Random Samples

Science  04 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5983, pp. 1213
  1. Three Q's


      William Bishai, an infectious disease physician-scientist, has been named director of the KwaZulu-Natal Research Institute for Tuberculosis and HIV in Durban, South Africa, (Science, 27 March 2009, p. 1659). The new center is located at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and will receive $70 million over 10 years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute.

      Q:Why is it important to study HIV and tuberculosis (TB) at the same time?

      The tuberculosis epidemic has been rising inexorably in the developing world in the last few decades, but the rise has accelerated in the HIV era. At present, 15% of the total TB burden worldwide is HIV-associated. And the problems with drug-resistant tuberculosis seem to be particularly expressed in HIV-positive populations.

      Q:What will you gain by doing basic research in a place that has been hit hard by the TB/HIV co-epidemic?

      The innovation here is a belief that empowerment within the sub-Saharan African continent and in South Africa itself at the basic science level is the long-term solution to these problems.

      Q:What do you hope to achieve scientifically?

      We're planning to focus on diagnostics and biomarkers for tuberculosis and TB/HIV co-infection. Accomplishing that will shorten the trials for the new drugs and vaccines for TB and TB/HIV that are in the pipeline.

    1. Final Puzzle


        Martin Gardner, noted guru of mathematical puzzles, philosophical conundrums, and pseudo science skepticism, died 22 May at the age of 95.

        Gardner's fame began with a 1956 article he wrote for Scientific American about hexaflexagons, beguiling mathematical objects that form a hexagon with differently colored faces depending on how you fold them. (Note the unfolded hexaflexagon below Gardner's photograph.)

        His “Mathematical Games” column in Scientific American—as well as his 60 books and 15 anthologies—seduced millions of people into scientific literacy. “He was a master at explaining,” says John Horton Conway, a mathematician at Princeton University. And, Conway adds, he did it without a scientific degree. “It was his lack of qualifications that made him so good at it.”

        Gardner's admirers grew steadily over the years, into a subculture of puzzlers and problem-solvers. For 20 years, they have celebrated him with the biennial “Gathering for Gardner” in Atlanta.

        “He not only changes how you think, but how you think about thinking,” says Erez Lieberman, a mathematician and inventor at Harvard University who gave the opening talk at the gathering in March.

        Now Gardner has left his admirers with a final conundrum. He requested that he be cremated and have “neither a marker nor a grave, but also neither a funeral nor a memorial service,” says Tom Rodgers, the organizer of the gathering. A space for remembrance is under construction on the conference Web site (www.g4g4.com).

        Gardner's gift for explaining will be sorely missed, says Conway. “I once saw him tie a knot in a rope without letting go of the ends,” which, he notes, is clearly impossible. “Now I'll never know how he did it.”

      1. True or False?

          Fake (top) and real (bottom) Botticelli paintings.


          Imitating works of art is no easy task. To pass experts' scrutiny, forgers and impostors have labored to match a master's brush strokes, paint type, and canvas materials.

          Their efforts have fooled some of the world's best-known museums, including the National Gallery in London. Unabashed, curators there are now putting some of the museum's faux masterpieces on display in a new exhibit, “Close Examination: Fakes, Mistakes and Discoveries.”

          The show also highlights the detective work of the gallery's science department, created in 1934 to study materials and techniques of western European paintings. Using technologies such as infrared and x-ray imaging, electron microscopy, and mass spectrometry, scientists have uncovered forgeries and misattributions and helped preserve original artworks.

          Case in point: a pair of paintings attributed to the famed Italian Renaissance artist Sandro Botticelli, which the gallery acquired with much fanfare in 1874. One of them, Venus and Mars, was well known during the artist's lifetime. The other, An Allegory—perhaps even more popular among the gallery's visitors—turned out on analysis to have been painted by a follower of Botticelli, not the artist himself.

          The chances that the gallery could fall victim to sham artists today are slim to none, says Ashok Roy, director of scientific research at the gallery and a curator of the exhibit. “There is no likelihood that the gallery could be duped in the future on the grounds of misinterpreted technical analysis of a picture,” Roy says.

          The exhibit is free and runs from 30 June to 12 September.

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