In the news
The new captain of the Starship Enterprise is 28-year-old American actor Chris Pine, who spent a year studying English at the University of Leeds in 2000/01, giving him a taste for Tetley's Bitter and late night pasties, reported the Yorkshire Post. Chris, who stars as Captain James T Kirk in the latest Star Trek film, said the University offered him “challenging academics who demanded critical and original thinking … I loved it. I miss it.”
The New York Times reported on a study that is raising concerns about the potentially devastating impact of mosquitoes spreading disease to the Galapagos Islands. Leeds’ Dr Simon Goodman (Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology) and PhD student Arnaud Bataille, together with the Zoological Society of London and Galapagos National Park, have conducted a genetic analysis showing that the black salt march mosquito arrived in the islands 200,000 years ago. Since then it has evolved to feast on reptiles, primarily Galapagos giant tortoises and marine iguanas.
Dr Carole McCartney (School of Law) spoke to the Yorkshire Post about the National DNA Database, which holds the DNA of both guilty and innocent individuals. “We have the widest powers in the world to take and retain people’s DNA... which is why the European Court of Human Rights has judged our current rules to be illegal,” said Dr McCartney, who believes the government is infringing on innocent people’s right to privacy. "The DNA database sometimes makes life easier for the police, but there are many people on it who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and ended up being swabbed.”
Professor of archaeogenetics Martin Richards (Institute of Integrative and Comparative Biology) acted as a consultant on the BBC2 programme The Incredible Human Journey. It follows the archaeological and genetic footprints of our ancient ancestors to find out how their journey from Africa to Europe transformed our species into the humans we are today. Watch it online at http://tinyurl.com/qslz6y
Automatic speed limiters are to be fitted to a number of vehicles for a six-month trial after a study at the University of Leeds found that over half of all participants would like to have the system fitted permanently, reported the Yorkshire Evening Post.
As May Day protests took place across France, professor of contemporary French culture David Looseley (School of Modern Languages and Cultures) was interviewed on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour about why the 17th-century French novel, La Princesse de Clèves (1678) by Mme de la Fayette, has become a public symbol of resistance to President Nicolas Sarkozy's policies. Listen online at http://tinyurl.com/pcksjo
Chemical weapons expert Professor Alastair Hay (Centre for Epidemiology and Biostatistics) was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal after hundreds of school girls in Afghanistan collapsed or fell ill after smelling a strange odour. Some fear the Taliban, which is opposed to education for girls, is using poison to attack them. Professor Hay said the incidents resembled a case of mass hysteria that he investigated at a school in Kosovo in 1990.
Nanoparticles could be used to boost food production, Professor Terry Wilkins (Nanomanufacturing Institute) told the Observer. “They could be used to encapsulate flavouring into foods; create packages that will change colour if their food contents go off or be used as coatings that will be bacteria-proof. However, we cannot expect the public to accept this technology without evidence that it has been rigorously tested to show it is completely safe.”
The Innovation and Knowledge Centre at the University of Leeds, headed by Professor John Fisher, has been awarded £5.14 million to research regenerative techniques and technologies to treat common ailments of an ageing UK population, including cancer, cardiovascular and musculoskeletal disease, reported the Times Higher Education.
Sky News interviewed Professor Duncan McCargo (School of Politics and International Studies) on 13 April about the protests in Thailand. Professor McCargo’s book Tearing Apart the Land was also reviewed in Time magazine, see http://tinyurl.com/p4uypf
‘Toxic debt’ and the realisation that many loans could not be repaid has deeply eroded our trust in banks, Professor Peter Moizer (Leeds University Business School) wrote in Yorkshire Post Business Magazine. “Many bankers do not trust other bankers and are deeply suspicious of businesses requiring finance. As a result of this loss of trust, we now have one of the most severe recessions of modern times.”
Professor of nutrition and behaviour Louise Dye appeared in the BBC2 documentary Professor Regan's Nursery, which investigated the truth behind the lucrative world of children’s products, from special cereals to educational toys, and asked whether guilt-ridden parents are really giving their children an advantage by buying them.
Professor Martin Conway and Dr Catriona Morrison (Institute of Psychological Sciences) are gathering people’s first memories from childhood, along with other major ‘flashbulb’ moments of public events, reported the BBC’s The One Show. Professor Martin Conway told the Yorkshire Post there was a real need to discover the accuracy of childhood memories, such as in court cases related to alleged child abuse. See www.thebigmemoryshare.com