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Issue 2 — Sept. 8, 2012

A student spends her summer researching in the

Canadian Wild

Science outside of the classroom Queen’s University offers more than lectures and labs; learn from unexpected hands-on sources and discover the hidden scientific wonders of campus. 4


Tracking your moves online

Data mining is an unfortunate reality for our modern age. 40

Engineers explained

The Orientation Week that is impossible to ignore. 44


E d i to r ’ s

N ot e

ince the release of the inaugural issue,

we have received great support from our peers,

found an outpour of contributors and were even recognized and reviewed by Scientific American. That last point still strikes me as pure, amazing luck. I think more than anything, the recognition from a reputable science magazine has inspired students to take a chance with Nerve and try something new (either as a writer or reader). At the same time, it has allowed readers from all over the continent to find and flip through our pages. I can’t thank Bora Zivkovic and the rest of the Scientific American team enough for somehow stumbling upon our digital footsteps. I never imagined having over 600 unique views of the first issue — that was a dream come true. That being said, I hope this support continues throughout Volume 1, and whatever may possibly follow that. A strong audience isn’t the fuel that makes Nerve run, but it sure is motivation to keep improving. This issue isn’t any exception. With more contributors we now have in-depth looks into everything from Queen’s Orientation Week to international companies. If you are wondering what the fuel behind this project is, it’s pure curiosity. That includes not only a scientific curiosity, but also the burning question of “how do you run/write for a science magazine? And is it for me?” The lessons are becoming more difficult, but I’m still smiling, so I think that means I’m passing this class.

Catherine Owsik Editor in Chief


Nerve Magazine

C o n t e n t s Breaking A Tour of Science at Queen’s page 4 Follow us around campus to see what you the Bubble can learn outside of the classroom.

Science Why are Smart People so Stupid?

Poor rationality, as seen in cognitive science, often leads to poor decisions. Luckily, there’s a way to improve your own level of thinking.

Life in the Research Fields

page 34

Tips to avoid gaining weight this upcoming year.

Technology Queen’s Goes Mobile

page 24

A look into the life of a student researcher at the Queen’s University Biological Station.

Beware of the Freshman 15

page 38

A review of the new Arrival application.

Your Secret Data — Exposed

page 44

The science behind Engineering Orientation Week.

The Mixture

(Cover) The Queen’s University Biological Station. (Source: Kellie Heney)

page 40

Data mining is creeping into every aspect of modern life. Familiarize yourself with this world.

Engineering The Power of Purple

page 18

page 49

(Source: Catherine Owsik)


Breaking the Bubble


Nerve Magazine

A tour of scienc

ce at

QUEEN’S Article and Photography by Catherine Owsik

Stauffer library: the largest library on campus. But, don’t think this is the only place at Queen’s that you can become a part of the “scientific community.” Many students find their passion, and even learn lessons, elsewhere on campus.


Breaking the Bubble


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“shack” Solar Education Centre

It may look like a flimsy joke of a building, but the Queen’s Solar Education Centre (QSEC) is actually a testament to student initiative and hard work. The small house was designed and commissioned by the Queen’s Solar Design Team (QSDT) as a testing facility for green technology. Inside the two-room house they are testing and monitoring an array of technologies including solar panels, motorized “smart” blinds and net-zero home irrigation systems. The research completed in the QSEC house will be applied to QSDT’s entry at next year’s Solar Decathlon. This competition, which will be held in California in 2013, pushes student contestants to design the most energy efficient home while also maintaining esthetics and cost-efficiency. QSDT will be participating as part of Team Ontario along with students from Carleton University and Algonquin College.


Breaking the Bubble


“green café” Tea Room

Located in Beamish-Munro Hall, and just a couple steps away from the QSEC, is the Tea Room. It’s one of Canada’s only zero consumer-waste cafés: everything handed over the counter can be recycled or composted. The cups, cutlery and even sandwich boxes are made of plant-based, biodegradable materials. They also have an in-building vermicomposting system, which uses worms to breakdown organic waste. This student-run café offers delectable treats and a variety of drinks, and lines are most likely to be shorter than the lines at the Tim Horton’s that dot our campus. Be sure to check out this hidden green gem.


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Breaking the Bubble


“Vertical garden” BioWall

Just adjacent to the Tea Room is the BioWall — an indoor air filter composed of plants and microorganisms. The BioWall naturally degrades airborne contaminants that are present in indoor facilities. These contaminants include carbon dioxide and less-known gaseous chemical compounds, such as benzene and toluene. These compounds are present in all indoor areas, and it’s been found that the plants in the BioWall do clean them out of the air. In 2007, Queen’s considered implementing BioWalls in the design for the new Queen’s Centre, but after those plans fell through this is the only BioWall on campus. More than anything, it offers the same tranquility that a garden does, but also has a strong awe factor. It is part of a larger “Live Building” initiative that monitors mechanical, electrical and structural systems throughout the Integrated Learning Centre (ILC).


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Breaking the Bubble


“oldest things in Kingston” Miller Museum of Geology

On the other side of Union Street, Miller Hall houses a great mini-museum. The collection includes minerals from around the world, and local fossils and rocks that collectively illustrate a detailed account of Kingston’s geological history. Of course there are some dinosaur fossils from Alberta on display as well. This also includes an interactive “Dig for Dinosaurs” station that may re-invent your childhood dreams of unearthing a dinosaur. Admission is free and visitors are welcome to visit on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.


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Breaking the Bubble

of The Tropics” The “Taste Phytotron Hidden up on the BioScience complex is the Queen’s greenhouse and laboratory, known as the Phytotron. It includes a small conservatory housing over 150 tropical, subtropical and Mediterranean plant species: these include banana plants, orchids and palms. The Phytotron houses many important plant experiments, but it is also open to tours for classes or curious groups. They even state on the website that it’s a great getaway from dreary Kingston winters. Tours are available upon request (email the facility manager).


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“physics Experiment” Foucault Pendulum

Located on the second floor of the physics building, Stirling Hall, is a pendulum that shows the slow rotation of the Earth. The Foucault pendulum swings from the ceiling in a regular back-and-forth motion (imagine a slow hypnotists’ watch), but if you watch it for long enough you will notice that the plane of the swing (the path which the pendulum follows from one high-point of the swing to the other) rotates slowly around the circle below it. In fact, it’s not the pendulum that is rotating; it’s the platform below the pendulum (and the Earth) that is rotating. The pendulum’s plane is fixed in space… the “rotation” you are seeing is actually proving the rotation of the Earth.


Breaking the Bubble


Nerve Magazine


“stars of Kingston” Observatory

Perched up on Ellis Hall is the Queen’s Observatory. Visitors are welcome to view planets, stars, nebulae and galaxies though the 16-inch dome telescope. On every second Saturday of the month the Observatory opens its doors to the public for free. These nights inlcude a free lectures as well — the open house on Sept. 8 featured a presentation about the Mars mission and the Curiosity rover.

Take full advantage of your years at Queen’s University. The campus has so much to offer its students: you may be inspired to pursue environmentallyfriendly initiatives, you may finally learn some physics, you may even finally find your guiding stars. These are the years to delve into new topics and discover what you are truly interested in. So just do it, get lost on campus... what do you have to lose?

(Background) The Orion nebula, as seen by the Hubble Space telescope. (Source: ESA/Hubble and NASA) 17



are smart people often so


A peek into the scientific side of rationality. Every human has the ability to make rational decisions, but it is a skill that can be honed in order to improve your life.


Nerve Magazine

By Carl Jackson


Most of us know that familiar feeling — we all have friends who come out the top of their classes but make terrible life decisions.

And most of us are also uncomfortably aware that what is true of our friends is also true of ourselves (to a greater or lesser degree). So what’s going on here? Why do people whose intelligence is not in doubt often behave in a way that is, not to put too fine a point on it, kinda dumb? The answer, according to University of Toronto psychologist Keith Stanovich, is that intelligence is not the same thing as rationality. Intelligence can be understood as the brain’s underlying hardware efficiency… like memory capacity and raw processing power. Rationality, however, can be thought of more as how sophisticated the software is: how efficiently and effectively you can use your neural hardware to achieve your goals. That friend that is book-smart and not so streetsmart? Well they probably have a great deal of intelligence, but are lacking in rationality. Most people think they’re pretty rational,

but growing literature in cognitive science (the study of mental processes) provides a fundamental challenge to this idea.

Psychologists Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky and Stanovich all propose that rather than being the rational animals championed by Aristotle, humans are instead subject to a wide variety of cognitive biases. There are many known human cognitive biases that fall under three categories: behavioural, social and memory biases. These biases are a direct result of heuristics, or rules of thumb, used by the brain to reach an answer that is ‘good enough’ for the problem at hand. Some examples of common cognitive biases include the Google Effect (a memory bias), which is the tendency to forget information that is easily found online, or the behavioural Denomination Effect, the tendency to spend more money when it’s in a smaller denomination (like coins, rather than bills). See how you fare with this problem: Together, a bat and a ball cost $1.10. The bat costs $1 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? If you said 10 cents, congratulations — you’ve just used your incredibly fast, evolutionarily optimised heuristic system to arrive at the 19



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wrong answer! But the answer is almost right (the correct answer is five cents… think about it). Evolutionarily speaking, cognitive biases arose as a result of incorrect mental programming based on heuristics — it’s better to quickly come to an answer that is occasionally wrong than to spend a lot of time thinking about a complex problem only to get eaten by a passing tiger. Unfortunately, cognitive biases can mess up human reasoning and rationality in many and diverse ways. If you think yourself free from all biases, think again. Look up the list of 168 cognitive biases on Wikipedia and try to honestly tell yourself that you don’t have any! So, how can we reduce the influence

of these biases on our daily lives? A promising start has been made by the new nonprofit Center for Applied Rationality (CFAR), based in Berkeley, California, which is dedicated to improving the art of human rationality. It grew out of the website “Less Wrong,” which hosts a Rational thinking isn’t just about removing emotions from descision making (like Spock, for example). Chimpanzees (one brain shown here) have been shown to exhibit emotions and make very rational decisions. In some cases it was shown that chimps make more “rational” decisions than humans do. (Source: Gaetan Lee)

If you’re going to learn rational decision-making, it’s ideal to do that before you make too many life-changing decisions. — Julie Galef, CFAR president community of rationalists whose interests span all the way from existential risk reduction (essentially, planning ways to save humanity from threats like an unfriendly Artificial Intelligence) to rationalist Harry Potter fan-fiction. CFAR now runs workshops and retreats where participants can go and learn techniques to directly improve their rationality skills. CFAR’s President Julia Galef is a longtime advocate of rationality. “We founded CFAR because we see an enormous opportunity to improve on humanity’s innate reasoning and decision-making abilities,” Galef said. “Ultimately we’d love to increase everyone’s rationality skills, but we’re starting with the low-hanging fruit: people who are already intellectually curious and motivated to learn.” “Although we have all ages of people attending our workshops, we’re especially focused on young people — because if you’re going to learn rational decisionmaking, it’s ideal to do that before you make too many life-changing decisions,” Galef said. 21


We typically bring people together in a somewhat informal class-like setting and invite them to think about a kind of situation where our intuitions have led us astray. — Michael Smith, CFAR “The model for [rationality] training continually evolves as we try things out and learn from our attempts,” Michael Smith, lead curriculum developer for CFAR, said. “Currently, we typically bring people together in a somewhat informal class-like setting and invite them to think about a kind of situation where our intuitions have led us astray. We then talk through the irrationality of the scenario and draw attention to the underlying structure of the irrationality. Finally, we introduce techniques for navigating the irrationality and give participants a chance to practice.” Smith gave the example of working with sunk-cost reasoning — students may reason that they have to finish their degree program even if they decide halfway through that it’s not for them. “[The reasoning is] ‘if I don’t [graduate], the last several years of work and effort will have been wasted,’” Smith said. 22

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runs are a

whirlwind of classes and advice on rationality, from ‘timeless’ decision making for reducing bad habits to using causal models for planning out your feelings. But while the classes are incredibly useful and detailed, there are steps you can take to improve your rationality — and other life skills — right now. For example, when you get in a heated debate, immediately try to see things from your opponent’s point of view and reduce reliance on your ‘combat reflexes’; it’s a better way to get to the overall truth. Think carefully about the decisions you make before you make them: how much is your time and the value of your activity worth, and should you be doing something else? If CFAR succeeds in its mission of being able to raise the ‘rationality waterline’, the techniques it is developing could one day become part of mainstream education. Being able to make more rational decisions is incredibly helpful, not only for living a successful life, but also for improving society as a whole. And one great, though far-fetched, goal for the future of the human race is a time when smart people don’t do stupid things.

Editor’s Note Although it may sound a bit like brain-washing, improving your rationality doesn’t actually change who you are. There are also (apparently) ways to improve your own rationality without taking classes. The first step is to identify your own cognitive biases… these are some examples from the Wikipedia article titled List of Cognitive Biases:

Bandwagon effect ­— “The tendency to do (or believe) things because many

other people do (or believe) the same.” ... Why do you own an iPhone/MacBook again? And, why do you hate Western University so much?

Framing effect — “Drawing different conclusions from the same information, depending on how or by whom that information is presented.” ... You have to admit that on some level, this is true. Think about your professor telling a corny joke, and now think of your crush telling the same joke.

Rosy retrospection — “Remembering of the past as having been better than it really was.” ... Think back to highschool, now really think back to it.

Zeigarnik effect — “That uncompleted or interrupted tasks are remembered

better than completed ones.” ... We often focus on things that we haven’t finished rather than focus on our accomplishments. Unfortunately, this may lead to unnecessary stress. Learn more about your own biases and determine if any of these may be hindering your rational thinking or everyday life. Take for example the “Google effect” that was mentioned in the article — if you are aware that it’s a human tendency to forget things that are easily looked up online, then you may be more attentive while studying. This is especially important to recognize now that many courses are switching to online methods of teaching. — Catherine Owsik



Life in the

Research Fields By Kellie Heney

Just like every third-year biology student enrolled in Population and Evolutionary Ecology (BIOL 302), I was brought 50 kilometers north of Kingston to the Queen’s University Biological Station (QUBS) with little knowledge of what I was heading into. The annual field trip consists of a weekend away at QUBS — the biological “station” is actually an impressive 3,750 hectares of different environments,


Nerve Magazine

(Source: Catherine Owsik)




Nerve Magazine

(Source: Kellie Heney)



from extensive forests and open fields to large lakes and swamps, and includes 32 buildings and six lakes. QUBS is located at a geographical crossroads between the boreal forest to the north and the Carolinian forest to the south. The natural corridor helps convey northern and southern species across the landscape is often referred to as the Algonquin to Adirondack (A2A) corridor. This unique biogeography is one of the many reasons why QUBS is one of the best scientific field stations in North America.

be responsible for helping to map out the extent and boundaries of the territories of numerous song bird species found at QUBS. The summer’s work would be used in an ongoing project to observe the territory overlap between closely related song bird species to see if any insight could be gained as to their speciation. Our goal was to map the territories of 10 individuals from each of our target species, who this summer were species from the sparrow family, vireo family and flycatcher family. A typical day at QUBS for a member of Paul Martin’s lab would usually comprise of the ittle did I know how much of an effect following steps: that short weekend at the biological station would have on me. After that great Wake up weekend spent at QUBS, and learning Receive bird coordinates that students could spend their summers Hike to the study site working as field assistants at the station, Find the branded bird I was determined to do just that. I applied Map the bird’s territory for every SWEP (Summer Work Experience Travel back to the lodge Program) field assistant job at QUBS prior Lunch to the summer and managed to get a field Data entry, etc. assistant position in Paul Martin’s lab… I Dinner was going to be mapping the territories of Sleep at 8:30 pm song bird species found at the biological Now you may think that step one, waking station. I could not wait to be a part of this project; this time I would be spending up, would be the most straightforward task two months (May and June) at the station in the list… and normally, you would be right instead of two days, and to say I was — however upon the chiming of my alarm excited would be an understatement. each day at 4 a.m., some days I would However, I would have never guessed how have disagreed with you. The birds whose much of an unforgettable experience my territories we were mapping are most active in the wee-hours of the morning, so time at QUBS would turn out to be. a day not started before 4 a.m. was a rarity As a member of Paul Martin’s lab, I would indeed. However, the initial grogginess



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(Source: Kellie Heney)

was quickly replaced with excitement over the cache and the prize being the gradual what adventures each day would bring us unveiling of its territory. in the pursuit of our birds. ur traveling would begin by climbing After making our way from our respective into a 1989 Dodge Caravan, cabins to the lodge, the lab group would affectionately named Bertha, and heading receive a list of coordinates telling us where down the ever-winding Opinicon Road Dr. Martin had caught and banded birds to get to the entrance of any hiking trail the previous day. In the rare situations that would bring us as close as possible that there were no new birds to map, we to where the bird was banded. In most would visit birds who had eluded us or cases we would only be able to take a given us trouble in the past. Over a quick particular trail so far before we would breakfast (dubbed “birder breakfast�) need to bushwhack the rest of the way. amongst the other teams of early-rising A typical hike would be anywhere from bird researchers, we would enter the list of two to six kilometers, with the occasional coordinates into our handheld GPS (global journey exceeding 12 kilometers (which positioning system) and set out to begin would take about an hour by bike). The our mission to find the birds. Essentially we farther sites were usually located down the were geocaching for birds, the bird being Cataraqui trail, which made biking a great




way to travel. Using the GPS as our guide through the woods, we would navigate our way until the distance between us and the “X” that marked the spot reached zero meters. Once we reached the banding location it was time to open our ears. What we now had to listen for was the song of our target bird. This was entirely a waiting game, sometimes a bird would be singing the moment we arrived on site, other times it would take upwards of an hour before the bird would alert us of its presence… and sometimes the bird wouldn’t sing at all. The song of our target bird (which we quickly committed to memory) was always a very exciting thing to hear; whether it be the “three-Ay; three-Ay” of the yellow 30

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throated vireo, the incessant “pick it up, put it down, pick it up” of the red-eyed vireo, or even the “zit-zit-zit-zeeeee-zaaaay” of the savannah sparrow. Now it was time for both the hard part and the fun part — mapping the territory of the banded bird. Once we confirmed with our binoculars that the bird we were hearing was the bird that was banded for us, we could begin mapping its territory. We had to pay complete attention to the bird in order to track its movements through the trees; we would mark a point in our G.P.S at every spot the bird stopped to sang at. The reasoning behind this is that a male bird will most likely be moving and singing around the boundaries of his territory in order to defend it from potential male competition.

The miraculous canoe from the song sparrow assignment. (Source: Kellie Heney)

We needed to collect at least 60 points to confidently say we had mapped the bird’s entire territory… more often than not we would need to follow birds into swamps and back and forth across small lakes to accomplish this. It was quite common that the bird would revisit areas of its territory multiple times, which was a great help if we lost track of the bird since it allowed us to keep an eye on his “favourite” spots until he reappeared at one of them. Usually it would take about three hours to map a territory, and we would average two territories a day. If we got to a site and had no luck finding the bird, we would revisit the site (sometimes day after day) until the mapping was complete. One memorable song sparrow was particularly troublesome. First off, it took us upwards of an hour to walk to the site (across many rickety beaver dam bridges and up quite steep terrain), and then the sparrow sang, at most, once every ten minutes. He seemed to make it his personal mission to make us circle the large beaver pond he called home as often as possible (singing at one end of the pond then flying straight across to the other side before singing again where we couldn’t see it. After three hours we seriously contemplated crafting a raft to pass the GPS across the pond just to keep up with how quickly the bird decided to fly from one end of the pond to the other. Miraculously, on our third day at the site we came across an old abandoned

canoe and half a paddle that a beaver had taken quite the interest in under a fallen tree. Luckily the canoe had been left very close to the pond, so it was very easy to place in the water and begin our navigation. One person paddled (being careful not receive any splinters from the frayed end of the paddle) while the other listened and watched for the bird. This canoe was a miraculous discovery at our site that was 30 minutes off the trail in the middle of the woods, and helped make the collection of the 60 points much easier. By the end of the three days, we had finally recorded Mr. Sparrow’s impressive territory. But, by far the most fascinating part of the territory mapping process was when a bird would bring us into a swamp. I would have never thought that I would come away from my summer at QUBS with as large of a love for swamps as I do now. Every swamp we climbed through was very different, but always beautiful With cattails as far as the eye can see, towering red maples and old skeletons of trees, countless species of willows and shrubs, and the potential of finding water snakes, snapping turtles, beavers, the occasional faun, or bird nests with every step as well as with the enormous variation from swamp to swamp it is hard not to get caught up in their beauty. They were always full to the brim with life, and very clearly reflect the season’s weather and the surrounding environment. There is nothing quite like 31


The song of our target bird (which we quickly committed to memory) was always a very exciting thing to hear; whether it be the “three-Ay; three-Ay” of the yellow throated vireo, the incessant “pick it up, put it down, pick it up” of the redeyed vireo, or even the “zitzit-zit-zeeeee-zaaaay” of the savannah sparrow.

keeping your eyes on a bird while walking through hip-level swamp water, not able to see what kind of difficult footing lies beneath the water and unable to predict whether you will have the misfortune to find a deep spot in the swamp and flood your waders. Every swamp (and every bird for that matter) provided a unique adventure, unique…smells (especially if a swamp was involved) and a unique learning experience that I doubt I would have been able to find anywhere else.

because often times the last time we had eaten was eight hours ago. But, not only did lunch provide us with fantastic food from the caring cooks at QUBS (we all knew and appreciated the close staff), it also allowed us to talk with other researchers and learn about the different projects they were undertaking. At a place like QUBS, minds from all over the world come to study things from song birds to water mites, turtles to wood thrush, zooplankton to tree swallows, and countless other species.

nce we finished mapping the birds assigned to us for the day, it was time to head back to the main lodge for lunch. Lunch is always a highly anticipated event in the life of a bird researcher at QUBS,

As our mornings were often filled with eight hours of climbing through prickly ash (a nasty Ontario shrub) and trekking through swamps, and since our target song birds will stop singing in the heat of

O 32

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(Source: Kellie Heney)

the day, our afternoons were usually spent back at the station. Here we would enter in the data we collected, help out with other research projects, or just go out and explore the fascinating environments at the Queen’s University Biological Station.

day. Because of our early wake-ups and our habit of going to bed before the sun goes down, most birding field assistants will be placed in the same cabin, the furthest cabin from the lodge, to avoid any non-bird researchers waking us up.

Dinner was from 5:30pm to 6:30pm, and was always just as much of a bonding experience as lunch. It provided us with further opportunity to discuss research, as well as just get to know each other. Most people would spend the evening relaxing, often with the company of a bonfire. Most of the bird researchers left for bed at around 8:30 p.m. — quite a bit earlier than everyone else — since we needed to be ready to get up at 4 a.m. the next

I can safely say that without my unforgettable experience at QUBS, and the friends I made there, I would have a very unclear image of where I wanted to go with a biology degree. It also revealed many kinds of research that a field biologist can become involved in, especially with endangered and invasive species. Essentially my time at QUBS changed my life, and I wouldn’t trade the experience for the world. 33


Beware of the

Freshman 15 By Sarah Banks


Nerve Magazine

(Source: Catherine Owsik)


our first year at university or college is all about the excitement of moving out, starting your own life and meeting new people. There are many opportunities awaiting you – but lets not forget that gaining the ‘Freshman Fifteen’ is among them. The ‘Freshman Fifteen’ is the notion that many first-year students gain weight during their school year, specifically around 15 pounds. It’s no surprise that students can gain a bit of weight during their time away at school … moving out means Mom isn’t making dinner anymore (she’s been substituted with a buffet), exercise is not priority for many in their new life and getting to know your new friends over a meal or drink is always inviting. It’s actually often easier to socialize over a meal or drink because when a conversation begins to die there is food there waiting to be put in your mouth so you look busy. But don’t take that note as a tip. In my first year I eluded the extra poundage, and now I am going to give you some tips and ideas to help you steer clear of that dreaded fifteen and overall, how to stay healthy and happy.

Stress and Controlling your Cortisol You have moved to a new environment, where you may not know anyone, and now you have to live here for a minimum of eight months — that’s pretty scary. Furthermore, once you overcome that initial fear of leaving your comfort zone, midterms and exams come full force. It’s plain to see that university is just crawling with little stressors. When your body is stressed it produces more cortisol, which is a hormone that is normally present in the body but increases during stressful “fight or flight” situations. If you have high levels of cortisol for a prolonged period of time, such as if you are extremely nervous or stressed, you can experience lower immunity, impaired cognition (learning skills), suppressed thyroid functions

(which may affect your metabolism) and blood sugar imbalances. All these factors influence how your body processes the food you eat. Ultimately, your body will store more food resulting in weight gain… especially if you stress-eat. However, there are ways to teach yourself to de-stress, which can knock your body back out of “survival” mode: try relaxing activities such as yoga, breathing techniques (breathe in for three seconds and out for 5 seconds) and any exercise to release some of the pent up stress and hormones.

Choose Healthy Snack and Food Options You just learned that you get to eat at a buffet for every meal — you walk in and see burgers, fries, ice cream, salad, breads, pasta, chocolate milk, pizza, cookies … and think “Wow, I can have pizza every day! Take that, Mom!”. There you go, an extra 15 pounds in no time. There are so many tempting food options that it’s no wonder freshmen gain weight. It may sound obvious, but what you need to do is actually pay attention to what you are putting on your plate. Try and eat unhealthy items (by this, I mean anything covered in grease or sauce) only a few times a week and make sure you get variety in your diet so that you get the vitamins and nutrients you need. For example, even though pizza has tomato sauce, it isn’t exactly the nutritional substitute of a tomato (which is high in vitamins A and C). You can even head to a nearby grocery store, such as the Grocery Checkout Fresh Market located in the Queen’s Centre, and buy yourself fixings for a salad or turkey breast sandwich that you can make in residence instead of heading to the cafeteria — this will save your belly and still are delicious. At first changing your diet may be challenging, but it takes roughly 21 days to get into a routine, so be patient. If you are craving sweet try eating naturally sweet foods like fruits; a handful of trail mix with


Science dried fruit is satisfying and keeps you full. Make pizza healthier with thin, multigrain crust and add veggies as toppings instead of greasy meats. And if you need that bag of chips try veggie or sweet potato chips.

machines, elliptical machines, weights, and really anything you would want to fulfil your workout needs. There is also a Women’s Only Room , the Marion Ross Room on level three of the ARC, for any girls that would like some more privacy. Portion Control Furthermore, there are many fun classes that can be extremely hard but satisfying The café allows a buffet at every meal! at the same time — the first week of class That means that with all those unhealthy always offers free trials for these classes, options you may get caught up with eating so I highly suggest everyone to try some too much of them (unlimited ice cream out. Classes include anything from spin sounds AMAZING). Unfortunately, your classes to yoga to Zumba. It costs $87.61 body and mind will not be thanking you for a membership to access ALL classes for that later. When it comes to treating throughout the week for one term. yourself to sweet snacks, you don’t have to completely boycott them but ensure you Finally, when you go downtown, walk. have a single serving at a time. One scoop Walking gets put on the backburner when of ice cream or one waffle with toppings is people think of exercise, but it’s actually one really all you need to satisfy your craving of the most effective weight management without having to make another belt hole in tools we have. Walking has been proven to your belt. Also, only eat these things once improve cognition, strengthen ones heart a day and preferably only a couple times and maintain bone density due to it being a a week. “body weight” exercise. It’s not as hard on your joints as jogging, yet a brisk walk reaps Proper serving sizes are surprisingly similar benefits to jogging. This is because small. A serving of bread is the size of a walking at 3.1 mph or faster increases your cassette tape, pasta should be the size of stride length, which requires additional a tennis ball, a potato the size of a small energy to propel your body forward. Also, fist and meat portions are about the size of when you walk at this pace you have to your palm. It is obvious that many of us are twist your torso and swinging your arms, over-eating at several meals throughout meaning several body parts are active the day. (including abs). These changes raise the aerobic demands of regular walking and Exercise allows one to burn more calories (a 130 lb person burns about 220-260 calories Queen’s offers intramural sports that an hour when walking approx. 3.0 MPH). allow you to meet new people and stay Give it a try and see how your heart will be active throughout the year. Whether you are pumping and breath will be shorter in no a social butterfly or nervous to meet people time. And it’s likely that wherever you go in this is a great way to combine exercise Kingston, it’s very easy to walk there (I’m with a good social time. You can find a list looking at you, West Campus)! Nothing of teams and information on how to sign is more than fifteen minutes away and it up at If team sports are is a great way to see Kingston and enjoy not your thing then the Queen’s Athletics your stay. and Recreation Centre (ARC, as it is more commonly known) is another great option. Alcohol (for 19+) The ARC has treadmills with screens (so you can watch television shows or even You are living on your own and are free to read pdf notes while working out), rowing do as you please… this means that many


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(Source: Catherine Owsik)

of you who are of legal drinking age are going to be indulging in some alcohol. But beware, alcohol contains a lot of empty calories — this means after you consume it, you get the calories but no significant nutrition. One beer has a whopping average of 150 calories, and one glass of wine has 100 (and remember, mixed drinks are often packed with sugary mixers which can load calories as well). Furthermore, when a person drinks alcohol they are very likely to finish off the night with some fast food (the downtown hub is crammed full of tempting locations), which just adds more calories to an already full day of eating. However, you should NEVER drink alcohol on an empty stomach; food slows alcohol absorption which is important if one happens to be consuming large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time. So, don’t limit your meals because you are planning on drinking later in the night. Just think of a drink as a desert or two. Ultimately, with alcohol be conscious of how much you are consuming and always be careful.

Also, women have fewer alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH) enzymes; these compounds are found in your stomach and aid with the initial breakdown of alcohol. Because women are generally smaller than men to begin with, and cannot breakdown alcohol as efficiently or quickly, they will often become drunk much faster on the same amount of alcohol as men. So ladies, if someone is nagging you about being a ‘cheap drunk’, it is genetic — and it’s dangerous to try and prove them wrong. Welcome to Queen’s — you are on your own, so all these factors are now up to you to control. You are the only reason you will either remain healthy or not. And remember, the ‘Freshman Fifteen’ does not only apply to first years, throughout your entire four(or more)-year stay you are always likely to put on a little bit of weight. So always keep these tips in mind; if your body is healthy, your mind will be healthy.



Queen’s goes


By Andrew French

Queen’s University is a school rooted in old traditions, but when they released multiple mobile applications this summer they proved that they are up to date with modern trends. Their newest mobile application, Arrival, by the Queen’s School of English (QSoE) proves to be a very useful tool for incoming students.

The Arrival Application — A mobile main components: Pre-Arrival, Arrival guide for incoming international students. and On Location. Each section has clearcut sub-sections, which contain detailed The new QSoE Arrival application is instructions and photographs for key parts a quick and easy way for international of the moving experience. students to prepare for their journey abroad to Queen’s. It was released in Pre-Arrival contains essential early July and updated on August 28 with information required before departure, minimal changes. It is currently available including contact information for Queen’s as a free download for iPhone, iPad and and Visa acquisition. A checklist is Android devices; however, it is still in the provided for everything required before testing phase, and there is the possibility travelling to Queen’s; however, there are to see expansion into the Blackberry realm. no memory capabilities and therefore your check-marks will not be saved once leaving The move to university can be a stressful the sub-section or app. experience for any student, but this is especially true for those travelling from The Arrival section provided the greatest abroad. Not only do international students detail. It outlines, with a clear step-by-step face a new school, they face a new country. process, the steps a student could take Luckily, the Arrival app has an extremely from touchdown at an airport to arrival user-friendly interface to make the in Kingston. The dread of a confusing transition process easier to handle — even foreign airport is completely eliminated new Canadian students may benefit from with photos of which direction to take using this app upon arrival in Kingston. once you step off the plane. The major modes of transportation to Kingston are The application is divided into three categorized by arrival city and discuss cost,


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QSoE should consider including additional information that doesn’t require an Internet connection, such as a detailed campus map ... Furthermore, the lack of foreign language options for an app designed for international students is discouraging for students without a strong English language background.

ease of use, specific route information and have links to their respective websites for ticket sales. This is where the application could really be helpful for a lone Canadian first-year student.

across the country; by simply linking to Queen’s website they eliminated the hardwork. QSoE should consider including additional information that doesn’t require an Internet connection, such as a detailed campus map. It would also be beneficial to even integrate the QSoE Student Guide to Kingston and Queen’s University into the app. Furthermore, the lack of foreign language options for an app designed for international students is discouraging for students without a strong English language background.

On Location has minimal information and mainly aims to create a stress-free transition into the city and University prior to Orientation Week. The most important sub-section is Accommodation, which provides links for living in a homestay, residences and even hotels. However, this sub-section should be moved to PreArrival because finding a place to stay can Overall, this app does an excellent job be difficult (to say the least), especially of helping students transition to a new life during the first week of classes, and should in Kingston. The “google play” website therefore be considered before arriving. shows the app has only had 5-10 Android users install the app as of date… this is For the most part, there are minimal worrisome because Orientation Week is concerns with the app as it is just in its now over and most international students early stages of development. A major have already moved in. Hopefully more of area of concern, however, is the plethora next year’s students take advantage of the of external links with vital information app. With minimal drawbacks to the app — it will be highly unlikely for students in its early stage of development I would to have Internet access on their phone recommend this app to any incoming upon immediate arrival into a new country. international student and look forward to This problem is most likely because the seeing more developments. Arrival app was developed by an external firm that creates the same app for schools





life to yo

shows no sig

Exposed Your secret data —

By Andrew Jo


Nerve Magazine

a mining is apparent

, from your personal

our business, and it

gn of slowing down.

Did you know that you have a twin? Well, in a way at least. The twin I’m speaking of isn’t an exact genetic copy of yourself; it’s a digital version of yourself. This digital twin may not be entirely accurate, but it is portraying you across the world wide web and influencing how the world interacts with you — companies predict your purchases, and strangers may “get to know you” — and all (possibly) without your knowledge or consent.

One thing is clear about customer data — there’s a lot of it. In 2009, Facebook had 30,000 servers. It now has an estimated 180,000. In 2010, Wal-Mart stored transaction data in a 2.5 million gigabyte database … that’s equivalent to about 750 million songs. What do these organizations do with all of your information?

(Source: NASA)



for large companies. In a New York Times article titled “How Companies Learn Your Secrets,” Andrew Pole from commercial retailer Target explains that this company (like many others) often collects information about their consumers. For example, he explains that Target analyzes the combination of products bought by women to assign them a “pregnancy prediction” score. Then, Target can send coupons to the woman for baby products like diapers and cribs to get her routinely visiting the store.

Enter data mining, a field which combines computing and statistics. Its goal is to find patterns in big data sets and extract useful information. In the case of Facebook, they collect data and analyze it to determine In one case, Target predicted which advertisements are relevant to that a teenage girl was pregnant. their users. Later, her irate father approached a Target manager with coupons he had Data mining has its roots in probability received in the mail for baby clothes. and statistics. Early methods, such as He voiced his outrage at receiving such regression analysis, were developed an inappropriate advertisement. The in the 18th and 19th centuries to extract surprised manager called the man a basic information about data and make few days later to apologize. Now it was predictions. Today, more sophisticated the father who was embarrassed; he tools are used, such as decision trees had spoken with his daughter only to and neural networks. The former uses discover that Target was right, his baby graphs to model possible decisions, girl was pregnant. With Target coming and the latter simulates the learning to Canada in 2013, it is important process of neurons in the brain. for you to be aware of the data that corporations collect … or else you may Although it is a difficult process, learn something about yourself that there are cases in which data mining you didn’t know before. has been very successful, especially


Technology David Skillicorn, a professor at the Queen’s University School of Computing, notes that in the consumer realm, data mining can be a double-edged sword. “Dealing with a company that knows a lot about you means that the company can offer you something that you’re likely to want,” he said. In the case of Target, it’s possible that pregnant women would appreciate the discounts.

digital twin.

Commercial retailers aren’t the only ones doing this though — many online companies monitor your searches and then respond in line with what you typed. “The point about Google’s targeted advertising is that they’re trying to show you ads for things you might actually care about — and that’s better than just bombarding you with junk,” Skillicorn said. On the other hand, people are often unaware that Google is monitoring their searches at all. “People often find it a little bit creepy,” Skillicorn said with a laugh.

According to a recent study by Veronika Lukacs, 88% of people “creep” (monitor in great depth) an ex’s Facebook profile after a breakup. She also found that 74% try to creep an ex’s new partner. Keeping a close watch on your ex-significant other is possible because so many of us publish personal data online. “People have really gotten comfortable not only sharing more information and different kinds, but more openly and with more people,” Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, said in a live interview in 2010. This may have something to do with Facebook itself. In 2009, it changed the privacy settings on its website so that users would be recommended to share more information publicly. Zuckerberg himself accidentally published pictures of him having a Star Wars battle with his girlfriend and hugging a teddy bear in his pajamas.

Making predictions about what people are interested in can be a tricky business. Dr. Skillicorn has found that prediction algorithms are often inaccurate; one example is the online retailer Amazon. He said that people may receive recommendations for products that they could conceive of wanting, but that it’s ultimately something they’re not interested in. “It actually doesn’t work very well to be almost right, because that in some ways is more annoying than being totally off,” he said.

If you have a Facebook account, you probably share photos, messages and events with your friends. But, you and your friends are not the only ones interested in this data. If you post a video, Facebook may track the time, date and place you recorded it. The company can also document how you interact with other users and the device you use to login. For example, if you visit the page from a mobile phone, they may collect GPS information to determine what city you’re in and if your friends are nearby.

One reason that the searches may be off is that they don’t take into account who you actually are, but only incorporate your previous searches into the prediction algorithm. However, one website knows us all very well, and it often substitutes “real-life” social interactions with quips, comments and photos. Facebook is really your

More than one tech blogger has wondered what Facebook plans to do with all of this very specific data. The company derives 82% of its revenue through advertising and buyers are starting to question if they are getting an appropriate bang for their marketing buck. Recently, General Motors announced that it would no longer buy


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Facebook has over 180,000 servers Wal-Mart has 2.5 GB of personal data stored What are YOU putting out on the internet?

Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, says people are comfortable sharing personal information online. (Source: Elaine and Priscilla Chan)

any Facebook ads.

will look like. As an example, Dr. Skillicorn notes that Facebook and LinkedIn use After a disappointing Initial Public your current data to suggest people that Offering (IPO), Facebook will be looking you may know. for new ways to capitalize on its mountain of data. Currently, it employs a team of 12 Ubiquitous internet companies and researchers, known inside the company retail giants have access to a startling as the Data Science Team, to mine the amount of data, but there is also a database for usable insights. potential for data mining on a smaller scale. “Queen’s, for example, could do a “Two big problems people think lot more with analyzing grade patterns … about in data mining are clustering and to predict students who are in trouble,” prediction,” Skillicorn said. “Clustering observes Dr. Skillicorn. “Students who is really a way of understanding the have very odd patterns of marks might be structures in the data.” As an example, cheating.” However, Skillicorn remarked he cites telephone carriers that analyze that validation is always the big challenge the patterns in peoples’ calls. They in data mining — by simply looking at identify and study different types of marks, we can identify a student as an callers in order to construct and improve outlier and infer that they are cheating, the various plans that they offer. For but they might not be. example, if a company noticed that most of their consumers are texting, then they David Skillicorn will be teaching CISC may offer more “unlimited texting” plans. 333 – Introduction to Data Mining this year. Prediction involves analyzing historical data and trying to guess what new data





ower of purple

First-year engineering students at Queen’s are inducted into the program only after they face purple people, punk hairstyles and a seemingly insurmountable pole climb.

by David venturi





engineering students is quite the spectacle. The majority of traditions date back far enough that a fair amount of participants have no idea as to how they even began… but everyone, from arts and science students to nursing students, can appreciate their existence. The science behind a handful of these tangible traditions is largely unknown as well, even to those familiar with Applied Science’s rather unique Orientation Week. The following will answer the “whats” and “hows” of some fascinating Frosh Week conventions practiced by Queen’s Engineering… but, you’ll probably always have to wonder about the “whys.” 44

Nerve Magazine


(Source: David Laciak)


(Source: Mark Mitchell)

Gentian Violet

The deep purple tint of the skin of the FRECs FRECs (orientation group leaders) is arguably the most recognizable symbol of Engineering Orientation Week. Gentian violet, also known as crystal violet, is the intense dye that allows these upper-year engineering students to temporarily change colour. The dye starts as a dark violet powder and is added to water to create a solution in which the FRECs can bathe. A tablespoon of gentian in a full kiddie pool is usually sufficient to completely dye several individuals from head to toe in less than fifteen minutes each. This rapid impartment of colour is facilitated by the affinity of gentian for the skin’s surface. Essentially, chemical bonds want to be formed between the two subject molecules and this is how the skin acquires gentian’s characteristic colour.

Gelatin Powder

The seemingly invincible hairdos modeled by FRECs and frosh alike for the first two days of Orientation Week is not a style you see everyday. The magic ingredient is gelatin powder. The engineers have taken a page from the playbook of the synchronized swimmers and combined this translucent, colourless granular substance with boiling water to create a heavy-duty homemade hair gel. You can even buy the ingredient yourself at a local grocery store. After styling, cooling and the simultaneous hardening,


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urce: Mark Mitchell)

gelatin’s high melting point (roughly 35°C) ensures the hairstyle endures encounters with water, which would normally be the ruin for regular hair gels. Just as how cold pool water cannot dissolve the gelatin in a synchronized swimmer’s slicked-back look, the combination of sweat, rain and Super Soakers that accompanies Orientation Week does not pose a threat to the Eng Cut. Removal of the solidified gelatin simply requires a hot shower.


According to the annual Frosh Week Primer, which is issued to the incoming class of engineering students, during the famed Grease Pole event first-year students are required to climb a pole that is “covered from top to bottom with a lubricant so slippery that it can only be called one name — lanolin.” Lanolin is a greasy, yellow wax secreted by the sebaceous glands of wool-bearing animals, such as sheep. These sebaceous glands excrete lanolin to lubricate and waterproof the wool of these animals to keep their coats lightweight by preventing water absorption. Just like the Dockers “Stain Defender” pant, any water that comes into contact with lanolin is immediately wicked away. This property makes cleaning the substance off of oneself that much more difficult… and unfortunately (for those attempting to climb the pole), lanolin is also very sticky and transferrable. As the grease pole is immersed in a pit of freezing cold water, any individual seeking to scale it is guaranteed a struggle. Orientation Week is not all fun and games, and happiness and rainbows, which appeared out of nowhere. The science accompanying these traditions indicates that there was some thought involved... maybe some “evil-genius” thought, actually.



THink You’ve got Nerve? We’re looking for students to become a part of the Nerve team! No experience is neccessary and we will provide help (if needed) to anyone along the way. All you need to do is decide what aspect you’re interested in. We have positions for writers,

photographers, visual editors, and business representatives. Contributors are always welcome. If you’re unsure of what position you’re most suited for, just answer this:

Which one of these problems are you more inclined to fix? 1


“Hey, where did the dog go?” “Its over their.” Looks like your grammar skills would be great as a Nerve writer.

Your visual senses are strong — why don’t you try your hand at photography or layout (as a visual editor)?


$ Well, that’s a great mentality. We could always use more business reps like you.

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The Mixture If you don’t

smile, you can’t be truly happy. Chemistry Cat dropped his elements and everything was jumbled up! (Trust us, in a world where cats are chemists, elements are renamed when they react.) You just read a science magazine, you must be smart enough to unscramble these elements!



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Nerve Magazine — Issue 2

Issue 2  
Issue 2  

Nerve Magazine is a student-run science, technology and engineering magazine based out of Queen's University.