Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Dance and Parkinson’s Disease

Dr Peter Lovatt is running a research study into the effects of different types of dance on the symptoms of Parkinson and seeks volunteers to take part. The project examines the relationship between dance and the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. A handful of recent studies has shown that dancing can be good for relieving some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

These studies have found that when people with Parkinson’s engage in several weeks of Tango dancing they show measurable improvements in their balance and walking, improvements that are not shown following several weeks of gym based exercises. Dr Lovatt's study aims to replicate and extend these findings.

Historian Claims Class and Protest History Need to be Revisited

A historian at the University of Hertfordshire claims that historians need to take a fresh look at protest history, particularly now given that protests and demonstrations are in the news again.

In a paper by historian Dr Katrina Navickas entitled What happened to Class? New Histories of Labour and Collective Action in Britain? which will be published in Social History next month (May 2011), Dr Navickas claims that labour historians have moved away from their roots in trade unions and labour history.

“They have moved away from class and are more interested in newer ideas of what the modern Labour movement stands for,” said Dr Navickas. “I think the whole question of class is understudied and it is important for historians to revisit this area.”

Read more

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Friendship and the problem of self-love

Professor John Lippitt, a philosopher at the University of Hertfordshire has just given a public lecture on ‘friendship’ at the Trinity University in San Antonio, USA.

The lecture, which was attended by over 100 people, was part of a series on what philosophy can teach us about friendship. Professor Lippitt was the only scholar from outside north America to be invited.

He chose the theme of ‘Kierkegaard, Friendship and the Problem of Self-love’ as he is currently working on a monograph on the Danish Christian philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard’s views of love and friendship.

In his talk, he discussed some of the philosopher’s key concerns about how friendship is often a form of disguised self-love and how friendship is linked to ‘love of the neighbour’.

“You often hear self-help gurus talk about how important it is to ‘love yourself’”, said Professor Lippitt. “But Kierkegaard thinks it is crucial to grasp that this can be done well or badly. He has much to teach us about the importance of trust, hope and forgiveness in the way we relate both to our friends and ourselves.”

Probably best known for his work on Kierkegaard, Professor Lippitt is also co-editing, along with George Pattison, the Oxford Handbook of Kierkegaard. His books include Humour and Irony in Kierkegaard's Thought (2000) and the Routledge Philosophy Guidebook to Kierkegaard and Fear and Trembling (2003). Other interests include the virtues, the philosophy of love and friendship, the relation between philosophy and theology, and the relevance of philosophy to psychotherapy.

Read more about Professor Lippitt's research

Thursday, 14 April 2011

British Banking - when did the clock start to regulate the working day?

Modern bankers are notorious for working long hours and neglecting their home and personal lives in favour of their careers. New research shows that at least some of their eighteenth-century counterparts were no different.

A study of business practices at the Bank of England has revealed a hard-working culture and shown that success, initially at least, required commitment and long hours. Indeed, the one striking factor that emerges from the study is the extent to which the clock was used to regulate the working day. Moreover, note was frequently taken of the problems that resulted when clerks could not complete tasks by the allotted time and men often worked late into the evening or gave up public holidays to be at their posts to serve the businessmen of eighteenth-century London.

These findings are significant because they paint a picture of life in one of Britain’s chief institutions. But they also offer insights into an issue that has long exercised historians: when did the clock start to regulate the working day?

This research shows that Britain’s growing financial sector led the way in creating a working environment that was dominated by the clock and in encouraging their workforce to see long hours and commitment to career as a virtue.

University launches carbon-neutral compact home

Researchers at the University have used the very latest technology to develop a carbon-neutral compact home called the Cube.

Built from sustainable materials, mostly wood, it is designed to be comfortable and modern and includes a variety of cutting-edge products with low energy use. If registered for the UK Government’s feed-in tariff, the Cube would have no utility bills (other than for a water supply) and would raise around £1,000 per year in income.

The Cube has an internal space of 3x3x3 metres and includes a lounge, with a table and two custom-made chairs, a small double bed (120cm wide), a full-size shower, a kitchen (with energy-efficient fridge, induction hob, re-circulating cooker  hood, sink/drainer, combination microwave oven and storage cupboards), a washing machine and a composting toilet.  Lighting is achieved by ultra-efficient LED lights, and the Cube is heated using an Ecodan air-source heat pump, with heat recovered from extracted air. It has cork flooring and there is two-metre head height throughout.

Dr Mike Page, Director, CUBE Project, said: “The Cube Project is an attempt to show what is possible in terms of low-carbon living, with readily available technology. Other compact pods have been made, but this is the first to integrate the latest technology into the building to make it carbon-neutral over the year.

“Furthermore, none of the low carbon solutions are specific to a small building and could easily be widely adopted by private homeowners, providers of social housing and by businesses.”

The Cube is highly insulated, with a timber-frame shell, interior surfaces of birch plywood, and sweet-chestnut cladding on the exterior.  It has a south-facing monopitch roof, covered with solar panels - when at its permanent home, the south wall is also covered with solar panels. This generating capacity is expected to make the Cube carbon-neutral over the year.

The first prototype Cube, QB1, will be taken to the Edinburgh Science Festival, 9 - 23 April 2011, where it will be displayed to promote eco-friendly living and to showcase the various technologies used.

Walk through the Cube here

Find out more Cube Project website

Wine drinkers unable to tell the difference between expensive and cheapwines

According to a study released today by psychologist Professor Richard Wiseman, people are unable to tell the difference between expensive and inexpensive wines.

A total pf 578 participants at the Edinburgh Science Festival took part in a 'blind' taste challenge. They were offered a range of red and white wines costing less then £5 and other vintages prices between £10 and £30.

Purely by the laws of chance, they should have been able to make a correct guess 50 per cent of the time.

This was exactly the level of accuracy seen, demonstrating that the volunteers could not distinguish between wines by taste alone.

Professor Wiseman said: “These are remarkable results. People were unable to tell expensive from inexpensive wines.

“In these times of financial hardship the message is clear - the inexpensive wines tasted the same as their expensive counterparts.”

The wines tested included cheap and expensive brands of sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, chardonnay, ­merlot, rioja, shiraz and claret. Two champagne labels costing £17.61 and £29.99 were also compared.

Read more

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Students who exercise are less prone to depression and anxiety

The positive relationship between physical activity and mental health has been well documented and research concludes that physical activity has a beneficial effect on general mental health.

It is surprising, however, that there has been very little research into the potential benefits of physical activity on a cohort of individuals who are at risk of mental health problems, namely university students.

In these uncertain economic times, with increasing tuition fees, university students are at higher risk of suffering from mental health problems.

Therefore, we examined 100 undergraduate university students from the Faculty of Education, Humanities and Sciences at the University of Gloucestershire and used the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and Physical Activity Questionnaire, to determine the relationship between anxiety /depression and physical exercise. We published our results in the Journal of Mental Health.

Treating our cohort as a whole, we found that as physical activity levels increased, self-reported levels of anxiety and depression both significantly decreased.  Our findings contribute to the growing body of literature demonstrating the positive effects of physical activity on mental health.

Although, there is still work to be done in this field, our conclusions should be of interest to students wishing to maintain and promote their mental health at university and for universities wishing to safeguard their students’ emotional well-being through the promotion of physical exercise.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Connected Histories Transforms Historical Research

Millions of historical records have become more accessible to the public. Connected Histories provides a single point of access to a wide range of distributed digital resources relating to early modern and nineteenth-century British history.

Connected Histories brings digital humanities research to a new level by providing integrated access to several key resources, moving beyond simple keyword searching to allow structured searching of millions of pages of text by names, places, and dates.

In the process, at the click of a mouse, researchers can find rich bodies of evidence for virtually any topic in British history; whether royal weddings, parliamentary reform movements, famous criminals, or the lives of plebeian Londoners (see examples below).

The Connected Histories website is fully searchable and provides access to millions of pages of text, hundreds of thousands of words and tens of thousands maps and images. It incorporates the following digital sources:

  • British History Online
  • Burney Newspapers 1600-1800
  • Charles Booth Online Archive
  • Clergy of the Church of England Database 1540-1835
  • London Lives, 1690-1800
  • Old Bailey Proceedings Online 1674-1913
  • Origins Network
  • Parliamentary Papers
  • Printed Ephemera from the Bodleian Library
  • Strype's Survey of London

Friday, 1 April 2011

A new on-line database of veterinary pharmaceuticals

Scientists and regulators wishing to carry out detailed environmental risk assessments and other modelling work, require highly complex data on the substances they’re interested in, if appropriate decisions are to be made, policies developed and scientific advances made.

However, identifying reliable data can be a tedious and time consuming process, as there’s rarely a single, comprehensive and reliable source available. One key area in which such work is being done around the world, relates to the environmental fate of chemicals used in agriculture. Pesticides have come in for considerable attention over recent years, and there is now a growing recognition that the veterinary products used to treat livestock, also have the potential to result in considerable environmental and ecological impacts.

Consequently, the Agricultural & Environment Research Unit (AERU) in the School of Life Sciences has recently launched an online database of physicochemical and toxicological data for veterinary pharmaceuticals that brings together published data from a wide range of sources in a single site. The Veterinary Substances DataBase (VSDB) complements their existing Pesticide Properties DataBase (PPDB) service, and is fast becoming a global leader in the field, having been used people in 31 different countries in the first week of operation.