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Gaming improves your brain power – reality or hype? The Conversation 11/05/2015

The potential cognitive benefits of gaming – such as helping us make quicker decisions, think more fluidly and avoid distractions – has led to a flurry of research in recent years. Some results indicate benefits for gaming and some, such as a recent US study reported in the journal Psychological Science, do not. Examining past gaming research and hypotheses, Bradley C. Love, Professor of Cognitive and Decision Sciences at UCL, discusses whether the idea that gaming can improve brain power is reality or hype.

To deal with the refugee crisis you need to understand the cause The Conversation 11/05/2015

Around the world, there are more than 50 million displaced and 16 million refugees. Capacities and resources in host countries are being stretched to breaking point and an overflow of desperate migrants attempting the perilous journey to Europe by sea in search of protection is increasing. To deal with this global displacement crisis, Alexander Betts, Professor in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies at University of Oxford, says that political leadership and large-scale international cooperation is needed. “We need a European resettlement scheme that reflects a commitment to proportionately share responsibility for the global refugee population.”

Baltimore riots: Baltimore’s toxic slum housing and its part in the violent death of Freddie Gray The Conversation 04/05/2015

The death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man, while in police custody spawned two days of intense riots in Baltimore. Gray’s death tipped Baltimore into turmoil, Nicholas Sharrer says his death is not the cause of the rioting. Rather, the city’s municipal legacy of racial segregation, its impact on slum housing and a general failure to provide healthy, affordable housing for its working-class Black population have cultivated feelings of anger and hopelessness in many of Baltimore’s young people.

Hubble Space Telescope’s chief scientist on what it took to get the project off the ground The Conversation 04/05/2015

Relaying iconic images of astronomical pillars of gas and dust, views of galaxies soon after they were formed, and an accelerating universe driven by Dark Energy has made The Hubble Space Telescope undoubtedly one of the most popular science projects today. But that wasn’t always the case. C Robert O’Dell was Chief Scientist on the Hubble Space Telescope project. Twenty five years after its launch, he explains what it took to get the project off the ground in the 1980s.

We must talk to terrorists to restore their humanity – and ours The Conversation 20/04/2015

To counteract terrorism, military force and policing is a default tactic – and talking to terrorists, by contrast, may feel counter-intuitive. But a recent debate organised by a UK university between a former terrorist, the daughter of terrorist attack victim and experts on extreme violence has found that creating a dialogue with terrorists can bring their violence to an end. It means understanding terrorism, and the individual motivations behind their actions, in an entirely new way. “Talking to terrorists does not imply blind acceptance of their motivations or methods … [it] allows individuals who use violence … to see the consequences of their actions on a human scale, not a political one.”

Game theory of Thrones: how strategy might decide who rules Westeros The Conversation 13/04/2015

For the uninitiated, game theory is a branch of maths that looks at problems of competition and co-operation. It assumes basic rationality and then looks at what each of the parties will achieve in a situation, conditional on other parties wanting to do their best also. But can it predict who will end up on the Iron Throne? As massive hit series Game of Thrones returns, UCL’s Peter Antonioni uses mathematical models to examine the behaviour of George R R Martin’s characters.

Five years ago the iPad changed clicks to touches – but another tablet revolution is coming The Conversation 07/04/2015

Capturing the world’s imagination over the last five years, Apple’s iPad has fundamentally changed the way we think about computing – we now expect to be able to directly interact with screens without the help of a keyboard or mouse. Jason Alexander, Lecturer in Human-Computer Interaction at Lancaster University, says the next revolution is just around the corner. Soon, he claims, we will be dealing with screens that can morph in three dimensions. Flat screens will soon be able to change themselves into other shapes.

UK Couple wins the lottery twice, but will it make them happy? The Conversation 07/04/2015

In March, a British couple beat unbelievable odds of 283-billion-to-one to win a second £1m prize on the EuroMillions lottery. Many of us dream about winning large life-changing amounts of money on games like Lotto. But does winning huge sums of money make us happier and healthier? Mark Griffiths, Director of the International Gaming Research Unit and Professor of Gambling Studies at Nottingham Trent University says that after the initial euphoria, the evidence suggests that most people soon return to their own normal levels of happiness.

Five things Terry Pratchett’s Discworld will teach you about science The Conversation 30/03/2015

Resembling an amiable wizard, English fantasy author Sir Terry Pratchett wove worlds that were packed with magic. His most famous – Discworld, which featured in 40 of his best-selling novels – was a flat planet balanced on the backs of four elephants which, in turn, stood on the back of a giant turtle. Paradoxically, he was also a great advocate for science. Following Sir Terry’s death from Alzheimer’s in March, his friend, mathematician Ian Stewart reveals five science lessons that Discworld has for us here on Earth.

Can animals ever be artists? The Conversation 30/03/2015

Anthropologists consider art to be a uniquely human activity in which a person produces something for the aesthetic appreciation of others. But what of the beauty of birdsong? Or the intricacy of courtship dances? Bowerbirds make and decorate what is essentially a twig sculpture to impress their mates. Robert John Young, Professor of Wildlife Conservation at University of Salford examines whether any of these can take on the likes of Damien Hirst.

Comment: Whoever killed Boris Nemtsov, Putin is responsible for Russia’s climate of fear The Conversation  09/03/2015

Days after Boris Nemtsov, a leading opponent of Vladimir Putin, was shot dead on a bridge in Moscow, thousands of his supporters marched to the spot where he was murdered. Immediately his death became the subject of rumour and conspiracy theories. Though we may never know who killed him, University of Surrey’s Maxine David argues that his death will have a chilling effect on political discourse.

Humanity is in the existential danger zone, study confirms The Conversation 09/03/2015

A new study shows that humans have, in the context of geological timescales, produced near instantaneous planetary-scale disruption. We are sowing the seeds of havoc on the Earth, it suggests, and the time is fast approaching when we will reap this harvest. Reasons not to be cheerful from University of Southampton’s James Dyke.

Syrian refugees in Athens and the consequences of ‘Fortress Europe’ Open Democracy 15/12/2014

Thousands of Syrian refugees are trying to travel through Turkey, only to find themselves drowning in the Mediterranean, jailed for months in Greek detention centres, or in a legal limbo due to the country's strict asylum policy that affects even war refugees. Those who are allowed to stay have to deal with growing racism and a lack of humanitarian policies in the country. As a result, out of 46,500 Syrians who have arrived in Greece since 2011, only an estimated 1600 have applied for asylum. Greece can, and should, do a lot more to accommodate refugees, says Greek journalist Matthaios Tsimitakis in an opinion piece for Open Democracy.

Changing lives: the Homeless World Cup Freelance 10/11/2014

Freelancers Danielle Batist and Elaine Livingstone recently visited Chile to document the 12th Homeless World Cup. Livingstone is a photographer and her stunning images paint a picture of a magical sporting event. Batist wrote about player Marvin Dulder who was in Santiago to play soccer for Holland. Marvin was 15 years old when he moved from the former Dutch colony of Suriname to the Netherlands with his mother and younger sister. He ended up in the Bijlmer, at the time Holland’s first and only ghetto, and turned to crime before a violent attack by fellow criminals nearly ended his life. Dulder took up football to escape the streets and he hopes to start a Bachelor degree course next year as a mature student.

Children hit hardest by global recession The Conversation UK 03/11/2014

Children have suffered the most as the effects of the global financial crisis are felt across the Western world, a report from children’s charity UNICEF has found. And it is children that will suffer the longest as a result of the financial crisis, the charity adds. Jonathan Bradshaw is a Professor of Social Policy at University of York in the UK and he is also affiliated with Child Poverty Action Group. He writes an opinion piece for The Conversation UK on the back of UNICEF’s findings.

Ben Bradlee The Conversation UK 27/10/2014

Inderjeet Parmar is a Professor in International Politics at City University London, UK. In an opinion piece for The Conversation UK, he writes about Ben Bradlee, executive editor of the Washington Post from 1968 to 1991, during which time the paper exposed the Watergate scandal leading to the downfall of President Richard Nixon. Bradlee was one of the most famous journalists in the world. He died on 21st October 2014.

Live from London: the end of Zimbabwe’s independent exile radio Freelance 15/09/2014

The pioneering exiled independent radio station SW Radio Africa has been forced to pull the plug after thirteen years on the air. The “pirate” station was started in Zimbabwe in 2000 by journalist Gerry Jackson, who won a court case to make independent radio legal after being fired by the state broadcaster for criticising the government. Just six days after her first broadcast, Jackson’s equipment was seized and destroyed by armed guards and Jackson fled to the UK where she and her team broadcast to Zimbabwe from exile in London. Freelance reporter Danielle Batist charts the final days of SW Radio Africa, who challenged the dictatorship of President Robert Mugabe and gave a voice to the millions suffering dire poverty in Africa. Jackson speaks about a great loss of hope following last year’s rigged elections that allowed Mugabe to stay in power.

Ao vivo de Londres: o fim da exilada rádio independente do Zimbábue Freelance 15/09/2014

A exilada e pioneira estação de rádio independente SW Radio Africa foi forçada a desligar a "tomada" depois de treze anos no ar. A estação "pirata" começou no Zimbábue em 2000 pela jornalista Gerry Jackson, a qual ganhou permissão em um processo jurídico para fazer uma rádio independente depois de ser demitida pela emissora estatal por criticar o governo. Apenas seis dias depois da sua primeira transmissão, o equipamento de Jackson foi apreendido e destruído por guardas armados e Jackson voou para o Reino Unido, onde ela e seu time exilados em Londres transmitiram para o Zimbábue. A repórter freelance Danielle Batist acompanha os últimos dias da SW Radio Africa, a qual desafiou a ditadura do Presidente Robert Mugabe e deu voz a milhões de pessoas em situação de extrema pobreza na África. Jackson fala sobre a grande perda de esperança seguida das eleições manipuladas do ano passado que permitiram que Mugabe permanecesse no poder.

Child poverty targets in UK will be missed with austerity to blame The Conversation 01/09/2014

A new report has said that targets to reduce child poverty in Britain by 2020 will not be met. The government’s child poverty strategy, which began in 2010, aimed to reduce the number of children living in poverty to 5% by the end of the decade. In this article for The Conversation, Jonathan Bradshaw of the University of York examines why these targets will inevitably be missed – pointing at the government’s harsh austerity measures as the reason.

Photo essay: China’s internet addicts Reuters / INSP 18/08/2014

As growing numbers of young people spend more and more time online, parents in China have become worried that their children may be addicted to the internet. In our photo essay this week we look at the Qide Education Centre, a military-style boot camp in Beijing that offers treatment for internet addiction for youths.

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