Newsmakers

Science  14 Sep 2007:
Vol. 317, Issue 5844, pp. 1479
  1. RISING STARS

    CREDIT: ROCHESTER INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY

    WELL-CONNECTED. Most people owning a phone that doesn't work with their family's T-Mobile service plan would either switch providers or get a different phone. Not George Hotz, who spent the summer after his high school graduation from Bergen County Academies in New Jersey finding a way to unlock his iPhone from the device's sole service provider, AT&T. Hotz posted his solution, which involves altering the phone's circuit board and uploading unique programs, on his blog 23 August before heading off last week to begin classes at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York state.

    The rewired iPhone isn't Hotz's first technological triumph: In May, he was a top finisher in the 2007 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair for a spinning computer display capable of creating 3D images.

    Hotz reports that he traded one unlocked phone for more iPhones and a “sweet Nissan 350Z,” which lists new starting at $27,900. And the phone in his pocket is working fine.

  2. POLITICS

    CREDIT: BILL FOSTER FOR CONGRESS CAMPAIGN

    JUMPING IN … Bill Foster (above) spent 22 years as an experimental physicist at Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois. Now he wants to set up shop in the U.S. Congress. He's running for the seat being vacated by the former House Speaker, Illinois Republican Dennis Hastert, who is retiring next year.

    A Democrat and a fellow of the American Physical Society, the 51-year-old Foster says Congress needs more members with a scientific background. “Almost every issue we face has a technical edge,” he says. “To get good policy, you need clear goals, a good technical understanding, and a firm grasp of economics.” Foster says he would push for more research into biofuels, participation in international efforts to fight climate change, and a renewed emphasis on nuclear nonproliferation.

    Observers say Foster's deep pockets should serve him well in his campaign. As teenagers, he and his brother Fred started a company that now makes most of the theater lighting in the United States. “He's a serious candidate because he has vowed to spend at least $1 million of his own money,” says Eric Krol, a political writer for the local Daily Herald. But although Foster may outspend his two Democratic rivals, Republican businessman Jim Oberweis plans to spend $2.5 million on his campaign, and, Krol notes, the district is “still one of the more Republican parts of Illinois.”

  3. POLITICS

    … BOWING OUT. Peter Agre, the Nobelist in chemistry who dreamed of becoming a senator, has decided after dipping into Minnesota's politics that the waters are too chilly for him. Agre, 58, took leave from his job as vice chancellor for science at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, to see if he could stir up enough enthusiasm—and cash—for a run next year against the incumbent senator, Republican Norm Coleman (Science, 25 May, p. 1112).

    To his dismay, says Agre, an outspoken liberal, the main obstacle was not conservative opposition but an inability to impress the Democratic Party, whose help he needed: “There's a huge priority on how much money you can raise; … [party leaders] were looking for at least $10 million.” He says having two rich Democrats already in the field—comedian Al Franken and attorney Michael Ciresi—also put a damper on his plans.

  4. THREE Q'S

    CREDIT: EFA

    For nearly a decade, Bernat Soria Escoms, 56, has been trying to turn embryonic stem cells into insulin-producing cells for treating diabetes, most recently at his lab at the Andalusian Center for Molecular Biology and Regenerative Medicine in Seville, Spain. In July, Spain's President José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero appointed him to join the Cabinet as minister of health and consumer affairs. The ministry, based in Madrid, also controls much of Spain's $2 billion biomedical research budget.

    Q: You have said you were surprised by the job offer. Was it a hard decision?

    Yes, but if you say no, you can never again criticize the government.

    Q: Do you miss your lab?

    The Council of Ministers meeting ends at noon on Friday, and I then take the fast train to Seville. I am in the lab Friday afternoon and evening and on Saturday. If the minister of culture goes to exhibitions and the theater [to stay current in the arts], I can go to the lab.

    Q: When will stem cell research have a measurable impact on doctors and patients in Spain?

    Very soon, if you consider stem cells as a broad concept including adult stem cells. In the coming weeks, I will announce a program for clinical research on cell therapies for 12 diseases, including complications from diabetes, cardiopathy, multiple sclerosis, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and muscular dystrophy. For embryonic stem cells, we are still at the level of basic research.

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