Today's news

November 30, 2006

Christian unions warned against legal action
Court battles would not resolve underlying issues of religious identity on university campuses and would only create division, a report from an independent think-tank has warned. The report from the Christian think-tank Ekklesia said "antagonistic legal action could lead to widening an 'us' and 'them' mentality on campuses". It continued: "This does not help with friendly dialogue between the diverse cultures and views that can be found within the UK's educational institutions." The report was prepared in response to threats from Christian students at the University of Exeter, who plan to take legal action against the campus's student guild in a row over equal opportunities policies.
The Guardian

Science chief says mavericks warp debate
Britain risks "sleepwalking into a future shaped by extremists" unless academics make their voices more clearly heard, the country's most senior scientist warned today. Lord Rees, the President of the Royal Society, said that "mavericks" were grabbing too large a share of media attention in public debates on issues like climate change, stem-cell research and nuclear power. He also spoke out against the teaching of creationism in British schools, describing the denial of access to education about scientific views of the origins of life as "cultural deprivation".
The Guardian

Student, 18, is found dead after fancy-dress pub crawl
The culture of binge drinking is being blamed for the death of an 18-year-old university student after a pub-crawl. Gavin Britton was found dead in the city centre of Exeter, Devon, on Tuesday morning, still wearing the black wig and fancy dress he had donned for a night out with a group of students on Sunday. A post-mortem examination has yet to be held, but a police source said that his death was “alcohol-related” rather than natural causes. The death was described as “not suspicious”. Mr Britton, who grew up in Hampshire, was eight weeks into the first year of a business and economics course.
The Times, The Daily Telegraph

Hawking says humans must colonise other planets
Renowned cosmologist Stephen Hawking, author of the best-selling A Brief History of Time , said today humans must colonise other planets in different solar systems or face extinction. However, the wheelchair-bound Cambridge University physicist who has a crippling muscle disease said this would require spaceships using technology similar to the " warp drives " of TV science fiction show Star Trek . "The long-term survival of the human race is at risk as long as it is confined to a single planet," Hawking told BBC radio. "Sooner or later disasters such as an asteroid collision or a nuclear war could wipe us all out.”
The Scotsman

Computer that helped Greeks plot the heavens
A bronze calculating machine salvaged from a shipwreck a century ago is finally yielding its secrets, revealing a Greek computer of remarkable sophistication for a device constructed long before the birth of Christ. Scholars have been baffled by the 80-plus fragments of the mechanism, which was found in 1901 by sponge divers in a Roman shipwreck near the island of Antikythera, midway between the Peloponnese and Crete. It was the earliest known machine involving an arrangement of gear-wheels, built centuries before such technology became commonplace, but it was badly corroded and its use was a mystery.
The Daily Telegraph, Nature, The Times, The Independent

Cancer drugs harmful to brain cells
Common cancer drugs may be more harmful to the brain than the tumour cells they are meant to destroy. Laboratory tests have shown that dose levels typically used when treating patients killed 70-100 per cent of neural cells but just 40-80 per cent of cancer cells. Several types of healthy brain cell continued to die for at least six weeks after exposure. The findings, published in the Journal of Biology , may help explain the little understood cancer therapy side effect of "chemo brain".
The Independent, The Scotsman

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