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Futurists: Guides on the road we'll travel

The Toronto Star reports on the Ontario College of Art & Design's (OCAD) masters program "of design in strategic foresight and innovation". OCAD is the first school in Canada to offer a "futurist" program--a program that challenges students to research current trends in order to make forecasts for the future.

"A futurist is a professional who fastidiously researches current trends and patterns to identify the driving forces of change. From there, they paint possible scenarios of what the near future holds. They're hired by Fortune 500 companies and governments to act as advisers and consultants, and forecast where technology, security, health care, politics and sustainability are headed."

"Last year, the Ontario College of Art & Design became the first in Canada to offer a master's of design in strategic foresight and innovation — a two-year, part-time course aimed at mid-career professionals. The program challenges students to solve complex problems — be they political, entrepreneurial, environmental or sociological — by examining the present, forecasting outcomes and devising with solutions that stretch the imagination and explore ideas outside the linear-shaped box."

"The first phase is horizon scanning," explains Greg Van Alstyne, director of the Strategic Innovation Lab, part of the futurist program. "We're looking for quiet signals of change over the horizon. Foresight is not about predicting the future, but about exploring scenario outcomes . . . The goal is to get beyond personal blind spots and biases."

"Students come from multidisciplinary backgrounds and include health-care industry workers, entrepreneurs and science fiction writers such as Karl Schroeder, who was already working as a consultant for the Canadian government writing future "wild card" scenarios on matters of security and technology."

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original source Toronto Star

York University scientists make breakthrough in understanding of orangutans

Two York University scientists have made important advances in our understanding of how orangutans communicate. As reported by the Guardian UK, psychologist Anne Russon and philosopher Kristin Andrews discovered, after analyzing 20 years of video footage, that orangutans can use mime to communicate. The study is important as it suggests that the apes "are capable of more complex communication than previously thought".

"The study, published in the Biology Letters journal, suggests miming is rare in wild orangutans, but is used when other forms of communication fail."

"Andrews said: "Great apes' ability to engage in rudimentary narrative communication suggests to us that, like humans, they are able to make sense of their world by telling stories, and to relay their thoughts about the world to others."Previous studies have described a gorilla acting as though it was rolling a ball of clay between her hands, which was interpreted as meaning "clay". A language-trained orangutan was also observed blowing through its thumb and forefinger to express the word "balloon"."

"The researchers write: "These orangutan and other great ape pantomime cases indicate that pantomime serves multiple purposes and supports important communicative complexities in living great apes. For great apes, like humans, pantomime is a medium, not a message."

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original source Guardian UK

U of T's bright new star

The Toronto Star interviews James R. Graham, world-renowned astronomer and the new director University of Toronto's Dunlap Institute. Now entering its third year the Dunlap Institute is a research and public outreach program hosted by UofT's School of Astronomy and Astrophysics. Graham, who has worked for the past 18 years at the University of California, Berkley, is coming to Dunlap to spearhead the institute's role in what could be the most important astronomical initiatives of the decade, the $800 million Thirty Metre Telescope (TMT) project. The (TMT), expected to be fully operational in 2018, is to be the largest telescope ever built. An excerpt from the interview:

"You made your name as an astronomer through discoveries made with adaptive optics. What are they?"

"Adaptive optics is a system for a telescope on the ground that first measures how the Earth's atmosphere distorts images — think of viewing a distant scene through the hot air rising from asphalt on a sunny day — and then corrects these distortions to make the images sharp."

anets are, and what is the process that leads to their formation.

"Tell me about the Thirty Metre Telescope."

"It's one of the major initiatives in astronomy over the next decade, a successor to the current generation of large telescopes. The scale of modern astronomy projects is such that individual countries can't build the next generation. The fact that Canada is a partner is a testament to the boldness of the vision of the leaders of Canadian astronomy. It will provide a very strong motivation for students to go into the physical sciences."

"One primary thing the Dunlap Institute can do is understand how to use it. We'll have to design specific instruments to collect and record that information. It will provide crucial opportunities to educate students in state-of-the-art technologies."

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original source Toronto Star

University of Toronto scientists invent new inexpensive solar cell design

As reported by Science Daily, a team of University of Toronto scientists have discovered how to substantially reduce the cost of solar energy. The breakthrough could mean a proliferation of the already inexpensive technology.

"The researchers have invented a solar panel that uses inexpensive nickel in the place of gold, One of the most promising technologies for making inexpensive but reasonably efficient solar photovoltaic cells just got much cheaper. Scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada have shown that inexpensive nickel can work just as well as gold for one of the critical electrical contacts that gather the electrical current produced by their colloidal quantum dot solar cells."

"The change to nickel can reduce the cell's already low material costs by 40 to 80 percent, says Lukasz Brzozowski, the director of the Photovoltaics Research Program in Professor Ted Sargent's group. They present their research in the July 12, 2010 issue of Applied Physics Letters, which is published by the American Institute of Physics (AIP)."

"Quantum dots are nanoscale bits of a semiconductor material that are created using low-cost, high-throughput chemical reactions in liquid solutions. Since their properties vary according to their size, quantum dots can be made to match the illumination spectrum. Half of all sunlight, for example, is in the infrared wavelengths, most of which cannot be collected by silicon-based solar cells. Sargent's group has pioneered the design and development of quantum dot solar cells that gather both visible and infrared light. They have reached a power-conversion efficiency as high as 5 percent and aim to improve that to 10 percent before commercialization."

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original source Science Daily

Toronto’s transformation to Silicon Valley North

The Globe & Mail's Ivor Tossell (and Yonge Street contributor) writes on Toronto's transformation into the "Silicon Valley of the North" as successful tech start-ups continue to pop up across the city. Toronto's position as an emerging international hub of web development can be attributed in part to its proximity to strong computer-science universities (e.g. Waterloo, McMaster and University of Toronto), and to its "size and vibrancy" that make it an attractive destination for young workers.

"There's a new emergent scene going on in Toronto," says David Crow, a strategist for Microsoft, and a long-time organizer of the city's tech community. "We have great talent and great opportunity."

"After years of nurturing a tight-knit tech community, Toronto seems to be reaching a critical mass – not just of homegrown companies, conferences, and networks, but of ties to a global industry. Groups like Extreme Venture Partners "are building a pipeline between Toronto and the Valley," says Mr. Crow."

"Clustered in neighbourhoods like Queen and Spadina and Liberty Village, companies such as Polar Mobile (they make iPhone apps for big media firms), LearnHub (which connects international learners) and Five Mobile (who produce apps for The Score TV network) are part of the local tech resurgence."

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original source the Globe & Mail

York University scientists link perfectionism to postpartum depression

As reported by Science News, York University researchers have made important inroads into understanding the physiological impact of perfectionism. In a study presented at a May 30 meeting of the Association for Psychological Science, the Toronto scientists found that women with perfectionist standards were more likely to develop postpartum depression.

"Perfectionists often try to impress others by bragging or trying to promote their faultless qualities, avoid situations in which they might show imperfections and refuse to admit failures to others, said Gordon Flett of York University in Toronto. Flett reported his findings on how perfectionistic tendencies contribute to the risk of postpartum depression in new mothers."

"Using questionnaires, Flett queried 100 women during the final month of their pregnancies and one month after giving birth about their perfectionism, personality and mental health."

"Postpartum depression occurred substantially more often among women who had demanded perfection of themselves while pregnant than among those who had cited few or no signs of perfectionism. This association held after accounting for pregnant women's feelings that others demanded perfection of them and for any depression symptoms that had been present during pregnancy."

"This is the first evidence that new mothers who need to seem like a perfect parent are at risk for depression," Flett said.

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original source Science News

Toronto's Symtext aims to build the textbook of tomorrow

Toronto's Symtext Corp. is hoping to change the way students study and teachers teach, through its innovative product, the Liquid Textbook. The Liquid Textbook allows instructors to create customized digital textbooks that can incorporate material from a number of different mediums from articles, to photographs to podcasts. As reported by Toronto Star, the company has sold its "textbook of tomorrow" to nearly 25 professors in Canada and the United States since its launch in July 2008.

"Printed course-packs are so last year. Ian Barker wants you to know about the textbook of tomorrow.Barker, a former CanWest Interactive marketing director, got the idea for the Liquid Textbook from a surprising source."

"The history buff was reading about the Second World War when he came across a paragraph describing a bloody battle between the Russian and German armies outside Berlin. It was this "horrible loss of life and it had major historical importance and [yet] it was only one little paragraph," Barker says."

"He wanted to know more about the battle and wished the author had included related historical documents and analysis. That got him thinking about how digitally weaving together several print and multimedia sources would create an enriched learning experience."

"Unlike a traditional eBook, which digitizes an entire paper book, the Liquid Textbook allows for chunking – picking chapters of books written by different authors and bringing those chapters together in a digital anthology, along with other multimedia content, that suits an instructor's course."

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original source the Toronto Star

Toronto's Rotman School of Business makes Business Insider list

The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto has placed 37th on Business Insider's exclusive list of the World's 50 Best Business Schools. The rankings were based on a survey of more than 1,000 Business Insider readers in February and March 2010.

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original source Business Insider

Ted Rogers School of Management leads to quick returns

An education from Toronto's Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University pays for itself quickly according a survey conducted by the Ted Rogers School of Management. The survey, which tracked graduate salaries and employment rates found that after completing a program that costs approximately $13,000 "students who were employed within six months of graduating earned an average annual salary of $85,327".

"The topic at hand is Ryerson's Master of Business Administration program, which has Brailovski perked even before he's had his coffee."

"It's a much more cost-effective program," he contends, championing the school from which he graduated just two years ago, after which he landed a job at Scotia Bank."

"The Ted Rogers School of Management at Ryerson University is seated in the heart of downtown Toronto, cushioned close to Yonge and Dundas Square. The location was one of the primary factors that drove Brailovski to complete his MBA at Ryerson, but it's the cost-benefit analysis he insists elaborating upon."

"The tuition is comparatively inexpensive to other schools," he says. "The flexible program is of great, great value: a one-year model, for people wanting to jump-start their careers."

"A common threat of any program is putting up the money, time and energy to study, and then not being able to find a job immediately after. The problem has become increasingly prominent in this wavering economy. Though there is an increasing number of students enrolling in MBA programs, there are fewer and fewer jobs as firms cut back. However, Brailovski says the employment rate for Ryerson MBA students is "phenomenal."

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original source Toronto Star
69 Higher Education Articles | Page: | Show All
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