Random Samples

Science  11 Jun 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5984, pp. 1335

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  1. Three Q's


    As a student in former Science Editor Daniel Koshland's biochemistry lab at the University of California, Berkeley, David Sanders took an early liking to the mixing of science and politics. Now a structural biologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana, Sanders is making his third run for Congress as a Democrat in a heavily Republican district. Unlike his previous runs, how ever, this time the retirement of Republican in cumbent Steve Buyer means the seat is open.

    Q:As a scientist with an active research career, why run for Congress?

    Most of the issues that face us as a society have a scientific or technological basis—health care, antibiotic resistance, defense against weapons of mass destruction, energy, transportation. I believe it's important to have a representative who understands this first hand.

    Q:What scientific issues don't get enough attention?

    The energy problem will pale in comparison with fresh water. Water is already an issue and will increasingly be an issue for the United States. I don't hear that many people in Congress talking about water.

    Q:Why don't more scientists take up politics?

    As scientists, we have a responsibility to bring a long-term perspective and engage the public. But the reward structure does not favor that engagement. That's definitely an impediment.

  2. Eyes on the Prize … Winners

    Lemelson-MIT Prize winner Bertozzi.


    In the same week that a prestigious award for inventors went to a woman for the first time, the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters announced the all-male recipient list for this year's Kavli Prizes.

    The $500,000 Lemelson-MIT Prize is given annually to a scientist whose inventions impact society. Carolyn Bertozzi (right), a chemical biologist at the University of California (UC), Berkeley, is the first woman in the program's 16-year history to win the award. The recognition is a boost for women in science, Bertozzi says, but women in the field still face challenges.

    The Norwegian academy's announcement supports her claim. Kavli Prizes are awarded every 2 years for breakthroughs in astrophysics, nanoscience, and neuroscience. This year, eight scientists will share $1 million in prizes for each category.

    Recipients in the astrophysics category include Jerry Nelson of UC Santa Cruz; J. Roger Angel of the University of Arizona, Tucson; and Raymond Wilson of the European Southern Observatory. The nanoscience prize will be shared by Nadrian Seeman of New York University and Donald Eigler of IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, California. Three people will share the neuroscience prize: Thomas Südhof of the Stanford University School of Medicine, Richard Scheller of Genentech, and James Rothman of Yale University.

    It's the second time the prizes have been awarded and the second time all the winners have been men.

    “I am very concerned that we have no female scientists among the winners for many of these prizes,” says the academy's president, Nils Christian Stenseth. Women have been nominated both times, Stenseth says, and the selection committee gave “serious consideration” to a number of them. The members of the committee—nominated by groups such as the National Academy of Sciences—were also all male.

  3. When in Rome


    A lofty plan to turn Rome into the world's first “post-carbon” city includes massive renovations to make historical structures partially energy independent, and proposals to start new high-tech companies and turn the city's greenbelt into farmland and solar parks. But it doesn't grapple with Rome's biggest environmental problem: traffic.

    The €10 billion ($12.2 billion) 20-year plan announced last week was designed by American economist and environmental activist Jeremy Rifkin, an energy adviser to successive presidents of the European Union's Council. Rifkin says the plan would cut Rome's energy use by 27% and its greenhouse emissions by 46%.

    Yet the 130-page report's only suggestion for reducing emissions from traffic is to acquire two hydrogen fueling stations and a handful of hydrogen-powered vehicles. Rome's energy policy coordinator, Livio de Santoli, acknowledges that the plan is incomplete but says transportation issues will be addressed.

    Lorenzo Parlati, regional president of Italy's League for the Environment, is skeptical. Rome doesn't need international experts to recommend “that the city council change the light bulbs in its offices,” he says. Just how the city will pay for the massive makeover is not clear. Rifkin said at a press conference that the city could cover it by redirecting just 1.5% of its current annual infrastructure budget, although he didn't say what should be cut. He did, however, reveal his fee for his role in developing the plan: €250,000 ($305,000) plus expenses. Nice work, if you can get it.