Today's news

August 22, 2006

Biobank study to expand across country
UK Biobank, the world's largest medical study, is to be rolled out across the country following the successful completion of a pilot project in Manchester. The £62 million programme - described as visionary by its funders, the Government and Wellcome Trust - will recruit 500,000 participants aged between 40 and 69 over the next few years. From their health data and biological samples, Biobank researchers will study the complex interplay of genes, lifestyle and the environment that determines an individual's risk of suffering particular diseases.
Financial Times , The Guardian

Employers stress need for 'soft skills'
Employers are more interested in school leavers having good communication skills and a strong work ethic than literacy and numeracy skills, research published today showed. The importance of so-called "soft skills" was highlighted just days after the Government re-publicised plans to crack down on the "3Rs" in an effort to pre-empt the accusation of declining standards when GCSE results are published on Thursday. Professor Alan Smithers, director of the Centre for Education and Employment Research at Buckingham University, has predicted the GCSE pass rate for grades A*-C will rise by about two percentage points to a high of 67 per cent.
Financial Times

Maverick genius turns down maths 'Nobel'
In a major snub to the international maths community, one of the winners of the discipline's most coveted prize has refused the award. The enigmatic and reclusive mathematician Grigory "Grisha" Perelman has turned down a Fields medal - an award many consider the Nobel Prize of maths. The Russian genius shocked academics in 2002 with his claim to have solved the Poincaré conjecture. The problem, which has stumped the best mathematical minds for a century, relates to the possible shapes the universe can take.
The Guardian

Early warning test for breast cancer
British scientists have developed a new way to detect breast cancer early. The new technique, pioneered by a team of researchers at Oxford University, homes in on small clumps of calcium salts, known as microcalcifications, which can be one of the earliest signs of a malignancy. Their technology makes it easier to detect the small clusters, and early correct diagnosis of breast cancer can mean the difference between life and death for a significant proportion of women affected by the disease. Many mammograms show calcium deposits that appear like white specks on the X-ray. They are often seen in both breasts and can be the result of ageing, trauma or inflammations. They are usually not signs of cancer, but when they form in clusters that can be signify a malignant tumour.
Daily Mail

By train, plane or car, we risk DVT after just 4 hours
Travellers whose journeys last more than four hours are doubling their risk of getting deep vein thrombosis whichever form of transport they use, scientists claimed yesterday. The chance of developing a potentially fatal blood clot soars for longhaul passengers whether they travel by plane, car, bus or train - and women on the Pill are at particular risk. Previously, DVT has been mainly linked to air travel, especially 'economy class syndrome' when passengers spend many hours immobile, often in cramped conditions on long-haul flights. However, a study by Dutch researchers has found that sitting stationary for long periods in other forms of transport can be just as hazardous.
Daily Mail

Human hobbit more likely to be a pygmy, scientists admit
It was described as the most significant anthropological find in a century, but further doubt has been cast on claims that remains found on the Indonesian island of Flores in 2004 were those of an entirely new species of humans dubbed "hobbits". An international team of scientists said yesterday that the skeleton was probably an ancestor of the modern pygmies who now inhabit a nearby island. "The question that I and my colleagues have asked ourselves is how anyone could possibly believe this," said Robert Eckardt at Pennsylvania State University, who co-authored the critique in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences . "There was such a will to believe in the story that critical faculties were suspended on the part of many people."
The Guardian , Daily Telegraph, The Independent

Obituary
Sir Peter Russell: Oxford's inspirational man of Iberian letters
The Guardian

Letters
Good A levels, but a poor education.
The Independent

 

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