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Etna's volcanic awakening shines the spotlight on new volcanic research at Kingston

Posted Thursday 23 March 2017

Etna's volcanic awakening shines the spotlight on new volcanic research at Kingston

Last week, the Etna volcano on Sicily began erupting again after nearly two years of slumber. Several journalists and tourists were caught out by an explosion as they visited the summit to report on, and marvel at, the extreme pyrotechnics of this natural wonder. Mercifully they escaped with only minor injuries. While Etna is a well-studied volcano, the latest events there show that we are still some way from understanding the details of the processes which control these most dangerous, but awe-inspiring of natural phenomena. A new Natural Environment Research Council grant (£54,000 worth of analytical costs) to geologists and geographers at Kingston University will help to address this.

There are some volcanic principles we understand well. Gas bubbles forming in sticky magmas tend to produce highly explosive eruptions such as the famous Mt St Helens or Pinatubo eruptions in the 1980s and 90s. Runny magma with little gas generally produces gentler eruptions; rivers of more tourist-friendly lava rather than huge explosions. Etna lies between these extremes. Add water to the mix (a melting glacier for example) and you'll have an ash cloud, as we remember so disruptively from the Eyjafjallajökull eruption in Iceland in 2010. Geologists use these principles to interpret the layers of spikey lavas and ash on the slopes of a volcano, and determine how it might behave in the future; gentle lavas or explosive ash clouds. These results are used to inform risk maps, evacuation plans, insurance policies and government mitigation strategies. But an idea first proposed by Bill McGuire in 1997 (McGuire et al., 1997) fundamentally challenges this hazard prediction method. What if volcanoes don't behave now as they have in the past? What if the constantly changing climate of the Earth has changed their style, or eruption frequency, through time? Evidence from past events might then be useless for predicting future volcanic behaviour. Evidence is emerging that this might be the case. A meticulous catalogue by Sebastian Watt from Oxford University (Watt et al., 2013) has revealed that volcanic eruptions occur more frequently during periods of Earth's history when the climate has been warmer. The proposed reason for this is intriguing. As glaciers and ice sheets recede, the removal of their mass from the Earth's crust allows magma to propagate more easily to the surface. It's like unscrewing the cap of a fizzy drink. Cool the climate and the glaciers and ice sheets are reapplied to the crust; the cap of the fizzy drink is screwed back on. A project at Kingston University, funded 'in-kind' by the Natural Environment Research Council, in collaboration with researchers at UCL, Oxford, Leicester and the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre, intends to extend this concept to island volcanoes and sea level change. Lower sea levels such as those during the last glaciation, should, according to the theory, allow more frequent eruptions. Higher sea levels, as we have today should produce less frequent eruptions but those eruptions may be more explosive....


QS World University Rankings place Kingston University in top three per cent globally for art and design

Posted Friday 17 March 2017

QS World University Rankings place Kingston University in top three per cent globally for art and design

Kingston University has been named among the top 100 institutions in the globe for art and design education in the prestigious annual QS World University Rankings – and rated as a top performing international university in six other areas.

The newly-released 2017 QS subject league tables ranked the University's art and design offering in the 51-100 band worldwide, placing it among the top three per cent globally and the best 25 in Europe. In total, six other course areas were rated as being in the UK's top 50 and top 400 internationally. Education was placed in the 151-200 category globally – and the top 70 in Europe – while economics and econometrics courses were ranked in the 201-250 band....


Sophisticated virtual reality centre puts Kingston University students at forefront of computer games design

Posted Monday 13 March 2017

Sophisticated virtual reality centre puts Kingston University students at forefront of computer games design

Kingston University is set to play an integral part in shaping tomorrow's gaming geniuses with the opening of a state-of-the-art facility that will give its computer science students a perfect platform to launch their industry careers.

The University has invested £53,000 to create the Centre for Augmented and Virtual Reality Environments - more familiarly known as the CAVE - at Penrhyn Road campus. It gives students access to a treasure trove of equipment such as virtual reality headsets that can transport the wearer into an immersive alternative environment and equipment that tracks eye movements and brain activity to monitor how much someone is enjoying playing a game....


Kingston University secures €900,000 grant to explore how drones, smart wristbands and cameras could transform future of concert security

Posted Thursday 9 February 2017

Kingston University secures €900,000 grant to explore how drones, smart wristbands and cameras could transform future of concert security

How a network of drones, smart wristbands and body-mounted video cameras could be used to help keep people safe at large outdoor concerts will be explored by Kingston University experts as part of a major new European research project.

Sound and technology experts from 28 partner institutions across the continent have come together for the three-year €15m European Commission-funded project MONICA. The international study initially arose from attempts to find a solution to mitigating the impact of noise levels on residents during outdoor rock shows held at Copenhagen's Tivoli Gardens....


Dangerous ingredients rife in health food supplements, according to research by Kingston University biomolecular scientist

Posted Wednesday 8 February 2017

Dangerous ingredients rife in health food supplements, according to research by Kingston University biomolecular scientist

People taking herbal and sports supplements could be risking their lives as many contain hidden pharmaceutical ingredients that could pose serious health threats, according to a biomolecular scientist from Kingston University.

Professor Declan Naughton, from the University's Faculty of Science, Engineering and Computing, worked with a team of experts from Queen's University Belfast and science testing company LGC to investigate the detection of illegal ingredients in food supplements. "We found many products claiming to be herbal in fact contained unlicensed pharmaceutical ingredients that were not listed on the label," Professor Naughton explained. "People are taking supplements they presume are safe and healthy, but they are unknowingly taking huge risks if these products contain substances they are not supposed to."...


Antibiotics in farming: Kingston University microbiology expert highlights importance of developing rapid diagnostic tests to combat drug resistance

Posted Monday 6 February 2017

Antibiotics in farming: Kingston University microbiology expert highlights importance of developing rapid diagnostic tests to combat drug resistance

Developing new ways to quickly diagnose illnesses in farm animals – allowing vets to administer effective, targeted treatment – could play a key role in helping to tackle the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, according to a Kingston University microbiology expert.

Professor Mark Fielder said that scaling back the widespread use of antibiotics was vital if attempts to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria were to be successful. If not, diseases such as Tuberculosis would become increasingly difficult to manage and even routine operations would be at risk if supportive antibiotic therapy was no longer available, he warned....


Kingston University's Visconti Studio will be magnet for major recording artists, according to acclaimed record producer Tony Visconti

Posted Friday 3 February 2017

Kingston University's Visconti Studio will be magnet for major recording artists, according to acclaimed record producer Tony Visconti

The Visconti Studio at Kingston University will become a destination of choice for leading artists to record new material, according to iconic music producer and David Bowie collaborator Tony Visconti, who has lent his name to the venue.

The analogue recording studio was opened by Mr Visconti in September last year. It forms the focal point of a teaching and research project at the University which will see the award-winning producer tutor students in the techniques of tape-based recording, deliver seminars and record new music with invited guest artists....


Kingston Business School collaborates with range of partners on two new EU-funded projects

Posted Friday 3 February 2017

Kingston Business School collaborates with range of partners on two new EU-funded projects

Kingston University Business School, along with a number of partners is currently involved in two projects funded by Erasmus+, an EU programme which works to strengthen education, training, youth and sport in Europe. 

​KidVenture is a consortium of six partners across Europe led by Associate Professor, Vladlena Benson. The project aims to increase the digital entrepreneurial culture and improve entrepreneurship education for children aged 6-10 years with gamification....

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