Exeter Study Brings Brain-Like Computers A Step Closer To Reality

31 Aug

The development of ‘brain-like’ computers has taken a major step forward today with the publication of research led by the University of Exeter in South Devon.

Published in the journal Advanced Materials and funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, the study involved the first ever demonstration of simultaneous information processing and storage using phase-change materials.

This new technique could revolutionise computingby making computers faster and as well as energy-efficient, as well as making them more closely resemble biological systems.

Computers currently deal with processing and memory separately, resulting in a speed and power ‘bottleneck’ caused by the need to continually move data around. This is totally unlike anything in biology, for example in human brains, where no real distinction is made between memory and computation. To perform these two functions simultaneously the University of Exeter research team used phase-change materials, a kind of semi-conductor that exhibits remarkable properties.

Their study demonstrates conclusively that phase-change materials can store and process information simultaneously. It also shows experimentally for the first time that they can perform general-purpose computing operations, such as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. More strikingly perhaps it shows that phase-change materials can be used to make artificial neurons and synapses. This means that an artificial system made entirely from phase-change devices could potentially learn and process information in a similar way to our own brains.

Lead author Professor David Wright of the University of Exeter said: “Our findings have major implications for the development of entirely new forms of computing, including ‘brain-like’ computers. We have uncovered a technique for potentially developing new forms of ‘brain-like’ computer systems that could learn, adapt and change over time. This is something that researchers have been striving for over many years.”

This study focused on the performance of a single phase-change cell. The next stage in Exeter’s research will be to build systems of interconnected cells that can learn to perform simple tasks, such as identification of certain objects and patterns.

The University of Exeter is investing 230million in science and engineering across key themes, including Functional Materials.

The paper, published in Advanced Materials, can be accessed here: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1521-4095/earlyview

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is the UK’s main agency for funding research in engineering and physical sciences. EPSRC invests around 800m a year in research and postgraduate training, to help the nation handle the next generation of technological change.

The areas covered range from information technology to structural engineering, and mathematics to materials science. This research forms the basis for future economic development in the UK and improvements for everyone’s health, lifestyle and culture. EPSRC works alongside other Research Councils with responsibility for other areas of research. The Research Councils work collectively on issues of common concern via research Councils UK.

For more information please visit Postgraduate Computer Science at the University of Exeter.


Research reveals new secret weapon for Le Tour

7 Jul

Winning margins in the Tour de France can be tight – last year just 39 seconds separated the top two riders after more than 90 hours in the saddle. When every second counts, riders do everything possible to gain a competitive advantage – from using aerodynamic carbon fibre bikes to the very latest in sports nutrition.

Now there could be a new, completely legal and rather surprising weapon in the armoury for riders aiming to shave vital seconds off their time – beetroot juice. Continue reading

Acupuncture has significant impact on mystery illnesses

13 Jun

(Taken From Daily Telegraph)

One in five patients has symptoms which are undiagnosed by medicine, and the cost of treating them is twice that as of a diagnosed patient.

Acupuncture has a ‘significant’ effect on patients with mystery symptoms

A team from the University of Exeter examined 80 patients, and investigated the benefit of acupuncture being added to their usual care.

After the first trial of its type, researchers say those who underwent acupuncture showed ‘a significant and sustained benefit’ and add that the treatment could be safely added to the list of possible therapies.

Of the 80 patients, nearly 60 per cent reported musculoskeletal problems, and in the three months prior to the experiment had accounted for treatment including 44 hospital visits, 52 hospital clinic visits, 106 outpatient clinic visits and 75 visits to non NHS workers.

Half were treated with acupuncture for 26 weeks with the other acting as a control group, reports the British Journal of General Practice.

Those treated with acupuncture had a ‘significantly improved’ overall wellbeing, reporting further benefits such as new self-awareness about what caused stress in their lives and better diet and exercise.

At 26 weeks the control group also underwent acupuncture – and reported the same benefits.

Comments from patients included “the energy is the main thing I have noticed. You know, yeah, it’s marvellous!” and

“Where I was going out and cutting my grass, now I’m going out and cutting my neighbour’s after because he’s elderly”;

Dr Charlotte Paterson, who managed the trial, said: “Our research indicates that the addition of up to 12 five-element acupuncture consultations to the usual care experienced by the patients in the trial was feasible and acceptable and resulted in improved overall well-being that was sustained for up to a year.

“This is the first trial to investigate the effectiveness of acupuncture treatment to those with unexplained symptoms, and the next development will be to carry out a cost-effectiveness study with a longer follow-up period.

“While further studies are required, this particular study suggests that GPs may recommend a series of five-element acupuncture consultations to patients with unexplained symptoms as a safe and potentially effective intervention.”

She added: “Such intervention could not only result in potential resource savings for the NHS, but would also improve the quality of life for a group of patients for whom traditional biomedicine has little in the way of effective diagnosis and treatment.”

South West University Videos

13 Jun

If you’re thinking of attending University in the South West of England, here are a few videos to have a look at them. If you’re having trouble deciding which one you’d prefer, take a look through them all. It might help you with your decision.

Exeter University – History MA


Plymouth University

Falmouth University

University of Bristol

University of the West of England, Bristol

Bournemouth University 

The Open University

10 Useful Articles about the Tuition Fees Increase

13 Jun

Unless you’ve been living underground for the past few months, you’ll have heard about the increase to the tuition fee cap to £9000.

Obviously, this has caused a lot of debate from students, parents, MPs and members of the public alike.

Here is a list of 10 articles that you may be interested in reading. They’re all based on the tuition fee increase, however some are different to others.

Can Britain Afford Higher Tuition Fees?

David Cameron Summons Universities to Crunch Tuition Fees

Higher Tuition Fees could impact Rent

Enjoy Education – University Tuition Fees

Tuition Fees could be the end of 10 Universities

MPs warn over tuition fees funding gap

Oxbridge Revolt against Tuition Fees

LSE Votes against setting £9000 tuition fees

£9000 tuition fees will make the student an endangered species

Tuition Fee Debt Will Treble in Four Years

If you have any interesting articles on tuition fees, please comment or get in touch here

Exeter Vice-Chancellor honoured with knighthood

13 Jun

The University of Exeter’s Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Professor Steve Smith has been knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List for his services to higher education locally and nationally.

His new title will be Professor Sir Steve Smith.

The Vice-Chancellor has led a transformation of the University, since he arrived in 2002. Under his leadership the University has seen major improvements in research and teaching, facilities, the employability of Exeter students and the University’s overall standing in the world. The University of Exeter is now ranked within the top 1% of universities globally and listed as one of the fastest growing organisations in Europe. In his role as President of Universities UK (UUK) since August 2009 Professor Smith has led the sector through the politics and major changes in the funding of higher education.

Professor Sir Steve Smith has written or edited 15 books, over 100 academic papers and has given over 170 academic presentations in 22 countries. In 2001 he became only the second UK academic to be elected President of the International Studies Association in the USA. In 2000 he was elected Academician of the Academy of the Learned Societies in the Social Sciences and in 1999 was the recipient of the Susan Strange Award of the International Studies Association for the person who has most challenged the received wisdom in the profession.

From June 2007 until May 2010, he led for higher education on the Prime Minister’s National Council of Excellence in Education, which provided advice to Government about strategy and measures to achieve world-class education performance for all children and young people.

He is Chair of the UUK UK Board and the UUK Executive Committee. He is also a Member of the Government’s Research Base Funders Forum, and was a Member of the Advisory Forum of Independent Review of Higher Education, which advised Lord Browne’s independent review of higher education funding. In addition, Professor Sir Steve is also a Board member of the 1994 Group of Universities; Member of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) Advisory Group; Member of the Higher Education Funding Council for England’s (HEFCE) Financial Sustainability Strategy Group; Member of the Times Higher Education (THE) Editorial Board, and Member of the General Advisory Council for the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT).

In the South West, Professor Sir Steve’s appointments include membership of the South West of England Regional Development Agency Board.