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‘Carbon bubble’ coming that could wipe trillions from the global economy – study

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 06/04/2018 - 13:06

Fossil fuel stocks have long been a safe financial bet. With price rises projected until 2040* and governments prevaricating or rowing back on the Paris Agreement, investor confidence is set to remain high.

However, new research suggests that the momentum behind technological change in the global power and transportation sectors will lead to a dramatic decline in demand for fossil fuels in the near future.

The study indicates that this will now happen regardless of apparent market certainty or the adoption of climate policies – or lack thereof – by major nations.

Detailed simulations produced by an international team of economists and policy experts show this fall in demand has the potential to leave vast reserves of fossil fuels as “stranded assets”: abruptly shifting from high to low value sometime before 2035.

Such a sharp slump in fossil fuel price could cause a huge “carbon bubble” built on long-term investments to burst. According to the study, the equivalent of between one and four trillion US dollars could be wiped off the global economy in fossil fuel assets alone. A loss of US$0.25 trillion triggered the crash of 2008 by comparison. 

Publishing their findings today in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from Cambridge University (UK), Radboud University (NL), the Open University (UK), Macau University, and Cambridge Econometrics, argue that there will be clear economic winners and losers as a consequence.

Japan, China and many EU nations currently rely on high-cost fossil fuel imports to meet energy needs. They could see national expenditure fall and – with the right investment in low-carbon technologies – a boost to Gross Domestic Product as well as increased employment in sustainable industries.

However, major carbon exporters with relatively high production costs, such as Canada, the United States and Russia, would see domestic fossil fuel industries collapse. Researchers warn that losses will only be exacerbated if incumbent governments continue to neglect renewable energy in favour of carbon-intensive economies. 

The study repeatedly ran simulations to gauge the outcomes of numerous combinations of global economic and environmental change. It is the first time that the evolution of low-carbon technologies has been mapped from historical data and incorporated into ‘integrated assessment modeling’.

“Until now, observers mostly paid attention to the likely effectiveness of climate policies, but not to the ongoing and effectively irreversible technological transition,” said Dr Jean-François Mercure, study lead author from Cambridge University’s Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG) and Radboud University.

Prof Jorge Viñuales, study co-author from Cambridge University and founder of C-EENRG, said: “Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuels assets may happen even without new climate policies. This suggests a carbon bubble is forming and it is likely to burst.”

“Individual nations cannot avoid the situation by ignoring the Paris Agreement or burying their heads in coal and tar sands,” he said. “For too long, global climate policy has been seen as a prisoner’s dilemma game, where some nations can do nothing and get a ‘free ride’ on the efforts of others. Our results show this is no longer the case.”

However, one of the most alarming economic possibilities suggested by the study comes with a sudden push for climate policies – a ‘two-degree target’ scenario – combined with declines in fossil fuel demand but continued levels of production. This could see an initial US$4 trillion of fossil fuel assets vanish off the balance sheets.

“If we are to defuse this time-bomb in the global economy, we need to move promptly but cautiously,” said Hector Pollitt, study co-author from Cambridge Econometrics and C-EENRG. “The carbon bubble must be deflated before it becomes too big, but progress must also be carefully managed."

One of the factors that may contribute to the tumult created by fossil fuel asset stranding is what’s known as a “sell-out” by OPEC (Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) nations in the Middle East.

“If OPEC nations maintain production levels as prices drop, they will crowd out the market,” said Pollitt. “OPEC nations will be the only ones able to produce fossil fuels at the low costs required, and exporters such as the US and Canada will be unable to compete.”

Viñuales observes that China is poised to gain most from fossil fuel stranding. “China is already a world leader in renewable energy technologies, and needs to deploy them domestically to tackle dangerous levels of pollution. Additionally, stranding would take a higher toll on some of its main geopolitical competitors. China has a strong incentive to push for climate policies.”

The study authors suggest that economic damage from adherence to fossil fuels may lead to political upheaval of the kind we are perhaps already seeing. “Mass unemployment from carbon-based industries could feed public disenchantment and populist politics,” Viñuales said.  

The authors argue that initial actions should include the diversifying of energy supplies as well as investment portfolios. “Divestment from fossil fuels is both a prudential and necessary thing to do,” said Mercure. “Investment and pension funds need to evaluate how much of their money is in fossil fuel assets and reassess the risk they are taking.”

“A useful step would be to expand financial disclosure requirements, making companies and financial managers reveal assets at risk from fossil fuel decline, so that it becomes reflected in asset prices,” Mercure added.

*International Energy Agency. World Energy Outlook (OECD/IEA, 2016).

Macroeconomic simulations show rates of technological change in energy efficiency and renewable power are likely to cause a sudden drop in demand for fossil fuels, potentially sparking a global financial crisis. Experts call for a “carefully managed” shift to low-carbon investments and policies to deflate this “carbon bubble”.

Individual nations cannot avoid the situation by ignoring the Paris Agreement or burying their heads in coal and tar sandsJorge ViñualesRich Energy


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Residents invited to help shape city council's electoral ward boundaries

Cambridge Council Feed - Fri, 06/01/2018 - 13:51

RESIDENTS are being invited to get involved in a review of electoral boundaries in Cambridge.

The independent Local Government Boundary Commission for England has begun a consultation asking for views on a new pattern of council wards for Cambridge City Council.

The Commission has announced that Cambridge should have 42 councillors in future, the same as it has now, which means there will be no change from the current arrangements.

However, ward boundaries across the city are set to change.

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First Peoples: two ancient ancestries ‘reconverged’ with settling of South America

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 19:01

Recent research has suggested that the first people to enter the Americas split into two ancestral branches, the northern and southern, and that the “southern branch” gave rise to all populations in Central and South America.  

Now, a study shows for the first time that, deep in their genetic history, the majority – if not all – of the Indigenous peoples of the southern continent retain at least some DNA from the “northern branch”: the direct ancestors of many Native communities living today in the Canadian east. 

The latest findings, published today in the journal Science, reveal that, while these two populations may have remained separate for millennia – long enough for distinct genetic ancestries to emerge – they came back together before or during the expansion of people into South America.

The new analyses of 91 ancient genomes from sites in California and Canada also provide further evidence that the first peoples separated into two populations between 18,000 and 15,000 years ago. This would have been during or after migrating across the now-submerged land bridge from Siberia along the coast.  

Ancient genomes from sites in Southwest Ontario show that, after the split, Indigenous ancestors representing the northern branch migrated eastwards to the great lakes region. This population may have followed the retreating glacial edges as the Ice Age began to thaw, say researchers.

The study also adds to evidence that the prehistoric people associated with Clovis culture – named for 13,000-year-old stone tools found near Clovis, New Mexico, and once believed to be ancestral to all Native Americans – originated from ancient peoples representing the southern branch.

This southern population likely continued down the Pacific coast, inhabiting islands along the way. Ancient DNA from the Californian Channel Islands shows that initial populations were closely related to the Clovis people.

Yet contemporary Central and South American genomes reveal a “reconvergence” of these two branches deep in time. The scientific team, led by the universities of Cambridge, UK, and Illinois Urbana-Champaign, US, say there must have been one or a number of “admixture” events between the two populations around 13,000 years ago.

They say that the blending of lineages occurred either in North America prior to expansion south, or as people migrated ever deeper into the southern continent, most likely following the western coast down.

“It was previously thought that South Americans, and indeed most Native Americans, derived from one ancestry related to the Clovis people,” said Dr Toomas Kivisild, co-senior author of the study from Cambridge’s Department of Archaeology. 

“We now find that all native populations in North, Central and South America also draw genetic ancestry from a northern branch most closely related to Indigenous peoples of eastern Canada. This cannot be explained by activity in the last few thousand years. It is something altogether more ancient,” he said.

Dr Ripan S. Malhi, co-senior author from Illinois Urbana-Champaign, said: “Working in partnership with Indigenous communities, we can now learn more about the intricacies of ancestral histories in the Americas through advances in paleogenomic technologies. We are starting to see that previous models of ancient populations were unrealistically simple.”

Present day Central and South American populations analysed in the study were found to have a genetic contribution from the northern branch ranging between 42% to as high as 71% of the genome.

Surprisingly, the highest proportion of northern branch genetics in South America was found way down in southern Chile, in the same area as the Monte Verde archeological site – one of the oldest known human settlements in the Americas (over 14,500 years old).

“It’s certainly an intriguing finding, although currently circumstantial – we don’t have ancient DNA to corroborate how early this northern ancestral branch arrived,” said Dr Christiana Scheib, first author of the study, who conducted the work while at the University of Cambridge.

“It could be evidence for a vanguard population from the northern branch deep in the southern continent that became isolated for a long time – preserving a genetic continuity.

“Prior to 13,000 years ago, expansion into the tip of South America would have been difficult due to massive ice sheets blocking the way. However, the area in Chile where the Monte Verde site is located was not covered in ice at this time,” she said.

“In populations living today across both continents we see much higher genetic proportions of the southern, Clovis-related branch. Perhaps they had some technology or cultural practice that allowed for faster expansion. This may have pushed the northern branch to the edges of the landmass, as well as leading to admixture encounters.”

While consultation efforts varied in this study from community-based partnerships to more limited engagement, the researchers argue that more must be done to include Indigenous communities in ancient DNA studies in the Americas.

The researchers say that genomic analysis of ancient people can have adverse consequences for linked Indigenous communities. Engagement work can help avoid unintended harm to the community and ensure that Indigenous peoples have a voice in research.

“The lab-based science should only be a part of the research. We need to work with Indigenous communities in a more holistic way,” added Schieb, who has recently joined the University of Tartu’s Institute of Genomics, where Kivisild also holds an affiliation.

“From the analysis of a single tooth, paleogenomics research can now offer information on ancient diet and disease as well as migration. By developing partnerships that incorporate ideas from Native communities, we can potentially generate results that are of direct interest and use to the Indigenous peoples involved,” she said. 

New research using ancient DNA finds that a population split after people first arrived in North America was maintained for millennia before mixing again before or during the expansion of humans into the southern continent.

The lab-based science should only be a part of the research. We need to work with Indigenous communities in a more holistic wayDr Christiana ScheibScheib/Kivisild/MahliTwo of the four possible combinations of ancient admixture highlighted by the researchers.


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Graphene paves the way to faster high-speed communications

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 17:45

Graphene, among other materials, can capture particles of light called photons, combine them, and produce a more powerful optical beam. This is due to a physical phenomenon called optical harmonic generation, which is characteristic of nonlinear materials. Nonlinear optical effects can be exploited in a variety of applications, including laser technology, material processing and telecommunications.

Although all materials should demonstrate this behaviour, the efficiency of this process is typically small and cannot be controlled externally. Now, researchers from the University of Cambridge, Politecnico di Milano and IIT- Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia have demonstrated that graphene not only shows a good optical response but also how to control the strength of this effect using an electric field. Their results are reported in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. All three institutions are partners in the Graphene Flagship, a pan-European project dedicated to bringing graphene and related materials for commercial applications. 

Graphene – a form of carbon just a single atom thick – has a unique combination of properties that make it useful for applications from flexible electronics and fast data communication, to enhanced structural materials and water treatments. It is highly electrically and thermally conductive, as well as strong and flexible.

Researchers envision the creation of new graphene optical switches, which could also harness new optical frequencies to transmit data along optical cables, increasing the amount of data that can be transmitted. Currently, most commercial devices using nonlinear optics are only used in spectroscopy. Graphene could pave the way towards the fabrication of new devices for ultra-broad bandwidth applications.

“Our work shows that the third harmonic generation efficiency in graphene can be increased by over 10 times by tuning an applied electric field,” said lead author Giancarlo Soavi, of the Cambridge Graphene Centre.

“The authors found again something unique about graphene: tuneability of third harmonic generation over a broad wavelength range," said Professor Frank Koppens from the ICFO (The Institute of Photonic Sciences)in Barcelona and leader of one of the Graphene Flagship work packages. "As more and more applications are all-optical, this work paves the way to a multitude of technologies.”

Professor Andrea C. Ferrari, Science and Technology Officer of the Graphene Flagship, and Chair of its Management Panel, said: “Graphene never ceases to surprise us when it comes to optics and photonics. The Graphene Flagship has put significant investment to study and exploit the optical properties of graphene. This collaborative work could lead to optical devices working on a range of frequencies broader than ever before, thus enabling a larger volume of information to be processed or transmitted.”

Reference:
Giancarlo Soavi et al. 'Broadband, electrically tuneable, third harmonic generation in graphene.' Nature Nanotechnology (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41565-018-0145-8

Adapted from a Cambridge Graphene Centre press release

Researchers have created a technology that could lead to new devices for faster, more reliable ultra-broad bandwidth transfers, and demonstrated how electrical fields boost the non-linear optical effects of graphene. 

Graphene never ceases to surprise us when it comes to optics and photonics.Andrea FerrariAlexanderAlUSGraphene


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Cambridge and Shandong University sign agreement to support innovation and entrepreneurship

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 14:18

The agreement between Cambridge and Shandong Universities was signed earlier this week, and will establish the Shandong University School of Innovation Intermediary and the Innovation Institute in Qingdao. Qingdao is the largest city in Shandong province and supports a rapidly-growing high-tech sector: Shandong University opened a campus there in 2017. The new school will be supported by Cambridge Enterprise, the University’s commercialisation arm, Shandong University and Qingdao Municipal Government.

The signing ceremony was witnessed by Professor Fan Liming, President of Shandong University and Professor Eilís Ferran, Cambridge’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Institutional and International Relations.

As part of the agreement, Cambridge will bring its expertise in commercialisation to aid technology transfer processes and encourage entrepreneurship in Shandong Province. The two universities will explore ways to improve interactions, build a world-class institution and cultivate talent. They will also support faculty and students to put their results into practice.

“We will help to establish an enterprise team in Qingdao and share our experience and knowledge to help businesses innovate and thrive, improve the university campus and support the city’s development,” said Dr Tony Raven, chief executive of Cambridge Enterprise.

In her speech, President Fan Liming said that innovation and technology transfer are of great importance to the university’s development and its responsibility to give back to society. The signing of the agreement is an important beginning for the two universities to promote the construction of the School.

With the support of Qingdao government, both sides will work closely to promote the development of the School in accordance with the framework and plans that both have agreed upon. It will help to contribute to the social and economic development both at local and national levels, and will also enhance the people-to-people exchanges between China and the UK. Professor Ferran expressed her appreciation to President Fan Liming for her strong support to the cooperation between the two universities.

“Cambridge attaches great importance to the cooperation with Shandong University,” she said. “This agreement will deepen the relationship between our two universities and our two countries through the collaboration of universities, industry and governments.”

Tony Raven, the CEO of Cambridge Enterprise, and Sun Fengshou, Director of the Department of International Affairs of Shandong University, signed the agreement. 

The University of Cambridge has signed an agreement with one of China’s largest universities to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship in one of China’s fastest-growing high-tech clusters.

L-R: Professor Eilís Ferran, Dr Tony Raven, Sun Fengshou, Professor Fan Liming


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Multiple metals – and possible signs of water – found in unique exoplanet

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 05/31/2018 - 10:39

The team, from the University of Cambridge and the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) in Spain used the Gran Telescopio Canarias (GTC) to observe WASP-127b, a giant gaseous planet with partly clear skies and strong signatures of metals in its atmosphere. The results have been accepted for publication in the journal Astronomy & Astrophysics.

WASP-127b has a radius 1.4 times larger than Jupiter but has only 20% of its mass. Such a planet has no analogue in our solar system and is rare even within the thousands of exoplanets discovered to date. It takes just over four days to orbit its parent star and its surface temperature is around 1400 K (1127° C).

The observations of WASP-127b reveal the presence of a large concentration of alkali metals in its atmosphere, allowing simultaneous detections of sodium, potassium and lithium for the first time in an exoplanet. The sodium and potassium absorptions are very broad, which is characteristic of relatively clear atmospheres. According to modelling work done by the researchers, the skies of WASP-127b are approximately 50% clear.

“The particular characteristics of this planet allowed us to perform a detailed study of its rich atmospheric composition,” said Dr Guo Chen, a postdoctoral researcher at IAC and the study’s first author. “The presence of lithium is important to understand the evolutionary history of the planetary system and could shed light on the mechanisms of planet formation.”

The planet’s host star, WASP-127, is also lithium rich, which could point to an AGB star – a bright red giant thousands of times brighter than the sun – or a supernova having enriched the cloud of material from which this system originated.

The researchers also found possible signs of water. “While this detection is not statistically significant, as water features are weak in the visible range, our data indicate that additional observations in the near-infrared should be able to detect it,” said co-author Enric Pallé, also from IAC.

The results demonstrate the potential of ground-based telescopes for the study of planetary atmospheres. “The detection of a trace element such as lithium in a planetary atmosphere is a major breakthrough and motivates new follow-up observations and detailed theoretical modelling to corroborate the findings,” said co-author Dr Nikku Madhusudhan, from Cambridge’s Institute of Astronomy.

We are just starting to probe the atmospheres of exoplanets with ground-based telescopes, but the authors believe that this will also be a reference exoplanet for future studies with space telescopes such as the James Webb Telescope, the successor to the Hubble Telescope. These future studies will reveal the detailed nature of WASP-127b as a benchmark for this new class of very low-density exoplanets.

The WASP-127b observations were conducted using the OSIRIS instrument of the GTC, from the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, in Garafía (La Palma). The Observatories of the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC) and the Gran Telescopio CANARIAS (GTC) are part of the Spanish Unique Scientific and Technical Infrastructures (ICTS) network.

Reference:
G. Chen et al. ‘The GTC exoplanet transit spectroscopy survey. IX. Detection of Haze, Na, K, and Li in the super-Neptune WASP-127b.’ Astronomy & Astrophysics (in press). DOI:10.1051/0004-6361/201833033

An international team of researchers have identified ‘fingerprints’ of multiple metals in one of the least dense exoplanets ever found. 

The detection of a trace element such as lithium in a planetary atmosphere is a major breakthrough.Nikku Madhusudhan Instituto de Astrofísica de CanariasArtistic simulation of WASP127b


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Cambridge and LMU announce plans for strategic partnership

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 05/29/2018 - 13:21

The University of Cambridge and the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU) put pen to paper on a memorandum of understanding that will see the two institutions forge ever-closer links in education and research across a broad range of disciplines in the Sciences, Humanities and Medicine.

Senior leaders from Cambridge and LMU – which boast nearly 150 Nobel Laureates between them – came together over two days in Cambridge for meetings led by both the President of LMU, Professor Bernd Huber, and Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope.

At the conclusion of the visit, officials from Cambridge and LMU signed the memorandum of understanding, which indicates the desire to develop a joint programme of strategic importance to both institutions. A full programme will be formulated by the end of the year, with a formal launch expected to take place in early 2019.

It is intended that the partnership will include joint research activities, the exchange of academic staff, postdoctoral and PhD candidates, as well as masters and undergraduate students, joint teaching initiatives, and training for the next generation of scholars. The partnership will be cross-disciplinary, covering broad areas in the Humanities and Cultural Studies, Law, Economics and Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, as well as Medicine, and will develop over the course of an initial five-year funding period. 

Professor Chris Young, Head Elect of the School of Arts and Humanities, and Cambridge’s academic lead for the strategic partnership, said: “The LMU is Germany's leading university in Germany's leading city.

“Its outstanding scholarship and rich network of associated institutes and industrial partnerships make it the perfect bridge to Bavaria, Germany and Europe. There are already myriad collaborations between colleagues at both universities, and this exciting new partnership will intensify and augment these for years to come.”

Professor Thomas Ackermann, Dean of the Faculty of Law and LMU’s Director for the strategic partnership, said: “The University of Cambridge is one of the world’s leading institutions in education, learning, and research. The strategic partnership between our universities will pave the way towards a new level of cooperation. Together with my colleague, Chris Young, we will explore an interesting array of activities to ensure the program will be a great success for both universities.”

Cambridge Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, said: “No single institution can provide, on its own, the answers to the great challenges of these turbulent times. Collaboration and openness to the world are essential to achieving our academic and civic missions. Our partnership with LMU, one of Europe’s finest universities, creates exciting opportunities to work together to address tough issues and provide our students with a richer education.”

“The strategic partnership with the University of Cambridge, one of the leading universities in Europe and the world, will bring an exciting stimulus to research and learning at LMU,” said LMU President Professor Bernd Huber. “Our new partnership ensures that collaboration and exchange which are vital for academic innovation can continue to be pursued regardless of Brexit.” 

Two of Europe’s leading research universities have today (May 29) announced the first step towards plans for a unique ‘strategic partnership’ – underlining the vital and ongoing relationship between British universities and their peer institutions across the EU in a post-Brexit landscape.

Collaboration and openness to the world are essential to achieving our academic and civic missions.Stephen ToopeNick Saffell/University of Cambridge


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Council welcomes High Court injunction judgement

Cambridge Council Feed - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 16:07

CAMBRIDGE City Council has welcomed a High Court judgement granting an injunction to ban unauthorised punt businesses from using council owned land along the middle river to access the River Cam.

The council’s riverside land, including land at Garret Hostel Lane, is being used by unauthorised punt operators, at locations that are not authorised punt stations and that do not have planning permission or approval from the council or the Cam Conservators.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Evolving with the robots

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 05/25/2018 - 10:56

Fear mongering and myth-making about human-like and social robots is stopping us from engaging with the technology behind them and having an input into how they - and we - evolve, says Hatice Gunes, Associate Professor at University of Cambridge's Computer Laboratory.

Dr Gunes will be speaking about her research at the Cambridge Series at the Hay Festival on 1st June and says we need to move beyond sensationalist portrayals of human-like robots and understand how they work.

Her Hay talk will centre on human robot interaction [HRI] and how it can be used for our benefit, for instance, for helping children with autism learn how to read expressions and to stimulate the senses of elderly people in care.

Dr Gunes will outline how HRI works. She says it has to be believable in order to be effective. That means robots’ appearance is very important. This is what has driven the development of humanoid robots with arms and aspects of a human face which can behave in a human-like way, for instance, moving their arms, legs and eyes. However, more important than appearance is their behaviour and emotional expressivity. Dr Gunes refers to the way we relate to Disney’s animated characters. “People believe in them because they can portray emotion,” she says.

To achieve expressivity requires an understanding of how human emotions are portrayed and triggered. Scientists have been working on artificial emotional intelligence which enables new technolgoy such as embodied agents and robots to both express and detect emotions, understanding non-verbal cues. Dr Gunes cites the work of Charles Darwin on the visual nature of emotions and how they can be mapped to various changes in facial expressions.

Her research investigates how humanoids can be programmed not only to extract and respond to facial clues to emotions, but also to understand the context in which those emotions are expressed. That means they will be able to offer a response that is sensitive to specific contexts.

Will robots ever be able to have emotions themselves though? Dr Gunes says there is no reason why not and questions what emotions are. The process of working with robots on artificial emotional intelligence unpicks the nature of our emotions, showing them to be a layering of different goals, experiences and stimuli.

Another area which scientists are looking at in their quest to improve humanoids’ believability is personality. Dr Gunes has done a lot of work on personality in telepresence robotics, robots controlled remotely by a human - a kind of 3D avatar. These can be used in many ways, for instance, by medical staff to offer remote home care. The medical person can be based anywhere and operate the robot through a virtual headset. Dr Gunes is interested in how people react to the teleoperator (the human controlling the robot remotely) who is present in robot form. Once again, both the robot’s physical appearance and behaviour are important and research shows that their personality needs to be task dependent.

Dr Gunes says there remain some big challenges for scientists working on HRI, including how to process and combine all the different data they are gathering, how to modify their appearance and behaviour dynamically, and how to keep their power going 24/7. The major challenges, however, are to do with breaking down some of the myths and fears people have about humanoids.

Part of this is because they don’t understand the benefits humanoid robots can bring and why, for instance, they need to take on a human form and understand emotions. She says humanoids can be positive in terms of increasing trust and engagement among certain groups, such as the elderly; that humans tends to anthropomorphise technology in any event; and that robots can be programmed to be limited to positive emotions that promote altruism.

“People tend to love or hate robots, but they don’t really know a lot about them,” says Dr Gunes. “They mainly know of them from sci-fi movies or Netflix. They need to be demystified and opened up so people understand them and are able to question the science, code robots and see for themselves how they work. In the future people will be able to adapt and personalise their robots like they do their phones. They will be as common as smartphones and will operate with humans, predicting their needs. There will be a form of co-evolution.”

She adds: “Understanding robots will empower people so they can help to shape them to do good. The public is usually on the receiving end of new technology. Demystifying robots gives people back the power to push for change and create the robots they want.”​

Demystifying how social and human-like robots work is vital so that we can understand and shape how they will affect our future, Dr Hatice Gunes will tell the Hay Festival next week.

Understanding robots will empower people so they can help to shape them to do good. Demystifying robots gives people back the power to push for change and create the robots they want.Dr Hatice GunesWellcome CollectionsLive demonstration of Social Robotics in Wellcome Collections' Friday Late Spectacular - Body Language Event, 4 Nov. 2016 (19:00-23:00), Euston, London, UK.


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YesLicense type: Attribution-NoncommericalRelated Links: Cambridge Series at the Hay Festival
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Plastic crystals hold key to record-breaking energy transport

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 05/24/2018 - 19:00

The researchers, whose work appears in the journal Science, say their findings could be a “game changer” by allowing the energy from sunlight absorbed in these materials to be captured and used more efficiently. 

Lightweight semiconducting plastics are now widely used in mass market electronic displays such as those found in phones, tablets and flat-screen televisions.  However, using these materials to convert sunlight into electricity to make solar cells is far more complex. 

The photo-excited states – when photons of light are absorbed by the semiconducting material – need to move so that they can be “harvested” before they lose their energy.  These excitations typically only travel about 10 nanometres in plastic (or polymeric) semiconductors, so researchers need to build tiny structures patterned at the nanoscale to maximise the “harvest”.

Dr Xu-Hui Jin and colleagues at the University of Bristol developed a new way to make highly ordered crystalline semiconducting structures using polymers.

Dr Michael Price of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory measured the distance that the photo-exited states travelled, which reached distances of 200 nanometres – 20 times further than was previously possible.

200 nanometres is especially significant because it is greater than the thickness of material needed to completely absorb ambient light, making these polymers more suitable as “light harvesters” for solar cells and photodetectors.

“The gain in efficiency would actually be for two reasons: first, because the energetic particles travel further, they are easier to “harvest”, and second, we could now incorporate layers around 100 nanometres thick, which is the minimum thickness needed to absorb all the energy from light – the so-called optical absorption depth,” said co-author Dr George Whittell from the University of Bristol. “Previously, in layers this thick, the particles were unable to travel far enough to reach the surfaces.”

“The distance that energy can be moved in these materials comes as a big surprise and points to the role of unexpected quantum coherent transport processes,” said co-author Professor Sir Richard Friend from Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, and a Fellow of St John's College. 

The research team now plans to prepare structures thicker than those in the current study and greater than the optical absorption depth, with a view to building prototype solar cells based on this technology.

They are also preparing other structures capable of using light to perform chemical reactions, such as the splitting of water into hydrogen and oxygen.

Reference:
Xu-Hui Jin et al.Long-range exciton transport in conjugated polymer nanofibers prepared by seeded growth.’ Science (2018). DOI: 10.1126/science.aar8104 

Adapted from a University of Bristol press release. 

Scientists from the Universities of Cambridge and Bristol have found a way to create plastic semiconductor nanostructures that absorb light and transport its energy 20 times further than has been previously observed, paving the way for more flexible and more efficient solar cells and photodetectors. 

The distance that energy can be moved in these materials comes as a big surprise.Richard FriendUniversity of BristolImage showing light emission from the polymeric nanostructures and schematic of a single nanostructure


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Anthony Gormley exhibition opens at Kettle’s Yard

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 13:03

Gormley’s site-specific installation ambitiously pushes and tests the boundaries of the new spaces within Kettle’s Yard, which reopened to the public in February following a two-year, multi-million pound redevelopment. SUBJECT includes both new work and works not previously exhibited in the UK.

Taking as its basis the ‘coordinate’ as a means of measurement of space and of the body as space, ‘SUBJECT’ is conceived as a site-specific installation that will occupy the whole site, including both galleries, the Learning Studio and the Research Space.

Andrew Nairne, Director of Kettle’s Yard, said: “We are thrilled that Antony Gormley, one of the most renowned artists of our time, has the first solo exhibition in the new galleries and spaces at Kettle’s Yard.

“SUBJECT’, designed specifically for Kettle’s Yard and Jamie Fobert’s architecture, offers a series of physical and metaphysical encounters, exploring our relationship to both space and our sense of self.”

The exhibition continues Gormley’s fundamental investigations into the relationships between the human body and space. Conceived as an intervention which breaches the walls of the exhibition galleries, the installation will highlight some of Gormley’s key concerns over the past 40 years. The works consider how sculpture can activate both the space that it occupies and the body of the viewer.

Antony Gormley said: “Both in the demands that it makes of the viewer and in the way that this exhibition uses the spaces of the gallery, the show begs the question as to where the subject of art can be found – I am proposing that it is rooted most powerfully in the imaginative engagement and ultimately the memory of the viewer. The wager of this show is that ‘subject’ has transferred from object to experience.”

Gormley’s work has been widely exhibited throughout the UK and internationally with exhibitions at institutions such as the Long Museum, Shanghai (2017); National Portrait Gallery, London (2016); Forte di Belvedere, Florence (2015); The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (2011); Hayward Gallery, London (2007) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (1989).

Permanent public art works by the artist include the Angel of the North (Gateshead, England), Another Place (Crosby Beach, England), Inside Australia (Lake Ballard, Western Australia), Exposure (Lelystad, The Netherlands) and Chord (MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA).

Gormley was awarded the Turner Prize in 1994, the South Bank Prize for Visual Art in 1999, the Bernhard Heiliger Award for Sculpture in 2007, the Obayashi Prize in 2012 and the Praemium Imperiale in 2013.

In 1997 he was made an Officer of the British Empire (OBE) and was made a knight in the New Year’s Honours list in 2014.  He is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects, an Honorary Doctor of the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity and Jesus Colleges, Cambridge. Gormley has been a Royal Academician since 2003.

SUBJECT runs from May 22-August 27. Entry is free. Visit www.kettlesyard.co.uk for further details.

Renowned sculptor Anthony Gormley has today become the first solo artist to exhibit in the new galleries of Kettle’s Yard with the opening of ‘SUBJECT’.

The show begs the question as to where the subject of art can be found.Anthony GormleyOak Taylor SmithEDGE III by Anthony Gormley.


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Bank Holiday bin collection changes

Cambridge Council Feed - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 11:48

Residents are being reminded that all bin collections will be one day later than usual next week, following the bank holiday weekend.

The collection scheduled for Friday 1 June will take place on Saturday 2 June.

The schedule returns to normal on Monday 4 June.

Usual collection day

Revised collection day

Monday 28 May

Tuesday 29 May

Tuesday 29 May

Wednesday 30 May

Wednesday 30 May

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Ditching the car may reduce your risk of dying from heart disease and stroke by almost a third

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Tue, 05/22/2018 - 09:35

Swapping your car for more physically active forms of travel may reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and premature death, our latest research shows. Walking, cycling and even using public transport are all more physically active than using the car, so switching to one of these modes of transport can help you be more active and healthy.

Most physical activity studies focus on sport and recreational activity – intense activities often lasting many minutes. We are interested in understanding the impact of everyday activity on health. People lead busy lives. The challenge is to find ways for people to be active and stay active throughout life. For many, everyday activity, like walking or cycling for travel, may be more acceptable, attractive and practical than going to the gym.

For our analysis, we used a large cohort of over 350,000 adults, aged 37 to 73, from the UK Biobank study. At the start of the study people told us about their travel habits, as well as other important health behaviours, such as smoking. We compared people who only used the car for travel with those who undertook some walking, either alone or in combination with the car or public transport. People who cycled were also included in the active group, although few people in our study cycled.

We carried out separate analyses for those who regularly commuted and those who did not.

Some people prefer stairs to a Stairmaster. JuneChalida/Shutterstock.comClear pattern

This was an observational study, so we can’t say definitively that car use causes harm. However, we took many steps to rule out other factors, such as what people eat or underlying illness that might explain the findings. For example, people with poor health might have to use the car because their poor health limits their ability to get around. Their poor health might explain their higher risk of disease. We used statistical methods to adjust for this, and, in some cases, we removed these people from the analysis. While we have tried to eliminate these other factors, we can never be sure we have done this entirely.

Among people who commuted, more active patterns of commuting compared with exclusive car use were associated with an 11% lower relative risk of developing heart disease or stroke and a 30% lower relative risk of death from heart disease or stroke. The association was even stronger when we looked across all forms of travel, both commuting and everyday travel.

Nearly half our sample did not commute. These people were retired, not in employment or they worked from home. Few studies have looked at these people. Among these people, more active patterns of travel compared with exclusive car use were associated with an 8% lower relative risk of death.

Although not all of our findings reached statistical significance, there was an overall pattern. More active patterns of travel, compared with exclusive car use, were associated with reduced risk of heart disease, stroke and death.

Areas still to explore

It would have been interesting to dig deeper and understand the relative importance of different patterns of travel. How beneficial is public transport compared with car use? Is there an additional benefit of cycling over walking? But, unfortunately, we couldn’t do that with the data we had.

Different data might also have allowed us to better understand why. Other people have suggested that snacking in cars might be a contributory factor, although we think the most likely explanation is differences in physical activity.

Our research builds on what is already widely known about the health benefits of physical activity. Some people may choose to use cars less when they understand the impacts on health. But many people may not have a choice. Others may just do what is convenient, comfortable and normal.

The large differences in travel patterns between cities in developed countries seem most likely to be explained by differences in infrastructure. There have been large increases in public transport use and consequently walking in London, after investment in these travel modes. The Netherlands made a conscious choice to invest in cycling infrastructure in the 1960s and now has high rates of cycling.

While decisions about transport infrastructure may be made for a variety of non-health reasons, our study provides further evidence that health needs to be integrated into decisions that are made about transport.

Oliver Mytton, Clinical Lecturer in Public Health, University of Cambridge and Jenna Panter, Senior Research Associate, University of Cambridge

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Is it time to ditch the car and find a more active way of getting to work? It could save your life, say Oliver Mytton and Jenna Panter from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, writing for The Conversation.

Max BenderTravel to work


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Managed hunting can help maintain animal populations

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Mon, 05/21/2018 - 10:56

The international team of researchers, led by the University of Cambridge and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), studied the hunt of Alpine ibex – a type of wild goat with long, curved horns – in the eastern Swiss canton of Graubünden by examining the horn size of more than 8,000 ibex harvested between 1978 and 2013, to determine whether average horn growth or body weight had changed over the last 40 years.

Their results, published in the Journal of Animal Ecology, reveal that unsurprisingly, ibex with longer-than-average horns are more likely to be shot than animals of the same age with shorter horns. However, due to tight controls placed on the hunt by the Swiss authorities, hunters tend to shoot as few animals as possible, to avoid violating the rules and incurring large fines.

Hunting for specific traits can place selective pressure on certain species, resulting in a negative evolutionary response. In their study, the researchers investigated whether the targeting of ibex with large horns would lead to a lower average horn size across the entire population.

They found that while even tightly-managed hunts cannot prevent hunters from targeting longer-horned animals, no long-term changes were found in the horn length of male ibex in Graubünden, which is most likely related to the fact that the numbers of ibex removed from the population by hunters is too small to have an evolutionary effect.

“Our most important finding is that ibex hunting over the last 40 years has not had a negative effect on the constitution of the animals,” said WSL’s Kurt Bollmann, the study’s senior author.

“The good news for hunting and nature conservation is that horn growth in Graubünden’s ibex has not reduced over the decades and their average body weight has also remained stable,” said Professor Ulf Büntgen from Cambridge’s Department of Geography, the study’s first author. 

“We are happy that the knowledge gained in practice about our ibex herds has now been scientifically proven and that ibex hunting in Graubünden can be described as sustainable,” said co-author Hannes Jenny from the Graubünden Hunting and Fishing Authority.

While hunters often select animals based on their age and gender or the quality of the meat and their worthiness as a trophy, the hunting authorities would like to keep the size of individual herds at a level where the surrounding forests can provide them with enough food during the winter. Regardless of these conflicting interests, the most important point from a wildlife biology perspective is that hunting does not negatively affect the wild ibex population in the long term.

The Alpine ibex is a species that was formerly extinct and is now regarded as a major success story for Swiss conservation. Alpine ibex have a long lifespan (17 years on average) and relatively low reproductive performance, so the Swiss hunt is closely monitored to maintain the animal population. In Graubünden, where around 40% of Switzerland’s ibex live, each hunter may only bring down one female and one male in a particular age group every 10 years. If a hunter violates this requirement, for example by shooting an older animal with longer horns, they have to pay a fine and the animal is confiscated by the authorities.

“Our results also emphasise the importance of continuous monitoring of hunting practices, especially in regions where hunters can choose animals based on certain traits,” said Büntgen.

The researchers are currently developing a more comprehensive dataset, which will compare the evolutionary pressures on ibex in regions where hunting is allowed against regions where it is prohibited.

Reference:
Ulf Büntgen et al. ‘Horn growth variation and hunting selection of the Alpine ibex.’ Journal of Animal Ecology (2018). DOI: 10.1111/1365-2656.12839

Adapted from a WSL press release.

 

Researchers studying the hunting of ibex in Switzerland over the past 40 years have shown how hunts, when tightly monitored, can help maintain animal populations at optimal levels. 

Our results emphasise the importance of continuous monitoring of hunting practices, especially in regions where hunters can choose animals based on certain traits.Ulf BüntgenReto Barblan, BergünAlpine ibex


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Opinion: how mental health problems can affect early-career researchers

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Sat, 05/19/2018 - 07:49

My research focuses on developing devices that can manipulate electrons one at a time. I also happen to have long gaps on my CV that take some creativity to explain in job interviews. This is because I’ve had mental health problems since I was a teenager.  During treatment for this, I’ve been privileged to meet some wonderful people with a variety of mental health conditions and to gain a little insight into their struggles.

Mental health conditions are often invisible. If I have a broken leg or a sore throat then it doesn’t take much for my colleagues to understand that I need time off work. If my mental health is bad then the onus is on me to explain to other people why I need time off work.

I worry that people will think I am silly, or oversensitive, or lazy, or skiving. However, the first person you need to convince that it’s OK to have time off is yourself. It feels like a great step forward when you do.

There are a lot of misconceptions about mental illnesses, not least because their invisibility makes awareness of their prevalence remain low. If I tell someone what mental health conditions I have, I have no idea what this will mean to them, and whether it will match the reality of how I feel. This is particularly the case in the multicultural research environment, where different cultures may have very different understandings of mental health.

As researchers we have succeeded in our University studies and got our PhDs. We are used to solving problems, achieving highly and getting stuff done.

When faced with a mental health condition, we feel desperately that we need to understand and solve the problem, and soon. But even after many years I do not fully understand my mental health problems. I cannot fix them or solve them as I would a problem in the lab.

It has taken me years to learn to spot triggers and recognise warning signs when things are getting bad, and to learn some things that sometimes help. I have learned a huge amount, but there is still much I don’t understand about this illness.

I have told few colleagues about my health problems, but those I have told have been supportive. I’ve benefited from some fantastic services at the University including the staff counselling and occupational health services. That support – at work and from family and friends – makes a huge difference.

There are still challenges – my ongoing mental health problems are classed as a disability, and that meant I had to tick a box labelling me as a “disabled person” when I started this job in order to qualify for reasonable adjustments. Not everyone would feel OK about that. These labels can create barriers to people coming forward to seek help.

Researchers often have to move around a lot to advance their careers, doing a series of short-term contracts in several places. If someone with a mental health condition comes to the UK for an 18-month postdoc job, it might take them a while to understand how to access treatment in the UK. They might wait for months to be seen by a specialist. And treatment in the UK might be very different to what they have known in in their home country.

I’ve been very lucky in this respect. When I was a PhD student, my College provided me with free accommodation near to the hospital where I was being treated so I didn’t have to move back to live with my parents and start all over again on a waiting list.

My fellowship is normally only open to people who are moving to Cambridge. But the selection panel took into account that I wanted to stay in Cambridge to continue to access treatment and support at the same clinic.

The sector needs to do more to help researchers who have moved for a job, uprooting themselves from their support networks.

Research is challenging. In trying to do things no one has ever done before there are always setbacks. For someone with a mental health condition, you can go from one setback in the lab to deep despair in the time it takes to say ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’.

Sometimes I wish having someone beside me to give moral support during difficult experiments counted as a ‘reasonable adjustment’. But I am lucky to have colleagues and a boss who do support me.

As a researcher you need to believe in your research ideas and your ability to carry them out. You need to be able to sell your research. You need to be excited by your research and be able to convince other people to get excited about it, to publish it, to fund it. This is hard to do if you are feeling depressed, and you don’t even feel like life is worth living. It’s really hard.

But friends and colleague can make a real difference in helping people with mental health problems to flourish in their research.

A greater openness about mental health in the research community will surely benefit us all.

Herchel Smith postdoctoral research fellow in Physics Dr Joanna Waldie shares her personal story to support Mental Health Awareness Week

When I need time off, I worry that people will think I am silly, or oversensitive, or lazy, or skiving - the first person you need to convince that it’s OK is yourselfJoanna Waldie


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Free fun for children and families on International Children's Day

Cambridge Council Feed - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 16:26

A FREE EVENT packed with fun activities will be held for school aged children and their families to celebrate International Children’s Day on 1 June.

Cambridge City Council’s Children and Young People’s Participation Service (ChYpPS) team will lead the event on Parker’s Piece from 2 to 5pm.

A variety of stimulating activities will be on offer from crafts to sport and other attractions, all focused on celebrating what it means to be a child.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

The menace of monolingualism

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Fri, 05/18/2018 - 10:41

Is monolingualism harming us, both as individuals and as a society? Wendy Ayres-Bennett, Professor of French Philology and Linguistics, is leading a major interdisciplinary research project which looks at the value of languages for everything from health and well-being to social cohesion, diplomacy and conflict resolution.

The MEITS project (Multilingualism: Empowering Individuals, Transforming Societies) is funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council's Open World Research Initiative and seeks to transform the health of the discipline of Modern Languages in the UK, attitudes towards multilingualism and language policy at home and abroad. The motivation for the project comes from an awareness that language learning in the UK is in a very difficult state. “There is a sense that modern languages are in crisis,” says Professor Ayres-Bennett, “and that traditional motivations to get people studying languages are not working. We need exciting new reasons to learn languages and to demonstrate the value of speaking more than one language.”

The project, which finishes in 2020, involves around 30 non-academic partners including schools and voluntary groups and has six interlocking research strands which investigate how the insights gained from stepping outside a single language, culture and mode of thought are vital to individuals and societies.

Professor Ayres-Bennett will speak about three areas of the research in a talk at the Hay Festival for the Cambridge Series, now in its 10th year. The first involves health and builds on research which shows that if you are bilingual dementia onset is on average delayed by up to five years compared to people who are monolingual, and that stroke victims who are bilingual recover cognitively twice as well as monolingual ones. What is more exciting, says Professor Ayres-Bennett, is that even those who learn a language later in life can enjoy certain cognitive benefits. One experiment conducted as part of the project involved a group who learnt Gaelic intensively for a week and were monitored to see if there was any impact on their cognitive abilities. The results were positive. “The kind of mental gymnastics that learning a language involves is good for us and for our ageing society. They help us to stay mentally active a bit longer,” says Professor Ayres-Bennett. “It’s a benefit that is little known, but learning a language is better than any drug currently available for delaying dementia.”

A second area she will speak about is how languages can bring people together and create greater social cohesion. Language is at the heart of some of the current political problems in Northern Ireland, with Irish tending to be viewed with suspicion by the Protestant-Unionist-Loyalist (PUL) community. The MEITS project has been working with two charities in Northern Ireland to enhance understanding between the Catholic and Protestant communities. It has been teaching former paramilitaries and future PUL leaders basic Irish. Professor Ayres-Bennett says: “The Irish language doesn’t have to be associated with sectarianism; the aim is to normalise it and show how it is part of everyone’s culture. In addition, demonstrating the origins of Irish place names can show that Irish is part of PUL heritage as well.”

The third area she will touch on involves the work the project is doing with a number of schools in London and East Anglia to change attitudes to languages. It is comparing language learning for children who are monolingual and started learning a language at school with those who have English as an additional language. The students are being tracked over a two-year period. “We want children to value the languages they speak and schools to think consciously about what it means to be multilingual and to see children with more than one language as a resource rather than an inconvenience,” says Professor Ayres-Bennett. She mentions one Polish student who placed himself near the monolingual end of a scale which asked children to consider how multilingual they were because he was just starting to learn French. “He didn’t value his ability to speak Polish. We need to get away from the hierarchy of good and bad languages,” she states. She adds that looking at multilingualism in a positive way improves social cohesion in the classroom as well as potentially improving students’ motivation for learning and their proficiency.

The MEITS project’s findings will be widely disseminated with the aim of raising awareness of all the different areas of policy which language learning affects. “Language is so central to who we are, to our identities, that it has to have a higher profile across all government departments,” says Professor Ayres-Bennett.

Professor Wendy Ayres-Bennett will speak at the Hay Festival about her research into the health and social benefits of multilingualism.

The kind of mental gymnastics that learning a language involves is good for us and for our ageing society. They help us to stay mentally active a bit longer.Professor Wendy Ayres-BennettMEITS project


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Someone breaks their silence: what do you say?

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 14:19

Her comment came as the University of Cambridge released figures showing that fears about friends’ reactions were among the main reasons Cambridge staff and students chose not to report sexual misconduct officially.

Today a film featuring Al-Ani giving staff and students advice on what to say and do when a friend confides in them was launched on the Breaking the Silence website.

She says: “What they need to hear more than anything is that you believe them, and it’s not their fault.”

To accompany the film, a new guide to handling disclosures is now available on the website.

More than a quarter (26%) of victims reported without identifying themselves or their perpetrator as they feared a backlash from friends, according to the first annual figures from the University's anonymous reporting tool, launched in May last year.

The tool is available on the Breaking the Silence website.

A Cambridge student recently told Varsity of the devastating impact of a negative reaction to her disclosure of sexual assault. “These kinds of ‘bad’ responses catch me off guard,” she said, “turning a conversation I am prepared and ready to have into a situation in which I am deeply uncomfortable.”

What a friend needs to hear

In it, Al-Ani says: “If a friend, or somebody close to you, tells you that they’ve been a victim of sexual violence, it can be a difficult thing to hear. It can be stressful, you might feel that you have to immediately resolve the issue for them or indeed you may have conflicting views if you know the person who’s perpetrated the harassment. 

“Let them know that you care, that the experience has not changed who they are or how you feel about them,” she continues.

“What they need to hear more than anything is that you believe them. If they think that you disbelieve them, they may never tell anyone again.

“Remember to say it’s not their fault. Nothing they have done or not done has resulted in the experience they have been through.”

She emphasises the need to help survivors “take back control” and empower them to make their own choices on how they wish the misconduct to be handled.

Lastly, she reminds staff and students: “As a supporter, you must remember to take your needs seriously. You are not a miracle worker. If you need to, take a supporter’s break and get some support for yourself."

As one Cambridge survivor told Varsity: “Provide a gentle, calm and encouraging space for the speaker to share what they wish to share, in their own words, and you can’t go too far wrong.”

Members of the Cambridge community are also showing solidarity with victims by sharing Breaking the Silence social media cover and profile images saying “Three little words can change a survivor’s experience: I believe you”.

More than 240 reports have been made in the 12 months since the tool was launched, compared with fewer than ten formal reports in the same period. 

Staff and students can report online at www.breakingthesilence.cam.ac.uk.

Leading culture change

Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen J Toope re-affirmed his commitment to the campaign in response to questions about unacceptable behaviour at Cambridge at a meeting with students on Tuesday.

Following a question on alcohol-related activities of some student groups, he said: “We’ve seen really sad cases in the past where people have been injured, deeply damaged, harassed, or assaulted - this is not acceptable. We know we can deal with the results through the disciplinary process and the work of Breaking the Silence but we need to tackle the underlying behaviour.”

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor Graham Virgo added: “We need to try to think constructively about what needs to be done to change a culture that allows this.” He called for societies to be “non-gendered and not based on alcohol consumption.”

Secretary to the Senior Tutors’ Committee Dr Mark Wormald echoed these comments, saying: “There is no place for any form of harassment at the University of Cambridge. The University is dedicated to creating and maintaining a safe, welcoming, inclusive and diverse community that nurtures a culture of mutual respect and consideration.

“We are aware of a number of serious allegations that have not been reported to the University or Colleges. We would strongly urge people to come forward with any concerns, and speak to their College or the central Office of Student Conduct, Complaints and Appeals so these can be subject to immediate and thorough investigation.”

Breaking the Silence is aimed at embedding a zero tolerance culture to all forms of harassment at Cambridge. Its work focuses on improving the preventing, response, support and investigation of all instances of harassment, and enabling staff and students to make disclosures without fear of reprisal.

“From a young age, the people we most want to confide in are our friends – then somehow that starts to change into worrying about what they will say if we do,” says Norah Al-Ani, Director of the Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre.

What they need to hear more than anything is that you believe them, and it’s not their faultNorah Al-Ani, Director of the Cambridge Rape Crisis Centre


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Six months of Herceptin could be as effective as 12 months for some women

Cambridge University NewsFeed - Thu, 05/17/2018 - 12:47

The PERSEPHONE trial, a £2.6 million study funded by the NIHR with translational research funded by Cancer Research UK, recruited over 4,000 women and compared a six month course of treatment of Herceptin with the current standard of 12 months for women with HER2-positive early-stage breast cancer.

This is the largest trial of its kind examining the impact of shortening the duration of Herceptin treatment. Over the last five years, the NIHR has invested £46.5 million in funding and supporting breast cancer research.  

Herceptin, has been a major breakthrough, prolonging and saving the lives of women with breast cancers that carry the HER2 receptor on the surface of their cancer cells. Around 15 out of every 100 women with early breast cancers have HER2 positive disease.

Herceptin is a targeted therapy that works by attaching to the HER2 receptors preventing the cancer cells from growing and dividing. It has rapidly become standard of care and based on clinical research a 12 month treatment course was adopted. However, a further clinical study suggested a shorter duration could be as effective, significantly reducing side effects and cost both to patients and to the NHS.

The trial, led by a team from the University of Cambridge and Warwick Clinical Trials, the University of Warwick, found that 89.4% of patients taking six months treatment were free of disease after four years compared with 89.8% of patients taking treatment for 12 months. These results show that taking Herceptin for six months is as effective as 12 months for many women.

In addition, only 4% of women in the six month arm stopped taking the drug early because of heart problems, compared with 8% in the 12 month arm. Women also received chemotherapy (anthracycline-based, taxane-based or a combination of both) while enrolled in the trial.

Lead study author Professor Helena Earl, Professor of Clinical Cancer Medicine, University of Cambridge and Cancer Research UK Cambridge Centre, said: “The PERSEPHONE trials team, patient advocates who have worked with us on the study and our investigators are very excited by these results. We are confident that this will mark the first steps towards a reduction of Herceptin treatment to six months in many women with HER2-positive breast cancer.

“However, any proposed reduction in effective cancer treatment will always be complex and very challenging, and women currently taking the medication should not change their treatment without seeking advice from their doctor. There is more research to be done to define as precisely as possible the particular patients who could safely reduce their treatment duration. We are poised to do important translational research analysing blood and tissue samples collected within the trial to look for biomarkers to identify subgroups of different risk where shorter/longer durations might be tailored.”

Professor Hywel Williams, Director of the NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme that funded the PERSEPHONE study said: “This is a hugely important clinical trial that shows that more is not always better. Women will now have the potential to avoid unnecessary side effects of longer treatment without losing any benefit. In turn, this should help save vital funds for the NHS and prompt more studies in other situations where the optimum duration of treatment is not known. It is unlikely that research like this would ever be done by industry, so I am delighted that the NIHR are able to fund valuable research that has a direct impact on patients.”

Professor Charles Swanton, Cancer Research UK’s chief clinician, said: “This is a critically important study that the breast cancer field has been eagerly awaiting. Targeted therapies, while effective, come at a huge health economic cost to the NHS as well as potentially causing side effects such as heart problems. Despite years of research, we haven’t been able to establish the optimal duration of Herceptin treatment, either to delay cancer coming back or to cure patients with early HER2+ breast cancer following surgery.

“The exciting early key findings from this study show that 6 months of Herceptin might be as effective as 12 months, and it may also be safer and with fewer side effects. By analysing tumour and blood samples, the researchers will now try to understand which patients can stop Herceptin at 6 months and which patients need extended therapy.”

Maggie Wilcox, President of Independent Cancer patients Voice (ICPV) who is the patient lead for the PERSEPHONE trial, said: “I am delighted to have been part of this landmark trial which is an important step to reduce the length of treatment whilst not changing effectiveness. Most trials add novel treatments to standard practice whilst this has set out to reduce duration of Herceptin. The collection of the patient reported experiences throughout the trial will greatly inform future practice and benefit patients. ICPV is working with the Persephone team to help disseminate these exciting results’.

The results of the trial, PERSEPHONE, will be presented at the upcoming 2018 ASCO Annual Meeting in Chicago. The full report, which will include analysis to determine the impact of treatment length on quality of life and a detailed cost effectiveness analysis, will publish in the NIHR journals library.

Press release from the NIHR

For women with HER2 positive early-stage breast cancer taking Herceptin for six months could be as effective as 12 months in preventing relapse and death, and can reduce side effects, finds new research.

We are confident that this will mark the first steps towards a reduction of Herceptin treatment to six months in many women with HER2-positive breast cancer.Helena EarlVoyagerixBreast cancer. Female hands make heart on pink ribbon


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Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

Cambridge celebrates 'Love Your Local Market' festival

Cambridge Council Feed - Wed, 05/16/2018 - 15:22

A SERIES of special events is taking place at Cambridge’s award-winning markets to celebrate this year’s national Love Your Local Market festival.

Activities at the central market and All Saints Garden on Trinity Street, which are managed by Cambridge City Council, kick off on Friday 18 May with the return of the popular night market to the market square.

Categories: Cambridge, Cambridgeshire

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