Today’s physics news: ‘Quantum smell’ idea gets a boost, but remains controversial

Here is our physics news for Monday 28 January 2013.

‘Quantum smell’ idea gains ground

A controversial theory that the way we smell involves a quantum physics effect has received a boost, following experiments with human subjects. It challenges the notion that our sense of smell depends only on the shapes of molecules we sniff in the air. Instead, it suggests that the molecules’ vibrations are responsible. The new results have been published in the journal PLoS One.


Quantum biology: Do weird physics effects abound in nature?

This BBC feature article takes an in-depth look at the emerging field of quantum biology, in which the complex branch of physics called quantum mechanics is applied to nature. It is still a tentative, even speculative discipline, but what scientists are learning from it might just spark revolutions in the development of new drugs, computers and perfumes – or even help in the fight against cancer.


Science funding and the EU: you’ve got to be in it to win it

In this article, Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, states that the benefits to UK research from EU funding, from finance to international collaboration, make a strong case for continued EU membership. The UK’s strength in science means that it should play a central role in shaping European science policy and that means that the UK must be at the table, he writes.


1,000 postgraduates a year ‘too poor’ to take up Oxford place

About 1,000 students a year turn down a postgraduate place won at Oxford on academic merit because of the financial demands of study there, university figures suggest. This amounts to 15% of the 7,500 students offered a place, according to the admissions office.


TV scientists join forces to block £60m sale of the Royal Institution

Professor Brian Cox, the television scientist, has joined the battle to save the Royal Institution’s historic headquarters from being sold and this afternoon will meet the institution’s management and influential figures from the world of science. The Royal Institution confirmed earlier this month that it was considering selling its imposing home in Mayfair, West London, where it has been based for more than 200 years, because of mounting debts. A group of eminent scientists including Nobel laureates and broadcasters have mounted a vigorous campaign to prevent the sale going ahead.

The Times (Subscription only)

Graphene: Faster, stronger, bendier

Research into graphene will receive a €1bn boost from the EU on Monday. Its selection as a European “flagship” programme for the next decade is the latest in a surge of public and corporate support for work on a substance that was unknown 10 years ago.

Finalcial Times (Subscription only)

Historians warn minister: hands off our academic freedoms

Respected academics and public figures have joined forces to combat what they claim is an “attack on academic freedoms” contained within the government’s plans for open access to research. The Royal Historical Society is spearheading the fightback against radical plans backed by David Willetts, the universities minister. The new system, according to its critics, will give university managements unprecedented control over their academics’ ability to publish their work, provoking Professor Peter Mandler, president of the RHS, to claim that the government is at risk of sacrificing the cherished values of British academia.


A-level reforms: Michael Gove’s bid to grab headlines will merely narrow pupil’s learning

The education secretary, an ex-journalist, knows how to sell reforms for the rightwing press. But it’s no way to run our schools, writes Peter Wilby.




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