Manchester’s week in science: 1st-8th March

‘The dress’ explained by manchester vision scientist:

So, unless you’ve had your head in a hole for the last week (or you are an active research scientist – sigh), you’ve probably formed an opinion about the colour of ‘that dress’. Blue and black or white and gold, which camp did you fall into?

Although we now know that the dress was, in fact, blue and black – clinical vision scientist from the University of Manchester, Dr Neil Parry, can explain why so many people were fooled:

Parry explains that the picture of the dress is something scientists refers to as a ‘bistable image’. This means that the picture is ambiguous and can easily be interpreted in more than one way (other examples of bistable images include: the duck and the rabbit and face/vase illusion).

dressThe ambiguity surrounding the dress actually comes from its background and not from the dress itself – try cropping the image to just part of the dress and viewing it alone on a white background, your opinion of its colour may change.

Neil goes on to explain that The washed out background of the image gives the impression that it was taken outside on a particularly bright day.  On such a day, white reflects the ambient light and so, when we are outside, white materials can actually appear quite blue. Therefore, many people jump to the conclusion that this is a white dress viewed in bright natural light. This brainy trick is caused by a phenomenon known as colour constancy and it ensures that we can compensate for ambient light levels, meaning that, no matter what the light level, we always perceive colours correctly. However, if a picture lacks context – in this example our brains are unable to work out whether the picture of the dress is over-exposed or taken on a very bright day – we can easily be fooled.

So there we have it….Still, I wonder if Mancunians were harder to fool with this image than others, since we often forget what naturally bright days look like….perhaps another question to pose Dr. Parry.

Tips for staying mobile and avoiding trips and falls:

3162950165_de31784caa_zTrips and falls are the leading cause of fatal injuries in the elderly and fear of experiencing a fall means that many older people can become prisoners in their own homes. However, research from the University of Manchester shows that many of these accidents can be avoided.

As part of an EC funded project called FARSEEING, researchers from Manchester, in collaboration with partners across Europe, are working to find ways of reducing trips and falls in the elderly – ultimately meaning more older people are confident to stay in their own homes and experience higher overall mobility.

Dr Helen Hawley-Hague from the University said: “The mental and physical health benefits of being independent in the home are enormous, yet a fear of falling can prevent many people from carrying out activities.

Living with a fear of falling can create a lot of worry to family members, friends and to us – resulting in a great deal of distress. A fear of falling can also lead to us dropping out of activities and staying at home more. This can result in a loss of confidence and feelings of boredom, frustration and loneliness.”

As part of this research Dr. Hawley-Hague and her team have released 9 tips (below) for staying mobile and preventing falls alongside five films documenting simple exercises which can be done in the home and which could increase strength and balance: videos can be found here:

Dr Hawley-Hague’s advice to prevent falls:

1) Stay active and improve your strength and balance by attending a specific class run by your local authorities and health services

2) Did you know that you can be taught techniques for getting down to the floor and back up again? This will increase your confidence and is included in some strength and balance classes.

3) If you are concerned about your balance see your GP to get a referral to physiotherapy for a prescribed exercise plan

4) You can also see you GP or local authority to get a risk assessment done on your home

5) Keep moving around.  Research suggests that you should do 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week, in bouts of 10 minutes. But check with your GP if you have any existing conditions.

6) Good sturdy shoes will help you keep you balance and tucking in loose clothes prevents them catching on things.

7) Get your eyes tested regularly.  This will help you keep your balance and spot trip hazards.

8) Some medications can increase your risk of falling.  Check with your GP or discuss these issues with your pharmacist.

9) If you have fractured a limb recently and you have not had your bone health assessed, go to your GP to discuss your risk of Osteoporosis (fragile bones).

If you would like to know more about how you can be involved in developing technology which could help you to remain active or prevent falls, then get in touch with us (or your nearest university).

Exploring the entrepreneurial mindset:

5939055612_9312bc2cab_zResearch compiled by Manchester Metropolitan University’s Centre for Enterprise (CfE) is exploring the mind of the entrepreneur, in an attempt to uncover just what factors influence their success. This work provides key insights into factors necessary to mould business minds whilst also attempting to understand whether such abilities are learned or innate.

Dr Tamara McNeill, Research Associate at the CfE, said: “People have long been fascinated by what makes an entrepreneur. Around the middle of the twentieth century there was a quest for the definitive ‘entrepreneurial personality’ but we have seen a shift away from that and researchers have mostly moved on to consider different questions, for example, about how entrepreneurs think, learn and are motivated.

“The Mindset of High Growth study demonstrates the importance of learnt cognitive processes in the ‘high-growth mindset’ such as development of expertise in growing businesses, development of growth intention and the ability to self-regulate decision-making processes.”

This work has uncovered six high growth elements important in shaping an entrepreneurial mind:

1) Market Expertise is defined as the cognitive processes in growth entrepreneurs being geared towards making sales and marketing – the leading factor from the report.

2) Business Vision is when business leaders have a clear strategy and the ability to visualise and plan

3) Active Decision-making is the ability to adapt thought to minimise risk, and draw on the influence of other people and formal processes

4) Growth Drive is classed as having the distinct aspiration of wanting to grow a business

5) Sales Drive is a strong drive and passion to achieve sales – often considered a ‘given’ for many entrepreneurs

6) Innovation Drive is being able to sense new opportunities, markets, products and services.

The aim of the report is to foster a greater understanding of the personal factors associated with achieving business growth. Visit the Mindset of High Growth website for more information.

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