Sleepwalking towards the next financial crisis? Here are the five biggest risks

Ten years on from the demise of Lehman Brothers, former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown believes we are drifting towards another crash – but is he right? Nafis Alam examines the factors that will be critical in any future crisis in a recent post for The Conversation.

Continue reading

Three (and a half) reasons why it has been so hot and dry in the UK and Ireland

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.

Continue reading

Discovering dopamine’s role in the brain: Arvid Carlsson’s important legacy

If it had not been for the discoveries of Arvid Carlsson we would have no drugs for Parkinson’s disease. In a recent post for The Conversation, Reading neuroscientist Dr Patrick Lewis explores the legacy of the scientist who discovered a critical molecule that brain cells use to communicate.

Arvid Carlsson, the Swedish neuroscientist and Nobel laureate, died on June 29, 2018 at the age of 95. He had devoted his life to understanding how the brain works and was awarded the Nobel for his research into dopamine – an important chemical found in the brain.

So what is dopamine, and why did finding out about it merit the Nobel Prize?

Continue reading

Why the US left the UN Human Rights Council – and why it matters

Professor Rosa Freedman says bias towards Israel played a part in the US leaving the UN Human Rights Council. She examines the likely fall-out in a recent post for The Conversation. 

The US’s announcement that it is leaving the UN Human Rights Council should not surprise anyone, since the Trump administration has long made clear its disdain for many parts of the United Nations. But the damage that the decision is likely to cause could nonetheless topple an increasingly wobbly house of cards.

Continue reading

Cannabis oil for epilepsy – what you need to know

When Billy Caldwell’s medicinal cannabis oil was recently seized at Heathrow Airport, the drug was put back in the spotlight. Reading’s Professor Gary Stephens investigates the effects of cannabis-derived compounds on the brain. Here he gives update on the research, why it’s needed and how long it will be before new drugs will reach patients in a new post for The Conversation.

Gary Stephens with University of Reading colleagues Dr Ben Whalley and Dr Claire Williams, pictured at a Cannabis-growing site in 2011.

Continue reading

Rights for same-sex married couples to move around the EU confirmed in landmark ruling

Dr Alina Tryfonidou explores a landmark EU Court of Justice ruling which provides greater clarity and legal certainty for same-sex couples who get married in an EU member state, in a new post for The Conversation

Image credit: May S Young (Flickr), CC-BY-2.0

In an historic ruling for the rights of same-sex couples, the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) has held that for the purposes of EU free movement law, the notion of a “spouse” includes the same-sex spouse of an EU citizen.

The case was referred to the ECJ from the Romanian Constitutional Court which was confronted with a dispute between a couple, Adrian Coman, a Romanian national, and Claibourn Hamilton, a US national, and the Romanian authorities. After living for a number of years in Belgium, where the couple married, Coman wished to return to Romania with his spouse. But Hamilton was refused the right to reside in Romania as Coman’s husband, on the grounds that Romania does not recognise same-sex marriage.

Continue reading

Emotions shape the language we use, but second languages reveal a shortcut around them

Our native language and emotions are closely woven together. Being bilingual offers an emotional detachment that can be useful for reasoning, but which also makes it easier to swear, says David Miller in a new post for The Conversation.

Image credit: BeelginCC-BY-2.0  

A taxi driver recently cut me up on the motorway. Without hesitation, I machine-gunned a string of vulgarity at the poor man. What struck me was that every word that came out of my mouth was in Spanish. As a native speaker of English, having learned Spanish as an adult, English should have been the more readily accessible language. Yet there I was, cussing out this stranger in Mexican-accented Spanish alongside an assortment of inappropriate hand gestures.

Continue reading