Weekly roundup 09/12/2016

In the news this week:

Research led by Dr Gavin Svenson, Curator & Head of Invertebrate Zoology at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History, shows that male and female orchid mantises don't just look different—they have evolved in a way unseen before in arthropods. Female orchid mantis adults mimic the appearance of flowers because of their ancestors’ association with flowers to capitalize on an easy source of food, pollinating insects. The male orchid mantises evolved a completely different adult strategy: staying small and camouflaged in order to avoid predators while searching for mates.

Google has confirmed it will meet its commitment to offset 100% of the energy used at its data centres and offices against power from renewable sources, a target first set in 2015. The company believes it is now the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world – it still uses fossil fuels but buys sufficient renewable electricity to offset energy use at the data centres and offices. You can read its announcement here.

Professor Louise Richardson, Vice Chancellor of the University of Oxford, believes British businesses are not willing to invest in UK research. That attitude needs to change, she said, noting that UK firms lag competitors in France and Germany in this area and are below the EU average. Professor Richardson made her remarks after the University of Oxford announced its new fund to commercialise the best ideas of its students has reached nearly £600m. However, that money has come from investors in China, Singapore, and the Middle East. Richardson stated that, ‘In fact, 40% of the R&D spend in the UK is by subsidiaries of foreign companies. British businesses are very loath to invest and that really has to change.’ Read more here.

The fifth annual Breakthrough Prize ceremony awarded a total of $25 million in science prizes to 12 winners for fundamental contributions to human knowledge. The Breakthrough Prize was founded in 2012 and is financed by Silicon Valley billionaires such as internet investor Yuri Milner, Google’s Sergey Brin, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. ‘This project is really mostly about public outreach’, said Milner, who co-founded the prize. ‘That’s why we have a televised ceremony and everything around it, because the founders want to send a signal that fundamental science is important.’ You can read more about the prize winners and the project here.

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