Press Feed
Pages Menu

Jula Sukumar

The Emancipation Proclamation: 149 years

Today is the 149th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.In the heat of national conflict, Abraham Lincoln, who vehemently opposed slavery, drew up the Emancipation Proclamation: an executive order which insisted that all slaves in the Confederacy be freed by January 1st, 1863. This built the framework for the Thirteenth Amendment, and by New Year's Day, 1963, over three-quarters of America’s four million slaves were free. It had become clear that the war was now not for union alone but too for emancipation.Yet the Proclamation was imperfect. The Proclamation’s implementation has been questioned, as it freed slaves ostensibly as a war measure and did not fully abolish slavery until the Thirteenth Amendment had been drawn up. Racial tension heightened in its wake: in one instance, the New York Draft Riots of July, 1863, ended up turning from an ethnic Irish protest against Union conscription to a violent riot against blacks. Though slaves had been accorded technical freedom, certain factors were perhaps overlooked. Many of those freed were illiterate and few immediately possessed the educational resources expected for labour more lucrative than sharecropping. The newly freed had to find their own means of housing and supporting themselves, and there remained the great citizenship question, but ultimately the Proclamation did honour its implicit commitment to the betterment of the African American condition. No longer were slaves being traded as property, and no longer were runaway slaves obliged to their old masters.Though it was a mere step in the right direction, the Proclamation was a step that needed to be taken before successive generations could shed the necessary blood, sweat and tears on America’s long march to freedom. In 1863 the US Army allowed former slaves to serve their country in war; African-American colleges, precursors to today’s HBCUs, opened, such as the Shaw Institute… Read More

What could be faster than the speed of light?

Late last month, scientists in Geneva were astounded when they seemed to have discovered particles moving faster than the speed of light. If confirmed, it could disprove the laws of nature and the very foundation of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity.Physicists at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (better known as CERN) in Switzerland had been conducting an experiment known as OPERA. This project sent sub-atomic particles called ‘neutrinos,’ using their particle accelerator, from Geneva to Gran Sasso, Italy.What they calculated was that the neutrinos had been detected (with a margin of error of just ten nanoseconds) at a rate faster than the speed of light (about 60 nanoseconds faster; in that time and space, it had gone 20 metres further than light could have).To the astonishment and great frustration of the physics community, this could mean an upheaval of the very concept that founded modern physics.Since the news broke, however, there has been some scepticism as to how the neutrinos were able to move so quickly. Some have said it must have been an instrument error, as occurred in a prior experiment Chicago’s Fermilab back in 2007; that reading turned out to be incorrect. The general consensus of neutrino movement then became that, due to neutrinos being almost mass-less, they should travel at nearly the speed of light, not faster.In an interview with National Geographic, Dave Goldberg, an astrophysicist at Philadelphia’s Drexel University, claimed there had been observations of neutrino movement within a supernova in 1987. He claimed the movement was slightly slower than the speed of light. Photons and neutrinos ‘arrived’ on our planet at around the same time; according to Goldberg’s calculations, however, if neutrinos were moving at the rate the scientists in Geneva noted, neutrinos would have been detected on Earth three years prior to the… Read More

McGill alumnus posthumously awarded Nobel Prize in medicine

Members of the Nobel Assembly were left with a dilemma yesterday as one of the winners of the Nobel Prize for Medicine or Physiology passed three days before the award was announced. This proved to be a unique situation, as the award had not been given out posthumously since the committee modified the rules in 1974. Given the circumstances, the decision stood, and Ralph M. Steinman, along with French scientist Jules Hoffman and American geneticist Bruce Beutler, would be the 2011 Nobel Laureates.Steinman is being recognized for his discovery that dendritic cells in the immune system have can develop adaptive immunity to dangerous micro-organisms and pathogens, including certain carcinogenic cells. His research showed how micro-organisms bind to toll-like receptors on cells, and lead to inflammation and the destruction of the invading organism, hence, stopping an infection in its tracks.On 30 September, three days before the announcement, Dr Steinman succumbed to a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Members of his family say his research helped keep him alive through his struggle. After his diagnosis he decided to use his own body as a testing ground for his research. He and his team isolated the cells in question and exposed them to contaminated cancer cells to elicit specific immune responses. Steinman’s son credits this experimental dendritic therapy for allowing his father to live “so vibrantly” in his final years.Steinman is remembered as a kind and mild-mannered individual. His family owned a salvage business in Old Montreal and Sherbrooke, and he worked at the family store while completing his Bachelor of Science in Biology at McGill University, after which he received a scholarship to Harvard Medical School, where he met his wife Claudia. He later completed a post-doctoral fellowship at Rockefeller University in New York and spent many of his remaining years developing his research on adaptive immunity.According… Read More