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Motoring news

Audi’s new Q cars

April 12 2017

Another week, another new Audi. Two new Audis, in fact. The German car maker has announced a couple more additions to its Q line up of SUVs. The Q4 is a coupe-SUV hybrid that will go up against the BMW X4 and Mercedes GLC Coupe. As its name suggests, it’ll be positioned between the compact Q3 and bigger Q5. At the other end of the scale is the Q8, which will go head to head against the Range Rover. It’s lower and sleeker than the Q7 Audi is also producing. In concept form, it sat only four people, although it seems likely the production version will be a five seater. There’s a 630 litre boot as well. Eagle eyed Audi followers will notice the only SUV slots left to fill are the Q1 and Q6. Watch this space...

UK & World

This student took his Tinder profile to the next level by turning it into a PowerPoint presentation

February 21 2018

Standing out from the crowd on Tinder can be tough, but with the help of Microsoft PowerPoint a British student has managed just that – and gone viral in the process.Sam Dixey, a 21-year-old studying at Leeds University, made a six-part slideshow entitled “Why you should swipe right” – using pictures and bullet points to shrewdly persuade potential dates to match with him on the dating app. The slideshow includes discussion of his social life and likes, such as “petting doggos” and “laser tag”, and “other notable qualities and skills” – such as being “not the worst at sex” and “generous when drunk”.It even has reviews mocked up from sources such as “Donald Trump”, “Leonardo Di Capri Sun” and “The Times Guide to Pancakes 2011”.Sam told the Press Association the six-slide presentation only took about 20 minutes to make and “started off as a joke”.However, since being posted to Twitter by fellow Tinder user Gracie Barrow, Sam’s slideshow has been shared tens of thousands of times across social media.So, it’s got the seal of approval form Gracie, but how has the slideshow fared on Tinder? “I’d have to say it has been pretty successful,” Sam said. “Definitely a clear correlation of matches and dates beforehand to afterwards.“Most of the responses tend to revolve around people saying ‘I couldn’t help swipe right 10/10’ but I’ve had some people go the extra mile and message me on Facebook.“Plus some people have recognised me outside, in the library and on dates.”A resounding success.

Fife

Breakthrough by St Andrews scientists in fight against ‘antibiotics apocalypse’

November 25 2016

Growing resistance to commonly prescribed antibiotics is one of the biggest public health threats of modern times with the potential to cause 80,000 deaths in the UK over the next 20 years. But a team of scientists at St Andrews University -  awarded a prestigious prize in London this week - is fighting back. Michael Alexander reports. It has been described by the United Nations and World Health Organisation as one of the biggest known threats to humanity – an “antibiotics apocalypse” where a simple cut to your finger could leave you fighting for your life and where getting an appendix removed could prove deadly. Experts say an increase in drug resistant disease could cost 10s of millions of lives in the next few decades as simple infections could soon become entirely untreatable with existing drugs. The problem has been caused by over-use of antimicrobial medicines for humans, animals and agriculture. But now medical scientists at St Andrews University have made a breakthrough which they hope will help counter the threat. The researchers have created a laser that can identify the right antibiotic to treat bacteria present in an infection, in minutes instead of hours. The team hope that faster diagnosis will mean more targeted use of prescription drugs and ultimately a reduction of antibiotic resistance. In an interview with The Courier, Professor Stephen Gillespie, Sir James Black Professor of Medicine at St Andrews, who is leading the research team, said antibiotic resistance is “one of the most important threats facing humanity” with an estimated $50 trillion price tag for health care if nothing is done about it. He said: “In the 19th century the father of modern surgery Joseph Lister said that every surgery was an experiment in getting under someone’s skin. At the moment in modern medicine by comparison, there’s a danger of going back to those days. “Modern medicine is only made possible because we can treat infection. If infection becomes drug resistant then complicated surgery will disappear. “Operations and treatments that people now take for granted are going to become increasingly difficult.” Current estimates are that drug resistant infections already claim about 700,000 live per year globally. And if we do not create new antibiotics, or prevent the loss of the ones we have, it is estimated that this will rise to more than 10 million deaths a year globally within the next few decades. It’s for this reason that the Orbital Diagnostics team at St Andrews have developed a device - the Scattered Light Integrated Collector (SLIC) - to reduce the time taken to test bacteria for resistance. Current testing frequently takes 24 hours to produce a result, but the SLIC team can produce a similar result in around 20 minutes. The new tool aims to help patients get the right treatment faster. This reduces the risk of antibiotic resistance by helping ensure bacteria are not exposed to antibiotics unnecessarily. Professor Gillespie, a practising clinical microbiologist, explained that SLIC was a sophisticated technique of seeing very small numbers of bacteria. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYvX8tnCM9s At its heart is a sphere and inside that a spherical mirror. A laser beam enters one end and 98% of its energy leaves the other. However, the small amount of light that’s left is scattered multiple times throughout the internal face of the sphere and passes through the bacteria, counting the bacteria present. He added: “Our very sensitive device detects bacteria in very small numbers. This means when they grow in the presence of antibiotics, we can show that quickly. "Conventional tests take up to 24 hours – for some bugs we can now do the same job in less than 20 minutes. “At the moment this promising test can only be used in the laboratory; the challenge is to turn it into a test that can be used in a doctor’s surgery or a pharmacy.” Dr Robert Hammond, co-inventor and senior scientist, said the device could make a real difference if it came into everyday use. He added: “We aim to develop SLIC to enable a person with a suspected urinary tract infection to give a sample to a practice nurse or pharmacist – then within two hours be given an antibiotic prescription knowing that the infecting bacteria are susceptible. "This will be faster and better for the individual. It will mean that fewer unnecessary prescriptions will be issued, reducing chances that bugs will develop resistance.” The team’s ambition to develop it for practical use in surgeries has been bolstered this week by receipt of the prestigious Longitude Prize Discovery Award at a ceremony held at the Royal Society in London. The prize will help the team develop a device that can challenge for the coveted Longitude Prize, a challenge with a £10 million prize fund to reward a point of care diagnostic test that helps solve the global problem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RpKZvnJwicA The Orbital Diagnostics team is supported by Scottish Enterprise to form a company that will take the SLIC device to market. Eleanor Mitchell, High Growth Ventures Director at Scottish Enterprise, said: “This prestigious award is fantastic recognition of Orbital Diagnostics’ strong progress in developing the SLIC device, which has significant global market potential. "Scottish Enterprise is delighted to be supporting the team to commercialise this emerging technology which exemplifies the strength of innovation in Scotland’s healthcare sector.”

Road tests

Audi Q2 puts quality over size

March 21 2018

Audi’s Q2 was one of the first premium compact SUVs on the market. It sits below the Q3, Q5 and the gigantic, seven seat Q7 in Audi’s ever growing range. Although it’s about the same size as the Nissan Juke or Volkswagen T-Roc, its price is comparable with the much larger Nissan X-Trail or Volkswagen Tiguan. Even a basic Q2 will set you back more than £21,000 and top whack is £38,000. Then there’s the options list which is extensive to say the least. My 2.0 automatic diesel Quattro S Line model had a base price of £30,745 but tipped the scales at just over £40,000 once a plethora of additions were totted up. Size isn’t everything, however. In recent years there’s been a trend of buyers wanting a car that’s of premium quality but compact enough to zip around town. It may be a step down in size but the Q2 doesn’t feel any less classy than the rest of Audi’s SUV range. The interior looks great and is user friendly in a way that more mainstream manufacturers have never been able to match. The simple rotary dial and shortcut buttons easily trounce touchscreen systems, making it a cinch to skim through the screen’s menus. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4eQ5p5Z7-Ek&list=PLUEXizskBf1nbeiD_LqfXXsKooLOsItB0 There’s a surprising amount of internal space too. I took three large adults from Dundee to Stirling and no one complained about feeling cramped. As long as you don’t have a tall passenger behind a tall driver you can easily fit four adults. At 405 litres the boot’s big too – that’s 50 litres more than a Nissan Juke can muster. Buyers can pick from 1.0 and 1.4 litre petrol engines or 1.6 and 2.0 litre TDIs. Most Q2s are front wheel drive but Audi’s Quattro system is standard on the 2.0 diesel, as is a seven-speed S Tronic gear box. On the road there’s a clear difference between this and SUVs by manufacturers like Nissan, Seat and Ford. Ride quality, while firm, is tremendously smooth. Refinement is excellent too, with road and tyre noise kept out of the cabin. It sits lower than the Q3 or Q5 and this improves handling, lending the Q2 an almost go-kart feel. On a trip out to Auchterhouse, with plenty of snow still on the ground, I was appreciative of the four-wheel drive as well. The Q2 is expensive – though there are some good finance deals out there – but you get what you pay for. Few cars this small feel as good as the Q2 does. Price: £30,745 0-62mph: 8.1 seconds Top speed: 131mph Economy: 58.9mpg CO2 emissions: 125g/km

Motoring news

Join the queue for littlest Audi Q

November 9 2016

Audi’s relentless release of new models continues with the launch of its smallest SUV. The Q2 goes on sale in the UK next week with prices starting at £22,380. There’s an extensive selection of petrol and diesel power trains as well as the option of front or Quattro four-wheel drive. More models will be added to the range later on, including powerful SQ2 and RSQ2 versions. Aimed squarely at a younger audience, the Q2 has bolder, sharper lines and a different shape to Audi’s bigger SUVs, the Q3, Q5 and Q7. Although it’s clearly meant more for buzzing around cities than growling across farmland, cladding and skid plates lend it an aura of ruggedness. Audi is also offering a range of vibrant colours to deepen the Q2’s appeal to youthful buyers. The interior is as plush as you’d expect from Audi, justifying its price hike over similarly sized SUVs like the Nissan Juke and Honda HR-V. The materials are high quality – softtouch plastics, leather on higher spec cars and brushed aluminium trim elements all blended into a smart-looking package. As standard, drivers get a seven-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard. It’s operated through Audi’s rotary dial system that’s far more intuitive and easier to use when on the move than rivals’ touchscreen systems. Among the many options is Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit - a 12.3in screen that replaces the manual instruments behind the steering wheel. Overall, the Q2 is 4.7in shorter than the A3 hatchback, but Audi says there’s enough leg and headroom for two adult passengers in the back. Boot space comes in at 405 litres – 50 more than you’ll find in the A3 hatchback and rival Nissan Juke, although it trails the Mini Countryman by the same amount. To begin with, the only diesel option is a 1.6 litre with 114bhp, although a more powerful 184bhp 2.0 litre unit will be added to the range soon. Similarly, the petrol engine range is limited for now but will be expanded by the end of the year. The 1.4 litre, 148bhp unit offered now will be joined by 1.0 litre, 114bhp three cylinder turbo and 2.0 litre, 187bhp options – the latter coming with an S-Tronic automatic gearbox. When it arrives the 1.0 litre petrol version will be the cheapest model in the range with a price tag of £20,230. Courier Motoring has yet to get its hands on the car but early reviews have been very positive and Audi looks to have yet another winner on its hands. jmckeown@thecourier.co.uk

Scotland

Enzyme study into cancer hinges on humble fly

October 28 2010

Small and with a life cycle of just two weeks, fruit flies are seen by many as pests and a problem. However, the 3mm Drosophila melanogaster has played a vital role in genetics and developmental biology for nearly a century. Genetically diverse and easy to use in research, they help scientists in a variety of studies, from how the brain functions to how cancer develops. Dr Mark Matfield of the Association for International Cancer Research (AICR) in St Andrews said, "Cancer is a disease of the most fundamental processes of living organisms, which is why it is found in all animals. "The basic causes and mechanisms remain the same, from fruit flies to humans. Over the last 20 years, research into these insects has led to major advances in cancer research. That is why we, at AICR, are keen to support high-quality research in this area." Changes to proteins in a cell underlie many cancers and using funding from AICR, a team of scientists in Portugal, Belgium and Norway plan to use the fruit fly to understand exactly how changes to proteins, identified in the test tube, affect how cells divide in a living organism. Dr Rui Martinho at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC), in Portugal, in collaboration with researchers in Ghent, Belgium, and Bergen, in Norway, hopes the study will increase understanding of how cancer begins. One way that cells control their gene or protein activity is to add chemical groups or "tags" to modify them 80-90% of human proteins are modified this way.Aggressive cancersBut some enzymes responsible for these modifications are present at increased levels in certain aggressive cancers, or they are responsible for incorrect tagging that can drive the cell to grow and divide in an uncontrolled manner, forming a tumour. In the fruit fly, Dr Martinho and his collaborators propose to unravel the behaviour of one of these enzymes to understand its role in the growth and division of cells. The modifications carried out by this enzyme affect a wide range of cellular functions during cell division and apoptosis programmed cell death essential for the normal balance of the organism, but they may also be involved in the development of cancer. He said, "We will focus on the enzyme San, to try to identify what it acts upon in the cell, how it is regulated, the consequences of its actions and, ultimately, its effect on how cells divide. Our approach will allow a better understanding of the impact of these modifications in healthy cells and cancer development in a living context closer to our own, rather than in human cells grown in test tubes or in unicellular organisms, such as yeast, as previous studies have done." Dr Martinho's proposal, worth 147,000 euros (£132,000), was one of 23 successful projects totalling more than £4 million approved by AICR in March this year and which recently got under way.

Scotland

Parkinson’s discovery ‘may improve diagnosis for patients’

August 29 2016

Scientists are a step closer to developing a test for early-stage Parkinson's disease. A molecule linked to the brain condition can be detected in samples of spinal fluid, research has shown. The discovery may pave the way to earlier diagnosis of Parkinson's, improving treatment prospects. Parkinson's disease causes the progressive loss of neurons involved in movement, leading to uncontrollable tremors, rigid muscles and poor balance. An estimated 127,000 people in the UK have the disease, most of them over the age of 50. The test molecule is a protein called alpha-synuclein which forms sticky clumps known as Lewy bodies within the brain cells of people with Parkinson's and some types of dementia. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh used highly sensitive technology to differentiate between healthy and harmful forms of the protein. In early studies the technique accurately identified 19 out of 20 samples from Parkinson's patients, as well as three samples from people thought to be at risk of the condition. Dr Alison Green, from the National CJD Research and Surveillance Unit at the University of Edinburgh, said: "We have already used this technique to develop an accurate test for Creutzfeldt Jacob Disease (CJD), another neurodegenerative condition. We hope that with further refinement, our approach will help to improve diagnosis for Parkinson's patients. "We are also interested in whether it could be used to identify people with Parkinson's and Lewy body dementia in the early stages of their illness. These people could then be given the opportunity to take part in trials of new medicines that may slow, or stop, the progression of disease." The findings are published in the journal Annals Of Clinical And Translational Neurology. Dr Beckie Port, from the charity Parkinson's UK, said: "Parkinson's has no definitive diagnostic test - leaving an urgent need for a simple and accurate way of detecting the condition, particularly in the beginning stages. "Although early days, the fact that researchers have developed a new test that is able to detect abnormal alpha-synuclein in the spinal fluid of people with Parkinson's with remarkable specificity and sensitivity, is hugely promising. "Further research is needed to test more samples to see if the results continue to hold true, but this could be a significant development towards a future early diagnostic test for Parkinson's."

Motoring news

Form an orderly Q for Audi SUV

August 10 2016

First there was the Q7. Then the Q5 and Q3. All have been a phenomenal success for Audi. I’d be surprised if that script changes when the Q2 arrives in November. Audi’s baby SUV is available to order now with prices starting at £22,380. Can’t quite stretch to that? Don’t worry, an entry level three-cylinder 1.0 litre version will be available later this year with a cover tag of £20,230. From launch, there are three trim levels available for the Q2 called SE, Sport and S Line. The range-topping Edition #1 model will be available to order from next month priced from £31,170. While the entry-level 113bhp 1.0-litre unit isn’t available right away, engines you can order now include a 113bhp 1.6-litre diesel and 148bhp 1.4-litre petrol unit, both with manual or S tronic automatic transmissions. Also joining the Q2 line-up from September is the 2.0-litre TDI diesel with 148bhp or 187bhp. This unit comes with optional Quattro all-wheel drive. A 2.0 litre petrol with Quattro and S tronic joins the range next year. Standard equipment for the new Audi Q2 includes a multimedia infotainment system with rotary/push-button controls, supported with sat-nav. Audi’s smartphone-friendly interface, 16in alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity and heated and electric mirrors are all also standard for the Audi. Along with the optional Audi virtual cockpit and the head-up display, the driver assistance systems for the Audi Q2 also come from the larger Audi models – including the Audi pre sense front with pedestrian recognition that is standard. The system recognises critical situations with other vehicles as well as pedestrians crossing in front of the vehicle, and if necessary it can initiate hard braking – to a standstill at low speeds. Other systems in the line-up include adaptive cruise control with Stop & Go function, traffic jam assist, the lane-departure warning system Audi side assist, the lane-keeping assistant Audi active lane assist, traffic sign recognition and rear cross-traffic assist.

Angus & The Mearns

Angus Council sought to collect samples of children’s DNA

January 3 2011

Angus Council's use of biometric systems continues to provoke a backlash, with one parent revealing the council asked to collect DNA samples from her child. Alliance councillor and education convener Peter Nield last week said there had been no opt-outs by parents unhappy about their children being fingerprinted for the library books and school meals systems. But the councillor's claim sparked an angry reaction from parents. Many families contacted The Courier to insist they had indeed opted out, and a Kirriemuir dad said the programme was tantamount to "brainwashing". Now, another local mum has revealed her opposition to the systems being used in Angus. "In 2001, my child arrived home from an Angus primary school with a package of letters concerning 'research' that the council had sanctioned to take place within their schools," said the mum, adding that the proposals included DNA sample collections. "Naturally I was concerned and had a number of questions about the ethics of this practice. I wrote to Angus Council's then director of education, Jim Anderson, about my concerns and his response did not allay those concerns. "The introduction of biometric technology in Angus schools is of great interest and concern to me," added the mum. "Article 8 of the Human Rights Act states that we all have the right to privacy. "It appears to me that Angus Council does not recognise that there are important ethical issues surrounding the collection of DNA and biometric data from children attending school. "Providing people living in Angus with information about the introduction biometric technology and listening to their views would surely have been possible. "For ethical reasons I did not give consent for my child's DNA to be collected; it was entirely inappropriate for that approach to have been made through a primary school by Angus Council." Photo by Flickr user micahb37.

Scotland

Scottish centre hopes to pioneer human trials of synthetic blood

May 30 2013

The world's first human trials of synthetic blood could take place in Scotland, it has been reported. Researchers from the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine (SCRM) in Edinburgh have been granted a licence to make blood from stem cells which could be tested on humans. The licence from the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will allow scientists at SCRM to attempt to manufacture blood on an industrial scale which will help to tackle shortages and stop the transfer of infections from blood donors. Trials on humans, if approved, would be the first stage in establishing more large-scale clinical trials and could result in regular use of synthetic blood. Researchers will use stem cells from adult donors - known as induced pluripotent stem cells - as part of this project instead of the more controversial embryotic ones. Project leader Marc Turner said: "In the first part of the project we used human embryonic stem cell lines and one of the problems with using those lines is you can't choose what the blood group is going to be. "Over the last few years there has been a lot of work on induced pluripotent stem cells and with those an adult can donate a small piece of skin or a blood sample and the technology allows for stem-cell lines to be derived from that sample. "This makes our life a lot easier in some ways because that means we can identify a person with the specific blood type we want and get them to donate a sample from which we could manufacture the cell lines." With the licence scientists will also be able to work on stem cell products used to help patients with Parkinson's disease, diabetes, cancer or those who have suffered a stroke. Prof Turner hopes that the preparations to begin human testing will be completed in the next two to three years.

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