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Society
Ever wondered how authoritarianism rose, or why a single person or a small group of people make decisions on behalf of other people. An associate professor of anthropology at Stanford, John Rick, has studied Chavin de Huantar, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Peru, for the last 20 years. Rick has studied the large amount of evidence from more than two decades of work at Chavin, where that culture developed approximately from 900 BC to 200 BC. “More than 5,000 and certainly 10,000 years ago, no where in the world was anyone living under a concerted authority. Today we expect that. It is the essence of our organization”, he said. Chavin was a religious centre run by a detailed priesthood. The priesthood would subject its visitors to an incredible variety of routines from manipulating light to water and to sound. Rick stated the priesthood purposely worked with underground spaces, architectural stone work, a system of water canals, psychoactive drugs and animal iconography to increase their demonstrations of power. Rick and his team estimate the presence of two kilometres of underground labyrinth , gallery-like spaces, which were definitely created to constrain and deceive those who entered. The priesthood also manipulated its visitors with psychoactive drugs. According to Rick the evidence represented in stone engravings show with clear illustrations the effects of paraphernalia and drugs on human beings. Through a sophisticated hydraulic system and under water canals, water was used as another deceptive tool. “They were playing with this stuff. They were using water pressure 3,000 years ago to elevate water, to bring it up where it shouldn’t be. They’re using it as an agent to wash away offerings,” he said. Excavation still continues and these are only a few examples Rick and his team have uncovered. They think instead of common people, visitors were elite pilgrims, local leaders from far away parts of the Central Andes. The visitors were looking to justify the elevation of their own authoritarian power. “They’re basically in a process of developing a hierarchy, a real social structure that has strong political power at the top,” Rick said. He believes Chavin was where human psychology was analyzed and experiments were held to see how people reacted to certain stimuli. Hence the rituals were effective and dramatic in altering ideas about the nature of human authoritative relationships.
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Environment, Innovation, News, Featurable
According to a new UBC study, mushrooms could take up a new role as sustainable building material. Who could imagine mushrooms in their furniture? In a cutting-edge design project, six new stylish benches have been placed outside the UBC bookstore, assembled from light-coloured honeycomb-shaped bricks. These bricks are then placed under a top of clear acrylic. The bricks are very much alive, grown from a mix of Oyster mushroom spores and alder sawdust packed into moulds. Assistant professor at UBC School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Joe Dahmen, and his partner in work and life, Amber frid-Jimenez, Canada research Chair in Design and Technology at Emily Carr University of Art and Design, came up with this design when expecting their second child. While working on an architectural installment made of fabricated polystyrene blocks — which are not the most benign material —  they decided to look into more eco-friendly options. “Amber couldn’t get near the thing because it was so toxic,” Dahmen said. “It got me thinking that there must be a more natural material that would still enable a similar range of expression.”

In their search, Dahmen and Frid-Jimenez discovered the world of mycelium biocomposites. The product is a resistant material with qualities similar to polystyrene foams. Mycelium bicomposites are at risk of contamination by mould and bacteria if they are over half-metre in thickness. To overcome this obstacle, Dahmen created a new process inspired from the wasps’ nest. “I was really amazed at the honeycomb structure, because it’s a highly efficient way of occupying space,” he said. “It’s scalable, it can go in any direction, and it’s extremely spatially efficient.” “Their biggest application in the long run is in architecture and construction,” said Dahmen. “The average age of commercial buildings in North America is under 40 years. If we could imagine construction materials that add positive value to ecosystems as they break down, we have a whole new paradigm for the way we approach buildings, at a time when we’re demolishing most buildings long before they wear out.” According to Dahmen mycelium bicomposites could be used instead of polystyrene, from packaging to building insulation. “Styrofoam is a material that functions for a short amount of time as packaging, and then spends hundreds, if not thousands, of years in a landfill,” he added. Mycelium bicomposites not only require less energy to grow but also completely decompose when composted. They also help break down other materials in the waste stream and make them accessible to other organisms. An American company recently signed a contract to supply Ikea with mycelium-based packaging.  The method had yet to be done in Canada.

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Health
According to a new UBC study, adding natural elements to playgrounds like grass, bamboo and sand can change it into an imaginative playground for children leading to reduced depression signs. The study included 46 children between the ages of two and five and was conducted over six months in 2014 in two Vancouver daycare centers. New features such as grass, sand and water were added to the outdoor facilities of the daycares. Scientists then observed the children’s behaviour before and after the change and again two weeks following the transformation. “Both play spaces were quite plain and were really just open spaces, dotted with a play set or two,” said lead author and UBC landscape architecture professor Susan Herrington in a statemtn. “We transformed the play spaces using the seven C’s principles, which highlight the importance of concepts like character, context and change in designing great play areas.” The modified environment resulted in an increase in the children’s activity on the playgrounds. Herrington said many kids would just wander around without any particular interest or do the same activity over and over again. “After the redesign, they were much more energetic and creative, exploring their environment, touching things, inventing games and interacting with their peers a lot more.” The study also resulted in happier children with a decline in depressive behaviours. “Depressive symptoms like looking sad or not smiling much went down after the modifications. The videos showed kids much more engaged in play and engaged in positive ways with each other,” said co-researcher Mariana Brussoni, an associate professor in UBC’s school of population and public health and pediatrics. Brussoni further added, these changes made the kids less dependent on their teachers. When spending time in the new play spaces the interaction with the adults was decreased to 7% compared to 19% before the redesign. “Our study shows that you don’t even need a huge budget to add nature into a space—you can be creative with just a few inexpensive twists,” said Herrington.
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Health, Politics, News
According to a new UBC study, all Canadians especially the lowest-income groups should have dental care as part of their basic health care plan. Researchers surveyed 567 clients from four major health care clinics in Ontario and British Columbia that served a large number of Aboriginal and low-income groups. Close to half (46 percent) of the participants considered their oral health being fair to poor and about the same number (44 Percent) said they often have pain in their mouth and teeth. “Those numbers are three times higher than the general Canadian population as reported by the Canadian Health Measures Survey–clearly, the people we interviewed face tremendous oral health issues,” said UBC nursing professor Annette Browne, who led the study. Browne said many of the participants may have underestimated their dental issues mainly because they were already tackling other social and health problems due to their financial burden.   The research also revealed that individuals with fair oral health had difficulty eating a variety of foods due to missing teeth. Co-researcher and UBC PhD graduate, Bruce Wallace, says the findings indicate the necessity for affordable dental services for some of Canada’s low-income groups. Wallace said, economically disadvantaged groups have no dental insurance and have only access to public dental health benefits. Therefore, they often skip dental work due to the cost and other problems. “No one should have to depend on charitable dentistry or volunteer dental clinics. We need to integrate oral health benefits within universal health insurance and consider offering dental care in alternate health care settings, such as community health care centres,” said Wallace.
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