Latest research news

November 13, 2002

Inventors get more cash to plug brain drain
Nesta, the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts, has been given a grant of £95 million by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. The cash will go towards halting the brain drain of British ideas by offering financial support for creative minds seeking to exploit their ideas in this country. The announcement of the grant yesterday came as Nesta unveiled research showing that creative people in Britain felt that they were not valued by society and were also viewed as eccentrics, loners and even subversives. The survey found that one in six of Nesta award-winners felt that they were not taken seriously by funders as potential drivers of the economy. The new money, which is subject to parliamentary approval, will be used to top up the £200 million endowment Nesta received in 1998 to provide project grants.

Colleges really are doing something right
A resounding vote of confidence in further education colleges has just emerged from the Learning and Skills Council's first national survey of "learner satisfaction". The research shows that more than 90 per cent of learners interviewed are satisfied with the education and training they get in colleges and the workplace. And nearly nine out of 10 people who left school with negative attitudes say that has been reversed.

Loan offer for Elgin Marbles rejected
The Greek minister of culture went to the British Museum yesterday seeking the return of the Elgin Marbles. The proposal, which was turned down flat, was made during an hour-long meeting with the director and chairman of the museum. The museum has always argued that the marbles were legally acquired by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador. Greece is building a £55 million Acropolis Museum crowned with an upper glass gallery called the Parthenon Hall, which will remain empty until the 176-yard frieze has been restored to its original home.
(Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Wine halves risk of dementia
Drinking a glass of wine once a week may protect against Alzheimer's disease in old age, according to a study published today. Danish researchers have found that people who drink wine occasionally were half as likely to develop dementia. The team believe that flavonoids, the natural antioxidants found in wine, may have a beneficial effect on the brain. The study, published in the journal Neurology· , found that those who drank wine every day had the same risk of developing dementia. But weekly or monthly wine consumption lowered it.
(Daily Telegraph)

Mothers can learn if their girls will become tomboys
Sceintists can predict whether young girls will be tomboys by measuring the levels of testosterone in their mothers' blood during pregnancy. Researchers at City of London and Bristol universities found that mothers of girls aged three and a half who were extremely feminine in their behaviour had the lowest levels of testosterone in their blood during pregnancy. Mothers of girls who were extremely masculine in behaviour had the highest levels. Boys were also tested, but the mother’s testosterone levels appeared not to relate to their behaviour.

Dried rice makes less gas
Asia's increasing water shortage is threatening agriculture, but it may have a happy side-effect. It is reducing the amount of the greenhouse gas methane that rice crops release into the atmosphere. Changes in rice cultivation over the past two decades may have cut the methane paddy fields emit by around 12 per cent, say scientists from China and the US. (Nature)

Quasars put lens on dark energy
Observations of distant quasars distorted by massive invisible objects have provided fresh evidence that the universe is mostly made up of mysterious "dark energy". The research indicates that around two-thirds of the universe consists of dark energy, a strange "anti-gravity" force affecting distant objects. (New Scientist)

Chemists build body fluid battery
Our bodies could one day power their own electronic implants. Chemists have developed a miniature battery that could run on bodily fluids to drive sensors to monitor our health. (Nature)

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