Study could improve automated booking phonelines

By Cara Sulieman

THEY ARE supposed to make our lives easier, but end up trying to book us in to see a film at a cinema miles away.

Now scientists at Edinburgh University are hoping they can improve automatic phone booking lines after pinpointing the most common errors made by the computers.

Companies use the systems to cut out a call centre – using computers that can understand what customers are saying to book cinema tickets and taxis.

But it doesn’t always work, and can lead to a frustrating conversation with a computer.

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New test means quicker diagnosis for patients

By Cara Sulieman

SCIENTISTS at a Scottish university have developed a quick, cheap way of testing for inherited diseases that could mean an earlier diagnosis for patients.

The team, based at the University of Edinburgh, have cut testing times down to around half an hour, and are hoping to develop the product for commercial release in the next six months.

Using just a drop of saliva, the technique uses chemical analysis to pinpoint variations in a patient’s DNA coding.

Cutting out the expensive enzymes usually used in such tests, the researchers are confident they can cut the cost to less than £637, significantly less than it can cost currently.

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David Cameron makes a splash during Edinburgh University visit

By Oliver Farrimond

TORY leader David Cameron paid a visit to Edinburgh University yesterday to examine experimental technology on his way to the Scottish Conservative conference in Perth.

The Old Etonian was given a whistle-stop tour of the university’s high-tech facilities, including several cutting edge alternative energy projects.

Cameron quizzed university scientists over the uses and applications of the technology and showed special interest in an experimental wave generator.

While watching a demonstration of the device he asked: “How extreme can you make this?” Continue reading

Holyrood protest over slashed funding for university jobs

By Rory Reynolds

STUDENTS and staff protested outside the Scottish Parliament yesterday over cuts that could see hundreds of university staff lose their jobs.

The group protested outside Holyrood over cuts in teacher training that will see Edinburgh University alone lose up to 40 staff.

The Scottish government’s cuts in education training will see fewer qualified primary and secondary teachers graduating over the next few years.

Edinburgh has already slashed the number of places on its primary school teacher training programme from 280 to just 60.

And the secondary school training programme is to lose two courses from its curriculum. Continue reading

New school opens to help vets conquer phobias

By Cara Sulieman

A NEW school is opening up to help student vets get over their fears of snakes and rats.

Rising numbers of unusual animals being kept as pets prompted Edinburgh University to set up an exotic teaching facility.

It is estimated there are 100,000 households in the UK with snakes and a further 80,000 with pet rats – all of whom need veterinary care.

But even vets have phobias, and they will be given special one-to-one lessons to help them overcome their fears at The Royal (Dick) School for Veterinary Studies in Midlothian.

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Scotland’s oldest book goes on display


An extract from the book

By Cara Sulieman

SCOTLAND’S oldest surviving book is set to go on display tomorrow (Friday) for the first time in over forty years.

The pocket-sized medieval book of Psalms is often described as Scotland’s Book of Kells due to the vivid and detailed coloured illuminations that cover the pages.

Dating back to the 11th Century and thought to have been made at the monastery on Iona, it is part of a display at the University of Edinburgh celebrating their extensive collection.

Experts believe the book could have been commissioned for St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland.

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Turner prize winner will never work in Scotland after uni snub

By Rory Reynolds

TURNER-prize winning artist Douglas Gordon has said he will never accept a commission in Scotland again after being treated like a “16-year-old apprentice” by Edinburgh University.

The Glaswegian shunned an invitation to open the institution’s new library after they criticised a work that they had commissioned him to make for not being “positive” enough.

Gordon – a world-renowned artist after winning the Turner prize in 1996 – said he had ironed out the details with the university, only to find that they had refused to pay for him to travel to the opening, or to stay in Edinburgh.

He had proposed to inscribe the words: “Every time you turn a page, it dies a little” in gold letters on the new library building.

But one of the panel members who was involved in the commission admitted that the institution hadn’t told the artist that the piece had to be positive when they assigned him the £20,000 budget. Continue reading