All posts by addsmyth

I am a postgraduate student at Edinburgh Napier University studying, yes you've guessed right, Journalism. Before moving to Edinburgh, I studied History at the University of Dundee where I gained my Undergraduate degree. I am originally from Northern Ireland but as you can see I love living in Scotland. When I have any spare time I enjoy socialising with friends, films, making music, rockclimbing, trying to cook and the odd kickabout with a football with some friends.

New research unveils deeper understanding of body fat

Scientists have recently discovered why some people are apple shaped and others pear shaped.

The optimum body shape is pear as opposed to apple. (Photo accreditation:

University of Edinburgh researchers have defined one particular protein that plays a crucial part in determining how fat is stored and distributed in the body. By obtaining a greater understanding of how this protein works, medicines can be developed to treat obesity.

Dr Nicholas Morton, from the University’s Centre for cardiovascular research said “this study opens up new avenues for research, and gives us a much better idea of why some fat in the body becomes unhealthy while other fat is safely stored for energy”. Continue reading New research unveils deeper understanding of body fat

Korea on brink of war

by Adam Smyth

Two more deaths have been confirmed today as a result of North Korea’s shelling of South korean territory yesterday.

CCTV footage showing a North Korean shell exploding in Yeonpyeong. Credit: Reuters

Adding to yesterday’s revelations that two South Korean marines were killed as a result of the North Korean artillery attack on South Korea’s Yeonpyeong island, which lies in the disputed Korean Yellow sea border, the burnt bodies of two South Korean civilians bodies were found today. The civilians were believed to be construction workers and in their 60s. The rising death toll comes amidst reports of at least 18 people injured in the bombardment in which dozens of shells exploded on the island. As well as a South Korean military base bearing the brunt of the damage in the attack,  TV pictures show civilian shops and homes burnt and destroyed also.

South Korea returned fire and scrambled fighter jets into the air as a warning to the North. It has also suspended flood aid to the North and threatened missile strikes if there were “further provocations”.

  In response to South Korea’s retaliatory fire against it, North Korea has repeated claims that Seoul provoked the artillery attack by firing into the North’s territory. It has also accused Seoul of driving the Korean peninsula to “the brink of war” with “reckless military provocation” and by postponing humanitarian aid according to the North’s official KCNA news agency.

  UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon called the developing events the “gravest incidents” since the end of the Korean War which ended on 27th July 1953 with a ceasefire, leaving the two countries technically still at war.

Amongst widespread international condemnation of North Korea’s actions, The US President has pledged to stand shoulder to shoulder with South Korea. As well as having 28,000 US troops stationed in South Korea, the USS George Washington left from south of Tokyo on Wednesday now bound for Korean waters.

The BBC’S John Sudworth in Seoul said a deterrent effect may be limited as the same aircraft carrier was in Korean waters just a few months ago as part of a show strength that appears to have done nothing to temper North Korea’s actions.

The KCNA which is North Korea’s official news agency said “the US is the arch criminal threatening the peace and stability of the region”.

German firm backs down on legal action against former Edinburgh Tram Chairman

by Adam Smyth

New developments have come to light today regarding the ongoing dispute between German construction firm Bilfinger Berger and Transport Initiative Edinburgh(TIE).


Edinburgh's expensive tramline project continues amidst a dispute between Bilfinger Berger and Transport Initiative Edinburgh credit:

The argument surrounds changes to the design of the 11.5 mile tram line being built from Newhaven to Edinburgh city Airport and who will be paying for them. Estimates for the project’s cost range from 545 to 600 million pounds. The German firm has now agreed to cancel legal action they said they would take last Friday against former Edinburgh Trams chairman David Mackay after he called Bilfinger Berger a ‘delinquent contractor’ and dismissed the entire project as ‘hell on wheels’ last week.  Yesterday a prelimary hearing in the case was to be at the court of session in Edinburgh. Behind the scenes discussions took place between the two parties and their lawyers instead, and the court was informed the hearing would not go ahead.

Earlier today Berlinger Berger issued a statement that said it was ‘concerned that Mr Mackay’s statements implied criminal behaviour on their part. Mr Mackay has today assured Bilfinger Berger that he had no intention of implying criminal behaviour’. Berger added ‘The terms of our contract means that we are not usually allowed to talk to the media but Mr Mackay’s remarks crossed the line and we were forced to react’.

The construction company is referring to David Mackay’s communication with the Scotsman which published his words which revealed he thought Bilfinger Berger was a ‘contractor who scented a victim, who probably greatly underbid and would use the contract to make life extremely difficult for the city. And they have done exactly that’.

The firm made no mention of it’s criminality concerns when announcing the action last week, instead referring to Mackay’s ‘unfounded and unjustified comments’.

Local Lothians SNP MSP Shirley Anne Somerville said ‘it really is time for TIE and Bilfinger to get a grip. They should have been getting round a table for negotiations, not fighting it out in a court room’.

Following Mackay’s unexpected leaving of his job last week, Berfinger Berger said ‘ we see the change of management on the client side as an opportunity to finally move forward with this project in an orderly manner’.

Mackay is not the only person to have quit the project. Scottish civil engineer and Berger employee Kenneth Reid, 45, from Hamilton, quit his £840,000 a year job while he was working on the Edinburgh Tramline. His bosses were quick to point out however that it had nothing to do with the dispute.

Bilfinger Berger is Germany’s second largest construction firm and have been involved in other high profile fallouts on other projects around the world. In Canada they were fired from a contract to dig two tunnels for a water filtration scheme in Vancouver after demandins extra cash to finish the job. Last year they fell out with authorities in Qatar in a row over £175 million pounds of debt on a road project.


The construction firm labelled 'delinquent' by former Edinburgh Tram chairman David Mackay. Credit:




Implanted eye chip in Germany gives blind man sight again

German scientists have pioneered a revolutionary new eye chip that will enable the blind to see again.

Professor Eberhart Zrenner of Germany’s University of Tuebingen and Colleagues at private complany Retina implant AG have recently fitted a sub retinal chip on 11 people suffering from varying degrees of inherited blindness with success.

Professor Zrenner said ‘This is proof of concept. In 1900, nobody knew if we would ever have powered flight, but then the wright brothers flew a couple of hundred metres and showed it was possible. We are in the same situation’

Among the patients are Finland native Miikka Terho, 46, who had lost sight as a teenager. He was able to identify letters and a clock face as well as different shades of grey. Terho, who was the most successful of the patients, was also able to identify cutlery and a mug on a table as well as walk around a room independently and approach people. Other patients whose condition of blindness was more developed did not have as good a result.

Surgery for each patient was completed in six hours and consisted of cutting a small flap in the retina and inserting a 3mm by 3mm chip which was connected via thin wire to an external battery on a necklace worn by the patients. The chip contains 1,500 light sensitive elements that replace defunct cells in the retina. These elements then send signals to the brain and help the patient differentiate light and darkness.

The chip is suitable for people with inherited conditions that effect the rod and cone cells in the retina such as retinitus pigmentosa (RP), and choroideraemia. RP is a degeneration of cells in the eye’s retina. Usually the symptoms begin in early childhood and progress onto night blindness, tunnel vision and eventually permanent blindness. The chip would not be successful in all cases of blindness, for instance where the optic nerve was damaged.

Terho said ‘Three or four days after the implantation, when everything was healed, I was like wow, there’s activity. Right after that, if my eye hit the light, then I was able to see flashes, some activity which I hadn’t had. Even having a limited ability to see with the chip, it will be good for orientation, either walking somewhere or being able to see that something is before you even if you don’t see all the tiny details of the object.’

British teams led in part by consultant retinal surgeon Robert Maclean at Oxford eye hospital will implant the chip in the first UK patients in a multicentre trial starting early next year.

Other eye experts are more sceptical of the eye chip. David Head, of the British RP society said ‘It’s really fascinating work, but it doesn’t restore vision. It rather gives people signals which help them to interpret.’

The prototype chip has now been removed from Terho but he has been promised an upgrade. The German science team are now creating a chip that will be completely internal, with power delivered through the skin via an external device that clips behind the ear.

by Adam Smyth

Sparks of new music ignite in Edinburgh

by Adam Smyth

The Tinderbox Project, in Edinburgh is seeking to bridge the gap between classical and contemporary music by working with established musicians and up and coming bands. Young musicians aged 13- 21 who have a grade of six or above will be working alongside more than 75 musicians, bands, composers, teachers and artists.

Young orchestral musicians as well as drummers, saxophonists and guitarists will be collaborating with bands such as the Horndog Brass band and Conquering animal sound and playing contemporary music such as Jimi Hendrix and Bjork as well as composing their own original work. Over a period of ten weekly rehearsals, the project will culminate on the 12th of December at the Roxy Art House where the participants will showcase their hard work and effort to the public in a live performance.

Educational workshops each week will focus on many aspects of contemporary music; such as improvisation, composition, use of electronics, effects and how to approach and play alternative styles. There will be a strong emphasis on composition as the students will be writing an original score for the orchestra during the ten week course.

Jack Nissan, Director of the Tinderbox Project, said: “The Tinderbox Project aims to bridge the gap between youth music and the contemporary arts scene, providing young musicians with opportunities to work together with professionals on the wide array of exciting and cutting-edge creative projects taking place in Edinburgh and Scotland”.

The project is centered on redefining the concept of an orchestra for young people, as most rarely listen to classical music and are instead inspired by a wider range of more modern styles. Recent research by Susan Forge, an independent arts consultant in Edinburgh, found that young independent musicians struggle to gain a foothold in the for a career in the music industry. Tinderbox will directly address this problem.