Newsmakers

Science  15 Feb 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5865, pp. 883
  1. Two Cultures

    CREDIT: AP

    DECONSTRUCTING SUDOKU. As Thomas Snyder prepares to defend his title as the world's best Sudoku player, he sees a parallel between the scientific thought process and his puzzle-solving prowess. “It's the systematic way you break apart a problem into little pieces that are more approachable,” says Snyder, a bioengineering postdoc at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, who works on novel methods of automated DNA synthesis and sequencing.

    Snyder, 27, claimed his crown last year in Prague, Czech Republic, and he's hoping to repeat the achievement in April in Goa, India. Last fall, he captured the first-ever U.S. Sudoku championship in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

    Despite the recognition and the occasional cash prize—the U.S. title was worth $10,000—Snyder says it's hard to balance puzzle competitions with his lab work. “I don't know if this is a hobby I can continue too long,” he says.

  2. IN BRIEF

    Computer scientists Edmund Clarke of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, E. Allen Emerson of the University of Texas, Austin, and Joseph Sifakis of the French national research agency in Grenoble are co-winners of the 2007 A. M. Turing Award from the Association for Computing Machinery. They will share the $250,000 prize for helping to develop “model checking,” an automated process for spotting errors in computer hardware and software.

    Physicist and millionaire Bill Foster last week cleared one hurdle in his bid to win a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives by squeaking past his closest Democratic rival to win the party's nomination for the 14th Congressional District in Illinois. The seat was most recently held by former Speaker of the House, Republican Dennis Hastert, who retired last year. Foster, who worked at Fermilab from 1984 to 2006, faces a tough contest ahead: The Republican nominee, Jim Oberweis, is a businessman with deep pockets. Stay tuned.

  3. MOVERS

    REACHING FOR THE MOON. A longtime NASA manager, exploration buff, and astronomer trained at Harvard University will help launch a new moon-focused center at Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California. David Morrison will serve as interim director of the Lunar Science Institute, which will coordinate the agency's various moon-research efforts and fund a new generation of lunar researchers.

    CREDIT: RICHARD JOHNSON

    Morrison, 67, has been “a pillar of the planetary-research community,” says Ames Director S. Pete Worden, citing his work on the Mariner, Voyager, and Galileo robotic missions. “His communication and management skills are just the talents we need to ensure early success for the institute.” Morrison, now a senior scientist at Ames's Astrobiology Institute, says he plans to step aside for “a real lunar scientist” once the new institute is up and running. “I've never written a lunar paper,” he adds.

  4. Three Q's

    CREDIT: UNIVERSITÄT FREIBURG

    Last month, German scholars discussed the results of an 8-year project examining the conduct of the German research funding agency, the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG), from 1920 to 1970 with a focus on the Nazi years (1933–1945). Ulrich Herbert, a historian at the University of Freiburg, shared some of the findings with Science.

    Q: DFG's funding of egregious Nazi research, such as Mengele's twin experiments at Auschwitz, was already known. What was the most surprising finding from your project?

    The transition to National Socialism for most areas of research was not a very dramatic step. In 1933, Nazis came into leadership positions, but there was no specific Nazi agenda. Instead, contrary positions and voices were simply eliminated.

    Q: Was German research particularly susceptible to Nazi ideology?

    We found that the research community was seized by the same radical patriotism as the rest of society after the First World War. … There was similar research on race, nationalism, and the heritability of criminal tendencies in Scandinavia, France, and the United States at the time—but it was part of a pluralistic discourse. The decisive difference [in Germany] was that after 1933, the researchers who challenged Nazi views did not receive any more support.

    Q: You also examined DFG's postwar history. Were there any surprises?

    I found it interesting that German biology into the 1970s still had not recovered from the expulsion of Jewish scientists. But the DFG [never said] to researchers living in exile, “Please come back.” The idea didn't occur to anyone.

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