Random Samples

Science  09 Apr 2010:
Vol. 328, Issue 5975, pp. 149

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  1. Olympics Lab in Rio

    Brazilian windsurfer Ricardo Winick may need more muscle mass to capture a gold.


    Brazil may be an emerging global economic power, but in Olympic medals, its performance is strictly second rate. At the 2008 Beijing summer games, Brazil ranked 17th in the medal count, just ahead of Kenya.

    Now that Rio de Janeiro is set to host the games in 2016, Brazil's government is turning to science to help crank up its medal output. Last month, it announced it will spend $7 million outfitting a new Olympic Laboratory in Rio. “We have a strategic vision to be in the top 10 sports powers by 2016,” says Maurício França of Brazil's Research and Projects Financing Agency.

    The center, to be housed in a swimming complex built for the 2007 Pan American Games, will be equipped with high-speed cameras for physiological studies as well as a biochemistry lab to analyze data from athletes including swimmers, volleyball players, and judo competitors. In many cases, França notes, Brazilians have been missing the winner's podium by just centimeters or seconds. “We think that science can make the difference.”

  2. Lowering the Bar

    “Should childbirth be considered a stressor sufficient to meet the criteria for PTSD?”

    —Article in the February 2010 Archives of Women's Mental Health, whose special topic is psychiatry's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the International Classification of Diseases, and “the female psyche: quo vadis?”

  3. Mathematics ‘Nobel’


    John Torrence Tate, 85, is this year's winner of the $1 million Abel Prize for mathematics, awarded by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters.

    Tate taught at Harvard University for 36 years before joining the University of Texas, Austin. He retired last year. Tate, who is being recognized for “his vast and lasting impact on the theory of numbers” has his name attached to many ideas in number theory, starting with Tate's Thesis, his celebrated 1950 Princeton University doctoral thesis. According to a commentary by mathematician Marcus du Sautoy of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, prime numbers (numbers divisible only by themselves or 1) are to math what the elements are to chemistry. Because they are infinite, however, they can't be put in a table; “instead, we must look for patterns … [in] the way the primes are laid out through the universe of numbers.” Tate is “the Galileo of number theory,” says du Sautoy, because his work “has provided tools and insights which have allowed the mathematicians of this generation to see further into the universe of numbers than ever before.”

    A prize ceremony will be held in Oslo on 25 May.

  4. The Price of Eggs


    While bioethicists continue to agonize over whether women should be compensated for donating oocytes to research, the U.S. market for eggs for assisted reproduction is flourishing. According to an article in the spring issue of the Hastings Center Report, some donors are offered tens of thousands of dollars, and the likelihood of having a high SAT score may be more important than appearance or ethnicity in determining the value of a student's oocytes.

    Aaron D. Levine, assistant professor of public policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, obtained copies of student newspapers from 366 colleges and universities around the country. He found 111 ads soliciting egg donors in 65 different student newspapers, in what he believes is the “first national cross-sectional sample” of such ads. He found that top fees were offered at the institutions with the highest average SAT scores of incoming students, and he calculated that every increase of 100 SAT points increased the bounty by $1930. That amount roughly doubled if the advertisements were placed on behalf of a specific couple. One ad, which ran in The Harvard Crimson, The Daily Princetonian, and Yale Daily News, offered $35,000 to an attractive athletic donor with an SAT score over 1400.

    Levine says he doesn't think the situation has changed much since 2006 when most of the data were collected: He recently spoke at Duke University, where he saw two ads, for $10,000 and $15,000 each. At nearby but lower-SAT-scoring University of North Carolina, oocytes were sought for only $2500.

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