Newsmakers

Science  31 Oct 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5902, pp. 657
  1. TWO CULTURES

    CREDIT: SOURCE: DAVID WEINBERG

    GLASSY COSMOS. When Josiah McElheny, a New York-based glass artist, told Ohio State University, Columbus, cosmologist David Weinberg that he wanted to create sculptures depicting the history of the universe, Weinberg's first reaction was: “Good luck. It's hard enough trying to convey that in an hour to an undergraduate class.” But Weinberg soon overcame his skepticism and has spent the past 4 years helping McElheny with two pieces that went on display this month at the White Cube in London and the Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York City, respectively.

    CREDIT: SOURCE: JOSIAH MCELHENY

    The sculptures, Island Universe and The End of The Dark Ages, show galaxy clusters and quasars at different times in the universe's history. The details mirror trends predicted by cosmological equations: “The earliest [closest in] galaxies are small disks in groups of one to three; farther out, there is a shift towards larger galaxies, more ellipticals, and larger clusters,” Weinberg says. The works “don't wear their intellectual depth on their sleeve,” he adds. “But if you spend time with them, you can tell that it is there.”

  2. MOVERS

    WIDER VIEW. After 14 years leading the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in Geneva, Switzerland, epidemiologist Peter Piot has decided to head the new Institute for Global Health at Imperial College London.

    CREDIT: SOURCE: UNAIDS

    Piot says the institute, which at this point has only core funding from the school, will reach beyond the traditional global health realms of epidemiology and infectious diseases. He envisions the institute as a “hub” for researchers from the school's programs in public health, business, and engineering. He also hopes to explore how economic development can lead to changes in health by, for example, changing dietary habits. “India may soon have the largest number of overweight people and malnourished people in one country,” says Piot. “How do you deal with it?”

    Piot, who plans to start the job in May, will conduct research himself at the institute and will recruit some new faculty. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is expected to choose Piot's replacement from among a list of three candidates presented to him this week.

  3. MOVERS

    CREDIT: SOURCE: EUA

    The European University Association (EUA) has elected Swiss legal scholar and former university administrator Jean-Marc Rapp as its new president. Rapp, a former rector of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, is currently an EUA vice president. He won 65% of the vote against Sijbolt Noorda, president of the Association of Universities in the Netherlands. Rapp succeeds Austrian economist Georg Winckler. EUA represents more than 800 universities and 34 national rectors' conferences.

  4. THREE Q'S

    CREDIT: SOURCE: WALTER ALVAREZ

    American geologist Walter Alvarez has won the $250,000 Vetlesen Prize for bringing catastrophism back to the geological sciences. In 1980, Alvarez—now a professor at the University of California, Berkeley—his father and Nobel Prize winner, Luis Alvarez, and two colleagues proposed that a huge asteroid impact had wiped out the dinosaurs. Many geoscientists were skeptical because the idea that instantaneous devastation could explain the rock record had been rejected by researchers a century earlier. But over the years, the Alvarez theory has prevailed.

    Q: How quickly did you realize you were heading off the beaten track?

    It took a while to dawn on me that what we were finding was at odds with all the training that I'd had [and that] maybe Earth history could be exciting, not just this slow, uniformitarian stuff.

    Q: Do you still have to actively defend it?

    I don't feel the need to nail it down until everybody agrees. I was involved for 20 years. It was time to come full circle back to global tectonics.

    Q: What did you take away from the experience?

    A chance for a broader understanding of Earth history. I'm giving a course on the history of everything in the past called “Big History: Cosmos, Earth, Life, and Humanity.”

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