Today's news

May 31, 2002

Strain of AS level blamed for fall in maths
Applications for university courses in maths and computing have slumped, while more students want to study history and medicine, official figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show. Teachers and academics blamed problems with the first year of AS-level mathematics for the drop in interest.
( Independent )

Blundering exam board ‘must lose its licence’
Britain’s biggest headteachers’ union called for the exam board Edexcel to be stripped of its licence last night after it was forced to apologise for its second blunder in less than a week. The examinations watchdog, the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, has already launched an inquiry into the latest string of errors by the board, which gave thousands of students potentially misleading instructions for the new vocational business studies A level.
( Independent, Guardian )  

Children at risk from junk food timebomb
Britain’s children are eating themselves into ill-health, experts warned yesterday. Their junk-food diets are storing up serious health problems and threatening an obesity epidemic, a meeting of specialists at the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health heard.
( Daily Mail, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mirror )

Adviser accuses BBC of being anti-GM in ‘ridiculous’ thriller
The BBC was accused by one of its own advisers of inflaming the hysteria surrounding genetically modified crops with factual errors and bad science in a new drama. Mark Tester, a GM crop researcher at Cambridge University, disowned the corporation’s thriller Fields of Gold .
( Daily Telegraph, Independent, Times, Guardian )

Organic farming is ‘more efficient’
Organic farming produces healthier soils than conventional crops and is more efficient, according to the most comprehensive study to date. But it will make it harder to feed the world since its crop yields are, on average, 20 per cent smaller than conventional crops. The 24-year comparison of the methods, published in Science , was conducted by Paul Mader and colleagues at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture in Switzerland.
( Daily Telegraph, Independent, Times )

Epsom salts cut maternity risks
An injection of Epsom salts can more than halve the risk of a common pregnancy complication becoming life-threatening, according to a new study. Doctors conducting the international trial involving more than 10,000 women said the findings, published in The Lancet today, would have an instant impact on the treatment of pre-eclampsia.
( Daily Telegraph, Times, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror )

Global warming ‘is driving fish north’
Plankton species have moved 600 miles north, red mullet are now caught in Scottish waters and 200 British plants are flowering 15 days earlier than in the 1980s – three separate signs of advancing climate change, scientists said yesterday. Three different studies published in Science yesterday add up to the clearest evidence yet that the rising temperatures that have been documented over the past decade are causing major changes in the natural world. 
( Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Daily Mail, Daily Mirror )

Ancient Gallic mystery uncovered
The remains of eight Gallic warriors and their horses have been uncovered by archaeologists near the French city of Clermont-Ferrand. The bodies, neatly aligned in two rows, are believed to date from shortly before the Roman conquest in the 1st century BC, when the settlement of Gondole was an important stronghold of the Gallic tribes.
( Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail )

Fog, chicken and porn: it’s Turner Prize time again
Unembarrassed that last year’s prize went to an artist whose piece de resistance was a light bulb going on and off, the jury for this year’s £20,000 Turner Prize announced a shortlist yesterday that will have traditionalists reaching for their smelling salts again. Not one painter made the four-strong list.
( Daily Telegraph, Independent, Times, Guardian )

Ex-Nazi Waldheim gives foreign relations prize
A former Wehrmacht lieutenant and ex-UN secretary general, Kurt Waldheim, has endowed an annual academic prize in his own name for a researcher or student at the Lebanese University who wins a contest in international relations.
( Independent )

Pest delivers bitter blow in fight to protect potato
A warning that genetic engineering can have unexpected effects comes from an attempt by scientists to make potato plants resistant to sap-sucking insects. Plants were given lectin genes to deter aphids, but scientists at the Scottish Crop Research Institute have found plants containing these genes have lower levels of glycoalkaloids, a chemical that makes them unpalatable to many insects. This makes the plants more vulnerable to the potato leafhopper, another pest, says the study reported in New Scientist .
( Financial Times )

Scottish agency in £100m move
Scottish Enterprise, the UK’s biggest economic development agency, is to invest £100 million over the next five years to create a series of “intermediate technology institutes” designed to spur greater commercialisation of Scottish academic research in energy, communications technology and life sciences.
( Financial Times )

Immunity to smallpox lost
Almost everyone who was vaccinated against smallpox in the 1970s and earlier has probably lost immunity to the disease, says a survey in New Scientist .
( Financial Times )


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