Quarter of land mammals and a third of those at sea are at ...


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Quarter of land mammals and a third of those at sea are at ...

  1. 1. QUARTER OF LAND MAMMALS AND A THIRD OF THOSE AT SEA ARE AT RISK OF EXTINCTION 06 October, 2008 Nearly a quarter of the world's land mammal species are at risk of extinction, and many others may vanish before they are even known to science, according to an extensive survey of global wildlife. At least 1,141 of the 5,487 known species of mammal are threatened, with 188 listed in the "critically endangered" category. One in three marine mammals are also threatened, according to the five-year review. The assessment, conducted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red list, involved more than 1,700 experts in 130 countries, and confirms the devastating impact of forest clearing, hunting, fisheries, pollution and climate change on the populations and ranges of the world's most studied class of animals. Jan Schipper, director of the global mammals assessment, a partnership between Conservation International and the IUCN, called for countries to be held responsible for the fate of fauna within their borders and an international coalition to save species that cross national boundaries. "We're looking at a 25% decline over the long term, yet for mammals there is no bail-out plan. There is no long-term conservation strategy that is going to prevent species extinction in the future," he said. "As human beings, we should be ensuring that we don't cause other species to go extinct." Resources: Guardian Unlimited COLDPLAY AND DUFFY ARE Q MUSIC AWARD WINNERS 07 October, 2008 In an uncharacteristic bout of chest-beating, Coldplay's frontman, Chris Martin, declared his band "the best in the world" while picking up the two main prizes at yesterday's Q awards. But after winning the best act and best album awards, Martin reverted to the modesty that inspires devotion from fans but mockery from some critics, speculating that they only won because U2 and Radiohead were "on holiday". Viva La Vida or Death and All His Friends was billed as a more experimental album on its release in June but still contained enough anthems to take it to number one in 36 countries and help boost the troubled record label EMI. Alex Turner, the Arctic Monkeys frontman, who has come home triumphant from virtually every awards ceremony he has attended for the past two years, continued his winning streak. The Last Shadow Puppets, his side project with Rascals singer Miles Kane, was voted best new act. Duffy, the Welsh singer whose album of 1960s-tinged pop has become the biggest selling of the year, beat Adele to the breakthrough artist prize and Keane won the award for best track for their single Spiralling. Resources: Guardian Unlimited GOOGLE EARTH TAKES A DIVE UNDER THE OCEAN 08 October, 2008
  2. 2. Web users will be able to "virtually" visit the world's protected underwater landscapes with a new Google Earth tool being launched today. A new downloadable "layer" will enable users to see video, pictures and articles when they hover over marine protected areas on the world map provided by Google Earth outreach, an initiative launched last year. The programme allows environmental groups to harness Google's popular mapping tools to illustrate their projects and has so far been used in work with an Amazonian tribal chief to monitor the impact of illegal logging and mining on his 600,000- acre territory. Content for the new marine reserves site will be uploaded from project partners including the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the UN Foundation, National Geographic and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The tool was launched today at the IUCN world conservation congress in Barcelona. In the UK, the government's conservation agency, Natural England, has contributed information on 43 marine sites around the coast of England that offer protection to species such as the basking shark, as well as seahorses, corals and algae. Resources: Guardian Unlimited VODAFONE AIMS TO TAKE CHRISTMAS MARKET BY STORM 09 October, 2008 Vodafone will today put pressure on Apple's iPhone with news that it has clinched an exclusive deal to offer the first touchscreen phone made by mobile email specialist BlackBerry in time for Christmas. The BlackBerry Storm, which has a revolutionary "clickable" touchscreen that prevents a user accidentally sending an email or making a call, will be free for anyone willing to sign up to a £35 a month contract with Vodafone . A pre-pay version is also being planned. The device is aimed at the consumer market rather than the corporate world, which is already dominated by existing BlackBerry devices with their trademark tiny keypads. It faces serious competition in the festive market from the Apple phone and two other recently announced touchscreen devices: the G1, which has Google's Android software and is exclusive to T-Mobile, and the 5800 XpressMusic from Nokia, which Orange confirmed yesterday it will be offering, although it is unclear if it will be out by Christmas. Resources: Guardian Unlimited NEW WAVE HERO PORTUGUESE ARCHITECT WINS UK'S MOST PRESTIGIOUS PRIZE 10 October, 2008 Álvaro Siza, the Portuguese architect and hero of a new wave of British design talent, was yesterday awarded the Royal Gold Medal, British architecture's most prestigious prize. The 78-year-old is regarded by some as the greatest architect Portugal has ever produced, although his only British building to date has been a temporary pavilion for the Serpentine Gallery in London in 2006.
  3. 3. His influence on British architects through buildings in Portugal such as the Adega Mayor winery, above, and the Evora housing development, built after the end of the Portuguese dictatorship in 1977, has been far greater. His style blends modernism's free organisation of spaces with vernacular architecture, so he might use whitewashed stone in Portugal or brick in the Netherlands. That approach has been embraced by a generation of architects including Caruso St John and Tony Fretton, who have rejected the hi-tech movement pioneered by Lord Rogers and Lord Foster and their tendency to use similar components wherever they build in the world. Siza (below) qualified in 1955 and his architecture matured under the dictatorship in Portugal, which allowed him little exposure to the international modernist style that was emerging across Europe - led in particular by the Swiss architect, Le Corbusier - which was to form the basis of the hi-tech movement. Siza follows Frank Gehry, Herzog & de Meuron and Frei Otto as recent foreign winners of the prize, which is personally approved by the Queen. Resources: Guardian Unlimited FROM £200 WINE JUG TO £3M MASTERPIECE 11 October, 2008 A medieval ewer valued at £200 after being mistaken for a French claret jug fetched more than £3m yesterday after it was identified as a rare Islamic work. The 1,000-year-old crystal ewer from the Fatimid royal treasury in Egypt, decorated with cheetahs and link chains, is one of only seven such vessels known to have survived. Dating back to the late 10th or early 11th centuries, it was carved from flawless rock crystal, which is as hard as toughened steel. Christie's, the auctioneers, described it as "one of the rarest and most desirable works of art from the Islamic world". The ewer first resurfaced at Lawrences auctioneers in Crewkerne, Somerset, in January, under the catalogue description "A French claret jug ... £100-200". After dealers realised its potential worth, the artefact sold for £220,000. But the bid was annulled by "private agreement", prompting rumours that the vendor had agreed to sell the item along with the buyer. Christie's was contacted in June, and it invited several of the Islamic art world's most affluent buyers to view the item. The auction house bustled with Arab art enthusiasts and historians yesterday, with one describing the ewer as a "holy grail" of the Islamic world. Leading Islamic art collections, including the Aga Khan Museum in Canada and the Museum of Islamic art in Doha, Qatar, were believed to have placed bids, although the winning buyer is not known. Resources: Guardian Unlimited SOLVED: MYSTERY OF THE UGLY DUCHESS - AND THE DA VINCI CONNECTION 12 October, 2008 She is one of the most popular paintings in the National Gallery, whose rather
  4. 4. unfortunate looks inspired illustrations for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But one question has always puzzled: did the poor lady really look like this? Today the Guardian can reveal that she did and was suffering from an exceptionally rare form of Paget's disease - an abnormality of the metabolism that enlarges and deforms the bones. The portrait, An Old Woman, painted by the Flemish artist Quinten Massys in 1513, is popularly known as The Ugly Duchess and will be part of the National Gallery's eagerly awaited exhibition Renaissance Faces: Van Eyck to Titian, which opens next Wednesday. Curators are particularly excited about this painting because two important discoveries have been made in recent research: firstly, the portrait is truthful and she almost certainly looked like that, and secondly, a long held historical theory that the painter was copying Leonardo da Vinci is wrong. The medical research shows that she was suffering from an advanced form of Paget's disease - osteitis deformans - which enlarged her jaw bones, extended her upper lip and pushed up her nose. It also affected her hands, eye sockets, forehead, chin and collarbones. "This woman must have been very, very unfortunate," said Michael Baum, emeritus professor of surgery at University College London who, with his student Christopher Cook, investigated the portrait. Resources: Guardian Unlimited GOVERNMENT URGED TO HELP HOMES GO GREEN 13 October, 2008 The government must urgently begin improvements to make Britain's 25m homes more energy efficient if it is to reduce the UK's carbon footprint by 80% by 2050, a report says today. The report, by the Green Building Council (GBC), says some homes are so environmentally harmful that they may have to be demolished. It also wants the government to introduce a system of "green mortgages" to pay for improvements such as new windows and boilers. All new homes must be zero-carbon from 2016, but campaigners say that older houses must be a priority, as they account for around a quarter of the total carbon emissions. One of the report's key ideas is a "pay as you save" system, where the homeowner or landlord borrows the costs of improvements such as new windows and insulation from a bank or local authority, and then pays the money back over a number of years, with the costs more than covered by lower energy bills. "Government intervention is needed to create a market for low-carbon homes and industry is crying out for that certainty," said Paul King, head of the GBC. "This needs a fundamentally new way of financing energy efficiency in the years to come that virtually eliminates up-front costs to the consumer. "We've been throwing our money out of the window. Spiralling fuel costs and concern about climate change now call for a revolution in attitude and approach." The report says that the improvements are "absolutely doable," and could unlock tens of thousands of "green-collar" refurbishment jobs in a market worth £5bn.
  5. 5. Resources: Guardian Unlimited COMPUTERS FAIL THE TURING THOUGHT TEST 14 October, 2008 Anyone who has ever felt that their computer has a mind of its own will sympathise with the experience of attempting to get some sense out of a piece of software. But what if your laptop really could strike up a conversation unaided? Experts at the University of Reading yesterday claimed to have put that possibility to the test, with a supposedly scientific investigation of whether computers can indeed think for themselves. The Turing test is inspired by the British mathematician Alan Turing, best known for his code-breaking work at Bletchley Park, who wrote in 1950 that "if, during text-based conversation, a machine is indistinguishable from a human, then it could be said to be 'thinking', and therefore could be attributed with intelligence". Kevin Warwick, Reading's controversial professor of cybernetics, who oversaw yesterday's experiment, claimed in the mid-1990s that by 2045 computers would have taken over the world and enslaved humanity. The experiment, he hoped, would demonstrate that day was coming. But if computers are indeed to take over the world in a little over three decades, they are unlikely, on yesterday's evidence at least, to do so by winning people over with their engaging dinner-party chat. A small group of volunteers took turns in five-minute bursts to conduct simultaneous typed conversations with two unseen respondents - one a human sitting in a next-door room, the other a piece of computer software. If 30% of the volunteers could be fooled, by Turing's own measure the test would be said to have been passed. Five teams of programmers were competing for the annual Loebner prize, awarded to the software that comes closest to mimicking a human. The event's credibility was hardly aided by the insistence of Hugh Loebner, the prize's American sponsor, that he had no interest in the result and had only set up the competition 18 years ago to promote his firm's roll-up plastic lighted portable disco dance floors. The winning software, designed by an American and called Elbot, fooled 25% of respondents. "We really, really have come very close," said Warwick. His sample size, in a field made up largely of computer experts and journalists: 12. Warwick insists that Turing's test will be passed within two to three years, leading to innovations ranging from improved automated call-centre technology to increasingly interactive home appliances. All the same, it's hardly Blade Runner, is it? "Maybe instead of 35 years [until we are enslaved by computers] we've got 40 years. "It could be a little bit slower, that's all." Resources: Guardian Unlimited SCIENTISTS UNCOVER NEW GENE LINK TO MALE PATTERN BALDNESS 15 October, 2008 Scientists have discovered a genetic link to baldness that helps explain why some men may inherit their shiny pates from their fathers.
  6. 6. Tests on more than 1,000 bald men revealed two gene regions that, active together, make a man seven times more likely to lose his hair. Around 14% of men are thought to carry both gene variants. The findings give scientists a much clearer picture of the genetic causes of male pattern baldness, which affects roughly a third of men by the age of 45. Genetic factors are thought to account for at least 80% of the condition. In the long term, the latest work is expected to pave the way for genetic treatments for hair loss, but more quickly it could be used to identify men who are likely to lose their hair prematurely. These men may benefit by beginning baldness treatments before they start showing signs of hair loss, the researchers said. The search for baldness treatments has already seen the rise of a multi-million-pound industry in Britain alone, where an estimated 8 million men are affected. Resources: Guardian Unlimited