By Dr Rob Thompson, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

Whitley Wood Lane, South Reading, during heavy rain on 18 July 2017

Last night Reading experienced an immense thunderstorm, like something I’d previously only experienced in the tropics.

Driving conditions were horrendous, with incredibly reduced visibility and water simply unable to clear the roads quickly enough – I had the misfortune to be out in it.

To me, the rain was the impressive thing, but then my research is on rain, so I’m very aware of it. But to others the real experience was the lightning. There was a lot of lightning, both sheet and fork lightning. More than 100,000 strikes over the UK, you can see the strikes on the map below.

But, as I’ve said, the really impressive thing for me was the rain rate, and how sustained it was. Very high rainfall rates are not that uncommon, but lasting more than a few minutes is very unusual.

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By Dr Rebecca Bullard, Department of English Literature, University Reading

Jane Austen would, I think, have been delighted to feature on the new £10 note. Many of her novels are about the impact of money – and especially the lack of it – on women’s lives.

Her first published works, Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, feature families full of daughters struggling under a legal system that keeps all property in the hands of (sometimes distant) male relatives. The famous opening of Pride and Prejudice, of course, tells us that ‘a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife’. Austen’s fourth novel, Emma, turns this observation on its head, with Emma Woodhouse declaring that, ‘A single woman, with a very narrow income, must be a ridiculous, disagreeable old maid!’

Austen never condones this kind of snobbery: Emma comes to regret her unkind behaviour towards the impoverished spinster, Miss Bates, and the protagonist of Mansfield Park, Fanny Price, is dignified in poverty. Nonetheless, it’s difficult to escape the conclusion that marrying well for Austen meant, above all, escaping the financial insecurity of a single life; love is a bonus.

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A project to explore how growing more trees on farmland could regulate the climate is one of those that was secured during May.

A total of £2,173,327 was confirmed during the month, with funds awarded by research councils, businesses, government departments and agencies, charities, and learned societies. The awards will be distributed across 20 new research projects.

Professor Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Once again, well done to everyone who has been involved in securing this latest batch of research awards.

“The list of funders this month highlights how our researchers are engaging with a diverse range of organisations outside academia, including in business and policy areas.”

Among those winning funding are:

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More than £2 million of new funding was confirmed for University of Reading research during April.

A total of 19 research projects received awards ranging in size from less than £1,000 up to nearly £500,000. The total value is £2,033,172.

Professor Steve Mithen, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Innovation, said: “Congratulations to all those who have been awarded research funds.

“I am pleased that we are attracting funding for both applied and pure research. It is vital that we continue both to research topics that show immediate benefits to society, as well as projects aiming more generally to advance our understanding.”

Funders during the month include UK research councils and trusts, charities, and international government agencies in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Among those winning grants are:

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By Phil Newton, Research Dean for Environment, University of Reading

Science is a global business. Very few truly great advances in science happen these days without some level of international collaboration. A quick look at the list of recent Nobel Laureates for Physics tells that story.

But the organisation of science, like many other things, is influenced by politics. Which is how we should view the offer of French President Emmanuel Macron to recruit foreign climate scientists to French institutions.

Macron is riding the wave of populist politics that also helped sweep Donald Trump to victory in the United States. But Macron’s popularity is based on very different foundations to Trump’s. He has wasted little time in opposing the US administration’s policy on pulling America out of the Paris climate change agreement.

What’s really going on here?

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By Stephen Burt, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

There is much febrile comment in the media concerning the current heatwave. A common statement is ‘this is the greatest heatwave since the hot summer of 1976’.

Always a shame to spoil a good story with the truth, but that’s simply not true, and by a long way.

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By Dr Gunter Kuhnle, Nutritional epidemiologist, University of Reading

A few years ago, the decision by the WHO to classify processed meat as carcinogenic to humans has resulted in a lot of headlines. Unsurprisingly, comparing a full English breakfast with cigarettes didn’t go down too well.

This was of course an exaggeration – but the fact remains that processed meat consumption can increase the risk of bowel cancer.

So what are the real risks?

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My name is Penélope, I am an architect activist/researcher from Venezuela, and part of the academic team of new School of Architecture.

Caracas, where I grew up, is a beautiful and exciting city, with great architecture, lively cultural scene, friendly people, delicious food, and the beautiful mountain Cerro Ávila. Sadly, in the last decade, Venezuela has become extremely politically polarised while Caracas is now one of the most violent cities in the world. The fear of being a victim of violence has compelled most people to entrench themselves in their homes. But this creates a vicious cycle, because the less we inhabit our streets and public spaces the more dangerous they become, and with time they fade from our mental, emotional and cultural map of the city.

I had always admired the work of Candy Chang, Rebar Group, Maya Lin, FLIX and the urban artivism collective Ser Urbano (of which I was an active member).  I realised that as an architect I not only had the creativity and skills to design and make buildings but also to positively transform how the city is perceived, occupied and inhabited, even through small but significant interventions in urban space. So I decided to take action.

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By Professor Grace Ioppolo, English Literature professor at the University of Reading, and 2017 Sam Wanamaker Fellow at Shakespeare’s Globe

Although the Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture was scheduled several months ago, for Thursday 8 June, the timing is now auspicious, for it will take place on the evening of the General Election.

Whilst my subject will be how Shakespeare viewed his audiences, I will now be obliged to work in a few Shakespearean quotes and puns on elections (at least from Hamlet and Julius Caesar, not to mention All’s Well that Ends Well (‘thy frank election make; / Thou hast power to choose, and they none to forsake.”).

We know how we feel about Shakespeare, but we don’t really know how he felt about his theatrical audiences and readers. My talk will look at evidence that still exists in archival records and in play texts from the late 16th and early 17th century about how Shakespeare and his colleagues viewed public and private audiences.

I assume that Shakespeare liked us as much as we liked him, although he knew that

The poet’s eye, in fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen
Turns them to shapes and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.  (A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

So, it’s the poet who gives the audience the power to use their imagination. Whether they accept that power is up to them.

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By Professor Sandy Harrison

I am delighted to be spearheading a forthcoming workshop to be held at Reading University in July that brings together observationalists and modellers working on palaeoclimates, model development and assessment of future climate changes to address this question.

Climate models are mathematical representations of the interactions between the atmosphere, oceans, land surface, ice – and the sun. The models used for future climate projections were developed and calibrated using climate observations from the past 40 years. They are also the only tools available to project the human impact on the environment changes over the 21st century. These models perform well in terms of global features (e.g. magnitude of global warming), but model performance at a regional scale is poor.

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