Today's news

December 16, 2005

Ailing Middlesex makes 175 staff redundant
Middlesex University is making 175 voluntary redundancies - including 33 academic staff - in a bid to save £10 million in operating expenses, the university confirmed today. It asked staff to apply for voluntary redundancy and was oversubscribed with applicants. A selection process based on students' needs took place, said the spokesperson. At the end of January, 33 academic staff will take redundancy, as will 142 administrative and technical staff, a measure that will save the university £5 million.
The Guardian

Luton expands into Bedford
Luton University is to take over De Montfort University's campus in Bedford, creating a "new university" for the county. A joint announcement by the two vice-chancellors said that, for the first time, Bedfordshire would have a single, major provider of undergraduate and postgraduate education, with a strong emphasis on meeting local needs. Luton will consult on a possible change of name. The university hopes to take advantage of massive development in the area, including 170,000 new homes, and sees opportunities in the 2012 Olympic games for its centres of excellence in media and sport.
The Guardian

Cloning expert is alleged to have faked stem cell data
The world's leading cloning expert was embroiled in an investigation yesterday amid allegations that he faked research that propelled him to the forefront of the field. Woo-Suk Hwang of Seoul National University became the first scientist to clone a human embryo last year and broke new ground again in June when he reported creating bespoke stem cells for patients with a variety of medical conditions, in research published in the US journal Science.
The Guardian, The Scotsman, The Independent

2.5m saves historic science collection
The Science Museum’s world-class library, which holds original works by Ptolemy, Newton and Einstein, has been saved from closure by a £2.5 million deal. The future of Britain’s finest collection of science books and manuscripts has been secured after Imperial College London, withdrew a plan to increase the service fees it charges for managing it by 400 per cent. The Science Museum, which had feared it would have to give away 95 per cent of its contents, has now agreed a long-term plan with Imperial that will keep it intact and available to the public. Its most important element, the Science and Technology Studies Collection, will remain at Imperial’s central library on campus in South Kensington, allowing students and academics full access.
The Times, The Guardian

Software decodes Mona Lisa's enigmatic smile
It's official: Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was 83 per cent happy, 9 per cent disgusted, 6 per cent fearful and 2 per cent angry. Nicu Sebe at the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands tested emotion-recognition software on the famous enigmatic smile. His algorithm, developed with researchers at the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, examines key facial features such as the curvature of the lips and crinkles around the eyes, then scores each face with respect to six basic emotions. Sebe drew on a database of young female faces to derive an average "neutral" expression, which the software used as a standard to compare the painting against.
New Scientist, The Scotsman

Colour pattern on insect's wings preserved in fossil
The colour of prehistoric animals is almost impossible to determine because fossilisation does not preserve it. But under exceptional circumstances, colour patterns survive. In the Crato Formation in north-east Brazil, Sam Heads of the University of Manchester and colleagues found a fossil of a type of carnivorous insect known as an antlion, in which the colour pattern is beautifully preserved. Quite how colour patterns are preserved is a mystery, but rapid burial and oxygen-free conditions are thought to be important.
New Scientist

Letters
Regarding the Oxford admissions issue.
The Times, The Daily Telegraph

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