Science  14 Nov 2008:
Vol. 322, Issue 5904, pp. 1033

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    NANOBAMA. Let's hope there's a microscope at the White House, because one of the first gifts Barack Obama will receive once he becomes president is a batch of these miniportraits, about half a millimeter wide and made out of about 150 million carbon nanotubes each. They were created a week before the 4 November election by mechanical engineer John Hart and his colleagues at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Hart says he wasn't making a political statement, although he does support Obama. “I just wanted to draw attention to the importance of research for economic development and to promote public interest in science and technology,” he says. For more images, go to


    CHANGES AT NIH. Alan Krensky has resigned from his job overseeing a new office coordinating research across the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) as part of a realignment of the director's office.

    Krensky was brought in by NIH Director Elias Zerhouni in July 2007 to head its Office of Portfolio Analysis and Strategic Initiatives (OPASI), launched a year earlier (Science, 17 August 2007, p. 887). But observers told Science that Krensky clashed with institute directors. Krensky denies any tension, saying that he found NIH to be “as collaborative as you get.”

    Krensky's exit follows Zerhouni's on 31 October and a directive from Congress to fold OPASI into a new division that will also oversee NIH offices of social sciences, women's health, and AIDS. “We all agreed that this was a good time for a change in leadership,” says NIH acting Director Raynard Kington. Lana Skirboll, who heads NIH's science policy office, will serve as acting director of the new division. Krensky says that OPASI was “a small, flexible think tank” and adds that the new division “is very different” because of its broader oversight, which makes it more bureaucratic. His “plan right now” is to work full-time in his NIH cancer immunology lab, where he had been spending half a day a week.


    PAYING HIS DUES. Two years before Fred Spilhaus became executive director of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in 1970, the association raised its annual dues to $20. This month, the 70-year-old Spilhaus announced he will step down from his post in June 2009, and, incredibly enough, the dues haven't budged.

    “There were a few things I did that really worked,” says Spilhaus, who cites that bargain-basement price as one reason the association's membership rose from 10,000 to 55,000 during his tenure. “The strategy was to keep the members and make room for everybody around the world.” About 30% of its members reside outside the United States, and most also maintain an allegiance to a specialty society of seismologists, geologists, oceanographers, or meteorologists.


    Trained as a physical oceanographer, Spilhaus took over in 1970 when AGU was a committee of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences with 40 full-time employees. Within 2 years, he helped transform it into an independent society that now publishes 5300 articles per year and supports 178 staffers. Next month, its annual meeting will attract 16,000 attendees to San Francisco, California.


    BAYING FOR BLOOD. Biopure, a Massachusetts biotech company that makes a blood substitute called Hemopure, has filed a defamation suit against U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) researcher Charles Natanson over a study highlighting the risks from using the product. Hemopure is sold in South Africa and is under development in the United States and Europe.

    Biopure charges that it suffered “significant financial harm” as a result of Natanson's article published online 28 April in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) and letters he wrote to health officials in the United Kingdom and South Africa alerting them to the paper. The suit, filed 10 October in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., also notes that the JAMA article did not disclose that Natanson had applied for a patent on technology to make artificial blood safer and “seeks to benefit financially from widespread adoptions of the contentions he makes,” Biopure wrote in its suit. Natanson revealed the patent in JAMA in July.

    Natanson's meta-analysis of 16 trials on five blood-substitute products, including Hemopure, concluded that the products increased the risk of death by 30% (ScienceNOW, 28 April: Natanson declined to comment for this story but noted in April that “we need to move from humans back to animals, until we find a formulation that has less toxicity.” On 4 November, Natanson asked the judge to dismiss the case.



    SHELF LIFE. Science fiction author Michael Crichton, who wrote bestsellers such as Jurassic Park and The Andromeda Strain, died of cancer 5 November. He was 66.

    Crichton entertained millions, and many say his lifetime's work raised the public's interest in science. But Crichton also received his share of criticism from scientists, most notably for a 2004 novel, State of Fear, which portrayed global warming as a hoax. Kendrick Frazier, editor of Skeptical Inquirer, says the book “probably caused a lot of mischief and misunderstanding about the seriousness of global warming and climate change.” But, Frazier says, no one can deny Crichton's skills as a storyteller.