Tag Archives: university of cambridge

Bad news for prey: New research shows that predators can learn to read camouflage

Camouflaged creatures can perform remarkable disappearing acts but new research shows that predators can learn to read camouflage.

The study, which used human subjects as predators searching for hidden moths in computer games, found that the subjects could learn to find some types of camouflaged prey faster than others. 

The research was carried out by the University of Exeter and the University of Cambridge and is published in the journal PLOS ONE. Moths with high contrast markings – that break up the shape of the body, like that of a zebra or giraffe – were best at evading predation at the start of the experiment. However humans learnt to find these prey types faster than moths with low contrast markings that match the background, like that of a stick insect or leaf bug. (more…)

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Lesbian and gay young people twice as likely to smoke and drink alcohol

Young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are twice as likely to have smoked than their heterosexual peers, according to new research published in BMJ Open. Lesbian and gay young people were also more likely to drink alcohol frequently and more hazardously.

The interdisciplinary research team comprised researchers from five UK Universities (UCL, University of Cambridge, London Metropolitan University, De Montfort University Leicester and Brunel University), a doctor working in General Practice and a consultant from Public Health England. (more…)

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Strange phallus-shaped creature provides crucial missing link

Christopher Cameron of the University of Montreal’s Department of Biological Sciences and his colleagues have unearthed a major scientific discovery – a strange phallus-shaped creature they found in Canada’s Burgess Shale fossil beds, located in Yoho National Park. The fossils were found in an area of shale beds that are 505 million years old.

Their study published online in the journal Nature on March 13, 2013, confirms Spartobranchus tenuis is a member of the acorn worms group which are seldom-seen animals that thrive today in the fine sands and mud of shallow and deeper waters. Acorn worms are themselves part of the hemichordates, a group of marine animals closely related to today’s sea stars and sea urchins. “Unlike animals with hard parts including teeth, scales and bones, these worms were soft-bodied, so their fossil record is extremely rare,” said author Dr. Chris Cameron of the University of Montreal. “Our description of Spartobranchus tenuis, a creature previously unknown to science, pushes the fossil record of the enteropneusts back 200 million years to the Cambrian period, fundamentally changing our understanding of biodiversity from this period.” (more…)

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An Interview with Dr. Russ Glenn: ‘China as Superpower’

Dr. Russ Glenn is a lecturer at the Leiden Institute for Area Studies at Leiden University. He focuses on Chinese politics and international relations. Prior to Leiden he completed his PhD at the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Cambridge. He conducted his doctoral work on Chinese energy security needs in a thesis titled: “No Blood for Oil: The strategic implications of increased Chinese oil demand on the Sino-US relationship and the Oil Peace Paradox”, where he broke down the role of oil into the military and economic aspects of supply security, and interrogated the ability of China to successfully achieve oil security. He is particularly interested in military history, Chinese, and East-Asian history, politics, and international relations. Outside of academia he is a contributing analyst at the Wikistrat Consultancy, and has been a keen coach, competitor, and coxswain in rowing for the past 11 years at Cambridge and at Brown, and has also boxed for Cambridge.

Recently we spoke with Dr. Glenn on China affairs – how China would be as a Superpower.

Q. Currently when we talk about superpower, we definitely mean USA. But the way China is rising economically and militarily sings that sooner or later we will recognize China as superpower too.  Do you think China will get the recognition within the next two years or directly in 2013?

Russ Glenn: I think it depends how you define ‘superpower’. On some levels, China already has an outsized impact on the world. Economically, for example, China is already one of the most interconnected and vital members of the international system. In other areas, however, China’s relative strength is much less significant. China’s navy, for example, may not even be the most capable maritime force in the region, and remains but a fraction of the United States’. Moving beyond these traditional quantifications to considerations of soft power makes the situation even more opaque. (more…)

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Seed Size is Controlled by Maternally Produced Small Rnas, Scientists Find

AUSTIN, Texas — Seed size is controlled by small RNA molecules inherited from a plant’s mother, a discovery from scientists at The University of Texas at Austin that has implications for agriculture and understanding plant evolution.

“Crop seeds provide nearly 70 to 80 percent of calories and 60 to 70 percent of all proteins consumed by the human population,” said Z. Jeff Chen, the D.J. Sibley Centennial Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics at The University of Texas at Austin. “Seed production is obviously very important for agriculture and plant evolution.” (more…)

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Human’s Oldest Ancestor Found in Burgess Shale

*Pikaia is most primitive vertebrate known*

Researchers from the University of Toronto, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) and the University of Cambridge have confirmed that a 505 million-year-old creature, found only in the Burgess Shale fossil beds in Canada’s Yoho National Park, is the most primitive known vertebrate and therefore the ancestor of all descendant vertebrates, including humans.

The research team’s analysis proves the extinct Pikaia gracilens is the most primitive member of the chordate family, the group of animals that today includes fish, amphibians, birds, reptiles and mammals. Their study is based on the analysis of 114 specimens and is published in the British scientific journal Biological Reviews. (more…)

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Mathematician Sees Artistic Side To Father of Computer

This year a series of events around the world will celebrate the work of Alan Turing, the father of the modern computer, as the 100th anniversary of his birthday approaches on June 23. In a book chapter that will be published later this year, mathematician Robert Soare, the founding chairman of the University of Chicago’s computer science department, will propose that Turing’s achievement was artistic as well as scientific.

Soare, the Paul Snowden Russell Distinguished Service Professor in Mathematics and Computer Sciences, has played a leading role in computability theory — the field that Turing founded and which is devoted to determining how effectively complex mathematical problems can be solved. In Mathematical Logic in the 20th Century, Gerald Sacks ranked a paper Soare published in the Annals of Mathematics as one of the century’s 31 most important papers in mathematical logic, including computability theory. (more…)

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Exeter Academic Contributes to New TV Series on Islam

*A University of Exeter academic, who is an expert on Islam, has contributed to the new television series ‘The Life of Muhammad’ currently being broadcast on BBC Two. The three-part documentary, presented by journalist Rageh Omaar, charts the story of the Prophet who, in little more than 20 years, changed the world forever.*

Professor Sajjad Rizvi, University of Exeter’s Associate Professor of Islamic Intellectual History at the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, provided expert advice to the BBC team. He also appears in the series. (more…)

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