Today's news

April 19, 2004

Royal Society calls for vetting of research proposals
Research proposals should be vetted to help prevent the development of biological and nuclear weapons by terrorists and rogue states, a United Nations meeting will be told today by the Royal Society. ( Daily Telegraph , Guardian , Financial Times )

Spiders' secret discovered
Swiss and German scientists have uncovered the secret of how a spider can defy gravity: its eight feet are covered with minute hairs that generate a tiny electrical force strong enough to hold 173 times the arthropod's weight. The discovery could help astronauts cling to surfaces in zero gravity. ( Guardian , Daily Telegraph )

Chinese mushrooms can give new lease of life
An ancient Chinese remedy based on wild mushrooms aids the fitness of sedentary, middle-aged people, according to a study by American researchers. ( The Independent )

Tea can slow prostate cancer
Chemicals in green and black tea slow the growth of prostate cancer cells, according to researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles. ( Daily Telegraph )

Kew scientists add to the book of life
Kew scientists are compiling the first volumes of the cyber book of life. In the next few years, researchers and growers everywhere will be able to see via the internet a high-resolution image of a rare plant preserved in the herbarium of London's Botanic Gardens. ( Guardian )

Fight to save 400-million-year-old lifeform
Plantlife International, a charity dedicated to keeping plants in their natural habitat, has launched a campaign to save stoneworts, the many branched slimy plants that are clinging to life in isolated pools on the Lizard in Cornwall. ( Guardian )

Father refuses to send his son to university
James Delingpole sees little point in foisting a failing university system and a small mountain of debt on his son. He says boarding school and private tutors have already failed to motivate Jim to study. ( Daily Telegraph )

Administrators on a steep learning curve
Recent government reforms have forced university administrative staff to make radical changes. Oliver Robinson looks at changing roles on the eve of the Association of University Administrators conference. ( Guardian )

Graduates drawn to teaching
Teaching is an attractive career choice for graduates with ambition and energy. The Teacher Training Agency argues a teacher's starting salary of at least £18,558 now makes the career an attractive option. There are "golden hellos" and other incentives to increase the number of teachers in key subject areas. The TTA has also devised new programmes to help graduates make an informed decision about becoming a teacher. ( Independent , Times )

From the weekend

Clarke shares Easter experience
Charles Clarke, the education secretary, sidestepped the National Union of Teachers' conference on Easter Sunday for a day of traditional British leisure. "I spent my Easter Sunday eating fish and chips and playing mini-golf at Lowestoft," said Mr Clarke. ( Times )

Schooling should reflect differences in the sexes
Schooling should reflect the different propensities of girls and boys to learn. Anthropologist Desmond Morris points out that young female chimps are brighter than males and that this is reflected in humans. Girls are traditionally more assiduous at school. ( Daily Mail )

High-flying student rejected from all her universities
An independent school pupil predicted to get three A grades at A level has been rejected by all her chosen universities in a case that will re-ignite the controversy over the "lottery" of student admissions. Lucy Barnett, 18, who is at Charterhouse School in Surrey, has been turned down by Cambridge, Bristol and Newcastle universities and King's College London, where she wanted to study medicine. ( Sunday Times )

Cambridge scientists predict link between autism and testosterone
Babies that produce high levels of testosterone in the womb are slower to pick up language skills, find it harder to form relationships and are more lilkely to develop obsessional traits as they grow up, according to scientists at Cambridge University. Simon Baron-Cohen, director of the univbersity's Autism Research Centre, presented the research at the British Psychological Society's annual conference at the weekend. ( Sunday Times , Independent on Sunday )

University to run course on the weather
The University of East Anglia is to run a new course on Britain's national obsession - the weather. The course will show students how to predict the weather and establish accurate media bulletins. ( Sunday People )

Gap years offered for poorer students
The government is funding a scheme to offer poorer students who cannot afford a gap year abroad the chance to work in the community at home. ( Mail on Sunday )

University told to tighten controls over qualifications from college
The Quality Assurance Agency has told Bradford University to monitor more closely the qualifications it offers through Bradford College. ( Yorkshire Post )

£8 million 'student village' planned
Plans have been unveiled for a massive £8 million "student village" at the heart of Sheffield, providing 1,162 beds for students at Sheffield University and Sheffield Hallam University. ( Yorkshire Post )

MPs back colleges' funding demand
Colleges across the Northeast have joined together to fight for a larger slice of government funding. The colleges' call for £120 million extra funding has been backed by Northeast MPs. ( Northern Echo )

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