York team assists in search for life on Mars

York University researchers will take part in a mission probing Mars’ atmosphere for methane sources in an effort to find evidence of life on the planet, wrote the North York Mirror Aug. 24.

Researchers from the Faculty of Science & Engineering will be part of a team of Canadian scientists responsible for a device that will measure and diagnose components of Mars’ atmosphere.

The instrument, dubbed MATMOS (Mars Atmospheric Trace Molecule Occultation Spectrometer) is a partnership between the California Institute of Technology, the Canadian Space Agency and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

According to the University, the instrument, which has yet to be built, will ride aboard the ExoMars Trace Orbiter, a joint mission by NASA and the European Space Agency, slated to launch in 2016.

York scientists will engage in atmospheric modelling and analysis, constructing a weather and chemical forecast of Mars that will help analyze the MATMOS composition data to assess the sources of various component gases. Methane was discovered on Mars in 2003 in greater abundance than expected; because the gas is readily produced by biological activity, it is considered a key biomarker for signs of life.

“You can say in some respect [that] Mars can host life, but can it host life now?” asked Jack McConnell, professor of atmospheric science at York. “Mars has a bit of an ozone layer but it’s thin. Mars could have looked differently millions of years ago.”

McConnell, along with colleagues Professor Jim Whiteway and researcher Jacek Kaminski, will also lend expertise on the SOIR-NOMAD (Solar Occultation in the InfraRed – Nadir and Occultation for Mars Discovery), another instrument set to board the ExoMars Trace Orbiter.

As for the fascination surrounding the red planet, McConnell said it’s Earth’s nearest neighbour likely to have any evidence of life. “Venus isn’t likely, Mercury doesn’t have an atmosphere and Jupiter has no surface to speak of,” he said. “Mars is the thing nearest to us that can most likely harbour life. That’s what intrigues people.”

Ontario unveils reforms to pension guarantee fund

A 2008 report on pension reform by former York University president Harry Arthurs called on the province to boost coverage under the Pension Benefits Guarantee Fund to $2,500 a month from $1,000 currently, wrote The Globe and Mail and The Canadian Press Aug. 25, in stories about the government’s plans to improve the precarious financial status of the fund and improve the solvency of private-sector pension plans.

YFS president likes new pass for postsecondary students

While most people are paying more to ride the Rocket this year, college and university students will be enjoying cheaper TTC fares with the introduction of a new $99 monthly postsecondary pass, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 25.

The pass is the fulfilment of a promise the TTC made to student groups last November when it approved an overall fare increase.

One of the students who protested the fare increase at last fall’s transit commission meeting applauded the new passes.

“The TTC is showing its commitment to student ridership, which represents a significant amount of customers,” said Krisna Saravanamuttu, president of the York Federation of Students. “They’re also showing their commitment to sustainability in our environment,” he said.

About 60 per cent of the roughly 52,000 undergraduates at York University rely on public transit, Saravanamuttu said.

ARTspace to feature Shaw in September

Journey Into Sublime by Erich Shaw (BA Hons. ’91) brings together a series of photographic prints, wrote Chatham This Week Aug. 25. The works will be on display from Sept. 1 to 25, with an opening reception taking place at ARTspace on Sept. 2 at 7pm

Erich Shaw is a Chatham-Kent artist and graduate of York’s Faculty of Fine Arts who has placed his focus on creating portraits that capture the nobility and dignity of the subject. Shaw has taken inspiration from his extensive overseas traveling and lifelong fascination with costume to compile a collection of human studies.

This series of portraits utilize the human visage as a means of studying character and exploring the role of an individual through costume, expression and standpoint.

Shaw has also created an installation that re-insinuates the focus of the solo exhibition through the study of the human face. Oversized and fragmented features fill the front ARTspace window gallery.

Durie CFL’s best Canuck

Former York Lion’s football player Andre Durie has earned Canadian Football League (CFL) Canadian Player of the Week honours for the first time in his career, wrote The Mississauga News Aug. 24.

In CFL action last week, the Toronto Argonauts slotback caught a single-game career-high seven passes for 69 yards and carried once for 15 yards during last Friday’s 16-12 loss to the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

A week earlier, the York University product, by way of Lorne Park Secondary School, caught his first career CFL touchdown pass at the Rogers Centre as Toronto registered a 37-22 win over the Montreal Alouettes.

Boy, 13, facing charges in armed robbery

A 13-year-old boy has been charged following a gunpoint robbery of a pizza delivery worker near York University on Monday, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 25.

A man delivering a food order on The Chimneystack Road, near Keele Street and Steeles Avenue West, was robbed of the food order, his cash and his phone at gunpoint, Toronto police say. A second suspect then approached the delivery car and demanded a second delivery man’s cash and phone at gunpoint. Police say both suspects then fled.

  • Police said a second suspect is being sought for the robbery on The Chimneystack Road. "As far as I know” the weapon is real, Toronto Det.-Sgt. Al Coulter, of 31 Division said, wrote the Toronto Sun Aug. 25. Investigators have not recovered the weapon.
  • A 13-year-old boy faces an armed robbery charge after a pizza delivery man had a handgun put to his head late Monday at York University, wrote the Calgary Sun Aug. 25. Police Det.-Sgt. Al Coulter said a second suspect is being sought for the robbery. “He’s pretty young to be pointing a gun at somebody,” Coulter said.

Ottawa mayoral candidates reject lawn signs

There will be several thousand fewer lawn signs decorating the Ottawa landscape during this fall’s municipal election, wrote the Ottawa Citizen Aug. 25.

Incumbent Larry O’Brien and challenger Clive Doucet have decided that lawn-sign money can be better spent.

York University’s Fred Fletcher, one of Canada’s authorities on election advertising, agrees lawn signs can give a boost to a candidate’s name, but that’s the limit of their usefulness. “They do nothing to address the positives and negatives of a campaign,” he said. “That has to be done through other means of communication.”

Picton man seeks Green Party nod

A retired management consultant and marketing executive is in the running to be the Green Party candidate in Prince Edward-Hastings, wrote the Belleville Intelligencer Aug. 25.

Treat Hull (BA ’73), 61, of Picton announced Tuesday he’ll seek the nomination.

He spent more than 30 years as a consultant before working in software marketing, working in more than 15 countries.

He holds a bachelor of arts degree from York University and earned his master’s of applied science in management degree from the University of Waterloo’s engineering department.

Six running for mayor

Yesterday, 39-year-old Lisgar resident Ram Selvarajah (BA ’94) became the sixth candidate to officially enter the race for the mayor in Mississauga when he registered at City Hall, wrote The Mississauga News Aug. 24.

Selvarajah had originally registered to run as a candidate for public school trustee in Wards 9-10, where he lives, but decided to seek the mayor’s chair instead.

He ran unsuccessfully for trustee in his ward in 2006.

“I want to bring trust, accountability and transparency to City Hall,” Selvarajah said in a press release.

The candidate, who is married with two children, owns a degree in political science from York University, where he served in the student senate.

On air

  • Alex Himelfarb, director of York’s Glendon School of Public & International Affairs, spoke about the difficulty of reforming medicare, on Vancouver’s CKNW AM980 Radio Aug. 24.
  • Alan Middleton, a marketing professor in the Schulich School of Business at York University, spoke about candidate Rob Ford’s chances of being elected mayor of Toronto, on 680News Radio Aug. 24.