The 2009 Nobel Prize in Physics is being shared by three researchers. Half of the award is going to Charles K. Kao of the Standard Telecommunication Laboratories, in Britain, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was honored for "groundbreaking achievements concerning the transmission of light in fibers for optical communication." The other half will be shared by Willard S. Boyle and George E. Smith, both of Bell Laboratories, "for the invention of an imaging semiconductor circuit – the CCD sensor."
Higher Education Quick Takes
A state judge on Monday dismissed many of the key charges against Ray Sansom, former speaker of the house in Florida, and Bob Richburg, former president of Northwest Florida State College, in a case that cost both of them their jobs, The Northwest Florida Daily News reported. The case focuses on allegedly inappropriate ties between Sansom and the college. Sansom directed state funds to the college to build an airport hangar for one of his donors and the college gave Sansom a job. Judge Terry Lewis, in dismissing the charges, stressed questions about the legality of indictments that were based on legislation that Sansom advanced, and suggested that this may be a case of misconduct that just isn't illegal. "Not every wrongful conduct is a crime. Sometimes the remedy for such conduct must be political rather than judicial. This is one of those situations," the judge said.
Colleges that play big-time basketball set ticket prices for their men's teams significantly higher than for their women's teams, and the differential seems to be explained at least partially by institutional discrimination, says a new paper published by the Wellesley Centers for Women at Wellesley College. The paper, a summary of which can be found here, says that the sizable gap in ticket prices charged by colleges in Division I of the National Collegiate Athletic Association occurs even at institutions where the women's teams are highly successful and have big fan followings and "is not accounted for by differences in attendance." The authors of the paper seek to rebut the argument that colleges charge less for events involving women because there is less demand for them. "Because athletics, and particularly college basketball, have an increasingly prominent cultural profile, the practice of effectively de-valuing women on the court has implications off the court as well," they write. "The results support the broader contention that women athletes -- as women in traditionally male arenas -- continue to face institutional discrimination that is camouflaged as sensible economic practice."
The Obama administration on Monday said it was concerned about a Senate spending bill that would provide about $200 million less for the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology than President Obama has sought. The White House made its concerns known in a Statement of Administration Policy about a spending bill for science programs and the Commerce and Justice Departments passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee, which the full Senate began debating Monday. "These two agencies are key components of the President’s Plan for Science and Innovation and the Committee’s reductions would affect important research activities and agency operations in the near term and make it increasingly difficult to achieve the doubling goal for basic research in future years," the statement said.
Amazon is famous for a lot of things, but foremost among them is the customer reviews that are appended to virtually every product it sells (the company went so far as to patent its approach). The company sells books, but it isn't a publisher, so it has an interest -- at least theoretically -- in letting its customers say what they don't like as well as what they like about specific titles. That's less obviously true about SAGE Publications, but that hasn't stopped the scholarly/professional publisher from adopting its own form of customer comment function on the Web pages for all of its books. Lecturers who receive inspection copies of SAGE books will have the option of submitting online comments or reviews that will appear on the titles' product page -- whether they are positive or negative, SAGE officials say. “If a review has constructive criticism, it has as much right to be there as a review that is heavily in favor of a title,” said Clive Parry, sales and marketing director. ("Inappropriate" reviews will come down, SAGE reports.) Based on the handful of comments that appear on SAGE titles such as Researching Health and Key Issues in Education Policy so far under the new system, the reviews definitely lean toward the positive.
Following a series of controversies, including the murder trial in Italy of one of its students, the University of Washington has tightened rules for study abroad, The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported. Among the new rules: Department chairs must sign off on study abroad programs, students must have insurance and a cell phone, and program funds can't be used to buy alcohol.
Stanford University is seeking to sell $1 billion in investment assets, including shares in companies, real estate and timberland, The Wall Street Journal reported. The sales are generally only portions of Stanford's holdings in the investments, and come as the university seeks to recover from substantial endowment losses that have created severe short-term financial difficulties, even though the university has one of the largest endowments in the world.
The National Science Foundation announced a new round of grants for a controversial program in which social scientists conduct research relevant to the needs of the Department of Defense. Among the research topics receiving funding: "Terror, Conflict Processes, Organizations, and Ideologies: Completing the Picture," "How Politics Inside Dictatorships Affects Regime Stability and International Conflict," "Strategies of Violence, Tools of Peace, and Changes in War Termination" and "Avoiding Water Wars: Environmental Security Through River Treaty Institutionalization." While Defense Department officials have pledged complete academic freedom for the scholars working in the program, and some university officials see this effort as long overdue, some professors have criticized the military connection to the program. Those criticisms led to the enhanced NSF role in the effort.
Authorities have arrested three students at the University of California at Los Angeles, and four others, in charges related to a fight at an off-campus fraternity party, the Los Angeles Times reported. Two of the students are charged with attempted murder, and the third is charged as an accessory. While arrests related to fraternity parties are not rare, arrests of students for attempted murder are. While details of the fight have not been released, authorities said that all of those arrested were "uninvited guests." One student was stabbed in the abdomen at the party and required surgery. Another student was stabbed in the arm and didn't require hospitalization. A third student was hit on his head with a bottle.
Elizabeth H. Blackburn, Carol W. Greider and Jack W. Szostak were named winners of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine this morning for the discovery of "how chromosomes are protected by telomeres and the enzyme telomerase." Blackburn and Greider are the 9th and 10th women to win Nobels in medicine. Blackburn is a professor of biology and physiology at the University of California at San Francisco and information about her lab may be found here. Greider is a professor of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, and information about her lab may be found here. Szostak is professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. He is also affiliated with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Information about his lab may be found here.