Today's news

August 24, 2006

Half of university students give poor marks to lecturers
Almost half of university students are unhappy or indifferent about the feedback they receive from lecturers, a major survey revealed yesterday. Only 51 per cent of students said academics had helped to clarify issues they did not understand. Just under half said feedback had not been prompt, or were neutral in their response, while an overall assessment of feedback found that 40 per cent said it was unsatisfactory, or they felt indifferent. The survey also showed that students in England are less happy with their higher education than those in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. About 80 per cent of final-year students in England, where fees will more than double this autumn to £3,000 a year, said they were happy or mostly happy with their course, down by one percentage point from last year.
The Daily Telegraph, The Times, The Guardian, The Times Higher Education Supplement (Aug 25)

Hawking to receive the oldest award in science
The theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking is to receive the Royal Society's most prestigious prize for scientific achievement. The Copley medal is the oldest scientific award in the world and has been won by such luminaries as Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein and Captain James Cook. The Cambridge don, most famous for his book A Brief History of Time, will be honoured in a ceremony on November 30 for his contribution to theoretical physics and theoretical cosmology. "This is a very distinguished medal," Professor Hawking said. "It was awarded to Darwin, Einstein and [Francis] Crick. I am honoured to be in their company."
The Guardian

Stem-cell breakthrough could lift ethical taboo
A stem-cell breakthrough by American scientists is set to overturn ethical objections to potentially lifesaving research. They have found how to make stem cells from embryos without destroying the embryo in the process - an advance that could open the door to billions of dollars in research funding. Stem-cell research, which specialists believe holds the key to treating many diseases, has been severely hampered in the US by the Religious Right, backed by the Bush Administration. Federal support for such research has been banned because it involves the destruction of embryos.
The Times

China campuses ask parents to stay home
Several of Beijing's top universities have asked new students to leave their parents at home to prevent them from sleeping rough on campus, a Chinese newspaper reported yesterday. Thousands of protective Chinese parents flood Chinese universities at the start of every school year, booking out on-campus dormitories and nearby hotels, to ensure their children settle comfortably. Many too poor or simply unable to find a bed resort to sleeping rough on campus, prompting universities to take "emergency measures" the Beijing News said. "Peking University does not encourage families to accompany their children to school, but we still welcome them and will do our best to solve the real problems of all students' families," the paper quoted Zhao Weimin, a university spokesman, as saying.
The Scotsman

Edinburgh scientists' arthritis care breakthrough
Edinburgh University researchers claim to have developed a new treatment, inspired by ancient Greek and Chinese remedies, which could offer pain relief to millions of arthritis sufferers. The Greek scholar Hippocrates treated sprains, joint pains and inflammation by cooling the skin, and traditional Chinese remedies used mint oil to the same end. Now researchers have discovered cooling chemicals with the same properties as mint oil have a dramatic painkilling effect when applied in small doses to the skin. These compounds are likely to have minimal toxic side effects, especially because they are applied externally. This should mean they are ideal for chronic pain patients.
The Scotsman

How trust is built in the blink of an eye
Human beings use their intuition to decide in as little as one tenth of a second whether they trust a stranger, researchers have shown. A study of reaction times reveals that not a word needs to be spoken, nor a single muscle moved for someone’s character to be judged. Just a glimpse of a face is enough for a snap judgment to be made on whether a newcomer is likeable, competent or even trustworthy. Researchers used timed experiments in which volunteers were shown pictures of people they had never met before. The results revealed that the volunteers came to the same conclusions about the face they had been shown whether they had 100 milliseconds, 500 milliseconds or a full second to decide.
The Times

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