Worcester College’s Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre has been shortlisted for the UK’s best new building of the year.The £9 million theatre and conference centre is in the running for the 2018 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize – the most prestigious award for architecture in the UK.The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre is a single story, 120-seat building containing a lecture theatre, a dance studio and seminar rooms designed by Níall McLaughlin Architects. The centre is named after Nazrin Shah, an alumnus of Worcester College and the eldest son of the Sultan of Perak in Malaysia.Provost of Worcester College, Sir Jonathan Bale, said: “Having won the regional award as southern England’s Building of the Year, we knew we were in with a shout, but when you’re up against a billion pound Norman Foster project you don’t exactly hold your breath!”Sir Jonathan noted that the college was “thrilled to be nominated,” and was personally “especially pleased” as he himself had the idea of designing the auditorium in the style of an Ancient Greek amphitheatre.President of RIBA, Ben Derbyshire, said: “It doesn’t go unnoticed that half of the buildings were commissioned by UK universities, suggesting that parts of the higher education sector value the importance of improving the quality of their buildings and estates to reward and attract students, staff and visitors, and to make a positive contribution to their local area.“It’s encouraging to see clients who recognise the broad range of benefits that can be achieved by working with skilled and resourceful architects, and I hope more public-sector organisations will follow their lead.”Derbyshire added: “In these challenging and turbulent political times, we must celebrate how the UK’s architectural talent can help to improve local communities and their quality of life.”The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre will be competing with six other new buildings in the UK, including the Tate St Ives art gallery in Cornwall, a nursery school and a cemetery.
With a space telescope churning out discoveries of new planets, robots exploring Mars and other places, and researchers gaining understanding of extreme environments, the search for the roots of life on Earth and other planets is in a golden age, an authority in the field said Wednesday (March 23).“If there ever was a moment to think about the origins of life, it surely is now,” said Ralph Pudritz, director of the Origins Institute at Canada’s McMaster University.Pudritz spoke at one of the regular forums sponsored by Harvard’s Origins of Life Initiative, an interdisciplinary, cross-school center aimed at unraveling one of the central mysteries facing humankind: how life arose in the universe. Origins Director Dimitar Sasselov, professor of astronomy, introduced Pudritz as the founding director of a sister organization of Harvard’s initiative: McMaster University’s Origins Institute, which was begun in 2004.Pudritz’s talk, “Equipping Planets for Life,” reviewed recent advances in understanding planetary formation and what it takes to create the conditions and elements of life.Pudritz acknowledged that our imaginations fail when thinking about exotic forms of potential life, but added that our current understanding of the process has a handful of requirements. Life is thought to exist only on rocky planets in the presence of water and an energy source with a supply of the biomolecules that make up living things.Planets form by the accretion of material in a dusty disk around young stars. That material, Pudritz said, commonly includes ample water. Water is so common, in fact, that Pudritz said one study found that typical planets contain more water than Earth does.Water alone doesn’t guarantee life. A rocky, watery planet must orbit in a star’s habitable zone, that narrow band whose extremes are defined in our solar system by Venus and Mars. Too close to the sun and water evaporates. Too far and it freezes.The Kepler space telescope has given an enormous boost to this research, Pudritz said, by discovering more than 1,000 planets, some of which are thought to lie within this habitable zone.“It looks like we’ve hit pay dirt,” Pudritz said.Scientists believe that life arose on Earth around 3.5 billion years ago. Before that, the planet existed, lifeless, for a billion years. The conditions for life were developed in what Pudritz referred to as a “prebiotic soup” that contained, among other things, the necessary molecules.Science has begun to answer the question of where those molecules originated, Pudritz said. Analysis of meteorites that have fallen to Earth have shown that some of them are rich in amino acids, the molecules that make up the proteins so important to life. His own research, published in 2009, illustrated that the 10 simplest amino acids used in living things are the easiest to create naturally and were likely available in the environment before life arose. More complex amino acids utilized in living things were probably added to the genetic code as life evolved.“It appears that the makeup of the soup is determined by a simple law of physics,” Pudritz said.
PLYMOUTH — A Mason City man facing burglary and drug charges after being accused of scheming with a woman to burglarize a Plymouth home has been given a suspended sentence. Authorities accused 43-year-old Nicole Cooper of committing felony conspiracy by meeting a victim at a bar on August 20th, and during that time her friend, 44-year-old Chad Wolfe, allegedly burglarized and committed theft at the residence, breaking in and stealing items valued at more than $1500. A search warrant was later executed in the 2300 block of 26th Southwest in Mason City where authorities also allegedly found methamphetamine. Wolfe was originally charged with third-degree burglary, second-degree theft, criminal mischief and possession of meth. As part of a plea agreement with prosecutors, Wolfe pleaded guilty to second-degree theft and possession of meth, with the other charges being dropped. District Judge James Drew on Tuesday sentenced Wolfe to a total of 15 years in prison, with the sentence being suspended, and placed him on five years probation. Cooper pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to commit a non-forcible felony. She was sentenced last week to a five-year suspended prison sentence and placed on five years probation.