Today's news

September 8, 2003

British Association president warns of 'scientific dark ages'
Britain must act to prevent it slipping into the scientific equivalent of the dark ages, Sir Peter Williams, president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, said yesterday ahead of the launch of the annual festival of science, which begins at the University of Salford today. Sir Peter said he foresaw problems in sustaining scientific advancement, as fewer pupils chose biology, chemistry and physics courses at school or took science degree courses.
(Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Claim that ecstasy could cause Parkinson's was false
Incorrect labels on two laboratory bottles have been blamed for an embarrassing withdrawal of a scientific study that purported to show that one tablet of the drug ecstasy could result in Parkinson's disease later in life. The journal Science said that the study, published last September, is being retracted after the scientists from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore failed to replicate their findings. Jon Cole, a researcher in addictive behaviour from Liverpool University said that the error would damage public trust in the advice of scientists.

Ministers to stand firm over top-up fees
Senior ministers will this week tell Labour critics of government plans for student top-up fees that the policy will not undermine working-class hopes of going to college. Education secretary Charles Clarke will start calling in groups of Labour sceptics amid growing evidence that the bill to introduce £3,000-a-year top-up fees from 2006 will not get enough votes when it comes up for a second reading in the Commons in December.

Silent sounds hit emotional chords
Scientists have found a way to add a spine-tingling dimension to modern music. They played sounds on an experimental organ pipe too low to be heard during concerts of contemporary music at the Purcell Room in central London. They collected reports of strange reactions - sorrow, coldness, anxiety and shivers down the spine. University of Hertfordshire psychologist Richard Wiseman will outline the infrasound research at the British Association festival.
(Guardian, Independent, Times)

Urban myth is out for a duck
A notion often repeated by some that a duck's quack does not echo has been exposed as an urban myth by Trevor Cox of the acoustics research centre at the University of Salford. The duck's quack does indeed echo, it is just very difficult to hear.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent)

Golden hoard of Winchester gives up its secret
Scientists have unlocked the secret of the spectacular Winchester Hoard of Iron Age gold in the British Museum, revealing that it was Roman, not British as previously thought.

Other higher education items
Letters about university funding (Independent). Office Hours looks at the people who process student admissions (Guardian). Female managers of business schools now outnumber men (Financial Times). The eminent psychologist Peter McKellar has died aged 82 (Daily Telegraph). Renaissance art historian John Shearman has died aged 72 (Times).

Higher education stories in the weekend papers
Britain's universities could start operating a lottery system for entry (Times - Saturday, Sunday Times). Sir Martin Rees is to become next master of Trinity College Cambridge (Independent - Saturday). Patricia Hewitt berates the middle classes for being snobbish (Sunday Times). Student populations are so great they profoundly alter residential areas where they congregate (Independent - Saturday). Is university really worth the money it costs? (Sunday Express). A York University student died after suffocating in the cramped bathroom at her halls of residence (Times, Daily Express - Saturday).

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