Extraterrestrial-intelligence pioneer Jill Tarter retires

Extraterrestrial-intelligence pioneer Jill Tarter retires

After 35 years, astronomer Jill Tarter (pictured) is retiring from the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) — a field she helped pioneer and popularize, most recently at the SETI Institute in Mountain View, California. Tarter, who inspired the late Carl Sagan to create the fictional character Ellie Arroway, heroine of the book and movie ‘Contact,’ says she will instead focus her efforts on what she calls “the search for intelligent funding.”  … Read more

High-flying cosmic-ray detector offers hints but no results yet

High-flying cosmic-ray detector offers hints but no results yet

When Samuel Ting  got up to give his plenary talk at the opening session of the American Physicial Society’s spring meeting here in Atlanta, the vast hotel ballroom was close to standing-room only. Not only is the MIT physicist a Nobel laureate, but he the principal investigator and prime mover of the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer: the hugely controversial, US$1.5 billion cosmic ray detector that has been riding on the International Space Station since its launch last May (see  Nature 455, 854-7; 2008). If AMS works as advertised, it could detect positrons from the self-annihilation of the mysterious particles comprising dark matter, thus providing the first solid clue as to what those particle are. It might also see anti-helium nuclei created right after the Big Bang, thus shedding fresh light on why matter is so much more common than anti-matter.  Read more

Pacific Biosciences gets sued – and that’s just business as usual

Posted on behalf of Erika Check Hayden Biotechnology lawyers seem unsurprised by a class-action lawsuit filed last month against Pacific Biosciences, the Menlo Park, Calif.-based gene sequencing technology company whose fortunes have declined dramatically over the past year. The suit was filed on 21 December in the US District Court for Northern California on behalf of people and companies who bought stock in PacBio between Oct. 27, 2010 – when the company made its initial public offering – and Sept. 20, 2011. According to the online industry newsletter GenomeWeb, the plaintiff, Thomas J. Primo, alleges that the company made “materially false and misleading  … Read more

Collins answers the Big Questions on science and faith

Francis Collins is a geneticist who is famous not only for being the former head of the US Human Genome Project—and a widely rumoured choice to be the next director of the National Institutes of Health—but for being a devout evangelical Christian.  Read more