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Thursday, June 19, 2003

  • Parking fees up -- C lot to cost $3
  • Waterloo's a happening place
  • The mathematics of the galaxies
Chris Redmond

Juneteenth celebrates the end of slavery

[White, black and gold balloons]

Sun on a beach! It brightened up just in time for yesterday's noon-hour Keystone Campaign "beach party", and hundreds of staff and faculty converged on the Math quadrangle -- not to mention more than a few students who caught the scent of a barbecue. Keystone volunteer Pat Cunningham, right, got the honour of presenting the top draw prize to Jennifer Johnson of the registrar's office. Johnson went home with a $500 travel voucher and a set of carry-on luggage. (Photo by Pui Van Sy.)

Parking fees up -- C lot to cost $3

The price of parking is going up on September 1, provost Amit Chakma announces in a memo that's hitting campus this morning. Here's the word:

"The monthly fee for decal parking will be increased from $21.00 to $23.00 for most lots. For lot X, the fee will increase from $19.00 to $21.00 and lot D will increase from $42.00 to $46.00.

"The entry rate for lot C will increase from $2.00 to $3.00.

"The entry rate for lot M will increase from $3.00 to $4.00.

"The entry rate for lot X will increase from $1.00 to $2.00.

"Permit lots that switch to coin for evenings and weekends will increase from $2.00 to $3.00.

"These are the first increases in parking fees since September 2000. These increases are required by Parking Services in order to maintain all parking lots in reasonable condition. The fee increases have been reviewed by the Advisory Committee on Traffic and Parking."

[In a frog T-shirt]

The youngest resident of the UW campus these days is Naomi Marie Krueger Wiebe, daughter of Jennie and Colin Wiebe, resident curators at the Brubacher House Museum. Naomi was born June 9, weighing 9 pounds 1 ounce.

Waterloo's a happening place

What's on everybody's mind probably is the first-year students who will be arriving at UW next fall. How many? And what would the university do if the first-year class turned out to be hundreds or thousands of students too big? Figures should be ready today from the admissions office. The National Post reports this morning that total admissions in Ontario's universities are "approximately 3,000 more students than the government pledged to fund" in this double-cohort year. The Post adds: "York University, the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University over-admitted the most students, a source said."

The Federation of Students will be holding "Feds Services Awareness Day" today -- 11:30 to 2:00 on the Bombshelter patio at the Student Life Centre. "Find out how the Feds services can help you," ads say. Those services include buses, the Food Bank, the legal resource office, the off-campus dons, and a good many more.

Lunchtime barbecues at Matthews Hall, usually on Wednesdays in the summer, will be on Thursdays this week -- that means today -- and next week. "Now that the weather is summer-like," says a note from Jenny Wyatt in applied health sciences, "even better reason to come out and have a yummy, cheap lunch!" When I last wrote about these barbecues, I wrongly said Wyatt was one of the organizers. In fact, she's one of the customers, and the barbecue is sponsored by the student organization there: the Applied Health Sciences Undergraduate Members, pronounced, I think, "awesome".

The Guelph-Waterloo Centre for Graduate Work in Chemistry and Biochemistry will present its annual Pfizer Synthetic Organic Lecture today. The speaker is Paul Wender of Stanford University, talking on "The Chemistry-Medicine Continuum", 3:30 p.m. in room 1200 of the University of Guelph's Thornbrough building.

A reception and dinner will be held tonight to honour Hamish Duthie and Swani Vethamany-Globus, both retiring after long service in UW's department of biology. Friends are invited to the reception, from 4:00 to 5:30 at the University Club; RSVPs for the dinner, at 6:00, were due a while back. Last-minute information about the event should be available from Barb Rae at ext. 2141. And contributions to a scholarship fund in honouring of the retiring biology professors can be sent to Fran Filipitsch in the biology office.

The Graduate House is announcing "open mic with Matt Osborne", tonight starting at 9:00.

A very big event is scheduled for tomorrow: the Region of Waterloo, in partnership with UW and area municipalities, officially opens the Waterloo Region Emergency Services Training and Research Complex (WRESTRC). It's on Erb Street West (actually "Erb's Road" by that point), at "Gate 3" to the regional landfill site. The large-scale training facility was developed to serve all area municipal fire departments and other associated emergency service providers and will serve as a host site for the long-awaited fire research centre, a project headed by mechanical engineering professor Beth Weckman. Opening celebrations are at 11:00 tomorrow morning.

And an advance note: the human resources department will repeat two of its "Knowing Your Workplace" sessions next week for interested staff and faculty. The session on benefits will be offered on Monday, and the one on sick leave and disability on Thursday, both at 12 noon in Davis Centre room 1302.

The mathematics of the galaxies -- from the Math Ties newsletter for mathematics alumni

A new generation of high-tech telescopes, some of them space-based such as the famous Hubble space telescope, is providing a wealth of precision data about the universe. This provides a tremendous opportunity to improve our mathematical description of the most fundamental laws of nature.

[Two immense galaxies]

Kempf's work investigates how the statistical distribution of galaxies originated in quantum fluctuations. Photo from hubblesite.org.

In this context, the work of Achim Kempf, who has been a faculty member in Applied Mathematics since summer 2001, focusses on the question of why galaxies are distributed the way they are: What were the original "seeds of structure" that determined where energy would condense to become a galaxy and where there would be a void between galaxies? There is a nontrivial function which describes the probability distribution for the spacing in between galaxies and it can be measured directly. Astronomers are even able to measure the statistical distribution of matter when the universe was still very young, namely by measuring the cosmic microwave background, which is an afterglow of the big bang.

Amazingly, the function which describes the statistical distribution of matter in the universe can be theoretically predicted with great precision -- from the assumption that the original "seeds of structure" were tiny quantum fluctuations of energy which were enormously enlarged by the very rapid initial expansion of the universe.

The theory is called "cosmic inflation". One of the big remaining questions is which role the so-far elusive (because small) quantum fluctuations of space-time itself have played in the early universe. Experimental evidence for the role of quantum fluctuations of spacetime is expected over the next few years from satellite-based telescopes launched by NASA and ESA. In the meanwhile, the mathematical description of those quantum fluctuations is very actively being investigated.

Of course, quantum fluctuations are difficult to visualize, and even more so those under the extreme conditions of the very early universe. Recent work of Kempf, which has also been mentioned in an Editorial of the Scientific American journal (October 2001), shows how nature under such extreme conditions can be studied with an information theoretic approach: Even when all visualization fails one can always at least quantify how much information is needed to describe this or that part of a physical process, and how this information flows and transforms. By combining mathematical physics and information theory, Kempf's work has become interdisciplinary. Indeed, results of his studies in mathematical physics have led him to develop a new data compression method. A US patent on the new method was currently issued.

His work naturally connects with the research efforts into quantum information at UW's Institute for Quantum Computing. Kempf is also an affiliated member of the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.


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