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Alaskan gold mine Q’s but few A’s in

sparks a dispute Q-fever outbreak

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muddle. There’s no doubt they’re hungry for Steve Kaye, a colleague of McClure’s at Impe- tests have detected XMRV, including a few
information. Out of curiosity, Lombardi did a rial College London and a co-author of the from the United Kingdom. (Test proceeds roll
Google search on “XMRV” the day before the PLoS ONE paper, noted with some alarm that back into research and development at Whitte-
Science paper hit and found about 22,500 hits. the authors of the Science paper had specu- more, which licenses the test to VIP Dx. VIP
Three months later, there are 400,000. lated about treating XMRV with antiretroviral Dx has also received financial support from
But some scientists, including Coffin and drugs, which can have harsh side effects. the Whittemore family in the past.)
McClure, fear that the Viral Immune Pathol- However, VIP Dx developed its XMRV test To resolve the dispute, both sides say they
ogy Diagnostics clinic (VIP Dx) took advan- only after a different company began offering are willing to work with the other and possibly
tage of that hunger by offering the $650 diag- one; VIP Dx officials saw their test as a more test each other’s samples. In the meantime,
nostic test for XMRV, 300 of which have been expert alternative. What’s more, Lombardi— more papers exploring the link are slated to
administered so far and which already has a an unpaid consultant for VIP Dx who helped appear in the next few months, and each side

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4 to 6 week backlog. “Leaving aside the issue set up and manage the testing program— says it knows of work supporting its results.
of who’s right and who’s wrong,” says Coffin, argues that the test is useful. Patients could in All that suggests that the field will continue to
“the original paper did not establish the virus theory avoid infecting other people with churn. As McClure told Science, “we take no
[caused CFS] and didn’t establish it as a viable XMRV and can have their diagnoses validated, pleasure in finding colleagues wrong or dash-
marker.” So it’s not clear what a patient or if nothing else. His test results also bolster the ing the hopes of patients, but it’s imperative
physician could do with a positive result. science in the original paper; he says 36% of the truth gets out.” –SAM KEAN


Neandertal Jewelry Shows Their Symbolic Smarts

Neandertals had big brains and were skilled An international team led by archaeologist haps to make the shell’s outside resemble its
hunters, but their sites reveal few objets João Zilhão of the University of Bristol in the naturally red inside surface. Zilhão’s team
d’art. So some researchers have suggested United Kingdom examined three cock- concludes that although the perforations were
that Neandertals weren’t cognitively up to leshells from Aviones that were perforated not humanmade, Neandertals selected shells
the job of producing art and symbols, near their hinges and were found alongside with holes of 4.5 to 6.5 millimeters, ideal for
although a growing number disagree. Now a lumps of yellow and red pigments. stringing as ornaments.
handful of marine mollusk shells, possibly A fourth, unperforated, thorny oys- “The authors make a good

used as necklaces and paint cups, shows that ter shell contained residues of case” that the shells and pig-
Neandertals did express themselves symbol- red and black pigments ments were used in “an
ically, say the authors of a paper published and was perhaps used as aesthetic and presum-
online this week in the Proceedings of the a paint container, the ably symbolic” way, says
National Academy of Sciences. They argue team says. At Antón, a archaeologist Erella
that the f indings suggest that social and perforated scallop shell Hovers of The Hebrew
demographic factors, rather than cognitive was painted on its exter- University of Jerusalem.
differences, best explain why so-called mod- nal side with a blend of Hovers cites similar
ern behavior was relatively rare among orange pigments, per- f inds from Israel’s
Neandertals. The paper suggests that “Nean- ▲
dertals too had such [symbolic] capacities,”
says archaeologist John Speth of the Univer-
sity of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
The shells were found in the Aviones cave
and the Antón rock shelter in southeast Spain,
both identified as Neandertal sites from their
ages and stone tools. Radiocarbon dating of
shells at Aviones puts the Neandertal occupa-
tion there at between 45,000 and 50,000 years
ago—before modern humans entered the
area—and charcoal at Antón came out at
between 37,000 and 43,000 years old.

Signs of symbolism. Neandertal perforated shells,

some painted (right), suggest artistic expression. SCIENCE VOL 327 15 JANUARY 2010 255

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Qafzeh Cave, which was occupied by modern But as the older perforated shells suggest, ones? Social and demographic factors,
humans as early as 92,000 years ago and that does not mean Neandertals were not Zilhão and others say. In this view the
where perforated cockleshells and red ochre capable of creating symbols, Speth says. Neandertals, with relatively low population
pigments have been widely accepted as evi- “The assumption [has been] that when you densities, may have lacked the widespread
dence of modern human behavior. first see symbolic media such as ornaments, social networks that required symbolic
Although signs of Neandertal symbolism that’s the first time humans had the mental communication within and among popula-
are rare, ornaments become more common at wherewithal to make them. By that logic, tion groups. Early humans engaged in sym-
Neandertal sites when modern humans arrive humans lacked the cognitive capacities nec- bolic behavior only “when it was advanta-
in Europe about 40,000 years ago, leading essary to invent the atomic bomb until World geous,” says Hovers, and when “popula-
some to argue that the Neandertals copied War II. That is obviously nonsense.” tions were stable enough over time to keep
modern human symbolic behavior rather than So why are ornaments plentiful at mod- these canons and traditions alive.”
inventing it themselves. ern human sites and rare at Neandertal –MICHAEL BALTER


NIST Grants Help Schools Build for Tomorrow’s Research

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Habib Dagher, a structural engineer at $12.7 million toward 13 new physics
the University of Maine, Orono, wants laboratories, part of a 12-year strategic
to replace the heating oil that warms plan, and the $15 million NIST grant
most Maine homes with a cheaper, gives it a green light to proceed.
renewable fuel—electricity generated “Without this grant, I don’t know how
by wind turbines 30 km offshore in the many years it would have taken us” to
Gulf of Maine. To withstand the pun- complete the project, says N. John
ishing ocean conditions, the 100-meter Cooper, dean of arts and sciences.
turbines would be made from a poly- Despite an overall 5% spending cut
mer composite, stiffened by cellulose this year that has slowed hiring,
fibers, created by researchers at the Cooper says the NIST grant “positions
university’s Advanced Structures and us to be more competitive when the
Composites Center he directs. But upturn comes.”
researchers need more lab space to For the Woods Hole Oceanographic
design, prototype, and test the unique Institution (WHOI) in Massachusetts,
building material. an $8.1 million award for a laboratory
Fortunately for the center, Dagher In the wind. Researchers at Maine’s Advanced Structures and Compos- for ocean sensors and observing sys-
not only thinks green but also knows ites Center are getting a new lab to test offshore wind-turbine blades. tems will help it do a better job as a
where to find the green. Last week, major contractor for a project sup-
the center learned it was one of 12 winners in ernment’s academic research portfolio, which ported by the National Science Foundation
the second and final round of a $180 million traditionally has favored supporting scientists (NSF). The Ocean Observatories Initiative
competitive construction grants program at over bricks and mortar. “This is the hardest (OOI) will deploy networks of sensors to col-
the National Institute of Standards and Tech- type of money to get,” says Dagher. “And with- lect long-term data from the sea floor (Science,
nology (NIST). The $12.4 million NIST out the NIST grant, the whole project would 16 November 2007, p. 1056), and Laurence
grant, combined with $5 million from the have been slowed down considerably.” Madin, WHOI’s executive vice president and
state of Maine, will allow Dagher to build the The NIST competition attracted 167 pro- director of research, explains that “once we got
Advanced Nanocomposites in Renewable posals from universities clamoring for help in the NSF award, we realized that we needed a
Energy Laboratory at the center. The center funding new construction during tough eco- special facility to do everything that OOI
has received a $5 million earmark inserted nomic times. (A smaller competition in 2008 would require.” Although WHOI has received
into the Department of Energy’s 2010 budget chose three winners from 93 proposals, and in NOAA funding for many years, says Madin,
by the state’s congressional delegation, July, NIST gave $55 million in stimulus “this is actually our first NIST award.”
and it’s part of a consortium that won a money to four institutions that had just missed Some of the NIST construction funding will
$7 million grant in October from DOE to the cut.) The new facilities are intended to help improve construction practices them-
test the offshore wind turbines. In addition, enhance the mission of either NIST or the selves. An $11.8 million NIST grant to build
Dagher hopes that Maine voters will National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adminis- the Center for High-Performance Buildings
approve a $6 million bond issue this sum- tration (NOAA), its sister agency within the will allow Purdue University scientists to

mer to equip the new lab. Commerce Department. The federal dollars reconfigure office space to maximize comfort,
The NIST program is a small component of leverage money already on the table: The safety, and energy efficiency, says James
the $787 billion stimulus package designed to $123 million allocated last week will make Braun, a professor of mechanical engineering.
revive the U.S. economy (Science, 27 Novem- possible more than $250 million in new labo- The new lab space, he adds, may even boost the
ber 2009, p. 1176). Aimed at funding “shovel- ratory construction. team’s application, now pending at NSF, for an
ready” projects such as the nanocomposites The University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylva- Engineering Research Center on the topic.
lab, the grants address a gap in the federal gov- nia, for example, had already committed –JEFFREY MERVIS

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