Tuesday, June 3, 2008

  • Board to approve building projects
  • A march in June, a chill in May
  • Event will remember Ken Woolner
  • Editor:
  • Chris Redmond
  • Communications and Public Affairs
  • bulletin@uwaterloo.ca

[Downtown Kitchener at a vertiginous angle]

This view from above the Kitchener health sciences campus is the work of Alan Morgan, of UW's earth and environmental sciences department. "I was in Calgary last week giving a lecture on Global Change to the Canadian Society of Petroleum Geologists as part of the International Year of Planet Earth," he writes. "On the way back on WestJet we flew over the campus, and I managed to get several shots from the aircraft looking south across Waterloo into Kitchener." This one, dramatically cropped and angled to face southwest, shows the tower of the almost-complete Pharmacy building at centre right, where King Street (running left to right) meets Victoria Street (top to bottom). Downtown Kitchener extends to the left.

Back to top

Board to approve building projects

UW's board of governors will meet this afternoon and is expected to give final approval to the construction budgets for two major buildings, as well as approval "in principle" for a residence to be constructed near campus by a private developer in cooperation with the university.

The board meeting will also deal with student incidental fees, updates to UW's 2008-09 budget, "priorities" as listed by Executive Council following its spring retreat, the annual valuation of the employee pension fund, progress on planning an Abu Dhabi campus, and progress in fund-raising and other "external relations" activities.

And in closed session, the board will hear a report from the presidential nominating committee that has been considering reappointment of David Johnston as UW's executive head. That discussion will follow a special meeting of the UW senate this morning (11:30 in Needles Hall room 3001, also expected to be held in closed session) and could lead to an announcement overnight about who will head UW after Johnston's present term ends on June 30, 2009.

Today's board of governors meeting is being held in the third-floor "loft" of the Architecture building on Melville Street South in Cambridge. The open session starts at 2:30 p.m.

Johnston and provost Amit Chakma will give their usual reports to the board, as will the other vice-presidents: Dennis Huber (administration and finance), Meg Beckel (external relations) and George Dixon (university research). Among the items Huber will ask the board to approve are increases in the Graduate Student Association fee (from $12.71 per term to $13.00) and the Federation of Students fee (from $34.67 to $35.43), and a decrease of about $6 per term in the "Federation-administered" fee for the bus pass, dental care and other services.

The building and properties committee, which is chaired by local real estate agent Mary Bales, will ask the board to approve a budget of $160 million for the Quantum-Nano Centre and $55 million for Engineering V, both buildings that have been under discussion for some time.

The project that's up for approval "in principle" is a privately built "suite-style" residence at 256 Phillip Street, next to the WCRI co-op residence just east of campus. The proposal is "an arrangement that would see the Owner proceed at its cost to construct the Building and UW participate in its operation as a student residence" with about 420 rooms.

A full agenda for the open portion of the board meeting, with background documents, is available on the university secretariat's web site.

Back to top

A march in June, a chill in May

Members of Canadian Union of Public Employees local 793 marched across campus during the noon hour yesterday, displaying such slogans as “The university works because we do.” The union represents 300-plus hourly-paid staff members in the plant operations and food services departments. I’m told that the march was a show of support for the leadership of the local as two days of contract talks between CUPE and the UW administration take place today and Wednesday. Four days of negotiations were held in April, in preparation for a new agreement between employer and union. The previous two-year contract expired on April 30.

The annual Keystone Campaign event is happening at noontime on Thursday (weather forecast: variable cloudiness, high of 23) and hundreds, maybe thousands, of staff, faculty and retirees will be on the Matthews Hall green playing Las Vegas games as well as eating and watching the entertainers. The “Viva Las Vegas” party is the annual high point for Keystone, the on-campus arm of Campaign Waterloo. “There is a bit of a shortage of volunteers,” a note from the UW development office says. So anybody who’s interested in some lively experience helping with the games, handing out prizes, stamping “passports” or wearing costumes is invited to give a call to Gloria Pageau at ext. 32135. Thursday’s midday event runs from 11:30 to 1:30; a smaller-scale repeat party, aimed at staff on the night shift, begins at 10 p.m. in South Campus Hall.

Speaking of the weather forecast, May was “cold” by recent standards, says Frank Seglenieks of UW’s weather station. “We went for a month without a day over 20 degrees after that great week at the end of April,” he writes. “This, combined with the amount of snow we had linger into the spring, makes me think that people are desperate to see some more warmer temperatures.” On the other hand, “the last recorded below-zero temperature occurred at 7:15 am on the morning of May 1. This is early, as the frost-free date is typically about a week later. However, even in the 10-year history of the UW weather station it has happened in late April, so it isn't a record. Thus far this year has been a real mixed bag for temperature: 2 months significantly above average (January, April), 2 significantly below average (March, May), and one in the average range (February). It started out as a wet month, with 47 mm falling in the first half; however it didn't keep up that pace as we only saw 12 mm in the second half. In the end our total precipitation for the month was just barely enough to get into the average range.”

From the engineering faculty’s e-newsletter: “Lydia Lane-Smith has spent countless hours working on a piano piece entitled ‘In Memoriam: for the Victims of Chernobyl’ by a Canadian composer. For the Paris, Ontario woman the adage 'practice makes perfect' came true last month when she was named the overall winner of the Brantford Kiwanis Music Festival and was presented with the Richard Blaha Memorial Silver Tray. Lane-Smith's winning performance relives Chernobyl's 1986 nuclear power plant disaster that killed thousands of people. Lane-Smith, who has won numerous other music awards and will compete in the provincial Kiwanis festival next month, will shift her focus in September from playing the piano to a new goal — starting Waterloo's mechanical engineering program. ‘I had to make a very difficult choice between math/sciences and music,’ she says. ‘Eventually I realized that I am better suited to a lifestyle in engineering than in piano performance’.”

Back to top

Event will remember Ken Woolner

A memorial get-together will be held Friday to remember Ken Woolner, the long-time professor of physics who was the man behind UW’s subtlest and most successful hoax.

Kenneth A. Woolner, who died April 8 at age 74, was a faculty member from 1958 to 1995. Early on, as he said in a retirement interview, "I decided that undergraduate teaching was my bag." Thus he never earned a doctorate (he was a BSc graduate of Queen Mary College, University of London) but is, as a colleague writes, “remembered fondly by generations of students”.

Lew Brubacher, a chemistry professor who knew Woolner well, observes that students “appreciated the historical references, and humour, in his lectures. Besides physics, Ken taught general science and the history and philosophy of science. Ken was noted for his impish sense of humour, informed by his broad knowledge of history.”

And that leads to the hoax story, and the creation of the immortal Claude Émile Jean-Baptiste Litre. As Brubacher tells the tale in the latest issue of UW’s Chem 13 News newsletter: “In the late 1970s, it was decreed by the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures that the symbol L could be used as the abbreviation for ‘litre’, the unit of volume. This was an exception to the rule that unit abbreviations start with a capital letter only if the unit is a person's name.

“Reg Friesen, then the editor of Chem 13 News, suggested to Ken that it would be convenient if a person named Litre had existed so as to justify the capital L. Ken proceeded to invent Monsieur Litre, a wine merchant with a passion for the exact measurement of volume, setting him in an historical context that was entirely plausible. The Litre biography appeared in the April 1978 issue of Chem 13 News. Many readers, realizing it was a spoof (it appeared on April 1, for example), responded to Editor Friesen's invitation to flesh out this sketch with their own inventive contributions. One reader reported that Litre named his first daughter Millicent — Milli, for short.

“As Ken noted ten years later, in the September 1988 issue of Chem 13 News, the story generated a lot of innocent fun. But some people took the story seriously, and Monsieur Litre has appeared in some scientific textbooks and reference books. For example, in 1987, he is on page 69 in volume 16 of Collier's Encyclopedia.” Scientific journals and, Woolner maintained, at least one textbook also reported the fabrication as fact.

[Woolner]The Litre story became a case study on “accuracy of information” for a course taught by Winston Cherry of UW’s department of statistics and actuarial science; background information is available online.

Brubacher observes that “Another example of Ken's sense of humour is in the March 1976 Phys 13 News. It was an advertisement by the Ideal Equipment Corp, which purported to sell ideal gases, frictionless bearings, Newtonian apples, etc.”

Woolner (left) died April 12. “To celebrate Ken's teaching career,” an obituary notice said, “gifts in memory can be made to the K.A. Woolner Memorial Scholarship in Physics, c/o The Faculty of Science.” He will be remembered on Friday when friends gather at the University Club, starting at 4 p.m. “Please come,” write his son Mark and daughter Gillian, “and share your favourite anecdotes, stories, and memories of his life with his family and friends.”


Back to top

Link of the day

New moon, spring tides

When and where

Co-op employer interviews for fall term jobs continue through June 20.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Using the Web to Enhance Face-to-Face Learning” 10:00 to 12:00, Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

Procurement and contract services trade show of UW suppliers: Fisher Scientific on Tuesday, computers and audio-visual Wednesday, Corporate Express (office supplies) Thursday, 11:00 to 2:00, Davis Centre lounge.

Centre for International Governance Innovation wine-and-cheese and book launch: Can the World Be Governed? Possibilities for Effective Multilateralism, 4:00, 57 Erb Street West.

UW Debate Society meets Tuesdays 5:15, Rod Coutts Hall room 301.

Early Childhood Education Centre family picnic at Waterloo Park 5:30 to 7:00.

Startup Camp Waterloo for recent and future founders of high-tech companies, 6:00 to 9:00, Accelerator Centre, 295 Hagey Boulevard, information e-mail jrodgers@uwaterloo.ca.

Conrad Grebel University College Lebold fund-raising banquet, speaker April Yamisaki, 6:30 p.m., Grebel dining room, information e-mail clichti@uwaterloo.ca.

Career workshop: “Career Exploration and Decision Making” Wednesday 10:30, Tatham Centre room 1208, registration online.

‘De-cluttering Your Garage’ brown-bag session with Brian Bast of Garage Revolution, sponsored by UW Recreation Committee, Wednesday 12:00 noon, Math and Computer room 5158.

Centre for Teaching Excellence workshop: “Using UW-ACE to Help Students Prepare for Your Class” Wednesday 1:00 to 2:30 p.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, details online.

Nortel Networks Institute Distinguished Seminar: John Yeow, systems design engineering, “Biomedical Micro/Nano Devices”, Wednesday 1:30 p.m., Davis Centre room 1302.

Anne Harris, faculty of arts, retirement celebration Wednesday 3:30 p.m., Festival Room, South Campus Hall, RSVP dpallas@uwaterloo.ca; donations invited for a bursary in her honour.

Penny Pudifin, graduate studies office, retirement celebration Wednesday 4:00 to 5:30 p.m., University Club, RSVP sbray@uwaterloo.ca.

Computer science information night about fourth-year courses, refreshments, Wednesday 4:00, Davis Centre room 1302.

Perimeter Institute presents William D. Phillips, National Institute of Standards and Technology, “Time and Einstein in the 21st Century: The Coolest Stuff in the Universe”, Wednesday 7:00 p.m., Waterloo Collegiate Institute, ticket information 519-883-4480.

Wilfrid Laurier University convocation ceremonies June 4-6 in Waterloo, June 11 in Brantford, details online, honorary degrees now announced.

UW Retirees Association tour of “stately homes and gardens” in the Hamilton area, Thursday, $67 for members and guests, information 519-744-3246.

Engineering V groundbreaking ceremony and launch of engineering Vision 2010 Campaign, Thursday 10:00 a.m., parking lot B, by invitation.

‘Late Night Picture Show’ of “films with a social conscience” sponsored by Waterloo Public Interest Research Group: “Dr. Strangelove” Thursday 9:00 p.m., Matthews Hall green behind Student Life Centre (rain location CEIT room 1015).

Class enrolment appointments for fall term undergraduate courses: continuing students, June 9-14; new students, July 14-27; open enrolment begins July 28.

Montréal Jazz Festival bus trip organized by Federation of Students July 4-6, $119 to $179 including space at McGill residence hall, tickets at Feds office, Student Life Centre.

Teaching and Learning ePortfolio conference, July 7-8, St. Jerome’s University, details online.

Student Life 101 open house for September’s new students, Saturday, July 19, information online.

One click away

Radio station CKMS plans a future after student fee disappears
Former Renison principal heads new Meritus University
Photo: topping-off ceremony at UW-linked college in Nanjing, China
'The future of student housing' (Imprint)
Digitized historical air photos of Waterloo Region
Pharmacy students being trained to prescribe
PhD student focuses on 'how one culture perceives another'
Federation leaders discuss their plans (Iron Warrior)
Physics profs report on thermal conductivity in a cobalt mineral
Updated statistics on US education
UW residences, the greenest of them all? (Imprint)
'The university as economic engine' (University Affairs)
Terror suspect wins entrepreneurship award at WLU
'Growing tide of litigiousness' on campuses

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin