Random Samples

Science  06 Aug 2010:
Vol. 329, Issue 5992, pp. 613

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  1. Three Q's


    Thirty-five years ago, the term “global warming” appeared in the scientific literature for the first time, in a paper called “Climatic Change: Are We on the Brink of a Pronounced Global Warming?” (Science, 8 August 1975, p. 460). Author Wally Broecker, a marine geochemist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York, predicted how temperatures would rise due to increased carbon dioxide emissions and the greenhouse effect. Science spoke with Broecker, who is now 78.

    Q: Were you consciously coining the term?

    Absolutely not. And I'm somewhat embarrassed that people now call me the father of global warming. … In my class this semester, I offered a $200 reward if somebody could find in the literature an earlier use of the term global warming. But I had no takers. … I'm still willing to pay anybody who can find an earlier reference, so I can get this off my back.

    Q: How has global warming lived up to your predictions?

    It's not bad, actually, to take my curve and put it alongside what's happened. My prediction [an increase of 0.8°C by 2000] was okay.

    Q: What's the most misunderstood thing about climate change?

    I always tell people that if all we had was a natural record, we would be in a weak position with regard to saying we should do something about carbon dioxide. But our position is really based on the physics, which says if you add greenhouse gases to the planet, it's going to warm. … If it doesn't happen, that would mean that we're in the dark ages as far as understanding climate.

  2. They Said It

    “Without basic research, there can be no applications. … After all, electricity and the light bulb were not invented by incremental improvements to the candle.”

    —President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, addressing the International Conference on High Energy Physics in Paris last week. Sarkozy announced France's plan to increase spending on higher education and basic and applied research by €35 billion for the next 4 years as part of the country's bailout strategy.

  3. Home, Sweet Science Museum


    Calling all human guinea pigs: the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago is looking for someone “curious, adventurous, and outgoing” to live entirely within its walls for 30 days in an experiment it calls “Month in the Museum.” No previous science knowledge is required, but blogging, tweeting, and videotaping the storybook experience is, says Lisa Miner, public relations director. The subject will walk away with $10,000, not bad compensation for roaming the 14-acre space, including private collections—“only 25% is on the floor for guests to see,” says Miner—and potentially bedding down in a World War II German U-boat or Boeing 727, or underneath a hissing Tesla coil.

    Why launch such an experiment? “We hear from our guests that this museum has transformed them in some way,” says Miner. “We thought, if one visit could do it, what could a month do?” Applications (www.msichicago.org/matm/) are due 11 August.

  4. Virtual Vice


    Graffiti and pinups cover the kitchen walls; methamphetamine-filled syringes litter the living room. But this is a drug den with a difference: It exists only in Second Life, an elaborate online virtual reality world.

    Christopher Culbertson, a neuroscience graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues constructed the e-crackhouse, called Meth-Apartment, to study how visual cues affect meth users' cravings. The researchers compared how 17 users responded to Meth-Apartment, to a neutral Second Life apartment, and to a neutral video and a video that showed actors in a meth house taking the drug. The virtual meth house induced the strongest cravings, the team reported online on 17 July in Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior.

    That's important because researchers have had trouble eliciting cravings in the lab, says Culbertson—it's just too different from settings where people actually do drugs. Virtual digs like Meth-Apartment allow scientists to study addiction and test potential treatments in a realistic yet controlled environment.

    Virtual reality can also give recovering users a safe way to practice drug avoidance in the kinds of places where they'll need those skills most, says behavioral scientist Patrick Bordnick of the University of Houston in Texas, who has tested virtual scenarios on alcohol and nicotine addicts. Virtual reality therapy has also been used to treat pain, anxiety disorders, phobias, and post-traumatic stress disorder.

    “This is not Bart Simpson offering you a joint,” says Bordnick. “Virtual reality is very convincing, and gains in the virtual world actually lead to gains in the real world.”