Today's news

March 30, 2005

Surprise omission from science cities list
Leeds was understandably miffed when Gordon Brown named Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne and York as the first of a clutch of UK science cities. Its irritation increased when the chancellor added Bristol, Nottingham and Birmingham in this month's Budget. The city is home to two of the UK's biggest universities, Leeds University and Leeds Metropolitan, and one of its biggest teaching hospitals. Leeds University ranks among the top 10 by research funding. Through its partnership in the White Rose research consortium with York and Sheffield universities, its combined research spend rivals that of Oxford and Cambridge.
The Financial Times

US team finds alternative stem cell source
American researchers reported this week that stem cells found in hair follicles can develop into nerve cells and might be useful in medical treatment. With strict government restrictions on using stem cells from human embryos, scientists in the US are under pressure to find alternative sources of these cells, which can develop into different kinds of body tissues, from skin to liver or nerve. In the hope of finding treatments for a range of diseases and enabling doctors to perform individually tailored transplants, the British government has pursued a more liberal regime on embryo research, which it hopes to turn to its economic advantage.
The Guardian

Astronomer royal to head Royal Society
Sir Martin Rees, the astronomer royal and professor of cosmology at Cambridge University, is to succeed Lord May as president of the Royal Society, Britain's senior scientific body. Sir Martin, 62, is not only a distinguished researcher but also an outstanding communicator of science. He has written several popular books and is an effective broadcaster. Sir Martin will be elected formally by the society's fellows in the summer and begin his five-year presidency on December 1.
The Financial Times, The Guardian

Scientists believe third earthquake is 'imminent'
Scientists who accurately predicted yesterday's 8.7 magnitude earthquake in Indonesia yesterday gave warning that a potentially devastating third tremor could strike directly below the ruined city of Banda Aceh. Professor John McCloskey warned 12 days ago that the earthquake and tsunami of December 26 had caused an enhanced likelihood of two further quakes in the region by destabilising two neighbouring fault lines. Dr McCloskey, who leads a team studying geophysics at the University of Ulster, said: "Unfortunately it looks as if it is all entirely consistent with our study. We were concerned about two potential events, and this appears to be one of them.
The Times, The Guardian

University offers place to Hollywood star
An Irish university said today it would be happy to accept Hollywood actor Martin Sheen as a student after he revealed plans to study in Ireland. Sheen said that after he retires from the fictional White House in the long-running television series West Wing, he would be keen to study in the west of Ireland. A spokeswoman for National University of Ireland, Galway, said today: “Obviously we would be quite happy to accommodate him. This is the first I have heard of it.” The Apocalypse Now actor, whose mother emigrated from Ireland, has admitted that despite international stardom he wants to go back to school.
The Scotsman

Britain's plan to save planet from quakes and asteroids
Plans for an early warning system to protect the world against natural disasters ranging from earthquakes and tsunamis to asteroid strikes have been drawn up by the Government’s chief scientist on the orders of the Prime Minister. A panel headed by Professor Sir David King is recommending that Britain push for a global alarm network to reduce the potential devastation of events such as the Boxing Day tsunami.
The Times, The Scotsman

Salmon farms teeming with lice threaten wild fish
Canadian scientists have confirmed that salmon farms are a threat to wild salmon. Researchers monitored 5,500 baby salmon along a 37-mile long migration route past a fish farm, to find the juveniles exposed to 30,000 times the normal risk of parasitic infection. Sea lice are a hazard for all salmon. But freshly hatched salmon heading for the sea - no bigger than a little finger - are particularly at risk. If there are enough of the parasites, sea lice can quite literally eat their host alive.
The Guardian

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