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UBC Reports Jan 8, 2009

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VOL   55   I   NO   1   I   JANUARY   8,   2009
3      Disarmament
4     Autonomous Taxi
5      Happiness
6      New planets
7      Using your mind
THE    NEXT    BIG    THING    IN    2009,    AND    BEYOND
Associate Professors,
Dept. of Materials Engineering
The melding of artificial
materials within the body has
long fascinated humans and
been the basis for captivating
science fiction. From the 1970's
Six Million Dollar Man, to the
2008 movie Ironman, we have
been enthralled by the idea of the
half-human, half-machine with
super-human abilities.
At UBC Materials Engineering,
the combination of artificial
systems within the human body
has a target quite different from
those devised in science fiction;
it's the next big thing in the
world of biomedical engineering
and healthcare.
With age, the human body
wears out. And engineered
materials—metals, polymers
and ceramics—increasingly
help repair or replace injured
or destroyed body parts. At
UBC Materials Engineering,
research focuses on improving
the biological, mechanical and
chemical properties of these
materials, allowing us to better
aid in tissue repair, make longer-
lasting implants and enhance the
quality of life.
Assoc. Prof. Rizhi Wang,
Canada Research Chair in
Biomaterials, and Assoc. Prof.
Goran Fernlund collaborate
with surgeons, cell biologists
and pharmaceutical scientists
to develop novel implantable
biomaterials and have had great
success in improving materials
used for hip implants.
Building on the wealth
of knowledge in traditional
biomaterials for surgical
implants, a new biomaterials
frontier is being created at
UBC in the area of functional
nanofibre scaffolds for tissue
regeneration and targeted drug
UBC's Professor Frank
Ko, Canada Research Chair
in Nanofibrous Materials,
is spearheading efforts in
nanomaterials—materials whose
dimensions are nearly atomic in
size. With these materials Ko is
developing novel nano scaffolds
for tissue regeneration.
Tissue scaffolds are the next
big thing for implants of the
The age ofthe cyborg
Like the scaffolding we see on construction sites, nano
scaffolds are being created by Prof. Frank Ko to reconstruct
damaged tissue within the human body.
future. Like the scaffolding we
see on construction sites, the
nano scaffolds are being created
by Ko to reconstruct damaged
tissue within the human body.
Burn victims would benefit from
scaffolds used to regenerate
new skin. Those with failing
heart valves or damaged nerves
could count on scaffolds to
regenerate these parts from
within the patient's own body.
As healing progresses, the
scaffold, being constructed from
a biodegradable material, is
absorbed and metabolized by
the body while slowly releasing
drugs to aid in the healing
The key to Ko's work is his
unique technology for making
scaffolds from millions of
tiny fibres, each acting
^^^.        as a site for tissue
growth. He
this using
a novel
technique known as
"electrospinning" which
can be used to fabricate fibres
that are 10,000 times smaller
than the thickness of a human
hair. These nano-fibres, when
piled on top of one another,
provide a perfect scaffold for
new tissue growth.
Victor Leung, a Materials
Engineering undergraduate
student who has been working
with Ko on developing his
electrospinning process for the
next generation of scaffolding
materials sees a day when
biomaterials may be used to
generate all kinds of new body
"As we become more
sophisticated in our ability to
design materials, particularly at
the nanoscale, we open all kinds
of opportunities for repairing
damaged body parts. The
potential is really unlimited,"
says Leung.
Considering the great strides
materials engineers are making
in developing materials that are
readily accepted by the body and
that accelerate the process of
recovery and healing, the age of
the Cyborg seems not so much
science fiction as it does science
fact—a good thing given the
increasing life expectancy and
enduring desire to lead active
lives. 13
For the fourth year, UBC Reports has asked a handful of researchers to describe the
next big thing that will change our world. Their predictions reveal that once-futuristic
concepts may be closer than we think. They also reflect the delight of research:
how outside-the-box thinking can feed discovery and human progress.
"If at first the idea is not absurd, then there is no hope for it." Albert Einstein 2     |     UBC    REPORTS     |    JANUARY    8,    2009
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Highlights of UBC media coverage in December 2008.  compiled by sean sullivan
Parliament's Centre Block, Ottawa.
Prorogue, eh?
When Canada's opposition
parties pledged to form a
coalition and bring down the
Conservative government,
UBC political science professor
Allan Tupper explained the
political crisis to an international
Reuters and Bloomberg
joined the National Post, Globe
and Mail, Financial Post, and
Vancouver Province in seeking
Tupper's expert analysis on
how a coalition would affect
the provinces, and whether the
government would have to play
ball on its January budget.
"I think the circumstances
are beyond the prime minister's
control," Tupper told Bloomberg.
Paradise Lost in prose
A new interpretation of
Milton's Paradise Lost by
UBC English professor, and
distinguished Miltonist, Dennis
Danielson, caused a stir in blogs
for the New York Times and
Washington Post.
Danielson said his work frees
the story from its "linguistic
obscurity" in order to make
the epic poem more accessible
to modern readers. Paradise
Lost: Parallel Prose presents
Milton's original 17th-century
text together with Danielson's
modern prose rendition of the
"story of all things" on facing
"The value of his edition,
he says, is that it 'invites more
readers than ever before to
enjoy the magnificent story - to
experience the grandeur, heroism,
pathos, beauty and grace of
Milton's inimitable work,' "
wrote the Times.
Danielson also spoke on CBC
Growing up in different worlds
Tom Boyce, B.C. Leadership
Chair of Child Development
at UBC, has co-authored a
study that suggests the brains
of children from low-income
backgrounds function differently
from the brains of kids from
high-income environments.
The study, reported by The
Canadian Press and Los Angeles
Times, found certain deficits in
the functioning of the prefrontal
cortex - the region of the brain
that is critical for problem-
solving and creativity - in kids
from low-income environments.
"We believe that these
are differences in the early
experiences of kids growing up
in low socioeconomic status
families. It's not the fault of
anybody. We're looking for
things that can be done to make
that better," Boyce said.
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Expert Wade Huntley sees several possible steps toward disarmament in 2009.
Real nuclear disarmament
Simons Centre for Disarmament
and Non-Proliferation Research,
Liu Institute for Global Issues
Eliminating the threat of
nuclear weapons: this ideal goal,
as old as the nuclear age itself,
has often seemed Utopian. But
history-making progress toward
that goal may be the "next big
thing" in global arms control
and nonproliferation efforts.
The past decade has not been
kind to this aspiration. North
Korea tested a bomb, and Iran
was exposed to be seemingly
seeking one, too. The Bush
administration sought to expand
the variety and utility of the
U.S. nuclear arsenal. Much of
the world's nuclear materials
remained poorly secured and,
after September 11, the problem
of preventing nuclear terrorism
became a primary concern.
But behind the headlines,
some key trends point to a
reversal of fortune. Under the
2002 Moscow Treaty, U.S.- and
Russian-deployed arsenals will
soon number around 2,000
warheads each, less than 10
per cent of Cold War peaks.
The Nuclear Non-proliferation
Treaty (NPT) now includes all
the world's non-nuclear states,
and beyond North Korea and
Iran concerns over new nuclear
aspirants drop off quickly.
As important, there has been
a discernable shift in thinking.
In January 2007, a group of
prominent U.S. ex-officials and
experts, including previous
Republican secretaries of state
Henry Kissinger and George
Shultz, called for "setting the
goal of a world free of nuclear
weapons" and mapping the
first steps to achieving it. The
overture revolutionized thinking
in Washington and elsewhere
in the world; President-elect
Obama has stated his support
for this goal unequivocally, and
numerous other advocates will
be staffing key positions in his
Several major steps are
feasible in 2009. Concurrent
with the nuclear posture review
that the Obama administration
will develop in its first year,
immediate U.S. unilateral
actions could include
ending new warhead
development (already
resisted by Congress),
adopting a policy of "no first
use" of nuclear weapons, and
seeking Senate ratification of
the Comprehensive Nuclear Test
Ban (CTBT) signed by President
In the context of resuscitating
U.S.-Russia relations, these two
countries could quickly extend
the verification provisions of
their 1991 arms reduction treaty,
agree to take nuclear missiles
off their hair-trigger "alert"
postures, plan further reduction
of deployed warheads to 1,000
each, and examine seriously the
idea of multilateral ballistic-
missile defense systems proposed
by Presidents Bush and Putin in
2002. These steps would help
commence negotiations for a
new treaty to end all states'
production of nuclear explosive
materials. This progress would
presage negotiated, verifiable
weapons reductions among all
nuclear-armed states, including
the three non-NPT states (India,
Pakistan and Israel) - also
helpful, in the case of Pakistan,
to alleviating growing concerns
over the security of its
k existing nuclear stocks.
These measures
would reduce
incentives to
other countries to
seek their own nuclear
weapons and help mend
the divisions with most non-
nuclear states on dealing with
key nuclear arms aspirants.
The Bush administration has
already gained North Korea's
re-commitment to eliminating
its nuclear capabilities. Iran is
a tough challenge in the most
volatile region of the world.
But a renewed engagement of
Iran, likely in some form next
year, could produce a solution
to the current conflict - perhaps
linked to proposals to create an
international system to manage
the nuclear fuel cycle for nuclear
energy facilities worldwide.
Success in these two cases,
combined with strengthening the
global regime overall, could cap
further proliferation indefinitely.
Progress toward disarmament
requires a global commitment.
But many countries have been
awaiting only U.S. leadership,
which is why many steps could
transpire quickly. Other tasks
will take longer: establishing
systems for verification and
compliance, weaning states
of their reliance on nuclear
deterrence, and securing
materials and know-how against
access by non-state actors are
complex undertakings. It will
take time to persuade a few
states, thought not yet nuclear-
armed, to forever forsake that
option. But the preconditions for
commitment to these tasks are
already in place.With diplomacy
equal to the opportunity, we
could see, by the end of the next
decade, a new nuclear weapons
convention which, like the
landmines ban, would set the
goal of elimination and map the
path to its realization.
Nuclear knowledge cannot be
forgotten - we ate that apple.
Perhaps that means we can never
eliminate every last warhead.
But we can readily envision
a world free of the threat of
nuclear weapons - a "virtual
disarmament" in which whatever
devices remain are few and
restricted enough to serve only
to prevent any new threat from
arising.That world may now be
closer than it seems. 13
... we could see, by the end of
the next decade, a new nuclear
weapons convention which (like
the landmines ban) would set the
goal of elimination and map the
path to its realization.
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The Autonomous Taxi: Safe, driverless cars and
automated commuter systems are now within the
realm of possibility
Assoc. Prof., Dept. of Electrical
and Computer Engineering
A couple of generations ago
it was common for communities
to be tightly grouped around an
employer, with most workers
cycling or walking in. For
various reasons, the modern
worker typically lives far
away from the work site and
Increased use of rapid transit
is often suggested as the
solution to commuting
problems. This involves
a large investment in
a dedicated rail network,
which usually results in the
passenger being taken with
some discomfort between points
that may or may not be close to
the final destinations. The trains
and tracks will be empty for
most of the day.
The main alternative is to
travel by private car, which
is typically not driven in an
efficient way and then left
unused for the rest of the day.
The technology now exists for
relied on following buried wires.
Perfecting a system that would
maintain a distance from another
vehicle and not get confused
by things like lampposts was
particularly troublesome.
We have now reached a stage,
thanks in part to work on guided
missiles, where camera systems
can do a better job than the
human eye and brain. Couple
this with communication of
precise positions and headings
of vehicles in the vicinity and
you have the possibility of
safe, driverless vehicles
operating over
existing roads. There
W would be no need for
traffic lights or signs and
vehicles would hardly ever
need to stop. A central control
would normally manage all
vehicle movements.
At present some people can
afford to summon a conventional
taxi to do their bidding. In the
future most people will use
a handheld device to hail an
automatic vehicle. The size of
vehicle, limousine to multi-
occupant van, could be specified
The technology now exists for that
journey to be controlled automatically,
with the possibility ofthe vehicle then
being used for other purposes.
The autonomous taxi is at hand.
Assoc. Prof. W.G. Dunford says automated cars are possible with advanced guidance technology.
that journey to be controlled
automatically, with the
possibility of the vehicle then
being used for other purposes.
The autonomous taxi is at hand.
For many years research has
been done on automatic control
systems for cars. Some systems
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and the power source would
depend on the type of journey.
Short trips would use all electric
vehicles and longer trips might
use diesel engines or involve
some sort of transporter carrying
several vehicles. After use,
vehicles would be maintained,
charged and stored.
The user will normally not
be able to do any more than
specify where the vehicle
should go or when a stop is
desired, for example to pick
up a friend. A limited amount
of slow speed control will be
allowed. You might want to go
into the driveway to pick up a
bag. However, it is unlikely that
anything like a conventional
steering wheel will be supplied.
The user will probably point
to an image on a screen and
the manouevre will happen
Michael Robinson of Fiat
has suggested that if warning
labels are desirable on cigarettes
it is even more necessary to
advertise that driving can cause
death. He speculates that in 50
years time driving will not even
be allowed and the automatic
car of the future will not need
safety devices like airbags. Of
course the autonomous taxi user
will not need to worry about
drinking or using the telephone
while driving. 13
"IVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA UBC    REPORTS     |    JANUARY    8,    2009     |    5
A policy of
Assist. Prof.,
Dept. of Psychology
Should gay marriage be legal?
Should paid parental leave time
be increased? Should a former
industrial space be converted
into high-end condos, or
community park space? Going
beyond economic analyses,
moral arguments, and opinion
polls, new cross-disciplinary
money in generous ways.
Recent changes to Canadian
tax law have introduced
enhanced incentives for
individuals to make charitable
donations. These changes have
been heralded for providing
a financial boon to charities,
but my research suggests that
these changes may hold not
only economic benefits for the
recipients, but also emotional
benefits for the individuals who
But the time is now ripe for a
"policy of happiness," in which
happiness becomes the explicit
goal—and carefully measured
endpoint—of public policy.
research on happiness is poised
to shed light on important policy
issues such as these.
Indeed, at the end of a
year when the words
"hope" and "change"
have resonated so
deeply, I believe we are
witnessing the beginning
of a new era in policymaking.
Traditionally, policymakers
have relied heavily on economic
indicators and other "objective"
measures in formulating and
evaluating new policies. But the
time is now ripe for a "policy of
happiness," in which happiness
becomes the explicit goal—and
carefully measured endpoint—of
public policy.
Although happiness has been
deeply valued since ancient
times, it was once seen as too
soft and ethereal to be measured.
But careful, systematic research
has convincingly demonstrated
that happiness can be accurately
measured using brief, validated
self-report instruments. With
these reliable measures in place,
researchers have been able to
examine the factors—from
marriage and unemployment, to
television viewing and exercise—
that consistently influence
happiness in the population.
Research in this area stands
to shape policy in positive
new ways. For example, my
own recent field studies have
demonstrated that spending
money on others may represent a
more effective route to happiness
than spending money on oneself
(Dunn, Aknin, & Norton, 2008,
Science). This work provides
support for policies designed to
encourage people to use their
have responded to these new
laws by giving generously.
As such, a purely economic
analysis would overlook
the full range of benefits
provided by these
policies. Incorporating
insights from research
on happiness can expand
policymakers' field of vision,
potentially transforming hope
into happiness. 13
Happiness can now be accurately measured, says Assist. Prof. Elizabeth Dunn.
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ALMA's location in the Atacama Desert is one ofthe highest, driest places on Earth, making it ideal for astronomical research at millimeter wavelengths, which are absorbed by atmospheric
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Observing the formation
of new planets
Canadian astronomers
will soon use an amazing
new telescope to unravel the
mysteries of our origins - from
planets to the largest structures
in the universe.
Prof, of Physics and
Astronomy, UBC Okanagan
Astronomy has long grappled
with telling the story of our
origins and our relationship
to the Universe as a whole.
Over the past few decades, we
developed the scientific narrative
of our origins from the Big
Bang up through the present
day. However, many links in
that story are inferences: they
must have occurred since we are
here, but we have been unable
to actually observe the systems
representing these connections -
astronomy's own "missing link"
problem, if you will.
In the Atacama desert of
Chile, 5,000 metres above sea
level, astronomers from across
the world are now building a
revolutionary new telescope
that may help see that missing
link. The desolate landscape,
where annual rainfall is less
than 100 millimetres, is precisely
what attracts astronomers
such as myself because the dry
atmosphere is nearly devoid of
water vapor.
At lower, wetter sites, the
water vapor blocks the short-
wavelength radio waves from the
cosmos that the Atacama Large
Millimetre/submillimetre Array
(or the easier-to-swallow ALMA)
will observe. When ALMA
commences observations in
2011, it will enable astronomers
unprecedented insight into our
We cannot look back into
our own history to see how
our own solar system formed.
However, a vast number of other
solar systems are in the million-
year-long process of formation
right now. So, we will see the
story of our solar system's birth
playing out across the hundreds
of systems in our galactic
Observations with current
telescopes reveal some evidence
for nascent planetary systems
around these stars, but the new
technologies and unparalleled
location for ALMA will for
the first time identify forming
planets - known as proto-
planets. Like putting on our
glasses in the morning, we will
have a new, crisp view of star
and planet formation.
The secret to ALMA's much
improved vision is that many of
ALMA's 66 antennas, ranging in
size from seven to 12 meters in
diameter, can be moved around.
Changing the relative positions
of the antennas allows different
modes of observing - a bit like
using a zoom lens on a camera.
ALMA will form images by
continuously combining
signals from each antenna
with those from every
other antenna.
There are 1,225 such
antenna pairs, with each
antenna receiving radio
signals from the astronomical
object being observed.
The array also relies on
the world's most extensive
superconducting receiving
system, which gathers the
astronomical signals, and
extensive computing support.
ALMA's processors will
construct astronomical images by
digitizing and processing receiver
data at a rate of over 16,000
million-million operations per
Catching solar systems in the
act of formation will represent
a major discovery and resolve
outstanding questions about
how, exactly, planets form
around stars. ALMA's vastly
improved capability to peer
into the dusty, cold clouds of
molecular gas where stars form
is central to this discovery.
Proto-planets are not the
only missing link that ALMA
will study. This new facility will
unlock access to many other
unseen processes in the Universe.
With the telescope, I personally
will be studying how the star-
forming molecular clouds of gas
themselves come to form within
Using ALMA, we will be
able to observe this process in
other galaxies, which is crucial
since our embedded perspective
in our own galaxy prevents
us from seeing this happening
nearby. Other astronomers will
turn their attention to the most
distant observable galaxies in
the Universe, seen in the infancy
of the Universe thanks to the
finite speed of light. Studying
these proto-galaxies will answer
abiding questions about the
forces that shaped our own
ALMA is revolutionary in
^        other ways. In addition
to opening up new
sections of the radio
spectrum to deep
observation, it will be
more than 10 times larger
and far more sensitive than
any preceding radio telescope
operating at these wavelengths.
ALMA also represents the largest
collaborative effort in ground-
based astronomy to date.
Canada participates with
the United States, European
governments, and Japan in
the construction of the array.
Groundbreaking receiver
technology has been developed
at the Hertzberg Institute for
Astrophysics in Victoria, B.C.,
and is incorporated in the array.
In five years, the story of how we
came to be will be illustrated with
observations from ALMA and
many lingering questions in this
narration will be answered.And,
as is the nature of science, many
new questions will await us. 13 UBC    REPORTS     |    JANUARY    8,    2009     |     7
Tetraplegic Don Danbrook demostrates a prototype BCI recording cap.
Directing objects with
your mind
New brain-computer interface technology will revolutionize the lives
of those with physical challenges
John & Penny Ryan BC
Leadership Chair,
Professor and Director,
International Collaboration on
Repair Discoveries (ICORD);
Executive Director Neil Squire
Society, Adjunct Professor,
ICORD & Electrical and
Computer Engineering (ECE);
PhD candidate, ECE.
Imagine being able to look at
a light, think about turning it
on, and it comes on without you
moving. Or picture, with just a
thoughtful wish, being able to
control a computer or open a
door. Now envision directing
and controlling all manner of
inanimate objects with your
mind. It would be great fun
and potentially very helpful in
our multi-tasking world, but
consider how it would transform
the existence for a person who
has lost all motor function due
to spinal cord or brain damage.
What if there were a technology
that allowed people with severe
disabilities to communicate,
guide robotic limbs, and control
the environment around them?
This is not just science fiction,
but the vision driving the
development of brain-computer
interfaces or BCI.
BCI is an emerging field
of study that has attracted
increasing media attention.
Essentially, it is any technology
that connects machines or
computers to the thoughts
emanating from your brain.
Each and every one of your
thoughts involves the activation
of specific sets of neurons, which
generate a minute amount
of electrical activity that
can be detected by a
sensor array sitting
on top of the scalp.
Each distinctive pattern
of impulses can be used
to control a specific device to
which it is linked via a wireless
transmitter. And no, BCI is
not designed to read people's
thoughts. It is not possible to
read someone's thoughts without
their cooperation.
UBC and Neil Squire Society
researchers of the Brain
Computer Interface Lab at
ICORD, an interdisciplinary
research centre for the
development of effective
strategies to promote functional
recovery and improved quality
of life after spinal cord injury,
have been collaborating to
develop BCI technologies and
applications. There have been
some promising results, both
here at UBC and abroad, where
people have been trained to
control lights and doors, move a
computer mouse, type messages,
and direct a wheelchair.
There are still many challenges
to delivering a working
prototype. Ideally a
practical BCI must
be easy to wear or
implant, be unobtrusive,
and not require a long
training period. In the not
too distant future, BCI will
revolutionize the lives of people
living with a physical challenge.
The technology will profoundly
change the lives of people with
severe disabilities, and may also
revolutionize how we interact
with machines. 13
Faculty of Medicine
Through knowledge, creating health
Administrative Appointment Opportunities
The Faculty of Medicine, University of British
Columbia, invites applications and nominations for
the following administrative roles:
External Search
Head, Department of Family Practice
Head, Department of Pathology and
Laboratory Medicine
Salary will be commensurate with qualifications
and experience, subject to budgetary approval.
Experience will merit appointment as a tenured
Internal Search
Director, Centre for Blood Research
Director, Clinical Faculty Affairs
Assistant Dean, Faculty Development
The successful candidate will already hold a
faculty appointment.
Closing date for all positions is January 31, 2009.
For further details about these and other
opportunities in the Faculty of Medicine, please
consult the full advertisements at:
UBC hires on the basis of merit and is committed to employment
equity. We encourage all qualified applicants to apply; however,
Canadians andpermanent residents of Canada will be given priority.
www.ubc.ca & www.med.ubc.ca I     UBC    REPORTS     |    JANUARY    8,    2009
For over 30 years, UBC Faculty
Members have been maximizing
their retirement income by
Retiring On Us.
It works by integrating diverse
investment assets and pension
entitlements, like OAS, CPP and
your UBC Pension, into one
coherent plan. Call Clay Gillespie
now to define the retirement you
deserve. The sooner you begin to
plan, the sooner you can make it
a reality.
Clay Gillespie, bba, cim, cfp, fcsi
Vice President & Portfolio Manager
Rogers Group
Strategic Thinking. Independent Advice.


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