Thursday, November 30, 2006

  • Teaching dates are set for 2007-08
  • Experts no longer rule, says speaker
  • Droplets in the daily downpour
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs


Clarinetist Jeffrey Quilliam, a graduate student in physics and astronomy, will be the soloist tonight as Orchestra @UWaterloo gives its fall concert, "Au revoir, Mozart". As the winner of the orchestra's concerto competition, he'll be playing a work that Mozart wrote in 1791. The concert also includes music by Brahms, Bliss and Dvorak, and starts at 8 p.m. in the Humanities Theatre. Tickets are $10 (UW students free) at the Humanities box office.

Link of the day

St. Andrew's Day

When and where

HIV/AIDS vigil 2:30 p.m., Renison College chapel; afternoon tea 3:00 in the Ministry Centre, all welcome.

'Sports and the media' with Cory Woron of TSN, 3:00, great hall, Student Life Centre, sponsored by Imprint and Arts Student Union.

Faculty of engineering holiday reception 3:30 to 6:00, Festival Room, South CAmpus Hall.

'Women and the media' with Josie Dye, 102.1 Edge Rock, 5:30, great hall, Student Life Centre, sponsored by Imprint, Arts Student Union and Diversity program.

Pierre Elliott Trudeau: John English, UW history professor, reads from the new first volume of his Trudeau biography, 7 p.m., Theatre of the Arts, tickets $2 from the UW bookstore.

'Understanding the Darfur Conflict' by Caroline Khoubesserian, Friday 11:45, Centre for International Governance Innovation, 57 Erb Street West, details and reservations online.

Archbishop of Winnipeg Most Rev. James Weisgerber, "Bridging the Gap: Reaching Beyond Our Differences", Friday 7:30 p.m., Siegfried Hall, St. Jerome's University, free.

Warrior Weekend activities in the Student Life Centre Friday and Saturday evenings, including movies, free food, dance lessons, crafts, details online.

Brian Byrne free concert Friday, Bombshelter pub, doors open 9 p.m.

Perimeter Institute presents Damian Pope, "The Essence of Quantum Theory", Saturday 10 a.m. to noon, 31 Caroline Street North, no reservation necessary.

World Religions Conference sponsored by Ahmadiyya Movement in Islam, speakers from eight traditions on "My Faith and Freedom of Conscience", Saturday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Humanities Theatre, details and free registration online.

Hockey Warriors' food drive at Saturday night's game against UQTR, 7:30, Columbia Icefield. Fans who bring Food Bank donations (non-perishable food items or a loonie) can take part in Chuck-a-Puck contest at intermission.

UW Choir with Waterloo Chamber Players, Handel's "Messiah", Sunday 3 p.m., St. John's Lutheran Church, Willow Street, tickets $12 (students $10).

Instrumental chamber ensembles end-of-tern concert Monday 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel University College chapel, free.

Christmas concert by Chamber Choir and Chapel Choir in the Davis Centre great hall, Thursday, December 7, 12 noon.

OpenOffice training course offered by Information Systems and Technology, December 13, 2 p.m., registration online.

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Teaching dates are set for 2007-08

Sixty teaching days hath the fall term next year, and likewise the winter term and the spring term that follow.

Sixty is the minimum, and that's exactly how many are provided in the university's academic calendar dates for 2007-08, approved by the UW senate at its monthly meeting last week. Some years a term gets an extra day or two, depending on how the calendar falls — the current fall term has 61 teaching days, in fact, and spring 2007 will have 62.

Classes next fall will start the Monday after Labour Day as usual, which in 2007 falls on September 10. The last day of classes will be Monday, December 3, and exams will run December 6-20.

For 2006-07 (the current academic year) here's the schedule

In the winter term of 2008, classes will start Monday, January 7, and end Monday, April 7, with exams running April 10-24. (The end-of-term schedule isn't complicated by the Good Friday holiday as it sometimes is, since Easter 2008 falls on March 23.) In the spring term, classes will start Monday, May 5, and end Wednesday, July 30, with exams running August 5-16.

Putting the calendar together is simpler since the decision by UW's senate last year that all the faculties will get the same week-long "reading break" each February, meaning that their winter term classes can end on the same day. That change comes into effect for the first time in 2007. Still, there are 11 detailed rules that the registrar's office has to follow in calculating the dates, including the number of study days and exam days required each term as well as the 60-teaching-days standard.

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[Broad lobby showing business entrances]

That's how an architect imagines the lobby at TechTown, to open in the new year in the middle of the north campus Research and Technology Park. An open house today will show off the new building and planned services including credit union, dental office, day care and health club. It's scheduled for 4:30 to 7:00 at the Accelerator Centre, 295 Hagey Boulevard.

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Experts no longer rule, says speaker

by Kelley Teahen

In a world where everyone can play the expert, what’s the role for true experts? That was the question addressed by Peter Nicholson in a talk last night to a capacity crowd at the Accelerator Centre. It capped off a day-long UW visit that included an earlier meeting with the senior administrators who make up Deans’ Council.

[Nicholson]Nicholson (left) spoke at the inaugural Institute for Quantum Computing lecture, presented in partnership with Communitech, to an audience ranging from interested students to the university’s leadership. President David Johnston introduced Nicholson as “the strongest voice for science today” in Canada in his role as president of the Council of Canadian Academies.

In his talk “The Expert vs. The Crowd — Networked Knowledge and the Evolution of Intellectual Authority”, Nicholson argued that academics and others who have traditionally been arbiters of expertise and authority cannot ignore what is going on in ‘Web 2.0”-land: the place where there are 25 million blogs, the Wikipedia volunteer-contribution encyclopedia with more than 10 times the entries of Encyclopaedia Britannica, e-Bay-style commerce, YouTube, My Space, user-rating systems that sidestep experts, and search engines such as Google that rank pages based on user behaviour.

“We are witnessing in these examples the convergence and mutual reinforcement of two of the great defining movements of the past half-century: one cultural, the other technological,” he said. “These are, first, the ascendancy of the ordinary individual and, second, the empowering technology of the personal computer — a technology now enormously amplified by global networking. Together they have created a ‘cyber nervous system’ for the planet.”

In this “infosphere” one sees, consistently, a decline in deference to authority, Nicholson said, pointing out that while this decline predated the networked era by many years, “it’s the convergence of the two that multiplies the impact of each.” Whether it’s a doctor facing a patient clutching a hand-full of web printouts about a medical condition, or wide-ranging debates about issues from nutrition to global warming, expert-based authority is being challenged.

At the same time, because of the web’s capacity, there has been an explosion in the availability of information – a transformation that Johnston compared, in his comments after the speech, to the impact made in the 15th century by Gutenberg’s printing press. “We need somehow to transform a data torrent into useful information and knowledge that can power economic progress,” Nicholson said.

The social networks and web connections of the Web 2.0 era have introduced a “many to many” form of communication, as opposed to the broadcast-style “one to many” approach — the style, he pointed out, of university lecture-based learning, and a style, he predicts, that may soon be superseded by more group-style learning.

He acknowledged the leadership work being done at Waterloo and its technological partners in managing data, but also challenged academics to understand how the role of expertise and academic authority will evolve in a time when access to knowledge, and commentary on it, has been opened to anyone with an internet connection.

“Take this seriously,” Nicholson said. “I don’t think it will die. This has a powerful momentum and it is in synch with the ethos of our era.”

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Droplets in the daily downpour

[Campbell]Melanie Campbell (right) is by no means a professor of biology, as the Daily Bulletin said on Tuesday in talking about a research project that has received Canada Foundation for Innovation funding. She's a faculty member in the department of physics and astronomy, cross-appointed to the school of optometry. And just to emphasize that, she's the current president of the Canadian Association of Physicists.

“The Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Science Foundation,” says a memo from the dean’s office, “will honour and recognize award-winning science students this evening at the annual Science Awards Banquet, held this year at Federation Hall. This is the twentieth banquet, and the occasion is being marked by a reunion of sorts — past Faculty of Science Foundation directors and award recipients have been invited to this year's banquet to recognize their past work and achievements. The program for the evening includes, dinner, awards presentations, donor recognition, and a guest speaker, Dr. Jillian Clare Cohen, assistant professor, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy at the University of Toronto. Her talk is titled The Moral Imperative to Improve Drug Access Globally: Some Considerations. Four hundred attendees are expected to this invitation-only event which begins with a reception at 5:00 p.m.”

Daniela Cotesta of the Warrior figure-skating team will be one of the guests of honour today as Ontario University Athletics recognizes "the top female scholar-athletes from across the province" at the fourth annual Women of Influence Luncheon at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. The event honours female student-athletes who have excelled in their chosen sports and fields of study. Cotesta is a third-year Social Development Studies student with a minor in French. Says an OUA citation: "Daniela has maintained an impressive 84% average in her classes. This past year Daniela was an extremely successful one on the ice for the Sudbury native. She won the Gold Freeskate, the highest singles competition, and gold with her team-mates in a 4’s event. She has established herself as an exceptional skater at the intercollegiate level. Daniela’s choreography expertise has enabled her to make significant contributions to her team; helping others put their programs together. Daniela is active in the community service area, as well. She is an energetic coach and also works with special needs children, paving the way for her next career." A number of corporate sponsors are behind the luncheon, at which Cassie Campbell, a former Team Canada captain and University of Guelph star, will speak.

As I was saying yesterday, a number of UW people were on the program as the Geological Society of America held its annual meeting in Philadelphia last month. More speakers and titles: Shoufa Lin, with researchers from Western and New Brunswick, "The Importance of Differentiating Ductile Slickenside Striations from Stretching Lineations in Kinematic Reconstructions." Arjan Brem, Shoufa Lin and a UBC researcher, "Long-Lived Dextral Strike-Slip Movements in the Cabot Fault Zone." Jon Sykes, Yong Yin and Stefano Normani, "The Importance of Spatially and Temporally Varying Recharge on the Estimation of Contaminant Transport Parameters." E. A. Sudicky, Y.-J. Park, A. J. A. Unger, J. P. Jones, A. E. Brookfield and D. Colautti, with researchers from Université Laval, "Simulating Complex Flow and Contaminant Transport Dynamics in an Integrated Surface-Subsurface Modelling Framework." I'll list a final group of talks tomorrow.

The university secretariat announced yesterday that the UW senate will skip its December meeting, as it's done in many past years, for lack of urgent business. The meeting would have been held on December 18, in the depth of exam and bonhomie season. And speaking of the senate, 3:00 today is the deadline for nominations for a senate seat representing faculty members in applied health sciences; an election will be held if more than one candidate emerges.

Bob Norman, co-chair of the 50th anniversary steering committee, asks me to stress and repeat some of the announcements that have been made lately as planning for 2007 picks up its pace. He writes: "Don't forget to check the 50th web site for information about your Reach for the Top team entry, how to buy tickets for the first Lottery draw, and your opportunity to get some seed money to help you organize a 50th event." And watch for more publicity about all those activities, as well as the January 11 anniversary launch party.


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