Today's news

September 9, 2005

State pupils to get more places at top universities
The top universities are being pressed to operate a new admission system that would favour poorer students from state schools. Youngsters at inner-city comprehensives who do better at A level than their teachers predict would have a second chance to impress admissions tutors. The move forms part of proposals for an overhaul of the university applications system set out by the Government today. Bill Rammell, the Higher Education Minister, said that it would make admissions fairer. “The research-intensive universities could hold back a proportion of their places if they want to get the best students,” he said.
The Times, The Guardian, The Independent

Students shown red light over prostitutes in halls
Students in Aberdeen have been warned that they will be evicted from halls of residence if they take prostitutes back to their rooms. Robert Gordon University issued the ultimatum after a prostitute was found wandering in all-male student accommodation that overlooks the city’s notorious harbour area. The university confirmed that a letter was issued to students by the accommodation manager after a security breach in May at the Mearns Complex and complaints from other residents.
The Times

New £42m IT research centre
Edinburgh is to have one of the world's leading centres for computing science and information research at a cost of £42 million, it was announced yesterday. Enterprise and Lifelong Learning Minister Nicol Stephen said the Informatics Forum project, in collaboration with Edinburgh and other universities, will lead to major scientific breakthroughs with commercialisation opportunities.
The Scotsman

Irish luck is not locally specific
Richard Wiseman from Hertfordshire University has tested the luck of Skibbereen, which is reputedly Ireland’s luckiest town, and found it to be no luckier than anywhere else. The town has had ten jackpot-winning tickets in the state lottery bought there. But when Professor Wiseman bought 50 tickets there and 50 in Dublin none of the tickets bought in either place won even a small cash prize and the proportion of right numbers was similar in each place. “In some ways it’s a relief,” he said. “An incredible amount of luck in Skibbereen would have been a real challenge to science.”
The Times

Human embryo from two mothers gets go-ahead
British scientists have been given the green light to create human embryos with genetic material from two mothers. The scientists, based at Newcastle University, will use the technique to help develop therapies for a range of often lethal conditions known as mitochondrial diseases. The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority granted the researchers a licence yesterday. Mitochondrial diseases are caused by genetic defects in tiny structures called mitochondria. They are regarded as the powerhouses of the body and if defective can give rise to a range of damaging diseases.
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Times

Comet reveals crumbly guts
Comets are made of a loose collection of particles, like a weak sponge held together only by its own gravity. That is the conclusion of the Deep Impact team, who this week unveiled the latest results from their probe's smashing encounter with a comet. This spells bad news for the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission, which is aiming to land a probe on comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko in 2014. The lander, named Philae , might have a very hard time staying put on such a crumbly surface, the team warns.
Nature

British Association Festival of Science
Giant flying reptiles that soared through the skies in the dinosaur era may have been almost twice as big as previously thought. Recent discoveries suggest that pterosaurs, the best known of which is the pterodactyl, could have had a wingspan of up to 59ft. David Martill, from the University of Portsmouth, told the conference: "These were very, very big animals indeed. They were the size of a small aeroplane. Even though they are fragments, they are bloody big fragments." "Exceptional tissue preservation shows that these animals had a very sophisticated structure."
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian

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