Today's news

January 25, 2007

Universities unite for joint physics school
Birmingham, Nottingham and Warwick universities today announced the creation of a joint graduate school for physics. The Midlands Physics Alliance, with £3.9 million backing from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, will bring together academics from all three institutions to undertake large-scale research and attract the best students from across the world to develop and train the next generation of scientists. With the closure of physics departments provoking fears for the future of the subject, the new scheme suggests that even strong research-led universities need to collaborate on research and attracting the best graduate students in a world of soaring equipment costs and international competition.
The Guardian

Scientists tighten security over germ terror threat
Britain’s laboratories have been ordered to strengthen security on stocks of more than 100 deadly viruses and bacteria after an MI5 warning that Islamic terrorists are training in germ warfare. The biological agents include polio, rabies, tuberculosis and avian flu. Food poisoning bacteria such as E. coli and the sources of a number of rare tropical and Middle Eastern illnesses are also included. Scientists and laboratory staff in universities, hospitals and pharmaceutical companies who deal with agents will have to be vetted by police, and their laboratories will be checked by government safety inspectors. Stock will have to be regularly audited.
The Times

Students struggle with creating greener world
Climate change will soon be hitting hard, lifestyles will have to change for civilisation to survive into the next century, but Britain's students plan to carry on flying. While most 17 to 21-year-olds claim to have walked or cycled rather than travel by car for environmental reasons, few are prepared to give up even one trip by air over the next decade. A survey of 54,240 of the nation's brightest young people reveals a startling conflict in attitudes towards achieving a greener world. Nine out of 10 believe climate change will be felt within 25 years, mostly for the worse.
The Guardian

X-Men professor to teach Oxford: the Next Generation
Professor Xavier is moving on from tutoring the X-Men to joining the staff of Oxford University. Patrick Stewart, perhaps even better known as Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek , has been named as the next Cameron Mackintosh visiting professor of contemporary theatre. Based at St Catherine's College, and succeeding the director Phyllida Lloyd, he will make his inaugural lecture in April. Currently appearing in Anthony and Cleopatra for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stewart has successfully bridged the gap between Shakespearean theatre and science fiction film and television.
The Guardian

Australian giants killed by bushfires, not Ice Age
Giant kangaroos, marsupial lions and wombats the size of a car survived all that climate change could throw at them but were wiped out by the arrival of mankind, according to a study. Fossil remains of the animals were found in a cave on the Nullarbor Plain, in southern Australia, and scientists have been astonished by the number and variety of creatures preserved. At least 69 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, a third of them now extinct, have been unearthed at the site after falling and becoming trapped in the deep caves 400,000 to 800,000 years ago.
The Times

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