Random Samples

Science  02 Nov 2007:
Vol. 318, Issue 5851, pp. 723
  1. NETWATCH: Way Up North

    It was big news when the amount of Arctic sea ice reached a record low this summer (Science, 5 October, p. 33). At the Arctic Report Card 2007 Web site, pole watchers can track other environmental changes in the far north. The new site, from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, updates last year's State of the Arctic report by offering brief, peer-reviewed articles on variables such as air temperature and the mass of Greenland's ice sheet. As one entry reveals, a “hot spot” where temperatures are 3° to 4°C above average has edged closer to Europe from its previous position in eastern Siberia. Overall, the Arctic continues to heat up, but the site notes that not all measures follow the trend. For instance, permafrost temperatures appear to be leveling off.



    Almost 3 years after a tsunami battered coasts throughout south Asia, India has unveiled a high-tech early warning center that will issue alerts for the killer waves within 13 minutes after an earthquake.

    The National Early Warning System for Tsunami and Storm Surges in the Indian Ocean, headquartered in Hyderabad, will take “about 7 minutes to analyze the earthquake data and another 6 minutes to run simulation models to generate alerts,” says India's science minister, Kapil Sibal. Scientists are working to reduce the amount of time even further.

    Screen shows predicted direction of a minor tsunami 45 minutes after a magnitude-8.4 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra on 12 September. CREDIT: PALLAVA BAGLA

    The $30 million center receives data from six bottom-pressure recorders installed deep in both the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea. In addition, 30 tide gauges have been installed to track tsunami waves. Peter Koltermann, UNESCO's tsunami coordinator, says that India's system is “completely different” from the Pacific Tsunami Warning and Mitigation System, simultaneously monitoring multiple hazards such as storm surges, typhoons, and rises in sea levels and not just earthquakes.


    Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) is headed for the White House. So say predictions based on “facial competence” as assessed by—among others—New Zealand schoolgirls.

    Huckabee (left) and Richardson behind in the “facial competence” race. CREDIT: BRIAN SNYDER/REUTERS (LEFT); LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS

    In 2005, psychologist Alexander Todorov of Princeton University reported in Science (10 June 2005, p. 1623) that politicians whose faces were judged most competent-looking by people who didn't recognize them tend to win senatorial elections. Todorov reported online 24 October in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the technique had also correctly forecast more than two-thirds of 89 races for governor.

    Inspired, marketing professor J. Scott Armstrong of the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School tried the test with 24 real and potential 2008 U.S. presidential candidates. To find people who wouldn't recognize even Clinton, his team enlisted students in South Australia and in Wellington, New Zealand. Clinton's face won the competence race—averaging 7.2 on a scale of 1 to 10—followed by General Wesley Clark and Senator Barack Obama (D-IL). The top three Republicans—Senator John McCain of Arizona, Representative Duncan Hunter of California, and Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska—trailed six Democrats, tying at 6.2. The least-competent-appearing were Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM) and former governor of Arkansas Republican Mike Huckabee, at 4.9, the authors report in an as-yet-unpublished paper.

    How do people make the judgments? Todorov says his lab's computer model indicates that “more competent faces seem more masculine, with square jaws and high cheekbones,” whereas incompetent faces are more round and babyish. That's for men, anyway. Computers have yet to define the Hillary magic.



    Kanzi, a bonobo at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa, offers a glimpse into his mind with the top moneymaker at an exhibit of ape paintings currently at Zanzibar's Coffee Adventure in Des Moines. Of 16 paintings, 13 were snatched up in the first 2 days. This abstract piece, with the “muted tones” Kanzi prefers, brought in $1500. Proceeds go to ape conservation in the wild.

    Kanzi is only a minor master compared with the late chimp Congo, three of whose paintings fetched a record $25,000 at a 2005 auction in London.

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