Latest research news

May 7, 2003

Government science adviser speaks out on research
The way to get the best out of universities outside the London and Oxbridge science elite is to engage them in a "stick-and-carrot" process that recognises good behaviour, Sir David King, the government's chief scientific adviser, has said. He argues that those universities that missed out on research funding tended not to understand how grant awards worked.
(Financial Times)

Devolution threat to UK innovation
Devolution could undermine Britain's lead in science and technology by spreading funding too thinly, the head of Scotland's leading electronics institute has warned. Ron Dunn, chairman of the Institute for System Level Integration, said devolution had created a policy vacuum that threatened the funding of the institute, as well as other globally important projects in the devolved regions. He said the Scottish Parliament had thrown its support behind Scottish science and technology, but he believed there had been a backlash among the "old boy network" at the Department of Trade and Industry, which was focusing its resources on English projects.
(Financial Times)

Russian mathematician cracks conundrum
For almost a century Poincaré's Conjecture has tempted, taunted and ultimately vanquished some of the brightest minds in mathematics. Now, a little-known Russian scholar from the Steklov Institute of Mathematics in St Petersburg has astonished the rarefied world of topology, the science of surfaces, by coming up with what appears to be the first formal proof after eight solitary years of work - probably. For the past month, he has been touring universities in the US explaining his proof to his peers. Many have come away convinced that he has done it, but nobody is prepared to say for sure.

Europe ready for Mars
Europe's first mission to Mars will blast off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Monday, 2 June. The Soyuz-Fregat launcher carrying the Mars Express orbiter, and its lander, Beagle 2, is expected to leave the launch pad at 2345 local time (1745 GMT).
The launch date and time were set following a successful review of all the spacecraft's systems last week.

Bad vibes reveal risk of rail track buckling
A simple way to prevent train crashes caused by buckled rails has been developed by engineers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The technique, developed by Richard Weaver and Vesna Damljanovic, gives an accurate measure of the stress in a rail simply by forcing it to vibrate and measuring the size of the vibrations.
(New Scientist)

New subatomic particle found
Researchers have stumbled across a new subatomic particle. The mysterious body is causing theorists to rethink their ideas about the strong force, which binds subatomic particles together into atoms. Dubbed 'Ds (2317)', the new-found particle is probably an unusual configuration of quarks - the entities that, in trios, form protons and neutrons. It could be one quark orbiting another, or perhaps a sort of molecule of four quarks.

Salamanders can do maths
Salamanders, given a choice between tubes containing two fruitflies or three, lunge at the tube of three. This hints that the ability to differentiate between small numbers of objects may have evolved much earlier than scientists had thought.

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