They came, they quizzed, they conquered

McGill may have lost its bragging rights over the Maclean's university rankings in recent years ("We're number three!" just doesn't have the same cachet as "We're number one!"), but thanks to a quick-witted crew of professors, the University can now lay claim to a prize that eluded the grasp of some of the finest universities in the land-the Discovery Channel's Golden Brain Award.

The network's flagship series,, organized a science competition pitting teams of professors from different universities against each other. The McGill squad bested colleagues from Lakehead, Memorial and the University of Toronto on route to a Golden Brain championship match against the University of Manitoba that aired last month.

The McGill team racked up the points against the game but outmatched Manitobans, solving queries about recent genetic discoveries and the Loch Ness Monster. The University's squad even had a chance to be true to their school, backing the home boy in a question about scientific integrity. When asked which famed scientist was never accused of fiddling with research results, the McGill team unhesitatingly opted for onetime McGill professor Ernest Rutherford over the likes of Gregor Mendel, Issac Newton and Galileo (it turned out to be the right answer, too).

McGill bested Manitoba 20 to 10 and the only time the McGill team looked truly dumbfounded was when host Jay Ingram suggested that they might want to celebrate their triumph by giving each other "high fives." After a few awkward seconds, the McGill squad waved instead. Representing McGill at the championship match were physics professors John Crawford and Dominic Ryan, earth and planetary sciences professor Olivia Jenson and plant science professor Don Smith. Faculty who represented McGill in previous matches include plant science professors Deborah Buzsard and Tim Paulitz and mathematics professor Wilbur Jonsson. They might not know "high fives," but they sure know their science.

The way a gentleman stares

Girl watching has been around since. . . well, since there have been girls (and boys to watch them). But the pursuit's heyday was unquestionably the 1960s and early '70s, says Aurora Wallace, a communications doctoral student. "The phenomenon of girl watching just doesn't exist in such an organized and professional way anymore."

Wallace delivered a paper on the subject at the Learneds Society last month. A scholar whose principal interest is in how women relate to urban environments, Wallace says girl watching has an interesting history.

"It all ties in to the emergence of the miniskirt. When miniskirts first became popular, they were linked to the women's liberation movement. It was a protest against the oppressive fashions of the period." As women began strolling about in their miniskirts, Wallace says many "were excited about getting all this attention from men on the streets. Later, feminists started rethinking this."

For their part, many girl watchers took great pride in their discretion. The New York-based American Society of Girl Watchers, which boasted a membership of 20,000, published how-to books for novices, counseling subtlety and good manners.

"You were supposed to look, but you weren't supposed to make women feel uncomfortable. No whistling, no leering, no ogling. You weren't supposed to move your head, only your eyes," says Wallace.

Thanks to a wind tunnel effect that often made women's skirts ride up, Place Ville Marie was one popular locale for local girl watching. Another was the long cement ridge outside McGill's McLennan library overlooking the football field, which was dubbed the Gaza Strip. "It got that name because you could sit there and gaze at the women going by."

Wallace says her next step might be to scan student newspapers of the period, to search for articles critical of girl watching. "There is very little anti-girl watching sentiment in the mainstream media. If there was any oppositional discourse, I suspect I'll find it in the student papers."