Today's news

December 18, 2003


Prince stands accused in honours row
Honours for leading scientists involved in animal experiments and GM crop research have been blocked because of the influence of the Prince of Wales, it is claimed today. Colleagues of Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council and professor of physiology at Oxford University, alleged that he had been denied a knighthood because of Prince Charles' opposition to his work on animals. A second eminent scientist, Derek Burke, a former vice-chancellor of the University of East Anglia, has also been passed over for honours because of the prince's objections. Professor Burke has been one of the strongest critics of the prince's opposition to GM crops.
( Times )

Read the full story in this week's edition of The THES , available from your newsagent today.

Research scientist infected with Sars virus
A spilled test tube containing a sample of the Sars virus was probably to blame for the infection of a medical researcher, the World Health Organisation said yesterday. The unnamed Taiwanese scientist flew to a conference in Singapore days after the incident, but did not fall sick until after he returned to Taipei. Some 70 people the researcher may have come into contact with have been quarantined.
( Independent )

Flaw detected in forensic degrees
An alliance of companies in science, engineering and manufacturing technology has announced an investigation into proliferating hybrid university courses that offer forensic science alongside other subjects. The government has given the alliance £50,000 to examine more than 400 courses. Employers in the police forces and the private sector are dissatisfied with the quality of recruits from the new courses, which are criticised for not being rigorous enough.
( Financial Times )

Earth is 20% darker, say experts
Human activity is making the planet darker as well as warmer, say scientists from Nasa's Goddard Institute for Space Science in New York. They believe levels of sunlight reaching Earth's surface have declined by up to 20 per cent in recent years because air pollution is reflecting it back into space and helping to make bigger, longer-lasting clouds.
( Guardian )

Carvings reveal early man's spiritual side
Three tiny figurines carved from mammoth ivory more than 30,000 years ago have been unearthed at a cave in southern Germany by a team from the University of Tübingen. The carvings of a duck-like bird, a horse's head and a humanoid body with the head of a lion suggest strongly that the people who made them practised a form of shamanistic religion. Alistair Sinclair of Liverpool University said that the Swabian finds added weight to the theory that human art became very sophisticated very quickly after it emerged.
( Times, Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph )

Wright tribute fails to get off the ground
Despite a century of flying experience, mankind failed yesterday to duplicate the feat of the two brothers from Ohio who launched the great adventure of powered flight. An attempt to mark the centenary of the Wright brothers' achievement by re-enacting their historic flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, ended in a flop when a replica of their rudimentary flying machine skidded into a puddle in the middle of a muddy field. Organisers blamed low wind for the plane's failure to get airborne.
( Times, Guardian, Independent, Daily Telegraph )

Young physicists being turned off
Evidence shows that children really love science at primary school but that something happens early on at secondary level to quench their enthusiasm, says Julia King, chief executive of the Institute of Physics. There is no single reason for this; it seems to be down to the way students perceive scientists and science, a lack of quality specialist science teaching and a rigid science curriculum. A lot of physics teaching is also conducted by non-specialists.
( Guardian )

Obituary : Henry Gifford, an outstanding professor of English and comparative literature at Bristol University, as well as being in the vanguard of Russian studies in Britain, has died aged 90.
( Daily Telegraph )

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