The University of Liverpool Podcast is now available to download on iTunes and aims to bring you closer to some of the academic experts, authors and innovative thinkers from the University, who through their in-depth analyses, research and discoveries are affecting positive change in the world today.
Join our host – Canadian journalist and producer, Neil Morrison as he covers a wide range of topics including; cancer-detecting smelling machines, Beatles tourism, and cyber security (to name but a few), with thought leaders from University of Liverpool. Subscribe, listen and review.
Researchers are designing robots with artificial intelligence that evolve on their own. The programmer sets a goal to be accomplished and then, generation after generation, successful traits are passed on to the next generation. The result is AI that evolves at an astonishing rate to complete the complex task or goal, without guidance of a programmer. The process is called Neuro-evolution and University of Liverpool PhD student James Butterworth is conducting research into applying artificial intelligence to drones.
Major events, like a terrorist attack or natural disaster, force the emergency services to make decisions under extreme pressure and often with very little information. To make matters worse, these scenarios are frequently unique so decision makers do not have experience or protocol to fall back on. Such events make a fascinating focus for research into decision making. Dr Sara Waring is a lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the University of Liverpool and the research director for the Critical and Major Incident Psychology Research Group. She talks about the challenge of making smart decisions in the most stressful situations imaginable.
As the world around us grows increasingly digital, education, shopping and social service programmes go online, who is being left out? Who is being excluded? Simeon Yates is the Director of the Centre for Digital Humanities and Social Science at the University of Liverpool. He recently led a major initiative to develop a new digital culture policy in the UK. This highlighted one of his chief concerns about digital policy: the serious and growing problem of digital exclusion.
Donald Trump's detractors criticize the president's speaking style for its seeming lack of coherence, simplicity and its appeal to raw emotions. Yet to his supporters, Trump's extemporaneous style communicates an honest and genuine connection with his audience. It is a style that stands in stark contrast to the rehearsed, formally structured speeches of his political opponents. Dr Karl Simms is a Reader in English at the University of Liverpool and an expert in rhetoric. In this episode, he dissects Trump’s discursive strategies and examines what they teach us about effective communication.
Costas Milas's research shows that Twitter is better at predicting the financial future than even the most sophisticated financial tools. He is now extending his research on prediction to things like Google search trends and he argues that search can predict how Brexit negotiations are likely to unfold.
Paediatric medicine faces a troubling challenge. For good ethical reasons, scientists have long been reluctant to experiment on children. As a result, many of the oldest and most common medications used in pediatric medicine have not been tested on the youngest patients. This means there is very little good quality research on efficacy or proper dosage. This concerns Dr Dan Hawcutt. He’s a Senior Lecturer Paediatric Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool who wants to further what we know about the medicines we give to children.
The study of extreme weather usually involves lots of numbers, graphs and statistical comparisons. What's missing is the human element; the way people responded to an unusual weather event. During the deep freeze of 1838, did people stay huddled indoors or learn to skate? How about the flooding of the river Trent in the early 19th century? Were they scared? Georgina Enfield is a professor of environmental history at the University of Liverpool. Her team has assembled a fascinating collection of diaries, letters and other personal accounts of how people felt about extreme shifts in the weather over the past several centuries.
All of a sudden mathematics wizards and statisticians are moving into the front offices of major sports teams. Ian McHale, Professor of Sports Analytics at the University of Liverpool, discusses the remarkable rise of analytics in professional sport. We see it in cycling, baseball, basketball… but what about football? McHale says the Premier League is behind other sports in adopting analytics to drive performance. This means some star players might be over-valued (and overpaid) while the role their teammates play may be overlooked.
In forty years, the number of obese children has increased 10 fold. This increase is not just in the UK or the US but around the world - it’s a global public health crisis. In the UK one in ten children is now obese. Experts are calling on the government to reduce children’s exposure to junk food advertisements. The Obesity Health Alliance is pushing for a 9pm watershed on junk food advertisements in the UK. Senior lecturer in psychology, Dr Emma Boyland, describes the surprisingly powerful effect these ads have on children’s appetites and food choices.
The massive system that drives modern agriculture is changing, especially for the vast majority of us who live in cities. Farm Urban is part of this shift, prompting us to think about how and, more importantly, where our food is produced. The Liverpool business is the brainchild of two University of Liverpool postdoctoral researchers Paul Myers and Jens Thomas. With the support of academic partner Dr Iain Young, they've built a company that grows fresh food in brick basements and urban rooftops. Not short of ambition, their mission is to change our relationship with food and the urban environment.
Dry January is the annual effort to give up alcohol for the first 31 days of the year. There are campaigns around the world but it is particularly popular in the UK. According to the group Alcohol Concern 5 million Britons took part in Dry January last year. Matt Field will be taking part this year as he has in past years. The professor of psychology at the University of Liverpool and expert on addiction is a fan of the effort, and he says it almost certainly has short-term benefits. However, he says it’s not entirely clear Dry January changes our relationship with alcohol in a lasting way.
University of Liverpool professor of English Literature, Sarah Peverley returns on the podcast to compare what we know about Christmas traditions in Britain’s Middle Ages with our modern festivities. There are some surprises, like the early origins of Father Christmas or Santa Claus. But what’s not surprising is the degree to which our approach to Christmas has shifted over the millennium and Professor Peverley reflects on what we may have lost along the way.
It’s easy to see signs that it might be. Research into pop music and contemporary literature offers indirect evidence that narcissism is on the rise in Western culture. More direct evidence comes from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI): a database of thousands of US college students’ personality test results, collected over several decades. Results from these tests show narcissism has risen. Yet, new research has emerged that challenges this view. University of Liverpool lecturer in psychology Minna Lyons takes us through the evidence.
The weight loss market in the US is estimated to be worth 66 billion dollars. Europe isn’t too far behind that at 44 billion. It is big business and while its expansion has kept pace with our growing waist lines, its origins can be traced, oddly enough, to a time when food was scarce. Myriam Wilks-Heeg is a Lecturer of Twentieth Century History at the University of Liverpool. She is researching the history of slimming in the UK and how it became an obsession for women.
Earlier this year Colm Tóibín spoke before an audience the Victoria Gallery Museum in Liverpool. The author and University of Liverpool Chancellor read excerpts from his latest novel House of Names. The work is a retelling of one part of the classic Greek trilogy The Oresteia and depicts Clytemnestra’s revenge for the murder of her daughter. This special bonus episode features Tóibín’s fascinating and funny insights into the challenges he faced adapting a story that is 2,500 years old.
At this time of year we flock to horror films and prepare ghoulish costumes - but why do we do this? For children the answer is easy: the sweet treats. For adults, the attraction to frightening things is a bit more complicated. One in six people in Great Britain experience anxiety or depression each week. Though many struggle with inner demons, they are also attracted to the macabre and the terrifying. It seems like a paradox but Dr Peter Kinderman says taking part in Halloween traditions can be therapeutic.
Simon Capewell says sugary drinks are killing us. The University of Liverpool Public Health researcher and advocate says sugar, especially the sugar in sugary drinks, is the single biggest cause of obesity. He is fighting for sugary drinks to be treated the same as tobacco which means, higher taxes and stricter limits on advertising but the industry is fighting back with huge advertising campaigns and suspect research.
University of Liverpool Chancellor, Colm Tóibín explores the role of education and universities in the current political climate. The Irish short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic and poet is author to nine novels - three of which have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize. In 2009 Brooklyn won the Costa Novel of the Year and was later adapted into an Academy Award nominated and BAFTA winning film. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages and he continues to engage critics with his most recently published work, House of Names.
Two years ago, physicist Jon Major published research on a new method for producing solar panels in the prestigious journal Nature. His technique has a tenuous connection to tofu but that was enough to push it onto the front pages of news sites around the world. The experience taught him a lot about the value of good communication of scientific ideas. Dr Major’s experience since the research was published has taught him even more about the structure of the modern solar industry. It may not be as nimble and quick to innovate as you might think.
It might seem a bit farfetched but someday soon we might all carry in our wallets a little card, something like a credit card except this card will carry our entire genetic code. It’s something you would hand over to your doctor or that doctors would look for if you ended up in hospital. Another possibility is that your doctor might have your genetic profile on file, right there beside your address, your age and your weight. According to Prof Sir Munir Pirmohamed medicine is set to get a lot more personal and that’s a good thing.
Dr Calum Semple shares his experience working in Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis. It’s a harrowing story that offers some surprising lessons. The large scale Western medical intervention, the type Dr Semple was involved in, might not have been the crucial factor in conquering the outbreak – and certainly not as key as we may have thought. Rather, when reflecting on his research and his experiences, Calum suggests that public health messages concerning the burial of infected persons were vital in curbing the spread of the epidemic.
Mermaids have fascinated and attracted us for generations. What is it about these mythical creatures that has so captivated humans for thousands of years and across cultures? Sarah Peverley is a Professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool and a Leverhulme Research Fellow working on a project entitled: 'Mermaids of the British Isles, c. 450-1500'. Sarah walks us through our long, complex and profound relationship with these beguiling messengers from the deep. Read more about Professor Peverley’s work at The Conversation, on her website and Twitter.
Prof Alex German calls obesity the single greatest threat to your dog's health, yet most pet owners don't even realise their pet is overweight. It's not just the average pet owner who faces this challenge. His analysis of dogs at Crufts, the biggest dog show in the UK, found that about a quarter of all show dogs were overweight. The rise in dog obesity parallels the rise in obesity in humans and obese dogs face many of the same health risks as obese humans including arthritis and diabetes.
The string of terror attacks in the UK has increased pressure on police to identify and disrupt terrorist plots early. This requires fast and effective interrogations of family, friends and supporters of attackers. You might imagine this means tough questioning that is extremely stressful to the detainee. But according to Laurence Alison, a softer approach tends to achieve harder results. Professor Alison is Director of the Centre for Critical and Major Incident Psychology at the University of Liverpool. He is an expert in interrogation techniques. He says, empathy, respect and careful listening are powerful tools in the hands of the most effective negotiators.
Kieran Maguire talks to us about the serious business of the beautiful game's Premier League. He is a Senior Teacher in Accountancy at the University of Liverpool, and a football finance expert. He is also a lifelong fan of newly promoted Brighton FC. Kieran discusses the city of Liverpool's plan to underwrite Everton Football Club’s new stadium, the importance of Champions League places, and different approaches to financing and running Premier League football clubs. The discussion has a specific focus on Liverpool FC, Manchester United, and Manchester City football clubs. And he draws attention to the monopoly of the top four clubs and the irony inherent in UEFA’s ‘Financial Fair Play’ rules.
When Prime Minister Theresa May announced her intention to negotiate a partnership with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), critics and observers pointed to deeply conservative statements of some DUP members and warned that Conservatives risked being dragged to the far right of the political spectrum. However, two University of Liverpool experts in Northern Ireland politics argue that the modern DUP is a pragmatic and politically sophisticated party. And, far from dragging the Conservatives to the right, they may actually pull them to the left on economic issues. Peter Shirlow is the Director of the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Irish Studies. Jonathan Tonge is a professor of politics at the University of Liverpool and co-author of the book ‘The Democratic Unionist Party: From Protest to Power’.
For parents, the discovery that their child’s difficult behaviour is actually a form of psychopathy is devastating. Dr Luna Centifanti, a Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology at the University of Liverpool, says researchers are zeroing in on the unique traits associated with psychopathy and this greater understanding is opening the door for more targeted therapies.
Dr Praveetha Patalay walks us through research that shows how children's mental health can be affected by their date of birth. Praveetha Patalay is a Lecturer in Population Mental Health and Child Development at the University of Liverpool. She has numerous awards and distinctions for her research including recently being selected as a Top 30 under 30 in Science and Healthcare for Forbes Magazine. Read more about Dr Patalay and her research.
This is our first episode in a new and sporadic series of short episodes called "5 minutes on..." From time to time we will put these out between our regular in-depth episodes which come out every two weeks.
Dr Peter Kinderman, professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool and Vice President of the BPS, says the causes of depression, anxiety and even schizophrenia are not always found inside the brain but outside the person. Unemployment, bullying, child abuse are often the cause of mental distress – and the treatment he prescribes is for all of us to take greater social responsibility to address the situation rather than just reaching for medication.
Dr Louise Dennis examines the choices self-driving cars will face as they take over our roads. Sometimes, the question is not what a good driver would do but rather, what a good (i.e. moral) person should do. As autonomous machines spread into more and more facets of modern life, Dr Dennis maintains that moral reasoning will increasingly need to be a critical part of their design.
Professor of Autonomous Systems, Simon Maskell was involved in the hunt for MH370, the Malaysian Airlines plane that went missing shortly after take-off on March 8, 2014. In this episode he studies the critical role human judgement plays within the development and control of autonomous systems. The ethics that should guide these judgements will be the subject of our next episode.
Lecturer in Psychology and prolific podcaster, Dr. Suzi Gage along with her co-host UK rapper Scroobius Pip take an evidence based approach to discussing recreational drugs. In 2016 their podcast won Skeptic Magazine’s Ockham Award for Best Podcast while Suzi Gage herself was presented this year with the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s Early Career Award for Public Engagement with Science.
Prof Steve Rannard and Prof Andrew Owen are using nanotechnology to make HIV medicine more effective and less expensive. Nanomedicine builds tiny particles of medication that are designed to drive the drug into the bloodstream more effectively. The results of which, could greatly increase the number of HIV patients that can receive therapy in low to middle income countries.
Dr Mike Jones traces the City of Liverpool’s complex relationship with The Beatles. It may seem difficult believe today, but the city was not always so warm in its embrace of four of its most famous sons. A fascinating story that has its origins in the dramatic social, political and economic changes of the past century.
The lives of patients who currently experience invasive tests for bladder and prostate cancer diagnosis could be made easier. Find out how a machine with smell sensitivity can screen urine samples for cancer.
The University of Liverpool Podcast is a production of the University of Liverpool.