Today's news

February 13, 2004


UK outpaces US in college spin-offs
British universities are producing almost three times as many spin-off businesses per pound of research as their US counterparts, according to government figures published today. Higher education institutions in the UK identified one spin-off business for every £15 million of research spending, compared with one for every £44 million in the US, the Department of Trade and Industry survey found. However, the report also showed there were no incubation or start-up facilities in 46 per cent of UK higher education institutions in 2001-02 and the number of new spin-off businesses dropped to 213 during the period, from 248 in 2000-01. On a more positive note, turnover from companies spun-off from British institutions has increased 36 per cent to £289 million since the DTI's last survey.
( Financial Times )

Lecturers vote to strike over pay
University lecturers have voted to strike over pay later this month. The final decision on the form their action will take and its timing will be made by the executive committee of the Association of University Teachers today but it is likely to endorse a mixture of walk-outs and disruption during the week beginning February 23. There was a 54.4 per cent turn-out for the ballot, which showed two-thirds in favour of a strike and 81 per cent backing industrial action in which they would refuse to mark students' work.
( Daily Telegraph, Guardian, Independent, Times )

Howard faces fees rebellion in Lords
Conservative party leader Michael Howard is facing a revolt among Tory peers over his stance on university top-up fees. None of those approached to lead the opposition to the higher education bill when it reaches the Lords has apparently agreed to do so. One of the refuseniks said yesterday that their action was designed to force the Tory leader to abandon his contentious position.
( Times )

Human cells cloned: babies next?
A team of South Korean and US scientists produced the first convincing evidence yesterday that they had cloned a human embryo. The team of researchers created 30 cloned embryos using tissue and eggs donated by women and grew them in a laboratory for five or six days. The embryos were then destroyed to produce a potentially unlimited supply of spare tissue for one of the women. Religious and pro-life groups reacted with dismay to the development.
( Daily Telegraph, Independent, Guardian, Times )

The secrets of the nucleus unlocked
Richard Gardner, chairman of the Royal Society working group on stem cells and cloning, comments on the results published yesterday by a team from South Korea and the US on their apparent success at cloning embryonic stem cells. Meanwhile spinal-injury victim Christopher Reeve outlines why we have nothing to fear from the cloning of human embryos.
( Guardian )

Naked ambition of Harvard students
Harvard University has given two women undergraduates permission to publish a magazine containing sexually explicit photographs of fellow students. Katharina C. Baldegg and Camilla H. Hrdy, publishers of the student magazine H Bomb , describe it as "an outlet for literary and artistic expression that is both desired and needed, not a pornographic magazine". Some 25 students have already volunteered to take their clothes off or write erotic stories for the first issue, which will appear in May. The university has yet to decide whether the magazine warrants a financial grant.
( Times, Guardian )

Cod liver oil 'can ease arthritis'
Scientists at Cardiff University have found that the omega-3 fatty acids in cod liver oil prevented the breakdown of cartilage in joints and eased the pain associated with inflammation. It is the first time that a clinical study has found human evidence of the effectiveness of the supplement in managing osteoarthritis.
( Daily Telegraph, Independent )

Physicists use sweets to prove a point
Scientists at Princeton University in the US have worked out that flattened ellipsoid shapes jam together more tightly than spherical ones. For centuries, scientists have assumed that spheres fit together best, but the team discovered that ball-bearings filled about 64 per cent of the space in a 5-litre round jar, whereas M&Ms filled about 69 per cent.
( Guardian )

Psychologist says maths can predict divorce chances
A psychologist at the University of Washington claims that a newly devised mathematical model can predict with 94 per cent accuracy which couples will divorce, entirely on the basis of the first few minutes of a discussion about some disputed issue.
( Guardian, Times )

Oxford search for poetry don
The University of Oxford is looking for its next professor of poetry, following in the esteemed footsteps of Matthew Arnold, W. H. Auden and Seamus Heaney.
( Guardian )

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