Newsmakers

Science  18 Jan 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5861, pp. 265
  1. THREE Q'S

    CREDIT: BRYAN SHEFFIELD

    By day, Greg Graffin teaches at the University of California, Los Angeles. By night, the 42-year-old biologist sings for Bad Religion, a punk rock band he co-founded at age 15. Some of his lyrics draw upon the language of science. In one song, for instance, he laments about “Modern man / pathetic example of earth's organic heritage / Just a sample of carbon-based wastage.” Science spoke with Graffin recently while he was on a tour to promote the group's 14th album, New Maps of Hell.

    Q:Where does the name “Bad Religion” come from?

    I felt that religion was useless as a way to answer the “big” questions about life. I felt that a “bad religion” was an apt name for a belief system that offered incorrect insights into questions of a scientific nature. Today, I recognize that the name implies that there is a “good religion.” I guess a good religion is founded on the principle of truth through observation and verification.

    Q: How do you use science in your lyrics?

    A lot of scientific words are concisely descriptive, and this can be poetic if they are used carefully. I think that questions about evolution particularly are great metaphors that can be incorporated, because traditionally, our songs deal with social hardship, inequality, and general problems with modern man's lifestyle.

    Q: Do you keep your two lives separate?

    [People sometimes think] that I'm just using my music to promote my science background and vice versa; I'll use my lecture podium to try and enlist new fans. I [try] to never do that. I never talk about music in a lecture hall. If students come by [during] office hours, some of them ask me [about my music], but you'd be surprised how few. … [And that] keeps things nice and clean.

  2. IN BRIEF

    A German neuroethologist and two American surgeons are the winners of this year's King Faisal International Prize, for science and medicine, respectively, given out by Saudi Arabia's King Faisal Foundation. Rüdiger Wehner, a researcher at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, wins the $200,000 science prize for his research on how desert ants navigate. Donald Trunkey, a professor of surgery at Oregon Health and Science University in Portland, wins half of the $200,000 medicine prize for his role in the development of mobile surgical units for better care of trauma victims. The other half of the prize goes to Basil Pruitt Jr., a surgery professor at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, whose work has led to improvements in the care of patients with serious burn injuries. Each winner will also receive a gold medallion.

    A California investment banker and his wife have donated $20 million to Stanford University for stem cell research. John Scully, a Stanford business school alumnus, hopes that such donations will help accelerate the discovery of stem cell therapies and persuade the United States government to end restrictions on federal funding for the field.

    The latest project to benefit from Microsoft's Bill Gates's fortune is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, which astronomers plan to build on the mountains of northern Chile. This month, Gates donated $10 million to the initiative. Charles Simonyi, a former Microsoft executive, threw in another $20 million. The 8.4-m-wide telescope, estimated to cost $389 million, is scheduled to see first light in 2014.

  3. AWARDS

    FROM JAPAN, WITH LOVE. This year's Japan Prizes honor pioneers in communications and genetics. American computer scientists Vinton Cerf (left) and Robert Kahn (middle) were chosen in “Information Communication Theory and Technology” for creating the basic framework and the communication protocol that undergirds the Internet. Cerf is vice president and chief Internet evangelist for Google in Mountain View, California, and Kahn is chair, CEO, and president of the Corporation for National Research Initiatives in Reston, Virginia.

    CREDIT: SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOUNDATION OF JAPAN

    Victor McKusick (right) was named winner of the “Medical Genomics and Genetics” prize for accomplishments including the creation of the monumental Mendelian Inheritance in Man, a catalog of inherited genes associated with diseases. McKusick, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, also served as the first president of the Human Genome Organisation. Each prize carries a cash award of $455,000 and is sponsored by the Science and Technology Foundation of Japan.

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