Today's news

January 3, 2003

Inquiry held into Star Wars cover up
One of America's most prestigious universities, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said yesterday that it had begun an inquiry into claims that its scientists had covered up evidence of critical problems with President Bush's proposed national missile defence system. The outcome of the inquiry could be damaging to the administration, which has built its defence strategy around the $238 billion (£149 billion) missile defence scheme.

Sex disease created to sell new drugs
Drug companies have come under fire for trying to invent a new disease, female sexual dysfunction, to generate Viagra-sized profits from curing it. Critics say that the condition is a myth, created simply to provide a market. But the drug companies argue that sexual difficulties among women are even more common than they are among men and are crying out to be cured. The argument surfaces today in an editorial in the British Medical Journal which says that female sexual dysfunction is the clearest example yet of "the corporate-sponsored creation of a disease".
(Times, Daily Telegraph, Guardian)

Orang-utans' fond raspberries explained
Orang-utans have a rich and varied culture, including table manners, jumping games and saying good night to their families by affectionate raspberry-blowing, scientists have discovered. The study, by an international team of primatologists, found evidence of 24 types of behaviour that appeared to be learnt according to the traditions of particular social groups, rather than being common to the entire species. The research, published today in the journal Science, is the result of a collaboration sponsored by the Leakey Foundation, which gathered teams of experts to pool their knowledge of orang-utan behaviour.

Cocaine bites the hand that feeds it
Cocaine destroys the very cells in the brain that trigger the "high" experienced by drug users, according to research by scientists at the University of Michigan. The discovery could help to explain several aspects of addiction and help the development of anti-addiction drugs.
(Financial Times)

China aiming to join space club
China has announced plans to launch a manned spacecraft this year, becoming the third country to send people into orbit. The "taikonauts" - from the word taikong (space) - will be blasted into orbit on board the Shenzhou spacecraft in the second half of the year, China's space agency said.
(Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Guardian)

Tomorrow's World consigned to history
BBC1's popular science show has lost its weekly slot after 38 years. Although the brand name will live on, the weekly magazine format of the show will not return in 2003 because of declining audience figures. The BBC's decision has been attacked by former presenters of the show.
(Daily Telegraph)

Father of radio astronomy dies
Grote Reber, for several years the world's only radio astronomer after building a radio telescope in his Wheaton, Illinois, backyard in 1937, has died aged 90.

Classical scholar and teacher dies
Bill Watt, the outstanding classical scholar and teacher who helped to create the Norrington table that compares Oxford college results, has died aged 89.

Radical architecture educator dies
Aldwyn Douglas Jones, commonly known to architects as "DJ", who introduced a hands-on approach to the teaching of architecture in Britain, has died aged 92.

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