Random Samples

Science  18 Nov 2005:
Vol. 310, Issue 5751, pp. 1114
  1. Tube Route

    Gravitational superhighway snakes through the solar system.CREDIT: JPL/CICI KOENIG

    Engineers compute spacecraft trajectories; quantum chemists track electron paths. Lately, both camps have found they're working on the same problems.

    The recent 3-year Genesis mission, led by Martin Lo of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, and Kathleen Howell of Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana, challenged engineers to find the best path for the spacecraft to leave Earth, sample the solar wind, and return. Genesis, with little fuel, had to navigate a gravitational obstacle course created by Earth, the moon, and the sun. Scientists devised an innovative route that took advantage of tubular, energy-efficient pathways, dubbed the “Interplanetary Superhighway” by Lo, that run throughout the solar system.

    Charles Jaffe, a chemist at West Virginia University, Morgantown, noticed that Genesis's route bore an uncanny resemblance to the paths of ionized Rydberg electrons, which also follow tubular, low-energy pathways around protons. Inspired by that, Jaffe began collaborating with scientists at Caltech, JPL, and Georgia Tech, applying the techniques of statistical chemistry to plot asteroid movements through the solar system. Meanwhile, NASA has more ideas for using the Interplanetary Superhighway—including as a low-cost orbit for a space station between Earth and the moon. The math behind the Genesis trajectory is described in last month's Notices of the American Mathematical Society. “It may open new doors to people who study planetary mechanics,” says Shane Ross, a dynamicist at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. “And what we do may help chemists solve their problems as well.”

  2. Monkey Struggle In Wisconsin

    A court case centering on the meaning of “consideration” may determine whether the University of Wisconsin, Madison, can prevent the construction of an animal-rights exhibit in the midst of its primate research facilities.

    Last year, Rick Bogle, head of the Primate Freedom Project, negotiated an option to buy a small plot located next door to the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. His project wants to use the land for an exhibit hall “illuminating the inhumane practice of using primates” in research. Owner Roger Charly agreed to sell for $675,000, further agreeing that the “consideration” for the option was “adequate” even though no money changed hands.

    Last summer, the university got wind of the deal and offered Charly $1 million. Charly told the activists he would rescind their option unless they offered some tangible consideration. Last month, after learning that Charly had accepted the university's offer, the activists sued for breach of contract and on 26 October asked Dane County Circuit Court for a temporary injunction against the sale.

    The activists' lawyer, Kendall Harrison of LaFollette, Godfrey, and Kahn in Madison, says, “The contract says consideration was sufficient.” Charly's lawyer, Jon Manzo, says the option is void because “simply acknowledging consideration doesn't make it exist. My guy was receiving no benefit.” Alan R. Fish, associate vice chancellor of the university, says it has paid Charly $1000 for the option and that it plans to use the land to expand its primate facility.

  3. The Nonattachment Hormone

    Low-T dad?CREDIT: R. STONE

    In 95% of mammalian species, males never bond with mates or help raise young. So what makes men inclined to roost and nurture? Testosterone seems to play a role.

    Although high levels are associated with aggressive behavior in animals, they plummet with parenting in some species. Studies in North American males suggest the same trend in humans. Now comes evidence from China that this holds true regardless of culture. A team led by Peter Gray, a biological anthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, recruited 66 bachelors, 30 married men without children, and 30 married fathers aged 21 to 38 in Beijing who twice a day provided saliva for testing. Compared with bachelors, childless husbands had about 20% lower levels of the hormone in the morning (when levels are highest), and married fathers had almost 50% lower levels. Smaller but significant differences showed up in afternoon measurements, the team reported last week in Proceedings of the Royal Society: B.

    Psychologist Nick Neave of Northumbria University in Newcastle-upon-Tyne says the findings make sense because testosterone is related to “a host of sexual behaviors intended to attract a mate [but which] are not conducive to marital bliss and especially not when very young children are present.” He adds: “It would be interesting to see if testosterone levels are associated with poorer male parenting skills.”

  4. Record-Setter No More

    CREDIT: ESA

    After 5 years of being the world's largest free-floating object, the 115-kilometer-long B-15A iceberg, tracked by the European Space Agency's Envisat satellite, broke up late last month off Antarctica's Cape Adare.

  5. Movers

    Follow the money. Singapore has snagged a power couple from the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI) to help staff the country's $2 billion investment in biomedical research. Cancer geneticists Neal Copeland, 58, and Nancy Jenkins, 55, are leaving NCI next year after 2 decades to join Singapore's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology. Their 18,000 research mice are coming, too.

    Copeland and Jenkins run NCI's Mouse Cancer Genetics Program and have co-authored nearly 700 papers based on mouse models of human diseases. Copeland says the couple began looking around because of declining intramural research budgets at NCI and a ban on consulting for outside companies. Singapore, which wants to expand its biotech industry, will impose no such restrictions. They have also become fond of Asia through traveling there, he says.

    “In Singapore, the money seems to be good right now,” says Copeland. “It's just a great opportunity and a really interesting part of the world.”

  6. On Campus

    CREDIT: UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

    Hiring woes. The second-highest-ranking administrator in the University of California system has resigned amid charges that she helped her son and a business partner get university jobs.

    M. R. C. Greenwood, who has been provost of the University of California (UC) system since 2004, is being investigated for her role in hiring a friend, Lynda Goff, first as a faculty associate and later as director of UC's Science and Math Initiative. “It has been disclosed, in the wake of inquiries by the San Francisco Chronicle, that Provost Greenwood and Dr. Goff have until recently had jointly owned rental property,” UC president Robert Dynes said in a 4 November statement. He said Greenwood would return to her job as a biology professor at UC Santa Cruz, where she was chancellor for 8 years before taking the UC post. “It appears that Provost Greenwood may have been involved in Dr. Goff's hiring to a greater extent than was appropriate, given that her business investment with Dr. Goff had not been properly and fully resolved in accordance with conflict of interest requirements,” the statement said. UC is also looking into Greenwood's role in the hiring of her son James Greenwood as a paid senior intern on the new UC Merced campus.

    Science was unable to reach Greenwood for comment. Dynes's statement clarifies that “there is no presumption of wrongdoing” and that the university expects to conclude its investigation “shortly.”

  7. Awards

    Cancer prize. A trio of young life scientists will share a $150,000 prize for helping unravel the molecular signals driving cancer. The Paul Marks Prize for Cancer Research, founded in 2001 and awarded every other year by Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City, recognizes scientists age 45 or younger. This year's winners are Tyler Jacks, 44, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who builds and learns from novel mouse models of cancer; Scott Lowe, 41, of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, an expert in cell death and aging; and Jeff Wrana, 44, of the University of Toronto in Canada, who is deciphering signaling pathways in cancerous and normal cells.

  8. Three Q's

    CREDIT: JOSEPH MEHLING/DARTMOUTH COLLEGE

    In January, cognitive neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga will leave the snows of New Hampshire (and an endowed chair at Dartmouth College) to head the new SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He was in California last week for the center's launch.

    Q: Honestly now, was it the beaches that drew you to Santa Barbara?

    A: [Laughs] It's sunny and beautiful here today! The professional reason was the opportunity to get a true conversation going between social scientists and neuroscientists on the mind.

    Q: Do the humanities types know enough about the brain to keep up their end of the dialogue?

    A: Well, you do have to pick the right people. In the past few years, you see almost a wild interest in social psychologists coming into the study of the mind. What the mind does all day is think about social interactions. We don't sit around thinking about word lists or phone numbers. The social scientists can help neuroscientists think about more complex issues.

    Q: Like neuroethics? Your longtime friend, newspaper columnist William Safire, coined the term. Do you have to pay him royalties each time you use it?

    A: No, but I'm working on my next book, about what makes humans unique, and he just gave me a great title. But I can't tell you what it is.

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