Black hole in Milky Way devours planetoids

Every day flashes, observed near the supermassive black hole (SMBH) in the Milky Way, are caused by planetoids being devoured by the black hole. Professor Simon Portegies Zwart and his research graduate Adrian Hamers have recently established this by calculating precisely the orbital evolution of the planetoids close to the black hole. Publication in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

Tolkien and fiction-based religions

Markus Altena Davidsen’s PhD dissertation is the first major study of Tolkien Religion. In it, he analyses the religion that is based on the stories by acclaimed British fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien. He also discusses how fiction itself can become religious. Davidsen will defend his dissertation on 16 October.

Smoking cannabis doesn’t make you more creative

People often think that smoking cannabis makes them more creative. However, research by Leiden psychologists Lorenza Colzato and Mikael Kowal shows that the opposite is true. They published their findings on 7 October in Psychopharmacology.

Did fruit contribute to Apple’s success?

Steve Jobs swore by a fruit diet, as he believed it improved his ideas. And he wasn’t wrong: food with high levels of tyrosine, like bananas, peaches and almonds, allow us to think harder and more creatively. Leiden cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato published an article on the subject on 26 September in Psychological Research.

Dirk Bouwmeester and Corinne Hofman receive NWO Spinoza Prize

On 9 September, in the presence of King Willem Alexander, Secretary of State Sander Dekker presented the Spinoza Prize to four researchers, including two researchers from Leiden: archaeologist Corinne Hofman and physicist Dirk Bouwmeester. In the Nieuwe Kerk in The Hague, they unveiled their plans for the future.

Australia is criminalising boat refugees – will the EU follow?

In Australia, disadvantaged boat immigrants are increasingly seen and treated as criminals. Voices are also being raised in support of this kind of policy in Europe. PhD candidate Patrick van Berlo investigated the issue and will share his conclusions at one of the Cleveringa meetings on 23 November.

Prince Constantijn: research on big data urgently needed

Policy makers urgently need scientists’ help with the phenomenon of big data. This was the view expressed by Prince Constantijn, speaking at the opening of the Leiden Centre of Data Science, the virtual centre for research on big data at Leiden University.

Snake and scorpion venom for new antibiotics

Hospital bacteria resistant to antibiotics are a growing problem. Together with colleague Michael Richardson and experts from LUMC and Naturalis, Leiden antibiotics expert Gilles van Wezel is searching for new antibiotics in snake and scorpion venom. He will be getting an injection of funds from the NWO to help him do that.

An error rattles the brain temporarily

A slip-up, a speech error or a missed musical note literally knocks us out of our rhythm and makes us slow down, write Leiden psychologists in the Journal of Neuroscience. ‘Due to an “Oops, a mistake!” reaction, the brain becomes momentarily distracted,’ says Leiden scholar Rudy van den Brink, first author of the article.

Close contact between women and dogs in prehistoric times

Women and dogs were in close contact in the neolithic age of hunters-fishers-gatherers. This has been suggested by Leiden osteoarchaeologist Dr Andrea Waters-Rist and fellow researchers who have studied a tiny biological fossil. The fossil was found close to the skeleton of a female at the 8000-year-old burial site in Southern Siberia. The researchers' findings have been published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.

The Oegstgeest bowl and the bones of a giant king mentioned in Beowulf

Recently, archeologists of Leiden University made an excavation in Oegstgeest, where they found a unique silver bowl from the first half of the seventh century as well as imported pottery and winebarrels. Thijs Porck, lecturer in Old English language and culture at Leiden University, places the Oegstgeest finds in a literary-historical context. "It wouldn't surprise me if the Leiden archaeologists soon encountered a pair of oversized bones."

Discovery of a unique silver bowl from the Early Middle Ages

On an excavation site in Oegstgeest Leiden University archaeologists discovered a very rare silver bowl from the first half of the seventh century. The bowl is decorated with gold-plated representations of animals and plants and inlaid with semi-precious stones. The discovery suggests the existence of an elite with a wide international network in Oegstgeest.

The role of insults in an honour culture

People from an ‘honour culture’ often respond more aggressively to insults and provocations than those from a ‘dignity culture’. Saïd Shafa examined the underlying mechanisms and discovered how such responses can be avoided. PhD Defence 26 June.

Extra year infant school really necessary?

When learning to read and do arithmetic it is important for a child to be able to remember instructions and complete assigned tasks. The development of these sorts of functions is a good predictor for reading and arithmetic skills, concludes Neely Anne Davidse. Hyperactivity and lack of concentration do not necessarily mean a child should spend longer in infant school. Dissertation defence on 25 June.

Leiden University lends South Africa a hand

In five years, South Africa should have access to a wide range of scientific information, raw material for determining what direction the country needs to move in. Leiden University is participating in the Centre of Excellence (CoE) set up especially for science and innovation. Leiden professor Robert Tijssen: ‘We are going to produce a clear picture.’

Lecturers struggle to integrate research into teaching

Lecturers are not always successful at integrating research into their teaching, despite the popularity of this trend around the globe. Is that sort of integration always desirable and possible? PhD candidate Yanjuan Hu interviewed Dutch and Chinese lecturers and found that they did not differ much from each other. Dissertation defence on 26 June.