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UBC Reports | Vol. 52 | No. 3 | Mar. 2, 2006

In the News

Highlights of UBC Media Coverage in February 2006

Compiled by Basil Waugh

Making Decisions? Best to Sleep on it

International media including Science magazine, the BBC, Telegraph UK, New York Times, Boston Globe, the Sydney Morning Herald and most major Canadian dailies, reported on University of Amsterdam research that suggests the best way to make tough decisions is to forget about them. Collect the relevant information, it says, then let the unconscious churn through the options. In the end, it makes for better decisions.

“This process of just ‘sleeping on it’ and ‘letting it sit’ is not just procrastination but is a valuable, productive technique that is drawing on cognitive processes that seem to really exist,” said UBC psychologist Jonathan Schooler, who has done extensive research in the field.

“Are we saying that an executive who has just read an important report should not think about it? The research helps us work toward an answer, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet,” said Schooler.

New Kind of Cosmic Object Discovered

National Geographic magazine and Canadian dailies including the Montreal Gazette, Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald, Vancouver Sun and the Victoria Times-Colonist, reported the discovery of an entirely new kind of cosmic object by a multinational team of astronomers. Their findings were originally published in the international science journal Nature.

Named Rotating Radio Transients (RRATs), the small, highly compressed neutron stars are likely related to pulsars, which spin about once a second and are often described as cosmic lighthouses. Their magnetic poles emit electromagnetic radio waves, so each time a pulsar spins, it sends out a radio blip.

“These new objects are basically a new type of neutron star, but we’re not exactly sure how they fit together with the other types,” said UBC astronomer and report co-author Ingrid Stairs. “Instead of a blip every time it spins, there is one every few minutes or every few hours. They’re kind of like a flickering lighthouse, one where the power is going out on a regular basis.”

Antidepressants May Harm Infants’ Lungs, Report Says

Several major North American dailies, including the New York Times, reported findings published in the New England Journal of Medicine that expectant mothers who took antidepressants like Prozac late in their pregnancy were significantly more likely to give birth to an infant with a rare but serious breathing problem.

Timothy Oberlander, a developmental pediatrician at UBC, said that the new study added to a small but growing
literature that was helping clarify the risks of specific drugs taken during pregnancy.

“You’re talking about small numbers here, but it’s clear that there are a group of babies that have more side-effects from exposure to these drugs than most,” Oberlander said, “and women need to weigh this against the risk of untreated depression, which not only affects the mother but the context in which the child is raised.”

And the Top Dog is…

In a story carried by a dozen of U.S. dailies, including the Chicago Tribune, Kansas City Star and the Monterey County Herald, the American Kennel Club has announced the Labrador retriever as America's top dog for the 16th consecutive year, while the golden retriever hangs in at number two. The rankings differ widely depending on geography, however. While the poodle nosed out the diminutive dachshund as New York City’s most popular dog in 2005, it languishes at the bottom of Chicago's top 10.

“A lot of people look at the poodle and call it a frou-frou dog because it doesn’t seem a very tough or macho dog. That’s wrong,” said Stanley Coren, UBC psychologist and author of a number of books on dogs, including The Pawprints of History, and The Intelligence of Dogs.

“People forget that Omar Bradley went all around World War II with a big black poodle named Beau,” said Coren, referring to the famous army general. “And everybody associates Winston Churchill with the bulldog because he looked like a bulldog. But the truth is Winston Churchill never owned a bulldog. He owned miniature poodles and they were all called Rufus.”

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Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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