Media Relations

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The UCL Media Relations team is the university’s central press office.


We connect journalists to expert academics and promote UCL research and teaching throughout the global media.


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Opinion

Oh, pardon; those gassy burps may signal life on Mars

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For many years I have had a deep desire to retire to the planet Mars. It just seems the ideal end for a crazy scientist like me. But recent findings from the Curiosity rover may have put the kibosh on my plans. The detection of spikes in the levels of methane in the atmosphere is causing much discussion because it is hard to find a simple geological explanation for the variations. One theory that could explain the phenomenon would be the presence of living organisms on Mars, writes Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in The Times (£).

Prozac and PMS – how antidepressants could help with that painful time of the month

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Already widely prescribed as antidepressants, SSRIs such as fluoxetine (the non-brand name for Prozac) have gained increasing acceptance over the past 20 years in the treatment of premenstrual syndrome (PMS). Recent research has given us an idea of the way these drugs do this, which should pave the way to improved treatment, writes Dr Jonathan Fry (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) in The Conversation.

Diplomatic thaw with the US is a gift to the Cuban economy

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Emily Morris

The restoration of full diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, announced simultaneously by Barack Obama and Raúl Castro yesterday, is a huge political breakthrough. The benefits to the Cuban economy, however, will be more gradual. Economic sanctions by the US against Cuba began in 1960. They consisted of a range of measures, only some of which can be removed by the US president in the short term. The rest require congressional approval, which is likely to be a difficult and protracted process, writes Dr Emily Morris (UCL Institute of the Americas) in The Conversation.

Why I’ll talk politics with climate change deniers – but not science

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Mark Maslin

There are many complex reasons why people decide not to accept the science of climate change. The doubters range from the conspiracy theorist to the sceptical scientist, or from the paid lobbyist to the raving lunatic. Climate scientists, myself included, and other academics have strived to understand this reluctance. We wonder why so many people are unable to accept a seemingly straight-forward pollution problem. And we struggle to see why climate change debates have inspired such vitriol, writes Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

Lawyers must be held to account for authorising torture

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Philippe Sands

Dianne Feinstein and the US Senate intelligence committee have produced a brave and damning report on torture by the CIA. It will go some way in preventing the use of torture, yet there is more to be done, writes Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) in the Financial Times.

The stench of a cover-up

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Philippe Sands

The reverberations of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee’s devastating report on the use of torture by the CIA were felt around the world because of the scale of the abuse and the graphic detail of the horror described. The conclusions make for grim reading: the CIA used torture. It was driven by the White House. It provided no useful information. It was accompanied by lies and deceit — to Congress, to the American people and to the world, writes Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) in the Daily Mail.

George Orwell really did have a stint in jail as a drunk fish porter

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If you had been walking down Mile End Road in London on Saturday December 19, 1931, you would have witnessed a scene common in the days before Christmas across Britain. A man who had celebrated a little too much a little too early was taken away by the police after he had consumed four or five pints and the best part of a small bottle of whisky and made a nuisance of himself. But this wasn’t quite as run of the mill as it seemed, writes Dr Luke Seaber (UCL Centre for Languages & International Education) in The Conversation.

Why Scandinavia is not the model for global prosperity we should all pursue

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Henrietta Moore

With high levels of equality, low unemployment and sophisticated social services, Norway, Denmark and Sweden represent models many strive to emulate, but they are not the northern utopias they seem, writes Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) in The Guardian.

Why do human children stay so small for so long?

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Why does it take so long for human children to grow up? A male chimp and male human, for example, both end up with the same body weight but they grow very differently: at year one the human weighs twice that of the chimp but at eight the chimp is twice that of the human. The chimp then gains its adult weight by 12 – six years before the human. A male gorilla is also a faster growing primate – a 150kg male gorilla weighs 50kg by its fifth birthday and 120kg by its tenth, writes Dr John Skoyles (UCL CoMPLEX) in The Conversation.

Why Mumbai should get over its obsession with cars

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There is no congestion charging, no bike-share scheme, no bus lanes even. Despite an estimated 91% of trips in the city being made on foot, bus or train, transport policy remains geared towards the car, writes Dr Andrew Harris (UCL Geography) in the Guardian Cities.

Monster telescope needs mind-bending mathematics to uncover secrets of the universe

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Telescopes have come a long way since the days when they were all about lone astronomers watching the night sky through their upstairs windows. Today teams of astrophysicists build and use much more modern instruments, not only to observe light visible to our eyes, but also radio emissions from the universe, writes Dr Jason McEwen (UCL Space & Climate Physics) in The Conversation.

Lessons on censorship from Syria’s internet filter machines

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Emiliano De Cristofaro

Norwegian writer Mette Newth once wrote that: “censorship has followed the free expressions of men and women like a shadow throughout history.” As we develop new means to gather and create information, new means to control, erase and censor that information evolve alongside it. Today that means access to information through the internet, which motivates us to study internet censorship, writes Dr Emiliano De Cristofaro (UCL Computer Science) in The Conversation.

Black modernism, racism and the making of popular British culture in the inter-war years

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Caroline Bressey

In 1919, Ivy MacKusick, an art student at UCL’s Slade School of Fine Art, completed a Portrait of a Man in His Shirtsleeves. We know nothing about the man of African descent depicted in this portrait. It was painted during the inaugural year of the Harlem Renaissance, which was also a year of violent race riots in the United States and Britain. The evocative painting makes it hard not to speculate about the thoughts passing through the man’s mind as he sat for the Slade students, writes Dr Caroline Bressey (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

Assess governance structures

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Projects such as the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Green List are beginning to evaluate the effectiveness of protected areas systematically. This will help to shift the focus of conservation efforts from targets assessed just by hectares to other, more-meaningful objectives, focused on effectiveness. But to learn from successes and failures, we must also evaluate governance systems, writes Dr Peter Jones (UCL Geography) in Nature.

How much do we care about our online privacy?

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A year and a half after Snowden’s initial NSA revelations, internet privacy has become one of the most widely discussed topics in media and technology. But there is little evidence that snooping habits have diminished. Even apps that emerged to ensure consumer anonymity, such as Snapchat and Whisper, have been under investigation for breeching their own privacy specs. But how much has changed in the mindset of consumers, and are we genuinely concerned about privacy, writes Professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in the Guardian Media Network.

Glühwein and gravitational waves

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Jon Butterworth

Fireworks seem to go off pretty much continually between Halloween and the weekend-after-Bonfire-night these days. I don’t object, and I rather like pumpkins and zombie costumes. Cats, witches and skeletons too. Though I’m not sure what nightmares were being channelled by the small child who came trick-or-treating to our door dressed as a ladybird. And then Bonfire Night on Wednesday. None of this weird American Halloween stuff, just the fine old British tradition of burning a religious terrorist in effigy, writes Professor Jon Butterworth (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in The Guardian.

A cosy pact with the spies is no substitute for the rule of law

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Philippe Sands

No one can doubt that the threat of terrorism poses considerable challenges. Yet the approach adopted by Robert Hannigan, the new head of Britain’s electronic spying agency, is deeply troubling. The GCHQ chief’s call for greater “co-operation” between the private sector and the intelligence services came in the same week we learnt that GCHQ may be accessing documents covered by legal professional privilege, writes Professor Philippe Sands (UCL Laws) in the Financial Times.

Yes, EU immigrants do have a positive impact on public finances

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The impact of immigration on Britain’s tax and welfare system is perhaps the most important economic issue in the debate over the country’s relationship with the EU and its principle of free movement. There are claims that immigrants from Europe take advantage of the UK’s benefit and health system. This has led to political pressure to limit immigrants' access to benefits and public services and even restrict immigration from the European Economic Area countries, writes Professor Christian Dustmann and Dr Tommaso Frattini (UCL Centre for Research & Analysis of Migration) in The Conversation.

If you want a fair inheritance tax, make it a tax on income

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No one likes tax but inheritance tax (or “death tax”) is the focus of particular moral outrage. On the face of it, this is odd. The reason tax is disliked is because it reduces the money you can spend. But as inheritance tax is only payable after you have ceased to exist, you’re not actually losing out by paying it, says Dr Dean Machin (UCL Philosophy) in The Conversation.

How does the IPCC know climate change is happening?

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Mark Maslin

Climate change is one of the few scientific theories that makes us examine the whole basis of modern society. It is a challenge that has politicians arguing, sets nations against each other, queries individual lifestyle choices, and ultimately asks questions about humanity’s relationship with the rest of the planet, writes Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

Ebola is a product of a destructive and exploitative global economic system

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Henrietta Moore

Like a sleepwalker roused from his dream, the world is slowly waking up to the full nightmare of the Ebola outbreak decimating west Africa. With small numbers of cases turning up in western countries, governments here are belatedly pledging action to fight the disease, which has already claimed almost 5,000 lives, writes Professor Henrietta Moore (UCL Institute for Global Prosperity) in The Guardian.

Supplies of rare earth materials are still far from secure

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Raimund Bleischwitz

Materials essential for technology products such as electric vehicles, wind turbines or hard disks, known as rare earth elements, aren’t becoming any less rare, or any less crucial. In fact, experts at a major rare earths conference in Milan on October 16 – the European Rare Earths Competency Network (ERECON) – agreed supply shortages will continue for the time being. This isn’t just a matter for tech companies: their gloomy outlook should be of crucial importance for the future of international relations, writes Professor Raimund Bleischwitz (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) in The Conversation.

Is sending shoppers ads by Bluetooth just a bit creepy?

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Using Bluetooth wireless networking to send information to nearby smartphones, beacon technology could transform how retailers engage with their customers. But customers will notice how their information is used to personalise these unsolicited adverts, and companies that fail to respect their privacy may get burned, writes Dr Charlene Jennett (UCL Interaction Centre) & Professor Angela Sasse (UCL Computer Science) in The Conversation.

Europe needs gas and Russia needs cash, so expect an energy-fuelled reconciliation

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The Ukraine crisis caused relations between Russia and the EU to fall to their lowest point since the Cold War. But despite the bickering and outright conflicts, both still need each other: Europe relies on Russian gas to keep warm, and Russia in turn needs revenues. With winter on its way and capital flight from Russia reaching dangerous levels, the outlook should draw the EU and Russia back together, writes Dr Catalina Spataru and Professor Raimund Bleischwitz (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy & Resources) in The Conversation.

London is a scientific powerhouse – and it’s about more than Nobel Prizes

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Stephen Caddick

London is fortunate in having a record in ground-breaking science that other cities can only envy. We have a long and proud history of research which we should strive to maintain, for the good of our society, and for the good of our city too. Investing in science will pay richer dividends, in every sense, than any of us can imagine, writes Professor Stephen Caddick (UCL Vice-Provost, Enterprise & London) in City AM.

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