Today's news

February 24, 2006

20% pay claim will hurt students, universities say
The "unreasonably high" pay claim by lecturers will leave less money for student facilities and bursaries, university employers said today. As the propaganda war between the lecturers' unions and the employers escalated on the eve of a pay strike, both sides have appealed to students and their parents for support. The Universities and Colleges Employers Association accused the unions of refusing to negotiate, and warned that industrial action to boycott exam marking and assessment would hurt students unnecessarily. The Association of University Teachers and Natfhe are pursuing a 20 per cent pay claim, and argue that the introduction of £3,000 tuition fees will give universities the money to restore salaries which have fallen behind for decades.
The Guardian

Academics join Microsoft antitrust fight
Microsoft has enlisted a group of distinguished European academics in its efforts to dissuade the European Commission from imposing fresh antitrust fines. The US software group hopes their support will bolster its claim that it has complied with the Commission's antitrust ruling. Brussels accused Microsoft in December of failing to deliver on one order of the ruling which requires it to disclose technical information about its Windows operating system to rivals. The Commission believes the information is necessary to allow other companies to develop server software that functions smoothly with Windows-driven computers and servers.
The Financial Times

Scientists to speak out for animal tests
Two leading academics at Oxford University have decided to face down threats of violence from animal rights extremists and speak publicly in favour of the building of a controversial £18 million research laboratory in the city. Although scientists are advised to remain silent for fear of attacks, Professor Tipu Aziz, a consultant neurosurgeon, and Professor John Stein, a neurophysiologist have said they believe it is time to stand up to the radicals who have attempted to stop the project. "I think that it is important to speak out," said Professor Aziz, whose research into Parkinson's disease involves the use of primates.
The Guardian, The Times

Bowel disease researchers find Viagra could be a remedy
Scientists believe they have found the cause of Crohn's disease, an unpleasant and intractable bowel disorder that affects one in every thousand people in the UK - and they think it could be treated with Viagra. The team from University College London say that the cause is the opposite of what has been supposed. Crohn's causes acute ulceration and inflammation in the gut and was thought to be an auto-immune disease - an attack on the tissues by the body's defensive immune system, treated with immuno-suppressant drugs. But a long series of investigations led by Anthony Segal and colleagues has led to the discovery that people with Crohn's have a weak and unresponsive immune system which does not repair damage easily.
The Guardian

Chan in science centre name honour
The Australian National University is developing a science centre named after Jackie Chan, the action film star's official website has said. The centre was named after the Hong Kong actor because of his recent financial contribution to medical research conducted at the university in Canberra, a news statement said. Chan had earlier made a "significant contribution" to the university's medical school in honour of his mother, the statement said. Lily Chan passed away in 2001. Judith Whitworth, the director of the John Curtin School of Medical Research at the university, said the new centre will feature science and medical displays.
The Scotsman

Why women think deep when sounding out potential mates
Psychologists, led by Dr David Feinberg at St Andrews University, found that women tend to prefer the deep voice of a man during the most fertile phase of the menstrual cycle. During their least fertile phase, most women showed less signs of this preference and were more open to a higher, more feminine voice that signalled the man was likely to be a caring, sharing type who would be a good father. However, attractive and feminine women gave consistently high ratings to the deeper tones of the alpha male, which the scientists said suggested they were able to tame and persuade the normally promiscuous "caveman" type to commit to a long-term relationship.
The Scotsman, The Daily Telegraph

Enzyme computer could live inside you
A molecular computer that uses enzymes to perform calculations has been built by researchers in Israel. Itamar Willner, who constructed the molecular calculator with colleagues at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel, believes enzyme-powered computers could eventually be implanted into the human body and used to, for example, tailor the release of drugs to a specific person's metabolism. The team built their computer using two enzymes - glucose dehydrogenase and horseradish peroxidase - to trigger two interconnected chemical reactions Two chemical components - hydrogen peroxide and glucose - were used to represent input values (A and B). The presence of each chemical corresponded to a binary 1, while the absence represented a binary 0. The chemical result of the enzyme-powered reaction was determined optically.
New Scientist

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