Today's news

July 21, 2006

Pupils underestimate level of graduate debt, survey finds
The average sixthformer expects to leave university with debts of just over £6,000 - less than half the average amount graduates actually owe, research show's. Students aged between 16 and 19 expect to graduate with debts of £6,199, £1,000 less than the £7,208 people expected to owe last year, despite annual tuition fees of up to £3,000 being introduced in September. Parents were not much better at estimating the financial burden of going to university, with the average parent expecting their child to accrue debts of £7,080.
The Guardian

Child car question formula created
A professor of mathematics has worked out an equation to calculate how long into a car journey it takes a child to ask: "Are we nearly there yet?" The inevitable and often repeated inquiry is set to ring out across the UK as schools break up for the summer holidays. Now drivers on long, hot car journeys along Britain's traffic-choked roads will be able to predict exactly when the little backseaters will first ask the question. Dwight Barkley, of the mathematics department at Warwick University, uses a number of factors to work out the equation.
The Guardian, The Scotsman

Film composer to ensure students know the score
A Hollywood composer who has twice won a prestigious Emmy Award is returning to Edinburgh to take a masterclass at Napier University. Hummie Mann, who has written soundtracks for TV shows such as The Simpsons as well as major films, is again running Napier's film-scoring programme. Mann has worked with many of the world's leading film and entertainment figures over the past 20 years. He has scored films including Robin Hood: Men in Tights , conducted the music for The Addams Family and City Slickers , and co-produced scores on A Few Good Men and Sleepless in Seattle .
The Scotsman

Geneticists shoot for Neanderthal genome in two years
We have the modern human genome. Now researchers are set to sequence the DNA of our extinct cousins: Neanderthal man. The Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, in collaboration with 454 Life Sciences Corporation, in Branford, Connecticut, today announced a plan to have a first draft of the Homo neanderthalensis genome within two years. Comparing the result with modern human and other primate genomes should help to clarify the evolutionary relationship between humans and Neanderthals. It may also illuminate the genetic changes that enabled humans to leave Africa and rapidly spread around the world about 100,000 years ago.

Flowers dwindle with plight of the bee
Wild bees and the flowers they pollinate are in serious decline in Britain, according to research that suggests that the future of many species is under threat. A survey of hundreds of sites across Britain has revealed that the diversity of bee species found has fallen in almost 80 per cent of them, and that the plant species that rely on them to reproduce are suffering a parallel decline. The trend could strip the countryside of one of its most characteristic insects and many of the wild flowers that bees pollinate. “We were shocked by the decline in plants as well as bees,” said Koos Biesmeijer of Leeds University, who led the research.
The Times

Squirrels blamed for silencing songbirds
Grey squirrels and feral cats have wiped out more songbird populations than bird predators or changes in farming methods, a report claims this week. The report by Roy Brown of Birkbeck, University of London, indicates that large, uncontrolled populations of grey squirrels can attack more than 90 per cent of songbird nests in their area and that mammalian predators can account for the loss of between one third and three quarters of songbirds. If there is also raptor activity, such as goshawks, there can be 100 per cent breeding failure and the loss of up to 85 per cent of adult birds in a locality.
The Scotsman

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