Today's news

January 16, 2006

Students sitting too many A-levels, says Cambridge
Pupils who take strings of A levels could be putting themselves at a disadvantage in the competition for places at Cambridge, it emerged yesterday. The university's head of admissions said students gained no edge by sitting five or six A levels. Dr Geoff Parks said applicants would do better to spend the time developing a deeper understanding of the subject they hoped to study. They could sit more demanding Advanced Extension Awards - optional tougher papers aimed at the top 10 per cent - and read beyond the curriculum. Dr Parks's remarks will fuel claims that A levels have been 'dumbed down' while the Government attempts to make capital out of improving results.
The Daily Mail

Respected Norwegian scientist faked study on oral cancer
A Norwegian cancer scientist has been exposed as a fake after falsifying a study on oral cancer published in the renowned medical journal The Lancet . Jon Sudboe, 44, invented more than 900 individuals as the basis for his research on the correlation between taking anti-inflammatory drugs, such as paracetamol, and oral cancer. The article, published in October, concluded individuals who took anti-inflammatory drugs were less likely to develop the disease. "He faked everything: names, diagnosis, gender, weight, age, drug use," Stein Vaaler, director of strategy at Oslo's Radium hospital, said. "There is no real data whatsoever, just figures he made up himself. Every patient in this paper is a fake.”
The Guardian

Student debts 'delay' budding entrepreneurs
Rising levels of student debt may cause budding entrepreneurs to delay or scale down their plans to start a business but it will not put them off, according to new research. Anger about the extent of their debts may even be fuelling some graduates' determination to set up in business, as they attempt to pay off what they owe quickly. The Government, keen to see undergraduate tuition fees of up to £3,000 a year introduced this autumn without too much impact on other policies, will be dismayed if debt levels prove to be too much of a damper on the enthusiasm of Britain's would-be Sir Richard Bransons and Rachel Elnaughs.
The Financial Times

Bird flu mutation sparks concern
Researchers have sequenced the bird flu viruses that killed two people in Turkey in early January, and say that one of them contains a worrying mutation. This genetic tweak can make the H5N1 virus more adapted to humans than to birds, and more adapted to the nose and throat than to the lungs. This latter effect could help to increase the chances of bird flu being transmitted between people, researchers say. They add that many more mutations would probably be necessary before the virus is capable of sparking a full-blown pandemic, in which disease spreads like wild fire from person to person. The samples of H5N1 virus, taken from the first two victims who died of bird flu in Turkey, were sequenced at a World Health Organisation collaborating centre at the National Institute for Medical Research in London, UK.
Nature

Neanderthal man floated into Europe, say Spanish researchers
Spanish investigators believe they may have found proof that neanderthal man reached Europe from Africa not just via the Middle East but by sailing, swimming or floating across the Strait of Gibraltar. Prehistoric remains of hunter-gatherer communities found at a site known as La Cabililla de Benzú, in the Spanish north African enclave of Ceuta, are remarkably similar to those found in southern Spain, investigators said. Stone tools at the site correspond to the middle palaeolithic period, when neanderthal man emerged, and resemble those found across Spain. "This could break the paradigm of most investigators, who have refused to believe in any contact in the palaeolithic era between southern Europe and northern Africa," investigator José Ramos explained in the University of Cadiz's research journal.
The Guardian

The sugary solution to a poor memory
Sugary drinks of the kind condemned by health campaigners and dentists can significantly boost your memory, according to researchers. A team of psychologists found that a single sugary drink improved memory retention in volunteers by almost 20 per cent. Leigh Riby, of Glasgow Caledonian University, said his research showed links between the levels of glucose in the body and the brain's ability to make new memories and recall old ones. "I encourage all my students to have an energy drink before lectures, as it helps them learn more," he said. "When young and middle-aged adults are given glucose supplements, their memory activity increases as their brains are flooded with glucose.
The Daily Telegraph

From the weekend's papers:

Saturday

  • Oxford's animal lab workers brace themselves as they restart work. The Guardian  
  • State students still struggle to reach Oxbridge. The Evening Standard

Sunday

  • Boris Johnson is to stand for the rectorship of Edinburgh University. The Independent On Sunday
  • Universities are to introduce an entrance test to increase the numbers studying medicine. The Sunday Times
  • With tuition fees, switching course is likely to be a costly affair. Mail On Sunday
  • Professor Sir Neil MacCormick at Glasgow University has pledged to prevent damaging financial cuts to its historic student unions. The Scotland On Sunday

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