Oil-train accidents prod regulators to look at tank-car safety

Oil-train explosions like the one last week near Casselton, N.D., or the one in Canada late Tuesday have revived longstanding worries that older railroad tank cars aren’t sturdy enough. . . . York University Professor Mark Winfield has called on Canadian authorities to begin a judicial inquiry into regulatory lapses before the Lac-Mégantic disaster. Among the questions to arise after the disaster is whether Bakken oil is more explosive. “It is hard to believe that nobody on the inside, among the regulators, [realized] there was a potential problem here,” said Winfield in the Seattle Times Jan. 8. Read full story.

Now you see it, now you don’t: What optical illusions tell us about our brains
Hugh Wilson, a neuroscientist at the Centre for Vision Research at York University, Toronto, proposed the simplest model, one stack with just two cells, reported the New Statesman Jan. 7. . . . The basic idea is that one cell fires if the picture looks like a duck, the other if it resembles a rabbit. Because of the inhibitory connections, the winner should take all. Except that, in this illusion, it doesn’t quite work, because the two choices are equally plausible. That’s what makes it an illusion. So both cells want to fire. But they can’t, because of those inhibitory connections. Yet neither can they both remain quiescent, because the incoming signals encourage them to fire. Read full story.

University makes sense in Stouffville
Last month, the Ministry of Training, Colleges and Universities published its criteria for postsecondary education expansion, including satellite campuses to accommodate unprecedented levels of enrolment growth. . . . The province is looking for places where population growth is strongest and where postsecondary access is limited. Milton is the most obvious contender; York Region is second. East Gwillimbury has offered land at its GO Transit station and Newmarket, too, is in conversation with York University. Yet these communities already have GO train access to York, which makes their bid less desirable. Read full story.

York student’s case stirs debate
A student’s request to be excused from course work on religious grounds so he would not have to interact with female peers has opened a fractious debate over how institutions navigate between competing human rights, reported The Globe and Mail and others Jan. 8. Read full story.