Today's news

February 27, 2006

Opposing sides in animal testing row pledge to step up action
Protesters for and against animal testing have predicted an escalating conflict after the two sides clashed during weekend demonstrations in Oxford. Both groups pledged to step up campaigns which have already resulted in death threats aimed at advocates of animal testing and panic buttons installed at the home of a leading provivisection protester. Pro-Test, the group which organised the Oxford rally of scientists, students and patients, plans a march in London which it hopes will draw 5,000 supporters. A spokesman for Speak, the animal rights group campaigning against a new animal research laboratory in Oxford, said the Pro-Test demonstration had left it "fired up" to take tougher action.
The Guardian

Tests at 11 to decide places at university
Moves to cherry-pick the brightest children in England’s state schools from the age of 11 for places at top universities are set to begin within weeks. The controversial plan, which will spark fears among Labour MPs of a new system of “super-selection”, is hailed by academics as a way of opening up university admissions without lowering standards. But critics fear that students who develop later will be left out because the process hinges on tests in the final year of primary school. Universities will be encouraged to select the brightest children by establishing early links with them.
The Times, The Guardian

How women evolved blonde hair to win cavemen's hearts
For those who are still considering the debate on whether men prefer blondes, a study may have provided proof in favour of the flaxen-haired, if only because they appeal to the "caveman" within. Academic researchers have discovered that women in northern Europe evolved with light hair and blue eyes at the end of the Ice Age to stand out from the crowd and lure men away from the far more common brunette. Blond hair originated through genetic necessity at a time when there was a shortage of both food and males, leading to a high ratio of women competing for smaller numbers of potential partners, according to the study published this week in the academic journal, Evolution and Human Behaviour .
The Independent

Cells from baby pigs to treat diabetes
Transplants of piglet cells could be used to treat diabetes patients within three years after successful experiments in monkeys, scientists said. Two new studies have shown that insulin-producing islet cells from the pancreases of newborn pigs can reverse type 1 diabetes in primates. The findings, from teams in Canada and the US, pave the way for human clinical trials. If the trials are successful, millions of people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes could eventually benefit from treatment with piglet cells. Transplants of insulin-producing islet cells have long been considered a promising therapy and the first experiments using human cells were conducted as far back as 1977.
The Times

Music appointment strikes a new note for university
Queen Margaret University College has appointed its first resident musician to encourage greater musical collaborations between staff and students. Scottish musician Rob MacKillop has been appointed to the newly-created post as part of the college's drive to develop extra-curricular activity.
The Scotsman

Memory aided by meaning
Ever struggled to recall something you knew you ought to remember? Part of the problem might be that your brain just wasn't ready to store the memory in the first place. Neuroscientists have discovered that how successfully you form memories depends on your frame of mind not just during and after the event in question, but also before it. "People didn't realize that what the brain does before something happens influences the memory of that event," says Leun Otten of University College London, UK, who led the research. "They looked just at the response."

From the weekend's papers:


  • Oxford braces itself for hundreds of noisy animal rights protestors. The Times
  • Chinese students in Britain are diminishing as the Orient pours money into its own university system. The Financial Times
  • Would-be students at Dundee University have been warned to be on their guard against "kleptomaniac" children. The Scotsman


  • A 16-year-old school drop-out is leading the fight against the animal welfare campaigners laying siege to Oxford. The Sunday Times, The Sunday Telegraph, The Independent
  • Dundee research centre under the microscope over staff claims of bullying. The Scotsman

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