Tag Archives: University of Cambridge

Technologies: New Plant-Based Plastics & Waste Plastic Into Hydrogen

Plastic has become a malevolent symbol of our wasteful society. It’s also one of the most successful materials ever invented: it’s cheap, durable, flexible, waterproof, versatile, lightweight, protective and hygienic.

During the coronavirus pandemic, plastic visors, goggles, gloves and aprons have been fundamental for protecting healthcare workers from the virus. But what about the effects on the environment of throwing away huge numbers of single-use medical protection equipment? How are we to balance our need for plastic with protecting the environment?

Delayed as a result of the pandemic, the film is being released now because it considers how society might ‘reset the clock’ when it comes to living better with a vital material.

We hear how Cambridge University’s Cambridge Creative Circular Plastics Centre (CirPlas) aims to eliminate plastic waste by combining blue-sky thinking with practical measures – from turning waste plastic into hydrogen fuel, to manufacturing more sustainable materials, to driving innovations in plastic recycling in a circular economy.

“As a chemist I look at plastic and I see an extremely useful material that is rich in chemicals and energy – a material that shouldn’t end up in landfills and pollute the environment,” says Professor Erwin Reisner, who leads CirPlas, funded by UK Research and Innovation.

“Plastic is an example of how we must find ways to use resources without irreversibly changing the planet for future generations.”

Explore more: CirPlas: https://www.energy.cam.ac.uk/Plastic_…

 

COVID-19 / Coronavirus: Cambridge Scientists Using Genomics To Create “Pandemic Flu Vaccines”

The race is on to find a vaccine against the new COVID-19 coronavirus. Professor Jonathan Heeney explains why a cautious approach is needed and how his team is using new technology developed for influenza and Ebola viruses to target the new infection.

It is hard now to conceive that two months ago, few people had heard of the new coronavirus. Now, the virus, which causes the disease COVID-19, has spread to every corner of the globe. The World Health Organization has officially declared the outbreak a pandemic.

With the threat of hundreds of thousands – possibly millions – of people being infected and healthcare systems becoming overwhelmed, the race is on to develop a vaccine that will protect individuals and slow the spread of the disease. But Professor Jonathan Heeney, Head of the Laboratory of Viral Zoonotics at the University of Cambridge, and one of the people working on a vaccine, says that coronaviruses present a particular challenge to vaccine developers.

Coronaviruses are named after their appearance: they are spherical objects, on the surface of which sit ‘spike’ proteins. The virus uses these spikes to attach to and invade cells in our body. Once inside, the virus uses the cell’s own machinery to help itself replicate and spread throughout the body, causing disease and allowing it to transmit onwards.

Traditionally, scientists would develop vaccines that programme the body to produce antibodies that recognise and block these spikes. But this strategy can misfire with coronaviruses due to a phenomenon known as ‘antibody-induced enhancement’ or ‘vaccine-induced enhancement’, says Heeney.

“If you make antibodies against the spike, they can end up binding to it and helping the virus invade important immune cells known as monocyte-macrophages. Rather than destroying the virus, these cells can then end up being reprogrammed by the viruses, exacerbating the immune response and making the disease much, much worse than it would otherwise be.”

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Top New Science Podcasts: Gravity, Ancient Teeth & Containing Coronavirus

What happens if you overwater a plant? How does gravity actually work? And should we be cancelling mass events to contain the coronavirus

It’s Q&A time on the show, and this week Phil Sansom is joined by a brainy panel of experts: plant biologist Nadia Radzman, particle physicist Chris Rogers, bioarchaeologist Emma Pomeroy, and virologist and Naked Scientist Chris Smith. Prepare to have your curiosity satisfied…

Debates: 55 Years Since “James Baldwin – William F. Buckley” (Cambridge 1965)

It has been 55 years since civil-rights activist, James Baldwin, and founder of the conservative National Review, William F. Buckley, Jr., met for a debate on race in America. That discussion and the lives of the two cultural giants are subjects of a new book, “The Fire is Upon Us.” Zachary Green spoke with author and political scientist Nicholas Buccola about how the debate’s still resonating.

Literary Debates: “This House Prefers Reading Oscar Wilde To George Orwell” (Cambridge)

The Cambridge Union logoABOUT THE MOTION: This House Prefers Reading Oscar Wilde to George Orwell Do we prefer satire or comedy? Do we take refuge in the serious or the frivolous? Do we understand the importance of being earnest or would we rather be in room 101? These two authors demonstrate well two powerful traditions in British literature, the comic and the satirical. They both of course share in each other’s art. Some would argue that during our present global crises we should look to Orwell more than ever, others would reach for the escapism of Oscar Wilde. In a new enterprise for the Cambridge Union, we are beginning our cultural debates – and this is our first. At least for a while.

ABOUT OUR SPEAKER (Closing for the Proposition) Will Self is the author of 25 books, some of which have been translated into 25 languages. His Dorian: An Imitation is an adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray set during the AIDS crisis. He holds the Chair in Contemporary Thought at Brunel University, and lives in South London.

ABOUT OUR SPEAKER (Closing for the Abstention) Professor Angie Hobbs graduated in Classics and then a Ph.D. in Ancient Philosophy at the University of Cambridge. After a Research Fellowship at Christ’s College, she moved to the Philosophy Department at the University of Warwick. She was a judge of the Man Booker International Prize 2019 and is on the World Economic Forum Global Future Council 2018-9 for Values, Ethics and Innovation

Nature & Science: Making Flowers Of Food Plants More Attractive To Insect Pollinators (Cambridge)

A rising world population means we’ll need more food in the coming years. But much of our food relies on insect pollination, and insects are in decline around the world. Can we make flowers better at being pollinated, to help solve this problem?

Improving flowers to help feed the world Cambridge University Video January 21 2020

Research from the Glover Lab (https://twitter.com/Beverley_CUBG) in the Department of Plant Sciences (https://twitter.com/PlantSci)

Profiles: 85-Year Old Primatologist Jane Goodall On A Better Future (Cambridge)

In a new film released as part of Cambridge University’s focus on Sustainable Earth, Dr Jane Goodall DBE talks about the environmental crisis and her reasons for hope. “Every single day that we live, we make some impact on the planet. We have a choice as to what kind of impact that is.”

At the age of 26, Jane Goodall travelled from England to what is now Tanzania, Africa, and ventured into the little-known world of wild chimpanzees. Among her many discoveries, perhaps the greatest was that chimpanzees make and use tools. She completed a PhD at Newnham College in Cambridge in 1966, and subsequently founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977 to continue her conservation work and the youth service programme Roots & Shoots in 1991.

She now travels the world as a UN Messenger of Peace. “The human spirit is indomitable. Throughout my life, I’ve met so many incredible people – men and women who tackle what seems impossible and won’t give up until they succeed. With our intellect and our determined spirit, and with the tools that we have now, we can find a way to a better future.”

Cambridge University’s focus on Sustainable Earth looks at how we transition to a carbon zero future, protect the planet’s resources, reduce waste and build resilience.

See more here

New Literary Books: “Aging, Duration, And The English Novel” (CUP)

From a Cambridge University Press (CUP) listing:

Aging, Duration, and the English Novel Growing Old from Dickens to Woolf Cambridge University Press New Release January 2020Aging, Duration, and the English Novel argues that the formal disappearance of aging from the novel parallels the ideological pressure to identify as being young by repressing the process of growing old. The construction of aging as a shameful event that should be hidden – to improve one’s chances on the job market or secure a successful marriage – corresponds to the rise of the long novel, which draws upon the temporality of the body to map progress and decline onto the plots of nineteenth-century British modernity.

The rapid onset of dementia after an illness, the development of gray hair after a traumatic loss, the sudden appearance of a wrinkle in the brow of a spurned lover. The realist novel uses these conventions to accelerate the process of aging into a descriptive moment, writing the passage of years on the body all at once.

Review and Purchase

Aging, Duration, and the English Novel Growing Old from Dickens to Woolf Cambridge University Press New Release January 2020

New Research Videos: “In Search Of The Amazon’s Tallest Tree” (Cambridge)

Research has discovered the tallest known tree in the Amazon, towering above the previous record holder at a whopping 88.5 metres. This giant could store as much carbon as an entire hectare of rainforest elsewhere in the Amazon. Toby Jackson, a plant scientist in the University of Cambridge, took part in an expedition to find the tree in a remote region of northern Brazil, and validate its height the old-fashioned way – by climbing it.

To read more: https://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/expedition-finds-tallest-tree-in-the-amazon

Economics & Finance: “Economics For People” With Cambridge Author & Professor Ha-Joon Chang (New INET Video Series)

Economics For People With Ha-Joon Chang Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET) Cambridge UniversityIn the new series “Economics For People” from the Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET), University of Cambridge economist and bestselling author Ha-Joon Chang explains key concepts in economics, empowering anyone to hold their government, society, and economy accountable.

 

Lecture 1.1: The Nature of Economics

Lecture 1.2: Five Reasons Why Economics Is Political

Lecture 2: What Is Wrong With Globalization?

To view more videos: https://www.ineteconomics.org/perspectives/videos/economics-for-people