Dress Codes and Convocation

Martin Grant, Dean of Science

Martin Grant, Dean of Science

Convocation is a special time for our students, their families, and all who work at McGill. To understand the significance of convocation, certain aspects of the ceremony of the event are worth a closer look. This is an odd focus, but a powerful one as it reveals our values as a University.

Consider the dress code. All the graduating students, all the professors, are dressed in robes. Some professors have very colourful robes, depending on their University of graduation and their degree. I have heard one Dean remark that his red robe requires only a red clown nose to complete the picture (OK, I said this). All the undergraduate students wear black robes. (more…)

Q & A – Mars on Earth

Mini-Science logo At the conclusion of each Mini-Science lecture, audience members submit their questions to the evening’s presenter, who answers as many as possible on the spot. Three of the unanswered questions are sent to the presenter for posting here. Here are questions from Prof. Wayne Pollard’s lecture “Exploring Mars on Earth: The Arctic as an Analogue for Mars” (May 13, 2009).
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Thinking Outside the (Musical) Box

Martin Grant, Dean of Science

Martin Grant, Dean of Science

Last week I went to southern Ontario. Dan Levitin, one of our psychology professors, gave talks on Wednesday in Toronto and Thursday in Hamilton. Dan is a neuroscientist who studies how the brain reacts to music, amongst other things. He is a renowned scientist, and in addition to his academic papers he has recently published two popular books on music and the brain.

Both events were packed. People who like music like it a lot, and they want to understand it better. My job was to introduce Dan. I’ve presented Dan to audiences in the past and heard him speak on many occasions. Although remarks had been prepared for me, I confess to using my introductory duties as opportunities to share my sense of the fundamental strangeness of the topic of music and the brain, and provide a subtext for Dan’s talks.

After all, although it is not uncommon for a neuroscientist to study the interaction of music and the brain, have you heard of neuroscientists studying other arts: the neuroscience of sculpture, or the neuroscience of stand-up comedy, for example? I am sure neuroscientists sometimes study the brain’s interaction with others arts, but these occasions are as rare as hen’s teeth compared with the study of music and the brain. Indeed, it is hard to comprehend the otherness of music, the strangest of all our arts, and its direct route to the brain.

Here is a thought experiment which I believe makes this clear. (more…)

Quiz: Exploring Inner and Outer Space

Mini-Science logo
Here are the highlights of questions and answers from Dr. Dave Williams’ lecture, Up or Down: The Body’s Plasticity in Exploring Inner and Outer Space, from the May 6 edition of Mini-Science .

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A Worthy World of Wonders

Mario “Junior” Lemire, left, touches a volcanic bomb held by Philippe Taylor. (Owen Egan Photo)

Mario “Junior” Lemire, left, touches a volcanic bomb held by Philippe Taylor. (Owen Egan Photo)

Some are in wheelchairs, while others sit in specialized seats. They are disabled in a variety of ways, but the most evident thing the eight children in the library at l’École secondaire Joseph-Charbonneau share on this particular day is the look of astonished wonder in their eyes. (more…)

Q & A – Measuring the Universe

Mini-Science logo At the conclusion of each Mini-Science lecture, audience members submit their questions to the evening’s presenter, who answers as many as possible on the spot. Three of the unanswered questions are sent to the presenter for posting here. In addition, a quiz is held each week based on material from the lecture. Here are questions and the quiz from Prof. Robert Rutledge’s lecture ‘‘…in a Galaxy Far, Far Away: Measuring the Size of the Universe’ (April 29, 2009).

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