August 9, 1996

Sticky end

Congratulations to the press office at Southampton University, whose evocative prose can elicit sympathy even for the cockroach. Describing a trap made by biologist Philip Howse, a press release reads: "A scent attractive to cockroaches is used to entice the creatures into the trap and once inside they find themselves walking on a special electrostatically charged powder that makes it impossible for them to grip. The surface is sloped and, unable to hold on, they slip on to a sticky surface below, where they remain trapped." The device, the release adds, is environmentally friendly.

Chair man Jim Wilson, Strathclyde University's international student adviser, can boast a closer encounter than most with the great and the good at the royal garden party at Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace. He was among a group being approached by the Queen when a guest in front of him fainted. Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth promptly turned to Mr Wilson and commanded: "Get that woman a chair." Mr Wilson duly complied and is now eagerly awaiting the next honours list.

Work it out A strongly Freudian hint for those who wonder where unemployment will rank among the priorities of a Blair government can be found in the reading list included in the Blairite policy network Nexus's first newsletter. It renames Nobel prize-winner James Meade's most recent thoughts on the subject as Dull Employment Regained.

Due south A very warm apology to the whole of Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, which was mysteriously relocated across a hemisphere, the international dateline, the Pacific Ocean and a couple of tropics to Australia in this section last week. Unless of course they'd rather be in Australia . . .

Birth day And is incipient Oz influence also at work at the University of Hertfordshire? A study day on Waterbirths and intrapartum care will be held there on October 7 which, our correspondent notes, just happens to be Labor Day in New South Wales, South Australia and the Capital Territory.

Ground cover Matthew Kaufman, the Edinburgh University professor of anatomy who decided to reconstruct the face of 16th- century scholar George Buchanan from his skull (see page 2), has published an account of the technique in the Proceedings of the Royal College of Physicians of Edinburgh. This journal is clearly aimed at a broad readership: the topics flagged up on the cover include "Falls in the Elderly", "Waist-Hip Ratios", "Gonorrhoea: HIV" and "Rhododendrons".

Bull's-eye This week's award for putting your academic discipline to practical external purposes goes to D. G. Crighton, head of applied mathematics at Cambridge University, whose team has just won the departmental darts competition. As Professor Crighton is also chair of the Applied Mathematics Panel in the Research Assessment Exercise, we look forward to departments being graded between one and 20, with doubles, triples and bulls for particularly high achievers.

New boy And a big hello to Cranfield School of Management's expert on innovation, Professor New.

Terminal free zone The wonders of 1990s technology are causing great excitement at the University and Colleges Admissions Service. On-screen prospectuses, computerised tariffs of student achievement and electronic clearing are just some of the futuristic schemes now being dreamed up at its Cheltenham base.

All that seems to be lacking is a certain trickle-up factor. Chief executive Tony Higgins, the brains behind this brave new world, is sticking to paper. His desk has always remained conspicuously free of computer terminals.

Full Marcos You may be more likely to contract asbestosis than Marxism if you go to university in Paris nowadays, but there are still a fair few products of the days when they really could produce the subversives. Alumnus to be proud of No 61 is a particularly fine example, Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. This is a man capable of tying down a fair proportion of the resources of the Mexican state - which once decorated him for being the best student in the country - while simultaneously bombarding the Net with lucid statements of his political philosophy. With such a combination of the skills of elegant reasoning and of the barricade, where else could he have gone but the Sorbonne?

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