ScienceScope

Science  24 Jun 2005:
Vol. 308, Issue 5730, pp. 1851
  1. The Gods Must Be Angry

    1. Andrew Lawler

    Astrophysicists are anxiously awaiting a federal court decision on a lawsuit that threatens a planned gamma ray telescope near Kitt Peak in Arizona. The Tohono O'odham tribe brought suit against the scope this spring, arguing that the deity they believe created the world resides near where the array is to be built.

    The National Science Foundation (NSF), which is funding the $13.1 million project with the Department of Energy, has already spent $1 million at the site. Construction was halted after the lawsuit was filed. Under federal law, NSF must seek alternative locations for the Very Energetic Radiation Imaging Telescope Array System, which was due to be completed by next fall and would be operated by the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “If other sites are not available, then not building [the system] is a possibility,” says NSF lawyer Amy Northcutt, although she adds that offsite work on telescope components continues.

    NSF last month filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, and the tribe is expected to respond this week. Then it will be up to the court to make a decision.

  2. Vessel Makes Waves in New Ranking

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    Ocean scientists have a sinking feeling about the new lineup of proposed large facilities at the National Science Foundation (NSF).

    Last year, the National Science Board, NSF's oversight body, put a $269 million network of instruments called the Ocean Observatories Initiative (OOI) at the top of its list of projects for fiscal year 2007. But late last month, the science board put the Alaska Region Research Vessel on top and slid OOI down to third place, behind a network of ecological observatories called NEON that NSF has been trying for years to make pass congressional muster. Third is a perilous position because NSF has said it plans to propose only two new projects in 2007.

    Board president Warren Washington says “all of the projects are well worth doing” but that the need for scientists to monitor the rapid warming in the Arctic guided the board. Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK) is also a big fan of the ship, although Washington says that Stevens's support was not a factor. OOI's steering committee will discuss the reshuffling at a meeting next week.

  3. Science Education Review

    1. Jeffrey Mervis

    The board that oversees the National Science Foundation is hoping that a new study of U.S. math and science education will help make the case for a bigger NSF education budget. The study, commissioned by the National Science Board, comes as the White House has proposed shifting precollege science and math instruction funds from NSF to the Department of Education. But many education researchers say NSF has a better track record on science-based reforms.

    Although the study's exact focus is still unclear, board president Warren Washington says he'll be looking for outside education experts who have the political savvy to sell the report's conclusions.

  4. Auger Team Picks Colorado

    1. Robert Irion

    A 15-nation consortium that studies ultrahigh-energy cosmic rays expects to announce its first results next week from the half-completed Pierre Auger Observatory in western Argentina. And this month, the physicists selected a site in Colorado where they hope to build its northern twin.

    Each $50 million observatory would consist of 1600 water tanks and 24 ultraviolet telescopes. A 3000-square-kilometer track on the high plains of southeastern Colorado won out over a site in western Utah because of easier access to private lands and better potential for expansion. The researchers hope agencies in their respective countries will provide enough money to complete the northern array by 2012.

  5. Kennewick Man, Finally

    1. Constance Holden

    Next month, after 9 years of litigation between scientists and the federal government, a dozen researchers will begin preliminary studies on the 9400-year-old remains of Kennewick Man. Access to the bones, now at the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington, was arranged this spring, says Alan Schneider of Portland, Oregon, the scientists' lawyer.

    The first round of study will examine what happened to the bones, found along the Columbia River in 1996, after the man's death. Schneider says further studies could be threatened by a proposed revision of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act that would broaden the definition of “native American.” The bill (S. 536), he says, would allow tribes to block access to any such remains even if no connection with an existing tribe can be established.

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