Newsmakers

Science  23 May 2008:
Vol. 320, Issue 5879, pp. 995
  1. IN THE COURTS

    PROLIFIC. An Istanbul court has sentenced an influential Islamic creationist to 3 years in prison for starting a criminal organization and profiting from it. But the conviction, which Adnan Oktar says he will appeal, seems unlikely to stem the flood of creationist books and DVDs he is publishing.

    CREDIT: PATRICK ROBERT/CORBIS

    Oktar, who uses the pen name Harun Yahya, became well-known outside Turkey when his Foundation for Scientific Research (BAV) widely distributed its Atlas of Creation, a stunning, 768-page tome (Science, 16 February 2007, p. 925). BAV is not directly linked to the activities that landed Oktar in trouble, and creationism had nothing to do with the charges.

    Even so, a BAV spokesperson says Oktar is being persecuted “because of his ideas.” Given the political pressures on Turkey's justice system, that's “not entirely implausible,” says physicist Taner Edis of Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, who has followed the case closely. BAV says “the work will go on” even if its leader goes to prison.

  2. RISING STARS

    FOOT SOLDIERS. At age 13, Anya Suslova thought it would be fun to tag along with her father, a boat captain in Zhigansk, Siberia, as he helped an international team of climate scientists collect Arctic water samples along the Lena River. Her curiosity and hard work—she volunteered to collect samples during the bitter Russian winter, including drilling through 0.6 m of ice—have spawned the Student Partners Project, a science and outreach effort funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF).

    SOURCE: MOLLY MCELROY

    Anya's effort in 2003 “was the start of a fantastic addition” to the project's data set, says team leader R. Max Holmes, an earth systems scientist at Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts. In 2005, Holmes and his colleagues received a $630,000 NSF grant to study the effects of climate change on Arctic river systems with help from hundreds of schoolchildren, their teachers, and community leaders.

    Suslova, now studying economics and political science at Yakutsk State University, is spending this summer at Woods Hole and plans to pursue a career in environmental policy. “Zhigansk is developing. I want it to be environmental[ly] clean [so] that we will be able to drink water from Lena as we do now and swim there.”

  3. PIONEERS

    SOURCE: MICROSOFT

    AMONG THE STARS. Jim Gray went sailing off the coast of San Francisco in January 2007 and was never seen again. But last week, Microsoft, his employer, unveiled one of his legacies: a way to help astronomy buffs explore the night sky from their computers.

    WorldWide Telescope is a program that brings together high-resolution images from several ground-based and space-based telescopes. It builds upon an online astronomical image database called the SkyServer that Gray pioneered back in 2001. The application enables users to “fly” through a virtual sky, zooming in on constellations, galaxies, and stars of interest, and even take “tours” guided by astronomers.

    “Aside from being a brilliant database engineer, he was a great connector,” says Curtis Wong, a computer visualization expert at Microsoft Research in Redmond, Washington, who led the effort to create worldwidetelescope. org. Wong says that Gray, who worked at Microsoft for 11 years, helped him team up with astronomers and other researchers from 10 institutions around the world. Wong's team has dedicated its project to their former colleague.

  4. NONPROFIT WORLD

    BOTTOM-UP. Fuel-cell developer and millionaire Gary Mittleman decided to run for Congress to push for better federal policies on energy, the environment, and the economy. But last month, the 55-year-old Democrat changed his mind after deciding that he could get more bang for his bucks—he had planned to donate up to $300,000 to his campaign to represent upstate New York in the U.S. House of Representatives—by setting up a nonprofit organization.

    SOURCE: GARY MITTLEMAN

    Mittleman says that the One Dream One Earth Foundation, which he is seeding with funds that he and his donors plan to provide, will conduct an education campaign at the grass-roots and federal levels. He hopes that better information will dissuade lawmakers from taking steps such as starving the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve of oil, an idea that he says is simply “more lunacy.”

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