Cambridge

Cambridge in the 2018 New Year Honours List

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 01/01/2018 - 00:01

Professor Sir Keith Peters, who was first honoured as a Knight Bachelor in the 1993 New Year’s Honours list, was awarded a GBE (Knights Grand Cross of the British Empire) for Services to the Advancement of Medical Science.

Sir Keith Peters, former Regius Professor of Physic at Cambridge University and an honorary fellow of Clare Hall and Christ's, said: “I am delighted to have been able to contribute to Cambridge.

"This is indeed a great personal honour but one which also reflects the contribution of many colleagues in  Cambridge who’ve done so much for Cambridge medicine.” 

The citation for his honour reads: “Sir Keith Peters is one of the UK’s most influential clinical academics who has made a series of lasting impacts on medicine and science. Most recently, he made a major contribution to the conception and establishment of the Francis Crick Institute.

"Earlier, he was a driving force at the Royal Postgraduate Medical School, Hammersmith, where his work on immune mechanisms in kidney disease changed clinical practice.

"In Cambridge he transformed its Clinical School and led the development of what is now the Cambridge Biomedical Campus. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society, was President of the Academy of Medical Sciences, and from 2005-2016 Senior Consultant to GlaxoSmithKline.”

Ian Goodyer, Emeritus Professor of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at the Department of Psychiatry in the Cambridge Clinical School was honoured for his work in psychiatric research with an OBE. He is an Emeritus Fellow of Wolfson College.

Dr Tina Barsby, CEO of Cambridge-based crop science organisation NIAB and Fellow of St Edmund’s College, has been awarded an OBE for services to agricultural science and biotechnology.

Dr Barsby said: “This award is a great honour for me and a tribute to all the colleagues I’ve worked with across the industry over the years.

"Every day I’m inspired by the work being carried out at NIAB and the essential contribution we are making to help our industry fulfil its potential in food production.”

Professor Diane Coyle, who will become Cambridge’s inaugural Bennett Professor of Public Policy in March, was awarded a CBE. A Fellow of Churchill College, she will join the Department of Politics and International Studies at the University of Cambridge in her new role.

Cambridge alumni honoured include actor Hugh Laurie, who read English at Selwyn College and was President of the Footlights. He was made an OBE in 2007, and is now being honoured with the higher award of CBE.

Founder of search engine blinkx Suranga Chandratillake, who has an MA in Computer Science from Cambridge, was awarded an OBE for his achievements in engineering and technology.

Former deputy prime minister and Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, who read Archaeology and Anthropology at Robinson College, was appointed a knight bachelor. 

Two other alumni, Anthony Habgood and Kenneth Aphunezi Olisa, will also be appointed knight bachelors – the former for services to UK Industry, the latter for services to business and philanthropy. Christopher Geidt and Philip McDougall Rutnam, both Trinity Hall alumni, are being knighted in the Order of the Bath, the former as a Knight Grand Cross, and the latter as a Knight Commander.

Altogether, at least 14 Cambridge alumni have been recognised in the New Year Honours list. They include Oxford professor of economic history Jane Humphries (CBE), Hay Festival director Peter Florence (CBE), and CEO of DeepMind Dr Demis Hassabis (CBE).

Dr John Sulston, former Director of the Sanger Centre, was awarded a knighthood for services to genome research in the list. He stressed that he felt he was accepting the award on behalf of all the staff at the Sanger Centre, adding: "What I most value is the recognition of the Sanger Centre team, and that their achievement is important to the people of this country."

The Honours list, which dates back to around 1890, recognises notable services and contributions to Britain.

Members of collegiate Cambridge have been recognised for their outstanding contributions to society

This is indeed a great personal honour but one which also reflects the contribution of many colleagues in Cambridge who’ve done so much for Cambridge medicineSir Keith PetersUniversity of CambridgeSenate House


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Researchers chart the ‘secret’ movement of quantum particles

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 12/22/2017 - 11:30

One of the fundamental ideas of quantum theory is that quantum objects can exist both as a wave and as a particle, and that they don’t exist as one or the other until they are measured. This is the premise that Erwin Schrödinger was illustrating with his famous thought experiment involving a dead-or-maybe-not-dead cat in a box.

“This premise, commonly referred to as the wave function, has been used more as a mathematical tool than a representation of actual quantum particles,” said David Arvidsson-Shukur, a PhD student at Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory, and the paper’s first author. “That’s why we took on the challenge of creating a way to track the secret movements of quantum particles.”

Any particle will always interact with its environment, ‘tagging’ it along the way. Arvidsson-Shukur, working with his co-authors Professor Crispin Barnes from the Cavendish Laboratory and Axel Gottfries, a PhD student from the Faculty of Economics, outlined a way for scientists to map these ‘tagging’ interactions without looking at them. The technique would be useful to scientists who make measurements at the end of an experiment but want to follow the movements of particles during the full experiment.

Some quantum scientists have suggested that information can be transmitted between two people – usually referred to as Alice and Bob – without any particles travelling between them. In a sense, Alice gets the message telepathically. This has been termed counterfactual communication because it goes against the accepted ‘fact’ that for information to be carried between sources, particles must move between them.

“To measure this phenomenon of counterfactual communication, we need a way to pin down where the particles between Alice and Bob are when we’re not looking,” said Arvidsson-Shukur. “Our ‘tagging’ method can do just that. Additionally, we can verify old predictions of quantum mechanics, for example that particles can exist in different locations at the same time.”

The founders of modern physics devised formulas to calculate the probabilities of different results from quantum experiments. However, they did not provide any explanations of what a quantum particle is doing when it’s not being observed. Earlier experiments have suggested that the particles might do non-classical things when not observed, like existing in two places at the same time. In their paper, the Cambridge researchers considered the fact that any particle travelling through space will interact with its surroundings. These interactions are what they call the ‘tagging’ of the particle. The interactions encode information in the particles that can then be decoded at the end of an experiment, when the particles are measured.

The researchers found that this information encoded in the particles is directly related to the wave function that Schrödinger postulated a century ago. Previously the wave function was thought of as an abstract computational tool to predict the outcomes of quantum experiments. “Our result suggests that the wave function is closely related to the actual state of particles,” said Arvidsson-Shukur. “So, we have been able to explore the ‘forbidden domain’ of quantum mechanics: pinning down the path of quantum particles when no one is observing them.”

Reference
D. R. M. Arvidsson-Shukur, C. H. W. Barnes, and A. N. O. Gottfries. ‘Evaluation of counterfactuality in counterfactual communication protocols’. Physical Review A (2017). DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevA.96.062316

Researchers from the University of Cambridge have taken a peek into the secretive domain of quantum mechanics. In a theoretical paper published in the journal Physical Review A, they have shown that the way that particles interact with their environment can be used to track quantum particles when they’re not being observed, which had been thought to be impossible. 

We can verify old predictions of quantum mechanics, for example that particles can exist in different locations at the same time.David Arvidsson-ShukurRobert Couse-Baker2015-12-22 chemistry


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Great Get Together brings people together, combats loneliness and promotes well-being at Christmas

Cambridge Council Feed - Thu, 12/21/2017 - 10:05

FOLLOWING on from the success this summer of the national initiative in memory of Jo Cox, The Great Get Together is now focusing on bringing people together this Christmas and Cambridge City Council is encouraging local groups to get involved.

The campaign encourages people to share their mince pies with people in their local community who may be isolated or be feeling lonely during the festive period from 24-26 December. For more information go to https://www.greatgettogether.org/  

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Political instability and weak governance lead to loss of species, study finds

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 18:00

A vast new study of changes in global wildlife over almost three decades has found that low levels of effective national governance are the strongest predictor of declining species numbers – more so than economic growth, climate change or even surges in human population.   

The findings, published in the journal Nature, also show that protected conservation areas do maintain wildlife diversity, but only when situated in countries that are reasonably stable politically with sturdy legal and social structures.

The research used the fate of waterbird species since 1990 as a bellwether for broad biodiversity trends, as their wetland habitats are among the most diverse as well as the most endangered on Earth.

An international team of scientists and conservation experts led by the University of Cambridge analysed over 2.4 million annual count records of 461 waterbird species across almost 26,000 different survey sites around the world.

The researchers used this giant dataset to model localised species changes in nations and regions.  Results were compared to the Worldwide Governance Indicators, which measure everything from violence rates and rule of law to political corruption, as well as data such as gross domestic product (GDP) and conservation performance.

The team discovered that waterbird decline was greater in regions of the world where governance is, on average, less effective: such as Western and Central Asia, South America and sub-Saharan Africa.

The healthiest overall species quotas were seen in continental Europe, although even here the levels of key species were found to have nosedived.

This is the first time that effectiveness of national governance and levels of socio-political stability have been identified as the most significant global indicator of biodiversity and species loss.   

“Although the global coverage of protected areas continues to increase, our findings suggest that ineffective governance could undermine the benefits of these biodiversity conservation efforts,” says Cambridge’s Dr Tatsuya Amano, who led the study at the University’s Department of Zoology and Centre for the Study of Existential Risk.

“We now know that governance and political stability is a vital consideration when developing future environmental policies and practices.”

For the latest study, Amano worked with Cambridge colleagues as well as researchers from the universities of Bath, UK, and Santa Clara, US, and conservation organisations Wetlands International and the National Audubon Society.

The lack of global-level data on changes to the natural world limits our understanding of the “biodiversity crisis”, say the study’s authors. However, they say there are advantages to focusing on waterbirds when trying to gauge these patterns.

Waterbirds are a diverse group of animals, from ducks and heron to flamingos and pelicans. Their wetland habitats cover some 1.3 billion hectares of the planet – from coast to freshwater and even highland – and provide crucial “ecosystem services”. Wetlands have also been degraded more than any other form of ecosystem.

In addition, waterbirds have a long history of population monitoring. The annual global census run by Wetlands International has involved more than 15,000 volunteers over the last 50 years, and the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas bird count dates back to 1900.

“Our study shows that waterbird monitoring can provide useful lessons about what we need to do to halt the loss of biodiversity,” said co-author Szabolcs Nagy, Coordinator of the African-Eurasian Waterbird Census at Wetlands International.

Compared to all the “anthropogenic impacts” tested by the researchers, national governance was the most significant. ”Ineffective governance is often associated with lack of environmental enforcement and investment, leading to habitat loss,” says Amano.

The study also uncovered a relationship between the speed of GDP growth and biodiversity: the faster GDP per capita was growing, the greater the decline in waterbird species.

Diversity on a localised level was worst affected on average in South America, with a 0.95% annual loss equating to a 21% decline across the region over 25 years. Amano was also surprised to find severe species loss across inland areas of western and central Asia.  

The researchers point out that poor water management and dam construction in parts of Asia and South America have caused wetlands to permanently dry out in counties such as Iran and Argentina – even in areas designated as protected.

Impotent hunting regulations can also explain species loss under ineffective governance. “Political instability can weaken legal enforcement, and consequently promote unsuitable, often illegal, killing even in protected areas,” says Amano.

In fact, the researchers found that protected conservation areas simply did not benefit biodiversity if they were located in nations with weak governance.

Recent Cambridge research involving Amano suggests that grassroots initiatives led by local and indigenous groups can be more effective than governments at protecting ecosystems – one possible conservation approach for regions suffering from political instability.   

Reference
Amano, T et al. Successful conservation of global waterbird populations depends on effective governance. Nature; 20 December 2017; DOI: 10.1038/nature25139

Big data study of global biodiversity shows ineffective national governance is a better indicator of species decline than any other measure of “anthropogenic impact”. Even protected conservation areas make little difference in countries that struggle with socio-political stability.

We now know that governance and political stability is a vital consideration when developing future environmental policies and practicesTatsuya AmanoSzabolcs Nagy, Wetlands InternationalBlack-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), a waterbird with habitats ranging from the Russian far-east to Europe, Africa, and Australasia.


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Cancer healthcare company signs up to the Real Living Wage

Cambridge Council Feed - Wed, 12/20/2017 - 14:02

A CANCER healthcare company is the most recent Cambridge-based employer to have become Living Wage accredited, with support from Cambridge City Council.

Endomag signed up to the Real Living Wage during Living Wage Week, a national campaign week in November that promotes fair pay and aims to reach new networks of employers to encourage them to become Living Wage accredited.

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Habitable planets could exist around pulsars

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 12/19/2017 - 15:03

Pulsars are known for their extreme conditions. Each is a fast-spinning neutron star - the collapsed core of a massive star that has gone supernova at the end of its life. Only 10 to 30 kilometres across, a pulsar possesses enormous magnetic fields, accretes matter, and regularly gives out large bursts of X-rays and highly energetic particles.

Surprisingly, despite this hostile environment, neutron stars are known to host exoplanets. The first exoplanets ever discovered were around the pulsar PSR B1257+12 - but whether these planets were originally in orbit around the precursor massive star and survived the supernova explosion, or formed in the system later remains an open question. Such planets would receive little visible light but would be continually blasted by the energetic radiation and stellar wind from the host. Could such planets ever host life?

For the first time, astronomers have tried to calculate the ‘habitable’ zones near neutron stars - the range of orbits around a star where a planetary surface could possibly support water in a liquid form. Their calculations show that the habitable zone around a neutron star can be as large as the distance from our Earth to our Sun. An important premise is that the planet must be a super-Earth, with a mass between one and ten times our Earth. A smaller planet will lose its atmosphere within a few thousand years under the onslaught of the pulsar winds. To survive this barrage, a planet’s atmosphere must be a million times thicker than ours - the conditions on a pulsar planet surface might resemble those of the deep ocean floor on Earth.

The astronomers studied the pulsar PSR B1257+12 about 2300 light-years away as a test case, using the X-ray Chandra space telescope. Of the three planets in orbit around the pulsar, two are super-Earths with a mass of four to five times our Earth, and orbit close enough to the pulsar to warm up. According to co-author Alessandro Patruno from Leiden University, “The temperature of the planets might be suitable for the presence of liquid water on their surface. Though, we don't know yet if the two super-Earths have the right, extremely dense atmosphere.”

In the future, Patruno and his co-author Mihkel Kama from Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy would like to observe the pulsar in more detail and compare it with other pulsars. The European Southern Observatory’s ALMA Telescope would be able to show dust discs around neutron stars, which are good predictors of planets. The Milky Way contains about one billion neutron stars, of which about 200,000 are pulsars. So far, 3000 pulsars have been studied and only five pulsar planets have been found.

Reference:
A. Patruno & M. Kama. ‘Neutron Star Planets: Atmospheric processes and habitability.’ Accepted for publication in Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Adapted from a NOVA press release

It is theoretically possible that habitable planets exist around pulsars - spinning neutron stars that emit short, quick pulses of radiation. According to new research, such planets must have an enormous atmosphere that converts the deadly x-rays and high energy particles of the pulsar into heat. The results, from astronomers at the University of Cambridge and Leiden University, are reported in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Amanda Smith, University of CambridgeArtistic impression of a habitable planet near a pulsar (right)


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Mindfulness training reduces stress during exam time

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 23:38

While the prevalence of anxiety and depression among first year undergraduates is lower than the general population, it increases to overtake this during their second year. The number of students accessing counselling services in the UK grew by 50% from 2010 to 2015, surpassing the growth in the number of students during the same period. There is little consensus as to whether students are suffering more mental disorders, are less resilient than in the past or whether there is less stigma attached to accessing support. Regardless, mental health support services for students are becoming stretched.

Recent years have seen increasing interest in mindfulness, a means of training attention for the purpose of mental wellbeing based on the practice of meditation. There is evidence that mindfulness training can improve symptoms of common mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. However, there is little robust evidence on the effectiveness of mindfulness training in preventing such problems in university students.

“Given the increasing demands on student mental health services, we wanted to see whether mindfulness could help students develop preventative coping strategies,” says Géraldine Dufour Head of the University of Cambridge’s Counselling Service. Dufour is one of the authors of a study that set out to test the effectiveness of mindfulness – the results are published today in The Lancet Public Health.

In total, 616 students took part in the study and were randomised across two groups. Both groups were offered access to comprehensive centralised support at the University of Cambridge Counselling Service in addition to support available from the university and its colleges, and from health services including the National Health Service.

Half of the cohort (309 students) were also offered the Mindfulness Skills for Students course. This consisted of eight, weekly, face-to-face, group-based sessions based on the course book Mindfulness: A Practical Guide to Finding Peace in a Frantic World, adapted for university students. Students were encouraged to also practice at home, starting at eight minute meditations, and increasing to about 15-25 minutes per day, as well as other mindfulness practices such as a mindful walking and mindful eating. Students in the other half of the cohort were offered their mindfulness training the following year.

The researchers assessed the impact of the mindfulness training on stress (‘psychological distress’) during the main, annual examination period in May and June 2016, the most stressful weeks for most students. They measured this using the CORE-OM, a generic assessment used in many counselling services.

The mindfulness course led to lower distress scores after the course and during the exam term compared with students who only received the usual support. Mindfulness participants were a third less likely than other participants to have scores above a threshold commonly seen as meriting mental health support. Distress scores for the mindfulness group during exam time fell below their baselines levels (as measured at the start of the study, before exam time), whereas the students who received the standard support became increasingly stressed as the academic year progressed.

The researchers also looked at other measures, such as self-reported wellbeing. They found that mindfulness training improved wellbeing during the exam period when compared with the usual support.

“This is, to the best of our knowledge, the most robust study to date to assess mindfulness training for students, and backs up previous studies that suggest it can improve mental health and wellbeing during stressful periods,” says Dr Julieta Galante from the Department of Psychiatry at Cambridge, who led the study.

“Students who had been practising mindfulness had distress scores lower than their baseline levels even during exam time, which suggests that mindfulness helps build resilience against stress.”

Professor Peter Jones, also from the Department of Psychiatry, adds: “The evidence is mounting that mindfulness training can help people cope with accumulative stress. While these benefits may be similar to some other preventative methods, mindfulness could be a useful addition to the interventions already delivered by university counselling services. It appears to be popular, feasible, acceptable and without stigma.”

The team also looked at whether mindfulness had any effect of examination results; however, their findings proved inconclusive.

The research was supported by the University of Cambridge and the National Institute for Health (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care East of England, hosted by Cambridgeshire and Peterborough NHS Foundation Trust.

Reference
Galante, J et al. Effectiveness of providing university students with a mindfulness-based intervention to increase resilience to stress: a pragmatic randomised controlled trial. Lancet Public Health; 19 December 2017; DOI: 10.1016/S2468-2667(17)30231-1

Mindfulness training can help support students at risk of mental health problems, concludes a randomised controlled trial carried out by researchers at the University of Cambridge.

This is, to the best of our knowledge, the most robust study to date to assess mindfulness training for students, and backs up previous studies that suggest it can improve mental health and wellbeing during stressful periodsJulieta GalanteUniversity of CambridgeStudents studyingResearcher profile: Dr Julieta Galante

Dr Julieta Galante is a research associate in the Department of Psychiatry. Her interests lie in mental health promotion, particularly the effects of meditation on mental health. She hopes to contribute to the growing number of approaches to preventing mental health problems that do not rely on medication.

“What fascinates me is the idea that you could potentially train your mind to improve your wellbeing and develop yourself as a person,” she says. “It’s not the academic type of mind-training –meditation training is more like embarking on a deep inner-exploration.”

Galante’s research involves studying large numbers of people in real-world settings, such as busy students revising for their exams. It’s a very complex research field, she says: there are many factors, social, psychological and biological, that contribute to an individual’s mental health.

“Our projects are most successful (and enjoyable) when we collaborate with people outside the academic sphere, in this particular project with the Student Counselling Service, University authorities, and the students themselves.”

The mindfulness trial was ‘blinded’, meaning that the researchers did not know which students (and hence which data) belonged to which group. The ‘unblinding’ of the results – when they found out whether their trial was successful – was nerve-wracking, she says. “The team statistician didn’t know which group had received mindfulness training and which group was the control. He showed his results to the rest of the team and we could all see that there was a clear difference between the groups, but we didn’t know whether this meant really good or really bad news for mindfulness training. When the results were then unveiled, we all laughed with relief!”


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Licensing decision on Uber Britannia Ltd

Cambridge Council Feed - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 17:56

CAMBRIDGE City Council has today (18 December) advised Uber Britannia Ltd that it will be issued with a private hire operator licence when its current licence expires on 20 December, 2017.

The council is responsible for licensing all taxi operators in Cambridge, including Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles.

Private hire operators have to meet regulations under Part II of the Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1976 and demonstrate to the council how they do so. The council must then decide whether an operator is fit and proper to hold a licence.

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Birds learn from each other’s ‘disgust’, enabling insects to evolve bright colours

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 16:01

Many animals have evolved to stand out. Bright colours may be easy to spot, but they warn predators off by signalling toxicity or foul taste.

Yet if every individual predator has to eat colourful prey to learn this unappetising lesson, it’s a puzzle how conspicuous colours had the chance to evolve as a defensive strategy. 

Now, a new study using the great tit species as a “model predator” has shown that if one bird observes another being repulsed by a new type of prey, then both birds learn the lesson to stay away.

By filming a great tit having a terrible dining experience with conspicuous prey, then showing it on a television to other tits before tracking their meal selection, researchers found that birds acquired a better idea of which prey to avoid: those that stand out.   

The team behind the study, published in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, say the ability of great tits to learn what to avoid through observing others is an example of “social transmission” of information.

The scientists scaled up data from their experiments through mathematical modelling to reveal a tipping point: where social transmission has occurred sufficiently in a predator species for its potential prey to stand a better chance with bright colours over camouflage.  

“Our study demonstrates that the social behaviour of predators needs to be considered to understand the evolution of their prey,” said lead author Dr Rose Thorogood, from the University of Cambridge’s Department of Zoology.

“Without social transmission taking place in predator species such as great tits, it becomes extremely difficult for conspicuously coloured prey to outlast and outcompete alternative prey, even if they are distasteful or toxic.

“There is mounting evidence that learning by observing others occurs throughout the animal kingdom. Species ranging from fruit flies to trout can learn about food using social transmission.

“We suspect our findings apply over a wide range of predators and prey. Social information may have evolutionary consequences right across ecological communities.”    

Thorogood (also based at the Helsinki Institute of Life Science) and colleagues from the University of Jyväskylä and University of Zürich captured wild great tits in the Finnish winter. At Konnevesi Research Station, they trained the birds to open white paper packages with pieces of almond inside as artificial prey.    

The birds were given access to aviaries covered in white paper dotted with small black crosses. These crosses were also marked on some of the paper packages: the camouflaged prey.

One bird was filmed unwrapping a package stamped with a square instead of a cross: the conspicuous prey. As such, its contents were unpalatable – an almond soaked with bitter-tasting fluid.

The bird’s reaction was played on a TV in front of some great tits but not others (a control group). When foraging in the cross-covered aviaries containing both cross and square packages, the birds exposed to the video were quicker to select their first item, and 32% less likely to choose the ‘conspicuous’ square prey.    

“Just as we might learn to avoid certain foods by seeing a facial expression of disgust, observing another individual headshake and wipe its beak encouraged the great tits to avoid that type of prey,” said Thorogood.

“By modelling the social spread of information from our experimental data, we worked out that predator avoidance of more vividly conspicuous species would become enough for them to survive, spread, and evolve.”

Great tits – a close relation of North America’s chickadee – make a good study species as they are “generalist insectivores” that forage in flocks, and are known to spread other forms of information through observation.

Famously, species of tit learned how to pierce milk bottle lids and siphon the cream during the middle of last century – a phenomenon that spread rapidly through flocks across the UK.

Something great tits don’t eat, however, is a seven-spotted ladybird. “One of the most common ladybird species is bright red, and goes untouched by great tits. Other insects that are camouflaged, such as the brown larch ladybird or green winter moth caterpillar, are fed on by great tits and their young,” said Thorogood.

“The seven-spotted ladybird is so easy to see that if every predator had to eat one before they discovered its foul taste, it would have struggled to survive and reproduce.

“We think it may be the social information of their unpalatable nature spreading through predator species such as great tits that makes the paradox of conspicuous insects such as seven-spotted ladybirds possible.”      

A new study of TV-watching great tits reveals how they learn through observation. Social interactions within a predator species can have “evolutionary consequences” for potential prey – such as the conspicuous warning colours of insects like ladybirds.

We suspect our findings apply over a wide range of predators and prey. Social information may have evolutionary consequences right across ecological communitiesRose ThorogoodPer Tillmann


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Calf’s foot jelly and a tankard of ale? Welcome to the 18th century Starbucks

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 10:49

Customers today may settle for a flat white and a cinnamon swirl, but at coffee shops 250 years ago, many also expected ale, wine, and possibly a spot of calf’s foot jelly, a new study has shown.

Following its identification during an archaeological survey, researchers are publishing complete details of the most significant collection of artefacts from an early coffee shop ever recovered in the UK. The establishment, called Clapham’s, was on a site now owned by St John’s College, Cambridge, but in the mid-to-late 1700s it was a bustling coffeehouse – the contemporary equivalent, academics say, of a branch of Starbucks.

Researchers from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit – part of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cambridge – uncovered a disused cellar which had been backfilled with unwanted items, possibly at some point during the 1770s. Inside, they found more than 500 objects, many in a very good state of preservation. These included drinking vessels for tea, coffee and chocolate, serving dishes, clay pipes, animal and fish bones, and an impressive haul of 38 teapots.

The assemblage has now been used to reconstruct what a visit to Clapham’s might have been like, and in particular what its clientele ate and drank. The report suggests that the standard view of early English coffeehouses, as civilised establishments where people engaged in sober, reasoned debate, may need some reworking.

Customers at Clapham’s, while they no doubt drank coffee, also enjoyed plenty of ale and wine, and tucked into dishes ranging from pastry-based snacks to substantial meals involving meat and seafood. The discovery of 18 jelly glasses, alongside a quantity of feet bones from immature cattle, led the researchers to conclude that calf’s foot jelly, a popular dish of that era, might well have been a house speciality.

Craig Cessford, from the Cambridge Archaeological Unit, said that by modern standards, Clapham’s was perhaps less like a coffee shop, and more like an inn.

“Coffee houses were important social centres during the 18th century, but relatively few assemblages of archaeological evidence have been recovered and this is the first time that we have been able to study one in such depth,” he said.

“In many respects, the activities at Clapham’s barely differed from contemporary inns. It seems that coffeehouses weren’t completely different establishments as they are now – they were perhaps at the genteel end of a spectrum that ran from alehouse to coffeehouse.”

Although the saturation of British high streets with coffee shops is sometimes considered a recent phenomenon, they were in fact also extremely common centuries ago. Coffee-drinking first came to Britain in the 16th century and increased in popularity thereafter. By the mid-18th century there were thousands of coffeehouses, which acted as important gathering places and social hubs. Only towards the end of the 1700s did these start to disappear, as tea eclipsed coffee as the national drink.

Clapham’s was owned by a couple, William and Jane Clapham, who ran it from the 1740s until the 1770s. It was popular with students and townspeople alike, and a surviving verse from a student publication of 1751 even attests to its importance as a social centre: “Dinner over, to Tom’s or Clapham’s I go; the news of the town so impatient to know.”

The researchers think that the cellar was perhaps backfilled towards the end of the 1770s, when Jane, by then a widow, retired and her business changed hands. It then lay forgotten until St John’s commissioned and paid for a series of archaeological surveys on and around the site of its Old Divinity School, which were completed in 2012.

Some of the items found were still clearly marked with William and Jane’s initials. They included tea bowls (the standard vessel for drinking tea at the time), saucers, coffee cans and cups, and chocolate cups – which the researchers were able to distinguish because they were taller, since “chocolate was served with a  frothy, foamy head”. They also found sugar bowls, milk and cream jugs, mixing bowls, storage jars, plates, bowls, serving dishes, sauceboats, and many other objects.

Even though Clapham’s was a coffeehouse, the finds suggest that tea was fast winning greater affection among drinkers; tea bowls were almost three times as common as coffee cans or cups.

Perhaps more striking, however, was the substantial collection of tankards, wine bottles and glasses, indicating that alcohol consumption was normal. Some drinkers appear to have had favourite tankards reserved for their personal use, while the team also found two-handled cups, possibly for drinking “possets” – milk curdled with wine or ale, and often spiced.

Compared with the sandwiches and muffins on offer in coffee shops today, dining was a much bigger part of life at Clapham’s. Utensils and crockery were found for making patties, pastries, tarts, jellies, syllabubs and other desserts. Animal bones revealed that patrons enjoyed shoulders and legs of mutton, beef, pork, hare, rabbit, chicken and goose. The researchers also found oyster shells, and bones from fish such as eel, herring and mackerel.

Although coffeehouses have traditionally been associated with the increasing popularity of smoking in Britain, there was little evidence of much at Clapham’s. Just five clay pipes were found, including one particularly impressive specimen which carries the slogan “PARKER for ever, Huzzah” – possibly referring to the naval Captain Peter Parker, who was celebrated for his actions during the American War of Independence. The lack of pipes may be because, at the time, tobacco was considered less fashionable than snuff.

Together, the assemblage adds up to a picture in which, rather than making short visits to catch up on the news and engage in polite conversation, customers often settled in for the evening at an establishment that offered them not just hot beverages, but beer, wine, punch and liqueurs, as well as extensive meals. Some even seem to have “ordered out” from nearby inns if their favourite food was not on the menu.

There was little evidence, too, that they read newspapers and pamphlets, the rise of which historians also link to coffeehouses. Newspapers were perishable and therefore unlikely to survive in the archaeological record, but the researchers also point out that other evidence of reading – such as book clasps – has been found on the site of inns nearby, while it is absent here.

“We need to remember this was just one of thousands of coffeehouses and Clapham’s may have been atypical in some ways,” Cessford added. “Despite this it does give us a clearer sense than we’ve ever had before of what these places were like, and a tentative blueprint for spotting the traces of other coffeehouse sites in archaeological assemblages in the future.”

Researchers have published details of the largest collection of artefacts from an early English coffeehouse ever discovered. Described as an 18th century equivalent of Starbucks, the finds nonetheless suggest that it may have been less like a café, and more like an inn.

Coffee houses were important social centres during the 18th century. This is the first time that we have been able to study one in such depthCraig CessfordCambridge Archaeological UnitThe finds from Clapham’s Coffee House, some of which are pictured here, included teapots, wine glasses, and clay pipes. (Image: Cambridge Archaeological Unit)


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Council prioritises building more homes to provide people with a secure place to call home

Cambridge Council Feed - Mon, 12/18/2017 - 09:05

PROVIDING more homes for people in desperate need remains a top priority for Cambridge City Council.

The Housing Revenue Account Budget Setting Report (BSR), published today, describes how the council will invest in housing services in the coming year to target resources on those people in greatest need and to improve efficiency.

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Free energy advice service aims to cut bills and keep homes warm this winter

Cambridge Council Feed - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 14:11

A NEW energy advice service has been launched to help Cambridge residents cut household bills and keep their homes warm this winter for less.

‘Winter Warmth’ has seen Cambridge City Council team up with environmental charity, PECT, to provide residents with access to free household energy advice and to book a free home energy advice visit from an impartial advisor.

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Ancient faeces reveal parasites described in earliest Greek medical texts

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 12/15/2017 - 04:15

Ancient faeces from prehistoric burials on the Greek island of Kea have provided the first archaeological evidence for the parasitic worms described 2,500 years ago in the writings of Hippocrates – the most influential works of classical medicine.

University of Cambridge researchers Evilena Anastasiou and Piers Mitchell used microscopy to study soil formed from decomposed faeces recovered from the surface of pelvic bones of skeletons buried in the Neolithic (4th millennium BC), Bronze Age (2nd millennium BC) and Roman periods (146 BC – 330 AD).

The Cambridge team worked on this project with Anastasia Papathanasiou and Lynne Schepartz, who are experts in the archaeology and anthropology of ancient Greece, and were based in Athens.

They found that eggs from two species of parasitic worm (helminths) were present: whipworm (Trichuris trichiura), and roundworm (Ascaris lumbricoides). Whipworm was present from the Neolithic, and roundworm from the Bronze Age.

Hippocrates was a medical practitioner from the Greek island of Cos, who lived in the 5th and 4th centuries BC. He became famous for developing the concept of humoural theory to explain why people became ill.

This theory – in which a healthy body has a balance of four ‘humours’: black bile, yellow bile, blood and phlegm – remained the accepted explanation for disease followed by doctors in Europe until the 17th century, over 2,000 years later.

Hippocrates and his students described many diseases in their medical texts, and historians have been trying to work out which diseases they were. Until now, they had to rely on the original written descriptions of intestinal worms to estimate which parasites may have infected the ancient Greeks. The Hippocratic texts called these intestinal worms Helmins strongyle, Ascaris, and Helmins plateia.

The researchers say that this new archaeological evidence identifies beyond doubt some of the species of parasites that infected people in the region. The findings are published today in the Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports

“The Helmins strongyle worm in the ancient Greek texts is likely to have referred to roundworm, as found at Kea. The Ascaris worm described in the ancient medical texts may well have referred to two parasites, pinworm and whipworm, with the latter being found at Kea,” said study leader Piers Mitchell, from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology.

“Until now we only had estimates from historians as to what kinds of parasites were described in the ancient Greek medical texts. Our research confirms some aspects of what the historians thought, but also adds new information that the historians did not expect, such as that whipworm was present”.

The mention of infections by these parasites in the Hippocratic Corpus includes symptoms of vomiting up worms, diarrhoea, fevers and shivers, heartburn, weakness, and swelling of the abdomen.

Descriptions of treatment for intestinal worms in the Corpus were mainly through medicines, such as the crushed root of the wild herb seseli mixed with water and honey taken as a drink.

“Finding the eggs of intestinal parasites as early as the Neolithic period in Greece is a key advance in our field,” said Evilena Anastasiou, one of the study’s authors. “This provides the earliest evidence for parasitic worms in ancient Greece.”

“This research shows how we can bring together archaeology and history to help us better understand the discoveries of key early medical practitioners and scientists,” added Mitchell.

Earliest archaeological evidence of intestinal parasitic worms infecting the ancient inhabitants of Greece confirms descriptions found in writings associated with Hippocrates, the early physician and ‘father of Western medicine’.    

This research shows how we can bring together archaeology and history to help us better understand the discoveries of key early medical practitioners and scientistsPiers MitchellLeft: Piers Mitchell/Elsevier. Right: Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati.Left: whipworm egg taken from ancient Greek faecal matter. Right: excavation of the Bronze Age site of Ayia Irini on the island of Kea.


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Peer challenge team praises city council ambition

Cambridge Council Feed - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 16:48

AN INDEPENDENT review of Cambridge City Council’s prospects has concluded the council is well run, is working well in partnership to improve the quality of residents’ lives and knows the things it needs to do better.

This view was arrived at by a team of officers and councillors from other UK authorities who were invited to Cambridge by the council, to provide an independent review of its strengths and areas for improvement.

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Mistletoe and (a large) wine: seven-fold increase in wine glass size over 300 years

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 12/14/2017 - 00:14

Both the types of alcoholic drink and the amount consumed in England has fluctuated over the last 300 years, largely in response to economic, legislative and social factors. Until the second part of the 20th century, beer and spirits were the most common forms of alcohol consumed, with wine most commonly consumed by the upper classes.

Wine consumption increased almost four-fold between 1960 and 1980, and almost doubled again between 1980 and 2004. Increased alcohol consumption since the mid-20th century reflects greater affordability, availability and marketing of alcoholic products, as well as licensing liberalisations leading to supermarkets competing in the drinks retail business.

In 2016, Professor Marteau and colleagues carried out an experiment at the Pint Shop in Cambridge, altering the size of wine glasses while keeping the serving sizes the same. They found that this led to an almost 10% increase in sales.

“Wine will no doubt be a feature of some merry Christmas nights, but when it comes to how much we drink, wine glass size probably does matter,” says Professor Theresa Marteau, Director of the Behaviour and Health Research Unit at the University of Cambridge.

In a study published today in The BMJ, Professor Marteau and colleagues looked at wine glass capacity over time to help understand whether any changes in their size might have contributed to the steep rise in its consumption over the past few decades.

“Wine glasses became a common receptacle from which wine was drunk around 1700,” says first author Dr Zorana Zupan. “This followed the development of lead crystal glassware by George Ravenscroft in the late 17th century, which led to the manufacture of less fragile and larger glasses than was previously possible.”

Through a combination of online searches and discussions with experts in antique glassware, including museum curators, the researchers obtained measurements of 411 glasses from 1700 to modern day. They found that wine glass capacity increased from 66 ml in the 1700s to 417ml in the 2000s, with the mean wine glass size in 2016-17 being 449ml.

“Our findings suggest that the capacity of wine glasses in England increased significantly over the past 300 years,” adds Dr Zupan. “For the most part, this was gradual, but since the 1990s, the size has increased rapidly. Whether this led to the rise in wine consumption in England, we can’t say for certain, but a wine glass 300 years ago would only have held about a half of today’s small measure. On top of this, we also have some evidence that suggests wine glass size itself influences consumption.”

Increases in the size of wine glasses over time likely reflect changes in a number of factors including price, technology, societal wealth and wine appreciation. The ‘Glass Excise’ tax, levied in the mid-18th century, led to the manufacture of smaller glass products. This tax was abolished in 1845, and in the late Victorian era glass production began to shift from more traditional mouth-blowing techniques to more automated processes. These changes in production are reflected in the data, which show the smallest wine glasses during the 1700s with no increases in glass size during that time-period – the increase in size beginning in the 19th century.

Two changes in the 20th century likely contributed further to increased glass sizes. Wine glasses started to be tailored in both shape and size for different wine varieties, both reflecting and contributing to a burgeoning market for wine appreciation, with larger glasses considered important in such appreciation. From 1990 onwards, demand for larger wine glasses by the US market was met by an increase in the size of glasses manufactured in England, where a ready market was also found.

A further influence on wine glass size may have come both from those running bars and restaurants, as well as their consumers. If sales of wine increased when sold in larger glasses, this may have incentivised vendors to use larger glasses. Larger wine glasses can also increase the pleasure from drinking wine, which may also increase the desire to drink more.

In England, wine is increasingly served in 250ml servings with smaller sizes of 125ml often absent from wine lists or menus, despite a regulatory requirement introduced in 2010 that licensees make customers aware that these smaller measures are available. A serving size of 250ml – one third of a standard 75cl bottle of wine and one fifth of the weekly recommended intake for low risk drinking – is larger than the mean capacity of a wine glass available in the 1980s.

Alongside increased wine glass capacity, the strength of wine sold in the UK since the 1990s has also increased, thereby likely further increasing any impact of larger wine glasses on the amount of pure alcohol being consumed by wine drinkers.

The researchers argue that if the impact of larger wine glasses upon consumption can be proven to be a reliable effect, then local licencing regulations limiting the size of glasses would expand the number of policy options for reducing alcohol consumption out of home. Reducing the size of wine glasses in licensed premises might also shift the social norm of what a wine glass should look like, with the potential to influence the size of wine glasses people use at home, where most alcohol, including wine, is consumed.

In the final line of their report, the researchers acknowledge the seasonal sensitivity to these suggestions: “We predict - with moderate confidence – that, while there will be some resistance to these suggestions, their palatability will be greater in the month of January than that of December.”

The research was funded by a Senior Investigator Award to Theresa Marteau from the National Institute for Health Research.

Reference
Zupan, Z et al. Wine glass size in England from 1700 to 2017: A measure of our time. BMJ; 14 Dec 2017; DOI: 10.1136/bmj.j5623

Image

WA1957.24.2.380 Enamelled Jacobite portrait glass. © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Our Georgian and Victorian ancestors probably celebrated Christmas with more modest wine consumption than we do today – if the size of their wine glasses are anything to go by. Researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that the capacity of wine glasses has increased seven-fold over the past 300 years, and most steeply in the last two decades as wine consumption rose.

Wine will no doubt be a feature of some merry Christmas nights, but when it comes to how much we drink, wine glass size probably does matterTheresa MarteauCharles GreenChristmas Comes But Once A Year


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New council homes on Anstey Way move a step closer

Cambridge Council Feed - Wed, 12/13/2017 - 13:33

A £10 million scheme to provide 54 much needed new council homes on Anstey Way in Trumpington has taken a major step forward, as clearance work on the site has begun and a planning application is set to be submitted later this month.

The scheme will, subject to planning permission, see 54 new council homes built to replace 28 properties of which 23 were let to council tenants and included an existing block of flats and a number of small bungalows. Due to their age and layout, some had been hard to let.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge Junction development plans move a step closer

Cambridge Council Feed - Tue, 12/12/2017 - 13:59

CAMBRIDGE City Council is working with Cambridge Junction, one of the city’s flagship cultural venues, to ensure its buildings and facilities are fit for purpose well into the 21st Century.

A report being taken to Strategy and Resources Scrutiny Committee on 22 January will seek approval to:

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Presenting facts as ‘consensus’ bridges conservative-liberal divide over climate change

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 12/11/2017 - 16:13

In the murk of post-truth public debate, facts can polarise. Scientific evidence triggers reaction and spin that ends up entrenching the attitudes of opposing political tribes.

Recent research suggests this phenomenon is actually stronger among the more educated, through what psychologists call 'motived reasoning': where data is rejected or twisted - consciously or otherwise - to prop up a particular worldview.

However, a new study in the journal Nature Human Behaviour finds that one type of fact can bridge the chasm between conservative and liberal, and pull people's opinions closer to the truth on one of the most polarising issues in US politics: climate change.

Previous research has broadly found US conservatives to be most sceptical of climate change. Yet by presenting a fact in the form of a consensus - "97% of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused global warming is happening" - researchers have now discovered that conservatives shift their perceptions significantly towards the scientific 'norm'.

In an experiment involving over 6,000 US citizens, psychologists found that introducing people to this consensus fact reduced polarisation between higher educated liberals and conservatives by roughly 50%, and increased conservative belief in a scientific accord on climate change by 20 percentage points.

Moreover, the latest research confirms the prior finding that climate change scepticism is indeed more deeply rooted among highly educated conservatives. Yet exposure to the simple fact of a scientific consensus neutralises the "negative interaction" between higher education and conservatism that strongly embeds these beliefs.

"The vast majority of people want to conform to societal standards, it's innate in us as a highly social species," says Dr Sander van der Linden, study lead author from the University of Cambridge's Department of Psychology.

"People often misperceive social norms, and seek to adjust once they are exposed to evidence of a group consensus," he says, pointing to the example that college students always think their friends drink more than they actually do.

"Our findings suggest that presenting people with a social fact, a consensus of opinion among experts, rather than challenging them with blunt scientific data, encourages a shift towards mainstream scientific belief - particularly among conservatives."

For van der Linden and his co-authors Drs Anthony Leiserowitz and Edward Maibach from Yale and George Mason universities in the US, social facts such as demonstrating a consensus can act as a "gateway belief": allowing a gradual recalibration of private attitudes.

"Information that directly threatens people's worldview can cause them to react negatively and become further entrenched in their beliefs. This 'backfire effect' appears to be particularly strong among highly educated US conservatives when it comes to contested issues such as manmade climate change," says van der Linden.

"It is more acceptable for people to change their perceptions of what is normative in science and society. Previous research has shown that people will then adjust their core beliefs over time to match. This is a less threatening way to change attitudes, avoiding the 'backfire effect' that can occur when someone's worldview is directly challenged."

For the study, researchers conducted online surveys of 6,301 US citizens that adhered to nationally representative quotas of gender, age, education, ethnicity, region and political ideology.

The nature of the study was hidden by claims of testing random media messages, with the climate change perception tests sandwiched between questions on consumer technology and popular culture messaging.

Half the sample were randomly assigned to receive the 'treatment' of exposure to the fact of scientific consensus, while the other half, the control group, did not.

Researchers found that attitudes towards scientific belief on climate change among self-declared conservatives were, on average, 35 percentage points lower (64%) than the actual scientific consensus of 97%. Among liberals it was 20 percentage points lower.

They also found a small additional negative effect: when someone is highly educated and conservative they judge scientific agreement to be even lower.

However, once the treatment group were exposed to the 'social fact' of overwhelming scientific agreement, higher-educated conservatives shifted their perception of the scientific norm by 20 percentage points to 83% - almost in line with post-treatment liberals.

The added negative effect of conservatism plus high education was completely neutralised through exposure to the truth on scientific agreement around manmade climate change.

"Scientists as a group are still viewed as trustworthy and non-partisan across the political spectrum in the US, despite frequent attempts to discredit their work through 'fake news' denunciations and underhand lobbying techniques deployed by some on the right," says van der Linden.

"Our study suggests that even in our so-called post-truth environment, hope is not lost for the fact. By presenting scientific facts in a socialised form, such as highlighting consensus, we can still shift opinion across political divides on some of the most pressing issues of our time."

New evidence shows that ‘social fact’ highlighting expert consensus shifts perceptions across US political spectrum – particularly among highly educated conservatives. Facts that encourage agreement are a promising way of cutting through today’s ‘post-truth’ bluster, say psychologists.

Even in our so-called post-truth environment, hope is not lost for the factSander van der Linden Photo by Jose Moreno on UnsplashProtester in Seattle, US


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Industrial Revolution left a damaging psychological ‘imprint’ on today’s populations

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 09:22

People living in the former industrial heartlands of England and Wales are more disposed to negative emotions such as anxiety and depressive moods, more impulsive and more likely to struggle with planning and self-motivation, according to a new study of almost 400,000 personality tests.

The findings show that, generations after the white heat of Industrial Revolution and decades on from the decline of deep coal mining, the populations of areas where coal-based industries dominated in the 19th century retain a “psychological adversity”. 

Researchers suggest this is the inherited product of selective migrations during mass industrialisation compounded by the social effects of severe work and living conditions.

They argue that the damaging cognitive legacy of coal is “reinforced and amplified” by the more obvious economic consequences of high unemployment we see today. The study also found significantly lower life satisfaction in these areas.   

The UK findings, published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, are supported by a North American “robustness check”, with less detailed data from US demographics suggesting the same patterns of post-industrial personality traits. 

“Regional patterns of personality and well-being may have their roots in major societal changes underway decades or centuries earlier, and the Industrial Revolution is arguably one of the most influential and formative epochs in modern history,” says co-author Dr Jason Rentfrow, from Cambridge’s Department of Psychology.

“Those who live in a post-industrial landscape still do so in the shadow of coal, internally as well as externally. This study is one of the first to show that the Industrial Revolution has a hidden psychological heritage, one that is imprinted on today’s psychological make-up of the regions of England and Wales.”

An international team of psychologists, including researchers from the Queensland University of Technology, University of Texas, University of Cambridge and the Baden-Wuerttemberg Cooperative State University, used data collected from 381,916 people across England and Wales during 2009-2011 as part of the BBC Lab’s online Big Personality Test.

The team analysed test scores by looking at the “big five” personality traits: extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism and openness. The results were further dissected by characteristics such as altruism, self-discipline and anxiety. 

The data was also broken down by region and county, and compared with several other large-scale datasets including coalfield maps and a male occupation census of the early 19th century (collated through parish baptism records, where the father listed his job).

The team controlled for an extensive range of other possible influences – from competing economic factors in the 19th century and earlier, through to modern considerations of education, wealth and even climate.

However, they still found significant personality differences for those currently occupying areas where large numbers of men had been employed in coal-based industries from 1813 to 1820 – as the Industrial Revolution was peaking.

Neuroticism was, on average, 33% higher in these areas compared with the rest of the country. In the ‘big five’ model of personality, this translates as increased emotional instability, prone to feelings of worry or anger, as well as higher risk of common mental disorders such as depression and substance abuse.

In fact, in the further “sub-facet” analyses, these post-industrial areas scored 31% higher for tendencies toward both anxiety and depression.

Areas that ranked highest for neuroticism include Blaenau Gwent and Ceredigion in South Wales, and Hartlepool in England. 

Conscientiousness was, on average, 26% lower in former industrial areas. In the ‘big five’ model, this manifests as more disorderly and less goal-oriented behaviours – difficulty with planning and saving money. The underlying sub-facet of ‘order’ itself was 35% lower in these areas.

The lowest three areas for conscientiousness were all in Wales (Merthyr Tydfil, Ceredigion and Gwynedd), with English areas including Nottingham and Leicester.   

An assessment of life satisfaction was included in the BBC Lab questionnaire, which was an average of 29% lower in former industrial centres. 

While researchers say there will be many factors behind the correlation between personality traits and historic industrialisation, they offer two likely ones: migration and socialisation (learned behaviour).    

The people migrating into industrial areas were often doing so to find employment in the hope of escaping poverty and distressing situations of rural depression – those experiencing high levels of ‘psychological adversity’.

However, people that left these areas, often later on, were likely those with higher degrees of optimism and psychological resilience, say researchers.

This “selective influx and outflow” may have concentrated so-called ‘negative’ personality traits in industrial areas – traits that can be passed down generations through combinations of experience and genetics.

Migratory effects would have been exacerbated by the ‘socialisation’ of repetitive, dangerous and exhausting labour from childhood – reducing well-being and elevating stress – combined with harsh conditions of overcrowding and atrocious sanitation during the age of steam.

The study’s authors argue their findings have important implications for today’s policymakers looking at public health interventions.

“The decline of coal in areas dependent on such industries has caused persistent economic hardship – most prominently high unemployment. This is only likely to have contributed to the baseline of psychological adversity the Industrial Revolution imprinted on some populations,” says co-author Michael Stuetzer from Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University, Germany.   

“These regional personality levels may have a long history, reaching back to the foundations of our industrial world, so it seems safe to assume they will continue to shape the well-being, health, and economic trajectories of these regions.”

The team note that, while they focused on the negative psychological imprint of coal, future research could examine possible long-term positive effects in these regions born of the same adversity – such as the solidarity and civic engagement witnessed in the labour movement.  

Study finds people in areas historically reliant on coal-based industries have more ‘negative’ personality traits. Psychologists suggest this cognitive die may well have been cast at the dawn of the industrial age.

The Industrial Revolution has a hidden psychological heritage, one that is imprinted on today’s psychological make-up of the regions of England and WalesJason RentfrowWellcome ImagesIndustrial workplace


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The Billingford Hutch and the moonwort fern – a medieval mystery solved

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Sun, 12/10/2017 - 01:53

A visitor to the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College may have solved the puzzle of a curious decorative detail on a chest dating from the early 15th century. The massive oak chest is known as the Billingford Hutch and takes its name from Richard de Billingford, the fifth Master of Corpus Christi (1398-1432).

Jeremy Purseglove, environmentalist and Cambridge resident, visited the Library during  Open Cambridge in September 2017. “It was a wonderful chance to get a glimpse of some of the Library’s medieval manuscripts,” he said.

“We were given a fascinating talk by Alexander Devine, one of the librarians. He showed us a massive chest that had recently been moved to the Library from elsewhere in the College. My eye was drawn to the leaf shapes in the metal work.”

The chest is made from oak planks and measures approximately 1.8m x 0.5m x 0.4m. It is reinforced by numerous iron bands and five iron hasps, secured in three locks, all operated by different keys. Each of the lock plates (the metal plates containing the locks, hasps and keyholes) is decorated with the outline of a plant punched into the metal.

No-one knew the significance of this decorative detail. Purseglove, who is passionate about plants, suspected the distinctive shape was likely to be that of moonwort, a fern much mentioned by 16th- century herbalists. He said: “I rushed home and looked it up. I found that it had been associated with the opening of locks and guarding of silver.”

According to the renowned herbalist Nicholas Culpepper, writing in the 17th century: “Moonwort is an herb which (they say) will open locks, and unshoe such horses as tread upon it. This some laugh to scorn, and those no small fools neither; but country people, that I know, call it Unshoe the Horse.” Moonwort is also mentioned by dramatist Ben Jonson as an ingredient of witches’ broth.

In both design and structure, the Billingford Hutch is similar to many surviving chests made for the storage of valuables in late medieval Europe, from strongboxes and trunks to coffers and caskets. However, what makes the Billingford Hutch remarkable is that it’s a loan chest, a rare example of late medieval ‘financial furniture’. 

University loan chests operated a bit like pawn shops and afforded temporary financial assistance to struggling scholars. “Richard de Billingford gave the College a sum of £20 which was placed in the chest under the guardianship of three custodians,” said Devine.

“Masters and Fellows of Corpus Christi were able to obtain loans up to a value of 40 shillings, around £2, by pledging objects of greater value, most often manuscripts, which would be held in the chest. After a specified time, the pledge – if unredeemed – would be sold and the original loan repaid to the chest with any profit going to the borrower.”

Billingford created the loan fund in 1420 but the chest itself may be even older. Other Cambridge colleges also had loan chests during the late Middle Ages but precious few survive. Corpus has retained not only the chest itself but also its register, containing its administrative records for more than 300 years.

The register offers great insight into the role of the chest in late medieval academic life at Corpus. Every one of the College’s Fellows and its Masters is named in the register, and many were repeat borrowers, demonstrating that the chest fulfilled a genuine need. The most frequent objects pledged to the Hutch were books. Other valuables included sacred vessels and chalices, silver spoons and salt cellars.

Devine said: “The Billingford Hutch is probably the best surviving example of its kind in Europe. To have a possible answer to the puzzle of its decorative motif is fantastic. We’re immensely grateful to Jeremy for enriching our understanding of its history. His wonderful discovery is further proof that sharing your collections with the public is the key to unlocking their secrets.”

Inset images: decorative motif on the hasp of the Billingford Hutch; the Hutch in its present position in the Parker Library; illustrations of 'the lunaria plant' from a 15th-century Catalan compilation of alchemical tracts (Corpus Christi College).

 

 

 

A heavy oak chest in the Parker Library (Corpus Christi College) was used to store objects left as collateral for loans of money. Its ironwork features the outline of a plant – but no-one knew why. Now a visitor to the Library may have unravelled the meaning of this decorative motif.

Jeremy Purseglove's discovery is proof that sharing your collections with the public is the key to unlocking their secrets.Alexander DevineParker Library, Corpus Christi CollegeDecorative detail on the Billingford Hutch


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