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Thursday, April 13, 2000

  • UW sets the annual physics test
  • Heading for Washington protests
  • In the local police courts
  • Notes from Tuesday's board meeting
  • Now, the rest of the story

[Vanderkooy]

UW sets the annual physics test

"Romeo sets off in his spaceship to marry Juliet, who lives on the planet Lovelon, 10 light-years away from earth. He can accelerate at 15 m/s2, and must decelerate at the same rate, in order to stop at Lovelon. Unknown to him, Juliet has taken an earlier shuttle back to Earth and she will wait there. Since there is no communication, Romeo will have to travel back again! Romeo left yesterday, on April 30, 1997. What is the earliest year in which they can be wed? Romeo and Juliet are both classical persons, and they ignore any relativistic effects! 1 light-year is about 9.46 x 1015 m."

Choose your answer

(A) 1999
(B) 2004
(C) 2007
(D) 2047
(E) they will die from old age first

That's the sort of question John Vanderkooy (left) is posing today to high school students across Canada and beyond, in the annual Sir Isaac Newton Exam sponsored by UW's physics department.

Top winners of the two-hour exam, which poses 14 questions, can end up with $3,000 first-year scholarships to study physics at UW. "For many years," the SIN web site explains, the exam was offered in early May, "but this April date has been forced by the decision of Ontario universities to send out student admission and scholarship offers in mid May. Even this leaves very little room for us to deal with all the collection of results, hand marking, and transmission of scholarship offers to the awards office. Some students may still be in the midst of their OAC Physics!"

Vanderkooy says the exam papers will be sent to Waterloo for computer marking; the best 250 papers will then be hand-marked so real live physicists can judge "how well the students substantiate their answers" with calculations. About 140 book prizes will be awarded, and in a typical year UW offers scholarships to between five and ten students. Often, though, scholarships aren't accepted, as students choose other fields of study or other universities.

Some history from the web site: "The first SIN exam was run in 1969, and about 1,500 students from about 300 high schools took part. In recent years the number of students has quadrupled and the number of participating high schools has more than doubled. Students also now participate from across Canada, and a few from the USA and abroad. The exam is a test of high school physics, and is offered by the University of Waterloo to encourage the teaching of physics. The exam, although aimed at competent students, is meant to be refreshing and fun. Political and other topical humour have marked SIN exams for years. . . .

"Dr. Phil Eastman produced and administered the exam from its inception, and although he has retired, continues to provide input and advice to the new team. Since 1997, the exam has been run by Dr. John Vanderkooy. Over the years many challenging questions have appeared on the SIN exam, and the exams and solutions have been published as a book, which is again in print . . . currently containing 26 SIN exams from 1969 to 1994. Thus it is titled: A Decade of SIN (Plus Sixteen)."

Heading for Washington protests

A group of UW students will be cramming more than studying into their exam schedule this week.

More than a dozen will be joining a caravan of vans from the Kitchener-Waterloo area heading to Washington, D.C. to take part in the Mobilization for Global Justice, dubbed "the battle after Seattle".

The protest -- expecting some 15,000 demonstrators representing labour, environmental and human rights groups -- is scheduled to coincide with meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, with major sit-ins and marches planned for Sunday and Monday.

"The power of the corporation has gone too far," says Erik Koopman, a second-year environment and resource studies student in explaining why he's joining the movement. The message he's taking: "Governments need to retain some control, to look after the interests of their people, not just the corporations."

Koopman's last exam is on Friday, and he's studying for that while boning up on his rights in case he's arrested -- a scenario he hopes to avoid. "I'm definitely a peaceful protester," he says.

In the local police courts

Waterloo regional police have yet to decide whether to lay charges in a house party that went amuck, leaving a second-year UW student with an eye injury that could cost him his sight.

A fight broke out March 25 at the "keg party" at 11 Columbia Street West, with some 70 revelers on site, and beer being sold illegally. Beer bottles were thrown, and one shattered the glass in a door. A shard of flying glass struck the left eye of one of the students, who was taken to hospital.

Stabbing: In Kitchener provincial court, a preliminary hearing is expected to begin May 10 into a charge of attempted murder in the stabbing of one UW student by another. Although a publication ban has been issued, police say Larry Pogany, 20, Oakville, did not know the student he is charged with stabbing along a pathway near Bearinger Road last October 12, and the attack was unprovoked. The victim has recovered from his stab wounds.

A third case: Lihua Wang, Waterloo, will be sentenced April 26 for the stabbing of a 36-year old UW PhD student on campus in January, 1999. Wang was found not guilty of attempted murder, but guilty of aggravated assault. The victim, an immigrant from China whose name cannot be published under a court order, suffered a collapsed lung and injuries to her hands from attempting to fend off her assailant.

Testimony showed Wang attacked the other woman because she believed the victim was having an affair with Wang's husband.

Notes from Tuesday's board meeting

UW leaders are about to start work on a list of "academic priorities which we hope will be compelling and exciting" as the basis for a big fund-raising campaign, the president said Tuesday.

He told UW's board of governors, holding its quarterly meeting, that the list of "priorities" will be the main agenda item when executive council (made up of deans, associate provosts and other top officials) hold their annual "retreat" just before the Victoria Day weekend.

From there, a "plan" for the campaign will come to the UW senate and board of governors this fall and winter, said president David Johnston. He added that the priority list won't just be a tool for fund-raising, but will be the basis for other kinds of UW planning too.

Some other things done and said at Tuesday's board meeting:

Now, the rest of the story

Children's shows continue in the Humanities Theatre, as the Touring Players present "Jillian Jiggs" at 10:00, 11:45 and 1:30 today and again tomorrow.

The physics department presents a colloquium today at 3:30 (Physics room 145): Collin Broholm of the Johns Hopkins University will speak on "Holes in a Quantum Spin Liquid".

Also at 3:30, the department of statistics and actuarial science presents a talk by Kumaraswamy Ponnambalam of the systems design engineering department. He'll speak (in Math and Computer room 5158) on "Software Qualities and Quality Assurance in Large-Scale Software Development".

It's not just lunch they're offering in the psychology department tomorrow; it's "culinary treats to the hungry souls of the arts faculty". The feast ("simple yet unique fare") will be served starting at noon tomorrow in the third-floor lounge of the PAS building, priced at "a mere $4". What's this all about? "The scoop is," says Sharon Adams in psych, "that the Arts Coffee Shop is now closed until September, and the loyal patrons are desperate for morning coffee and food. So psych staff decided to, at the very least, organize one luncheon each week, and staff and student groups are taking turns. We had a barbecue last week for 70 people, and we're about to launch an arm-twisting plan to find faculty chefs."

A session on "Back Care for the Back Yard Gardener" is scheduled at noontime two days next week, starring Jeff Tuling of the UW chiropractic research clinic. "Get ready for your spring clean-up and gardening," a green flyer suggests. Tuling will talk about back exercises and the right way to rake and dig, lead "a warm-up and stretching demo geared to gardening", and talk about "what to do for your back if you didn't follow the above guidelines". The talk will start at 12:05 on April 18 (next Tuesday) and again April 20 in room 1633 of the Lyle Hallman Institute (the west wing of Matthews Hall). People wanting to attend are invited to register by e-mailing Gayle Shellard: gshellar@healthy.

The latest from the local Volunteer Action Centre: "May 13 is Community Project Day. Join hundreds of other volunteers on the morning of Saturday, May 13, and help complete one of many special projects for local charities. The VAC is coordinating this event and will provide morning refreshments, transportation to and from the project and a BBQ lunch for all volunteers. You can organize a team of 4-8 of your friends or come on your own. This is a popular event for families, students, youth groups and teams of employees." For more information, the VAC can be reached at 742-8610.

Communications and Information Technology Ontario, a provincial "centre of excellence" with strong UW involvement, has announced grants of $7.8 million to 62 projects across Ontario, with a special emphasis on research in the area of digital media. CITO's news release highlights one project that's based at Waterloo:

En-Hui Yang is developing new algorithms for file compression that offer great improvements over existing methods. He plans to build on his earlier work on the technology, optimizing it for specific file types. Initial tests show the potential to compress files to six percent of their uncompressed size, as opposed to 20 or 25 percent using common compression schemes. As bandwidth continues to be an issue online, this also promises to be an important technology.
Each of the 62 projects is to receive CITO funding of between $50,000 and $100,000 a year for two years.

CAR


Editor of the Daily Bulletin: Chris Redmond
Information and Public Affairs, University of Waterloo
credmond@uwaterloo.ca | (519) 888-4567 ext. 3004
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