Science  07 Mar 2008:
Vol. 319, Issue 5868, pp. 1321

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  1. Crash in Antarctica Kills Two

    1. Gretchen Vogel,
    2. Martin Enserink

    A helicopter crash in Antarctica has claimed the lives of two people and injured three. Willem Polman, 45, a technician at the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ), was killed on 2 March when a helicopter based on the research ship Polarstern crashed near the German Antarctic station Neumayer II. The German pilot, 37, was also killed. Three other passengers were injured, two of them seriously, according to the Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) in Bremerhaven, Germany, which operates both the ship and the coastal Neumayer station.

    The ship is on a 10-week voyage to investigate the Southern Ocean as part of the International Polar Year. One of the injured is Dutch scientist Maarten Klunder, 27. Two others, a 24-year-old German helicopter technician and a 25-year-old female French researcher, were also injured. NIOZ announced the names of the two Dutch researchers, but AWI has declined to name the pilot and the other researchers, citing German privacy laws. The news of Polman's death “hit all of us like a bomb,” says Jan Boon, a NIOZ spokesperson. “We still have trouble believing it.” After the injured are evacuated, Polarstern is expected to continue its voyage, which is scheduled to end in Punta Arenas, Chile, on 16 April. The cause of the crash is unclear; the weather at the time was apparently good. AWI is working with the German Aviation Authority to investigate.

  2. New Suit for Penguins

    1. Elsa Youngsteadt

    The U.S. government is moving too slowly to protect 10 species of penguins against climate change, says a suit filed last week by the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), a Tucson, Arizona-based environmental group. According to legal code, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) was supposed to decide by the end of November whether to list the penguins under the Endangered Species Act, which would require tighter regulations on fisheries and review of greenhouse gas emissions by government agencies. Chris Tollefson, an FWS spokesperson, says a decision will be finalized in the “next few weeks.”

    But environmental physiologist Yvon Le Maho of the French national research agency in Strasbourg, France, says that without a “big movement against climate warming, [official protection of the penguins] may be hopeless.” If the U.S. government's answer is no, CBD says it will sue again.

  3. Brits Rejoin Gemini

    1. Elizabeth Quill

    The United Kingdom last week reversed plans (Science, 23 November 2007, p. 1227) to withdraw from the Gemini Observatory, whose twin scopes sit in Hawaii and Chile. Instead, it will stay put and try to save some of the £4 million in annual costs it's obligated to pay by selling telescope time. The plan to pull out of the international partnership outraged British astronomers because it threatened to cut off their access to the northern skies. “It's unfortunate this was so badly handled,” says astrophysicist Martin Rees, president of the U.K.'s Royal Society.

  4. Wisconsin Wins Latest Patent Bout

    1. Eli Kintisch

    The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has upheld a 2006 patent on human stem cells owned by the university-affiliated Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Two years ago, two nonprofits challenged the patent and two other WARF patents. Last week, the government released an 85-page decision that upholds the patents yet narrows their scope slightly. “We're very pleased,” says WARF's managing director, Carl Gulbrandsen. “We believed from the very beginning that [James] Thomson's discoveries were patentable.” WARF's opponents, including Alan Trounson, now president of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, had argued that Thomson's work was obvious when he performed it in the 1990s. But the patent examiner rejected those arguments earlier this week, saying that the published science in the 1990s was too “unpredictable” to lead someone to try making human stem cells with an “expectation of success.” The groups plan to appeal the decision, and rulings on the other two patents are pending.

  5. Research Strategy: Centered on Centers

    1. Yudhijit Bhattacharjee

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has funded five new university-based research centers to study border security and immigration; explosives detection; maritime, island and port security; natural disasters; and emergency management and transportation. The new centers, each of which will receive up to $2 million a year for 4 to 6 years, will join eight existing centers focused on DHS's mission. “These colleges and universities … will provide scientific expertise, high-quality resources, and independent thought—all valuable to securing America,” says Jay Cohen, DHS undersecretary for science and technology.