All entries for January 2011

January 24, 2011

Warwick Week – Xbox robot, automotive future in Turkey, and why men don't look after their health

University of Warwick engineering students use Xbox to aid award winning rescue robot

Engineering students at the University of Warwick are building an innovative rescue robot which uses the Xbox Kinect to help navigate the machine - in a bid to retain the European RoboCup Rescue Championship title which was won by a team of Warwick students last year. They are currently trialling the XBox Kinect to see if they can use it to provide a method of real time visual communication and 3D mapping, which will ultimately aid in the navigation of the autonomous robot to give the team an edge over the competition.

The team is being backed by WMG academic, Dr Emma Rushforth, who believes the project will give the students an excellent opportunity showcase their skills. She said:

As well as giving each team member experience in solving real engineering problems, the project offers them the chance to acquire unparalleled expertise in mobile robot design which, in future, companies will need to have.

Read more in the press release and the Official Xbox Magazine >>

Lord Bhattacharyya looks towards Turkey

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya, head of Warwick Manufacturing Group, advised that the Midlands automotive sector needs to see Turkey as the next big sales opportunity, saying that the country could become the next 'powerhouse' economy. There are only around a hundred vehicles per thousand people in Turkey and in neighbouring countries, the number is lower still, though people are getting wealthier.

Developing durable, low fuel consumption vehicles will be crucial to meeting consumer needs, he argues:

That's why Turkey is now focused on improving R&D. Facilities that employ at least 50 technicians get around half of their investment costs Those program costs required beyond the development phase to introduce into operational use a new capability; to procure initial, additional, or replacement equipment for operational forces; or to provide for major modifications of an existing capability. This is a major opportunity for British business. We have world-leading innovation in automotive to offer. If we offer partnership with Turkish institutions now, we will reap rewards when expanding businesses look to the UK for support. If we spurn this chance, others will seek to take that place.

Read more in the Birmingham Mail >>

Prestigious US honour for Head of Dentistry

Edward Lynch, Head of Warwick Dentistry, part of Warwick Medical School, has been honoured with accredited membership of the prestigious American Society for Dental Aesthetics (ASDA). Fewer than 200 educators, innovators and practitioners worldwide have received this distinguished accredited membership since ASDA was established in 1976, when it became the first aesthetic dental association in the world. To mark his membership, Edward was asked to give the prestigious keynote address at the annual ASDA congress in San Antonio, Texas. He was also voted by his peers in April 2010 as this year’s most influential person in UK dentistry.

Dr Lynch explained: 

I’m delighted to receive the honour of this prestigious accreditation and hope that it allows us to continue to raise awareness about the excellent and innovative dental education and research we provide in Warwick Dentistry at Warwick Medical School. We are building a team of world class academics in Warwick Dentistry and we aim to be a world-leading postgraduate unit, internationally renowned for our high quality and relevance of our education programmes and for the excellence and significance of our research.

Read more in the press release >>

Wave power could contain fusion plasma

Scientists may have found a way to channel the flux and fury of a nuclear fusion plasma into a means to help sustain the electric current needed to contain that very same fusion plasma. Researchers at the University of Warwick’s Centre for Fusion Space and Astrophysics and the UK Atomic Energy Authority’s Culham Centre for Fusion Energy used large scale computer simulations to confirm a longstanding prediction by U.S. researchers that high energy alpha particles born in fusion reactions will be key to generating fusion power in the next planned generation of tokamaks. This work was only possible using the recently commissioned large scale computing facilities at the University of Warwick supported by EPSRC, in particular for theoretical work supporting fusion energy generation.

University of Warwick researcher Professor Sandra Chapman said:

These large scale computer simulations capture the plasma dynamics in unprecedented detail and have opened up an exciting new area.

Read more in Scientific Computing >>

Do men fail to look after their own health?

In Coventry the biggest influence on your life expectancy is not the colour of your skin or even where you live and work. The Telegraph recently revealed how men living in inner city Coventry are unlikely to reach retirement age. In Foleshill, men living in this inner city district have the lowest average life expectancy in the whole of Coventry – just 64 years-old.

Alan Dolan, associate professor in men’s health at the University of Warwick, argues that society is partly to blame for men failing to take of their own health.

The way we see men has a very important impact on they way they behave and on their health. We want men to be independent, resilient, reliant and physically and emotionally strong. It starts in childhood, we tell them ‘big boys don’t cry’, ‘be a man my son’ or ‘don’t be a wimp’ – it’s all quite macho. The way men demonstrate that masculinity is associated with health risks... Also, men don’t tend to talk about their health. Can you imagine a group of men sat around discussing testicular self-awareness or cancer? But that’s not to say men don’t understand their health. Men are often unwillingly exposed to health hazards and danger at work. They are less likely to refuse to do jobs that may well damage their health, they don’t feel able to. Men can’t live outside their gender and they can’t choose to become more like women.

Read more in the Coventry Telegraph >>


January 14, 2011

Warwick Week – Russia in 2011, philosophy and fairness, and a new training centre

A special Jewish conference was held here over Christmas

Limmud is an innovative educational organisation in the British-Jewish community. Its flagship event is a six day residential Conference, which for the 4th year running was held at the University. The event attracts a number of high profile presenters each year, who present a wide variety of sessions on a range of topics of Jewish interest. In order to allow participants to observe Shabbat (the Sabbath), when work is forbidden, a temporary linked fence (an Eruv), a ceremonial boundary which allows those inside the Eruv to enjoy Shabbat within the laws of their religion, encircled Rootes and the accommodation blocks. Videos of seminars on topics such as 'A History of the Jewish World in 30 Objects' and 'Israel and the Media: An Insiders Account' are now viewable online.

Read more about the Limmud Conference >>

The Arts Centre has been given £1 million

More than £1 million of lottery money has been given to Warwick Arts Centre. The grant, from Arts Council England, is part of a programme designed to make arts organisations more resilient and help them develop long term business plans. In total Warwick Arts Centre, based at the Warwick University campus in Coventry, has been given £1,365,000.

The Arts Centre’s Director, Alan Rivett, said:

We were pleased to be invited to bid for this award. Lottery funding will help steer the organisation towards a healthy future.

Read more in the Coventry Telegraph >>

Russia in 2010: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Where will Russia go in 2011? Professor Mark Harrison, Department of Economics, looks back at four stories from 2010 suggesting that for every step Russia takes towards democracy and away from Soviet totalitarianism, the absence of the rule of law takes it two steps back again.

In his blog, Prof Harrison said:

These four stories suggest where Russia is moving: towards a state with increased discretionary power to intervene as it chooses to control prices and direct resources, subsidize favoured interests, control deviance, and lock up or kill inconvenient people. By the standards of Russia’s Soviet past it is definitely one step forward. This one step is hugely important. Russia is no longer a totalitarian state of mass mobilization and thought police. But, compared with the “normal” society that Russians deserve, and that Russia's friends wish for, it is two steps back again.

Read more in Prof Mark Harrison's blog >>

Philosophy is vital in understanding fairness

Dr Angie Hobbs, the UK’s first Senior Fellow in the Understanding of Philosophy, argues that knowledge of her subject is vital to understanding the debate around the fairness of government policies.

Dr Hobbs said:

In the history of philosophy there’s a wide range of possible answers to a lot of the big questions about how we should live as individuals and as societies, and the fewer students who study philosophy, the fewer people who are going to be out there who know about this range of possible answers and rework and adapt them for current problems and future problems. So without philosophy students we are going to be reducing the number of tools in our toolbox to tackle questions like ‘What’s money for?’, ‘What is fairness?’, ‘How does fairness relate to equality?’

Watch Dr Angie Hobb's on The Guardian's website >>

New £10 million Warwick Centre in High Value, Low Environmental Impact Manufacturing

WMG at the University of Warwick has been awarded one of five new Industrial Doctorate Centres announced today by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). EPSRC are funding five new Industrial Doctorate Centres to address fundamental engineering challenges in advanced manufacturing engineering. The WMG centre will focus on High Value, Low Environmental Impact Manufacturing. The new Centres will train Engineering Doctorate (EngD) students. These four-year postgraduate awards are intended for the UK’s leading researchers pursuing a career in industry. It provides postgraduate engineers with an intensive, broad-based research programme incorporating a taught component relevant to the needs of, and undertaken in partnership with, industry. WMG Director Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya  said :

Our vision is to produce a new generation of manufacturing leaders with the high-level know-how and research experience essential to compete in a global manufacturing environment defined by high impact and low carbon. They will be adept at working in multidisciplinary teams and exceptionally well networked internationally, and with demonstrable entrepreneurial flair. The WMG based Centre will address industrially challenging issues that enable companies to develop and implement effective low-environmental impact technology and policies that also benefit the ‘bottom line’.

Read more in the press release >>


January 07, 2011

Warwick Week – New Year's Resolutions, Fitness to Drive, and a 1800 Degree Furnace

Three New Year’s Honours for Warwick

Chancellor Sir Richard Lambert has been knighted as part of the Queen's New Year's Honours. This honour comes in recognition of his services to business as Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). Three further honours were given to Emeritus Professor John Benington, Warwick Business School, awarded a CBE for public service, Rehana Richens, a student with the School of Health and Social Studies, awarded a OBE for her services to midwifery and nursing, and Sir Alec Reed, an Honorary Professor of Warwick Business School who has also been knighted for his services to business and charity.

Read more on the University of Warwick news page >>

Why we don’t keep New Year’s resolutions

It is possible that fewer people than ever will have made New Year’s resolutions last weekend. More than 80 per cent of us have ditched the tradition after failing to keep resolutions in previous years, a poll found. According to Professor Martin Skinner, Department of Pyschology, the decline could be due to the type of resolutions people make. He said:

I think many people aspire to the unlikely or impossible, and pick resolutions that are about levels of self-control and self-denial which are difficult to attain. When they don’t see the results they want, and which they have probably failed in the past to achieve, they tend to give up again.

Read more in the Daily Express and New Kerala >> 

Why do we continue to Keep Calm And Carry On?

Many people like to decorate their homes, mugs, even their clothes, with catchy slogans. In 2005, a couple discovered the original copy of the previously unfamiliar WW2 poster encouraging civilians to ‘Keep Calm And Carry On’. After displaying it in their book shop, they were met with hundreds of requests from customers who wanted a copy. Popularity peaked last year, as "Keep Calm And Carry On" became the slogan for all-things recession-related. Other posters boast the slogans ‘Rise And Shine’, ‘All You Need Is Love’, and even ‘Keep Calm And Eat A Cupcake’. Professor Martin Skinner, Department of Psychology, explains that buying into anything which carries a vibe of vintage or retro about it, is part of a self-conscious way of dealing with times of difficulty:

There's a tendency, and therefore maybe a trend, to be ironically stoic about the current economic downturn, because irony is the attitude of the times among a broad section of society. Something like the 'Keep Calm' poster is a way of quoting another simple, more straightforward and committed time – but it's done in a way that is gently mocking that time, and gently mocking ourselves.

Read more in the Independent >>

Rising number of people unfit to drive

A study conducted at the University of Warwick suggests that doctors, nurses and other health professionals are failing to stop people driving when they are a danger to themselves and other road users. The problem is growing because of the ageing population. The research team surveyed medical schools, health workers and drivers with medical conditions and used a range of research techniques including deployment of an actor pretending to be unfit to drive. Researchers found 69 of the 140 drivers surveyed should have been advised to stop driving for at least a period of time, but only 23 had received such advice. Dr Carol Hawley said there was confusion among health workers over who was responsible for telling drivers they should stay off the road after an episode such as a stroke, an operation or a bout of severe depression.

The typical response we found was, 'Yes, we know it's important, we know somebody should be doing it, but we don't think it should be us'. Leaving the onus on motorists to own up to a serious condition, and turn themselves in to the DVLA, is a recipe for inaction: if you are going to lose your licence, you aren't going to do it, are you?

Read more in the Guardian >>

1800oC furnace beats snow

Snow may be hampering Christmas deliveries but it has failed to stop the delivery of University Warwick’s Professor Phil Mawby’s Christmas present - a special furnace that can reach 1800 degrees centigrade.

The weather outside may be frightful, but this furnace will raise temperatures in Professor Mawby’s lab to a blistering 1800oC, 500oC higher than traditional silicon furnaces. It will be used to make Power Semiconductor devices in Silicon Carbide, a material which is revolutionizing electrical energy management.

Taking delivery of the new furnace this week, Professor Mawby said:

We are delighted to have this new furnace; it will allow us to really push the boundaries of what we know about silicon carbide and how it functions under such intense temperatures. This will allow us as a university to make great strides in developing the material for use in energy management and hopefully find a means of using the material to run electrical energy in a much more efficient manner.

Silicon Carbide is the next-generation semiconducting material. It is very similar to silicon but a much smaller piece of the material can perform the same functionality, meaning space and weight are saved, and less heat is lost.

Read more in the press release >>



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