Today's news

March 3, 2003

Universities challenged to find private sponsors
The chancellor, Gordon Brown, is threatening to cut government funding for universities unless they agree to sweeping management reforms and attract more sponsorship from industry. Mr Brown believes universities have been largely immune from the pressure for change that has been imposed on other parts of the public sector. He will use an inquiry into collaboration between higher education and business, commissioned by the Treasury, as a lever to demand reforms of universities. The review, which is being led by Richard Lambert, a former editor of the Financial Times , will report by October. The move threatens to open a new rift between the government and vice-chancellors, who guard their independence fiercely. Universities are already complaining that they lack the resources to meet the government's targets for increasing the number of school leavers who go into further education.
(Independent)

Explorer's fateful spear up for auction
The spear that killed the explorer Captain James Cook is expected to fetch up to £2,000 at auction this month. An Edinburgh auction house is selling the weapon, which was handed down through the family of one of Cook's officers, and fashioned into a walking stick. Cook was 50 years old when he was killed in Hawaii on 14 February 1779, in what is believed to have been a revenge attack by islanders.
(Guardian, Times)

Antarctic time capsules reveal climate secrets
Polar scientists from 10 European nations announced over the weekend that they had drilled the deepest hole into the oldest ice of the Antarctic. At 3,201 metres, more than two miles, the ice core is twice as deep and old as the previous record. They are preparing to study tiny bubbles of air trapped inside the Antarctic ice sheet for more than 800,000 years to investigate the history of the Earth's climate. Similar ice cores taken from the Greenland ice sheet have shown that the Earth has experienced rapid periods of warming and cooling, where average global temperatures have changed by as much as 10C in less than 30 years.
(Independent)

Scientists find cancer agent
A gene that promotes the spread of cancer through the body has been discovered, providing a new target for drug treatment. Scientists at George Washington University in Washington DC report in the journal Molecular Biology of the Cell that the cyclin D1 gene plays an important part in metastasis, the process by which cancer cells break off from the primary tumour and form secondary cancers elsewhere.
(Times)

Mutated gene linked to epilepsy
A malfunctioning gene that triggers the most common form of epilepsy has been discovered by researchers at the University of Bonn, Germany. The mutated gene can hamper the release of a brain chemical that normally prevents epileptic seizures.
(Times)

Giant of American sociology dies
Robert Merton, the American sociologist who coined such phrases as "self-fulfilling prophecy", "role model" and "reference group" and whose work shaped the basic definition of the discipline in the mid-20th century, has died aged 92.
(Guardian)

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