Archive by date | December 2010

US administration explains why polar bears are ‘threatened’, not ‘endangered’

US administration explains why polar bears are 'threatened', not 'endangered'

The administration of George W. Bush was correct in 2008 to label the polar bear as ‘threatened’, but not ‘endangered’, under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) – and it should stay that way, said the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) yesterday.

Senate ratifies nuclear arms deal

Senate ratifies nuclear arms deal

The US Senate has ratified the New START treaty, a nuclear arms agreement between Russia and the US that has been a key foreign policy objective for US President Barack Obama. The decision paves the way for a new round of bilateral nuclear inspections, which ended in 2009 when the 1991 START I treaty expired. Obama signed the treaty with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in April in Prague (right). It replaces the 2002 Moscow Treaty, which was set to expire in 2012, and which made no arrangement for mutual verification of the arms limits it set. Under New START, which  … Read more

Wales to lose nearly half its universities

The number of universities in Wales must be cut from 11 to at least 6 by 2013, the body that funds higher education in the principality said yesterday. The funding council wants institutions to collaborate regionally, so that there are no more than two universities in each region.

Shining light

A technique that enables scientists to control the behaviour of cells using flashes of light has been named Method of the Year 2010 by the journal Nature Methods. Optogenetics, as it’s called, has already been used by neuroscientists to show which nerve cells fire when a sleeping mouse wakes. The technique is also expected to shine light on the interactions of proteins inside cells.  Read more

Science really is child’s play

Science really is child's play

Kids have a natural fascination about the world around them, but it isn’t often this curiosity gets channelled into peer-reviewed scientific papers.

A group of 8- to 10-year-olds from Blackawton School in Devon are doing their best to change that. Their findings, published today in the peer-reviewed Royal Society journal Biology Letters, offer modest new insight into how the Buff-tailed Bumble-bee (Bombus terrestris) perceives the world. And, though their research is written up in “kids speak” and lacks the traditional accoutrement of references to previous research or historical context, their champions and reviewers alike insist that it is sound science. Beau Lotto, a neuroscientist at University College London’s Institute of Opthalmology and one of the two adult co-authors (the other is Dave Strudwick, head teacher at the kids’ school), says simply: “The paper wasn’t published just because it was kids.”

Capitol Hill’s busy day — and night

Capitol Hill's busy day — and night

For a lame duck, the current session of the US Congress certainly seems to be hitting its stride. Recent days have seen a raft of important legislation passing through both the House of Representatives and the Senate as lawmakers push to get their highest priority bills turned into laws. Here’s a quick overview of some of the developments today that will be of special interest to the scientific community: Let’s get it STARTED… The Senate voted 67-28 today to vote tomorrow on the New START treaty, a nuclear arms agreement between Russia and the US. New START – which stands  … Read more

Canada promises to improve oil sands environmental monitoring

Canada promises to improve oil sands environmental monitoring

The Canadian and Albertan governments will build a world-class environmental monitoring system to track water and air quality, and monitor biodiversity in the oil sands region of northern Alberta, John Baird, Canadian minister of the environment, announced today. “The need is absolutely urgent,” he told reporters.