Science  24 Mar 2006:
Vol. 311, Issue 5768, pp. 1707


    NO SURVIVOR. Former shuttle astronaut and biomedical engineer Dan Barry's run on the popular television series Survivor ended earlier this month when he failed to solve a crucial puzzle. That flop meant his team had to vote off one member, and he was chosen.

    Barry, 52, who flew on the space shuttle three times and founded Denbar Robotics, says he was slotted to be “the nice old man with lots of integrity.” He came across as a classy, standup guy who broke with reality-show tradition by taking responsibility for his team's defeat.

    Barry says his time on the show, in which contestants live in the wild and compete for $1 million, was a useful exercise in group dynamics and adaptation to extreme environments with potential lessons for astronauts in stressful situations. But after enduring 15 days with little food, he says that it's lucky that the iguanas on the island are protected by the Panamanian government.



    WADING INTO SCIENCE. For 6 months, Shannon Babb (above) arose before dawn to monitor water quality at a river near her home in Highland, Utah. Yesterday she collected a reward for those early-morning jaunts: first place in the annual Intel Science Talent Search and a $100,000 college scholarship.

    Babb, a senior at American Fork High School, found low levels of dissolved oxygen, pill bugs, and traces of fertilizer runoff—all signs of an unhealthy river. Humans are the main culprit, says Babb, 18, who began monitoring water quality in area rivers when she was 13. Chemist Philip DeShong of the University of Maryland, College Park, who helped judge the 40 finalists, says that the longitudinal aspect of Babb's project was particularly notable: “She'd done it for 5 years, and she had gotten more and more complex every year.” Yi Sun, 17, of the Harker School in San Jose, California, and Yuan “Chelsea” Zhang, 17, of Montgomery Blair High School in Silver Spring, Maryland, finished second and third, respectively.



    NEUROSCIENCE IN ECUADOR. A spouse often influences the other spouse's career. German neuroscientist Winfried Wojtenek's may influence science in an entire country.

    Wojtenek was a postdoc at the University of Marburg in Germany when he received two job offers. One was from the University of Hawaii. With a sidelong glance at his wife, an Ecuadorian scientist, Wojtenek instead chose to start Ecuador's first neuroscience program.

    Now, 2 years later, the undergraduate minor in neuroscience Wojtenek created at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito is on its way to becoming a master's-level program. Despite being what he calls “a First World country without money,” Ecuador has a rich diversity of model organisms that makes for some interesting science. “We [have] the most fascinating ecosystems on Earth,” he says.


    HIGH TIDE. Japanese civil engineer Kuniyoshi Takeuchi has been named director of a new international center to study water-related disasters. Supported by UNESCO, the International Centre for Water Hazard and Risk Management (ICHARM) was inaugurated this month in Tsukuba, Japan.

    “Studying hydrology in Japan, it was impossible to avoid the subject of water-related disasters,” says Takeuchi, a professor of civil engineering at Yamanashi University in Kofu who's been involved with the center since it was first proposed 3 years ago.

    ICHARM will develop inundation models and distribute them to countries to help forecast and mitigate damage. The center also will train researchers from developing countries to create flood-hazard maps.

  5. THREE Q'S


    This year's Templeton Prize goes to John Barrow, a 53-year-old cosmologist at the University of Cambridge, U.K. The $1.4 million prize, awarded for “progress toward research or discoveries about spiritual realities,” recognizes Barrow's musings on the anthropic principle, the idea that the universe has physical constants finely tuned to human existence because we could not otherwise be here to observe them.

    Q: Some scientists argue that accepting the Templeton Prize is tantamount to blurring the line between science and religion. Did you have any qualms about accepting the prize?

    No qualms. The prize has been going on for a long time, and there is a wide range of views about it. But if you look at the panel that selects the winner, there's no obvious pattern.

    Q: What do you think scientists misunderstand most about religion?

    Some scientists may think that religion equals creationism or Islamic fundamentalism, which would be a misunderstanding. Others may think, almost by definition, that religion is antiscience or that science and religion supply mutually exclusive explanations.

    Q: What do you think is needed to bridge the gap between science and religion?

    What's needed is mutual engagement. Seminaries should teach their students some science, and scientists need to make efforts to engage in discussions on subjects of common interest.

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