Monthly Archives: April 2012

The influence of altruism on public health

Game theory is based on the assumption that individuals act according to self-interest and make decisions that maximize their personal payoffs. To test this fundamental assumption, we conducted a survey study in the context of influenza vaccination decisions. Contrary to the assumption of self-interest, we found that altruism plays an important role in vaccination decisions. Nevertheless, altruistic motivation has not yet been considered in epidemiological models, in predictions of vaccination decisions or in the design of vaccination policies. To determine the impact of altruism on the adherence to optimal vaccination policies and on resulting disease burden, we incorporated altruism into a game-theoretic epidemiological model of influenza vaccination. We found that altruism significantly shifted vaccination decisions away from individual self-interest and towards the community optimum, greatly reducing the total cost, morbidity and mortality for the community. Therefore, promoting altruism could be a potential strategy to improve public health outcomes.

Alison Galvani et al,  Yale Univ, The influence of altruism on influenza vaccination decisions, Interface April 11


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Novel SEM-based diffraction method for characterising nitride thin films

SEM imaging of dislocations






Researchers at Strathclyde (Carol Trager-Cowan and Naresh-Kumar) and Oxford (Angus Wilkinson) Universities have been collaborating for some time on the development of novel SEM-based diffraction methods for characterising nitride thin films. Electron channelling contrast imaging (ECCI) has a long association with the Department of Materials at Oxford. Modern FEG SEM instruments and digital imaging capabilities make it possible to fully realise the possibilities identified and pursued in much earlier pioneering work by Profs Hirsch and Booker at Oxford.  The recent Physical Review Letter shows that threading dislocations in GaN films with the hexagonal wurtzite structure can be reliably imaged and characterised as edge, screw, or mixed types using a very simple and unambiguous analysis of the black-white contrast associated with each defect when imaged using controlled diffraction conditions. The innovation offers improved quantification of dislocation densities and speed of analysis – two factors of concern to crystal growers we are working with

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Chemical analysis of collagen used in Archaeology Research Studies

Thirty-seven skeletons found in a mass burial site in the grounds of St John’s College may not be who they initially seemed, according to Oxford researchers studying the remains.

Researchers from the Research Laboratory for Archaeology and the History of Art at the University of Oxford carried out a chemical analysis of collagen from the bones and teeth of some of the individuals and concluded that they had had a substantial amount of seafood in their diet. It was higher in marine protein than that found in the local Oxfordshire population, as recorded in existing data.

Testing was done using strontium isotope analysis of tooth enamel, a technique which provides evidence of where an individual lived when the tooth formed. Strontium, a naturally occurring element in rocks and soils, is absorbed by plants and animals, and can be found in trace amounts in mammalian teeth. Strontium isotopes reflect the particular geological conditions so even small traces can be revealing of that individual’s location.

The researchers also looked at data relating to previous research in which an isotopic analysis of dismembered skeletons found in a burial pit at the Weymouth Ridgeway in Dorset identified the individuals as Scandinavian Viking raiders. The decapitated skeletons in Dorset were dated at between 890 and 1030 AD, and were thought to be a group of young men from different countries across Scandinavia. The isotopic analysis of the Dorset group when compared with the individuals found in the mass burial site at St John’s College show similarities.

further information

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New SuperSTEM handbook on aberration corrected STEM in press with Wiley!



The Universities of Manchester and Oxford will be joining the SuperSTEM consortium in conjunction with the re-launch of SuperSTEM as the £4.5M EPSRC National Facility for Aberration-Corrected STEM in mid-September.

Scientists of both Universities have long standing collaborations with SuperSTEM. These collaborations include the characterisation of graphene (which contributed to the Nobel Prize winning word of Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov), other 2-D crystals, nanotubes, nanowires, ceramics and composites.

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A new chemical analysis technique to find out about dietary consumption of Georgian sailors

Alt beef, sea biscuits and the occasional weevil were the foods endured by sailors during the Napoleonic wars, according to new Oxford University research.

A new chemical analysis technique has allowed archaeologists to find out just how grim the diet of Georgian sailors really was. The team’s findings, published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, also reveal how little had changed for sailors in the 200 years between the Elizabethan and Georgian eras.
Sercon 20/20 Isotope Ratio Mass

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New form of solar glass breakthrough turns skyscrapers into power stations


A UK start-up has developed an innovative new form of “solar glass” that could allow glass-fronted commercial buildings such as skyscrapers to generate enough energy to power their lighting and IT systems.

Spun out from Oxford University in late 2010, Oxford Photovoltaics (PV) has combined a dye-based thin film solar cell with glass substrates to produce tinted glass that simultaneously acts as a solar generation system.

“We screen print metal oxides, dyes, plastics and polymers directly on to glass,” explained Kevin Arthur, chief executive of the company. “Light reacts with the dye to create a current that we collect through two terminals, just like a standard battery.”

“We have small prototype cells that are 10cm by 10cm, but we want to move to a full scale pilot production line that can make panels that are two metres by three metres,” he said, adding that the company aims to complete its funding round later this year and have its first batch of solar glass panels commercially available by the third quarter of 2013.

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