Today's news

May 15, 2003

Universities' flawed complaints system could be scrapped
The end of the antiquated university "visitor" system that deals with student grievances appeared in sight yesterday after a landmark case involving a former student's long-running dispute with his college was referred to the Court of Appeal. One-time postgraduate student Kevin Wilkinson, now 47, complained that Aston University in Birmingham had failed to provide him with a supervisor for his PhD studies, which started in summer 1997. The case was referred from the High Court to the Appeal Court yesterday by Mr Justice Buckley, but it could go all the way to the House of Lords.
(Guardian)

Hope revives amid ashes at Basra University
So much needs to be corrected that Basra University will not soon open its doors - it has no doors; the looters took those. In some departments, the devastation was total. But hope of an academic renaissance in Iraq is alive despite the enormous rebuilding of facilities and faculties that lies ahead. Mohammed Jassim, a chemistry professor, has just been elected dean by his colleagues - a development that would have been unheard of under the cronyism of Saddam Hussein - and the future looks suddenly brighter.
(Guardian)

Diamond-studded journey to centre of the Earth
One of the great science fiction epics of Jules Verne could soon become reality: a leading scientist is planning to send a grapefruit-sized probe on a journey to the centre of the Earth. The sensor, which would be made from diamonds to withstand temperatures of more than 4,000C, would be blasted into the bowels of the planet by a "reverse volcano" of liquid iron under plans advanced today in the journal Nature by a professor of planetary sciences at the California Institute of Technology. The project would cost an estimated $10 billion.
(Times)

Giants of the ocean facing extinction
More than 90 per cent of the world's stocks of large fish such as tuna, marlin and swordfish have disappeared over the past half-century, purged from the ocean by industrial fishing, research has found. Dramatic cuts in fishing quotas and subsidies, as well as the introduction of new technology to eliminate the catching of unwanted species, are needed to reverse the decline, scientists from Dalhousie University in Canada and Kiel University in Germany say. Details of the research are published today in the journal Nature.
(Times, Independent)

Stargazers hoping for eerie lunar eclipse
An eerie lunar eclipse is expected to delight early risers tomorrow when the Moon will blush red against a deep blue dawn sky. As the Moon sinks towards the south-western horizon at 4.40am, the Earth's shadow will be cast over its surface, turning it the colour of brick. At 3.03am the Moon will enter the darker umbral shadow, which will gradually engulf it until the total eclipse at 4.13am. From London, the Moon will set at 5.17am, when it is still in partial shadow.
(Daily Telegraph)

Small moons discovered orbiting Jupiter
Astronomers have discovered another 23 moons orbiting Jupiter, bringing the giant planet's total to 60. The new moons, between 1.25 and 5 miles across, are the smallest discovered around any planet, report Dr Scott Sheppard and Dr David Jewitt, of the Institute for Astronomy, Hawaii University, in the journal Nature today.
(Daily Telegraph)

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