Monday, 30 July 2012

Livestock Feed Additives with a Beneficial Effect on the Environment

The environmental impact of the livestock raised for our food has had plenty of news coverage over recent times as it is claimed to account for about half of the human-caused greenhouse gases. But how can we control and reduce the waste gases produced by the livestock?

Livestock feed is often improved by the use of feed additives, which not only improve diet and health, but can be used to improve other aspects of livestock production such as increase milk yields, suppress the female reproductive cycle as well as improve the digestion processes in animals.

A new research contract awarded to the Agricultural and Environmental Research Unit (AERU) will review the chemical additives used in livestock diets, and critically evaluate their potential for delivering environmental benefits such as reducing the waste gases that may contribute to climate change.

Led by Dr Kathy Lewis, the study will undertake a thorough, critical and systematic review to produce a global inventory of current feed additives that offer environmental benefits. Funded by the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), the information will support current European regulatory process on feed additives, and will help develop more sustainable policies in this area.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Venous Leg Ulcer Care Management

As leg ulcer management becomes increasingly complex, access to high quality, effective care is vital for timely healing of venous leg ulcers. In a recent article, I raised some of the key issues in clinical practice which impact on the Government’s vision of quality and equity in healthcare services as set out in the 2008 Darzi report (High Quality Care for All) and numerous subsequent publications from the Department of Health.

In the UK more than three per cent of the population is affected by leg ulceration and many more by chronic swelling of the lower limbs, known as chronic oedema. The main reason for ulceration is due to high pressure in the leg veins. Healing rates of venous leg ulcers which are relatively uncomplicated range from fifty to seventy per cent at 24 weeks and complicated ulcers take considerably longer, if they heal at all.

The main treatment is high pressure bandaging to reduce the venous pressure. Special training is necessary otherwise patients can be seriously damaged by the treatment. There are national guidelines for leg ulcer care but evidence suggests that patients often are not fully assessed and do not receive optimum care - at considerable cost to patient’s lives and health care services.

Most venous leg ulcer care is given by nurses, and better outcomes for patients are evident when the practitioner is knowledgeable about the condition and has sufficient skills to apply treatment safely and effectively. The Department of Health’s vision of quality and equity is only achievable if there is a focus on continuing professional development of healthcare staff and monitoring of the impact of such investment on patient outcomes.

The full article “Venous leg ulcers in context” was published in the July issue of Journal of Community Nursing.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Eyes Don't Have It: New Research into Lying and Eye Movements

Knowing how to tell if someone is lying is something a lot of people want to know how to do, and followers of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) have long claimed that it is possible by noting a person’s eye movements.

NLP practitioners assert that when a person looks up to their right they are likely to be lying, whilst a glance up to their left is indicative of telling the truth – making it a widely-used approach to lie detection. But new research published in the journal PLoS ONE shows that this claim is unfounded.

Professor Richard Wiseman from the School of Psychology, together with Dr Caroline Watt from the University of Edinburgh, filmed volunteers as they either lied or told the truth.  Results showed no relationship between lying and eye movements.

In a further study, another group of participants, who were told about the NLP claims, watched the films and attempted to detect the lies on the basis of the volunteers' eye movements – this NLP knowledge did not improve their detection skills.

In a final study conducted in collaboration with the University of British Columbia, Canada, the team analysed films of liars and truth tellers from high profile press conferences.  During this review, the alleged tell-tale pattern of eye movements failed to emerge.

Most members of the public believe that certain eye movements are a sign of lying, and this idea is even taught in organisational training courses!  However, this new research provides no support for the idea and suggests that it is time to abandon this approach to lie detection.

The research paper “The Eyes Don’t Have It: Lie Detection and Neuro-Linguistic Programming” can be read here:

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

UKIRT discovers “impossible” binary stars

Over the past five years a team of astronomers and I have been using the UK Infrared Telescope (UKIRT) to search the infrared sky for transiting or eclipsing systems. Such systems contain a star with an orbital companion that may be another star, or perhaps a planet. A system of two stars like this is known as a binary. If the companion regularly passes in-front of the star it will cause a dimming in the brightness we measure, and reveal its presence to our survey.

We recently analysed the survey measurements and discovered four very surprising binary cool stars with orbital periods less than four hours. The reason these objects are so interesting is that prior to this there was thought to be a hard lower limit to the periods of such binaries. Binaries containing hotter stars always have orbital periods above five hours, because although their orbital rate decreases over time they have not had enough time (even over the age of the Galaxy) to slow their orbits enough. The new cool star binaries break through this limit, so we are seeing evidence for a new kind of binary evolution.

It may be that cool stars like this are more magnetically active and produce powerful stellar winds that apply the brakes to their rotation. This would be analogous to a spinning figure skater extending their arms to slow down their spin. Indeed, these binaries will continue to spiral in and eventually (in a few thousand years) coalesce into one star.

For more information see:

Friday, 6 July 2012

PhD Student Wins Accounting Award

David Marshall, a PhD student from the Business School, has won an award for the best essay on the contribution of accounting to the sustainability agenda.

The award, sponsored by Grant Thornton LLP and the Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland (ICAS), was presented by Sir David Tweedie, the ex-head of International Accounting Standards Board. As a result of this contribution, David Marshall has been formally invited by ICAS to join their Sustainability Advisory Group.