Today's news

February 14, 2006

UK sportsmen smell Olympic medals
British hopes for the 2008 Olympics are to be boosted by an environmental testing chamber at Napier University that can simulate the polluted air of Beijing. The £150,000 facility, which is backed by the British Olympic Association, at the university's Merchiston campus, will allow groundbreaking research into the effects of different environmental and atmospheric conditions on the body during exercise. While the effects of air pollution on ordinary people are known, little research has been carried out into how it affects athletes.
The Scotsman

Going, but not gone
Until Friday, Paul Mackney, who has done more than anyone to bring about a merger of the two higher and further education unions, was favourite to become the first general secretary of the new body. His union, Natfhe, will merge this summer with the Association of University Teachers to form the 120,000-strong University and College Union. But a serious heart attack last July and six weeks in cardiac wards convinced him, as he put it, "that staying alive and making what contribution you can is more important than running the risks associated with illusions of indispensability".
The Guardian

From a garage studio in Yorkshire, Larkin speaks again
It's a low and almost dull reading, done in a Yorkshire garage and only just avoiding a monotone, but it has excited poetry enthusiasts as a rare voice from the past. Twenty-one years after his death, the poet Philip Larkin has spoken again in a set of tapes stashed in an attic along with hundreds of local history interviews recorded in the town of Hornsea.
The Guardian

The prize: $10m. To win, just solve these science problems
They are an elite club of billionaires, movie producers, dotcom wiz kids and the occasional astronaut and between them they hope to change the face of scientific research. Together, they make up the X-Prize Foundation, an organisation set up by Peter Diamandis of Space Adventures, the company that arranged for Dennis Tito to fly to the International Space Station in 2001 and so become the world's first space tourist. The foundation plans to launch three prizes of at least $10 million (£5.75 million) this year to crack some of the toughest problems facing genetics, nanotechnology and the car industry.
The Guardian

Donor breakthrough for cloning research
British women are to be cleared to donate eggs solely for cloning experiments that promise new therapies for diseases such as Parkinson’s and diabetes. New rules to be approved tomorrow will for the first time allow scientists to recruit donors who are not already having medical treatment, in procedures that carry potential health risks. The decision by the Government’s fertility watchdog has stirred fresh ethical controversy about therapeutic cloning, as the new donors run the risk of damaging their health for no direct benefit to themselves.
The Times

Study pours cold water on Darwin's theory of life
Life is likely to have emerged in warm puddles of fresh water and not the piping-hot volcanic springs that have often been proposed as its source, research has suggested. An experiment to recreate the conditions in which life began has revealed that the hot, acidic, clay-filled waters that had been proposed as prime candidates are probably incapable of mixing organic matter in the right way.
The Times, The Scotsman

Lost World found in the Caribbean
A treasure trove of undiscovered marine life has been found on an underwater mountain top in the Caribbean. Scientists found an average of a new species a day on a 14-day dive on the little-studied Saba Bank Atoll, a submerged volcano that is the world's third largest coral atoll.The expedition, which was plagued by high winds and strong currents, found 200 species of fish where only 50 were recorded before, among them two new and undiscovered species of goby. The expedition, mounted by scientists from Conservation International, the Smithsonian Institution and the Netherlands Antilles Government, found vast beds of seaweed, which included a dozen new species.
Daily Telegraph

Familiarity with a route breeds longer journey
Commuters who think that their journey to work gets mind-numbingly longer each day could be correct, scientists revealed yesterday. New research shows that the more times someone has walked a route, the longer they judge it to be. Andrew Crompton, a researcher at Manchester University, wanted to find out how good people were at judging distances in the real world.
The Scotsman

90ft nude woman for Dundee
What Scotland really needs is a 90ft nude woman made from multicoloured steel. Happily, Dundee University is considering asking the sculptor David Mach to make one straddling a few of its buildings, as a way to celebrate a £200 million redevelopment project. A scale model of Bio Colossus goes on display at the city’s arts centre next month for public consultation and, who knows, perhaps a visit from King Kong.
The Times

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