Random Samples

Science  29 Jul 2005:
Vol. 309, Issue 5735, pp. 696
  1. Updated Cranium


    Below is the latest model of the skull of Kennewick Man. Because scientists aren't allowed to make casts from the original bones, it was produced this month from hundreds of high-powered computed tomography scans. On 15 July, an 11-member team headed by anthropologist Douglas Owsley of the Smithsonian Institution wrapped up 10 days of preliminary study of the 9400-year-old remains, held in the Burke Museum in Seattle, Washington.

    Owsley says the studies promise to yield even more information than he expected and in fact “are going to take us to a level that has never been done with another skeleton.” In this first round of study, which Owsley calls “a full-blown taphonomic analysis,” the scientists have been able to ascertain when and how bone fractures occurred as the skeleton lay in the ground. Thus, he says, “I'll be able to tell you how the hands and feet were positioned,” and therefore “we will know whether this was a burial.”

    The next visit to the bones, which will probably occur early next year, will entail a new cast of scientists who will do pathology and investigate Kennewick Man's lifestyle. Owsley also says the age at death will probably be revised and the time of Kennewick's demise narrowed from the current 2700-year window.

  2. NIH's Public Access Trickle

    Last year, a huge scuffle broke out over a National Institutes of Health (NIH) plan to ask grantees to submit their accepted papers to a free archive. Open-access advocates hailed the move, whereas journals said they would be bankrupted (Science, 3 September 2004, p. 1386). But 2 months after the policy went into effect, most researchers seem to be ignoring it.

    As of 2 July, NIH's PubMed Central had received only about 300 papers, a mere 3% of the 11,000 expected if all NIH grantees complied. Two-thirds of authors said NIH could post their paper immediately upon publication, and the rest asked for a delay.

    Timothy Hays of NIH's extramural research office says the figure is “not surprising” because many grantees are waiting for their institutions to tell them how to respond to the new policy and for guidance from journals. But Sharon F. Terry, president of the Genetic Alliance, says it may be time for NIH to rethink things. “If we were … investing in a new business, and we saw early performance returns at the rate of 3%, we would not wait to reexamine our strategy,” she says.

  3. Voices in the Brain

    When people with schizophrenia have auditory hallucinations, the voices they hear in 70% of cases are male, regardless of the sex of the patient. Now scientists in Britain say that's because female tones are more complicated for the brain to create.

    They exposed 12 males to voices of both sexes while scanning their brains. The images indicated that female voices activated the auditory cortex more intensely than did male voices. Women have shorter vocal cords that produce a more complex range of sound frequencies, explains Michael Hunter, a psychiatrist and cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Sheffield, U.K. Hunter says that the male voices activated the “mind's eye”—part of the visual cortex in the back of the brain—probably because the male subjects were comparing the voices to their own. The lab is currently conducting the study with female subjects.

    Although facial expressions have been studied a great deal, voices—which are like “auditory faces”—have gotten much less attention, says Pascal Belin, a neuroscientist at the University of Montreal in Canada. Hunter, whose paper is in press at the journal NeuroImage, says that if hallucinations affect the brain the same way as real voices, knowing that different types activate different brain areas could lead to targeted drug treatments to reduce spontaneous brain activity in schizophrenia.

  4. Architecture for the South

    New station will be able to ski out of danger.CREDIT: FABER MAUNSELL AND HUGH BROUGHTON ARCHITECTS

    A string of buildings reminiscent of a caterpillar on skis has won a design competition for the new Halley VI science station in Antarctica.

    The British Antarctic Survey in Cambridge held a contest for eco-friendly designs that could withstand the extreme conditions at the Waddell Sea: 145-kilometer-per-hour winds, an average temperature of -30°C, and three sunless months a year. The new station also had to be mobile to avoid the fate of the existing one, which is on an ice shelf that is moving toward the sea at about 400 meters a year and that may calve off in the next decade.

    The winner, from Faber Maunsell and Hugh Broughton Architects, features two wings joined by a large recreational center. Amenities include a climbing wall, hydroponics for growing salad greens, panoramic windows, and quarters for 52 people. The modules are easy to reconfigure, the designers say, and the interior has “strong, cheerful colors carefully selected with the help of a color psychologist” to keep away the polar blues. The retractable legs can step up to stay on top of new-fallen snow and are fitted with skis so the station can be towed away from the sea.

    Construction on the new station, designed to last 20 years, should start in January 2007.

  5. Jobs


    Corporate tussle. Seven years after founding Microsoft's research facility in Beijing, Kai-Fu Lee left the company earlier this month and announced that he would help Google launch a new lab in China. But first, the 43-year-old computer scientist must fend off a suit brought by his former employer, which claims that he's breaking a 1-year no-competition clause in his contract.

    “As a senior executive, Dr. Lee has direct knowledge of Microsoft's trade secrets concerning search technologies and China business strategies,” says a spokesperson for Microsoft, which filed the suit in King County, Washington, Superior Court within hours of Google's 19 July announcement. Google says it will “defend vigorously” against Microsoft's “meritless” claims.

    The Taiwan-born Lee, who more recently has directed the development of Microsoft's Internet search technology, says he accepted Google's offer in part for the opportunity to return to China. The new lab is expected to open this fall, although Google has yet to announce its location or number of employees.

    Neuroscience alliance. A British neuroscientist is leading an initiative to build new partnerships between brain researchers in London and Paris.

    Richard Frackowiak says the old ideal of a European community of scholars prompted him to propose a research alliance between his institution, University College London (UCL), and the Ecole Normale Supérieure (ENS) and Université Pierre and Marie Curie, both in Paris. Under the partnership, inked earlier this month, the three institutions will conduct joint seminars and research projects and offer a joint master's degree allowing students to spend 1 year in each city. Frackowiak, 55, will serve as director of the department of cognitive studies at ENS in addition to his duties at UCL.

    “There's a great thirst for more intensive collaboration across the channel,” says Frackowiak, who's fluent in French.

  6. Deaths

    A soaring idea.CREDIT: YALE UNIVERSITY

    Paleontologist John Ostrom of Yale University, whose ideas helped kindle a “dinosaur renaissance,” died 16 July of complications from Alzheimer's disease. He was 77.

    In 1964, Ostrom discovered a 3-meter-long dinosaur that he named Deinonychus for “terrible claws.” Its predatory prowess led Ostrom to propose the controversial idea that Deinonychus and other dinosaurs were warm-blooded. He later argued that birds had evolved from advanced, predatory dinosaurs. Initially greeted with skepticism, the view has since been widely accepted.

    Ostrom's conception of dinosaurs as intelligent, active, and agile creatures stimulated much research, says Timothy Rowe of the University of Texas, Austin: “I don't think anyone else has had as broad an impact on the community.”

  7. Money Matters


    After stunning researchers 2 years ago by saying he hoped to end cancer deaths in the United States by 2015, National Cancer Institute Director Andrew von Eschenbach (left) now suggests it can be done even sooner. This month, in a response to Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), chair of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that funds NIH, von Eschenbach says his institute could meet its target of “eliminating suffering and death from cancer” by 2010 if its nearly $5 billion annual budget were boosted by $4.2 billion over 5 years.

    The statement to Specter, who is battling Hodgkins lymphoma, warns that 2010 “may not be fully achievable,” but that the money would help in “narrowing the gap.” The boost would go largely to advanced technologies and infrastructure for clinical trials.