ALL IN THE FAMILY
SYMBIOSIS. In 1989, Niles Eldredge of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City collaborated with his sons Greg and Doug to write a children's book called The Fossil Factory. Now the 63-year-old evolutionary biologist is teaming up with Greg to edit a new journal from Springer titled Outreach and Education in Evolution.
Father and son have benefited professionally from each other over the years. While writing The Fossil Factory, Niles recalls, “my kids made it clear to me what kids could actually respond to. Now they're teachers and can tell me what teachers can respond to.”
Greg, who teaches learning-disabled children in New York City, says his father has always been a “fantastic resource.” A favorite family story relates to a class visit to the 2005 Darwin exhibit Niles curated. Seeing a case displaying various mammalian skeletons, one student was particularly impressed by the hand of a chimp. “That's it, I believe the whole thing,” the student exclaimed.
The quarterly journal, which will feature articles by both biologists and teachers, could debut as early as this fall.
UP AND UP. What began as an entry for a campus competition has earned Nathan Ball an innovation prize from the Lemelson Foundation and his start-up company a $120,000 contract from the U.S. Army. The 23-year-old graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge hopes that his invention—a device that can rapidly raise heavy loads hundreds of meters above the ground—will help firefighters and first responders save more lives.
More than 2 years ago, Ball and three MIT colleagues conceived of the “rope ascender,” in which a rotating spindle continuously pulls rope through the machine. In addition to its military and rescue applications, the device can be used to trim trees, wash windows, and assist recreational climbers. His 2-year-old company, Atlas Devices, is now building prototypes for the Army. Last month, he won the $30,000 Lemelson-MIT Student Prize.
Ball also hopes to inspire youngsters to follow his innovative spirit by co-hosting Design Squad, an engineering-based reality show for preteens that debuted last month on PBS.
NOT OFFICIAL. George Taylor is the state climatologist of Oregon. Or is he?
Since 1991, Taylor has headed the Oregon Climate Service, which is based at Oregon State University (OSU) in Corvallis. In that capacity, he holds the title of “state climatologist.” But Taylor's opinion that humans are not the dominant cause of global warming has prompted a move by Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski to take away that title.
Kulongoski—who has made reduction of greenhouse gases a priority—is concerned that the public will mistake Taylor's contrarian view on global warming as that of the government. So last month, he asked OSU's president to change Taylor's title to put an end to the confusion. OSU hasn't decided how it will respond, but one option may be to transfer the title to the head of a new climate change center on campus. The state climatologists of Virginia and Delaware are in a similar fix.
UNIFIED FIELD. Nine years after anthropologists at Stanford University split into two separate departments amid bitter infighting, university administrators want to reunite them. The unenviable task of overseeing the merger—announced last month—has fallen upon James Ferguson, current chair of cultural and social anthropology.
The 50-year-old department split in 1998 after cultural and biological anthropologists parted company on methodology, values, new hires, and the department's future (Science, 20 June 1997, p. 1783). The fighting got so intense that a law school professor was brought in to run the department briefly.
The reunification plan has come as a surprise to many faculty members, who would have liked a heads-up. “The two departments are further apart than ever,” says biological anthropologist Arthur Wolf. “I am very upset by this decision.” Ferguson says the merger was not his idea but that he's optimistic “things will turn out much better.” He's hoping that the faculty turnover that occurred during the estrangement will bring “a fresh attitude.”