Imagination still alive and well
Computer games, pop music and television are enriching rather than destroying the imaginative games that children play, according to a study. Researchers from the Institute of Education, University of East London and University of Sheffield observed children over two years in playgrounds in Sheffield and London. They found that today's children act out TV shows such as The Jeremy Kyle Show or Britain's Got Talent and engage in play based on computer games featuring scenarios of combat and warriors. But the children rarely simply copy what they have memorised; instead, they transform, recombine and subvert. As part of the project, the British Library has launched an online archive of children's games from 1900 to the present day.
Listen to who's talking
It may be good to talk, but what does the means of communication say about a household? This is the question academics from the University of Essex are hoping to answer with a new study into telephone calling behaviour. The research, which is being funded by BT, involves looking at the incoming and outgoing telephone conversations of 400 households around the UK - who they called, who called them, when and how long they spoke for and even at what charge rate. The six-month study is exploring correlations between the patterns of telephone use and the demographics of the households, and is part of ongoing research at Essex into how social network structures change over time.
Facebook here we come
A new academic "incubator" is to be funded solely by private sector investment. Method, a design and innovation consultancy based in San Francisco, has linked up with Central Saint Martins to create the Method Design Lab. It aims to bring up to 20 innovations to market each year, and investors will have the chance to acquire a share in the new ventures. Jane Rapley, college head, said: "Innovation is at the core of what we do. There is no reason why the UK should not produce the next Facebook, Google or Apple."
Look behind you, Heisenberg
A children's pantomime written by a physicist has been staged as part of the York Festival of Science and Technology. Featuring songs, dance and live music, the pantomime explains concepts such as Heisenberg's uncertainty principle and electron spin while telling the tale of an electron called Ellie who becomes a star in a "quantum circus". Yvette Hancock, a lecturer in the University of York's department of physics, based the pantomime on a children's book she had written. She also played the lead role of Ellie, with a supporting cast of university staff and students.
All-singing new venue
A redesigned students' union building costing £17 million has been opened by Aaron Porter, the outgoing president of the National Union of Students. The University of Leicester's Percy Gee Building has been remodelled around a central atrium, with new facilities that include shops, a restaurant and a 1,750-capacity live music venue. Mr Porter, who is a Leicester graduate, also unveiled a sculpture by artist Deirdre Hubbard. "The University of Leicester can now proudly boast one of the best - if not the very best - student facilities to accompany an exceptional student experience," he said.
Sir Paul puts out a call
Fashion designer Sir Paul Smith is offering students the chance to design items for his shops. Art and design students at Nottingham Trent University will have the opportunity to be involved in all areas of design, including fashion, photography, fine art, graphic design, marketing and interior architecture. Briefs include designing a free-standing changing room and finding creative ways to display socks, ties and scarves. The winners will receive a cash prize and their designs could be introduced in Paul Smith shops. The university hopes the competition will become an annual event.
Bilingual shades of the blues
Learning a foreign language changes the way we see the world, new research suggests. Panos Athanasopoulos, lecturer in applied linguistics at Newcastle University, has found that bilingual speakers think differently from those who use only one language. Working with Japanese and English speakers, Dr Athanasopoulos measured language use and proficiency against how individuals perceived the colour blue. Those who spoke only Japanese - which has words for different shades of the colour that are not found in English - were more likely to distinguish between light and dark blue.
Aquaculture might go under
Union members in Scotland are calling for a university to review its decision to axe jobs that could "effectively shut" the only aquaculture institute in the country. The University of Stirling is proposing staff cuts at its Institute of Aquaculture, reducing headcount by approximately 20 - down to a level that academics fear will lead to its closure. The University and College Union said the centre worked on Scottish government priorities, including supporting the Scottish fishing industry and feeding rural communities in Africa. The cuts form part of a financial plan to claw back a deficit of £2 million in the department.
Queen's University Belfast
Cash for the brightest and best
More than £300,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to some of the brightest new students in Northern Ireland as an investment in the future prosperity of the country. Queen's University Belfast divided the sum among 230 first-year students, including awards of £1,000 for those who gained three A grades at A level and are enrolling for a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics. The top scholarship, worth £7,500, was awarded to the student with the strongest A-level results entering each of the institution's three faculties.
Engagement with success
A university has won international recognition for a project that has encouraged 1,500 students to get involved in community projects as part of their courses. The University of Brighton placed second in the MacJannet Prize for Global Citizenship and will collect $2,500 (£1,554) to help support its student community engagement project. The contest is run by the US-based Talloires Network, an international association of institutions which strengthen civic roles of higher education. The awards will be presented in Madrid in June.
Flying through ancient Rome
Students, schoolchildren and members of the public will be able to learn more about Rome's history through a new digital model of the ancient city. The 3D fly-through model - the only one of its kind developed in the UK and due for completion later this year - stems from an idea for a teaching tool conceived by Matthew Nicholls from the University of Reading's department of Classics. The model will show the city as it was around AD315, including thousands of buildings such as houses, shops, temples, baths, stadiums and streets, and will cover about 1,370 (virtual) hectares.
Spreading the knowledge
Academics are aiming to expand their audiences with the launch of a project that will see them speak at local clubs, schools and community groups. The University of Birmingham's College of Arts and Law is behind the scheme, which will allow groups to book one of 60 academic speakers. Michael Whitby, pro vice-chancellor and head of the college, said: "The Birmingham speaker programme ensures our university remains a civic institution, serving its community by sharing the research produced for the benefit of all."
Anatomy lessons over the phone
A new iPhone app offers learning in a virtual classroom for medical students and professionals wanting to refresh their knowledge of anatomy. Peter Abrahams, professor of clinical anatomy at Warwick Medical School, provides 38 short teaching videos via the app, using real, plastinated prosections of human lungs, the thorax, and the arm from shoulder to hand. The classes are not restricted to Warwick students, and Professor Abrahams said they should be "incredibly useful for anyone from senior nurses to surgeons".
Tasting the rainbow
A university is hosting a conference on synaesthesia, a condition in which stimulation in one sense triggers a parallel experience in another. Mary Spiller, a psychology lecturer and expert on synaesthesia at the University of East London, said: "When some people hear music they also see colours, or for others words can trigger tastes. It can be described as tasting shapes and hearing colours, or even hearing, smelling or tasting the colours of the rainbow." The conference takes place at UEL from 25 to March.
A lament for a long-dead hamster, a tale of gondola-travelling geese and a humorous SOS from a plane crash survivor at sea are among the entries for a university's postcard competition. The best examples will feature in the University of Sussex's exhibition marking a conference celebrating the art of postcards and letters, on 24-26 March. More than 100 writers, artists, publishers and academics are expected to attend the event, Picture this: Postcards and Letters Beyond Text.