Today's news

March 29, 2005

How the Boxing Day quake made new tremor inevitable
The earthquake of magnitude 8.7 that struck off the coast of Sumatra yesterday fulfilled many of the worst fears of scientists, who predicted just ten days ago that faults in the region were primed to deliver another big quake. The latest earthquake appears to have followed precisely the pattern set out by researchers at the University of Ulster, who forecast that the quake that caused the Boxing Day tsunami had destabilised two neighbouring fault lines.
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman

Trials on way for new GM rice
British scientists have developed a genetically modified strain of rice they believe could combat childhood blindness and prevent deaths due to vitamin A deficiency. The plant is an improved version of "golden rice", a GM crop released five years ago that is enriched in beta-carotene, which the body converts into vitamin A. The release of golden rice met with widespread criticism from anti-GM groups, which claimed it did not contain enough beta-carotene to have any beneficial effect.
The Guardian, Daily Telegraph

Protein discovery offers hope for cat allergy sufferers
A new chemical protein, part-cat and part-human, holds out hope for the millions brought out in rashes or sneezing fits whenever they go near a cat, researchers in America reported yesterday. Scientists, writing in the April issue of Nature , said their approach in creating the compound may work against more dangerous allergies, such as the potentially fatal reaction in some to peanuts. So far the new treatment has only been tried on mice, but it has been successful in trials on human tissue.
The Daily Telegraph

Row over fire-safety 'threat'
One of Scotland’s leading science academics has launched a withering attack on the environment group WWF, claiming a campaign to eradicate flame-retardant chemicals from consumer products "could endanger lives rather than save them". Professor Anthony Trewavas, a microbiologist at the University of Edinburgh, warns that if WWF succeeds in its campaign to regulate and restrict the use of chemicals used in household furnishings, families and children will be placed at much greater risk, with more household fires likely to result in an increase in deaths and disfigurements.
The Scotsman

Anti-land mine flame 'could save thousands of lives'
A revolutionary “low-tech” anti-land mine device was launched by British experts today. It is a torch which directs a flame on to mines, burning them out rather than detonating them across a wide area. Researchers at Cranfield University in Shrivenham, Oxfordshire, part of the Defence Academy of the UK, said the gadget was cheaper, safer, more environmentally friendly and faster than existing alternatives. The torches, which can be made in mobile units, were pioneered by de-mining specialists Disarmco with help from the university’s ordnance boffins.
The Scotsman

Nuclear power?
The future of nuclear power is a potato too hot for any of the large political parties to handle in the run-up to the general election. But this month's science and national budgets together herald winds of change for nuclear research. In its 2003 energy white paper, the government committed itself to cutting carbon emissions by 2020. Acknowledging that nuclear energy emits no carbon, it would "keep the nuclear option open". But how, it would not say. Critics of the white paper said its targets were unreachable without new investment in nuclear energy.
The Guardian

Cambridge kilt ban riles Scots
Scottish MPs have condemned a decision by Cambridge University to ban kilts from its graduation ceremonies. A parliamentary motion has been tabled by Mike Weir, a Scottish Nationalist MP, who hopes to make Cambridge rethink its ban. The university enforced the ban three weeks ago because students were flouting its dress code. Students must now conform to a strict dress code, which states men wear white tie and women dark suits or dresses. The ban also includes uniforms from the Armed Forces and clerical dress.
The Times, The Scotsman

Academics to examine the impact of this charming man Morrissey
After endlessly examining "the enigma" of Bob Dylan and explaining why John Lennon is an "icon", academics are turning their attention to brainstorming about The Smiths. Scholars at a symposium in Manchester next week will compare the lyrics of the band's charismatic singer and songwriter Morrissey - "In the days when you were hopelessly poor, I just liked you more" - to the works of the poets John Keats and WB Yeats.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian

From the weekend's papers


  • All universities should require significantly higher grades from applicants from leading independent schools because of the quality of education they receive, a senior teacher at Eton said yesterday. The Daily Telegraph, The Daily Mail
  • Nearly 15,500 cases of suspected mumps were reported in England and Wales last year as an outbreak of the disease among people in their late teens and early 20s accelerated alarmingly. The Guardian


  • The earnings gap between graduates and non-graduates is closing, shows research into the labour market. But graduates are still far ahead in the salary stakes. The Guardian
  • Academics from around the world are convening in Britain for the first Harry Potter conference. The Daily Telegraph
  • Irish travellers, long derided as anti-social itinerants rather than "true" Gypsies, are an ancient people in their own right, researchers say. The Independent


  • The striking disadvantages facing some applicants - and the huge advantage of applying early to medical school - is revealed in new research to be presented at the Royal Economic Society's annual conference. The Guardian
  • Letter: regarding the recent Sector Skills Councils advertisement. The Sunday Times


  • Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of the Roman Catholic church in England and Wales, renewed his attack on the abortion laws and embryo research in an Easter sermon, a TV interview, and a newspaper article which compared the research to eugenics experimentation in Nazi Germany. The Guardian
  • The film industry is to launch a scheme to help university and college students to pick out courses that teach skills relevant to their chosen careers. The Financial Times
  • Karachi University's respected Institute of Business Administration faces a series of challenges as it prepares to celebrate its 50th anniversary this year. The Financial Times

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