Today's news

December 22, 2005

Universities hit by boom in bogus degrees online
The reputation of British universities abroad is being damaged by companies peddling bogus degrees, the Government’s quality watchdog has claimed. The Quality Assurance Agency raised the alarm about a growing number of foreign companies that sell fake degrees and doctorates online to people who have “life experience”. Academic inspectors in other countries also expressed concern that Britain was becoming a haven for fake universities. A legal loophole makes it possible for overseas operations to register as universities provided that they do not claim to be offering British degrees. Many of the companies seek to give themselves respectability by adopting British names and titles while mentioning only in the small print on their websites that their degrees are not approved by any British academic bodies. 
The Times Higher Education Supplement (Dec 23), The Times

Researchers look for model answer
Researchers at Heriot-Watt University are pioneering a digital imaging system that could transform how models and toys are massproduced. Irvine-based MM1 Modelmakers, will test the laser-driven 3D printing system being developed at Heriot-Watt and it is thought the system could provide an alternative to handpainting items such as model trains. The mass production of models is dominated by the Far East because low labour costs make hand-painting models economically viable. Jonathan Corney, a researcher working on the project at the Scottish Manufacturing Institute, explained that the digital imaging system could prove very effective.
The Scotsman

Chancellor's student views back in print
A left-wing manifesto originally edited by Chancellor Gordon Brown at Edinburgh University was resurrected today 30 years after it was first published. The Red Paper on Scotland was first written when Brown was a 24-year-old student. It featured essays from the leading left-wing academics and thinkers of the time, who argued the inevitability of socialism. Vince Mills, director of the Trade Union Research Unit at Glasgow Caledonian University, has now brought out a new edition. He said the idea was to show how far the Chancellor's politics had shifted from his days as a student.
The Scotsman

New institute to study hurricane recovery
A think-tank has announced plans to create an institute to help the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast by finding long-term solutions to issues such as flood control, housing, education and emergency response. Seven universities in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are teaming with the California-based nonprofit RAND Corp to conduct studies through the Gulf States Policy Institute. While many groups have attacked short-term problems from hurricanes Katrina and Rita, not enough attention has been given to long-term challenges, RAND President and CEO James A. Thomson said.
The Guardian

Report casts doubt on bird flu drug
A "frightening" report has cast fresh doubts over the drug used to combat bird flu after two people died having failed to respond to the treatment. A study of 13 Vietnamese patients infected with the H5N1 strain of bird flu found two developed a rapid resistance to the anti-viral drug Tamiflu. Researchers at the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit working in Vietnam warned that other anti-viral drugs apart from Tamiflu may be needed. They fear that people taking the wrong dose of Tamiflu may contribute to the growth of a resistant virus strain.
The Evening Standard, The Daily Telegraph, The Scotsman, The Daily Mail

Blame it on the boogie
Scientists have confirmed what fans of John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever have known all along: men with the best dance moves have the most sex appeal. The finding lends support to the idea that dancing is a way to show off high-quality genes and good health - both indicators of a top-quality mate. Charles Darwin was the first to suggest that dance is a courtship signal in animals, but there have been no studies studying the relation of dance and genetic or physical quality in humans until now. In a study published today in Nature , William Brown of Rutgers University, New Jersey, looked at how dancing ability correlated with a person's body symmetry, a typical measure of the quality of a mate in evolutionary biology. Across a wide range of species, bodies that are less symmetric are associated with increased disease, quicker death and poor reproductivity.
The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Nature, The Independent

Never mind the aching body: jogging is good for the mind
After years of arguments, worries about knee joints and sore nipples, the debate has come full circle. Jogging, it appears, really is good for you - at least for your mind. German researchers have discovered that pounding the pavement can improve concentration and boost visual memory. The researchers, who are based at the University of Ulm, sent a group of 30 people jogging twice a week for 30 minutes and then tested them for mental improvements. They found that while their memory for numbers remained much the same, their ability to recall images and complete visual tasks, such as map work, had dramatically improved.
The Guardian, The Scotsman

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