Articles by sarahharrop

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Weather forecasting is extremely hard – it is a prediction of something that is inherently unpredictable. Reading scientist Jon Shonk explains why forecasts will never be completely accurate, despite improvements in forecast skill over the decades.

The science of weather forecasting falls to public scrutiny every single day. When the forecast is correct, we rarely comment, but we are often quick to complain when the forecast is wrong. Are we ever likely to achieve a perfect forecast that is accurate to the hour?

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Reading’s Professor Rosa Freedman and Professor Aoife O’Donoghue of Durham University consider the legacy of the late former UN Secretary-General  in a new post for The Conversation.

The passing of Kofi Annan, former United Nations Secretary-General and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been met with tributes from all around the world. His home country, Ghana, declared a week of national mourning.

Annan rose through the ranks of the UN to become the first black African to head the organisation, and his many achievements are rightly being celebrated. Under his tenure, human rights and development were put at the forefront of all UN work, ensuring that the organisation focused on all people in all parts of our global society. Courageously, he was also the first UN Secretary-General to recognise and condemn the UN’s disproportionate focus on Israel as a human rights violator compared to many other similar or worse offenders.

It is also right to remember that on his watch, the UN’s reputation was tarnished by two of its worst stains. He was head of UN peacekeeping at the time when genocides were perpetrated in Rwanda and the Former Republic of Yugoslavia while UN peacekeepers stood by and did nothing, and he was in charge of the UN during the oil-for-food scandal in Iraq.

But as a whole, Annan’s life and work will nonetheless be celebrated for a long time to come.

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Today Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court is hearing an opposition petition seeking to overturn the presidential election result. In a post for The Conversation published yesterday, Professor Heike Schmidt looked at the state of Zimbabwe ahead of the ruling – and concludes that it is under too little pressure to change.

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Theatre audiences are used to being told to put their phones away when they arrive for a show, but a new performance led by the University of Reading encourages precisely the opposite. User Not Found embraces technology to create an interactive experience to explore the future of social media – and it’s currently taking Edinburgh by storm. Professor Lib Taylor, Principal Investigator of the project, reveals more.

What happens to our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, our email, our music, photos and videos when we die?  In a digital age, who is responsible for our internet legacy?

One of the highlights of this year’s Edinburgh Festival is User Not Found, a performance by the theatre company Dante or Die and involving the University of Reading, which addresses exactly this issue.

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The world’s elderly population is growing. By 2050 it’s expected that one third of the population of Europe will be over 65 – and this gives older people more political clout. Could this ‘grey power’ be having an effect on the world’s economies? Tim Vlandas explains his prize-winning research.

Tim Vlandas is Associate Professor in the University of Reading’s Division of Politics and International Relations. His paper ‘Grey power and the Economy: Ageing and inflation across advanced economies‘ won the 2018 Research Outputs Prize for the Prosperity and Resilience theme.

 

 

 

 

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We all know that flying leaves a huge carbon footprint – but is that OK if we pay for carbon-offsetting each time we get on a plane? Philosophy Lecturer Luke Elson grapples with the morality of air travel in a new post for The Conversation

I recently flew to Florida to visit family. My round-trip economy seat emitted roughly two tonnes of carbon dioxide, according to one carbon offsetting website. By contrast, the average person in Britain is responsible for roughly seven tonnes for the entire year, already quite high by global standards.

This makes me a climate change villain. Dumping such huge amounts of carbon into the atmosphere seems clearly morally wrong, because of the harm this will cause others. But carbon offsets let me fly with a clear conscience – for now.

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“It is a persistent scandal that we have children starting school not able to communicate in full sentences, not  able to read simple words,” said Secretary of State for Education Damian Hinds in his first keynote speech today. Policy to improve this situation should look to some of the great teaching practice that’s happening already rather than being based on assumptions made about the home environment, say Dr Naomi Flynn and Dr Holly Joseph.

Damian Hinds’ comments in his talk to The Resolution Foundation today on the ‘scandalous’ lack of speaking and reading skills in young children mixes up several agenda that need unpicking if he is to get to the root of the issues he wants to tackle.

Reports (from the BBC and The Independent), have also cherry-picked some of things he said and conflated poor language and literacy skills, and commented on screen time, in ways that the minister did not necessarily intend.

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We’re all keenly aware of the heat wave that is affecting the UK and beyond – but why might it be happening? Len Shaffrey, University of Reading Professor of Climate Science, explains all in a new post for The Conversation.

Image credit: the Met Office

The UK and Ireland have been experiencing a prolonged hot and dry spell since June, with the first half of summer being the UK’s driest on record. The lack of rainfall has led to hosepipe bans in Northern Ireland and the north-west of England, while the weather is also playing havoc with farming. A shortage of lettuce and broccoli is expected in the next few months, and grass isn’t growing fast enough to feed Ireland’s sheep and cattle through the winter.

The hot and dry weather is associated with a high pressure weather system situated over the UK. The high pressure means that the storms the UK occasionally gets at this time of year are being steered much further northwards towards Iceland. While the UK and Ireland have been wilting in the sunshine, Reykjavík has recorded its wettest (May) and cloudiest (June) months on record.

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We throw away or destroy millions of unused medicines each year, at an estimated cost of £300m to the NHS. But could they be safely re-used? Reading’s Dr Parastou Donyai has gathered the views of patients and says it’s time for a public debate.

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