Thursday, January 17

Save our Science. Again.

This sort of thing seems to come up with depressing monotony. The Institute of Physics has issued a plea to the Science and Technology Facilities Council not to introduce cuts until Professor Bill Wakeham review of Physics is reported to the government.

The STFC is short of 80 million. In comparison, the Northern Rock building society has had to have a loan of £26bn because - well, frankly they were too greedy and didn't worry if things went wrong because the government would have to bail them out.

Looking at the Hansard report on the discussion on Tuesday in the House of Commons on STFC funding, I find some interesting quotes:
The important point... is that the STFC has been telling Ministers about the problem since July

Although it looks as though the research councils have had a cash uplift, they are in fact spending not new money, but old money that was going towards research costs

As far as I am aware, every physics community in every university is affected by these cuts.

Wednesday, January 16


Or Rodents of Unusual Size - in the film Princess Bride, the Dread Pirate Roberts declares his disbelief in their existence, only to be promptly attacked by one.

He'd have come off rather worse against a rodent of the most unusual size so far discovered by science - Josephoartigasia monesi tipped the scales at over 1000kg.

See also an summary article in the Grauniad

Saturday, January 12

Three As and a Facebook account

Oh, shock horror. A Cambridge University admissions tutor has admitted to looking at prospective students facebook public accounts.

The University says it relies on "interview performance, academic record and personal statement, outlining their interests and reasons for studying a particular course."

But someone can be nervous at their interview, or overstate their interests in a personal statement. Or they could be very, very dull and do nothing but work (while I like to think of City boys as being very, very dull, nowadays they like to recruit people who get firsts while, say, captaining the rowing club).

Perhaps the tutor doesn't really want a bunch of dry, grey, faceless academic clones who can do nothing but work, because if you pick that you'd get a bunch of nervous breakdowns long before the finals. I suspect the tutor isn't using this as an excuse to deny people, but as a clue that someone should really be let in.

Friday, January 4

Flu vaccine?

The BBC reports that a drugs company has developed a vaccine against influenza A. That's all influenza A, not just this year's variant. Not a perfect vaccine, but protecting 90% is better than 0%.

In the Acambis press release here, they state that a pre-clinical study suggests that the vaccine provides 70% protection against the Vietnam 2004 strain of H5N1 avian influenza. Which is some 70% better than the control group.

Of course, even if it works it will be some years before this is readily available.

Dig, Lazarus, Dig

Not completely sure what this video of Nick Cave et al suggests - apart from that the new album is imminent.

More details on their website

Thursday, January 3

All right if it's funny?

Would it be funny if Times journalist Matthew Parry was hit by a large 4x4 and dragged a hundred yards down the road, dying in the gutter? Or would him being the victim of a hit and run by a speeding GTi be a joy to witness?


I didn't think so either. But he appears to have a different sense of humour.

Others who hate cyclists - like Jeremy Clarkson - are annoying, but I don't recall him ever suggesting a good way to maim them, just whinging about them in an occasionally entertaining fashion.