuana laws in 1997, said the UN findings could have been distorted by the willingness of Canadians to openly discuss their drug use.

“It’s become a large part of youth culture in Canada, and more importantly, 50 per cent of marijuana smokers are over the age of 30. So it’s really gone to all age groups, all class groups. There’s no question about it that there is less stigma in Canada.”

Young said the report’s finding that pot use among Ontario high school students dropped from 30.3 per cent in 2003 to 24.4 per cent in 2005 is simply a “blip” in a larger trend of increasing rates of use. “The one thing that remains constant is that Canadian young people are consuming marijuana at a rate much higher than anywhere else in the western world,” he said.

York professor shares his diary with the Post

This week’s diarist is actor and dancer Michael Greyeyes, professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, wrote the National Post July 11. He kept his diary last week while rehearsing for Dusk Dances, a dance festival taking place in Toronto’s Withrow Park until Sunday.

Long walk to the mailbox, wrote Greyeyes. I’m waiting on news of a grant we desperately need to make a new dance work. It’s called Triptych, which explores the fallout from the residential school system and Christianity. I opened the letter…"We regret to inform you…."

Crap. That was a blow. This means everyone who’s committed to working on the project with me is really going to be working for peanuts. !(&%#^! Pick yourself up. Dust yourself off. Get in the car. Keep hustling.

York University. Arrange studio rental for Triptych. Must get to a fabric store to buy material for my regalia for Dusk Dances – the dance I’m creating uses Men’s Grass style as the principal movement vocabulary, and we’ll be dressed in our traditional regalia and grass outfits. Powwow dancers are always working on their outfits. Sewing, patching, updating.

We open in five days. My ankle is a mess. The site where we perform is radically uneven. Who the hell picked this spot? Oh, yeah. That was me. 11pm. Foot in bucket of ice water for 15 minutes. Try it sometime.

York soccer coach says Brazil will recover from its shaky start

It’s win-or-go-home time at the FIFA Under-20 World Cup, wrote The Daily News (Kamloops, BC) July 11. And no team is feeling the heat more than soccer superpower Brazil, which limped out of the first round and now goes into the Round of 16 against the toughest European side in the tournament – Spain. Paul James, who coached Canada at the 2001 U20 World Cup and now coaches at York University, calls Brazil’s spotty play one of the biggest surprises thus far. "But it’s not like they got beat soundly,” said James. “And they were in the so-called Group of Death (with the US, Poland and South Korea). “They lost to the United States and they lost their opening game to Poland, but now that they got through it, don’t be surprised if they do well from here on in. They’ve taken so much criticism and were so close to going home, this could be a momentum shift for them.”

Shades of Brown exposes ugly truth about racism

Documentary filmmaker Ali Kazimi, a professor in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts, perhaps best described the vortex in which South Asian youth find themselves caught up in at “Shades of Brown”, a four-day international conference of educators addressing South Asian issues held at York University, wrote Brampton’s South Asian Focus July 11. "The state has been good at making and breaking laws, and Canada has been good at hiding a lot,” said Kazimi. “Such concepts as real inclusion are only recent Canadian values. And I then posed the question, ‘What happens when the state breaks the law?’ At that point a young Canadian-born South Asian in the audience walked up to me angrily and said: ‘I have always been proud of being a Canadian, and having strong Canadian values. But now, today, you’ve totally messed me up.’"

Boost trade with Brazil, Jean urges

Canada wants to double its trade with Brazil by 2012 to about $16 billion a year, Governor-General Michaëlle Jean told businesspeople and diplomats in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, wrote The Gazette (Montreal) July 11. The two countries are enjoying their best trade relations in decades, as the ugly dispute between aircraft makers Bombardier and Embraer is far behind them. Four hundred Canadian companies invest in Brazil, 100 of them with permanent offices.

Brazilian powerhouse Companhia Vale do Rio Doce acquired Canada’s second-largest mining company, Inco Ltd. This made Canada one of the top countries for Brazilian foreign investment. "There aren’t frictions any more, since Brazilians are buying Canadian companies," said Ellie Perkins, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, who specializes in Brazil. Perkins said Brazil and Canada "would like stronger bilateral commitments this year in the areas of air transportation, agriculture, mining and audio-visual co-productions."

What’s on your mind? Non-psychic Thomas Baxter knows

Former York student Thomas Baxter says he can read minds. He says he can even control them. But he rejects being called a psychic. In fact, Baxter doesn’t believe in psychics – he finds them "dishonest”, wrote the Oakville Beaver July 6. “I call myself an honest deceiver,” he said, just before heading to Toronto to perform on the opening night of the weeklong Fringe Festival. "What I do is based on perception and manipulating your perception," Baxter said. "You’re still deceived, and you enjoy it." The brand of magic the Oakville resident practises is called mentalism. His exact title: psychological illusionist.

His show ThoughtControl is based on a series of experiments Baxter developed over the years "that are based on the psychology of illusion." It’s psychology that piqued the Toronto native’s interest in magic and illusions while he attended York University to study film and psychology. He began hitting the stage and putting on a magic show full-time.

York philosophy graduate taught for 36 years

Jay Newman (PhD ’71) was the child of Lou Newman and his wife, Kitty, wrote The Globe and Mail July 11in an obituary. A precocious child, Jay was educated at Brooklyn College, at Brown University, and finally completed his doctorate at York University in Toronto. He was only 22 when, with finished dissertation and several articles in hand, he was hired at the University of Guelph in 1971.

A practising Jew from Brooklyn, Jay always seemed a bit out of place at a rural Ontario university, but he quickly became one of its most popular teachers, who taught the ideas of Descartes, Spinoza and Plato with great passion and conviction to thousands of students over his 36-year career. But his broader interests were in the "philosophy of culture," and he wrote perceptively on issues to do with journalism and technology in modern culture.

Jay was a proud American, but he grew attached to his country of adoption, becoming a Canadian citizen in the 1980s. The proudest day of his life was the day he was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada.

New Brock vice-president worked at York

Brock University has created a new vice-president position and David Petis, a former development officer at York University, will be the first to hold it, wrote the St. Catharines Standard July 11. As vice-president of advancement, Petis will oversee communications, services to alumni and friends of the university, and development and donor relations. Petis will be moving to the Niagara region from Alberta and starts work at Brock in August.

On air

  • A study on golf and aging by Joe Baker, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, was featured on Peterborough’s CHEX-TV July 10.