Science  11 Aug 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5788, pp. 757

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    CROSSED WIRES. While running a mass spectrometer this summer, graduate students Dalila Fondren and Jason McClain of the University of Georgia, Athens, noticed an enormous amount of noise in the output. “We couldn't even see any kind of mass peaks—it was right off the charts,” says McClain. After puzzling for a bit, they discovered that the noise was the same frequency as the signal transmitted by the student-run radio station on campus.

    While they looked for a fix, McClain (right), Fondren (middle), and their adviser, chemist Nigel Adams (left), worked out a deal with managers of the radio station to keep the research going: The station would go off the air from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. during weekdays. “Since it's typically slow in the summer, they didn't mind,” says Adams, who studies reactions in low-pressure gases. “It was a very amicable arrangement.”

    Last month, 6 weeks after the noise was detected, a permanent solution was found. Based on a suggestion by an engineer at the radio station, the researchers connected a so-called notch filter to the spectrometer to block the offending frequency. It's unclear what caused the sudden interference, given that the radio station and Adams's lab had coexisted peacefully for years. But ongoing campus construction could have deflected the radio signal into the lab, Adams says.



    FREE AGAIN. Political geographer Ghazi Falah, 53, of University of Akron, Ohio, returned home last week after a 23-day detention by the Israeli government. A dual Israeli-Canadian citizen, Falah was taking pictures near the Israel-Lebanon border for his research when he was arrested on suspicions of espionage, 4 days before the current war erupted.

    The Israeli government would not explain the arrest or subsequent release. But Falah says his detention was retribution for his academic work, which is critical of Israeli land policies that marginalize Arabs. “There were five interrogators. … Sometimes they tied my hands behind my back,” Falah told the Associated Press.

    Falah's son Naail is grateful for the support of thousands who petitioned the Israeli judge who eventually ordered his father released. Among the academics who wrote the judge, he noted, were Israeli researchers “who don't agree with my father.”


    DOCTOR'S DEPARTURE. Richard Carmona, the 17th U.S. Surgeon General, quietly stepped down last month at the end of his 4-year term. A former trauma surgeon from Arizona, the 56-year-old Carmona was less visible than some of his predecessors, focusing on disaster preparedness, childhood obesity, and health disparities. But he made waves this summer with a report on the health risks of secondhand tobacco smoke.



    DEREGULATOR? Environmentalists cringed last week when the Bush Administration named economist Susan Dudley to head the White House's regulatory affairs office, which reviews federal regulations at agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Dudley, 51, has directed regulatory studies at the Mercatus Center, a conservative think tank at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, since 2003.

    “Inevitably, Dudley sides with some special interest that doesn't want regulating,” says Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Watch in Washington, D.C. He notes that Dudley advocated against EPA setting tougher standards for smog. (In her comments to EPA, Dudley recommended “nonregulatory approaches” such as public health advisories to address the problem.) A spokesperson for Dudley said she did not want to be interviewed while her nomination was pending.

    Dudley would replace John Graham, who left last year for the Pardee RAND Graduate School in Santa Monica, California (Science, 28 October 2005, p. 617). O'Donnell says he expects the president to appoint Dudley later this month, while Congress is in recess, “because of the furor that will emerge over her appointment.”



    ROLLING IN RICHES. What a summer it has been for Saul Perlmutter. In June, the 47-year-old astrophysicist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California won a third of the $1 million Shaw Prize in Astronomy (Science, 30 June, p. 1871). And last month, he netted another cool $315,000 as winner of the International Antonio Feltrinelli Prize from Italy's Lincei Academy. Both awards recognize Perlmutter's role in discovering that the universe is expanding more and more rapidly over time.