Today's news

July 9, 2004

UK enjoys a brain gain in young talent
A brain gain in young academic talent from overseas is swelling the ranks of UK universities, analysis by Stephen Court, senior research officer for the Association of University Teachers, reveals. Each year, thousands of young researchers from abroad are securing posts - adding the equivalent of a major university's entire academic workforce to the sector. But far fewer overseas professors and senior academics are choosing careers in Britain, and increasing numbers of UK academics are leaving for posts abroad.
Times Higher

Doctor takes Prince to task over herbal remedies
In an open letter in the British Medical Journal , Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at University College London, accuses the Prince of Wales of "overstepping the mark" in his support of herbal remedies. The prince first publicly backed complementary medicine in a speech to the British Medical Association more than 20 years ago and recently established the Prince's Foundation for Integrated Health. Professor Baum, a breast cancer specialist working in Sydney, said yesterday that he was begging the Prince to exercise extreme caution when promoting "unproven therapies". He wrote: "Over the past 20 years I have treated thousands of patients with cancer... My authority comes with a knowledge built on 40 years of study. Your authority rests on an accident of birth."
Times, Daily Telegraph, Independent

Erotic Joyce letter sets auction record
An erotic letter written by James Joyce to his lover Nora Barnacle fetched £240,800 at Sotheby's to become the most expensive 20th-century letter sold at auction. It describes his "ungovernable lust" and is considered the most famous erotic letter in modern literature.
Times, Financial Times, Guardian

Half of US shuns literature
A report released yesterday by the US national endowment for the arts says the number of adults who read no literature increased by more than 17 million between 1992 and 2002. It found that 47 per cent of American adults read poems, plays or narrative fiction in 2002, a drop of 7 per cent from a decade earlier. Those reading any books at all in 2002 fell to 57 per cent from 61 per cent.
Guardian

Field burning helps plants grow back
Researchers from the University of Western Australia have identified a compound present in plant-derived smoke that promotes seed germination. While burning for agricultural purposes in rainforests such as the Amazon has been blamed for increasing global warming and destroying the local ecological system, many environmentalists condone controlled forest fires in some places as a way to regenerate vegetation quickly.
Financial Times, Science Express

Robots roam down on the farm
Scientists at the University of Illinois have created a family of robot farm workers that are programmed to wobble along corn rows scouting for insects and weeds. They also take soil tests and measure the plants' growth. At the end of the corn row, the robots can turn and move down the next row. The robots communicate with each other like an army of ants, working the entire field and collecting data.
Financial Times

Obituary : Peter Birks, Regius professor at Oxford who shaped the law of restitution as a modern discipline, died from cancer on July 6, 2004, aged 62. Times

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