Today's news

August 21, 2003

Academy accused of favouring its fellows
The government is investigating allegations of "old-boy favouritism" at the British Academy after a storm of controversy over its £2 million centenary research award. Sussex University academics Vinita Damodaran and Richard Grove, who were shortlisted for the award, protested after £1 million was given to Clive Gamble from Southampton University, a fellow of the academy. A further £1 million was held back. The Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards has also become involved. It is concerned that details of shortlisted applications were circulated among the academy fellows before a decision was made. The British Academy did not return calls yesterday.
(THES, Times) Click here for the full story.

Reactions to GCSE results
Record failure rate fuels exams row (Guardian). GCSE passes fall in maths and foreign languages (Times). Pass rates lowest for a decade (Independent). Girls still lead as GCSE pass rate rises again (Daily Telegraph). Boys fight back in GCSE exams (Independent). Northern Ireland and Wales outshine England (Guardian). Employers lament lack of school leavers' skills as pass rate falls. (Financial Times). Pupils opt for studies of spirit and wallet (Guardian).

Egypt bans Briton in Nefertiti dispute
The world of Egyptology burst into controversy yesterday when Joann Fletcher of York University, one of Britain's most prominent archaeologists, was banned by the Egyptian government from continuing her work. Egypt's Supreme Council for Antiquities says that she has "cheated the world" by publishing inaccurate information about Nefertiti, ancient Egypt's most famous queen.

2003 Oxford English Dictionary published today
3,000 new words, including muppet - or idiot, muggle - J.K. Rowling's patented term for a non-wizard, and egosurfing, officially enter the language today (Financial Times, Independent). Also, why the hyphen may be heading for extinction (Times, Guardian), and why the apostrophe is heading for a full stop (Daily Telegraph).

Enola Gay flies into new A-bomb controversy
America's most distinguished museum, has been plunged into a diplomatic firestorm by plans to display the Enola Gay, the second world war aircraft that dropped the atom bomb on Hiroshima, without any mention of casualties inflicted on the ground. Japanese survivors have called on the Smithsonian Institution to scrap plans to display the giant B-29 Superfortress, the centrepiece of a new air and space exhibition just outside Washington.
(Daily Telegraph)

Hospitals to trial cannabis drug as painkiller
The medical research council announced yesterday that it is to spend £500,000 on a controversial trial to see whether or not cannabis can relieve the pain of patients who have undergone surgery. 400 patients will be enrolled in spite of a critical review by eminent pain scientists published in the British Medical Journal in July 2002.
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Times, Independent)

Academic says Portland Vase is not Roman
The Portland Vase, one of the most prized ancient artefacts in the British Museum, is from the Renaissance period and not Roman, according to US scholar Jerome Eisenberg, a specialist in fakes in ancient art. He will present his findings at the XVIth International Congress of Classical Archaeology at Harvard this month. His paper is published in next month's issue of Minerva. The British Museum insisted yesterday that the piece is Roman.

Swedish flatworm is mankind's cousin
Cambridge University researchers reveal that Xenoturbella bocki, an inch-long worm that lives in the mud at the bottom of Swedish fjords, is mankind's long-lost cousin. The discovery of the closest-known invertebrate relative of human beings is published in the journal Nature.
(Times, Independent, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail)

American rabbit is first victim of climate change
According to a study in the US Journal of Mammology, the American pika, a small, mountain-dwelling, round-eared relative of the rabbit yesterday became the first mammal that scientists believe has fallen victim to climate change.
(Daily Telegraph, Guardian)

Scientists shed light on secret of alchemy
New Scientist reports that researchers at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow have found a way of turning gold into base metals. The experiment marks the first time that one metal has been converted into another without resorting to nuclear reactors or vast atom smashers.

Sponge shows the way to make fibre optics
A superior version of fibre optics was first invented by a sea sponge, scientists from Bell Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey, report today in the journal Nature.
(Daily Telegraph)

Race, class, education, education
Reader's reactions to the Oxbridge admissions debate and the dichotomy between Higher National Diplomas and foundation degrees.
(Daily Telegraph)

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