Today's news

September 19, 2003

Portillo questions Tory line on top-up fees
Michael Portillo caused speculation yesterday that he will oppose Iain Duncan Smith's policy of abolishing top-up fees as he spoke warmly about differential university charges. In a little-noticed debate, he praised a report by the Commons education select committee that supports government plans to defer payment of fees until after graduation. He stated that all opponents of top-up fees have an obligation to read the report and wrestle with the ideas in it.

Mars explorers seek Scottish help
Nasa scientists trying to find evidence of extra-terrestrial life on Mars are focusing their search on a small village in northeast Scotland. This week an international conference of leading scientists will gather in Aberdeen to discuss the growing significance of the Rhynie Chert - a unique treasure trove of fossils dating back to the Lower Devonian period. Dr Nigel Trewin of Aberdeen University, said: "Nasa do not want to get all the way to Mars and then have to start thinking about what to look for. By studying how information is being extracted from the chert they hope to learn how to do the same with the rocks found on Mars."

US surgeons rebuild patient's heart outside body
In one of the boldest cardiac reconstructions ever undertaken, surgeons in the US have rebuilt half of a 46-year-old woman's heart with cow and human donor tissue while it was out of her body. The 12-hour "autotransplantion" operation at the University of Maryland Medical Centre, Baltimore, is described in the current issue of Chemistry & Industry.
(Financial Times)

Guinea-pig's ancestor weighed in at 110 stone
Scientists based in Germany, Venezuela and the United States have discovered the fossil of a giant guinea-pig that lived in South America eight million years ago. At 700kg (110st) the rodent weighed more than 700 times as much as its modern cousins, was 3m long and 1.3m high at the shoulder.
(Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph)

Scientists report on search for the elixir of youth
The latest step in the search for the elixir of youth will be outlined today by scientists at the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology's 10th Congress, hosted by Cambridge University. Jerry Shay of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Centre, Dallas and Bruce Ames of the University of California, Berkeley, will present their latest attempts to push back the last great biological frontier. (Daily Telegraph)

Foreign nurses top 50%
Overseas nurses accounted for more than half the new professional registrations in Britain during 2001-02 for the first time  according to James Buchan and Ian Seccombe from Queen Mary University College, Edinburgh. Their report was commissioned by the Royal College of Nursing.

Other higher education items
Degrees of freedom: How to cope with the academic side of university (Guardian) • Jog your memory: Keeping fit at university is great for your brain as well as your body (Guardian).

Brian Steele, pioneer of solid-state ionics and its application to energy storage died of cancer on August 11, 2003, aged 74 (Times) • Kathy Wilkes, a bold academic who forged philosophical links with eastern Europe, died August 21 2003 aged 57 (Guardian) • Harvey Flower, internationally recognised materials scientist and teacher at Imperial College, died on  August 14 2003 aged 58 (Independent).

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