Campus round-up

July 5, 2012

Uclan/Manchester Metropolitan

Udderly unique

Archaeology students have excavated an example of a woman buried with a cow. The students from the University of Central Lancashire and Manchester Metropolitan University found the woman in an Anglo-Saxon grave in Oakington, Cambridgeshire. The human skeleton was accompanied by brooches and hundreds of amber and decorated glass beads; the animal skeleton was initially believed to be equine because there are 31 known British examples of male warriors buried with horses. "The cow burial is unique in Europe," said Duncan Sayer, lecturer in archaeology at Uclan, "which makes this an incredibly important find."

University of St Andrews

Grand crypt auto

Academics have created a virtual reconstruction of an ancient cathedral that will allow people to navigate the building as though they were playing a computer game. University of St Andrews scholars launched the online reconstruction of St Andrews Cathedral, in which participants can create their own avatars and explore the building, on 24 June.

Those exploring the software will also be able to "talk" to representations of historical figures including Robert the Bruce.

University of Aberdeen

'B' is for 'bestiary'

A medieval "encyclopedia" of real and mythical animals has gone on display for the first time. The Aberdeen Bestiary, created in England around AD1200, is part of an exhibition titled Gilded Beasts at the University of Aberdeen. Jane Geddes, chair in history of art and academic adviser to the exhibition, said: "The Bestiary is like a medieval encyclopedia and was written to appeal to the general public and to teach children how to read."

University of Edinburgh

Defences are down

Those infected with "snail fever" are left with compromised immune systems and so are less resistant to other diseases, a study has found. People in rural Zimbabwe who had the fever, which is caused by a parasitic worm, were examined by scientists from the University of Edinburgh, who found that they had reduced levels of dendritic cells, which help the body "remember" infections. This could explain why sufferers are less capable of fighting other infections such as HIV and malaria.

University of Sheffield

The rich are getting richer

Inequality in the UK is at its highest level since the Second World War, an academic has calculated. Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, said in the Beveridge Memorial Lecture for the Royal Statistical Society that inequality dropped significantly between 1910 and 1979, when the richest 1 per cent of Britons accounted for 6 per cent of income. But it has risen dramatically since then, with the richest now taking home 15 per cent. "The last time the best-off took as big a share was in 1940, two years before the publication of the Beveridge Report...the basis of the welfare state," he said.

University of Manchester

Checkmate's not for Turing

Chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov has paid tribute to computing pioneer Alan Turing, despite beating his chess-playing program in just 16 moves. Mr Kasparov played the match live on stage at the University of Manchester's Alan Turing Centenary Conference. The prototype program was written in the 1950s without the aid of a computer, but Mr Kasparov said it would have given an amateur player "some serious problems...I would compare it to an early car: you might laugh at it (now) but it's still an incredible achievement."

University of Nottingham

Cleaner signal

Researchers have developed a computer program that helps Chinese students understand spoken English in "non-optimal" listening conditions. The team from the University of Nottingham's schools of psychology, education and English developed the application to address Chinese students' difficulties in differentiating consonant sounds at the beginning and end of words, particularly when the speaker has an accent or the conversation is taking place in a noisy environment. The team has secured funding to commercialise the program, known as Spoken English Discrimination, and Nottingham hopes to use it in its language teaching.

Anglia Ruskin University

Planet-saving principles

The government has unveiled a set of principles developed by a university to help mobilise private investment into climate change solutions. Aled Jones, director of the Global Sustainability Institute at Anglia Ruskin University, chaired a working group of the Capital Markets Climate Initiative, set up by Greg Barker, minister for energy and climate change. The initiative is designed to support private finance for low-carbon technologies, solutions and infrastructure. Dr Jones' group has developed a set of principles for policymakers to foster a common understanding of what constitutes "investment-grade policy" in developed and developing countries.

University of Portsmouth

Dickens' women

Another side to Charles Dickens' life is being explored this week as part of celebrations to mark the 200th anniversary of his birth. The University of Portsmouth's Centre for Studies in Literature is hosting The Other Dickens, a conference focusing on the women in the author's life, both fictional and real, and with whom he had sometimes unsavoury relationships. Events hosted in the city of Dickens' birth will include a lecture on the life of his wife, Catherine Hogarth, and a performance of Dickens' Women. The one-woman show, written and performed by Miriam Margolyes, covers 23 of the writer's best-loved characters.

Brighton/Liverpool John Moores

Paying the typical penalty

A spot of psychology could have given England the edge they lacked as they lost to Italy in the Uefa Euro 2012 quarter-finals, scholars have claimed. Research from the University of Brighton and Liverpool John Moores University measured how accurately and confidently goalkeepers could read the direction of penalty-takers' shots. The study, published in the British Journal of Psychology, compares goalkeeper responses to normal kicks with the exaggerated movements of "obvious" and deceptive penalties. It found that the latter type leads to more conscious (often slower) decision-making. Nick Smeeton, senior lecturer at Brighton's Chelsea School of Sports, said that in future the England team might do well to practise penalties that are designed to fool opponents. One of the penalties scored against England involved a deceptive "chip" by Italy's star player, Andrea Pirlo.

University of Bath

The social sex

Women use social-networking websites more than men, a study has found. The research from the University of Bath's department of psychology surveyed 500 students and found that men were more likely to visit entertainment, game and music websites whereas women preferred social networks. It also says that the apparent gender difference in internet use is more marked than 10 years ago, before the advent of sites such as Twitter. Researchers also found that students on average spend about 3.4 hours a day online.

Lamda/Queen Mary

Anatomy of a performance

Students are set to perform a play inspired by a medical museum at the venue itself. Written by students at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, the play will take place at the Bart's Pathology Museum, based at Queen Mary, University of London, on 5 July. The story is a part-fictional, part-factual account of the museum in West Smithfield, which opened in 1879 and contains about 5,000 medical specimens. Among its exhibits is the skull of John Bellingham, the assassin of Prime Minister Spencer Perceval, who was "hanged and anatomised" for his crime in 1812. The play "investigates the individual histories of the exhibits, as well as the history of the building itself", said Lamda's performance director Naomi Jones.

Kingston University

Snoop top dog

Security experts have scooped an industry award for designing a CCTV system to track "suspicious" people. Computer science specialists at Kingston University, who developed their software with security companies Ipsotek and BAE Systems, received the CCTV System of the Year prize at the International Fire and Security Exhibition and Conference Awards, held in Birmingham. The Tag and Track system enables operators to pinpoint individuals and track them over long distances using different cameras.

We really love your brain

Caffeine crystals, a chicken embryo's vascular system and cancer cells in motion were among the winners of the Wellcome Image Awards 2012, presented on 20 June. The overall winner, taken by Robert Ludlow, a medical photographer at University College London's Institute of Neurology, shows a living human brain during a surgical procedure to treat a patient with epilepsy. The 16 winning images (which also included the close-up of a moth fly featured in last week's Times Higher Education) were selected according to their visual appeal, technical excellence and ability to convey the fascinating nature of science. All the images will be on display in London's Wellcome Collection until December.

1. Caffeine crystals

2. Lavender leaf

3. Bacteria biofilm

4. Intracranial recording for epilepsy

5. Desmid algae (Micrasterias denticulata)

6. Cancer cells in motion

7. Chicken embryo vascular system

8. Diatom frustule

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