Campus round-up - 8 August 2013

August 8, 2013

Source: Johan Reinhard

Gateway drugs to sacrifice

Children sacrificed by the Incas were sedated with alcohol and cocaine, archaeologists have confirmed. A team from the University of Bradford analysed hair samples from a 13-year-old girl known as the “Llullaillaco Maiden”, whose frozen 500-year-old corpse was discovered near the 6,700m summit of a volcano on the Chilean-Argentine border. The researchers discovered that her consumption of alcohol and coca leaves rose markedly in the final year of her life, indicating that she had been earmarked for sacrifice. She was found slumped forward, suggesting that she was placed in her burial chamber while heavily sedated before dying of exposure.

University of Sunderland
Here’s one we bought earlier

The BBC Television Centre set of long-running children’s programme Blue Peter has been bought by a university in an online auction for £2,400. The University of Sunderland will move the iconic set to its St Peter’s riverside campus in September for use by media production students. The set was left behind when much of the BBC’s TV output was relocated to Salford last year, and was auctioned off with other Television Centre memorabilia. Sunderland has said that schools and local production companies are welcome to visit the set after it has been installed.

Queen Mary, University of London
Rabbit? The only way is Essex

The Cockney accent is now more likely to be heard in Essex than in London’s East End, a linguistic expert has said. Those living within the “sound of Bow Bells”– modern-day Tower Hamlets, where the Cockney dialect originated – are more likely to use a new variety of “multicultural London English”, according to Sue Fox, research fellow in Queen Mary, University of London’s department of linguistics. That is because a vast number of white working-class families have migrated to places such as Barking and Basildon, while a third of the families living in Tower Hamlets hail from the Bangladeshi community. “With the multicultural diversity wenow see in the East End, the Cockney label would seem to be becoming less and less relevant to the people living there,” said Dr Fox, who spoke at the Cockney Heritage Festival, which ran from 18 to  July.

Birmingham/Lincoln
No room for financial manoeuvre

A fifth of Britons would have to borrow money if they needed £200 at short notice, research shows. The squeeze on incomes brought about by the recession means that some people have “little capacity to meet unexpected expenses, even relatively small ones”, according to a report by academics at the universities of Birmingham and Lincoln. The Financial Inclusion Annual Monitoring Report 2013 found that most people are cutting back on spending, the poorest 30 per cent of households are finding it difficult to manage and unsecured borrowing is up by 10 per cent.

University of Warwick
Bad judgement calls

Academics are helping police to reduce the number of road accidents caused by distracted drivers. Dorset Police have enlisted the help of psychologists at the University of Warwick to research the effects of mobile phone use on driving ability and to develop tools to encourage drivers to be more attentive. PhD student Daniel Gunnell will focus on people attending driver awareness courses and will devise exercises to show just how badly distraction affects driving.

University of Bristol
Health song finally sung

A multimillion-pound health research centre named after an “unsung medical pioneer” has been launched. The Elizabeth Blackwell Institute at the University of Bristol aims to accelerate the transition of research from the lab to the surgery, bringing together disciplines as varied as engineering and mathematics with community and clinical sciences. The centre is named after Elizabeth Blackwell, the 19th-century pioneer of public health improvements, who is better known in the US than in her birthplace of Bristol. The centre, co-funded by the Wellcome Trust, also plans to collaborate with patients, funding bodies, the NHS and industry.

University of Portsmouth
Red Planet, red faces

A set of Martian meteorites are 4 billion years younger than previously thought. Academics at the University of Portsmouth and a team of international collaborators made the discovery, which has been cited as evidence that Mars could still be geologically active. The research suggests that the rocks, housed by the Royal Ontario Museum in Canada, were formed 200 million years ago from a lava flow rather than the ancient Martian crust, and were launched towards Earth less than 20 million years ago. The researchers determined the age of the rocks by directing energy beams at tiny crystals inside them.

Plymouth University
Best-practice paragon

Cross-community efforts to tackle the effects of dementia were recognised at a ceremony last week. The Plymouth Dementia Action Alliance – which involves Plymouth University, Plymouth City Council, Plymouth Hospitals NHS Trust, the emergency services and local businesses – celebrated its first Dementia Friendly City Awards on 2 August. More than 30 organisations, ranging from schools and media to care homes and public bodies, received awards for their work, including efforts to support dementia sufferers, research treatment and raise awareness. The city’s efforts have been recognised by the Alzheimer’s Society, with Plymouth being used as an example of best practice for other communities across the country.

Royal Holloway, University of London
History play

After discovering the minutes of Gestapo meetings, a lecturer was inspired to write a play for BBC radio. Adam Ganz, senior lecturer in media arts at Royal Holloway, University of London, found the documents as he researched the murder of his great-grandfather Felix Ganz in Auschwitz in 1944. The minutes, which detail how the German businessman was imprisoned for not wearing the yellow Star of David badge that Jews were forced to display, helped Mr Ganz, an established screenwriter, to pen The Gestapo Minutes, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on 31 July. Set in the German city of Mainz in 1945, it tells the story of an imagined encounter between the Jewish leader Michel Oppenheim and Gestapo officer Gerhard Schwoerer. The latter begs the former for a reference to save him from a US war crimes execution.

St George’s, University of London
Heart of matter is black or white

Screening methods used to detect possible heart conditions are misdiagnosing many healthy black athletes, research says. Every week, 12 seemingly fit and healthy young people under the age of 35 die suddenly from unsuspected heart conditions caused by inherited structural abnormalities. Last year, Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba nearly joined their number during a televised FA Cup match, but was saved by immediate medical assistance. Scientists at St George’s, University of London have found that black athletes are 10 times more likely to be erroneously diagnosed and subsequently inappropriately advised to abandon sporting careers than their white counterparts. Cardiac experts often fail to take account of the differences between the hearts of white and black athletes, the study says.

Leeds Metropolitan University
Waiting for rebrand

A university has applied to the Privy Council for permission to change its name. Leeds Metropolitan University wants to be known instead as Leeds Beckett University. The name, which derives from the institution’s campus in Leeds’ Beckett Park, has been chosen after a consultation with “stakeholders”. Leeds Met’s vice-chancellor, Susan Price, explained that the university had “outgrown” its existing name. Leeds Headingley University and Leeds Ridings University were also considered. A 2008 application to adopt the name Leeds Carnegie University was shelved after the resignation of Simon Lee, the former polytechnic’s previous vice-chancellor.

Bangor University
Banks tarnish flawless reputation

Bank lending practices are racist, with white households finding it easier to access loans, credit cards and consumer finance than ethnic minorities, according to research. Phil Molyneux, professor of banking and finance at Bangor University, has found that non-white households are less likely to be able to access consumer credit than white ones, even if they have comparable credentials. Asian applicants find it more difficult to get loans, while black households are more likely to be excluded from the credit card market, the research says.

University of Edinburgh
The pipes, the pipes are calling

A Scottish university has bought a collection of 26 historical bagpipes from France to display as part of an exhibition that charts 250 years of the instrument. The University of Edinburgh, which will display the collection free of charge throughout this month, aims to show that bagpipes are not just a Scottish joy: instruments from Northumberland and the Republic of Ireland will be showcased alongside Scottish variants. One of the more unusual items is a Victorian walking stick that features a chanter and a drone, enabling gentlemen to play music during country pursuits.

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