Today's news

September 12, 2003

Red tape delays cancer cures, researchers say
The search for cures for cancer and other diseases is being strangled by red tape from Brussels and Westminster, scientists from Cancer Research UK said yesterday. Richard Sullivan, head of clinical programmes at the charity, told the British Association festival in Salford that scientists now had to grapple with 44 separate laws governing clinical trials, all introduced since 1995. Before that date, almost all this work was controlled by one piece of legislation. Malcolm Stevens of Nottingham University said that he could once go from developing a new drug to testing it in patients in a matter of months. It now routinely takes more than two years.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times)

Prehistoric settlements found under North Sea
A team from the University of Newcastle upon Tyne yesterday unveiled artefacts from settlements of hunter-gatherers from the middle Stone Age that they discovered more than 500 metres off the Tyneside coast.
(Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph)

US physicists are really cool
The coldest place in the universe has been created in a US laboratory, where scientists have managed to cool sodium gas to half a billionth of a degree above absolute zero. To go below one nanokelvin is like running a mile in under four minutes for the first time, said Wolfgang Ketterle, the Nobel physics laureate who led the research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The experiment is reported today in the journal Science.

Leakey puts wildlife at top of tree
The wildlife conservationist Richard Leakey stirred up controversy at the Durban environment congress yesterday by saying conservation had to come before the rights of indigenous people. Protected nature areas were too important to be "subjugated" to people complaining of eviction from ancestral lands in the name of biodiversity, he said.

Fuji shaken but not stirred by volcano tests
Scientists from Tokyo University's Earthquake Research Institute rattled the magma dome below Mount Fuji with five massive explosions yesterday as part of an attempt to discover when Japan's most famous volcano might erupt again.

British Association festival round-up

British research may breach ethics code
British universities are conducting human experiments comparable to those carried out by the Nazis, claimed Richard Nicholson, editor of the Bulletin of Research Ethics . He said that undergraduates were being coerced into taking part in psychological experiments. He said that this could represent a breach of the Nuremberg Code.

Middle-class Britain on the fiddle
A "rip-off morality" is developing in middle-class Britain where small acts of fraud are seen as inevitable and acceptable, according to social scientists. Almost two-thirds of adults in England and Wales admit to indulging in minor fraud, but they rarely think their behaviour is criminal, a study at Keele University has revealed. In 2000, the cost of burglary was £2.7 billion, against £13.8 billion for fraud.
(Times, Daily Mail, Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph)

Music improves orchestral players' brain power
Scientists revealed yesterday that members of a British symphony orchestra had more grey cells than ordinary people in a part of the brain known as Broca's area. Vanessa Sluming of the University of Liverpool said that although this area declines with age, orchestral players kept more of their brain cells than non-players as they aged.
(Guardian, Financial Times)

Climate forecast trial to use 2m PCs
Up to 2 million owners of personal computers are being recruited by the Met Office to run the biggest climate prediction experiment attempted. Details
(Times, Financial Times)

Dotty cure for smokers
Smokers who feel the urge to light up may soon be able to find relief by looking at a flickering pattern of dots on a hand-held computer. Jon May, a psychologist from Sheffield University, told the festival that cravings begin when an image of the desired object, for example a cigarette, forms in the mind.
(Times, Independent)

Heading off hat danger
Hundreds of hats owned by the Victoria & Albert Museum could be a hazard to staff and the public because they contain mercury or mercury salts, said Graham Martin, head of the museum's science section.

Engineer's purple patch
The secret of the imperial purple dye used to create the colour reserved only for Roman emperors has been rediscovered by John Edmonds, 72, a retired engineer. (Times, Daily Telegraph)

Faith in journal shaken
The credibility of the research journal Science was called into question by Oxford physiology professor Colin Blakemore following retraction of a flawed study linking the drug ecstasy to brain damage.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Sir Fraser Noble, one of the century's top academic administrators, vice-chancellor, Leicester University 1962-76 and principal and vice-chancellor, University of Aberdeen, 1976-81, died on August 21, aged 85 (Times) • Norman Walker Porteus, theologian and biblical scholar, died on September 3, aged 104. (Guardian, Independent)

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