Science  22 Jun 2007:
Vol. 316, Issue 5832, pp. 1677


    THE WIZARD. Don Herbert, who died 12 June at age 89, never got to put “Dr.” in front of his name. Nonetheless, he helped jump-start thousands of careers in science as television's Mr. Wizard, reaching a national audience starting in the 1950s with his own show and appearances on other programs as well as through radio, books, and magazines.

    Herbert prepared, in a way, for doing science on live TV by majoring in English and general science in college and performing in school theatre. His mastery of the medium was evident whether he and his child guest were using atmospheric pressure to crush a can, timing the speed of a cockroach, or finding all the types of energy in a Rube Goldberg contraption.

    “I was awed by him,” says chemistry educator Bassam Shakhashiri of the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who first saw Watch Mr. Wizard when he arrived in the United States from Lebanon as a college student. “It came across that he was himself learning and enjoying it. He's had a lasting effect on kids of all ages.”



    DONE WITH THIS. The head of the soon-to-close Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL) is making a last-ditch attempt to save the lab by resigning. Paul Bertsch hopes that his departure will help persuade the lab's sponsor, the Department of Energy (DOE), to reconsider its decision to turn off funding for the University of Georgia (UGA)-run lab at the end of the month (Science, 18 May, p. 969).

    “The quest for truth and justice often comes at a price,” Bertsch wrote staffers last week, after a month of phone calls and public bashing of both the federal agency and the university, which could also bail the lab out. He says he wasn't asked to leave. SREL population ecologist David Scott says he and his colleagues think Bertsch did the best he could. “He's been kept out of the loop,” Scott says.

    Bertsch, a tenured UGA biogeochemist, would like to return to his onsite work in radionuclide transport and nanoparticles, “providing SREL is here.” He says he's heartened by a congressional inquiry into the matter and positive responses by agencies including the National Nuclear Security Administration to funding requests by SREL researchers.


    NO FOUL PLAY. When Pakistan's cricket coach, Bob Woolmer, was found dead in his hotel room in Jamaica during the World Cup in March, a government pathologist concluded that he had been strangled. The subsequent investigation put several Pakistani cricket stars under the scanner. Now Jamaican authorities say that the pathologist who conducted the autopsy, Ere Sheshiah, was mistaken and that Woolmer died of natural causes, possibly heart failure. The new ruling is based on work by three pathologists in the United Kingdom, South Africa, and Canada.

    “There was no evidence to support manual strangulation,” says Michael Pollanen, chief forensic pathologist for Ontario, who reviewed the autopsy report, digital images of the body, and other evidence. The bruising on Woolmer's neck, initially seen as evidence of foul play, is a “mimic of strangulation” and most likely occurred during the autopsy, Pollanen says.

    Sheshiah, however, is standing by his report that the coach was murdered, according to his comments in the Jamaica Observer.



    FAULTFINDING. Over several decades, geophysicist Hiroo Kanamori has plowed through reams of analog earthquake data to clarify the basic fault-rupture processes of big earthquakes. What he found led to the development of countermeasures that mitigate earthquake damage. Last week, his efforts were rewarded with one of three Kyoto Prizes awarded by Japan's Inamori Foundation.

    “I admire his courage in working on complicated problems,” says Robert Geller, a geophysicist at the University of Tokyo who first met Kanamori as an undergraduate in the early 1970s at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, where Kanamori is now a professor emeritus. Although theories and methods existed to analyze the analog records of big earthquakes, Geller says, researchers shied away from the nitty-gritty work. “Hiroo rolled up his sleeves and got to work.”

    Other Kyoto Prizes this year went to Hiroo Inokuchi, a professor emeritus at the University of Tokyo, for his pioneering research on organic materials that paved the way for organic molecular electronics, and to German choreographer Pina Bausch, for exploring “the fundamental motives of human action.” Each laureate receives a gold medal and $410,000.

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