News Shorts: Gerald McCaughey, 1925-2012
Gerald McCaughey, 1925–2012
The University of Alberta is mourning the June 23 death of Gerald McCaughey, a decorated airman of the Second World War who left the skies to become an English professor, a choice that led him to Edmonton. He was 86.
Born in Montreal on Oct. 4, 1925, McCaughey served in Canada, in the U.K. and on the high seas as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Navy’s Fleet Air Arm. He flew more than 25 aircraft, accumulating over 2,500 flying hours, and was awarded Campaign Stars and Service Medals for his role in the Second World War.
After the war, McCaughey served four years with 401 Squadron in Westmount, Que., and with the Royal Canadian Naval Reserve.
An alumnus of McGill University and University of Washington, Seattle, McCaughey landed a job as an English professor at military college Royal Roads in 1952 before joining the U of A’s English department, a post he would hold for 24 years before retiring in 1987.
Pulled from the pole position
The U of A Formula SAE team’s June 20 week in Nebraska at the Formula SAE competition came to a disappointing close when the car’s innovative monocoque carbon-fibre chassis—made from honeycomb material sandwiched between two layers of carbon fibre—was deemed unfit to race.
“Although we had completed all the required material testing to build a composite chassis, the material we made seemed not strong enough,” said Anthony Stielow, FSAE’s external relations manager.
He said the honeycomb material made from aluminum was so light and thin that it compressed slightly when force was applied, making an audible crinkle.
“With no other word for it, the weekend was heartbreaking to many of us who have put in so much work over the past year to make this vehicle a success,” he said, adding the team has made the painful decision to withdraw from a competition in Germany they had planned to attend in late July. “We always had a plan to take the 2012 car and fine-tune it for 2013, and now more than ever we will be doing that.”
Researchers better map the depth of 2-D images
Electrical and computer engineering professor Dileepan Joseph and PhD student Adam Harrison have developed a method to more accurately estimate the 3-D depth of objects presented in 2-D images.
The pair first recognized the limitations of existing solutions for mapping the depth of 2-D images while working on their virtual reflected-light microscopy system, and saw an opportunity to develop a better method for computers to extract 3-D data from flat images.
Though humans are able to easily separate illumination from the shape and texture of an object, Joseph says computers can have a difficult time doing this from 2-D images. Existing methods for computer vision depth mapping use a series of images taken from the same viewpoint, but illuminated from different directions. This reveals surface geometry and reflective properties. However, image noise—an unavoidable phenomenon in digital imaging—can cause computers to estimate depth poorly.
By assuming random noise, and modelling how known images are generated from known illumination interacting with unknown shape and texture, the researchers worked backward mathematically to derive the most likely shape, or depth map, and texture.
What they found is that their new method is insensitive to image noise and produces a more realistic end result than previous methods. Better yet, it’s just as efficient as the methods it outperforms.
Although there’s still work to be done, namely solving problems with shadows and specular or shiny surfaces, Joseph says facial recognition processes and other artificial intelligence applications can benefit from their findings.
Better poultry feed distribution leads to more chicks
Poultry researcher Martin Zuidhof has found that a new feeding system for chickens holds the key to increasing the reproductive capacity of hens.
“In Alberta, hatching egg producers are getting on average about 115 chicks per hen,” explained Zuidhof. “When I was in Columbia in April, I was talking to their producers and they’re averaging 145 chicks per hen. That’s a 30-chicks-per-hen difference. That’s a huge potential that we’re not achieving here in Alberta, and a lot of that has to do with feed distribution, which is what this system addresses.”
Zuidhof received more than $640,000 from the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency and Agriculture and Food Council of Alberta to develop a precision broiler breeder feeding system, which gives chickens a certain amount of feed at specific times.
He said that feed distribution is one of the most difficult aspects to get right, because too little or too much feed can have a negative effect on the birds’ productivity.
“Conservatively, I expect that we will see a five per cent improvement in feed efficiency,” said Zuidhof. “That means that if the Canadian industry were to adopt this technology entirely, it would save 35,000 tons of feed per year.”