Friday, 27 September 2013

Expert in social robotics comments on BBC1 Sunday Morning Live

Professor Dautenhahn - expert in social 
robotics on BBC1 Sunday Morning Live
Kerstin Dautenhahn, professor of artificial intelligence at the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Computer Science and Informatics Research (CCSIR), was invited to comment on last week’s Sunday Morning Live discussion on ‘Can we trust robots with our future?’ (Sunday 22 September).


Recognised as an expert in social robots, Kerstin provided her views via Skype on the ethics and role of robots within eldercare.  Many people fear that robots will replace humans and potentially become isolated, but in fact it is up to the care providers to decide as to how robots are used.

She believes that we need to move away from the idea of fully autonomous robots and to start to think of robots as part of a human-robot team where robots and people collaborate with each other – each of them focusing on their own strengths.  Robots should focus on time-consuming or physically-demanding tasks such as helping older people getting out of bed or helping them to stand up; whereas humans, the professional carers, doctors and family members, should focus on providing what humans do really well, which is to provide emotional and social support.

The crucial point here is that the decisions around the use of robots and how they get used is ours, as humans, to make.  We’re not making replica humans but designing robots for specific time-consuming and physically-demanding tasks – freeing up our time so that we can provide that critical emotional and social support that older people need.

Sunday Morning Live is a religious and currents affairs discussion programme produced in Belfast and broadcast on BBC1.  It features studio guests, filmed inserts and interactive viewer input from text messages, videophone, Skype, telephone and e-mail.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

International expert advises South Korea on electricity sector

A recent spate of power supply shortages in South Korea has prompted its government to consider alternative policies and solutions in the country’s electric power industry by hosting an international symposium “Electric Power Industry in Crisis: What are the options?”

Hulya Dagdeviren, professor of international economic development at the University of Hertfordshire and an expert in privatisation of public services, was invited to speak at the symposium and share her knowledge and experience of countries that have privatised their electric power industry – to help influence public opinion and policy direction.

In an interview with one of the leading newspapers in Korea, Hulya pointed to the problems with the South Korean government’s intention to introduce and expand market competition in the electric power industry.

Many countries have made efforts to privatise their electric power industry.  However, the long-term benefits of privatisation have been doubtful. In particular, motivating the private companies to invest sufficiently in the sector has been a real challenge, leading to capacity shortages and hence, price hikes. For example, the electric power industry is completely privatised in the UK.  Although UK prices fell initially during privatisation, much to the consumers delight at that time, today they are amongst the highest in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development).

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A word from the boss...

University of Hertfordshire Online web team photographs 13Feb 2013
Karen Barton
Head of UH Online, Karen Barton welcomes in the new academic year...

It seems odd to be thinking about a wishing everyone ‘Happy New Year’ in September, but a new year it is: a new academic year at least. And it is shaping up to be a good one.

Our team at UH Online have had a busy summer dealing with exam results; organising graduations; hosting online open days; and dealing with new applications and registrations to our established courses plus a crop of new programmes we’re offering for the first time this year.

Along with our Computer Science and Business degrees we will now be welcoming new students in Public Health, Mental Health & Social Inclusion, plus Engineering students from January too. It’s a truly international student group, with over 45 countries across the globe represented. And that’s one of the great advantages of studying one of our online courses: the chance to meet so many new people from every corner of the world.

So, if you’re new to the University of Hertfordshire and UH Online I’d like to welcome you to our University and your chosen programme. I’m sure you’ll love the opportunity to engage with fellow students from so many different cultures and share some of your local knowledge and professional experience of your own country with them too.

If you’re joining us again after the summer break, it’s great to have you back with us. I hope you are feeling refreshed and re-energised; looking forward to meeting old friends, making new ones and most of all enjoying the course. If you’ve been with us before, you’ll also notice that StudyNet has had a face lift. We think it’s terrific and hope you do too. We’d welcome your feedback on what you think of it to feed into further developments in the coming year.

uherts_18751173264In the meantime, and to get you back into the studying frame of mind, here are some useful tips from a student who recently took up an online course which might help you think about re-focussing again for the year ahead. What do you think? Is he right? Are there are any good tips you’ve found worked for you that you’d like to pass on? We’d love to hear from you!

We look forward to seeing you online.

Karen Barton

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Prawn nebula and new stars seen in high resolution

The fantastic new image of the Prawn Nebula containing clumps of hot new-born stars is one of the largest single images released by the European Southern Observatory (ESO) - and is the first of many likely to come from the VPHAS+ public survey of the entire southern plane of the Milky Way. This high-resolution digital survey is using the power of ESO's VLT Survey Telescope (VST) to search for new objects including young stars, planetary nebulae and distant, very luminous stars.
Credit: ESO. Acknowledgement: Martin Pugh
The image was taken with ESO’s VLT Survey Telescope which is based in Chile as part of the VPHAS+ public survey led by Professor Janet Drew from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research (CAR).  It testifies to the VST with its 32-CCD mosaic camera, OmegaCam, being the world's best optical imaging facility on the ground at this time.

Located around 6000 light-years from Earth, the Prawn Nebula is around 250 light-years across, covering an area of sky equivalent to four times that of the full Moon. Despite this huge size it has not been a frequent target for observers due to its faintness and because most of its light is emitted at wavelengths where the human eye is not sensitive.

The very sharp VST images taken in two broad red bands and narrowband H-alpha (a line of hydrogen that is very good at picking out hot ionized gas) were further enhanced to bring out the colour by including additional high quality imaging through a blue filter taken by Martin Pugh, a very skilled amateur astronomer observing from Australia using 32-centimetre and 13-centimetre telescopes.

It is interesting to notice that Martin Pugh had to dedicate 8-9 hours of exposing time to just this one filter, whereas the VST total exposure time for all three filters was under ten minutes. Amateur astrophotographers are unsung heroes, and a 2.6-metre telescope on a good high site with active optics and a state-of-the-art camera is very efficient!

These images and especially the photometric measurements derived from them, will provide a springboard to a better understanding of how stars evolve and of how the Milky Way’s stellar disc is organised. The data-gathering phase of the survey is unlikely to end before 2016, and taking the data is the easy bit!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Computer Science online mastery

Distance learning studentAs we’re knee deep in the digital age, a Computer Science Master’s degree is a useful way to upgrade your skills or help with a complete career change. In this blog post we take a look at the MSc Computer Science (online) plus the specialisms available to study online.

You’re in capable hands

The School of Computer Science was one of the first in the world to offer Computer Science degrees (that was back in 1965!). The School also has a considerable amount of expertise in developing and running online courses:
  • They’ve been running the online BSc since 2004; and the online MSc since 2007

  • More than 1,200 graduates to date

  • Currently 650 students from 64 different countries!

The gift of choice

After recently questioning our students*, two of the main reasons for choosing to study our MSc Computer Science course online were (trumpet blowing time):
  1. because of our expertise in Computer Science and

  2. the range of optional modules available.
If you are a BSc Computer Science graduate there are 14 optional modules to choose from when you study MSc Computer Science (online) and only two core modules, one of these being your specialist project.  These include:  Advanced Databases; Mobile Standards, Interfaces and Applications; Secure Systems Programming and Web Services.  See the full list.

Computer Science MSc Specialisms

There are also a number of specialisms in Computer Science if you’re keen to steer your career in a specific path. By studying specific modules means you could specialise in:
These specialisms are great for the CV to show your expertise in a certain area. If you’re not after a specialism you can study the main award and graduate with MSc Computer Science.

Computer Science MSc UH Online
New to computer science?

Even if you don’t have a BSc in Computer Science, there is a Computer Science or eLearning Technology Master’s available for non-computer science graduates, which includes more core modules to get you up to speed. Ideal if you’re eager for a career change.

Want to find out more? Join us at our next online open day

Come to our next MSc Computer Science online open day on: Wednesday 16th October 2013, 17:00 (BST). Register your place and join us online: meet some of the teaching staff, learn more about the course and ask any questions you may have. Register now

We hope to see you online soon!

*Skype interviews were carried out in Spring 2013, questioning students about why they choose the University of Hertfordshire to study Computer Science online. The top answers were: optional modules; course content and flexibility of study; positive reputation from rankings and recommendations.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

World experts convene for second international conference on novelrecreational drugs

This major international conference will examine the latest scientific evidence and research on novel recreational drugs including presentations from Professor Fabrizio SchifanoDr Ornella Corazza, John Corkery and Jacqueline Stair from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Clinical Practice, Safe Medicines and Drug Misuse Research.

Following the successful inaugural conference held in Budapest, Hungary in March 2012, the second international conference on novel recreational drugs takes place this week (12-13 September) in Swansea - bringing together world experts to examine and share the latest scientific research on these drugs.

Novel Psychoactive Substances (NPS) are an ever growing group of recreational drugs such as MPA (Methiopropamine) and 5-MeO-DALT (N.N-diallyl-5-methoxytryptamine) which are often advertised as being safe.

Frequently referred to as “designer drugs” or “legal highs”, these drugs are sold as legal alternatives to illicit drugs but they can be just as harmful and addictive as illegal drugs like cocaine or amphetamine.  They may have similar effects but they are also associated with significantly different and unexpected side-effects.

Not controlled under international drug treaties, they are very easily bought over the internet.  Already some 700 NPS have flooded onto the market, but as soon as authorities ban them, the manufacturers rapidly produce and promote alternative new drugs.

The conference is co-organised by Professor Fabrizio Schifano and Dr Ornella Corazza in collaboration with Swansea University and the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA).   It will be of interest to health professionals, youth workers, social care workers, law enforcement officers, educators, policy makers, academics, and people involved in the prevention and treatment of drug addiction.

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

NASA’s Astronomy Picture of the Day – 4 September 2013

The image of a far-away caterpillar-shaped cloud captured by the IPHAS Survey on the Hubble Space Telescope is today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day!  And somewhere inside this interstellar cloud, a new star is forming!
IRAS 20324: Evaporating Protostar
Image Credit: NASA, ESA, Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), and IPHAS
This strangely-shaped, seething mass of gas and dust is known as IRAS 20324.  And is the subject of a study of a group of international astronomers being led by Professor Janet Drew and Dr Nick Wright from the University of Hertfordshire’s Centre for Astrophysics Research (CAR) as part of the IPHAS Survey (INT Photometric H-Alpha Survey).

At about 4,500 light years away from us in the star constellation of Cygnus, this interstellar cloud is about one light year across.  Take a trip across the sky with this video as it zooms in on this caterpillar-shaped collection of dust and gas.

What the star will look like once all the dust has settled, no one knows. But with energetic winds and light wearing away the dust and gas that may have formed the star, we’ll have to wait and see….but that may take another 100,000 years!  And that’s a long time to wait!