Today's news

June 28, 2004


Schools science is failing, says Royal Society
Science GCSE and A-level exams are failing to prepare youngsters for university or the world of work, according to a report published today by the Royal Society. The report, produced by a team led by Paul Black of King's College, London, calls for a reduction in the burden of assessment to stop teachers "teaching to the tests". It urges the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority, the Government's exams watchdog, to broaden the range of skills required of pupils in school science exams - and, in particular, prompt more oral presentation of work.
( Independent )

Students plan summer of work
Most students plan to spend their summer holidays working in order to pay for their next term at university, a survey has found. While eight out of ten undergraduates will take part-time or full-time work this summer, more than 9,500 students will take unpaid work experience.
( Times )

Scientists claim sixth sense evidence
Psychologists at the University of Freiburg, Germany, believe they have finally proved the reality of the sixth sense. The team performed more than 1,000 experiments involving people in different rooms, one of whom could observe the other over a CCTV monitor. Electrodes were attached to the volunteer who was being watched and time and again the meter registered "prickling" in the skin as he was being stared at. The study is published in the British Journal of Psychology .
( Daily Mail )

Gene hope for breast cancer
A gene that determines the severity of breast cancer has been discovered, opening the way to tailored treatments for the disease. Reporting in Breast Cancer Research , scientists from the University of South Alabama and the University of Wales College of Medicine have found that a gene involved in making cells stick together is less active in aggressive breast tumours than in those that develop more slowly.
( Times )

HRT scare study was flawed, say scientists
The Women's Health Initiative, the US study that triggered a worldwide scare over the risks of Hormone Replacement Therapy, was fundamentally flawed and not applicable to most women going through the menopause, according to a group of leading researchers reporting in the journal Fertility and Sterility . The study was abandoned last year after it appeared to show that HRT increased the risk of heart disease and breast cancer. Now researchers say that the women recruited to the study were not representative of those taking the drug, and because the study was set up to test the effects of HRT on heart disease, most had heart problems when it started.
( Daily Telegraph )

Technology unlocks mummy's secrets
An Egyptian man mummified nearly 3,000 years ago has been given a face with the use of groundbreaking technology. Archaeologists at the British Museum have been able to see through a sealed sarcophagus and the mummy's bandaging with remarkable clarity. As a result, scientists have been able to construct a 3D portrait of Nesperennub, a high-status priest of Karnak, using the latest medical scanners and computer technology.
( Times )

Scientists say watching TV hastens puberty
Researchers from Florence University say that watching TV screens, regardless of the subject matter, helps to advance adolescence. A study carried out last month in the Tuscan town of Cavriglia detected a huge increase in production of the hormone melatonin in children deprived of TV, computers and video. Among the functions ascribed to melatonin is that of slowing down the progress of children to sexual maturity.
( Guardian )

Mobiles cut sperm count, says report
Men who carry mobile phones in their trouser pockets may be at risk of damaging their sperm count, according to research by Hungarian scientists. Full details of the study will be formally presented at the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology conference in Berlin tomorrow. Early reports of the Hungarian work attracted scepticism from other scientists, who pointed to the contradictory results of other work on the subject.
( Guardian, Daily Mail, Independent )

Obituaries:
- Dame Barbara Shenfield, the academic sociologist who helped to set up the University of Buckingham, Britain's only private university, has died aged 85. ( Daily Telegraph )
- Thomas Gold, the maverick scientist who proposed the steady-state theory of the universe, suggesting that it is without beginning or end, died on June 22 2004, aged 84. ( Times )

Higher education items in the weekend press:
- Six English students are to sue the Scottish Executive after forcing them to payer higher fees than their Scottish counterparts. ( Sunday Times )
- The first students who have to pay top-up fees will graduate with debts totalling £14 billion. ( Sunday Express )

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