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Thursday, April 11, 2013



  • Commercialization fellowships up for grabs
  • Sounding out the shape of the universe
  • Notes as exams begin in the rain


  • Editor:
  • Brandon Sweet
  • Communications and Public Affairs


The same shot of two geese atop the roof of a car from a different angle.They've got your flying car right here: Nearly identical photos submitted this week by Sharon McFarlane of the Faculty of Science and Sarah Morse of the Graduate Studies Office prove what many of us already suspected - that administration of Parking Lot A has been handed over to the geese.

And I for one welcome our new winged overlords. I believe they would like parking fees paid in non-sequential, heh, bills.

Waterloo's battle with the birds has attracted significant media attention recently, with the CBC covering the latest effort to put them in their place.

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Commercialization fellowships up for grabs.

Opportunity is knocking again for the latest round of Scientists and Engineers in Business (SEB) Commercialization Fellowships.

The SEB program is supported by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and offers fellowships to Waterloo graduates and recent alumni (graduates who earned their last Waterloo degree within five years) in a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) program who want to commercialize their innovations and start high-tech/STEM related businesses. The University of Waterloo is sponsoring up to 15 commercialization fellowships.

Applications are due by 4:30 p.m. on April 22. Application details are available online. Faculty members are encouraged to refer eligible students or recent alumni to the program.

The Office of Research has published a story about the successes of one of the latest fellowship recipients, Thalmic Labs.

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Sounding out the shape of the universe

Can you tell the shape of an empty vase from only hearing the sound of someone tapping it with a spoon? A paper co-written by Professor Achim Kempf, Canada Research Chair in the Physics of Information and a member of the applied mathematics department says yes you can, or at least a laptop equipped with a suitable piece of software can.

Shape from Sound: Toward New Tools for Quantum Gravity, co-authored by Kempf and two of his students recently appeared in Physical Review Letters, one of the world's most prestigious physics journals.

Armed with new mathematical tools, the researchers used principles of spectral geometry to determine shapes of objects from their vibrations, and believe these principles can be applied to answer questions about quantum gravity and the shape of the universe.

And these are some big questions indeed. "The two deepest theories of nature, general relativity and quantum theory, long considered esoteric, are nowadays at the heart of everyday life, for example in all sorts of electronics and in GPS geo-location," Kempf says. "While general relativity is great for understanding the universe on big scales, it describes atoms incorrectly. Quantum theory gets atoms right but it cannot correctly describe the expansion of the universe."

Much effort, then, is going into the development of one unifying theory—“quantum gravity”—that applies in all circumstances.

So where does that vibrating vase come in?

"Roughly speaking, the vase is spacetime - remember from Einstein that spacetime has curvature, which is a kind of shape," writes Kempf. "And the tapping of the spoon stands for a quantum jump of matter."

Quantum jumps, Kempf explains, or quantum fluctuations, are ubiquitous, and "spacetime continually rings a little bit because of them."

Today, these effects are so small as to be almost unmeasurable. But it is thought that, some 13.7 billion years ago, the universe itself arose from a kind of quantum jump.

The findings of the paper may have practical applications in engineering, but the main significance, according to Kempf, is in fundamental physics.

"It is likely that the fabric of spacetime still vibrates due to small quantum vacuum fluctuations," Kempf says. "The new results bring us a step closer to being able to explicitly calculate the quantum ringing of spacetime, which could then tell us more about the origin of our universe."

Kempf writes that the project got its start when he hired Tejal Bhamre, a student from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT Bombay) in Mumbai, and David Aasen from McGill University as summer students in 2011. Aasen is currently a graduate student at CalTech, and Bhamre is a graduate student at Princeton.

"They visited Waterloo again last summer and we finally finished the work and the writing of the paper through lots of Skyping sessions," Kempf says.

The paper has generated commentary in a number of venues online, including KurzweilAI,, Science Daily, and Before It's News.


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Notes as exams begin in the rain

T. S. Eliot must have been thinking about final exams when he claimed that April was the cruellest month. The Registrar's Office has all the scheduling information a discerning student needs. Because after all, if you're going to write an exam, it might as well be the correct one. For students needing a place to study, the libraries' extended hours are in effect, and the Student Life Centre has extra study space in the Great Hall.

The University of Waterloo Art Gallery and the Department of Fine Arts are presenting four thesis exhibitions by Master of Fine Arts (MFA) graduates Nicholas Breton, Lisa Birke, Natalie Hunter, and Jessica Massard. The exhibition represents the end result of two years' worth of intensive research and studio production. The opening receptions are today at 5:00 p.m. and May 2 at 5:00 p.m., and the exhibition runs from April 11 to 27 and May 2 to 18.

The local chapter of Smart Solutions Canada, an organization that enables students to take part in global challenges and work with NGOs, is looking for students to join their executive team for the 2013-2014 year.


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Grad office to be closed today

The Graduate Studies Office will be closed from from 8:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. for a staff retreat.

Link of the day

International Louie Louie Day

When and where

On-campus examinations begin Thursday, April 11.

Fine Arts and UWAG present MFA Thesis 1 opening reception, Thursday, April 11, 5:00 p.m., UW Art Gallery. Details.

WIN Seminar Series featuring Professor Sarbajit Banerjee of the University of Buffalo, ""Adventures in Metal Oxide Nanomaterials and Graphene: Design and Device Integration," 3:00 p.m., QNC 1501. Details.

Examination days for online courses, Friday, April 12 and Saturday, April 13. Details.

University of Waterloo Drama Department presents Lysistrata [After Dark] by Aristophanes, adapted and directed by Shaw Forgeron, Thursday, April 11 to Saturday, April 13, Theatre of the Arts, Modern Languages Building.

Benjamin Eby Lecture with Leonard Enns, Friday, April 12, 7:30 p.m., Conrad Grebel chapel.

Microsoft College Puzzle Challenge, Saturday, April 13, 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m., MC 2017. Details.

WISE Lecture Series featuring Maurice B. Dusseault, Professor, Earth & Environmental Sciences, University of Waterloo, "How your energy world has changed...and will continue to change," Monday, April 15, 7:00 p.m., QNC 0101. Details.

Chemistry Department Seminar Series featuring Frederick West, Department of Chemistry, University of Alberta, “New Bond-Forming Processes Initiated by Nazarov Electrocyclization”, Tuesday, April 16, 11:00 a.m., C2-361. Details.

Sabbaticals 101 with Nancy Matthews, Tuesday, April 16, , noon to 1 p.m., Flex Lab, Dana Porter Library, Room 329.

The Institute of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (I.B.M.B.) Seminar Series featuring Heiko Heerklotz, Leslie Dan Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Toronto, “Interactions of Amphiphilic Molecules with Lipid Membranes”, Tuesday, April 16 at 3:30pm, C2-361. Details.

Apple 101, Wednesday, April 17, 12:00 p.m., Stratford Campus. Details.

Retirement celebration for Rita Wiebe, Manager, Math C&D. Wednesday, April 17 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m., MC 5158. Details.

Waterloo Lecture featuring Juliet's Dresses, Wednesday, April 17, 7:00 p.m., Stratford Public Library.

Retirement celebration for Edie Cardwell, Thursday, April 18, 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 p.m., School of Planning, EV3. Details. (PDF)

Gender and Feminist Researchers Luncheon, Thursday, April 18, 12:00 p.m., MC 5158. Details.

Sustainable Waterloo Region Evening of Recognition, Thursday, April 18, 5:00 p.m., Waterloo Inn. Details.

Stratford Campus Open House, Thursday, April 18, 6:00 p.m., Stratford Campus.

First Annual Waterloo Football gala, Thursday, April 18, 6:00 p.m., Bingeman's Centre Ballroom.

Leadership and Innovation Conference, April 22 and 23. Details.

Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience Colloquium featuring Marc Bellemare of the University of Alberta, Tuesday, April 23, 3:30 p.m., PAS 2464.

Deadline to become Fees Arranged, Monday, April 29.

Vegetation Inventory and Monitoring Workshop, Monday, April 29, 9:00 a.m., Huntsville Summit Centre. Details.

CTE703, "Freeing Your Voice,"
Tuesday, April 30, 1:30 p.m., MC 5758. Presented by the Centre for Teaching Excellence. Details.

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