Today's news

June 11, 2004

Exam board to bury Latin and Greek
Latin and Greek are being scrapped at GCSE and A level after June 2006 by the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, the country's largest examinations board. Classics teachers were outraged and accused the AQA of abandoning the subjects without any consultation. Only one board, the Oxford, Cambridge and RSA, will now offer Latin and Greek. The AQA accounted for half of the 1,029 students taking GCSE Greek last year and a third of the almost 10,000 who sat Latin.
( Times )

Collie intelligence borders on human
A nine-year-old border collie has been found to have the vocabulary and language skills of a three-year-old child, demonstrating some aspects of language in dogs could have evolved long before the evolution of primates. The dog, Rico, from Dortmund in Germany, can recognise about 200 words and correctly identify objects by their names, according to a study by scientists at the Max-Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, published in Science .
( Independent, Guardian, Daily Telegraph, Financial Times, Times, Daily Mail )

Cambridge scientists face up to woolly thinking
A study of sheeps' brains by researchers at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge has found that sheep may be woolly of coat but they are certainly not woolly of mind. They know when their farmers are happy and when they are not by interpreting the facial expressions of people they know well.
( Times )

Nasa goes to Kent to find Mars strawberry
A strawberry cultivated to cope with Britain's unreliable summer could one day be grown on Mars, scientists say. Nasa has asked a fruit grower from Kent to provide two hardy plants that could survive a manned mission to the Red Planet. If they make the short list, they will be grown on the International Space Station to discover how they react to near-zero gravity. Nasa believes high-yield strawberry plants could be the most cost-effective source of fresh fruit for long journeys in space.
(Dail y Telegraph, Times )

Scots border-folk may be African descendants
Families who have lived in the Scottish Borders region for generations could be descended from African soldiers who patrolled Hadrian's Wall nearly 2,000 years ago. Archaeologists say there is compelling evidence that a 500-strong unit of Moors manned a fort near Carlisle in the third century AD. Writing in the journal British Archaeology , Richard Benjamin, an archaeologist at Liverpool University who has studied the history of black Britons, believes many would have settled and raised families.
( Daily Telegraph )

Gene research moves in leaps and bounds
Animal genomics is set to take a leap forward with the announcement this week of a US-Australian project to sequence the DNA of a member of the kangaroo family - the tammar wallaby. The $7m (£3.8m) wallaby project is a two-year collaboration between the Australian Genome Research Facility in Melbourne and the NHGRI, which has chosen Baylor College of Medicine in Texas to carry out the US share of the DNA sequencing.
( Financial Times )

Why it's best to do one thing at a time
Scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have shed light on why multi-tasking, the popular term for trying to do two things at once, is so hard. The MIT researchers used brain imaging techniques to establish that the problem lies in "passive queuing". They saw no evidence that the brain worked to distinguish the two thought processes. The research appears in this month's issue of Psychological Science .
( Financial Times )

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