Science  08 Sep 2006:
Vol. 313, Issue 5792, pp. 1373

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  1. Vatican Policy: Not Evolving

    Don't look for a big change any time soon in the Catholic Church's views on evolution. Although supporters of evolution had feared that the Pope would embrace so-called intelligent design, Pope Benedict XVI gave no sign at a gathering last week as to how he thought the topic should be taught.

    The pope said little during the meeting, which included his former theology Ph.D. students and a small group of experts near Rome. Peter Schuster, a chemist at the University of Vienna and president of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, attended the meeting and gave a lecture on evolutionary theory. “The pope … listened to my talk very carefully and asked very good questions at the end,” he says. And the Church's most outspoken proponent of intelligent design, Cardinal Schönborn, seemed to distance himself from the theory.

  2. EPA Urged to Tighten Smog Rules

    A scientific advisory board plans this month to recommend that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lower the allowable level of ground-level ozone, which aggravates asthma and other health problems. The current legal limit is 0.08 parts per million (ppm). EPA scientists concluded earlier this year that the agency should either retain its current standard or tighten it to 0.07 ppm.

    A majority of the 23 members of the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC) said in a meeting last month that the standard should be 0.070 ppm, while two called for a slightly higher level. Once the panel's official recommendation arrives, EPA has until March to set final standards. CASAC “is throwing down the gauntlet,” says Frank O'Donnell of the nonprofit Clean Air Watch in Washington, D.C. “Is it about science or politics?”

  3. A Bang-Up Job

    The European Space Agency's diminutive Smart-1 probe ended its 3-year technology mission this week with a lunar crash landing after successfully testing a propulsion system that fires out xenon ions. “Smart-1 has left a legacy of technology and scientific excellence,” said mission scientist Bernard Foing. A camera and two spectrometers on board yielded information on the lunar surface including data on calcium, which could help scientists pinpoint the age of the moon. Researchers also say the crash itself could give clues about how craters form.

  4. Asian Alliance

    NEW DELHI—India's science minister, Kapil Sibal, was in Beijing this week to ink a new accord that would pave the way for a high-powered Steering Committee on S&T. That body, chaired by Sibal and his Chinese counterpart Xu Guanhua, is expected to remove bureaucratic obstacles to cooperation in areas including genomics, weather forecasting, earthquake prediction, and nanotechnology. “We cannot lag behind China,” says Sibal, who calls the steering committee a step in the right direction.

    The first-ever visit of an Indian science minister to Beijing comes as Indian leaders express concern over China's burgeoning support for R&D. India today spends about $5 billion on R&D per year, amounting to 0.9 % of gross domestic product. In 2003, China spent about $85 billion, or 1.3% of its GDP, on R&D.

  5. Tomes on Genomes

    Already the home of GenBank, the global storehouse of genome data, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) now plans to create a free, central database for studies about links between genes and diseases such as cancer and diabetes. If adopted, NIH's new policy will urge NIH grantees conducting so-called genomewide association studies to share deidentified genetic and clinical data before publication. One provision that could prove controversial is NIH's desire to discourage researchers from patenting their initial data, which could slow the development of new drugs, warns Hakon Hakonarson of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Comments are due by 31 October.

  6. KOMP Commences

    The U.S. National Institutes of Health has chosen four centers for a $50 million effort to create knockouts in 10,000 mouse genes. The endeavor—dubbed the Knockout Mouse Project (KOMP)—is part of a global initiative to knock out every gene in the mouse genome (Science, 30 June, p. 1862).

    Children's Hospital & Research Center Oakland in California will create the genetic material that the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, U.K., will use to knock out thousands of genes in embryonic stem cells. Researchers at the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine will then create adult mice from these cells. Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, based in Tarrytown, New York, will perform all three steps.