Today's news

December 19, 2006

Oxford rejects reform
Oxford dons today rejected plans to give outsiders a say in the running of the historic university. A postal ballot of the nearly 4,000 members of Oxford's Congregation resulted in defeat for the proposals from controversial vice-chancellor John Hood. But Dr Hood, who has been under intense pressure over his reforms, stressed that he wanted to continue as the university's vice-chancellor, despite losing the vote. He had wanted more expert lay members on a new university council to bring objectivity and business expertise to the way Oxford is run. But Dr Hood's critics believed the reforms would place too much power in the hands of outsiders who would be unduly influenced by the vice-chancellor.
The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian

Sheffield appoints vice-chancellor
Sheffield University's next vice-chancellor is to be Professor Keith Burnett, currently head of mathematical, physical and life sciences at Oxford. He will take over from Professor Bob Boucher whose period of office comes to an end in December 2007. An eminent physicist who has been at Oxford for nearly 20 years, he was born in Llwynypia in the Rhondda Valley and attended Brynteg Comprehensive in Bridgend. He went on to study for a BA and PhD in physics at Oxford. His academic career started in Colorado, in the US, as a research associate at the Joint Institute for Laboratory Astrophysics. He went on to become an assistant professor in the department of physics at the University of Colorado. He lectured in physics at Imperial College for four years.
The Guardian

Idea that is last straw for spiked drinks wins award
A group of students have scooped a top business award for inventing a straw which changes colour if a drink has been spiked. The three Heriot-Watt University friends came up with the idea after discovering that many fellow students were concerned about drug-related rape and assaults. The invention has won James Cooke, 21, Julian Fietzek, 22 and Adam Riding, 26, the £1000 regional prize in the Scottish Business Gateway contest. They were presented with the award, which is backed by Dragons' Den star Duncan Bannatyne, at a ceremony in Glasgow. They now hope to manufacture the brightly coloured straws, and sell them to pubs and clubs around Edinburgh in the new year.
The Scotsman

'DNA diets' under the microscope
Scientists are warning internet users about web-based companies which offer tailored diets to counter genetic vulnerability to certain cancers and other illnesses. Some sites are charging up to £1,000 for genetic testing and a dietary plan. But top scientists in the emerging field say the claims of some websites are "pie in the sky". The rise in the marketing of "nutrigenomic" testing and diets on the internet is now the subject of an ethical inquiry funded by the Wellcome Trust. Nutrigenomics is the scientific study of the interaction between genes, diet and illness. Serious scientists are beginning to establish some links between genetic variations and vulnerability to some illnesses or disorders which might react to certain diets. But the scientific community has stressed that there is no proof yet that the science can be used to improve health.
The Guardian

'Tis nobler in the mind to read Shakespeare
Reading Shakespeare excites the brain in a way that keeps it “fit”, researchers say. A team from the University of Liverpool is investigating whether wrestling with the innovative use of language could help to prevent dementia. Monitoring participants with brain-imaging equipment, they found that certain lines from Shakespeare and other great writers such as Chaucer and Wordsworth caused the brain to spark with electrical activity because of the unusual words or sentence structure. Referring to “functional shift” - such as when a noun is used as a verb - Philip Davis, of the university’s School of English, said that the brain reacts “in a similar way to putting a jigsaw puzzle together.”
The Times

Gallery pieces together show
Jigsaws, Charles Darwin and bird-watching will be among the subjects covered in a new art exhibition coming to the Scottish capital. Aggregate, by London-based artist Jamie Shovlin, will the first exhibition of 2007 at the Talbot Rice Gallery at the University of Edinburgh. Among the works on show will be a unique look at Darwin's The Origin of Species , along with original copies of the publication from the university's own collection. The exhibition runs from January 20 to March 10, with new works commissioned from venues in Edinburgh, Leicester, New Forest and Newcastle.
The Scotsman

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