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Issue 478, 4 March 2002

In the news

Biologist Professor John Altringham was scientific adviser to BBC TV's Natural World programme Top Bats. His study of Britain's most common bat, the pipistrelle, in the North Yorkshire Dales was featured with other international research into the flying mammal. Working with colleague Kirstie Park, Professor Altringham discovered a new species of native bat in 1996. The new species is as yet without a name.

Researchers behind University spin-off company Sound Foresight know plenty about bats' use of echo-location; trials of their 'bat cane' are under way. The cane emits high-frequency sounds to detect obstacles and causes pads on the handle to vibrate, helping the blind navigate busy streets. The Times explained that the device would be tested in 'America by the American Council for the Blind, because the organisation has the biggest world membership.' Website Ananova reported that the 'device could be on sale by the end of this year'.

In a letter to the Times Educational Supplement, Ken Hall from the school of education noted one of his student's observations on teacher care: "Computer lessons always end with teacher checking that all the mice have been turned over and they still have balls." Surely an example of 'teacher care beyond the call of duty', mused Ken Hall.

The use of terahertz waves to read books without opening their cover (Reporter 478, page 1) gained regional coverage. Dr Bob Miles has developed a 'device that would make even Superman jealous' according to the Yorkshire Evening Post. Terahertz imaging uses waves that make molecules vibrate which is then used to determine the chemicals present. In the Yorkshire Post, Dr Miles explained its applications: "Until now we've been focusing on medical applications of the technology. Unlike X-rays, terahertz waves are not harmful, so there are no exposure worries for practitioners or patients."

BBCi reported that poverty may be associated with rates of tuberculosis infection. The findings emerged from a study by Professor Rhys Williams and Dr Kamran Siddiqi from the Nuffield Institute for Health. Conducted in Kirklees, the work suggested that factors such as poor housing or nutrition might weaken the immune system, increasing the likelihood of illness following exposure to the disease.

The Daily Telegraph advised savers that mutuals pay higher interest rates than banks or converted mutuals, based on research by the University's international institute of banking and financial services. The study (see Reporter 475) compared the average interest paid on a range of amounts at several organisations. "The survey is likely to aid the mutuals' defensive action against carpetbaggers by demonstrating that they do deliver better value to savers," suggested the Telegraph's finance correspondent Tessa Thorniley.

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