How richly sums have decked thee
Festive mathematics students have created a formula for the perfectly decorated Christmas tree. Members of the University of Sheffield's maths society, Sums, calculated the amount of baubles, tinsel and lights needed, as well as the size of the essential star on top. Department store Debenhams set Sheffield the challenge to create the formula, which would mean that a 1.8m (6ft) Christmas tree would need 37 baubles, 9.19m of tinsel, 5.65m of lights and an 18cm star or angel to achieve the perfect look.
History of support in Ukrainian
Universities from the UK, the Czech Republic and Spain will work together to improve facilities for students in four Ukrainian universities. Northumbria University, Tomas Bata University in Zlín, and the University of Cordóba have been granted £700,000 from the European Union's Tempus fund for the project. Over the next three years, the partners will establish centres for student support services in Kiev, Lviv, Donetsk and Kharkiv universities, and develop work-placement opportunities for students.
A UK university campus in Malaysia has been opened officially. Heriot-Watt University's campus in Putrajaya, launched on 3 December, is its second outside the UK (it has an outpost in Dubai). MBA students will start their studies there in January 2013, and from September the campus will offer MSc courses in topics including energy, quantity surveying and business psychology. The campus, still under construction, will be fully operational in 2014. Heriot-Watt hopes it will house up to 4,000 undergraduates and postgraduates.
Outgoing gorillas live longer than their less sociable peers, mirroring findings in humans, researchers have found. A team from the University of Edinburgh, which studied the personality of 298 western lowland gorillas in North American zoos over the course of 18 years, found that those displaying behaviours such as sociability, play, curiosity and activity had better survival rates. The apes' personalities were assessed by keepers and volunteers who knew them well, and were scored on four personality categories: extraversion, neuroticism, dominance and agreeableness.
Queen Mary, University of London
Pinch? That's nearly an armful
Some of the cheeses sold in British supermarkets are saltier than seawater. Scientists from Cash (Consensus Action on Salt and Health) at Queen Mary, University of London found "unnecessarily high levels" of salt in some cheeses after looking at 772 products. A number, including Roquefort, feta and halloumi, were found to be saltier by concentration than seawater. Meanwhile, some Cheddars were found to contain more salt than a packet of crisps per 30g serving. Katharine Jenner, campaign director of Cash, said: "We know most cheese is high in fat; however, we often add it to our meals without thinking how much salt it contains." Cheese is the third-biggest contributor of salt to the British diet, after bread and bacon.
See you in the funny papers
A doctoral student is hoping to revive the golden age of comic books with the launch of LOAf, a magazine aimed at "big kids" and "little adults". LOAf is the brainchild of Becky Palmer, an illustration PhD student at Anglia Ruskin University, and Rosie Faragher, a Bristol-based artist, illustrator and writer. It is aimed at 9- to 12-year-olds and includes a mixture of stories and puzzles produced by artists - including many Anglia Ruskin graduates - plus contributions from young readers. Ms Palmer graduated from Anglia Ruskin last month with an MA in children's book illustration.
Data mining for precious growth
A centre that will lead a government drive to make the most of publicly available data has officially opened. The Open Data Institute, founded by University of Southampton professors Nigel Shadbolt and Sir Tim Berners-Lee, hopes to use the information to generate economic growth. Four start-up businesses are already working within the centre, in Shoreditch, East London, which receives partial funding from the Technology Strategy Board and was supported through its start-up phase by Southampton.
Clean break from dirty energy
A high-tech, £2 million energy laboratory has been opened officially at a Bedfordshire university. Cranfield University's Energy Technology Laboratory houses a range of near-industrial-scale equipment for the research and development of clean and renewable energy technologies. The facilities will support research into carbon capture and transport systems, clean fossil-fuel technologies, bioenergy, and energy from waste. John Oakey, professor of energy technology and head of the centre, said the equipment would enable researchers to develop and test ideas through to pre-commercial scale across a wide spectrum of energy technologies.
Newman University College, Birmingham
Learn on the job
A Birmingham university college has launched what it claims is the first professionally based, two-year degree programme to help youth and community workers develop their skills and gain professional recognition. The course at Newman University College, Birmingham, which is set to become a full university, will lead to the award of a BA in youth and community work. The courses are open to students with significant experience in the sector and will begin in January 2013. Mike Seal, programme leader in youth and community studies at Newman, said the full-time and part-time courses would enable "those already employed in the sector to continue their professional training and progress their careers without taking a long break, or any break at all, from the jobs they love".
Shelter from the storm
Academics seeking refuge from war-torn countries are being given the opportunity to finish their studies. The University of Wolverhampton has agreed to set aside £15,000 a year to sponsor an academic or scholar who is at risk in their home country to complete a PhD. The programme is being organised through the Council for Assisting Refugee Academics. Geoff Layer, Wolverhampton's vice-chancellor, said: "Our core values are centred on being ethical, fair and inclusive, and in supporting a refugee academic from a war-torn country we hope to be able to set individuals on a new path that enables them to create a brighter future for themselves."
A new space mission will study planets beyond our solar system. The University of Warwick is playing a key role in the Cheops - Characterising Exoplanets Satellite - mission, which will be launched in 2017 and target nearby bright stars already known to have planets in orbit. Don Pollacco, professor of physics at Warwick, will be the UK's academic lead on the mission, recently announced by the European Space Agency. He said that Cheops "will help us understand the variety of different planets we're starting to discover and therefore the likelihood that rocky planets like the Earth are widespread".
This sporting life of leadership
Academics are working with the British Council and the Youth Sport Trust to help develop teacher training in physical education in Iraq. The University of Chichester and Sheffield Hallam University are helping to develop a curriculum that will teach leadership and teaching skills for PE in a project set to last until December 2013. Academics recently visited the Iraqi state of Kurdistan to hold workshops and share their approaches. As a result of the project, Salahaddin University has established a memorandum of understanding with Chichester.
Let us get straight to the point
Thousands of research article summaries alongside discussion and media coverage of scholarship will soon be available through an online service. PhD student Jake Fairnie from University College London, and Anna Remington, a junior research fellow at the University of Oxford, have created MiniManuscript, a site where academics can showcase their research, with readers offered Wikipedia-style summaries. The pair came up with the idea when having to plough through large numbers of research papers during their doctoral work. At this year's UCL Awards for Enterprise, they received a Bright Ideas Award of £7,500 to develop the site.
No invitation necessary
"Once a man gatecrashed another man's party. 'Who are you?' the host asked him. 'I'm the one who saved you the trouble of sending an invitation!' he replied." This is among the jokes in a humorous guide to gatecrashing parties written by a renowned 11th-century Muslim scholar and preacher, which has been translated by Emily Selove, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Manchester. The preacher, al-Khatib al-Baghdadi, wrote the book to remind readers "that every serious-minded person needs to take a break", she said. "It offers a rather different perspective to the austere image that Islam has from that period."