Today's news

February 17, 2004


Tomlinson schools exam proposals welcomed
Teachers today welcomed recommendations by former Ofsted chief, Mike Tomlinson, to replace A levels and GCSEs with a baccalaureate-style diploma and sought to defend the proposals against industry leaders who have called for the existing examinations to be retained. Mr Tomlinson, charged with overhauling the 14 to 19 curriculum in the wake of the 2002 A-level crisis, today recommended that A-levels and GCSEs be replaced with an overarching diploma in an effort to improve basic skills and cut back on unnecessary coursework.
( Guardian, Times Educational Supplement, Times, Independent )

Suspected Viking burial fills hole in English history
One of the great missing pieces of Britain's archaeological jigsaw may finally have fallen into place with the discovery of swords, ship nails and a silver Baghdad coin in a Yorkshire field. The find is thought to be the first known Viking ship burial south of Hadrian's Wall and dates to the 9th century. The finds will be on display at the Yorkshire Museum until the end of the month, when British Museum staff will take them to London for further study.
( Guardian )

Antibiotics may increase breast cancer danger
Scientists from the University of Washington in Seattle have found indications in health data from 10,000 women that taking antibiotics may increase the risk of breast cancer by one and a half times. Writing in the Journal of the American Medical Association , the authors urge caution, saying that more research is needed to show whether the link is causal, or whether there are other underlying factors that need to be considered.
( Times )

Sheep give clue to winter depression
Scientists studying a wild breed of sheep yesterday said they had discovered what makes the body's seasonal clock tick. The researchers said their study, published in Current Biology , was important for understanding why some people put on weight and become depressed in the winter months. The team from the Medical Research Council, working with colleagues at the University of Aberdeen, have traced the reasons behind seasonal disorders down to a molecular level.
( Guardian )

American Association for the Advancement of Science conference roundup

- Athletes may abuse 'mighty mouse' gene: experiments at the University of Pennsylvania have shown that when mice are injected with a modified virus that adds a vital growth gene to their cells, they develop into heavily muscled, super-strong mice. The effects are almost doubled when the gene therapy is coupled with "weight training". The scientists predict that such gene therapy would be the next frontier of cheating in professional sport. ( Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent, Financial Times )

- Dogs' diet could help Alzheimer sufferers: a study at the University of California at Irvine, suggests that extra antioxidant compounds included in the diet of elderly dogs protects their brain cells against damage from the ageing process. If the cocktail has similar effects on human beings it could potentially be used to help to stave off Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and age-related cognitive decline. (Times, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times)

- Hubble team finds farthest galaxy: the farthest object observed anywhere in the universe has been detected using the Hubble Space Telescope and the Keck Telescope in Hawaii, astronomers at the California Institute of Technology, said. The galaxy is so distant that its light began its journey to Earth when the Universe was in its infancy, just 750 million years after the Big Bang. ( Times, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Independent )

- Half the world's languages to disappear this century: a researcher from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania reports that the world's estimated tally of 6,800 human languages is in precipitous decline. Half of them could die out over the next hundred years as the last speakers of rare and sometimes unrecorded tongues abandon them for dominant languages such as English, Russian and Chinese. ( Times, Daily Telegraph )

- Getting to the bottom of Neanderthal conundrum: scientists from McMaster University in Canada are analysing fossilised faeces from caves in Israel where early human beings and Neanderthals lived 40,000 years ago, to try to establish DNA evidence of interbreeding. The results could determine whether human beings are partially descended from Neanderthals, or whether we wiped them out. (Times, Daily Telegraph)

Unions fall out over strike
A look at whether the planned lecturers' strike action will tempt vice-chancellors to abandon national negotiation over pay.
( Guardian )

More Chinese students are studying in Britain
Dissatisfied with their own underfunded schools and universities, Britain's popularity as the destination of choice among Chinese students has grown since US tightened visa regulations after the terrorist attacks in 2001.
( Times )

All you need is students
Investigation of where the money to fund extra places for new universities is to come from.
( Guardian )

Academic profile
Julia Goodfellow, chief executive of the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in January 2002.
( Guardian )

Why graduates are struggling to find jobs
Careers advice for graduates who don’t get the decent jobs despite the positive employment climate.
( Evening Standard )

Obituaries
- John Scales, the biomedical engineer who proved the worth of plastic knee, hip and shoulder replacements, died on January 30, 2004, aged 83. ( Times )
- Ellinor Hinks, who revolutionised physical education in Britain during the 1960s, died on January 18, 2004, aged 91. ( Guardian )


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