Science  02 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5851, pp. 725

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    GLOBAL AUDIENCE. University of California (UC), Berkeley, physicist Richard A. Muller is getting a taste of YouTube fame for his efforts to teach nonscience majors. Last month, UC Berkeley became the first university to post entire courses on the video-sharing Web site, and Muller's “Physics for Future Presidents” has been the most popular offering. His introductory lecture, “Atoms and Heat,” has been viewed 90,000 times.

    Muller is delighted that his 26-lecture course, which has been available on the school's Web site for a few years, is now reaching an even broader audience. He recalls one e-mail from a high schooler in Minnesota who said the physics he learned from Muller's lectures earned him a spot as co-captain of the “knowledge masters quiz team” and improved his attitude toward school. “What a sweet thing for a teacher to [hear]!” Muller says.

    Despite his global reach, Muller hasn't forgotten his home audience. To keep them coming to class, he uses an old-fashioned trick—pop quizzes.


    HOME AGAIN. After just 2 years at Duke University and a summer spent testing the political waters, chemistry Nobel laureate Peter Agre is returning to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, where he spent a quarter-century as a researcher. Agre will become the new director of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute (JHMRI), founded 6 years ago with a $100 million anonymous donation.

    The institute has been led until now by virologist Diane Griffin, who also chairs the molecular microbiology and immunology department of which it is part. Griffin says she had been looking to recruit a new leader for years and had first offered the job to Agre shortly after he agreed to become vice chancellor for science and technology at Duke's Medical Center in 2005. After giving up on his dream to run as a 2008 Senate candidate for Minnesota (Science, 14 September, p. 1479)—and feeling that he had done “a pretty good job” at Duke—heading back to Baltimore to fight a global scourge makes Agre “warm all over,” he says.

    With a JHMRI grant, Agre had already begun adapting his prizewinning research on aquaporins—proteins that form pores in cell membranes—to focus on thwarting the malaria parasite. He says he plans to use his star power to recruit young talent to the study of neglected diseases.


    FROM AIR TO SEA. Susan Avery has become the first woman president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts.


    Avery, an atmospheric physicist, comes to the 77-year-old nonprofit from the University of Colorado, Boulder, where she was the first woman to lead the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. She “had a strong capability for rising above disciplinary discussions and pulling out interdisciplinary links,” says a Colorado colleague, ecologist Carol Wessman, who also calls her “a person with vision.” WHOI's acting director, James Luyten, predicts Avery should fit in well with the ocean sciences because both disciplines are field-based and rely heavily on modeling. Avery, 57, says she plans to make the institution more interdisciplinary and more involved with providing knowledge about climate change and other societal issues. She starts early next year.


    The 4-year-old journal The New Atlantis, edited by Adam Keiper, has applied its conservative philosophy to regular coverage of science and technology issues. Last month, the left-leaning think tank Center for American Progress launched Science Progress, edited by bioethicist Jonathan Moreno. Keiper (left) thinks that Moreno's journal “has a lot to sort out” in defining liberal positions on science issues, whereas Moreno (right) suggests that Keiper's journal offers “a very dark vision” that nonetheless “makes an important point about the need to worry about the ends as well as means in science.”


    Q: What's been the best move by the Bush Administration on science policy?

    Keiper: On stem cells, the Bush Administration in 2001 developed a policy that's in fact a sensible compromise … that does not view nascent human life as a resource for experimentation.

    Moreno:That's a hard one.

    Q: And the worst move?

    Keiper: I'm unhappy with the gap between the end of the shuttle system and the arrival of the Orion [transportation] system. Those will be 5 years where the United States won't be able to put people into space. … As a matter of national prestige, this gap ought to be avoided. This is of course not simply a Bush Administration problem, it's budgetary pressures, it's Congress.

    Moreno: Whether they've intended to or not, they've created a terrible morale problem in sciences, … a lack of respect for evidence. … [They] search for sources of pluripotent stem cells as though they don't need to also continue work with embryonic stem cells. This is wildly uninformed by the science.

    Q: Why publish journals like yours when Washington is flooded with policy advice?

    Keiper: The sorts of issues we deal with … are not only strictly science questions, they're ethical and philosophical questions, and they should be weighed by policymakers.

    Moreno: What there's not is the vision thing. Our role is to look more broadly at the role of science in American life.