Today's news

September 5, 2006

Women scientists face pay discrimination, survey finds
Discrimination plays a significant role in the pay gap between men and women scientists working in UK universities, according to new research carried out at the University of East Anglia. Sara Connolly of UEA's School of Economics has undertaken research that reveals for the first time what proportion of the pay disparity is due to women being younger, more junior or employed in different types of institution or subject areas. Her preliminary results suggest that almost a quarter (23 per cent) of the pay gap is "unexplained" and may be due to discrimination against women. "This confirms what many working women scientists have long felt," said Dr Connolly.
The Guardian

The artist who painted music reveals secrets of the senses
Great artists tap into the way the brain muddles up the senses, according to a study that offers a scientific explanation of our love of ballet, opera and other blends of sounds and sights. Vision and hearing are inextricably linked in everyone's brain, but this is only really apparent to the 1 or 2 per cent of us who are synaesthetes - those with a rare condition in which the senses consciously mingle. Scientists at University College London attempting to recreate what synaesthetes experience have now concluded that beauty is not in the eye of the beholder: we all rate certain combinations of vision and music as more beautiful than others.
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian

Treatment with 'friendly' bacteria could counter autism in children
Probiotic bacteria given to autistic children improved their concentration and behaviour so much that medical trials collapsed because parents refused to accept placebos, a scientist has revealed. The effect of the bacteria was so pronounced that some of the parents taking part in what was supposed to be a blind trial realised their children were taking something other than a placebo. A number then refused to give their children the placebo when they were due to switch, resulting in the collapse of the trial. Glenn Gibson, a microbiologist who ran the study of 40 autistic children aged between four and eight, said this meant it was difficult to draw any firm conclusions and he is planning to carry out further research.
The Scotsman

Huge numbers of dinosaurs lie in wait
They are natural history’s superstars, yet we know surprisingly little about the diversity of dinosaurs. Now a mathematical model provides an estimate of how many different genera of dinosaurs there were. The good news is that at least 70 per cent are still be waiting to be found, the analysis suggests. The work could also stoke the debate about what killed the dinosaurs off in the first place. Steve Wang, a statistician at Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, and Peter Dodson, a palaeontologist at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, US totted up the number of skeletons found so far from each known dinosaur genus and plugged the figures into an established mathematical model that links observed data to unseen genera.
New Scientist

Evolution keeps us superstitious. Now that's lucky
Humans have evolved over tens of thousands of years to be susceptible to supernatural beliefs, a psychologist has claimed. Religion and other forms of magical thinking continue to thrive - despite the lack of evidence and advance of science - because people are naturally biased to accept a role for the irrational, said Bruce Hood, professor of experimental psychology at the University of Bristol. This evolved credulity suggests that it would be impossible to root out belief in ideas such as creationism and paranormal phenomena, even though they have been countered by evidence and are held as a matter of faith alone.
The Times, The Scotsman, The Guardian

Regarding new threats to British science.
The Independent

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