Today's news

September 10, 2004

Aptitude test best to find brightest
Just days before he is due to publish his final report, Professor Steven Schwartz threw his weight behind a universal aptitude test so that universities may spot the brightest students who might not otherwise "appear on their radar screen". Speaking at the Sutton Trust/Social Market Foundation conference, the chairman of the Admissions to Higher Education steering group said with so many universities unable to differentiate between A-grade pupils, a single admissions test appeared to be the answer. He called on Mike Tomlinson, the former Chief Inspector of Schools in England, to include the admissions test in the national curriculum, when he presents his working group's final recommendations to the Government next month on a diploma for students aged 14 to 19.
Times, Financial Times

College agitator gets higher education
A look at Kim Howells, 57, the new higher education minister. As a former culture minister and a student at Hornsey college of art in the heyday of the 1960s rebellion, he has a passing knowledge of student culture. Mr Howells is not likely to be a shrinking violet. He will have to debate with higher education institutions, but he will also be expected to turn tuition fees into a political dogfight. He is a stranger to blandness, and that may be an admirable quality in his new job. The overwhelming anti-tuition fee consensus on campus is hardly likely to be challenged by being polite.
Guardian, Daily Telegraph

British Library puts the Bard online
The British Library has put its entire collection of early printed copies of Shakespeare's plays online. All 93 of the "quartos" - the earliest known Shakespeare texts - are available on the library's website, allowing scholars to compare different versions of 21 of his plays. Until now readers needed special permission to view the quartos. The website allows users to compare two volumes side by side on their screens and zoom in on the text. The library intends to make all of Shakespeare's folio editions available at a later date.

How to do well at university revealed
According to researchers at the University of Sussex, here is how to be a good student: be male and tackle a hard subject such as mechanical engineering or physics for a better chance of a first class degree. If you want a "good" degree, be a female because you will work harder. Motivation also counts: you will study more effectively if you want to make the world a better place than if you want to be rich, the researchers told the British Association science festival in Exeter yesterday.

Sweet dreams are made of this
Swiss scientists announced today that they have found the region of the brain where dreams originate. The doctors, writing in the Annals of Neurology, describe the case of a 73-year-old woman who suffered a stroke to the region of her brain responsible for the processing of visual information . The patient regained her sight days after the stroke, but a new problem emerged which astonished the doctors: she stopped dreaming.

British scientist spots Saturn's secrets
A new ring of Saturn and a mysterious object that may be a new moon have been discovered by a British scientist using new images from the Cassini probe currently orbiting the planet. The ring was spotted by Professor Carl Murray of Queen Mary, University of London, while examining pictures taken by the spacecraft as it entered orbit on July 1. Details of the discoveries were announced yesterday at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Exeter.
Times, Guardian

Asteroids could have triggered creation of life
Research into a 15-mile impact crater in the Canadian Arctic has revealed that the extreme heat generated by an asteroid more than half a mile wide left behind rocks that are an ideal habitat for primitive life. Such catastrophic events can trigger the formation of amino acids and other organic compounds that are the basic building blocks of life. When these are flushed into a hot, wet crater with the right sort of rock, conditions become perfect for the emergence of living organisms, according to Charles Cockell of the British Antarctic Survey.
Times, Independent

Letter: Medical schools' admissions policy
Professor Terence Stephenson, dean of the faculty of medicine and health sciences at Nottingham University, points out that black men are as equally under-represented at medical school as white men. He remarks that an assessment process which takes a snapshot at a single point in time - at the age of 17, in the case of most potential UK medical students - may discriminate against those who would make the best doctors after they qualify, from 25 to 65.

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