Featuring in-depth conversations that explore cutting edge research and analysis from the University of Liverpool, each episode features our academic experts discussing research in their specialist field.

This podcast series, produced in collaboration with the University of Liverpool online, provides a quick route to insider knowledge on new trends and upcoming key issues.

Rebroadcast: A History of Slimming

August 7, 2018

The hit programme Love Island came under a lot of pressure after it aired an ad for Skinny Sprinkles. The diet product is part of the lucrative weight loss market, with an estimated worth of 66 billion dollars in the US, and 44 billion Europe. While the market’s expansion has kept pace with our growing waistlines, its origins can be traced back to a time when food was scarce. This is a rebroadcast of our interview with Dr Myriam Wilks-Heeg, Lecturer in Twentieth Century History, on the history of slimming in the UK and how it became an obsession for women.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 38: Antibiotic resistance and farms – Are we reaping what we’ve sown?

July 24, 2018

In the battle against the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, one industry, in particular, is coming under a lot of pressure. According to the World Health Organization, approximately 80% of medically important antibiotics are used in the animal sector. Most of these medicines are used on healthy animals.

Unfortunately, cutting down on veterinary medicines is not a simple thing to do. And even if we do, it’s not clear how much of a difference it would make.

Dr Jonathan Rushton is a Professor of Animal Health and Food Systems Economics. Dr Lucy Coyne is a veterinarian and researcher in Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Liverpool.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 37: How to predict a volcanic eruption

July 10, 2018

Scientists are getting quite good at predicting where and when lava will erupt around the Kilauea volcano – important for the residents of Hawaii. Kilauea has been very active for the past few months.

In the past seven days, residents in the area around Kilauea have experienced more than 900 earthquakes. For the most part these have been minor tremors, often only showing up on seismographs. The quakes are caused by magma deep inside the volcano moving underground; infiltrating cracks and fissures and occasionally shooting lava into the air in dramatic fashion.

All of this is being very closely watched by Dr Janine Kavanagh. She is a lecturer in Earth, Ocean and Ecological Sciences at the University of Liverpool.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Rebroadcast: Is it really mental ‘illness’?

June 26, 2018

Revisiting the discussion with Professor Peter Kinderman on the use of the term ‘illness’ in relation to mental health. Professor Kinderman says there are some signs things are changing and, he believes, improving. We respond to life’s stressors in different ways and the treatment he prescribes is for all of us to take greater social responsibility to address the situation rather than reaching for medication.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 35: The not-so paleo diet

June 12, 2018

The Paleo Diet is one of the most popular diets in the UK, the US and across the developed world. The basic idea behind the so called ‘caveman’ diet is to eat what Paleolithic humans ate. According to Paleo diet advocates, this is supposed to mean staying away from things like grains, legumes and certain vegetables. Yet, according to Dr Ceren Kabukcu, an archaeology fellow at the University of Liverpool, the Paleo Diet doesn’t have a much in common with what humans actually ate during the Paleolithic Era.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 34: Jackie Bell has got what it takes

June 9, 2018

Dr Jackie Bell is a theoretical particle physicist, athlete, and a certified space junkie so It’s easy to see why she was selected as one of twelve candidates for the BBC2 program, “Astronaut: Do You Have What It Takes.” The program put the candidates through a series of challenges to see if they have the mental, physical and emotional capacity to become an astronaut. The former chief of the International Space Station Chris Hadfield was the host. Jackie’s journey, from an 8-year old in Liverpool, watching Red Dwarf with her Dad, to being one of twelve candidates for astronaut training is a remarkable, funny and inspiring story.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 33: Darwin’s robots

May 15, 2018

Researchers are designing robots with artificial intelligence that evolves on its own. Generation after generation, only the fittest survive to pass their “genes” onto the next generation. The result is AI that actually evolves at an astonishing rate to accomplish a complex goal. All without the guidance of a programmer.

The process is called Neuro-evolution and University of Liverpool Ph.D. student James Butterworth is using it to develop a squad of intelligent autonomous drones.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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You can find an example of Super Mario neuro-evolution here

Another fascinating example can be found here

Some examples of James’ recent work showing drones trying to maximally cover an area can be found here.

Music in the podcast is by Kai Engel 

Episode 32: Extreme decision making

May 1, 2018

Major events, like a terrorist attack or natural disaster, force the emergency services to make decisions under extreme pressure and often with very little information.

To make matters worse, these scenarios are frequently unique so decision makers do not have experience or protocol to fall back on. Such events make a fascinating focus for research into decision making.

Dr Sara Waring is a lecturer in Forensic Psychology at the University of Liverpool and the research director for the Critical and Major Incident Psychology Research Group. She talks about the challenge of making smart decisions in the most stressful situations imaginable.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 31: Who is being left out online?

April 18, 2018

As the world around us grows increasingly digital, as education, shopping and social service programs go online, who is being left out? Who is being excluded?

Professor Simeon Yates is the Director of the Centre for Digital Humanities and Social Science at the University of Liverpool. He recently led a major initiative to develop a new digital culture policy in the UK. This highlighted one of his chief concerns about digital policy: the serious and growing problem of digital exclusion.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 30: Can Donald Trump deliver a great speech?

April 3, 2018

In our latest podcast Dr Karl Simms, a Reader in English at the University’s Department of English, discusses what makes a good political speech.

Donald Trump’s detractors criticise the US President’s speaking style for its seeming lack of coherence, simplicity and its appeal to raw emotions. Yet to his supporters, Trump’s extemporaneous style communicates an honest and genuine connection with his audience. It is a style that stands in stark contrast to the rehearsed, formally structured speeches of his political opponents.

Dr Karl Simms dissects Trump’s discursive strategies and distils what they teach us about effective communication.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 29: Twitter predicts the future

March 20, 2018

In our latest podcast Costas Milas, Professor of Finance at the University’s Management School, discusses how social media has become a popular open forum for analysing economics/finance.

Professor Milas’ research shows that Twitter is better at predicting the financial future than even the most sophisticated financial tools. This is especially true in periods of negative economic news when traditional models that use only financial variables might prove inadequate.

He is now extending his research on prediction to things like Google search trends and he argues that search can predict how Brexit negotiations are likely to unfold.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 28: Do we know the right dose of medicine for children?

March 6, 2018

Paediatric medicine faces a troubling challenge. For good ethical reasons, scientists have long been reluctant to experiment on children. As a result, many of the oldest and most common medications used in pediatric medicine have not been tested on the youngest patients. This means there is very little good quality research on efficacy or proper dosage.

This concerns Dr Dan Hawcutt. He’s a Senior Lecturer Paediatric Clinical Pharmacology at the University of Liverpool and an Honorary Consultant Paediatrician at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital who wants to further what we know about the medicines we give to children.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Episode 27: Extreme weather – An intimate history

February 20, 2018

The study of extreme weather usually involves lots of numbers, graphs and statistical comparisons. What’s missing is the human element; the way people responded to an unusual weather event.

During the deep freeze of 1838, did people stay huddled indoors or learn to skate? How about the flooding of the river Trent in the early 19th century? Were they scared?

Georgina Enfield is a professor of environmental history at the University of Liverpool. Her team has assembled a fascinating collection of diaries, letters and other personal accounts of how people felt about extreme shifts in the weather over the past several centuries.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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The extreme weather history can be found here.

A list of the University of Liverpool Online’s programs can be found here.

Kai Engel’s compositions can be found here.

Episode 26: How much is your favourite football player really worth?

February 6, 2018

In our latest podcast Ian McHale, Professor of Sports Analytics at the University, discusses the remarkable rise of analytics in professional sport.

Analytics are the present and the future of professional sports. There use in cycling, baseball and basketball is well documented, but what about football?

Professor McHale believes the Premier League is behind other sports in adopting analytics to drive performance. This means some star players might be over-valued (and overpaid) while the role their teammates play may be overlooked.

If your favourite team does make full use of the analytics at their disposal they will be at a competitive disadvantage.

To find out more you can listen to the podcast by following the links below:

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Learn more about Professor McHale’s research here.

Episode 25: No ‘Junk Food’ adverts before 9pm

January 23, 2018

In forty years, the number of obese children has increased 10 fold. This increase is not just in the UK or the US, but around the world and is considered to be a global public health crisis.

In the UK one in ten children is now obese. Experts are calling on government to reduce children’s exposure to junk food advertisements. The Obesity Health Alliance is pushing for a 9pm watershed on junk food advertisements in the UK.

University of Liverpool senior lecturer in psychology, Dr Emma Boyland, describes the surprisingly powerful effect these ads have on children’s appetites and food choices.

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Episode 24: The Future of Farming

January 9, 2018

In our latest podcast University researchers discuss how urban farms could provide the solution to rising food and energy prices, increasing unemployment and unhealthy, unsustainable lifestyles.

The massive system that drives modern agriculture is changing, especially for the vast majority of us who live in cities.

Farm Urban is part of this shift, prompting us to think about how and, more importantly, where our food is produced. The Liverpool business is the brainchild of two University of Liverpool postdoctoral researchers Paul Myers and Jens Thomas. With the support of academic partner Dr Iain Young, they’ve built a company that grows fresh food in brick basements and urban rooftops. Not short of ambition, their mission is to change our relationship with food and the urban environment.

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Episode 23: What is the point of ‘Dry January’?

December 26, 2017

According to the group Alcohol Concern five million Britons took part in Dry January last year. Matt Field will be taking part this year as he has in past years. The professor of psychology at the University of Liverpool and expert on addiction is a fan of the effort, and he says it almost certainly has short-term benefits. However, he says it’s not entirely clear ‘Dry January’ changes our relationship with alcohol in a lasting way.

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Episode 22: History of Christmas traditions

December 12, 2017

Professor Sarah Peverley returns to the podcast to compare what we know about Christmas traditions in the Middle Ages with modern Western festivities.

There are some surprises, like the early origins of Father Christmas or Santa Claus. But what’s not surprising is the degree to which our approach to Christmas has shifted over the millennium and Professor Peverley reflects on what we may have lost along the way.

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Episode 21: Is narcissism on the rise?

November 28, 2017

It’s easy to see signs that it might be. Research into pop music and contemporary literature offers indirect evidence that narcissism is on the rise in Western culture. More direct evidence comes from the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI): a database of thousands of US college students’ personality test results, collected over several decades. Results from these tests show narcissism has risen. Yet, new research has emerged that challenges this view.

University of Liverpool lecturer in psychology Minna Lyons takes us through the evidence.

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Bonus podcast: Colm Tóibín reads from his latest work

November 19, 2017

Earlier this year Colm Tóibín spoke before an audience the Victoria Gallery Museum in Liverpool. The author and University of Liverpool Chancellor read excerpts from his latest novel House of Names. The work is a retelling of one part of the classic Greek trilogy The Oresteia and depicts Clytemnestra’s revenge for the murder of her daughter. This special bonus episode features Tóibín’s fascinating and funny insights into the challenges he faced adapting a story that is 2,500 years old.

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Episode 20: A history of slimming

November 14, 2017

The weight loss market in the US is estimated to be worth 66 billion dollars. Europe isn’t too far behind that at 44 billion. It is big business and while its expansion has kept pace with our growing waist lines, its origins can be traced, oddly enough, to a time when food was scarce. Myriam Wilks-Heeg is a Lecturer of Twentieth Century History at the University of Liverpool. She is researching the history of slimming in the UK and how it became an obsession for women.

The podcast can be found by following the links below:

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Episode 19: Halloween as ‘therapy’

October 27, 2017

Professor Peter Kinderman returns to the podcast to discuss why we like to be scared. With Halloween around the corner, people are flocking to horror films and preparing ghoulish costumes. But why do we do this?

For children the answer is easy, the candy. But for adults, our attraction to things that frighten us is a bit more complicated. One in six people in the UK experiences either anxiety or depression each week. And yet while many struggle with inner demons, they are also attracted to the macabre and the terrifying. It seems like a paradox but Peter Kinderman says taking part in Halloween traditions can be therapeutic.

The podcast can be found by following the links below:

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Interested in learning more about the University of Liverpool’s online psychology programmes? Find out more about the MSc in Psychology and our other psychology programmes.

Episode 18: Are sugary drinks the ‘New Tobacco’?

October 17, 2017

Professor Simon Capewell says sugary drinks are ‘killing us’.

The University of Liverpool Public Health researcher and advocate says sugar, especially the sugar in sugary drinks, is the single biggest cause of obesity. He’s fighting for sugary drinks to be treated the same as tobacco which means, higher taxes and stricter limits on advertising.

But the industry is fighting back with huge advertising campaigns and suspect research.

The podcast can be found by following the links below:

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To learn more about the University’s Online Masters in Public Health please click here 

Episode 17: Colm Tóibín – Universities in the era of Brexit and Trump

October 5, 2017

University of Liverpool Chancellor, Colm Tóibín explores the role of education and universities in the current political climate. The Irish short story writer, essayist, playwright, journalist, critic and poet is author to nine novels – three of which have been shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

In 2009 Brooklyn won the Costa Novel of the Year and was later adapted into an Academy Award nominated and BAFTA winning film. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages and he continues to engage critics with his most recently published work, House of Names.

The podcast can be found by following the links below:

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Episode 16: Tofu Solar Panels vs Big Business

September 20, 2017

Two years ago, physicist Jon Major published research on a new method for producing solar panels in the prestigious journal Nature. His technique has a tenuous connection to tofu but that was enough to push it onto the front pages of news sites around the world. The experience taught him a lot about the value of good communication of scientific ideas.

Dr Major’s experience since the research was published has taught him even more about the structure of the modern solar industry. It may not be as nimble and quick to innovate as you might think.

In this episode Dr Major talks about:

• The value of effective communication of scientific ideas

• The importance of serendipity in scientific inquiry

• The incredible promise and surprising environmental challenges of solar power

• Big Business and solar power

• Future of solar and renewables

The podcast can be found by following the links below:

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