Random Samples

Science  05 Jan 2007:
Vol. 315, Issue 5808, pp. 21

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    This chart, says psychometrician Earl Hunt of the University of Washington, Seattle, shows why employers are so eager to automate. Many jobs requiring just-above-average cognitive abilities—say, 105 to 125 IQ points—are going begging, according to his recent analysis. In contrast, there is a surfeit of people with the potential to fill the relatively few jobs, such as Ph.D. physicist, that require supersmarts.


    Hunt, who presented his data last week in San Francisco at the annual meeting of the International Society for Intelligence Research, based the chart on 706 jobs listed by the U.S. Department of Labor. Using detailed information available about IQ ranges of employees in 43 jobs, he extrapolated desirable levels of cognitive abilities for the rest and compared this with the IQ distribution of the general population. The dearth of skilled workers, notes Hunt, explains why, for example, car rental companies have equipped the person who checks in returning cars with a handheld computer that automatically calculates your fees. “The intellectual requirements of the job have been reduced,” says Hunt.

  2. NETWATCH: Become an Evo Warrior

    What can you do if your local school board proposes a curriculum that downplays evolution? Or if your hometown newspaper runs an editorial supporting “intelligent design”?

    This new site from the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in Rockville, Maryland, offers advice and resources for scientists who want to defend Darwinism. Downloadable documents provide pointers on meeting with public officials, testifying at school board hearings, and related topics. Much of the advice is common sense, but some of it may be counterintuitive for scientists. For example, although you want your papers to run in prestigious journals, an op-ed will probably have more impact if it appears in the local paper than if it's accepted by The Wall Street Journal. The site also furnishes PowerPoint files on topics such as the importance of learning about evolution.


    A recent World Bank assessment of AIDS in Asia found India disproportionately afflicted, with 40% of Asia's population and 60% of its HIV infections. Official estimates of the number of Indians carrying the AIDS virus range from 5.2 million to 5.7 million.

    But a new analysis suggests that these figures may exaggerate the problem by as much as one-third. Lalit Dandona of the Centre for Human Development at the Administrative Staff College of India in Hyderabad, reporting online 13 December in BMC Medicine, puts the number of HIV-positive Indians at closer to 3.5 million.

    The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) in New Delhi, the source of India's official estimate of 5.2 million infected, relies on a sampling method that involves monitoring AIDS clusters in certain large hospitals for a few months every year. Dandona and his colleagues took a different tack with a population-based random sampling method. They collected blood samples from 12,617 people in the southern Indian Guntur district and extrapolated that group's HIV-positive rate to Guntur's population of 4.5 million. The scientists came up with a total that was less than half of NACO's estimate for the region. Dandona's group also used Guntur's HIV prevalence to estimate the total number of infected in India's four southern states, which led to the new, lower-overall estimate for the nation.

    This is “very good news from a first-of-its-kind, robust study,” says NACO Director General Sujata Rao, who says it shows that HIV infections in India are not spiraling out of control. The report is in line with a March 2006 paper in The Lancet by Rajesh Kumar and Prabhat Jha of the University of Toronto in Canada, who reported a one-third decline in new HIV infections in the worst-hit regions of India, thanks to condom use and AIDS awareness programs.



    Google recently inked a deal with NASA that will allow the Internet search engine firm to provide easy online access to images such as this new one from the latest camera to orbit Mars. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft is slated to return more data than all previous Mars missions combined. This particular false-color image of a 700-meter-high, water-ice-rich cliff face in the martian north polar region reveals features, as small as a few meters across, that were shaped by past climate changes. The new finds include fine layering near the top of the cliff and house-size blocks of dirty ice emerging from lower layers.