THE CANNON Bias in Algorithms Skule’s Newspaper since 1978
HERMAN CHANDI Cannon Contributor
With the help of a myriad of sophisticated and intelligent algorithms, it appears we’ve entered a brave new world. No longer are we restrained by the shackles of human judgement and subjectivity. Algorithms are leading the way to a new
way of life devoid of the biases and prejudices that have plagued humankind for so long. Except, maybe not. As it turns out, developing truly objective algorithms without unintended biases and influences has proved to be very difficult. This bias is especially insidious not only because algorithms
now underpin nearly every interaction or activity online, but also due to the fact that it’s completely unexpected for many people. We are naturally accustomed to being wary of prejudice from those around us, but the machines we deal with on a daily basis are often seen as cold, heartless, and completely impartial.
SEPTEMBER 2017, Issue XXXIX
Take Youtube, the 2nd most popular website according to the global Alexa rankings, as an example. A video by the channel 2Veritasium posted in late June titled “Why Youtube Used to Prefer Quality” sparked discussion on how Youtube’s sorting and ranking algorithms have changed over time to incentivize
content creators to favour quantity over quality. In particular, when Youtube is deciding whether or not to suggest a video for you to watch, one of the most important factors is whether you’ve watched content from that channel recently. Bias continued on page 18
ART X SCIENCE
Is Our Respect for Nature Gone, or Has It Just Evolved Like Everything Else? MARGUERITE TUER-SIPOS Cannon Senior Editor The human appreciation for nature has a complicated history filled with many heroes and villains. The story presumably shares its beginning with that of the human race, and hopefully will not end in the way many have predicted: destruction or total abandonment of the earth. The relationship between nature and us is one that seemingly has a downward trajectory, with every era being less involved with nature than the last, as technology continues to advance. Generally, “technology”, however broad the
term, is identified as the antithesis of “nature”, but is that really the case? Although the Palaeolithic era may not be the beginning of the human race, it holds the earliest known art and artefacts and can thus act as a starting point to explore our respect for nature. The Lascaux caves are the most well known example of prehistoric art and are arguably the first example of man’s respect for nature since the images in the caves are predominantly either animals or plants. Unfortunately, some of the only tangible evidence of leaving us to assume that these prehistoric people is nature played an integral their depictions of nature, role in their societies.
Is Sarcasm Related to Intelligence? page 8
Should You Get A Dog? page 15
Lascaux cave painting. Credit: Bradshaw Foundation Nature continued on page 7
Get to Know the Class of 2T1 page 19
2 • THE CANNON
Masthead EXECUTIVE TEAM EDITOR IN CHIEF
DESIGNER IN CHIEF
PHOTORAGHY EDITOR n/a SENIOR EDITORS Wibisha Balendran Patrick Diep Ahnaf Ferdous Najah Hassan Bob Kong Samuel Penner Marguerite Tuer-Sipos Linda Yu WEBMASTER
Letter from the Editor What an exciting time for many of you who are just starting your careers here at UofT. You’re beginning what will be the best and most exciting years of your life, filled with friends, exciting moments, and late nights in the lab. We’re proud to be continuing the tradition of The Cannon, SKULE’s serious newspaper since 1978. Hopefully, there’s an article in this paper for everyone, from advice from graduate students to the troubles of the daily grind of commuting on the TTC. This year, we’re hoping to promote writing within the engineering community and we’re allowing more creative freedom from all. There’s a surprising amount of things to consider when making a newspaper. The photo of me was taken after an all nighter ensuring this paper is achieving the best of its potential. There’s no way you’d be reading this if it wasn’t for the help of everyone on the team, from the editorial staff to the webmaster to the online content manager. It’s amazing how every contribution and every idea helps and I’d like to thank everyone for that. Enjoy this first issue of The Cannon, and we hope you’ll tune in again to catch the next installment of your favourite blogs, graphics, and photos from your fellow Skuligans!
WRITERS Raheem Ahmed Hannah Bendig Hannah Eng Herman Chandi Robyn McNeil PHOTOGRAPHERS Tyler Weil
The Cannon is the official (serious) newspaper of the University of Toronto Engineering Society. Established in 1978, it serves the undergraduate students of the Faculty of Applied Science and Engineering, with a circulation of up to 3000. Submissions are welcome by e-mail. Advertising and subscription information is available from the Engineering Society at 416-978-2917.
SPECIAL THANKS Dr. Cristina Amon Muskan Sethi Natalie Tleel Jimmy Hou Melissa Lau Matthew Garcia Simonne Varela Matt Aspro
DISCLAIMER The views expressed in this newspaper are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent those of the Engineering Society unless so indicated. The editors reserve the right to modify submissions to comply with the newspaper’s and the Engineering Society’s policies.
CONTACT The Cannon 10 King’s College Road Sandford Fleming Building Room B740 Toronto, ON M5S 3G4 cannon.skule.ca email@example.com facebook.com/cannon.news
Advice from Sandro Young, the top student in UofT DALE GOTTLIEB Cannon Editor-in-Chief Sandro Young graduated last summer from the department of Electrical and Computer engineering and received the Governor General’s Silver Medal award. This award is Canada’s most prestigious academic medal given to the top performing student across the entire university, and has been awarded to the likes of Pierre Trudeau, Tommy Douglas, and Kim Campbell. Sandro, who has a passion for machine learning and will be joining Google in September, has some advice for incoming students. Below is a transcript of an interview with Sandro about his experiences and his advice for incoming students. The Cannon: Did you do nothing but study?
SY: I don’t think it’s necessarily getting above an arbitrary cutoff that motivated me. Instead, I would say I take pride in what I do and when I put my name on something, I want it to reflect the best of my abilities. This includes things like tests. It was never “I want to get above x percent on something,” it was always knowing that when I turn in an assignment, it’s the most accurate reflection on my abilities. TC: What made you want to pursue engineering? SY: I’ve always been into STEM stuff like science and math for as long as I can remember. In middle school and high school, we did science fair projects and every project I chose to do was always computer related. In middle school, I made a calculator out of digital components and in high school, I did a few projects on virtual reality and tracking systems. I did a project on natural language processing where I built a Siri-esque voice assistant system. Those were the things i was interested in, so I knew I was going to go into a computer related field.
Sandro Young: No. Counterintuitively, I think it helps if you have extracurriculars and if you have other things that you’re doing and keep yourself busy all the time. It makes it so when you do sit down to study, you use your time more effectively because you’re forced too. I was in TC: How did you use UTRA for three years on the your interest in machine autonomous rover team and learning to supplement the co-president of SPARK school? for two years and a member the year before that. SY: Two of the summer internships I’ve done at TC: How do you motivate Google have involved yourself to maintain your machine learning, and this marks? was one of the things that
Sandro Young with the Governor General’s Silver Medal Award, given to the top student in the university. Credit: Laura Brown
actually piqued my interest. Most of the projects I’ve done haven’t involved much of it except for our capstone project. We created a machine learning program that analyzed gifs from the internet and created an algorithm to analyze faces to create its own faces based on that data. TC: If you could do your undergrad again, what would you change? SY: I would try to get more involved in things sooner. For example, SPARK was a big part of my later years in undergrad, but I didn’t join it until my PEY. I think if I had been a member sooner, this would have benefitted me. I also never got to do a hackathon which I think
If I could do everything over again, I would try to stay on campus longer and make it a habit to be there. [...] it’s a fun environment to be around.
would have been fun. Also, I always lived close to campus so it was always tempting to go home after class and hang out there. If I could do everything over again, I would try to stay on campus longer and make it a habit to be there. A lot of the community and social events happen on campus, so it’s a fun environment to be around. TC: What advice do you have for incoming frosh? SY: I know this is cliché, but get involved in things. That’s important, and I think counterintuitively, it helps your academic performance and doesn’t hurt it if you’re doing things on the side that interest you. I also recommend going to class. A lot of times people will say ‘I’m behind so I’d better catch up rather than go to class’ or ‘I have 20 midterms this week so it’s better if I study’. While I can understand that, I think that forcing yourself to think about a subject for at least 3 hours a week by going to class helps, and do not break that habit. Finally,
try not to fall into the trap of looking at a subject and saying that it’s useless because you’ll never use it again in the future. I think if that’s the mindset you have, it’s a self-defeating mindset. You won’t be able to find anything in the course that you find interesting and studying for it will become a pain. TC: What are you off to do after school? SY: I’m starting at Google in the Mountain View office in the States. I’m not sure what team I’ll be placed on, but right now it looks like Waymo, which is their self driving car division. I’m hopeful that that’s what it ends up being, since it’s an exciting project and a great example of how machine learning can radically change a whole lot of industries. It shows how machine learning can radically change what we think machines are capable of doing.
4 â€¢ THE CANNON
Credit: Rick Liu
Click the link below for lower taxes, more jobs and increased funding for social support programs! ROBYN MCNEIL Cannon Contributor We have all been there before. A Baby Boomer in your life asks you to help them watch that new show you told them about online. Not the one that is on Netflix or TV, but the one that you just happen to know can be found in a sketchy virtual back-alley of Reddit links and streaming websites. You tell them the name of a possible website, and they punch it into Google. The page comes up, and you immediately begin to survey the minefield of pop-ups, links, free mac-books, advertisements and fake download buttons. Just as you spot the real play button hidden in tiny text behind an ad, your poor unsuspecting accomplice clicks on the big green “Download Season 3 Here” button in the middle of the page. You hang your head in frustration as an onslaught of pop-ups and viruses fill up the screen. You know this will require at least a restart of the browser, if not the whole computer. “Hey look!” they say, ignoring the look of defeat on your face, “we won a Disney Cruise!” Cue face palm. Why is this scenario so familiar? Why is it that you
always manage to carefully navigate your way through the constant flood of false information online to get what you want, while your older counterpart gets swept away by the current? The answer seems obvious. Our generation (Millennials/ Generation Z) has been raised in the digital world, and we were arguably the first to do so. Although people in their late 20s or even 30s would have seen the initial rise of the Internet and personal electronic devices, ours was the first generation to begin living online starting in early childhood. We were the first generation to grow up with almost all aspects of our lives accessible online, from entertainment to our professional development. It would make sense that this unbridled access to information from such a young age fostered our generation’s uncanny ability to filter the good data from the bad. The internet has made us capable of deciphering which button will lead you to the Nigerian millionaire prince and which one will lead to the survey about which Harry Potter character you are. If, however, this skill is so ingrained in our generation that it becomes
second nature, it must affect other parts of our lives. Our engagement in politics, or lack thereof, is arguably one of these aspects. Politics, for myself, have always been a point of contention. I have always understood the importance of using your voice as part of a society and a community. Even as a child, I knew that as a member of our society, it was your duty to make your
educated vote in the ballot box as Canada Geese flew overhead and a delegation of angels sang O Canada behind me. I was sorely mistaken. What I found was websites full of empty buzzwords, catchy phrases, and hollow claims that were too good to possibly be true. My millennial skepticism filtered out all of that empty information, to leave what? Nothing, is what.
information provided as just another advertisement attempting to sell me something. Why click any of the buttons, if you can already see the pop-up on the other side of each one? For me, there was little difference between the latest Liberal Candidate and the Nigerian prince, who only needs your banking information to send you those millions of dollars he swears that he has.
With no information that had any meaning left to me, I felt no interest in being involved in political decisions.
voice heard by voting for the person, and in turn the ideals, you agreed with when an election took place. As I grew older I started learning more about the political parties and viewpoints in Canadian Government. Thinking this would help me vote, I set out on my journey, expecting to find websites full of well laid out information, and clearcut political campaigns. My idea was that I would march proudly into the unknown, thoroughly read each party website, listen to each political campaign carefully. After, I would place my
Without a shred of supporting facts or mention of possible downsides to any of the campaign points which were presented, my mind immediately (if not subconsciously) discarded all the available information as false, or irrelevant. With no information that had any meaning left to me, I felt no interest in being involved in political decisions. Not because I didn’t care about using my voice, or because I didn’t understand the importance of engaging in the democratic process. It was because I saw the
Credit: Level Seven Computers
As the numbers show, it seems that I am not alone in my attitude towards politics. A study by Statistics Canada in 2013 stated that “In 2013, 47% of youth aged 15 to 19 and 61% of youth aged 20 to 24 indicated that they were very likely to vote in the next federal election. This compared with 84% of seniors aged 65 to 74.” It is a widespread stereotype that millennials possess a general apathy towards the future, and display a disinterest in the traditional mechanisms behind societal change, such as government. I have read various explanations behind this behaviour. Some say it’s due to a lack of societal, economic and cultural conflict present in our generation. Some say it’s just that we are lazy, and stuck in our online world. Instead, I believe it likely that more people than myself have found themselves tired of sorting through smoke and mirrors created by traditional government representatives. All of this leaves the question as to how the governmental system might change to adapt to our generation’s new, more sceptical, way of thinking.
6 • THE CANNON
Will Autonomous Vehicles Solve Congestion? RICK LIU Cannon Designer-in-Chief Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) are being touted as the next big idea in solving today’s transportation problems. Every major car manufacturer, and even some consumer electronic companies, are developing AV prototypes and the technology will reach the market in as little as 5 years. In Canada, General Motors has made the large commitment of building an AV research centre in Oshawa, and Blackberry is one of the leaders in AV technology. To many, especially in the auto industry, AVs are the way to go in a society free of congestion. Professor Marianne Hatzopoulou, a professor in the University of Toronto Transportation Research Institute (UTTRI),
discusses some of the potential benefits of AVs, saying “AVs have the capability of platooning, they have faster acceleration and deceleration reaction times, which means that they will probably use less road space. This will contribute to reducing congestion.” However, the question remains whether AVs will actually solve congestion and improve our quality of life or if they’re a ploy by car manufacturers to win back market share that’s been lost to transit and active transportation since the early 2000s. First off, there is no question that AVs will drive more efficiently than regular drivers. They are able to drive closer to other vehicles and can adjust their speed to manage flow and reduce stop and go traffic. AVs can also communicate with
other AVs to create an effect called platooning, allowing AVs to communicate with each other to manage space and create a smooth flow on the road. However, being better than the least dense mode of transportation will not solve congestion. A standard 40 foot transit bus that has more than 4 riders is able to fit those riders far more efficiently than three 15 foot long Toyota Corolla’s (one of the smallest cars on the market) lined up bumper to bumper, assuming an average car load. Even with all the seats filled in a Corolla, a bus will only need 15 people on board to be more efficient, which many TTC bus/streetcar routes easily accomplish. Buses and especially streetcars and trains are more space efficient on precious downtown road space than
any series of AVs, small or large, simply due to the fact that multiple AVs will create wasted road space through multiple engines, empty seats, trunks, bumpers, etc. Trains are even more efficient in fitting riders onto the same footprint and do not use road space to transport their riders. Bikes and pedestrians are also more efficient in packing people onto sidewalk and road space, and have the additional benefits of promoting a healthier lifestyle and increasing business activity where they travel. So, while AVs do move people better than regular cars, geometrically they fail to move more people in the same amount of road space than bikes, pedestrians, buses, streetcars or trains, which is important since new road space is rarely added in established
areas of the city. Whatever road space AVs do create over regular cars may be eaten up through induced congestion. Induced congestion is an observed phenomenon where after new roads are built, or existing roads are widened, the new road space will be immediately filled through people switching transportation modes or taking longer trips. Hatzopoulou also touched upon the effect of mode switching and the possibility of a rebound in congestion. “...More space on the road can lead to a re-bound effect. This means that individuals who were taking transit because their travel time to work was too long (specifically due to congestion), may now find it attractive to take their car (AV or conventional). We end up with the same
Credit: Rick Liu
SEPTEMBER 2017 number of cars on the road if not more.” Any space that AVs do create will get filled because other people will switch to AVs because it will become easier to drive. In the end, congestion will remain the same. AVs can also increase congestion since it makes driving easier and attract people to switch modes from transit, cycling, or walking. Those modes of transportations are more efficient at moving people around, and those switching will increase the strain on the road system and increase congestion. What if cities adapted their planning policies to be friendlier to AVs and increased available road space? Ignoring the issues posed by induced congestion, this means lower population densities, and increased sprawl to accommodate the increased road space available to AVs. Congestion may decrease, but sprawl causes more significant issues. Increased travel distance with sprawl will increase Vehicle
Nature continued from page 1 Fast forward a few thousand years and we have everyone from Stephen Hawking claiming the final solution will be to leave earth (a total abandonment of nature as we have always known it), to – almost – every science fiction writer predicting earth’s future as a toxic wasteland, uninhabitable for the very humans who destroyed it. In either situation it is not hard to imagine that something must have went terribly wrong with our relationship to nature. Indeed, I would argue that this turning point in the narrative has already occurred and we called it the Industrial Revolution. Soon after the Industrial Revolution got underway, the people of the British Empire began to feel nostalgic about their beautiful
Kilometers Traveled (VKTs) and dramatically increase greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles. Cities will either have to waste land that can be used for anything else on parking, or let AVs run around the cities like taxis which increases VKTs and greenhouse gases. The lower population density means more land will be used, land that can be used for farming, or protecting what little natural environment the earth has. Cities will also have to deliver services such as fire services, water, and schools, over a larger area, creating an increased financial burden on taxpayers. Most importantly, this type of car-centric development has already been tried and belongs in the 1950s. It does not work, and cities have been moving away from development that prioritizes VKTs since the early 2000s. Such an approach to AVs would reverse any progress cities have made and cause all those problems to resurface again. There is one thing that
AVs will do to benefit society. There is no question that, with the amount of sensors and more even-handed decision making that AVs have, roads will be safer for other motorists, cyclists and even pedestrians. Today, many autonomous technologies are being implemented in cars like lane detection warnings and object detection. While they may make the current human driver more complacent and encourage unsafe behavior in the present, it will be computers who will make those decisions in the future, either locally or by communicating with other cars. AVs will also make it easier for people who can afford cars but cannot drive because of a variety of mobility issues to get around a city. While this may not matter much in cities, in suburbs or small towns, this will create a lot of opportunities just by giving more people the freedom to travel around without relying on others. That being said, there is a lot of concern about how
quickly AVs are being implemented by car manufacturers without adequate planning from cities. AVs will not eliminate the need for transit or active transportation, not just because of the lack of infrastructure, or the increase in sprawl, but because there are segments of the population who are not able to financially support a regular car, let alone an AV. The ultimate effect of AVs is unclear and while this article may be negative on the prospect of AVs, the reality is there may be tremendous upside in the arrival of automation in transportation; though the true effect of automation remains to be seen. Researchers such as Professor Hatzopoulou are taking steps to find the ultimate effects of AVs. UTTRI has founded the iCity Centre for Automated and Transformative Transportation Systems (iCity CATTS) to look at the effects of automation, ridesharing, and other transformative technology will have on transportation. “The
As technology advances we seem more convinced we have moved further from nature, but is that really true?
natural world which was vanishing rapidly. This can be seen in many examples but is notably reflected by the sudden obsession with Japanese art and culture. As their own pastoral landscapes turned to smoke stacks and railway tracks, the British were struck in awe with the respect for nature the Japanese maintained. The British assimilated Japanese art as reminders of the nature they had recently rejected. Now let’s fast forward a few hundred years and western culture is still utterly obsessed with the
feeling of nostalgia for nature. From the widespread love for “cottage country” to wooden phone cases it feels as though we are always trying to reconnect with something we have yet to lose. As technology advances we seem more convinced we have moved further from nature, but is that really true? Many great technological advances are made in the image of the natural world, a concept formally known as biomimicry. Researchers at Rockefeller University have proposed a new circular way of organizing distribution
systems for water or electricity based off of the water distribution system within a leaf. The veins in the leaves have a set of loops that are interconnected to best supply water throughout the leaf while being the most resilient to sudden changes. This dynamic distribution system can better handle loads that will fluctuate based on circumstance, which are exactly the loads a water and electricity supply chain undergo. Biomimicry is apparent in other forms of technology such as carbon nanotubes designed like human muscles or night
centre groups researchers from various disciplines interested in studying the effects of AVs on the city. Some researchers are interested in the effects on traffic, others like myself are interested in their effects on GHG emissions and air quality.” states Hatzopoulou. “The purpose of iCity CATTS is to enhance collaboration between the various researchers and foster dialogue with planners and decision-makers who are in dire need for answers on the impact of AVs on the cities of tomorrow. How can we use this technology to promote more sustainable, more equitable, and more efficient cities? [These are] the question that motivates CATTS.” Ultimately, cities should not believe the hype of AVs and not treat automation as the one size fits all solution to solving congestion. Rather, cities should consider the other transportation solutions and modes that can be part of a multi-modal approach to target every cause of congestion.
vision based on moth eyes. For each example you find, it would be hard to imagine the inventor lacking respect for the nature on which they based their designs. When comparing the earliest known artwork to the biomimicry of leaves there are obvious differences in the mechanics of the inventions, however to say they don’t both demonstrate their creators’ understanding of nature would be wrong. Although the respect for nature has changed appearance over the thousands of years, nature itself has not disappeared. How could technology be the antithesis of nature when it is nature that so often inspires technology? If you enjoy pondering the connections between art and technology, follow my column, Art × Science, this year in The Cannon!
8 • THE CANNON
Highest Form of Intelligence? NAJAH HASSAN Cannon Senior Editor We all know someone who can give the most sarcastic responses at the most inconvenient of times. For example, when I have spent hours trying to debug a circuit and am close to breaking point, and someone comes and asks me “Is it working yet?” I can never think of the right way to respond. On the one hand I could simply say, “no, unfortunately it’s not working yet and I am trying to figure out why”. However, what I usually say is, “Yes, of course it is! That’s why I’m sitting here with my head in my hands looking frustrated.” Sarcasm in this situation could, and usually does, come off as rude, possibly hurtful, and unnecessary. After all, it was a valid question and had I been a little calmer, I might not have responded so sarcastically. But does sarcasm always have to be a bad thing? I recently came across this post on Eng-Tips Engineering Forums, a work forum community for engineering professionals, where somebody was upset by all the sarcastic comments and replies that were on the website. I started reading through the thread, out of curiosity, and it was very entertaining but also somewhat thought provoking. People were justifying their use of sarcasm by saying that it was harmless and expected in an environment of engineers. A common consensus among the group was that “engineers can be
a sarcastic bunch”. Another popular statement was that “sarcasm is the lowest form of wit but the highest form of intelligence”, a quote by Oscar Wilde. A shared idea that was passing through the thread seemed to be that since engineers were a group of very intelligent people, it is not surprising that they tend to give such sarcastic responses. Some others were also of the opinion that at times people ask ridiculous questions that they could simply find the answer to themselves and questions like those get a sarcastic reply because of how frustrated people are by it. But that got me thinking. Is sarcasm really related to intelligence? The word ‘sarcasm’ comes from the late Greek word sarkasmos which means ‘a jeer’ or ‘a mockery’. The word literally means ‘to strip off the flesh’. Therefore, it’s pretty clear that sarcasm was not meant to be a good thing. However, there was research conducted at Harvard and Columbia University that showed that using sarcasm does in fact relate to intelligence and creativity. Simply put, using and understanding sarcasm requires you to think a little harder than a direct answer would. A simple and expected answer to a question causes a person to think only about what the right answer to the question would be. However, with sarcasm, one needs to think about the expected and correct answer in addition to how they really feel about
the subject. The result is a sarcastic comment which expresses the true feelings of the speaker while also requiring the receiver to think about the real meaning of what is being said. This little bit of additional brain activity requires creativity and can sometimes lead to a deeper understanding between two people. Researchers also say that people who have a tendency to be sarcastic and understand sarcasm are known to be more creative. They think more outside-of-thebox because their sarcastic responses require them to ponder differently and abstractly. It moves them away from the norm of an expected response. Researchers at Harvard studied this phenomenon and concluded that those giving and receiving sarcastic replies performed three times better on the creativity tests that were set for them as compared to people who were exposed to straightforward replies. Nevertheless, despite being an opportunity for intelligence and creativity, sarcasm is not always the best way to respond. In more professional environments, it can be seen as immature and can often lead to misunderstandings if not interpreted correctly. Yet, it may also lead to stronger bonds between two friends. My advice, think before you bring out the sarcasm! Make sure that the people it is directed towards will understand and appreciate it, otherwise it could do more harm than good.
noun 1. a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain 2. a mode of satirical wit
Meet Some Execs of Skule!
NATALIE TLEEL YNCN - Business Development, Corporate Team My name is Natalie Tleel and I am a third year (1T9) Chemical Engineering student minoring in Business and Sustainable Energy. My role at YNCN is in Business Development, Corporate Team. This includes contacting recruiters, pitching U of T engineering, and getting companies such as Google, Deloitte etc. to our campus! As you know YNCN is a large network, and with that huge network comes great opportunities to get involved in it. The reasons I applied to be a part of the team include: 1. I wanted to be a part of the initiative that provides over 3,000 students access to career development opportunities. Having received my last summer job through the career fair, I wanted to help provide that opportunity to others. 2. As a chemical engineering student, I wanted to help introduce more non-tech companies to the students and have a more balanced ratio of engineering job fields. 3. The YNCN community is very tight and supportive. It is definitely a great way to meet new people, build strong relationships, and take part in the fun activities that run within the teams to keep the hype going!! I find it truly fascinating that I get to be a small part of the professional team that is helping students develop their skill set, career, and network.
JIMMY HOU Iron Dragons - General Manager
MATTHEW GARCIA MELISSA LAU Concrete Toboggan Team - Concrete Canoe - Project Manager Concrete Director
In the past two years, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of my best friends through the sport of dragon boat. It’s no question that Iron Dragons, of all my extra-curriculars, has had the greatest impact on me as a university student. Not only that, it has given me the motivation to take time out of every week to keep myself healthy and fit throughout the school year, especially during stressful periods like exam season. Iron Dragons is the SkuleTM dragon boat team, a community of engineering students and paddlers who are committed to maintaining the team’s status as one of the best crews in Canada. The team provides an environment that builds teamwork, communication, and friendship that reaches far beyond the edges of the dragon boat. This coming year, I will be General Manager of the Iron Dragons, and I hope to create an experience that is memorable and worthwhile for everyone who decides to join our team. In addition, I’m excited to help bring the Iron Dragons to the Club Crews World Championships in Szeged, Hungary, which will be our first ever international competition. This is not an opportunity you’ll want to miss!
Being a part of the University of Toronto Concrete Toboggan Team is being a part of an enthusiastic and supportive team. I got involved so I could be in an environment that allowed me to learn, be creative, and have fun doing it! As a Civ on the team, I was not only able to apply classroom knowledge, but also experience hands-on activities that many other students cannot glean merely from lectures and labs. Design meetings, research, concrete pours, and tests have all allowed me to gain invaluable knowledge and skills in an inclusive and close teamwork setting. At Tbog, we are always pushing boundaries. As someone interested in sustainability, I have the chance to contribute and creatively experiment with new and crazy ideas. My imagination is the only limit. What I love most about Tbog is our team spirit; we work hard to play hard, which really separates us from other design teams. Despite being more of a shy and reserved person, I was able to find a place on the team where I fit in and belong. My role and involvement with the team is a testament to how Tbog is a welcoming and positive place for all students of different personalities, interests, and backgrounds.
My name is Matthew Garcia (CIV 1T8 + PEY) and I am Project Manager for the University of Toronto Concrete Canoe Team. Every year, my team constructs a fully seaworthy canoe made of concrete to race against other universities in Canada. I have been with the team since my F!rosh year, taking part in all kinds of design and construction activities. What reeled me into the team was the idea of sailing in something as counterintuitive as concrete. There are so many engineering challenges associated with this idea of a concrete canoe: you have to be creative in designing aesthetic elements for the year’s theme, conduct complex analyses to ensure the structural and material integrity of the canoe, and ensure that construction is on time and within budget. In my first year, I was exposed to all these things in helping build a canoe. Soon enough, I found myself applying and refining what I learned in class as a concrete mix lead for the team. Now in my fourth year with the team, I am planning and organizing the entire process of making a concrete canoe to ensure that our team can continue to be among the best in Canada.
SIMONNE VARELA Civ Club - Vice Chair
MATT ASPRO Formula SAE Racing Team Manager
My name is Simonne Varela and I am currently the Vice Chair on Civ Club but have held a position as the Social Director in the past. Being one of the many executives on Civ Club, a common goal we all have is to ensure that all of the initiatives we carry out are done in the best interest of the entire student body. The reason I like being a part of Civ Club is because I like hearing that our hard work as a club is paying off. Word always gets back to us from students who compliment how far we’ve come over the year. I also enjoy being a part of Civ Club because of the family we build every year with each new executive team. We work together and also grow together by learning new things from others but also take from those experiences. Civs are known for having strong relationships with each other and I feel that this aspect, stemming even from Civ Club, is what enables us to do as well as we do and with that, I’m excited for what this year will have in store for us.
I am a 4th year student specializing in Finance & Economics, as well as pursuing a minor in Computer Science. I joined the team in my first year as an Engine Team Member, but am now one of our senior leaders as the Team Manager, where I oversee funding, sponsorship, media/marketing, events, recruitment and logistics; as well as the overall operation of our team. I have always had a passion for motorsports and engineering, of which are the two elements that serve as the backbone for our team, so it was a natural fit for me. It is an amazing experience when you get the opportunity to work with such a large group of intelligent and passionate students to reach a goal. It is this reason why our team is able to attract students from such wide disciplines, and teach them from the ground up. It’s the diversity in our team which make us who we are, and allow us to receive the continued support from our faculty and sponsors, who ensure we reach our goals year after year.
10 â€¢ THE CANNON
SEPTEMBER 2017 IMAGES PROVIDED BY: MUSKAN SETHI Skule Archivist
A Look into the SkuleTM Archives
1. Yearbook from the engineering society, April 1928 2. Vinyl recordings of the Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad performing at the Cannonball dinner dance, November 30, 1962 3. Lady Godiva Memorial Bnad vinyl record cover titled “Band with the runs”, 1977 4. Comic from The Toike Oike showing only men can buy tickets to Skule-Nite, February 2, 1949 5. and 7. Students Handbook with an advertisement for high end squash rackets from $2.95 to $12.00, and an entry for Skule Nite on Friday 13, 1933. 6. Previous Chief Attiliators holding The Cannons of the past. (Credits: Unknown) 8. Invitation to the 44th annual school dinner, 1933 9. Front page of The Toike Oike detailing the fire inside Sanford Flemming. “49,000 square feet of space was lot. The most obvious prime concern of a fire in that building is the computer…[The Dean] would like to see us get ‘a complete new building out of it, in which we could consolidate U of T’s computing facilities and provide a modern expanded center for the engineering faculty’”, February 17, 1977 10. and 11. “School of Practical Science Building, erected 1878, to be demolished in November 1966 to make way for the new Medical Sciences Building”, 1966 12. Every Cannon, from the cannon “Mark I” made circa 1950 (front) to the newest 1T3 cannon (middle). (Credits: Unknown) 13. Original copy of ‘The Sons of Martha’ by Rudyard Kipling performed at the calling of the engineer ceremony.This was presented at the 47th annual dinner of the engineering institute of Canada by Alice Roger Heins, February 1935 14. Snippet from the Varisty showing the troubles of finding a girl to represent Lady Godiva at engineering events. “And having a great lack of feminine pulchritude, they were forced to get some women from one of the arts colleges”, December 2, 1949
12 • THE CANNON
Movies Engineers Should Watch WIBISHA BALENDRAN Cannon Senior Editor Many movies we see come and go, but there’s always a few that we cannot help but keep pondering. Those few movies might be distinguished by their exceptional appeal, puzzling vagueness, downright terrible quality, or plot themes that we ourselves can relate to. Of the movies you’ve seen and remembered, was there any that you could directly relate to the engineering world? Apparently, there are a good number of movies I’ve come across are considered relevant to engineers. These are The Abyss, Apollo 13, Good Will Hunting and The Social Network. Below, I’ll briefly summarize these movies and give some points as to how they relate to engineering. The Abyss is the oldest movie in the list, released in theaters in 1989. This movie commences with a scene of the U.S. Ohio-class submarine USS Montana colliding with an unknown object underwater, which resulted in the submarine sinking into the depths. Therefore, a SEAL team, DEEP Core, are sent retrieve information on the sunken submarine and save its occupants. The team not only has to deal with the mechanical issues of their submarine and strained relationships with colleagues but perhaps also something they have never expected… a foreign colony one cannot comprehend. This movie is rather a unique gem, portraying a strong female lead, Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio), who is an engineer and takes on multiple challenges thrown at her! She’s portrayed as an intelligent quick thinker who weighs in with her options. Therefore, engineers, specifically female engineers, can relate to her struggle of not being
taken seriously and fighting to prove oneself worthy by problem solving and communicating with one’s colleagues, essential skills for engineers in general. Thus, one can say Lindsey is something of a Wonder Woman for the engineering world! Apollo 13 is another movie related to engineering, released to theaters in 1995. Overall, this was a space movie that deals with several issues engineers can encounter, ranging from designing a colossal rocket to typical problem-solving on the spot! The movie commences with Jim Lovell (Tom Hanks) aspiring to walk the moon as an astronaut and then receiving that opportunity to flying aboard the Apollo 13 with a crew whose members include Jack Swigert (Kevin Bacon). Lovell, despite being reluctant to work with Swigert, goes along with it and will not let Swigert get in the way of his dreams of walking on the moon. Nevertheless, those dreams may shatter with technical problems onboard the rocket and Lovell has to make a critical decision—should he risk the lives of himself and crew members to achieve the dream he yearns for or should he avoid that risk? Given that this is based on a true event, engineers can realize why they are are crucial beyond this world! Good Will Hunting, released in 1997, revolves around a 20 year old man, Will Hunting (Matt Damon), who is exceptionally intelligent yet works as a janitor at MIT. A professor, Gerald Lambeau (Stellan Skarsgård), notices Will’s intellect and is eager to provide opportunities for him to showcase his intelligence. Nevertheless, Will is reluctant to put himself out there due to his sketchy past and his involvement
with several gang members, so Lambeau chooses psychologist Dr. Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) to help guide him towards the right path. One quote that perfectly sums up this movie is the following: “You’ll have bad times, but it’ll always wake you up to the good stuff you weren’t paying attention to.” This quote truly links the movie’s essence to us engineers: although we may see ourselves as geniuses who can solve the world’s complex issues, we need to
realize that we have to be truthful to ourselves and solve our own issues as well, whether they be with family, friends or our individual well being. Once we come to terms with the adversities we face with the support of our loved ones, we can take charge in accomplishing our goals more easily. This movie also definitely encourages us to reach out to others we trust rather than bury up what we’re truly feeling. If you are into the ins and outs of start-ups such as
Facebook and a fresh perspective on realistic social relationships, this next movie might be the one to add to your list. The Social Network (2010) has as its main character Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg), a socially awkward Harvard student interested in creating a website which potentially steals photos of female students from the college’s databases and permits random strangers to rate the females by their attractiveness. The twins Cameron and Tyler
SEPTEMBER 2017 Winklevoss (both played by Armie Hammer) and their business partner Divya Narendra (Max Minghella) take notice of Mark’s Facemash’s popularity and want to collaborate with him. The four of them work together to creating another social network, Harvard Connection, which entails Harvard students setting
up dates online. Mark also gets in contact with Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) with an idea he called TheFacebook, but the Winkelvoss twins and Divya sense that he stole their idea and is getting away with it. They therefore sue him, giving Mark more things to deal with in addition to the conflicts he has with
his partner Saverin. This movie shows how behind every successful venture, there is a lot of challenges to overcome that were not always solved with technical skills but more so with street smarts and tactical thinking. In addition, Mark Zuckerberg can be viewed as embodying the yearning to be socially accepted those
around us, since his whole idea of a social network sprouted from his tense and awkward relationship with his ex-girlfriend, Erica Albright. Hence, this movie does not solely focus on his startup from behind the scenes but also on his social life, which many of us can relate to! Thus, the four movies
mentioned above show different aspects of how engineering world works and presents the skills needed for engineers to succeed with somewhat factual scenarios. Although each film has different take aways, these morals all connect to us engineers in the end.
WHAT GRINDS MY GEARS
What Grinds My Gears: Mosquitoes DALE GOTTLIEB Cannon Editor-in-Chief Hello and welcome to my column “What Grinds my Gears”. Initially, this column started as an argument with a friend about washing hotel towels and the effects on the environment of doing laundry. What started as a small paragraph arguing my point quickly unfolded into a deep path of research. From the joy of research this topic, I decided to create a column and later covered coffee cups and the Wankel engine. I look forward to starting my monthly column again, and this time I’m covering a topic that I know grinds everybody’s gears: mosquitoes. This summer has been especially bad for mosquitoes. The constant rainy days and cold, cloudy weather has made camping grounds a spawning pool for these terrible creatures. I was camping in Killarney recently and there was no escape. During
the day, the forest was filled with mosquitoes biting me and my dog. During night, the mosquitoes trapped in my dog’s fur made their way into my tent and attacked me for hours. These bugs are annoying, and their damage to humans goes well beyond a minor inconvenience. They’re the deadliest animal to humans, killing much more people than sharks or bears. They infect over 240 million people every year with malaria, and are responsible for 700,000 deaths every year. The best defense against mosquitoes is to either wear clothing that covers your whole body, or spray yourself with mosquito repellant filled with DEET. This chemical, which was developed as a bug repellant in the 1940’s for jungle warfare, burns the skin, smells bad, and is a possible neurotoxin. Research is currently underway for a new defense against mosquitoes: no mosquitoes. According
to Janet Fang of Nature, there would be little to no repercussions of ridding the world of mosquitoes. There are no predatory species which rely on mosquitoes as their primary food source, and any effects that would come from getting rid of mosquitoes could easily be mitigated by the increase in other insect species in their absence. Of the 3,500 species of mosquitoes, only a few hundred bite people, so the goal is not to exterminate all mosquitoes, only a select number of species. People also get the wrong impression of the number of mosquitoes in Canada since they selectively target us. The forest is not actually swarmed with them and instead only we are. The technique used to eliminate mosquitoes may even be more ethical than current population control methods such as insecticides. First suggested in 1955 by Edward Kipling,
the chief of entomology research for the U.S.D.A., the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) introduces a large number of sterile males into the mosquito population. This limits the reproductive potential of the female mosquitoes, and over time, acts as a means of population control. The SIT has been widely supported since it was first theorized, and has been tested on the field. In 1974, Christine Lofgren introduced 4.3 million sterile male mosquitoes into Lake Apastepeque in El Salvador. It was found that doing so eliminated 99% of the local population. This research was further supported in 2003 by Benedict & Robinson of the Entomology unit of the Food and Agricultural Organization of Austria. Although the possibility of a widespread implementation of SIT was impossible at the time of these research studies due to cost, new
technologies allow for this to be an inexpensive method of pest control. There are still concerns of the effects of eliminating a species from the environment, as well as releasing genetically modified insects into the wild. But when a survey was conducted in Key West, Florida in 2015 following a dengue epidemic, 57% of participants were supportive of SIT, while only 17.9% were opposed. Supporters often cited SIT as a more natural way of controlling insect populations than other methods. The deadliest animal in existence is also responsible for grinding the most gears, and we’re finally at a point where technology can allow us to wipe them out. They are not the primary food source of any predator, and are responsible for killing 700,000 people a year. With the introduction of SIT, we may be able to go camping without mosquito repellant for the first time.
14 • THE CANNON
ENGINEERING IN BIOLOGY
Engineering in Biology: An Introduction PATRICK DIEP Cannon Senior Editor This is an introduction to a new column: Engineering in Biology. Each issue, I contemplate the social implications of research in synthetic biology and bioengineering. Both fields incorporate engineering principles into the chaotic mess that is biology. There are a lot of opinions here, some of which I agree with over others, but all opinions are valuable and welcomed. If there are topics you’d like me to discuss, or you’re interested in
writing for this column under my supervision, please email me at patrick_diep@ outlook.com. This first issue acquaints us with the emerging and exciting field of synthetic biology – a field in which I actively engage with in my graduate work. Drew Endy is a synthetic biologist and professor of bioengineering at Standford University. In graduate school, Endy attempted to create a model that simulated a T7 bacteriophage’s behavior using quantitative data accumulated over decades of work. Turns out
decades wasn’t enough. Despite all the available information, Endy was unable to fully predict the behavior of this virus that kills bacteria. At moments like this in 1997, the model is usually scrapped and new models are made. Perhaps modifying a few differential equations here and constants there would make the model more accurate. This was not Endy’s approach. Instead of re-evaluating his model, he re-evaluated the T7 bacteriophage by scrutinizing the virus’ genome. How could nature
Credit: Patrick Diep
evolve such a complex genome with such poor design principles? This approach was unheard of then, and still unusual now. The T7 bacteriophage genome was no longer a blueprint for the model; the model was now the blueprint for the T7 bacteriophage genome. With a new professorship at MIT, Endy recruited grad students to genetically engineer the T7 bacteriophage so that it was simpler, and easier to understand. Theoretically, this reductionist approach should produce a new T7 bacteriophage that would fit the model – T7.1 bacteriophage. Darwinian evolution is largely driven by environmental factors. What goes on around you affects your survival and ability to propagate your genetic material. Viruses survive and propagate by hijacking their host cells’ machinery and using it to produce the building blocks for the virus instead of the host. As these hosts evolve over time, so do the viruses. This is a natural process, but when a virus is genetically engineered for simplicity in the controlled setting of a lab, you begin to question evolution’s role in nature. The virus is no longer changing at the genetic level because of nature’s influence; it is changing at the genetic level because of human intervention. It has not adapted to a life three feet in the ground or three
kilometres on top a mountain; it has adapted to the ambitions of synthetic biologists in the Koch Biology Building of MIT. From a religious standpoint, this sort of research can be perverse (as seen with the anti-GMO movement). From a scientific standpoint, this sort of research can be pervasive (as seen with the growing participation in iGEM, a world-wide synthetic biology competition that produces GMOs). Whether religion and science is mutually exclusive is one contentious topic, but the act of redesigning the T7 bacteriophage has an underlying motive that resonates with an opinion many of us may share regardless of our religious stance. There are different ways to learn how to make a spaghetti dish. You can read recipe books from different authors. You can get other’s opinion on how long you should boil the pasta for, or how much oil you should add. You can investigate the flavor profile of tomato sauces and cheeses. Or…you could just make it. After learning the nuances of cooking spaghetti from trial and error and after multiple iterations, you eventually understand what it takes to make a satisfactory spaghetti. This is the concept of maker’s knowledge that many of us are familiar with, especially engineers. By making something, we can understand it better
SEPTEMBER 2017 than analyzing the complete entity’s individual parts. What a synthetic biologist wants is a better understanding of life phenomena like all biologists, but they seek this knowledge with a different approach. Biological research before the 21st century was
primarily dominated by analysis of these individual parts (i.e. protein structures, genetic inheritance, metabolic networks, etc.). Now, theories and hypotheses are also driven by the search for patterns in huge amounts of data (bioinformatics), and the maker’s knowledge
attainable through the construction of artificial genes, genetic circuits and genetic systems (synthetic biology). Endy wanted to redesign the T7 bacteriophage genome not because he wanted to “play God,” but because he wanted to make the virus more comprehensible to
humans. Positioning synthetic biology to meet the challenges of the future requires not only technological advancements, but productive international discussions involving synthetic biologists and stakeholders. Policies and their practices will become
increasingly important with the anticipated surge of maker’s knowledge from projects that alter the field of biotechnology and our understanding of evolution. This issue was inspired by Synthetic by Sophia Roosth, a Harvard cultural anthropologist.
Is Unconditional Love Worth It? HANNAH BENDIG Cannon Contributor The university experience can simultaneously be full of friends and great people, as well as being super lonely. Although classmates are helpful and life-long friends can be made, many of us are still away from our families and childhood homes. Not to mention those nights when everyone is quietly studying away in separate places throughout the city. So, what have I, and so many other students, considered as a fix to this problem? Getting a dog! Unconditional love and cuddles anytime you want them with no chit chat to distract you from studying, problem sets, or readings. Well, let me tell you a few stories before you make that decision. Ignore the idea of getting a puppy, they are loud, full of endless energy, and pee on everything. Seriously, they take up way more time than any fulltime student at U of T has, especially if you want to do it right. Let’s consider adopting a dog who is fully grown and house trained, plus already spayed/neutered with shots, about six years old. This seems ideal, old dogs will nap with you, they don’t pee in the house, and there is already unconditional love because they don’t have to live in their previous lessthan-ideal situation and are so thankful. These are all the reasons why getting a dog seems perfect. Here’s what they don’t tell you.
First let’s start with cost, the obvious downfall. Adoption fees can range from $80-$700, and on top of that you need: a leash, collar, food bowls, bed, crate, treats, food, toys, just to bring your new furry friend home. Now, the first vet visit. Minimum fee from experience is $58 for a check up, plus any seasonal medicine for ticks and worms is going to add $100 to the bill (this will happen yearly plus the shots like rabies that the shelter would have given the dog once). Now add monthly food $40+, toys when they get destroyed, bags to pick up poop, treats, and doggy day care if you decide to go away for more than 8 hours. These are just routine expenses. Now, let’s talk about going for walks. I suggest approximately three a day, they don’t have to be long but you do have to do it in 40 degree weather, -20 degree weather, thunderstorms, and hail storms no matter what. This is especially fun and not so easy when your dog is afraid of the rain and you must force them outside. Then they get all muddy and get your house all dirty while, at the same time, incorporating that wet dog smell deep into your carpet for weeks. Not to mention when they shake off dog hair goes flying in literally every direction. It’s on my clothes, my sheets, my clean towels, my floors, and even my food. Finally, some of the most disgusting parts of being a dog owner. More times
Rigby, Hannah’s dog, showing unconditional love for its owner and holding the toy it ate. Credit: Hannah Bendig
than I can count my dog has rolled in poo then happily come up to me to get a pet, and then poo is also all over me too. This means I immediate end the walk, go home to wash up, and miss out on eating lunch because I didn’t have time to bathe and eat. Another time the dog farted so bad she woke herself up and left the room. Noticing too late, I also had to abruptly leave my warm bed to open windows and doors to get the smell out. This probably comes from the fact that she will eat anything and everything on the street. I have pulled so many things out of her mouth with my bare hands like: poo, used napkins, dead mice, dead birds, unidentified pieces
of bone, and a tampon. But worse than that is when you have to pull things out of their butts with your bare hands*. My dog ate part of a toy that was a long cylinder that had a hollow centre so that treats could be put inside of it. Unfortunately, she chewed a piece off, but it passed through her system without harm. One day I noticed it was stuck inside her butt with the hollow centre still allowing her to go poo. With the voice of a vet on the phone I put my fingers in there and pulled it out. And that’s when I asked myself, is unconditional love worth it? But honestly, it is. The cuddles, the adorable puppy dog eyes, the excitement every single day I get home
is all worth it. None of this trouble is a deal breaker for me and many other dog owners. My dog has filled my life with so much good I wouldn’t have it any other way. For those of you who are a little squeamish or flipping back and forth between getting a dog and not getting one, maybe make friends with a dog owner first. Dogs are a huge commitment but can be totally worth it. Plus when writing things like this my dog is sitting on my lap and nothing could possibly be more cute. *Never pull something out of your dog’s butt without seeking the advice of a vet first.
16 • THE CANNON
Relief Line or “Relief Line” AHNAF FERDOUS Cannon Senior Editor Working downtown and living in the suburbs is a reality for many Torontonians, even more so for secondary and post-secondary students who chose not to or are unable to reside near their schools in the downtown core. Meanwhile, Toronto’s traffic congestion during rush hours shows no signs of improvement and it seems it will head in a downwards spiral if no action is taken. To put things into perspective, from 2011 to 2014, the amount of subway delay hours during the morning and evening rush hour periods increased by over 400 and 600 hours respectively. This rapid increase has partially been a result of job development and growth within the downtown core, but these numbers will keep climbing if no actions are taken. The best approach to this action would be to expand our public transportation infrastructure which goes through the downtown core. The reason being is that there is a major portion of workers who work near or within downtown Toronto who use the subway or other TTC vehicles rather than chugging through never-ending traffic trapped in a car. Unfortunately, implementing public transit infrastructure such as subway extensions or new subway lines is very expensive now in 2017 compared to 50-60 years ago, and a final consensus needs to be made on which areas in particular need the infrastructure the most. The one area that presents the biggest headache and frequent troubles is along the Line 1 YongeUniversity-Spadina subway, particularly the Bloor-Yonge transfer station. Now, the City of Toronto has brought in a subway line proposal
spearheaded by our mayor, John Tory, which address the over-crowding on the Line 1 subway line. The proposed line shall be called the “Relief Line” and will ease (relieve) the passenger congestion along the YongeUniversity Line (Line 1). The part of the Relief Line route that has been finalized includes the line intersecting the southern portion of Line 1 at both Osgoode and Queen Stations, near the business district of the downtown core. Next, the line will extend east on Queen Street and Eastern Avenue, head north on Carlaw Avenue, and finally intersect with the BloorDanforth Line (Line 2) at Pape Station. This route is only a portion of the total Relief Line, as there are hopes of extending the west side of the line or even continuing north past Line 2 in the future.
question, this project has indirect benefits for public transit all over Toronto. Around late May to early June, there was a conflict regarding funding and project start-up for the Relief Line and the Yonge Subway Extension (YSE), a proposed extension of Line 1 from Finch Station to Richmond Hill Centre. John Tory had stated that he would prioritize funding and construction for the Relief Line and neglect the YSE, but after discussions with York
Region it was decided that the construction of these two projects would coincide and progress simultaneously. Thus, the Green Light for the relief line indirectly brought about support for another major subway project. Now, York Region commuters have some hope to cling onto as a result from this political upheaval. Lessons learned and the experience gained from the construction of the Relief Line can be used for future subway projects as
well, especially for those involving busy stations and existing subway lines. It will help disperse all the commuter congestion within the downtown core and make the subway a lot less stressful for many commuters. Many commuters bad-mouth the TTC, but perhaps if this project is completed successfully and achieves its goal it could bring recognition to the TTC subway and change many negative commuter opinions. Toronto may not have one of the
Problem Solved? Bloor-Yonge station is the busiest station in North America and as such immediate relief needs to be provided in the form of a new subway line that will help divert traffic away from the Line 1 to the Line 2. This will even benefit commuters on the Line 2 as they can take the Relief Line from work to avoid the crowding in between Bloor-Yonge and Pape stations. This is needed now more than ever as it has been projected that Line 1 will reach full capacity in 2031 if no action is taken. Hopefully, construction on the Relief Line will start up very soon and finish well before full capacity on the line is achieved. However, one may ask, “what is the point of the Relief Line if I never have to go through those popular regions on my daily commute? What good is it for me?” Although a valid
Credit: Muhammad Ali
SEPTEMBER 2017 best subway systems, but the successful completion of the Relief Line could be a big step in the right direction towards improvements in future subway construction, recognition, and, most importantly, commuter satisfaction. Outlook on the Subway System
All in all, the TTC may seem extremely frustrating at times and you may be one more “this train is going out of service” away from pulling out your hair and cursing the TTC all the way home. One may think
that even paying the hefty price for an Uber or walking would be better on certain occasions. Hold your horses. Besides the Relief Line, the City of Toronto as a whole is trying their best to satisfy our commuter needs by putting forward new subway and LRT (light rail transit) lines as fast as they possibly can. Recently, the TorontoYork Spadina Subway Extension (TYSSE) are adding six new stops and extending from Sheppard-West Station (formerly known as Downsview Station) all the way up to Vaughan at the Vaughan Metropolitan
Centre Station. The TYSSE is nearing completion and will be open for service starting December of this year. Some of you might be thinking to yourselves, “this is good news, but what benefit does this bring to me if I will rarely ride on this extension?” Fret not. More rapid transit projects are on the way in order to service the needs of commuters scattered all across Toronto. The Eglinton Crosstown LRT (Light Rail Transit) will be similar to Line 2 except that it will be placed farther north on the subway map and intersect Line 1 at Eglinton and Eglinton
West stations. Furthermore, for Scarberians, Line 2 is planned to have a one stop extension from Kennedy to Scarborough Centre station partly due to the inefficiencies of the Rocket Train. Even the Yonge Subway Extension is coming to fruition after acquiring funding, and will extend from Finch Station all the way to Richmond Hill Centre Station and help reduce the 2500 daily buses running north from Finch Station. As long as everything stays on track, the subway crowds will begin to disperse and perhaps the new subway routes can truly relieve the
burden of the traditional Torontonian rush hour commute. So, as you can see, even though the Relief Line may not serve everyone’s needs at the moment, this project will help Toronto gain more experience regarding subway construction and pave the way for future projects as well. Unfortunately, a subway and/or an LRT cannot be built in a matter of days so we must be patient and endure the struggle, for surely there will be a light at the end of the dark train tunnel.
the back of our heads that occasionally says “maybe I’d be a lot better or happier if I had just done that other thing.” It is likely the case that the innumerable possibilities in our lives take the shape of a tremendous fractal, yet we so often feel cornered into only ever exploring one of its branches. The ever burning “what if ” shares the same parallel as the thoughts “what should I eat tonight” and “when is the next deadline?” But maybe it’s impractical
built demand specialization and isolation within a specific area. Looking ahead, we are all very likely to see either an exacerbation or a complete upheaval of these ideas as mass automation and the ascent of artificial intelligence creeps closer to becoming economic reality. Perhaps the lesson in all of this is not to look inwards in shame at a path you’ve been shoehorned into or feel embarrassment at not realizing your full potential in some other area. These feelings of regret and this obsession with the forks in the road that were never traversed is something that affects us all: from engineers to artists and from executives to interns. We all feel trapped to some extent because being human entails donning that cruelest burden on our backs. While life’s permutations may well be infinite, the feeble, transitive sliver of eternity afforded to us is bound to disappoint if we sit by idly and let it. If the anxiety that work life often elicits is simply a part of life’s bargain, then it is our challenge to look elsewhere for the meaning and fulfillment we seek: towards our family, our friends, and most importantly, ourselves.
Anthropology of Employment HERMAN CHANDI Cannon Contributor The modern concept of work is one of those ideas that, despite feeling intrinsic to the human experience, is actually a relatively new idea. Of course, what “work” exactly looks like has changed throughout history. In humanity’s infancy, work that needed to be done was accomplished for the sake of survival: food was hunted and gathered, and the foundations of a shelter would be made only when necessary. As time moved on and more interactive economies emerged, our work moved towards the manufacturing of goods that could be traded and bartered. If this is where a transition in the nature of work was just being born, then the industrial revolution would mark its ascent into full blown adolescence. Here, we have the beginnings of some of the trademarks of work that we’re now accustomed to: massive corporations, a globalized workforce, and intense specialization in roles. And now, many of us are preparing to jump into the world of work. For some, the
question of what to do with one’s employment or, in other words, how to sell about half of their waking hours for the next few decades is simple. For others, it is an immensely difficult—even existential—question that elicits an anxiety that cannot even be trumped by that looming differential equations midterm. In many ways, modern employment is anti-human to its core. In a statement that likely resonates on some level with all of us, the great American
are simply unfulfilling in the deepest sense. The structure of most employment tends to steal that which makes work meaningful to humans. We’re often doing repetitive things that, despite requiring specialized skills, are ultimately repetitive once performed for the 900th day in a row. We’re often removed from the actual fruits of our labour and are therefore reduced to a cog in an enormous machine in which we can truly appreciate neither the inputs nor
The structure of most employment tends to steal that which makes work meaningful to humans.
poet Walt Whitman proudly penned, “I am large, I contain multitudes”. In reality, the choices we are forced to make run contrary to this: early on, it feels like we have to choose our specific majors and at some point, we have to settle on that one thing we’re supposed to do for the rest of our lives. People feel increasingly trapped in their day-to-day jobs and it may be due to the fact that so many jobs
the outputs. These feelings are expressed perfectly in a very touching and powerful 7-minute animated short film Alike by Daniel Martinez Lara and Rafa Cano Mendez, available on Youtube. Perhaps the greatest anxiety found at work is the quiet feeling that you’re not making the most out of your life and your diverse passions and skills. Perhaps it’s that nagging voice in
to suggest that any other reality is possible. The modern world is increasingly complex and all of the low-hanging fruit of science and engineering have already been plucked. Being a true “Renaissance Man” akin to Da Vinci seems nearly impossible nowadays given how long it takes to master a single subject. The complexity of the incredibly efficient and productive modern institutions we’ve
18 • THE CANNON Bias continued from page 1 This clearly disadvantages Youtubers who put a lot of effort and research into producing high quality and thoughtful content because those channels tend to post videos less frequently. Moreover, in an effort to maximize watch-time, the algorithms favour videos that tend to trap people in the website by seeing how often a user watches another video after finishing the current video. This can have the effect of rewarding emotionally evocative or politically charged content while punishing educational and informative videos. This effect is obviously
SEPTEMBER 2017 more widespread than just Youtube. Another interesting example is seen in the sorting algorithms for submissions to Reddit, a popular forum where a wide variety of content can be shared amongst users and voted upon. The mathematical model upon which the algorithm is based primarily weighs the difference between positive and negative votes and the recency of the submission and votes. As a result, submissions that are easily and quickly consumed become favoured because they’ll be able to accumulate positive votes faster. Similarly, clickbait titles that tend to elicit immediate voting responses tend to be ranked highly. The cumulative effect of all
of this is for Reddit’s algorithms to favour content that is quickly and easily understood (think pictures, brief text) and likely to be immediately viewed favourably by the audience (think cats, jokes, consensus opinions). Along a similar vein, Facebook’s news feed, the leading source of news for a surprising number of young people, weighs your like and click history on posts. Consequently, you should get a constant stream of news that is likely to please or interest you while being hidden from anything that is likely to upset you in some way. Although Youtube, Reddit, and Facebook are often simply seen as platforms for harmless entertainment,
the reality is that these websites play an ever increasing role in many people’s lives and they all exert a troubling influence on our opinions and beliefs. By using these sites to gain information about the happenings of the external world, we risk falling into the trap of enclosing ourselves within our own echo chambers of homogenous thought and uniform opinion. Given the stark political divide so often seen now on issues like Brexit and Donald Trump’s ascent to presidency, it is no surprise that is difficult for a member of one side of the political aisle to understand how a person on the other side is feeling: unless they’re actively looking for balanced views, most of the
websites they visit are working to show them a picture of the world they’ll already happy with. The difficult truth of the matter is that there is simply too much content from all kinds of sources to consume it all. In a sense, we desperately need these algorithms in place to curate and present content to us. Compromises and tradeoffs are likely necessary. What’s most important is that everyone involved reflects on their media consumption honestly and remains cognizant of the possibility that the small peep hole they’re using right now isn’t representative of the broader reality.
into space would be much cheaper and easier than sending numerous humans into space to build houses. Due to their small size, they would also be very lightweight. The swarms of robots can reconfigure themselves and assemble into larger robots to accomplish required tasks. Along with planet exploration, these amazing little autonomous
some healthy ones. Instead, research is being conducted on treatments whereby, instead of chemotherapy, patients are injected with tiny particles carrying DNA strands. These DNA strands can bind to cells that express the tumor and destroy them while leaving the healthy ones just as they are. Of course, the development of such technology is
or spyware technology that could easily camouflage into any environment and would be difficult to track down. However, I believe that as the technology becomes more popular, so will the methods to track them down and intercept them if required. So far, nanotechnology and nanomaterials appear to be a promising tool.
A Small World NAJAH HASSAN Cannon Senior Editor There is no doubt about the advances technology has made in the last few decades. We went from the use of large supercomputers that took up an entire room to portable laptops that are as thin as some notebooks. Even portable mobile phones have changed from the large heavy devices that were only good for calling people and playing the game Snake to touch screen surfaces smaller than the palm of your hand that can be used to watch high definition videos. As the years have progressed, technological advances have leaned towards designing smaller, lighter and less expensive products to facilitate human lives. Now, research and development is moving towards the realm of engineering things at the nanoscale. This change has required people to apply new principles and think in creative ways to accomplish tasks that were previously seen as unimaginable, unthinkable, and impossible.
Scientists and engineers have had to step into the world of nanomaterials and design things at the atomic level to ensure that they are easier to control and better suited for their purposes. Newtonian physics laws fail to hold at this scale and are replaced with theories of quantum mechanics. There are some amazing examples of the things that have been discovered in the field of nanotechnology. In 2008, Marc Szymanski, a researcher at the University of Karlsruhe in Germany, began working with his team on a project inspired by nature. His team built several little autonomous robots that were to the scale of a centimeter. Similar to how bees, ants and termites work together to build a nest or work for the good of their colony, these robots could work together to achieve certain tasks that were given to them. The purpose of the project was to develop the robots to a point where they could be sent to a planet like Mars and collectively work together to build houses. Sending several little robots
[People are accomplishing] tasks that were previously seen as unimaginable, unthinkable, and impossible
critters could also be used to carry out repairs inside machines or for medical treatments concerning the human body. One of the ways nanotechnology can be used for medical purposes is the treatment of cancer cells while causing minimum pain to the patient. The current method for cancer treatment is chemotherapy, which, along with killing cancerous cells, also kills
much harder than it sounds. However, nanotechnology in medicine can be used to make changes at the genetic level, paving the way to a new realm of healthcare. Of course, nanotechnology, like most new developments, does have its negative aspects. Devices built to the limit of a nanoscale would be physically impossible to see using a naked eye. This could lead to new forms of military
When combined with other aspects of engineering, like biomedical or aerospace engineering, they can be used to do remarkable things. Further research in nanotechnology could have amazing impacts on human life as a whole. It is a dynamic and expanding area which requires hard-working and passionate engineers to be able to make a difference in the world!
Credit: Rick Liu
20 • THE CANNON
Welcome to incoming undergraduate students from Dean Cristina Amon DR. CRISTINA AMON directly from educators who Dean, Faculty of Applied are international leaders in Science and Engineering their fields and dedicated to student success. Seize I am delighted to this opportunity to explore welcome you, the class of and expand your interests 2T1 and 2T1+PEY, to U of T and take risks with your Engineering — Canada’s #1 bold ideas. Whether engineering school and one you are fascinated by of the top-ranked schools in emerging trends in artificial the world. intelligence, driven to You are joining our vibrant invent new clean water engineering community technologies, or motivated that values diversity, to develop novel ways to creativity, dedication and generate renewable energy, curiosity. Our students and we offer many avenues for faculty come from more you to pursue your passions than 100 countries around and work alongside your the globe, and bring a rich peers and leading scholars, array of experiences to our both in your class work and Faculty. I encourage you to co-curricular activities. seek out new perspectives You will be among the through the relationships first students to study, you cultivate in the coming design and collaborate years. They may lead you in our new Centre for to start a business, pursue a Engineering Innovation & research project or innovate Entrepreneurship, opening in a way that addresses some in 2018. If you choose to of the world’s most pressing complement your degree challenges. with any of our 15 minors Here you will learn and certificates, in topics
Pictured left to right: Dr. Cristina Amon, Jennifer Dixon, and Tessa Pietropaulo. Credit: Office of the Dean
from engineering business to robotics, the CEIE will further enable your multidisciplinary education. It will provide you with stateof-the-art learning facilities, active makerspaces and The Entrepreneurship Hatchery,
to foster partnerships and innovations that have long been our hallmark in U of T Engineering. Your years ahead will be filled with rewarding challenges and exciting triumphs. You
will grow immensely, both intellectually and personally. I wish you success, and encourage you to embrace the journey ahead with optimism and the engineering spirit. Welcome to Skule™!
have one, very simple saying I live by: variety is the spice of life. What you do when you’re not studying and attending lectures/labs defines who you are over time. Like visiting new countries and speaking to strangers on the subway, stepping out of your comfort zone and trying new things can acquaint you with new perspectives and alternative approaches to sticky situations. I remember going through the multi-stage interview for UW’s first-aid response team questioning myself “what am I even doing here?” But I made it, and made long-lasting memories with new long-lasting friends. Sometimes spontaneity brings the most joy
to the occasionally overwhelming monotony of academia. Good luck this month, and see you next edition!
GradStudents?!: An Introduction PATRICK DIEP Cannon Senior Editor Congratulations firstyear students, you’ve made it! Welcome to UofT—your school and home for the next few years. Enjoy your orientation week, and don’t be scared to say hi to strangers (they could be your future business partners, colleagues, life-long friends, romantic partner[s]…). You and I share a parallel. Just as you are starting your BASc, I am starting my MASc this September. The purpose of this new column GradStudents?! is to provide undergraduate students insight into graduate school, and the purpose of this article is to introduce my
intentions and goals. I studied biochemistry at the University of Waterloo (UW) and graduated in June 2016. There, I was heavily involved with orientation week and mentorship of new students, like you. In GradStudents?!, I’m not here to lecture you: parental figures do that enough. I want to help you understand what it means to be a graduate student and what challenges we face. Accordingly, I will share my peers’ opinions and thoughts with you. As I learn the ropes of graduate life, I hope to share that with you too. Introspection, philosophy, and discussion are the tools I’ll use when crafting these monthly articles.
What you take from this column might be career advice, life coaching, or some random grad student’s musings. Whatever it is, I hope it can provide you more insight for your own UofT adventures. I don’t represent all grad students at UofT. My home department is ChemE, and I do research in BioZone. GradStudents?! will be written by me, but the content will largely be a product of the conversations I have with fellow grad students in ChemE and other departments (including non-engineering graduate departments). Take it as you will. Some of you may be wondering what advice I have for new students at UofT. I
P.S. When/If you decide to join new extracurriculars, beware of the dilution of opportunities that comes with over-commitment. [UofT – University of Toronto, BASc – Bachelor of Applied Science, MASc – Master of Applied Science, UW – University of Waterloo, ChemE – Chemical Engineering, BioZone – sub-department of ChemE.]