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December 2003
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February 2004

Physics students offered extra £1,000 bursary


The Institute of Physics is to hold out a £1,000 carrot to students who choose to study physics at university.

The body is the first to offer all students who study physics at undergraduate level the opportunity to apply for a grant of up to ?1,000. Grants will be means tested so they will benefit the poorest students most. However, they will only be introduced if the government goes ahead with increases to tuition fees.

The proportion of students studying physics and other sciences has fallen significantly over the past 20 years.

David Wallace, the president of the Institute of Physics, said he hoped their offer would encourage more people to take up the subject. Professor Wallace said: "Physics is vital to the future of the UK economy and the Institute hopes that by offering serious cash, it can help reverse this trend as well as ensure that the brightest students are able to study what they are good at, not just what they can afford."

He admitted it wouldn't address the falling number of students studying physics at A-level: "It isn't going to solve all the problems facing physics departments, but we hope it may have a trickle-down effect when pupils are thinking about what A-levels to take."

The bursary scheme would be operational from 2006 and would use the government's system of means testing for top-up fees in order to identify students most in need of a bursary.

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Enhanced 999 facility for UK mobile phones


The new system will allow approximate locations to be identified by control rooms as calls are connected. It will also help in the identification of hoax callers. Fixed line callers already benefit from the facility. A previous study of location information on fixed line calls showed that, on average, 30 seconds could be saved in the despatch of emergency vehicles for each call. The enhanced system would also apply to the European Emergency Number, 112.

Location based services start to become a reality... Like so much technology, the thrust of this development has been safety and security. The spin-offs will be much more consumer orientated.

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eLearning in the USA “Online Learning: A Real-World Perspective”

"Quality research is vital to improving student achievement. We probably have more experience, and more successful experience, than just about anyone else in this arena," said CEO Katharine Endacott. "We've learned many, many lessons along the way, and our research helps us to incorporate those lessons into our instructional design processes and professional development programs."

Download .pdf "Online Learning: A Real-World Perspective,"

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The way to e-learning excellence

NLN, Becta

The new reference document "Paving the way to excellence in e-learning" has been produced by the NLN Materials Team at Becta, to share the procedures that are followed to ensure the e-learning materials commissioned for the NLN are of the highest quality possible.

The guidelines cover pedagogy, accessibility (both design and technical requirements), technical standards and quality assurance. It also contains information about the implementation and dissemination activities carried out by the team to integrate the NLN materials into the post-16 sectors.

Download "Paving the way to excellence in e-learning" in pdf format.

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How to Use a Defibrillator to Restore a Heartbeat

Defibrillation is the delivery of a powerful electrical shock to the heart. (The defibrillator is the device used in movies and TV shows: two handheld pads are placed on the victim’s chest while an actor yells “Clear!”) In the past, defibrillators were very heavy, expensive, needed regular maintenance, and were mostly found only in hospitals. Now there are more portable units available. A defibrillator should be used only for a Sudden Cardiac Arrest (SCA), an electrical problem that cannot be helped by CPR.

Now read on...


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20 Facts about the Human Genome

The Sanger Institute : Human Genome Project

"Fact 8. - If two different people started reciting their individual [genome sequence] at a rate of one letter per second, it would take [on average] eight and a half minutes (500 seconds) before they reached a difference."

And from

"The first mention of the sequence GATTACA in the human genome is 14109 characters in. It will be several decades before science is able to explain why I spent 20 minutes tracking that down."

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The Information Landscape

OCLC Report 2003: Libraries - Issues and Trends

It has become increasingly difficult to characterize and describe the purpose of and the experience of using libraries and other allied organizations. The traditional notions of library, collection, patron and archive have changed and continue to change. The relationships among the information professional, the user and the content have changed and continue to change.

What has not changed is the implicit assumption among most librarians that the order and rationality that libraries represent is necessary and a public good. So there is a persistent and somewhat testy tone to much that is written about the changed information landscape by those in the information community: Why don't they get it that libraries and librarians are useful, relevant and important in the age of Google?

This comprehensive international report has been put together by and for some pretty high-powered people. Just note this list from a UK perspective:

Chris Bailey, Director of Library Services, Glasgow University

Chris Batt, Chief Executive, The Council for Museums, Archives and Libraries

Tim Berners-Lee, Director, World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

Phillip Blackwell, CEO, Blackwell Ltd., Oxford

David Bradbury, Director of Libraries, Corporation of London

Clive Field, Director, Scholarship and Collections, British Library

The purpose of The 2003 OCLC Environmental Scan: Pattern Recognition is the identification and description of issues and trends that are impacting and will impact OCLC, libraries, museums, archives and other allied organizations, positively and negatively.

The report highlights the difficulties facing libraries now that their primary purpose as repositories of information is fading.

Much of the research for the report was done without using traditional, library-based, abstracting and indexing services, except to verify bibliographic data.

Using the Google search engine, it was easy to find what used to be called “gray literature”—statistical data, conference presentations and proceedings—material that used to be quite difficult to identify and locate in a pre-Web world. It is still not easy to find such material using many traditional library catalogs and resources. This difficulty is something you might reflect on as you read the report.

The report looks at Social, Economic and Technological developments before reviewing the role that Libraries might now play in the Research and Learning landscape.

There aren't any real surprises here: microcontent, XML, Open Source, wi-fi, etc

Libraries, museums, historical societies and information industry companies are filled with very bright, dedicated people who sit on committees, attend conferences, deliver papers and, perhaps, now and then, wake up at 3 am wondering, so, what is the future of libraries, of my museum? One trend that was evident in this scan was that for at least ten years, all those bright people have been writing and speaking eloquently about possible futures. Yet, not much has fundamentally changed.

Having read the report, I don't think I'd feel entirely encouraged if I was a Librarian, Shifted or otherwise... As the report observes: "more and more people do not seek out a mediator in their quest for knowledge, and are happy to pursue their information quest unattended by a guide".

Well, that's technology for you.

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Opinionated Bloggers?

Don Park's Daily Habit - Dinner with Android

I wonder how blogging affects a person's life.? More opinionated?? Less inquisitive about other people's opinions because they are already exposed to a wide range of opinions online?

I find myself becoming less inclined to seek or offer an opinion to "off-line" colleagues simply because I've read so many opinions that I feel I've already been though every possible angle, and I no longer feel the need to rehearse the arguments further.

Am I more opinionated? Rather less so, I suspect. I've seen contrary arguments put so well that I am now more respectful of "the other point of view" - and I tend to internalise that.

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