Today's news

October 23, 2002

Foreign researchers in biology face vetting
Foreign scientists and research students may have to undergo rigorous vetting if they want to work on dangerous biological agents in British universities, senior government officials said yesterday. An informal system of checking overseas researchers wanting to work in potentially sensitive areas may also have to be tightened amid growing concern over the spread of biological weapons. Patrick Lamb, the deputy head of the Foreign Office's non-proliferation department, said the large number of researchers, many from overseas, working in British laboratories on potentially lethal germ agents was a "major problem".
(Independent, Times)

London Institute aspires to university status
Britain could soon have its first university of the creative arts if the London Institute, a federation of five of the best-known art and design colleges, succeeds in its plan to become a university in its own right next year. The colleges that make up the institute have been acclaimed for achieving some of the highest grades in Britain from the Higher Education and Funding Council, which assesses university research standards, for the quality of their art and design studies. The Qualifications Assurance Agency said last night that it could take up to a year to decide on the application.

Museums dismayed by funding decision
Britain's regional museums are to receive a total of £30 million from the government over the next four years - less than a third of what they had expected. A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said yesterday: "It is a time of tight public expenditure control." Exactly how the money will be divided among the regional museums has yet to be decided. There was also disappointment for the British Museum. The government is giving it a one-off grant of £400,000 to enable it to open some of its 100 galleries that have been closed for half the week over the past six months, but that is only for one year, and its grant for 2005-06 represents a rise of just 2.5 per cent on the previous year.
(Times, Independent)

Canadian wins the Booker prize
The £50,000 Man Booker Prize was won by Yann Martel last night in the most surreal of circumstances, seven days after the organisers mistakenly announced his victory on their website. The 39-year-old, who was born in Spain and lives in Montreal, charmed the judges with The Life of Pi , his magical realist tale of a boy who survives adrift on a lifeboat in the Pacific with a hyena, an orang-utan, a zebra with a broken leg and a bad-tempered Bengal tiger called Richard Parker.
(Guardian, Independent, Financial Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

Notebook of Larkin poems saved from the dump
A notebook of "lost" poems and jottings by Philip Larkin has emerged in his home town of Hull after reportedly being saved from the rubbish tip by an attentive furniture worker. Then book contains hand-written notes on Thomas Hardy and two "new" verses. How the book came to leave Mr Larkin's house is unclear. The Society of Authors is taking legal advice.
(Independent, Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

TV presenter to be youngest professor
The television presenter Dr Kathy Sykes will become the country's youngest professor, charged with making science sexy, when she takes up her chair at Bristol University next month. Dr Sykes, 35, has been appointed as the fifth holder of the Collier chair in the public understanding of science and technology, the university said yesterday.
(Daily Telegraph)

Rare nudes uncovered in Roman church
Two rare sculptures of seductively posed nude women have been uncovered during restoration works in the Sant'Isidoro church in Rome. The figures, representing truth and charity, were designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and sculpted in the 1660s. They were censored by religious leaders in 1863 and hidden behind bronze corsets.

Carbon fibre car to make light of petrol costs
A lightweight car made of carbon fibre that will run at 90 miles to the gallon is to be built in Britain. The Aerostable Carbon Car will be able to reach speeds of 95mph using a conventional 660cc petrol engine. The high cost of building carbon fibre body shells by hand has deterred most manufacturers until now. However, a team at Cranfield University has found ways of mass-producing the shells.

Bubonic plague vaccine
The first vaccine to protect against bubonic plague has been developed by Ministry of Defence scientists, but it will not be ready to protect troops who may be involved in an invasion of Iraq. The last fatal case of plague in Britain was reported 89 years ago.

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