Today's news

February 23, 2007

Putting the spark back into science
One of Scotland's leading universities is to open a centre aimed at encouraging more students to become science and maths teachers. Sir Muir Russell, the principal of Glasgow University, said the move was designed to "stem and reverse the trend away from study in science and mathematics" by Scots pupils and undergraduates. Under the scheme, which is set to be launched in the autumn, newlyqualified as well as experienced science and maths teachers will visit the centre to learn about new ways of making the subjects more interesting for pupils.
The Scotsman

Ex-theatre faces final curtain
One of Edinburgh's oldest theatre buildings is facing demolition after council officials backed plans to bulldoze it to make way for dozens of new homes. City planners are throwing their weight behind a bid by Queen Margaret University College to offload its Gateway Theatre. Several million pounds are expected to be generated from the sell-off, plans for which were drawn up after a damning structural report on the Elm Row landmark. But the prospect of the building being lost for ever is being opposed by theatre experts, city heritage chiefs and local residents.
The Scotsman

Scientists warn of severe water shortages in US
Severe water shortages are likely to constrain future expansion of population, agriculture and industry in the south-western US, the fastest growing part of the country, according to a report by the National Academy of Sciences. The study focused on the Colorado River, which supplies water to about 25 million people and millions of acres of farmland in seven states. It concluded that droughts would be longer and more serious than had been previously assumed.
The Financial Times

Islamic artists were 500 years ahead of Western scientists
Islamic artists were exploiting a mathematical principle to decorate buildings with complicated patterns of tiles more than 500 years before its discovery in the West. The decorative tilework that adorns some medieval Islamic buildings has been found to use basic geometric shapes that form a complex and highly intricate tiling pattern that does not repeat itself. In modern mathematics, the principle of non-repeating patterns on a flat surface is known as quasicrystal geometry, and the most famous example is known as Penrose tiling, after the Oxford mathematician Roger Penrose, who was thought to have discovered it 30 years ago.
The Independent, New Scientist, The Times, Nature, The Daily Telegraph

Academies criticised over maths and English results
Tony Blair's flagship academies are criticised today for their poor performance in maths and English exams. An investigation into the £5 billion academies programme by the National Audit Office recommends that the privately sponsored academies should give higher priority to literacy and numeracy - as only 22 per cent of their pupils got top-grade passes in maths and English at GCSE compared with a national average of 45 per cent. The report warns that performance in A levels "has been poor so far" - with pupils on average scoring 541 points for university entrance (the equivalent of three C-grade passes) compared with an average of 722 (three Bs) for all schools.
The Independent, The Times

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