Brush your teeth in the dark to help sleep, says Oxford University neuroscientist.


Bright bathroom lights can stimulate the body and prevent sleep, claims Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University

 A woman brushes her teeth
The bright light of bathrooms cna disrupt sleep

The secret of a good night’s sleep could be as simple as brushing your teeth in the dark, an Oxford Neuroscientist has claimed.

Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience, claims that the bright fluorescent light of bathrooms wakes the body up just when it should be switching off.

He believes that simply brushing teeth in the a dark room could allow sleep to take hold more quickly.

“We live in these dimly-lit caves, both at home and in our offices, which are far less bright than natural light, even on a cloudy day”
Prof Russell Forster, Oxford University

“Sleep is the single most important behaviour that we do. Across our lifespans 36 per cent of our life will be spent sleeping,” he said following a lecture on sleep at The Royal Society in London.

“Often people will turn their lights down at night which helps to get the body ready for sleep, but then they will go and brush their teeth and turn their bathroom light on.

“That is very disrupting. I often think someone should invent a bathroom mirror light which has a different setting for night-time.”

Sleep is vitally important for clearing toxins, repairing tissues and replacing energy and restoring metabolic pathways. Lack of sleep is known to reduce cognition and creativity as well as suppressing the immune system and raising the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and mental illness.

But Prof Foster said that people often struggle to regulate natural sleep patterns in the winter because they spend so much time in ‘dimly-lit caves’ which confuse the body about the time of day.

Humans, like all other animals, have evolved over millions of years to respond to light levels with genes switching on and off depending on the time of day.

But the invention of the lightbulb has meant that bright light is available 24 hours a day which can confuse the body’s natural rhythm and cause genes to switch at the wrong time.

woman sleeping

Sleep is important for clearing out toxins  

A recent study by US scientists found that sitting too far from a window at work can knock 46 minutes off a normal night’s sleep. A sunny day is equivalent to about 10,000 lux of light. However indoor office lighting typically provides only about 300 to 500 lux.

“We have this master clock ticking on the brain and each individual cells have their own little clock, so it’s rather like the conductor of an orchestra producing a signal which the rest of the body takes a cue from. There is a beautiful symphony of rhythms.

“But we live in these dimly-lit caves, both at home and in our offices, which are far less bright than natural light, even on a cloudy day. So it is so important to get outside, particularly in the morning to reset the body clock.

“Societal attitudes are very different to how we viewed sleep in the pre-industrial era. Thomas Edison commercialised the light bulb which allowed us to invade the night and sleep was the first victim.

“Edison’s attitudes have framed how we view sleep, which he said was a criminal waste of time and a heritage from our cave days. But it is hugely important

“It may be why Margaret Thatcher’s decision making was erratic in later years. She boasted of only needing four hours of sleep a night but I don’t think anyone can get by on four hours sleep a night without a detrimental impact.”

Russell Foster

Professor Russell Foster 

Also speaking at the Royal Society event Jonathan Coe, the House of Sleep author, said that he thought that sleep deprivation was not helpful for creativity.

All these moments when your half awake, half asleep. I often think that is going to be a creative time, but when I look at what I’ve actually come up with I usually reject it,” he said.

“The ideas that come to you in those moments are not always as good as you think they are.”

Jonathan Coe, author of Expo 58

Author Jonathan Coe 

But Prof Foster said that dreaming was important to help the brain make new connections.

“During the day there is all this information is flowing in an you can’t adequately process that information so you park it,” he added.

“In sleep the options open out and it’s like lots of jigsaw pieces flying out. You might come up with a solution to something that has been bugging you.

“It can make you think differently about a subject. I does give you a distorted view of the world which can be helpful. I have woken up and thought, yes, I have a solution to that problem.”

Soure:telegraph.co.uk

47% of Jobs Will Disappear in the next 25 Years, According to Oxford University


Article Image

The Trump campaign ran on bringing jobs back to American shores, although mechanization has been the biggest reason for manufacturing jobs’ disappearance. Similar losses have led to populist movements in several other countries. But instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

Now, an expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells. According to Art Bilger, venture capitalist and board member at the business school, all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years, according to a recent Oxford study. “No government is prepared,”The Economist reports. These include blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing.

To combat “structural unemployment” and the terrible blow it is bound to deal the American people, Bilger has formed a nonprofit called Working Nation, whose mission it is to warn the public and to help make plans to safeguard them from this worrisome trend. Not only is the entire concept of employment about to change in a dramatic fashion, the trend is irreversible. The venture capitalist called on corporations, academia, government, and nonprofits to cooperate in modernizing our workforce.

To be clear, mechanization has always cost us jobs. The mechanical loom for instance put weavers out of business. But it’s also created jobs. Mechanics had to keep the machines going, machinists had to make parts for them, and workers had to attend to them, and so on. A lot of times those in one profession could pivot to another. At the beginning of the 20thcentury for instance, automobiles were putting blacksmiths out of business. Who needed horseshoes anymore? But they soon became mechanics. And who was better suited?

A Toyota plant, Japan. Manufacturing is almost fully automated today and so many other jobs are not far behind.

Not so with this new trend. Unemployment today is significant in most developed nations and it’s only going to get worse. By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability.

Mechanization and computerization cannot cease. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And everyone must have it, eventually. The mindset is this: other countries would use such technology to gain a competitive advantage and therefore we must adopt it. Eventually, new tech startups and other business might absorb those who have been displaced. But the pace is sure to move far too slowly to avoid a major catastrophe.

According to Bilger, the problem has been going on for a long time. Take into account the longevity we are enjoying nowadays and the US’s broken education system and the problem is compounded. One proposed solution is a universal basic income doled out by the government, a sort of baseline one would receive for survival. After that, re-education programs could help people find new pursuits. Others would want to start businesses or take part in creative enterprises. It could even be a time of the flowering of humanity, when instead of chasing the almighty dollar, people would able to pursue their true passions.

The first fully automated restaurant opens in San Francisco.

On a recent radio program, Bilger talked about retooling the education system in its entirety, including adding classes that are sure to transfer into the skills workers need for the jobs that will be there. He also discussed the need to retrain middle-aged workers so that they can participate in the economy, rather than be left behind. Bilger said that “projects are being developed for that.” Though he admits that many middle-aged workers are resistant to reentering the classroom, Bilger says it’s necessary. What’s more, they are looking at ways of making the classroom experience more dynamic, such as using augmented reality for retraining purposes, as well as to reinvent K-12 education. But such plans are in the seminal stages.

Widespread internships and apprenticeships are also on the agenda. Today, the problem, as some contend, is not that there aren’t enough jobs, but that there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill the positions that are available. Bilger seems to think that this problem will only grow more substantial.

But would those who drive for a living, say long haul truckers and cab drivers, really find a place in the new economy with retraining, once self-driving vehicles become pervasive? No one really knows. Like any major shift in society, there are likely to be winners and losers. This pivot point contains the seeds for a pragmatic utopia, or complete social upheaval, but is likely to fall somewhere between.

Bilger ended the interview saying, “What would our society be like with 25%, 30% or 35% unemployment? … I don’t know how you afford that, but even if you could afford it, there’s still the question of, what do people do with themselves? Having a purpose in life is, I think, an important piece of the stability of a society.”

47% of Jobs Will Disappear in the next 25 Years, According to Oxford University.


Article Image
British Musicians. Ms. Dynamite.

The Trump campaign ran on bringing jobs back to American shores, although mechanization has been the biggest reason for manufacturing jobs’ disappearance. Similar losses have led to populist movements in several other countries. But instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

Now, an expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells. According to Art Bilger, venture capitalist and board member at the business school, all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years, according to a recent Oxford study. “No government is prepared,”The Economist reports. These include blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing.

To combat “structural unemployment” and the terrible blow it is bound to deal the American people, Bilger has formed a nonprofit called Working Nation, whose mission it is to warn the public and to help make plans to safeguard them from this worrisome trend. Not only is the entire concept of employment about to change in a dramatic fashion, the trend is irreversible. The venture capitalist called on corporations, academia, government, and nonprofits to cooperate in modernizing our workforce.

To be clear, mechanization has always cost us jobs. The mechanical loom for instance put weavers out of business. But it’s also created jobs. Mechanics had to keep the machines going, machinists had to make parts for them, and workers had to attend to them, and so on. A lot of times those in one profession could pivot to another. At the beginning of the 20thcentury for instance, automobiles were putting blacksmiths out of business. Who needed horseshoes anymore? But they soon became mechanics. And who was better suited?

A Toyota plant, Japan. Manufacturing is almost fully automated today and so many other jobs are not far behind.

Not so with this new trend. Unemployment today is significant in most developed nations and it’s only going to get worse. By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability.

Mechanization and computerization cannot cease. You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And everyone must have it, eventually. The mindset is this: other countries would use such technology to gain a competitive advantage and therefore we must adopt it. Eventually, new tech startups and other business might absorb those who have been displaced. But the pace is sure to move far too slowly to avoid a major catastrophe.

According to Bilger, the problem has been going on for a long time. Take into account the longevity we are enjoying nowadays and the US’s broken education system and the problem is compounded. One proposed solution is a universal basic income doled out by the government, a sort of baseline one would receive for survival. After that, re-education programs could help people find new pursuits. Others would want to start businesses or take part in creative enterprises. It could even be a time of the flowering of humanity, when instead of chasing the almighty dollar, people would able to pursue their true passions.

The first fully automated restaurant opens in San Francisco.

On a recent radio program, Bilger talked about retooling the education system in its entirety, including adding classes that are sure to transfer into the skills workers need for the jobs that will be there. He also discussed the need to retrain middle-aged workers so that they can participate in the economy, rather than be left behind. Bilger said that “projects are being developed for that.” Though he admits that many middle-aged workers are resistant to reentering the classroom, Bilger says it’s necessary. What’s more, they are looking at ways of making the classroom experience more dynamic, such as using augmented reality for retraining purposes, as well as to reinvent K-12 education. But such plans are in the seminal stages.

Widespread internships and apprenticeships are also on the agenda. Today, the problem, as some contend, is not that there aren’t enough jobs, but that there aren’t enough skilled workers to fill the positions that are available. Bilger seems to think that this problem will only grow more substantial.

But would those who drive for a living, say long haul truckers and cab drivers, really find a place in the new economy with retraining, once self-driving vehicles become pervasive? No one really knows. Like any major shift in society, there are likely to be winners and losers. This pivot point contains the seeds for a pragmatic utopia, or complete social upheaval, but is likely to fall somewhere between.

Bilger ended the interview saying, “What would our society be like with 25%, 30% or 35% unemployment? … I don’t know how you afford that, but even if you could afford it, there’s still the question of, what do people do with themselves? Having a purpose in life is, I think, an important piece of the stability of a society.”

Brush your teeth in the dark to help sleep, says Oxford University neuroscientist.


Bright bathroom lights can stimulate the body and prevent sleep, claims Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience at Oxford University.

A woman brushes her teeth

The secret of a good night’s sleep could be as simple as brushing your teeth in the dark, an Oxford Neuroscientist has claimed.

Russell Foster, professor of circadian neuroscience, claims that the bright fluorescent light of bathrooms wakes the body up just when it should be switching off.

He believes that simply brushing teeth in the a dark room could allow sleep to take hold more quickly.

“We live in these dimly-lit caves, both at home and in our offices, which are far less bright than natural light, even on a cloudy day”
Prof Russell Forster, Oxford University

“Often people will turn their lights down at night which helps to get the body ready for sleep, but then they will go and brush their teeth and turn their bathroom light on.

“That is very disrupting. I often think someone should invent a bathroom mirror light which has a different setting for night-time.”

Sleep is vitally important for clearing toxins, repairing tissues and replacing energy and restoring metabolic pathways. Lack of sleep is known to reduce cognition and creativity as well as suppressing the immune system and raising the risk of obesity, diabetes, cancer and mental illness.

But Prof Foster said that people often struggle to regulate natural sleep patterns in the winter because they spend so much time in ‘dimly-lit caves’ which confuse the body about the time of day.

Humans, like all other animals, have evolved over millions of years to respond to light levels with genes switching on and off depending on the time of day.

But the invention of the lightbulb has meant that bright light is available 24 hours a day which can confuse the body’s natural rhythm and cause genes to switch at the wrong time.

woman sleeping

Sleep is important for clearing out toxins  

A recent study by US scientists found that sitting too far from a window at work can knock 46 minutes off a normal night’s sleep. A sunny day is equivalent to about 10,000 lux of light. However indoor office lighting typically provides only about 300 to 500 lux.

“We have this master clock ticking on the brain and each individual cells have their own little clock, so it’s rather like the conductor of an orchestra producing a signal which the rest of the body takes a cue from. There is a beautiful symphony of rhythms.

“But we live in these dimly-lit caves, both at home and in our offices, which are far less bright than natural light, even on a cloudy day. So it is so important to get outside, particularly in the morning to reset the body clock.

“Societal attitudes are very different to how we viewed sleep in the pre-industrial era. Thomas Edison commercialised the light bulb which allowed us to invade the night and sleep was the first victim.

“Edison’s attitudes have framed how we view sleep, which he said was a criminal waste of time and a heritage from our cave days. But it is hugely important

“It may be why Margaret Thatcher’s decision making was erratic in later years. She boasted of only needing four hours of sleep a night but I don’t think anyone can get by on four hours sleep a night without a detrimental impact.”

Russell Foster

Professor Russell Foster

Also speaking at the Royal Society event Jonathan Coe, the House of Sleep author, said that he thought that sleep deprivation was not helpful for creativity.

All these moments when your half awake, half asleep. I often think that is going to be a creative time, but when I look at what I’ve actually come up with I usually reject it,” he said.

“The ideas that come to you in those moments are not always as good as you think they are.”

Jonathan Coe, author of Expo 58

Author Jonathan Coe 

But Prof Foster said that dreaming was important to help the brain make new connections.

“During the day there is all this information is flowing in an you can’t adequately process that information so you park it,” he added.

“In sleep the options open out and it’s like lots of jigsaw pieces flying out. You might come up with a solution to something that has been bugging you.

“It can make you think differently about a subject. I does give you a distorted view of the world which can be helpful. I have woken up and thought, yes, I have a solution to that problem.”

Human Brain: Positive Lifestyle, Satisfaction Linked To A Particular Pattern Of Brain Circuitry


Functional Connectivity
Are some brains wired for a lifestyle that includes education and high levels of satisfaction, while others are wired for anger, rule-breaking, and substance use? Image courtesy M. F. Glasser and S. M. Smith for the WU-Minn HCP consortium

A strong relationship exists between positive behavior traits and the wiring of your brain, anew Oxford University study finds. While some brains appear to be wired for a lifestyle that includes education and high levels of satisfaction, others appear to be wired for anger, rule-breaking, and substance use, the research suggests.

A single positive-negative axis linked “lifestyle, demographic, and psychometric measures to each other and to a specific pattern of brain connectivity,” wrote the study authors.

The Human Connectome Project, a National Institutes of Health-funded venture which will conclude this year, seeks to create comprehensive diagrams of the brain circuitry for 1,200 adults. To conduct this work, scientists use noninvasive neuroimaging equipment, including customized head coils and cutting-edge MRI hardware. The splendid maps that result show the trajectories of fiber bundles coursing through white matter and functional connections between gray matter regions.

Study participants include a high proportion of twins and their non-twin siblings to help the researchers understand whether brain circuits are inherited. At the same time, all participants have had their genomes mapped so genetic influences on brain wiring can be evaluated. The participants also completed questionnaires and tests measuring behavior and demographic traits.

Importantly, the data is made freely available for scientists around the world to use in their own private studies.

Positive-Negative Axis

For one such study, researchers at Oxford University’s Centre for Functional MRI of the Brain accessed completed brain maps from 461 Human Connectome Project participants. Using this data, the team created a general or population-average map of connections among 200 regions of the brain. Then, the team looked at how much, in separate participants, those regions communicated with each other. Essentially, they created a map of the brain’s strongest connections for each participant.

Finally, the team performed a mathematical analysis to compare this imaging data with some old-fashioned facts and figures — specifically, 280 measurements of behavior traits and demographic information. What did this comparison reveal?

Most people fall into one of two groups along an axis created from the two datasets, the scientists discovered. Those with brain wiring patterns at one end of the scale scored highly on measures most people consider “positive,” such as life satisfaction, income, vocabulary, memory, and years of education. Similarly, those with patterns at the other end of the scale had high scores for traits most people view as “negative,” such as anger, rule-breaking, substance use, and poor sleep.

This positive-negative axis, as the scientists refer to it, apparently spells the difference between a happy life and discontent. With additional studies the team may one day discover why most of us can be found at either end of this scale.

Ebola vaccine safe, generates immune response, shows trial


The first trial results of Ebola vaccine at Oxford University suggest the vaccine has an acceptable safety profile and is able to generate an immune response.

Research assistant Georgina Bowyer works on a vaccine for Ebola at The Jenner Institute in Oxford, southern England on January 16, 2015.

“The Ebola vaccine was well tolerated. Its safety profile is pretty much as we had hoped,” said professor Adrian Hill of the Jenner Institute at Oxford University who led the trial.

The results suggest that the vaccine is suitable for further testing in West Africa during the current outbreak.

The Ebola vaccine is being co-developed by the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) and pharmaceutical firm GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) against the Zaire strain of Ebola, which is the one circulating in West Africa.

The first doses for use in large scale trials in West Africa have been delivered to Liberia by GSK.

The vaccine uses a single Ebola virus gene in a chimpanzee adenovirus to generate an immune response.

As it does not contain infectious Ebola virus material, it cannot cause a person who is vaccinated to become infected with Ebola.

During the trial, 60 healthy volunteers were vaccinated at the Jenner Institute.

The results showed safety data and immune responses for the volunteers for 28 days after immunisation.

Two people experienced a moderate fever within 24 hours of receiving the vaccine but this passed within a day.

“People typically experienced mild symptoms that lasted for one or maybe two days, such as pain or reddening at the injection site, and occasionally people felt feverish,” professor Hill explained.

The primary goal of the trial was to assess safety. However, the scientists also assessed immune responses to Ebola seen in the volunteers before and after vaccination.

Importantly, the vaccine generated immune responses against Ebola in the volunteers.

Levels of antibodies increased over a period of 28 days after vaccination and there was no significant difference in the levels seen at different doses.

Levels of T cells — cellular immunity is the other arm of the body’s immune system — peaked at 14 days.

“Larger trials in West Africa are needed to tell whether immune responses are large enough to protect against Ebola infection and disease,” the team added.

The Oxford University trial is one of several safety trials of the GSK/NIH vaccine candidate — in the USA, Britain, Mali and Switzerland — that have been fast-tracked in response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

The Oxford University scientists have also begun testing the safety of a candidate booster vaccine against Ebola, to find out whether it could further increase the immune responses.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed over 8,000 people so far.

The initial findings were published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM).

SMART GLASSES ALLOWING THE BLIND TO SEE


Smart-Glasses-allowing-the-blind-to-see-1-640x412

Smart Glasses that allow the blind to see, could help 150,000 in the UK alone, by transforming the way blind and partially sighted people go about their everyday lives.

These incredible glasses uses glasses-mounted camera to project images onto eyepieces.

RNIB and Oxford University they just receive £500,000 funding, that will enable to create 100 pairs of smart glasses and test them with 1,000 people.

This will be the first large-scale test of smart glasses and augmented reality for sight enhancement anywhere in the world.  It’s the first step towards getting the glasses made available to everyone who needs them.

Smart-Glasses-allowing-the-blind-to-see-2-640x432

watch the video on youtube.

URL:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IRtlfRGAKFI

‘NANO-PIXELS’ PROMISE THIN, FLEXIBLE, HIGH RESOLUTION DISPLAYS.


A new discovery will make it possible to create pixels just a few hundred nanometres across that could pave the way for extremely high-resolution and low-energy thin, flexible displays for applications such as ‘smart’ glasses, synthetic retinas, and foldable screens.

A team led by Oxford University scientists explored the link between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials (materials that can change from an amorphous to a crystalline state). They found that by sandwiching a seven nanometre thick layer of a phase change material (GST) between two layers of a transparent electrode they could use a tiny current to ‘draw’ images within the sandwich ‘stack’.

Initially still images were created using an atomic force microscope but the team went on to demonstrate that such tiny ‘stacks’ can be turned into prototype pixel-like devices. These ‘nano-pixels’ – just 300 by 300 nanometres in size – can be electrically switched ‘on and off’ at will, creating the coloured dots that would form the building blocks of an extremely high-resolution display technology.

A report of the research is published in this week’s Nature.

‘We didn’t set out to invent a new kind of display,’ said Professor Harish Bhaskaran of Oxford University’s Department of Materials, who led the research. ‘We were exploring the relationship between the electrical and optical properties of phase change materials and then had the idea of creating this GST ‘sandwich’ made up of layers just a few nanometres thick. We found that not only were we able to create images in the stack but, to our surprise, thinner layers of GST actually gave us better contrast. We also discovered that altering the size of the bottom electrode layer enabled us to change the colour of the image.’

Whilst the work is still in its early stages, realising its potential, the Oxford team has filed a patent on the discovery with the help of Isis Innovation, Oxford University’s technology commercialisation company. Isis is now discussing the displays with companies who are interested in assessing the technology, and with investors.

The layers of the GST sandwich are created using a sputtering technique where a target is bombarded with high energy particles so that atoms from the target are deposited onto another material as a thin film.

 

‘Because the layers that make up our devices can be deposited as thin films they can be incorporated into very thin flexible materials – we have already demonstrated that the technique works on flexible Mylar sheets around 200 nanometres thick,’ said Professor Bhaskaran. ‘This makes them potentially useful for ‘smart’ glasses, foldable screens, windshield displays, and even synthetic retinas that mimic the abilities of photoreceptor cells in the human eye.’

Peiman Hosseini of Oxford University’s Department of Materials, first author of the paper, said: ‘Our models are so good at predicting the experiment that we can tune our prototype ‘pixels’ to create any colour we want – including the primary colours needed for a display. One of the advantages of our design is that, unlike most conventional LCD screens, there would be no need to constantly refresh all pixels, you would only have to refresh those pixels that actually change (static pixels remain as they were). This means that any display based on this technology would have extremely low energy consumption.’

140709140115-large

The research suggests that flexible paper-thin displays based on the technology could have the capacity to switch between a power-saving ‘colour e-reader mode’, and a backlit display capable of showing video. Such displays could be created using cheap materials and, because they would be solid-state, promise to be reliable and easy to manufacture. The tiny ‘nano-pixels’ make it ideal for applications, such as smart glasses, where an image would be projected at a larger size as, even enlarged, they would offer very high-resolution.

Professor David Wright of the Department of Engineering at the University of Exeter, co-author of the paper, said: ‘Along with many other researchers around the world we have been looking into the use of these GST materials for memory applications for many years, but no one before thought of combining their electrical and optical functionality to provide entirely new kinds of non-volatile, high-resolution, electronic colour displays – so our work is a real breakthrough.’

Professor Bhaskaran said that the discovery would not have been possible without the support of the UK’s Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC): ‘EPSRC have been funding our fundamental research and this chance discovery shows just where support for so-called ‘blue skies’ research can lead.’

TAKING B VITAMINS WON’T PREVENT ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.


Taking B vitamins doesn’t slow mental decline as we age, nor is it likely to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, conclude Oxford University researchers who have assembled all the best clinical trial data involving 22,000 people to offer a final answer on this debate.

High levels in the blood of a compound called homocysteine have been found in people with Alzheimer’s disease, and people with higher levels of homocysteine have been shown to be at increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 are known to lower levels of homocysteine in the body, so this gave rise to the ‘homocysteine hypothesis’ that taking B vitamins could reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

602px-B_vitamin_supplement_tablets

The new analysis was carried out by the B-Vitamin Treatment Trialists’ Collaboration, an international group of researchers led by the Clinical Trial Service Unit at theUniversity of Oxford. The researchers brought together data from 11 randomised clinical trials involving 22,000 people which compared the effect of B vitamins on cognitive function in older people against placebo. Participants receiving B vitamins did see a reduction in the levels of homocysteine in their blood by around a quarter. However, this had no effect on their mental abilities.

 

When looking at measures of global cognitive function – or scores for specific mental processes such as memory, speed or executive function – there was no difference between those on B vitamins and those receiving placebo to a high degree of accuracy.

‘It would have been very nice to have found something different,’ says Dr Robert Clarke of Oxford University, who led the work. ‘Our study draws a line under the debate: B vitamins don’t reduce cognitive decline as we age. Taking folic acid and vitamin B-12 is sadly not going to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.’

To Keep Your Job, Learn Something New.


It’s become conventional wisdom that many of today’s workers will see their jobs replaced or transformed by ever-smarter machines. Who needs bus drivers and truckers when self-driving vehicles take over the road —and what happens to the thousands of body-shop workers who won’t be needed to repair dents when the sensors in these new vehicles head off fender benders?

A recent paper from Oxford University suggested that 47% of U.S. jobs are at high risk of being computerized in the next few decades, with potentially frightening consequences for workers.

Such concerns have raised urgent questions about the skills individuals need to survive in the workforce of the future. Not only is technology displacing workers, as it has in every economic transformation, but it is changing so rapidly that workers and employers are finding themselves unable to keep up, a situation that creates the paradox of a skills gap amid high unemployment.

“The Industrial Revolution required a major reskilling and upskilling, and so does the digital revolution,” said Charles Fadel, co-author of “21st-Century Skills” and founder of the Center for Curriculum Redesign an organization devoted to understanding the requirements of the labor market. He was speaking at a gathering last week of economists, business representatives and workforce experts from North America and Europe that addressed the impact of technology on the labor market. The event was organized by the European Commission in concert with the Conference Board and Cornell University.

But more of the responsibility for that reskilling is shifting from governments and employers to workers. The reasons for this change are complex and varied, participants noted: governments—and the education systems they design and oversee—aren’t very good at keeping up with the rapid pace of skill evolution; companies seem to be spending less money on training because they don’t expect employees to stick around long enough to get a return on the investment; and high unemployment transfers pressure to individual workers to keep their knowledge fresh.

Some countries are trying to be proactive. This year, the United Kingdom will require schoolchildren to learn software coding from the time they enter primary school at age 5 until at least age 16—becoming possibly the first country to mandate such courses.

In most places, it is up to workers to continually master new technologies. And not every person has the ambition, time or flexibility to do so. As Fabio Rosati, the chief executive of online freelance marketplace Elance.com, told The Wall Street Journal a few months ago, the skills that are in highest demand by employers are turning over every two to three years now.

“One reason people don’t want to study ICT [information and computer technology] is because the skills change so quickly. They don’t want to have to keep updating their skills,” said Lucilla Sioli of the European Commission’s digital-technology initiative, called DG Connect. This is not laziness, she underscored—simply a concern that the pace of innovation creates enormous pressure for workers in these fields.

It remains unknown, too, what psychological and emotional toll this skills turnover and insecurity takes on workers who fear they’re constantly falling behind.

“We’re seeing rapid depreciation for IT skills,” said Sonny Tambe, professor at New York University’s Stern School of Business and an expert on the high-tech workforce. “So what happens to engineers over 40? You go to Silicon Valley [and ask that question] and you can see the panic in some people’s eyes.” (That won’t surprise the folks featured in this story about ageism in the high-tech world.)

Market forces, theoretically, should clear up this problem, as they have in past economic transitions, when competition propelled wages for sought-after workers higher and workers adjusted their skills to meet demand. That is happening today, but the process is slow and uneven, especially because the slack labor market is helping employers put off concerted, large-scale investments in training.

And companies themselves may be obstructing the naturally equilibrium-seeking labor market. The so-called skills gap has been manufactured by employers who simply don’t want to raise wages enough to nudge the skills of workers into equilibrium with demand, suggested an investment banker. “Companies that say ‘I can’t find the workers I need’ are leaving out the rest of that sentence. What they mean is, ‘I can’t find the workers I need at the price I want to pay.’”

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