Latest research news

June 11, 2002

‘Big four’ pull away as research income rises
Total research income for UK universities increased steadily last year, but the “big four” – Oxford University, University College London, Imperial College, London and Cambridge University – are pulling away from the rest of the Russell Group pack. (The Guardian)

Cuts harm NHS plans, BMA says
Plans to bolster the National Health Service by increasing sharply the number of doctors are being jeopardised by cuts in medical school funding, the British Medical Association warned yesterday. Changes in their funding formula mean that between a third and a half of medical schools face cuts just as the number of medical students is being boosted by 56 per cent. (The Financial Times, The Times)

Brown promises cash for reforms
Cash will be pumped into education, science and transport, chancellor Gordon Brown said yesterday. He stressed that reforms would be needed in return for the extra investment, which is to be confirmed in July. (The Daily Mirror)

Heading off conflicts of interest
After a rash of high-profile ethical controversies, Rory Daly and John Wakeford suggest a code of practice for academics working with industrial sponsors. (The Guardian)

Fiction makes for lucid dreams
People who regularly read novels and short stories have stranger dreams than those who prefer non-fiction. A study of 10,000 people, led by Mark Blagrove of the University of Wales, Swansea, found that fans of fantasy novels were more likely to experience lucid dreams, in which they were
aware that they were dreaming, and children who read horror books and thrillers were three times more likely to suffer nightmares. Children’s dreams are influenced more than those of adults by television viewing. (The Daily Telegraph, The Independent)

Ketchup a cancer killer?
Tomato ketchup may help cut the risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis. A study by Joseph Levy of Ben-Gurion University in Israel has found that lycopene and two other tomato nutrients, phytophene and phytofluene, helped stop the growth of cancerous cells. Another study, by Leticia Rao of the University of Toronto, found that a diet rich in tomatoes could also help prevent osteoporosis. She found that lycopene, which may protect against prostate cancer in men, prevents the activity of oestoclasts, cells that destroy bone. (The Daily Mail)

Fossils point to asteroid causing dinosaurs' demise
A massive asteroid impact, not volcanic activity, caused the climate change that wiped out the dinosaurs, new fossil evidence suggests. David Beerling at the University of Sheffield and colleagues analysed fossilised leaves from plants living before and after the extinction. The work suggests the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere increased suddenly and dramatically 65 million years ago. (New Scientist)

Common gene mutation linked to drug addiction
A common mutation in a gene that controls the breakdown of the brain's natural cannabinoids contributes to drug abuse and addiction, new US work suggests. (New Scientist)

Hollow promise for fibre optics
Optical fibres currently do the boring legwork in telecommunications. Soon these light-filled strands may play a more active role. Researchers at Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, have created optical fibres that can be switched between different states that transmit light of different colours. These fibres can process signals as well as carry them. (Nature)
   

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