18th-century cartoonists — who might have loved Rob Ford — among Polanyi Prize-winning subjects

Five professors have won a cool $20,000 each from Queen’s Park Monday as recipients of the Polanyi Prize for research in such diverse fields as mosquito hormones and cheating husbands to quantum physics and how to treat back pain. . . . York University biology Professor Jean-Paul Paluzzi, one of the winners, is studying the basic physiology of mosquitoes and ticks so we can find better ways to treat these carriers of diseases such as West Nile Virus and lyme disease. “You want to be able to target them more specifically, so you’re not affecting other species like honeybees,” said Paluzzi in the Toronto Star Nov. 25. “The more we know about these pests, the more we can refine our control of them.” Read full story.

Employers snapping up MBA grads
Companies with fewer than 500 people and less than $50-million in revenue account for 98 per cent of businesses and 60 per cent of the work force in Canada, estimates Industry Canada. But just 8 per cent of them have significant export business, according to Schulich School of Business Professor Lorna Wright, quoted in a Schulich press release this week announcing her appointment as the inaugural director of the Centre for Global Enterprise. The new centre will serve as a consulting, research and teaching hub for smaller enterprises to expand their global reach, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 22. Read full story.

Life of solitude: A loneliness crisis is looming
It is the great irony of our age that we have never been better connected, or more adrift. The issue isn’t just social, it’s a public-health crisis in waiting. If you suffer from chronic loneliness, you run the risk of illness and premature death, reported The Globe and Mail Nov. 23. “This is a bigger problem than we realize,” said Ami Rokach, a psychologist and lecturer at York University in Toronto, who has been researching the subject for more than three decades. “Loneliness has been linked to depression, anxiety, interpersonal hostility, increased vulnerability to health problems and even to suicide,” said Rokach. Read full story.

How to fight meanness? Try a bit of kind
To underscore how important it is for grown-ups to set an example, York University psychology Professor Debra Pepler suggests every Canadian adult should watch Children See, Children Do, a 90-second public-service clip from Australia that shows children variously mimicking an adult who is giving another adult the finger; being racist to a sales clerk; and walking by a mother struggling with spilled groceries and a stroller without offering to lend a hand. “It’s absolutely a social problem, not a school problem – it just happens at school because that’s where we aggregate children,” said Pepler, who is also a senior scientist with the Hospital for Sick Children, in the Toronto Star Nov. 22. As Canada’s foremost expert on bullying, she suggests the pace of modern life, the pressure of financial worries and the lack of old-fashioned family help in today’s far-flung world combine to leave many of us with too little time to think of others. Read full story.

US looks at allowing in-flight cell phone use
An airplane flight is probably the last remaining sanctuary where passengers are forced to unplug, avoiding all cell phone calls, whether it’s your boss or a telemarketing pitch. But the U.S. Federal Communications Commission believes it’s time to examine whether those rules should be relaxed. . . . York University business Professor Fred Lazar believes longstanding concerns about cellphone interference with pilots’ communications or navigation systems have been “exaggerated” and are not well-founded. “It’s a matter of time until the regulators join the 21st century,” he said in the Toronto Star Nov. 22. “There is no safety issue here.” Lazar also wondered whether chatting on a cellphone is worse than a crying baby or two loud individuals talking. Read full story.

The value of giving to others – anonymously
Judaism considers giving a gift anonymously one of the highest forms of tzedakah, or charity. “It’s understood that God is more positively inclined to people who give charity secretly,” said Rabbi Martin Lockshin, chair of the Department of Humanities at York University, where he teaches Jewish studies. . . . A key reason, goes the interpretation, is that shielding the identities of donor and recipient mean that the person receiving tzedakah never needs to feel embarrassment at needing help, or looking his benefactor in the eye. Read full story.

Ford’s loved ones letting him down
“Kudos to the Toronto council for stripping the mayor of some two-thirds of his power,” said York University Professor Emeritus Stanley Jeffers in the Toronto Star Nov. 23. “May we hope that they would take the next logical step and reduce his salary by the same factor thereby saving the taxpayer a considerable sum of money. Surely the mayor would vote for that.” Read full story.