Today's news

June 23, 2006

Redundancy fears after Liverpool university cuts
Lecturers at Liverpool John Moores University face job cuts after the institution announced it would close its language and business information schools. Several courses have been cancelled immediately - German and Chinese will no longer be taught at the university and the BSc in e-business will not be offered. The president of the local University and College Union branch, John Middleton, said: "The news of redundancies comes as a massive shock to everyone here at Liverpool John Moores, principally because there is absolutely no need for them. "The university has got its sums wrong and urgently needs to go back to the drawing board."
The Guardian

Parents' property deals pay the university bills
Sunderland has recorded the biggest increase in house prices in a survey of 109 university towns and cities across the United Kingdom. Parents who invested in property while their children went to university in the North East have found that the value has climbed by 147 per cent over five years. Prospective investors need not be put off, however: the average cost of a home in Sunderland remains nearly £5,000 lower than for the region as a whole. A report by Halifax Estate Agents found that many parents, faced with the prospect of student debts totalling £20,000 or more after years of study, are studying house prices alongside university league tables and are turning to bricks and mortar to help to finance their children’s higher education.
The Times

Gates makes £7m university research donation
The University of York has received £7.4 million from the world's richest man, Bill Gates, to develop a plant that will cure malaria. The university's Centre for Novel Agricultural Products is researching a plant that could help alleviate the global shortage of effective treatments for malaria - a disease that kills more than 1 million people annually, mostly children in Africa. CNAP, which is part of the university's biology department, has been working on a fast-track breeding research programme for the plant, known as Artemisia annua - the sole source of the leading anti-malarial drug, artemisinin.
The Guardian

Newcastle recruits pioneering German stem cell scientist
The University of Newcastle has recruited a top stem cell scientist from Germany to pursue research with the potential to lead to future therapies for a range of medical conditions, such as heart disease, Parkinson's disease and male infertility. Karim Nayernia joins from the Georg-August University of Göttingen, Germany. There he was part of a team that was the first in the world to isolate a new type of stem cell from adult mouse testes (male sex glands), called spermatagonial stem cells. The team published its results in Nature, in April, showing that some of these stem cells, called multipotent adult germline stem cells, turned into heart, muscle, brain and other cells.
The Guardian

Adams to head commercial arm of informatics centre
Edinburgh University's flagship School of Informatics has named its first director of commercialisation, as it ramps up the launch of its key £42 million research facility. Dr Colin Adams was most recently vice-president and general manager of Cadence Design Systems in Scotland where he was responsible for the Livingston facility, and had worldwide responsibility for Cadence Design Foundry - the electronics design services arm of the £1.2 billion global company. Adams will now be responsible for generating commercial projects from the facility, the Informatics Forum - part-funded by the Scottish Executive and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothian - which is under construction in Edinburgh city centre.
The Scotsman

Studio sues student over 9/11 film
The budget for Oliver Stone's forthcoming movie about the September 11 attacks, starring Nicolas Cage, is $60 million (about £33 million). So it does not bode well that Paramount Pictures, the studio behind it, is worried that a 12-minute student art project, distributed free on the web, might be confused with the real thing. But that is the logic behind a copyright infringement lawsuit Paramount has filed against Chris Moukarbel, 28, who graduated from Yale University last month. He made the movie with student actors using a bootleg version of Stone's script for World Trade Center, which tells the story of two port authority police officers who were trapped but then escaped from the rubble of the twin towers.
The Guardian

Oldest known jewellery discovered
It can take hundreds of beads to make a single bracelet, and thousands for a haute couture gown. But it has taken only three shell beads to shake up our theories about human evolution. The jewellery might not be much by today's standards of bling: they are simple seashells punctured to make rudimentary beads. But archaeologists have dated two of them, from the site of Skhul in Israel, as at least 100,000 years old. This makes them the oldest known items of personal adornment, beating the previous record-holder, a set of similar shell beads found in South Africa's Blombos Cave, by almost 25,000 years.
Nature, The Times, New Scientist

Smile, it's the happiest day of the year
Today is the happiest day of the year, according to a psychologist. The combination of sunshine and England's progress in the World Cup means the country is in a very optimistic mood, says Dr Cliff Arnall, of the University of Cardiff. He has devised a formula for measuring mood through outdoor activity, energy levels and sunlight. He used a similar method to calculate that Jan 23 was the most depressing day. His formula is O + (N x S) + Cpm/T + He, in which O stands for being outdoors and outdoor activity, N for nature, S for social interaction, Cpm for childhood summers and positive memories, T for temperature and He for holidays and anticipating time off.
The Daily Telegraph, The Independent

Extract from Peruvian plant could speed up wound healing
A traditional medicine from Peru can radically speed up the healing of wounds. In tests, injuries treated by an extract of the plant Anredera diffusa healed more than 40 per cent faster than normal. Scientists said the plant's active ingredient, oleanolic acid, could speed up the healing of cuts and abrasions as well as easing the pain of ulcer sufferers. "Impaired wound healing may cause severe health-related complications, such as infections and tissue necrosis," write the researchers in the Journal of Natural Products, published today. "These ailments have spurred the search for wound-healing agents from ethnomedicinal sources."
The Guardian

Oldest spider web found in amber
The world's oldest spider web – complete with captured prey - has been discovered, preserved in 110-million-year-old amber. The web was trapped in the early Cretaceous period as sticky sap seeped from a tree in what is now Spain. It had hung from a tree so that it would catch insects on the wing. The sap may have dripped onto the web, or the web may have blown onto its surface, says David Grimaldi of the American Museum of Natural History in New York, US. Then more sap covered it, forming a small amber "stalactite" 18 millimetres long and 7.5 millimetres wide.
New Scientist, The Times

Scientists spot formula for the perfect penalty
Experts claimed today they had discovered the scientific formula for taking the perfect penalty. The formula, (((X+Y+S)/2) x ((T+I+2B)/4))+(V/2)-1, was developed by scientists at John Moores University in Liverpool. After analysing England's penalties at major tournaments since 1962, the experts discovered the perfect penalty was Alan Shearer's against Argentina in 1998. They have sent their findings to Sven Goran Eriksson.
The Scotsman, The Daily Telegraph

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