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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

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.

Islamic State: no-one wants to talk to terrorists, but we always do – and sometimes it works

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The Islamic State (IS) now occupies significant swaths of Iraq and Syria, has pushed as far as the border with Turkey, and has succeeded in dragging “the West” into two civil wars in the Middle East. The West’s offensive, spearheaded by the US and supported by the UK and others, is to “degrade and ultimately destroy” IS. But in the face of IS’s state-building efforts, that strategy will only work if it manages to degrade the group’s legitimacy as a governing enterprise, writes Dr Kristin Bakke (UCL Political Science) in The Conversation.

Eugenics: the academy's complicity

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Nathaniel

“The British invented racism,” said the UK’s first “black female” MP. “Britain…almost invented racism,” said the US’ first “black male” ambassador to the UN. If by “racism” we mean “the science of improving stock”, by “giv[ing] to the more suitable races or strains of blood a better chance of prevailing speedily over the less suitable”, then Diane Abbott in April 1988 and Andrew Young in April 1977 were right: the British invented eugenics. More precisely, the University of London invented national eugenics, in the service of the British Empire, writes Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman (UCL Philosophy) in THE.

First goal of UN sustainability targets should be to not conflict with each other

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The UN’s proposed sustainability targets are riddled with conflicts that could make them ineffective or outright harmful. In theory, there is nothing wrong with such targets. After all, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) had mixed success on health, education and poverty but established the principle that measuring key indicators was a good way to at least begin tackling major issues, writes Lucien Georgeson and Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

Humans drained the Aral Sea once before – but there are no free refills this time round

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Anson Mackay

The Aral Sea has reached a new low, literally and figuratively; new satellite images from NASA show that, for the first time in its recorded history, the largest basin has completely dried up, writes Professor Anson Mackay (UCL Geography) in The Conversation.

Space: the financial frontier – how citizen scientists took control of a spaceship

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For decades, space exploration remained a domain within reach of only government agencies, who could command huge pools of expertise and public funds. Now the means by which our space endeavours are funded have become more diverse, and more and more private space initiatives are appearing, writes Dr Geraint Jones (UCL MSSL) in The Conversation.

Building a new economics for the #Occupy generation

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After the global financial crisis in 2008, economics was in disarray. Even the Queen was moved to chide economists for failing to warn about the build-up of debt in households and banks in the major economies and the threat this posed to the global economy. She might have added that few economists provided convincing accounts of why the meltdown had happened. And some advocated policies in its wake that made things worse, writes Professor Wendy Carlin (UCL Economics) in The Conversation.

How the world's first smartwatch was built

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Lisa Jardine

The pocket watch could be called the world's first "smart" device, and its development involved some of the greatest scientific minds of the 17th Century, writes Professor Lisa Jardine (UCL Centre for Editing Lives & Letters) for BBC News magazine.

Could there really be such a thing as volcano season?

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The Earth seems to have been smoking a lot recently. Volcanoes are currently erupting in Iceland, Hawaii, Indonesia and Mexico. Others, in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, erupted recently but seem to have calmed down. Many of these have threatened homes and forced evacuations. But among their less-endangered spectators, these eruptions may have raised a question: Is there such a thing as a season for volcanic eruptions? asks Robin Wylie (UCL Earth Sciences) in The Conversation.

Energy efficient buildings – beware possible health risks

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The primary goal of home energy efficiency initiatives might be to reduce total energy consumption, but these projects could have a negative impact on public health if we do not take care, writes Melissa Lott (UCL Bartlett School of Environment, Energy and Resources) in The Conversation.

Constitutional consequences of Scottish referendum will be complex and profound

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Meg Russell

The constitutional consequences of a yes vote in Scotland would have been momentous, leading to months – possibly years – of fraught negotiation with uncertain consequences. But the consequences of no for governance in the rest of the UK may, paradoxically, be even more complex and profound, writes Dr Meg Russell (UCL Constitution Unit) in The Observer.

The power of wearing red

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Lisa Jardine

Red is back in fashion this season. The colour's long been associated with power, but running alongside that is also a current of danger, writes Professor Lisa Jardine (UCL Centre for Editing Lives & Letters) for BBC News magazine.

Behind the online comments: the psychology of internet trolls

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Readers’ comments are an important, yet often overlooked, type of user-generated content. And some readers are much more likely to post and read comments than others. Trolling, the act of posting disruptive or inflammatory comments online in order to provoke fellow readers, has been the focus of much recent attention, writes Professor Tomas Chamorro Premuzic (UCL Clinical, Educational & Health Psychology) in The Guardian Media Network blog.

Free bus passes for pensioners are too successful to cut

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Roger Mackett

Taxpayers in Britain spend more than £1 billion a year providing free bus travel. Mostly used by pensioners, some disabled people qualify for this concessionary travel, and there are fears that an austerity-driven government will cut back on the passes. Some commentators have suggested there is scope for reducing public spending by cutting the scheme – £1 billion is, after all, a lot of money. Research suggests, however, that free bus passes are good value and worth maintaining, writes Professor Roger Mackett (UCL Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering) in The Conversation.

The long shadows of war

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Lisa Jardine

The first week of the new school year seemed like a good time to visit the recently re-opened Imperial War Museum in London. I had read that the museum was "overrun by hordes of schoolchildren" in early September. But if I thought I could avoid the crowds I was wrong. There was an hour-long wait for a timed-ticket entry slot to see the new World War One galleries, writes Professor Lisa Jardine (UCL Centre for Editing Lives & Letters) for BBC News magazine.

World will think us mad to rip up Union

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Michael Collins

It has been fashionable for some time now to pooh-pooh "Great Britain." To many it smacks of empire and Colonel Blimp and Maggie Thatcher riding in her tank. It's hardly surprising that those pleading the merits of the Union have had a hard time. It is sad, though, if Britain's Union cannot stand for anything of value. As many people in England have simply forgotten about it, the nationalists in Scotland stand ready to finish it for good, writes Dr Michael Collins (UCL History) in The Herald.

I saw a No vote was not for status quo...it was a licence for irreversible changes for the worse

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Nobody I know has ever seen anything like it. A referendum campaign? But maybe that's the wrong word. A campaign means politicians persuading people to vote this way or that. What's been happening in Scotland, in these last six astonishing months, is people persuading politicians, writes Neal Ascherson (UCL Archaeology) in The Herald.

A point of view: When historical fiction is more truthful than historical fact

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Lisa Jardine

For some time I have been researching the lives of a group of scientists who worked on the development of the atomic bomb during World War Two. Although there are several impeccably researched non-fiction works on the subject and a number of biographies, none of these really conveyed to me the emotions and convictions that drove their work - I simply could not connect with the personal principles of the scientists who collaborated with such energy to produce the period's ultimate weapon of mass destruction, writes Professor Lisa Jardine (UCL Centre for Editing Lives & Letters) for BBC News magazine.

Mexican energy reform may be a bridge to a low carbon economy – or a fossil fuel past

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Following President Lázaro Cárdenas’ expropriation of foreign oil company assets in 1938, the oil industry has been a symbol of Mexican sovereignty. This made the state oil firm Petróleos Mexicanos (Pemex) politically untouchable. That is until now. Game-changing laws have recently been approved that open deep-water oil and shale fields to foreign investment, as well as liberalising Mexico’s electricity industry, writes Baltazar Solano Rodriguez (UCL Energy Institute) in The Conversation.

The physics of proton therapy

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Jon Butterworth

The story of Ashya King and his parents is desperately sad. One feature is that his family want him to receive proton therapy. This is not a “magic bullet” treatment and without knowing his medical details it is impossible to say what the risks and benefits would be for Ashya. However, proton therapy is in use around the world, and indeed on the NHS, and does in some cases have some huge advantages over other treatments. This article makes no comment on the specific case, it is simply an explanation of the physics behind the therapy, writes Professor Jon Butterworth (UCL Physics & Astronomy) in The Guardian.

Cuba tightens bra limits, but serious threat to trade comes from US sanctions

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Emily Morris

Cuba has imposed new limits on the amount of goods that travellers can bring into the country. The new measures will be unpopular with many involved in the trade from suppliers to customers, and at first sight they appear futile and counter-productive. The informal trade in consumer goods and domestic equipment involves huge bundles and packages being brought to the island by visiting Cuban-Americans. The strong growth of these imports in recent years has been the result of reforms in both the US and Cuba, says Dr Emily Morris (UCL Institute of the Americas) in The Conversation.

Move over Iceland, Tavurvur in Papua New Guinea is the volcano to watch

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Last week, the eyes of volcanologists – and presumably a few nervous pilots – were fixed on Iceland. But unexpectedly, the volcanic eruption that made headlines happened on the other side of the world, in Papua New Guinea, writes Robin Wylie (UCL Earth Sciences) in The Conversation.

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