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Quebec to spend 1 billion to keep corporate head offices like SNC

first_img Comment Sponsored By: Allison Lampert QUEBEC CITY — Quebec’s government said on Thursday it would balance its books in 2019-20 while cutting debt and announced a plan to invest $1 billion to help keep corporate head offices in the predominantly French-speaking Canadian province.The center-right Coalition Avenir Quebec (CAQ) government, elected for the first time in October with a legislative majority, forecast a net surplus of $2.5 billion for fiscal 2018-2019 ending March 31, after investing $3.1 billion in a provincial debt-fighting fund.The province had forecast a $1.7 billion surplus in December.The document came two days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government lavished new spending on middle-class voters in its budget, ahead of the October federal election.Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard used his first budget to support the provincial economy ahead of weaker growth expected in coming years. He announced higher spending on social programs and incentives to increase participation in the labor force by retaining older workers.Girard said Quebec would invest $1 billion toward growing business and retaining head offices, saying precise details would be announced later.He said the fund was not designed for Montreal-based construction firm SNC-Lavalin Group Inc but “could be used” to help the company, which is at the center of a widening political scandal involving Trudeau’s government.Trudeau denies allegations that senior officials last year pressured his then-justice minister to allow the company to avoid a corruption trial by paying a big fine instead.SNC-Lavalin has said it might have to move – or cut – some of its Canadian workforce of 9,000 if the company is found guilty of bribing Libyan officials.Girard also pledged to deliver four additional fiscal years of balanced budgets.“We’re working on all these fronts to increase GDP per capita,” Girard told reporters.The CAQ said 2019 growth would be 1.8 per cent before slowing to 1.5 per cent in 2020. Last November, Girard said rising interest rates and trade turbulence between the United States and China would weigh on growth.Quebec added its net $2.5 billion surplus to a provincial contingency fund used in the case of an economic downturn, while Girard announced investments to attract private investment.Girard also said he wanted to cut Quebec’s net debt to 35 per cent from 40 per cent as a percentage of GDP by March 2024.“Pay now, benefit later, this is what this budget is all about,” Laurentian Bank chief economist Sebastian Lavoie said in an interview.© Thomson Reuters 2019 More Facebook 43 Comments Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard is applauded by the government as he stands to present his budget Thursday.Canadian Press/Jacques Boissinot Join the conversation → Email Twitter advertisement ← Previous Next → Featured Stories March 22, 20197:49 AM EDT Filed under News Economy Reddit Share this storyQuebec to spend $1 billion to keep corporate head offices like SNC Lavalin’s in the province Tumblr Pinterest Google+ LinkedIn Reuters Quebec to spend $1 billion to keep corporate head offices like SNC Lavalin’s in the province Quebec would invest $1 billion toward growing business and retaining head offices What you need to know about passing the family cottage to the next generation Recommended For YouU.S. Steel’s Slovak plant to cut workforce by around a fifthBrazil soybeans lose protein, China sales at riskAmericas Silver Corporation Announces US$10 Million Investment by Eric SprottBad weather unexpectedly hits Canada retail trade, setback seen as temporaryICE Futures Canada quotes and cash prices last_img read more

Mark Carney seen as favourite to take top job at International Monetary

first_imgFeatured Stories Facebook Bloomberg News Email Bank of England Governor Mark Carney is the favourite to replace Christine Lagarde as managing director of the International Monetary Fund, according to an online oddsmaker.The Canadian, due to leave the BOE in January, is placed at 7-to-2 to take the IMF job, according to Betway. Lagarde was this week nominated as president of the European Central Bank, and is due to take up the role when Mario Draghi leaves on Oct. 31. Bank of England’s Mark Carney warns international trade tensions could ‘shipwreck’ global economy Mark Carney extends Bank of England stay again to lead economy through Brexit Christine Lagarde to succeed Mario Draghi as ECB chief just as economy weakens “Though he was born in Canada, Carney meets the criteria by holding an Irish passport and having British citizenship, while his expected departure from the Bank of England in January looks well timed,” said Betway’s Alan Alger.Former Reserve Bank of India governor Raghuram Rajan, considered one of the frontrunners to replace Carney, is the second favourite at 9-to-2, while former U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and ex-Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen are both seen as 25-to-1 outsiders.Other potential candidates to succeed Lagarde include Bank for International Settlements head Agustin Carstens, Monetary Authority of Singapore Chairman Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Credit Suisse Group AG Chief Executive Officer Tidjane Thiam and Mohamed El-Erian, the former chief executive of Pacific Investment Management Co. and a Bloomberg Opinion columnist.Bloomberg.com Twitter Bank of England Governor Mark Carney.Bloomberg Comment 0 Comments Mark Carney seen as favourite to take top job at International Monetary Fund The Canadian, due to leave the Bank of England in January, is placed at 7-to-2 to take the IMF job, according to betting firm Betway Share this storyMark Carney seen as favourite to take top job at International Monetary Fund Tumblr Pinterest Google+ LinkedIn center_img Reddit advertisement What you need to know about passing the family cottage to the next generation David Goodman Sponsored By: July 3, 20191:36 PM EDT Filed under News Economy Join the conversation → More ← Previous Next →last_img read more

Fuel Cell Vehicles Will Be Possible When BEVs Allow It

Hmm…why’s that? Well, hydrogen fuel cells require clean air.With all the talks of hydrogen fuel cells we’ve seen in the past several years, we missed one additional drawback of the FCVs that wasn’t explored till a Daimler, ZBT GmbH and Forschungszentrum Jülich study.The problem is that fuel cells are affected by traffic-related air pollutants in various ways – from power losses to irreversible damage that progresses over time.Just think about it. FCVs are considered as a way to make transportation cleaner, but first some other solution (battery-electric vehicles) needs to replace the internal-combustion cars, clear the air and then you can use hydrogen fuel cell cars, when they are not needed anymore duee to the influx and saturation of electric cars.See Also Traffic related air pollutants cause power losses and decrease the lifetime of proton exchange membrane fuel cell (PEMFC). The relevance of this influence for vehicles is not exactly known due to a lack of studies under realistic conditions. Therefore, the present study aims at a better understanding. For the first time ever the influence of selected air pollutants on automobile fuel cell short stacks with different platinum loadings and a realistic driving cycle is examined. The driving cycle used, is an existing course near the city of Stuttgart, Germany. The experiments were accompanied with online measurements of relevant contaminant concentrations on the course. Furthermore, tests with a semi-dynamic profile have been executed for more than 1500 h and show an irreversible damage of the PEMFC by nitrogen oxides. With respect to the present results, spontaneous power losses of about 5% and over 10% in special situations by the nitrogen oxides can be expected for fuel cell vehicles in urban areas. NH3 will lead to a spontaneous power loss of less than 3%, but causes a progressive irreversible damage. Together the tests reveal that air pollutants have a significant negative influence on fuel cell vehicles in urban areas. Source: “Influence of urban air on proton exchange membrane fuel cell vehicles – Long term effects of air contaminants in an authentic driving cycle,” via Green Car Congress Hyundai Reveals Render Of Fuel Cell Truck For 2019 Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on September 22, 2018Categories Electric Vehicle News Hyundai And H2 Energy To Launch 1,000 Hydrogen Trucks in Switzerland Source: Electric Vehicle News VW Reveals Electric ABT e-Transporter, e-Caddy, Crafter & More To maintain the fuel cells health, current FCVs will be equipped with air-filters, and we are curious what will be the cost to replace them every year if that’s the case.HighlightsPEMFC stack tests with NO, NO2, SO2, NH3 and a driving profile from a street course.Accompanying online measurements of contaminant concentrations on the street course.Power losses from 5% to 10% by nitrogen oxides expected for FC-vehicles in Germany.NH3 leads to power losses of <3% but causes a progressive irreversible damage.Study reveals a significant negative influence of air pollutants on FC-vehicles. read more

Energica Launches MotoEInspired Ego Sport Black

Fast bikes with stylish Italian design and zero emissions is what Energica has been promoting for the past few years. It’s no wonder the company was chosen as the constructor for the brand new FIM MotoE World Cup series. Inspired by everything the team has learned developing the MotoE bikes, Energica has decided to give one of its road-friendly models a little track-treatment.Introducing the Ego Sport Black. The Sport Black is a variation on a theme, meaning it’s only an Ego in disguise with cool graphics. From red, the bike’s color scheme has been switched to black, keeping the same exposed red trellis frame and yellow coil spring at the back. The kit includes a tech seat with red stitching, as well as Ergal hardware and counterweights.What is pretty cool about the Sport Black is that it also introduces new features that will be standard across the lineup for 2019. That includes traction control, cruise control, a new electronic throttle control, heated grips, and “Electric Beat” light that will also now serve as a charge indicator.The beauty of an electric motorcycle is that, like a computer, it can receive software updates and upgrades which keeps the bike current longer. Energica will also release a series of software updates in January, also available to current owners that include charge interruption at pre-set level, meaning the motorcycle can be programmed to stop charging when it reaches a certain level of charge, battery charger with silent charging mode, as well as an increased current on Fast Charging mode that will reduce charging time by 15 percent.All these goodies are coming for 2019. No pricing has been announced for the Energica Ego Sport Black yet, but we’ll get to see its track variant spring into action in March 2019, at the Qatar Grand Prix.Source: RideApart Energica Offers Incentives for U.S Buyers Source: Electric Vehicle News The Ego looks meaner than everItalian electric motorcycle manufacturer Energica made the headlines last week not for a new model, but rather for its negative results on the financial market. Despite increasing sales, massive investments in MotoE have sent the company’s numbers down the drain. It ain’t easy being green! The good news is that it hasn’t stopped the team from working on a new addition to the electric lineup—the Ego is getting a very fast little brother, the Ego Sport Black.More Energica News Energica EGO Sets New Laguna Track Record Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on October 12, 2018Categories Electric Vehicle News Watch Formula 1 Champ Drive Custom Energica Ego In Monaco read more

IONITY Installs First 50 Ultra Fast Charging Stations

first_imgSource: Electric Vehicle News Shell Begins Rollout Of Ultra-Fast Chargers In Europe IONITY Has 32 Fast-Charge Stations: Bjorn Checks Out First In Norway IONITY Launches First 10 Ultra-Fast Charging Stations Author Liberty Access TechnologiesPosted on January 26, 2019Categories Electric Vehicle News Within 8 months, IONITY installed 50 stationsThe installations of IONITY fast charging infrastructure accelerated and the number of stations increased to 51 out of 400 planned in Europe.Interestingly, another 43 stations are at various stages of construction. The pace of installations is very important as several manufacturers are launching new long-range electric cars, which needs to be supported by at least a basic infrastructure for long-distance travel.The IONITY is a joint venture of BMW Group, Daimler AG, Ford Motor Company, and Volkswagen Group with Audi and Porsche.For comparison, Volkswagen’s Electrify America in the U.S. already installed about 90 stations out of 500.IONITY news According to the map, first installations were done in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, Denmark, Norway, Liechtenstein and Italy.Chargers are envisioned for 800 V battery systems and up to 350 kW of power.IONITY fast charging station – design conceptlast_img read more

Green Deals 24hour Waterproof 6outlet Outdoor Timer 15 more

first_imgCentury Products via Amazon offers its 24-hour Waterproof Mechanical Outdoor Timer for $14.94 Prime shipped when promo code U54X8FNY is applied during checkout. That’s good for $8 off and the best offer we can find by 25%. Cut down on energy vampires and automate your outdoor lights. This model includes six outlets and various timer settings for multiple uses. Rated 4.1/5 stars. more…The post Green Deals: 24-hour Waterproof 6-outlet Outdoor Timer $15, more appeared first on Electrek. Source: Charge Forwardlast_img read more

Tesla releases fascinating new impact report claims it helped prevent 4 million

first_imgSource: Charge Forward https://youtu.be/a80dwn_R-mcThe post Tesla releases fascinating new ‘impact report’, claims it helped prevent 4 million tons of CO2 appeared first on Electrek. Tesla has released today a fascinating new kind of report called ‘impact report’ that looks into the impact of Tesla’s “products and operations have on the environment and communities.” more…Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe the podcast.last_img

Watch Autopilot Successfully Make A Left Hand Turn At A Stoplight

first_imgThis is the first time we’ve seen Autopilot pull this off on video.Source: Electric Vehicle Newslast_img

VW IDR Breaks The Absolute Goodwood Festival of Speed Record

first_imgMan, it was fast! Only 41.18 to run 1.13 mile (1.82 km)Source: Electric Vehicle Newslast_img

Issues To Consider From The SciClone Enforcement Action

first_imgThis recent post highlighted the SEC’s $12.8 million Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against SciClone Pharmaceuticals.The action was based on the marketing and promotional activities of a subsidiary that provided various things of value to healthcare professionals employed by state-owned hospitals in China including weekend trips, foreign language classes, “golf in the morning and beer drinking in the evening,” and travel to the Grand Canyon and Disneyland.This post continues the analysis of the enforcement action by highlighting various issues to consider.Time LineIn August 2010, SciClone disclosed that the SEC had issued the company a subpoena inquiring about its business practices in China.If the SEC wants the public to have confidence in its SEC enforcement program, it must resolve instances of FCPA scrutiny much quicker. 5.5 years is simply inexcusable.For instance, SciClone previously disclosed that in “July 2015, SciClone reached an agreement in principle with the staff of the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for a proposed settlement” and its disclosure specified the exact amount in last week’s settlement.Should it really take 7 months to finalize an agreement in principle to settle?Nearing 20According to my figures, SciClone is the 18th corporate FCPA enforcement action based on the enforcement theory that employees of certain foreign health care systems are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.This enforcement theory has never been subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny and, perhaps most telling as to its validity and legitimacy, is that none of the corporate enforcement actions based on this theory have resulted in related charges against an individual.Initial Disclosure of Settlement AmountIn March 2014, SciClone disclosed, in connection with its FCPA scrutiny, “that a payment of $2.0 million to the government in penalties, fines and/or other remedies is probable.”As highlighted above, the final settlement was $12.8 million.Anything of ValueThe enforcement action contains the following list of things of value.“weekend trips, vacations, gifts, expensive meals, foreign language classes, and entertainment”attendance at “the annual Qingdao Beer Festival consisting of golf in the morning and beer-drinking in the evening”“vacations to Anji, China”“paying for family vacations and regular family dinners”“$8,600 in lavish gifts”non-business “travel to Las Vegas and Los Angeles with tours of the Grand Canyon or Disneyland.”“sightseeing and [travel to] tourist locations such as Mt. Fuji.”“a weekend stay on the island of Hainan, a resort destination”Chinese Travel CompaniesPurported travel companies, as well as the fapiao’, are well-known compliance risks in China. On these issues, the SEC’s order states:“Local Chinese travel companies were routinely hired to provide services (such as arranging transportation, accommodations, and meals for HCPs) in connection with what were ostensibly legitimate conferences, seminars, and other events. In addition to a lack of due diligence for these third party vendors … there was a lack of controls over the events to ensure they had an appropriate business purpose and that the events actually occurred. Many events did not include a legitimate educational purpose or the educational activities were minimal in comparison to the sightseeing or recreational activities.”[…]As part of its remedial efforts, SciClone conducted a detailed, comprehensive internal review of promotion expenses of employees … This review found high exception rates indicating violations of corporate policy that ranged from fake fapiao, inconsistent amounts or dates with fapiao, excessive gift or meal amounts, unverified events, doctored honoraria agreements, and duplicative meetings.”Professional Fees and ExpensesEven though SciClone, in its March 2015 annual report, disclosed for the FY ended December 31, 2013 “$5.3 million related to legal matters associated with the ongoing government investigation and our ongoing improvements to our FCPA compliance efforts,” the company’s other disclosures over its long period of FCPA scrutiny lack specifics regarding pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses.Nevertheless, it is a safe assumption that the aggregate of such fees and expenses exceeded the $12.8 million settlement amount. Add to this SciClone’s post-enforcement action reporting obligations and the biggest “winner” of SciClone’s FCPA journey would appear to be the law firm representing SciClone.Other RipplesFCPA Professor has followed SciClone’s FCPA scrutiny since day one in August 2010 (see here).As chronicled on FCPA Professor, the biggest storyline was how SciClone’s disclosure of the SEC subpoena triggered a nearly 40% drop in the company stock price, resulting in an absolute feeding frenzy of plaintiff lawyers filing FCPA-related civil claims. (See here and here).Indeed, SciClone’s FCPA scrutiny is prominently featured in the article “Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Ripples“ which highlights how settlement amounts in an actual FCPA enforcement action are often only a relatively minor component of the overall financial consequences that can result from FCPA scrutiny or enforcement in this new era.Nevertheless, savvy investors know that FCPA-induced dips often present buying opportunities and SciClone’s stock closed last Friday (the first day of trading after announcement of the FCPA enforcement action) up 8% and substantially higher compared to its August 2010 close (recognizing of course that a number of factors can influence a company’s stock price over the course of nearly 6 years).For Your Viewing PleasureIn this 2014 video, SciClone’s CEO talks about the company’s FCPA scrutiny and, more generally, compliance.last_img read more

Congress Knows How To Draft Legislation That Expressly Captures SOEs

first_img Connect Save Money With FCPA Connect Keep it simple. Not all FCPA issues warrant a team of lawyers or other professional advisers. Achieve client and business objectives in a more efficient manner through FCPA Connect. Candid, Comprehensive, and Cost-Effective. Recently, H.R. 5105 titled “Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development Act” passed the House of Representatives. The bill has little to do with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, however the bill expressly addresses (and defines) state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and once again demonstrates that Congress is fully capable of enacting legislative that expressly captures SOEs (something Congress failed to do in the FCPA).As highlighted in numerous prior posts and my 2014 amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the Esquenazi “foreign official” challenge, if Congress wanted to include SOE employees in the FCPA’s statutory definition of “foreign official,” it easily could have done so — when enacting the FCPA in 1977, when amending the FCPA in 1998, or on any other occasion.During its multi-year investigation and deliberation leading up to enactment of the FCPA in 1977, Congress clearly was aware that SOEs existed and that some of the foreign payments at issue may have involved employees of such enterprises. Indeed, some of the bills introduced to address the foreign payments issue in the Senate and the House during both the 94th and 95th Congresses included definitions of “foreign government” that expressly included SOEs.But none of those bills became law.For instance, in August 1976, S. 3741 was introduced in the Senate, and H.R. 15149 was introduced in the House. Both bills defined “foreign government” to include, among other things, “a corporation or other legal entity established or owned by, and subject to control by, a foreign government.” S. 3741 (Aug. 6, 1976); H.R. 15149 (Aug. 10, 1976). Similarly, in June 1977, H.R. 7543 was introduced in the House and defined “foreign government” to include “a corporation or other legal entity established, owned, or subject to managerial control by a foreign government.” H.R. 7543 (June 1, 1977).The above-quoted language from S. 3741 and H.R. 15149 provoked a comment from an American Bar Association (“ABA”) committee, which informed Congress that the definition of “foreign government” in these bills was “somewhat ambiguous.” The ABA committee suggested a “more precise definition of this aspect of the definition of ‘foreign government’” and proposed the following language: “a legal entity which a foreign government owns or controls as though an owner.”Even though Congress was obviously aware of SOEs and even though language in other bills addressing foreign payments expressly included SOEs, Congress chose not to include these definitions or concepts in the bill that ultimately became the FCPA in December 1977.Rather, the FCPA defined “foreign official” in pertinent part as follows: “Any officer or employee of a foreign government or any department, agency, or instrumentality thereof, or any person acting in an official capacity for or on behalf of such government or department, agency or instrumentality.”In short, in enacting the FCPA Congress specifically contemplated — but rejected — statutory language that would have included SOEs. Indeed, by rejecting the definitions that appeared in S. 3741 and H.R. 15149, Congress rejected the very ownership and control test the Eleventh Circuit articulated in Esquenazi to determine when individuals employed by SOEs may be considered “foreign officials” under the FCPA.Moreover, and as further highlighted in the above-linked amicus brief, both before and after enactment of the FCPA Congress has consistently demonstrated a capability to pass legislation that expressly captures SOEs and it is axiomatic that when a particular term is explicitly included in other statutes, but is not included in the statute at issue, courts should presume that Congress did not intend to include that term in the statute at issue. See, e.g., Whitfield v. United States, 543 U.S. 209, 216 (2005).Congress has repeatedly enacted statutory definitions that expressly include SOEs, but the definition included in the FCPA does not. Under such circumstances, the absence of any mention of SOEs in the FCPA indicates Congress’s intent that employees of SOEs do not fall within the FCPA’s definition of “foreign official.” Indeed, if the Eleventh Circuit’s interpretation of the FCPA’s statutory language were correct, the express references to SOEs that appear in other statutes would be rendered entirely superfluous.For instance, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) passed by Congress in 1976 (one year before the FCPA) expressly provides the following definition: (a) “foreign state” . . . includes a political subdivision of a foreign state or an agency or instrumentality of a foreign state as defined in subsection (b). (b) An “agency or instrumentality of a foreign state” means any entity — (1) which is a separate legal person, corporate or otherwise, and (2) which is an organ of a foreign state or political subdivision thereof, or a majority of whose shares or other ownership interest is owned by a foreign state or political subdivision thereof, and (3) which is neither a citizen of a State of the United States . . . nor created under the laws of any third country. 28 U.S.C. § 1603 (emphasis added).Likewise, the Economic Espionage Act (“EEA”) passed by Congress in 1996 (after the FCPA) regulates certain conduct that “will benefit any foreign government, foreign instrumentality, or foreign agent” and expressly provides the following definition: “foreign instrumentality” means any agency, bureau, ministry, component, institution, association, or any legal, commercial, or business organization, corporation, firm, or entity that is substantially owned, controlled, sponsored, commanded, managed, or dominated by a foreign government. 18 U.S.C. § 1839(1) (emphasis added).Similarly, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (“Dodd-Frank”), passed by Congress in 2010 (after the FCPA), required certain resource extraction companies to disclose information regarding payments for development of oil, natural gas, or minerals made to “foreign governments.” The law expressly includes the following definition of “foreign government”: the term “foreign government” means a foreign government, a department, agency, or instrumentality of a foreign government, or a company owned by a foreign government, as determined by the Commission. 15 U.S.C. § 78m(q)(1)(B) (emphasis added).Fast forward to H.R. 5105. It defines “state-owned enterprise” as follows:‘‘State-owned enterprise’’ means any enterprise established for a commercial or business purpose that is directly owned or controlled by one or more governments, including any agency, instrumentality, subdivision, or other unit of government at any level of jurisdiction.H.R. 5105 further notes:“The term ‘‘control’’ with respect to an enterprise, means the power by any means to control the enterprise regardless of the level of ownership; and whether or not the power is exercised.The term ‘‘owned’’, with respect to an enterprise, means a majority or controlling interest, whether by value or voting interest, of the shares of that enterprise, including through fiduciaries, agents, or other means.”The quoted language of the above statutes, which expressly includes SOEs, would be rendered surplusage if the Eleventh Circuit’s interpretation of the FCPA were correct. In short, Esquenazi was a flawed decision for many reasons and the notion that employees of alleged SOEs are “foreign officials” under the FCPA remains a disputed issue and one that the current Supreme Court would likely strike down based on simple statutory construction issues.  (see here for a prior post).last_img read more

FCPA Challenge

first_imgHow much do you know about the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act? Let’s find out.To commemorate the FCPA’s 40th year, FCPA Professor is presenting the FCPA Challenge.Each Thursday during 2018, a question will be posed and the answer will be below the fold.This week’s question is: this 1986 enforcement action was based on the allegation that something of value was provided to a “foreign official” by purchasing the foreign official’s interest in a largely worthless mine.Answer: Ashland Oil (see here).last_img read more

Is Trump Trying to Prevent Chinas Rise with Tariffs

first_img Singapore Economy Turns Down & China Exports Decline » « China – the Financial Capital of the World After 2032 Categories: China Tags: China, Consumerism, tariffs center_img QUESTION: Martin, You said that China will become the financial capital of the world by 2032. Why do you think that what Trump is doing to China with tariffs and the trade war will not be able to stop China becoming the financial capital of the world?RMANSWER: Trump’s tariffs are not intended to prevent China from rising. Rather, they are intended to open up China. The rise of China will come by turning inward to develop their own consumer market. The mercantilist model employed by Germany may have made Germany the biggest economy, but its people have not shared in that rise. This is the difference between an export model and a domestic model. The U.S. is the biggest economy and everyone wants to sell to America because it has the largest consumer market.last_img read more

Research provides new roadmap for repairing damaged brain cells in multiple sclerosis

first_img Source:https://case.edu Jul 26 2018Research published today in the journal Nature provides new understanding about how drugs can repair damaged brain cells that cause disability in patients with multiple sclerosis. Led by researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, the study suggests new drug targets and potent early-stage drug candidates could lead to regenerative medicines for multiple sclerosis and other debilitating neurological diseases.Multiple sclerosis, a chronic and progressive disease affecting millions worldwide, is characterized by damage to the protective sheath that surrounds nerve cells. Without this insulating layer, called myelin, nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord struggle to transmit electrical impulses. As a result, multiple sclerosis patients suffer progressive loss of motor skills, vision and balance.The new study describes how drugs work to replenish myelin destroyed by multiple sclerosis. While the brain is known to have some capacity to regenerate new myelin during the early stages of multiple sclerosis, this innate repair process is overwhelmed as the disease progresses.”Many labs, including at Case Western Reserve, had identified drug candidates that kickstart the formation of new myelin, but exactly how each of these molecules affected brain cell function wasn’t clear,” said Drew Adams, PhD, the Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. Professor of Novel Therapeutics and assistant professor of genetics and genome sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. “We were shocked to find that almost all of these previously identified molecules share the ability to inhibit specific enzymes that help to make cholesterol. This insight reorients drug discovery efforts onto these novel, druggable targets.”This study builds on prior work by co-author Paul Tesar, PhD, the Dr. Donald and Ruth Weber Goodman Professor of Innovative Therapeutics and associate professor of genetics and genome sciences at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. In work reported in 2015 in Nature, Tesar identified a drug typically used to treat athlete’s foot, called miconazole, as a potent enhancer of new myelin.In the current study, teams led by Adams and Tesar demonstrated that miconazole enhanced myelin formation by inhibiting an enzyme used by brain stem cells to produce cholesterol. Subsequent experiments identified more than 20 new drugs that enhance myelin formation by inhibiting closely-related cholesterol-producing enzymes. Surprisingly, drugs identified previously by labs across the world as enhancing new myelin also inhibited these same enzymes. “The idea that almost all drug candidates that promote myelin repair inhibit the same enzyme targets represents a bold new paradigm for the field and may redirect the course of ongoing drug discovery efforts,” said Tesar.Related StoriesScientists discover mechanism responsible for chronic inflammation in MSHigh levels of blood lipids may worsen multiple sclerosis symptoms in obese patientsObesity linked with greater symptomatic severity of multiple sclerosisNormally, cellular pathways are crisscrossed, complex diagrams. But cholesterol biosynthesis is linear, said Adams, who is also a Mount Sinai Scholar. “There is only one way in, and one way out. So when you block enzymes in the cholesterol pathway, the metabolites simply accumulate.” In the Adams laboratory, lead authors Zita Hubler and Dharmaraja Allimuthu, PhD, could detect distinct cholesterol intermediaries as they accumulated, allowing them to pinpoint which enzymes were being blocked by which drugs.Notably, several drugs accelerated myelin repair in mouse models of multiple sclerosis. Mouse experiments were performed in collaboration with Robert H. Miller, PhD, the Vivian Gill Distinguished Research Professor and professor of anatomy and cell biology at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.To measure the formation of human myelin in the laboratory, the team used a new three-dimensional nerve cell culture model that closely mimics human brain tissue. Here too, the drug candidates promoted human myelin formation by blocking cholesterol pathway enzymes. A study describing this innovative model, developed in Tesar’s laboratory, was also published today in Nature Methods.”Together these studies provide new drug targets, new drug candidates, and new cholesterol pathway biomarkers to propel the development of medicines that can replenish lost myelin in patients with multiple sclerosis and related diseases,” said Adams. While clinical candidates based on this work are not expected to enter clinical trials until 2019, say the authors, the new understanding of myelin repair provides a promising new path toward novel, regenerative multiple sclerosis treatments.​last_img read more

Scientists develop probiotic cocktail derived from infant feces

first_imgAug 23 2018Probiotics seem to be everywhere these days – in yogurt, pickles, bread, even dog food. But there’s one place that may surprise you: There are probiotics in dirty diapers.Yes, that’s right – baby poop.Scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine have developed a probiotic “cocktail” derived from gut bacteria strains found in infant feces that may help increase the body’s ability to produce short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs).Why is that important?”Short-chain fatty acids are a key component of good gut health,” said the study’s lead investigator, Hariom Yadav, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine. “People with diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders and cancers frequently have fewer short-chain fatty acids. Increasing them may be helpful in maintaining or even restoring a normal gut environment, and hopefully, improving health.”The study findings are reported in the Aug. 23 online edition of Scientific Reports, a Nature publication.Over the past decade, research has shown that specific probiotic strains can effectively prevent or treat certain diseases in both animal models and humans. These reports have led to an extensive demand for probiotic supplements over the last decade, thereby prompting a massive increase in the development of new probiotic products for the consumer market.However, these studies have primarily been conducted in animal models or human subjects with underlying diseases or conditions, Yadav said. Scientific reports on the effects of probiotics in healthy, disease-free subjects have remained relatively limited and inconsistent.Related StoriesBaby socks contain traces of bisphenol A and parabens, study findsTackling high sugar content in baby foodPatients on immunotherapies should consume more fiber, fewer probioticsThe School of Medicine team designed the study to examine the effects of probiotic strains derived from healthy human fecal samples and to determine how they worked.”Babies are usually pretty healthy and clearly do not suffer from age-related diseases, such as diabetes and cancer,” Yadav said. “And, of course, their poop is readily available.”In the study, Yadav’s team collected fecal samples from the diapers of 34 healthy infants. After following a robust protocol of isolation, characterization and safety validation of infant gut-origin Lactobacillus and Enterococcus strains with probiotic attributes, the researchers selected the 10 best out of the 321 analyzed.To test the ability of these human-origin probiotics to change the gut microbiome – bacteria that live inside the digestive track – and their capacity to produce SCFAs, mice were given a single dose, as well as five consecutive doses of this 10-strain probiotic cocktail. Then the researchers injected the same probiotic mixture in the same doses into a human feces medium.The scientists found that the single- and five-dose feeding of these selected probiotics modulated the gut microbiome and enhanced the production of SCFAs in mouse gut and human feces.”This work provides evidence that these human-origin probiotics could be exploited as biotherapeutic regimens for human diseases associated with gut microbiome imbalance and decreased SCFA production in the gut,” Yadav said. “Our data should be useful for future studies aimed at investigating the influence of probiotics on human microbiome, metabolism and associated diseases.” Source:https://www.wakehealth.edu/last_img read more

Adolescents with better aerobic fitness have more compliant arteries study shows

first_img Source:https://www.jyu.fi/en/current/archive/2018/09/low-fitness-may-indicate-poor-arterial-health-in-adolescents Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Sep 10 2018A recent Finnish study conducted at the University of Jyväskylä showed that adolescents with better aerobic fitness have more compliant arteries than their lower fit peers do. The study also suggests that a higher anaerobic threshold is linked to better arterial health. The results were published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology. Arterial stiffness is one of the first signs of cardiovascular disease, and adults with increased arterial stiffness are at higher risk of developing clinical cardiovascular disease. However, arterial stiffening may have its origin already in childhood and adolescence.”In our study we showed for the first time that the anaerobic threshold is also related to arterial stiffness,” says Dr Eero Haapala, PhD, from the University Of Jyväskylä.Related StoriesParents of autistic adolescents are a critical partner in preparation for learning-to-drive processDiscrimination associated with compromised sleep quality in adolescentsStudy: Underweight boys and overweight girls have increased risk of depressionAnaerobic threshold describes the exercise intensity that can be sustained for long periods of time without excess accumulation of lactic acid. The study showed that adolescents with a higher anaerobic threshold also had lower arterial stiffness than other adolescents did.”The strength of determining anaerobic threshold is that it does not require maximal effort,” Haapala explains. “The results of our study can be used to screen increased arterial stiffness in adolescents who cannot perform maximal exercise tests.”Fitness and arterial health can be improvedThe results showed that both peak oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold were related to arterial stiffness in adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 years. Genetics may explain part of the observed associations but moderate and especially vigorous physical activity improve fitness and arterial health already in adolescence.”Because the development of cardiovascular disease is a long process, sufficiently intense physical activity starting in childhood may be the first line in prevention of early arterial aging.”The study investigated the associations of directly measured peak oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold with arterial stiffness among 55 Finnish adolescents between the ages of 16 and 19 years. Peak oxygen uptake and anaerobic threshold were assessed using a maximal exercise test on a cycle ergometer. Arterial stiffness was measured using pulse wave analysis based on non-invasive oscillometric tonometry. Various confounding factors, including body fat percentage and systolic blood pressure, were controlled for in the analyses.last_img read more

Researchers demonstrate preclinical success for universal flu vaccine in new paper

first_img Source:http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2018-09-21-pre-clinical-success-universal-flu-vaccine-offers-hope Reviewed by Alina Shrourou, B.Sc. (Editor)Sep 21 2018Researchers from the University of Oxford’s Department of Zoology have demonstrated pre-clinical success for a universal flu vaccine in a new paper published in Nature Communications.Influenza is thought to be a highly variable virus, able to mutate and escape immunity built up in the population due to its circulation in previous seasons. However, influenza seasons tend to be dominated by a limited number of antigenically and genetically distinct influenza viruses. This creates a paradox as influenza is thought of as being highly variable while in reality influenza seasons are dominated by only a few strains.Mathematical models produced in Professor Sunetra Gupta’s group at the University of Oxford over the past 20 years have sought to find an answer to this paradox. Finally, through a collaborative approach across multiple departments, the group believes they have the answer.Dr Craig Thompson said: ‘The integrated approach to vaccine design that we have applied to flu has to the potential to be applied to other previously intractable pathogens and could revolutionize the way we develop vaccines.’Professor Sunetra Gupta said: ‘I think this work serves a good example of how evolutionary models can have translational impact. We have gone from a prediction of a mathematical model to a blueprint for a universal influenza vaccine. The outstanding teamwork coordinated by Dr Thompson is what made it all possible.’The research team theorized that parts of the virus targeted by the immune system are, in fact, limited in variability and act as constraints on the evolution of the virus. Dr Craig Thompson in Professor Gupta’s group has now identified the location of these regions of limited variability. He has shown that such locations are targeted naturally by the immune system and through vaccination studies has shown that regions of influenza viruses that circulated in 2006 and 1977 were able to protect against infection with an influenza virus that last circulated in 1934.Thirty mice were vaccinated with the epitopes identified in the study. Twelve mice were vaccinated with a control vaccine (a vaccine not containing the epitopes identified in the study but otherwise essentially the same as the vaccine containing the epitopes identified). Twelve mice were ‘mock vaccinated’ with no vaccine (just PBS/adjuvant without vaccine). Six mice were used as a normal control and were not vaccinated in any way.The researchers identified regions of the virus which were limited in variability by mapping the historical variation of the influenza virus to the main target of the immune system – an influenza protein called ‘haemagglutinin’. This allowed them to identify several regions of the protein which were previously thought of as highly variable as limited in variability. Further computational analysis showed that one of these regions cycled through a number of different states between 1918 and the present day. The researchers then showed that sera from children aged 6 to 12 cross-reacted to historical strains which they could not possibly have experienced. Mutagenesis of one of the regions identified in our bioinformatic/computational analysis from one state to another removed this cross reactivity. The research team then vaccinated mice with the individual versions of the region which induced periodic cross-reactivity to historical strain in mice – vaccination of mice with one of the versions reproduced exactly the cross reactivity produced by the sera from the children. They then showed that the versions of this region identified by our analysis and serology work that circulated in 1977 and 2006 were able to protect mice from a lethal challenge with an influenza virus that last circulated in 1934.Related StoriesNanotechnology-based compound used to deliver hepatitis B vaccineAntibiotics can wipe out early flu resistance, study findsWomen’s greater immune response to flu vaccine declines with ageThis experimental setup utilizing a lot of controls allowed researchers to determine precisely that the epitopes they had identified were responsible for the cross-reactivity that researchers observed in the study.The results of these studies can be exploited to create a novel type of ‘universal’ or broadly protective influenza vaccine, which once administered would provide lifelong protection against influenza. The team also hopes to apply the approach to other viruses such as HIV and HCV and believes that they can use it to produce a vaccine that protects against the common cold. The novel approach to vaccine design is outlined in the paper published in Nature Communications. Furthermore, such vaccines should be able to be produced in a low-cost manner, enabling healthcare providers such as the NHS to save money, unlike many new vaccines and drugs coming to the market.This study also presents one of the first examples of where a mathematical model of the evolutionary dynamics of an infectious disease has led to the experimental identification of a novel vaccine target. The novel approach won an MRC Confidence in Concept Award in 2016, a Royal Society Translational Award in 2017 and an ERC Proof of Concept grant in 2018.The WHO estimates that influenza kills 260,000-650,000 people and causes 3-5 million cases of severe illness each year. This burden typically falls on the elderly and young children, especially in developing countries. The best way to protect against influenza is through vaccination, although the problem with this is that the current influenza vaccine has to be administered each year and varies in its effectiveness.last_img read more

Ebola infection in Dallas nurse underscores critical need for proper training

first_imgDoctors Without Borders, which has led the clinical response to the current Ebola epidemic, similarly conducts training courses for health care workers. The video above shows a recent course held in Brussels.*The Ebola Files: Given the current Ebola outbreak, unprecedented in terms of number of people killed and rapid geographic spread, Science and Science Translational Medicine have made a collection of research and news articles on the viral disease freely available to researchers and the general public. Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) The case has similarities to that of a nurse infected in a Spanish hospital after taking care of a priest who had contracted the disease in Sierra Leone, and both raise questions about the training procedures that hospital staff receive before they come into contact with Ebola patients. “There’s a need to enhance the training and protocol to make sure the protocols are followed,” Frieden said today, and although all U.S. hospitals need to know how to diagnose Ebola infection, it may be safer to provide care at designated facilities that have received more extensive training, he said. “That’s something we’ll absolutely be looking at.”It’s not known exactly how the Dallas nurse was prepared for taking care of Duncan. But the extreme precautions needed to treat Ebola are a new experience for most health care workers, and they need to practice extensively to learn the proper procedures. The video below, provided by CDC, gives an idea of how volunteers scheduled to help fight Ebola in West Africa learn the cumbersome and clumsy process of donning and doffing the suits. Email The footage is from one of the first of a series of safety training sessions that CDC is holding at an old military base in Anniston, Alabama. Here’s the syllabus for the course and other details about it.center_img Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe A nurse in Dallas who was treating the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States has become infected with the virus herself even though she was wearing protective gear. “At some point, there was a breach in protocol,” said Tom Frieden, head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at a press conference this morning.The nurse, who Frieden said had “extensive contact” with the patient, was wearing full personal protective equipment (PPE). The patient, Thomas Eric Duncan from Liberia, died 8 October. Frieden noted that Duncan had respiratory intubation and kidney dialysis as “a desperate measure to try to save his life,” which he suggested may have been linked to the transmission. “Both of those procedures may spread contaminated materials and are considered high-risk procedures,” he said.Frieden said CDC will “undertake a thorough investigation to understand how this may have happened and we will ramp up infection control to do whatever we can to minimize the risk that there would be any future infections.”last_img read more

Mystery cancers are cropping up in children in aftermath of Fukushima

first_img Email Scientists emphatically disagree. “The evidence suggests that the great majority and perhaps all of the cases so far discovered are not due to radiation,” says Dillwyn Williams, a thyroid cancer specialist at University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. In journal papers and in a series of letters published last month in Epidemiology, scientists have attacked the alarmist interpretations. Many acknowledge that baseline data from noncontaminated areas were needed from the outset and that the public should have been better educated to understand results and, perhaps, to accept watchful waiting as an alternative to immediate surgery. But most also say the findings hint at a medical puzzle: Why are thyroid abnormalities so common in children? The “surprising” results of the screening, Williams says, show that “many more thyroid carcinomas than were previously realized must originate in early life.”Memories of Chernobyl got Japanese authorities worrying about thyroid cancer. The fallout from that April 1986 accident included radioactive iodine, which settled across swathes of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, contaminating pastures grazed by dairy cows. Children who drank the tainted milk accumulated the radioactive iodine in their thyroids. (Adult thyroids absorb less iodine.) A 2006 World Health Organization (WHO) study found that in the most contaminated areas, there had been about 5000 thyroid cancer cases among those who were under 18 at the time of the accident, though the report noted that more cases could emerge over time. The United Nations in 2006 attributed 15 childhood thyroid cancer deaths to Chernobyl. Caught early, the cancer is almost always cured by removal of the thyroid gland.With that in mind, Japanese authorities set out to screen the thyroids of all 368,651 Fukushima residents who were 18 and under at the time of the accident. Most experts were not anticipating a bumper crop of thyroid problems. For starters, the potential radiation exposure of Fukushima residents was slight compared with Chernobyl victims. Moreover, the day after the meltdowns, Japanese authorities evacuated some 150,000 people living within 20 kilometers of the plant, and a week later they started screening for contaminated food. Also, a limited number of Fukushima residents were offered iodine tablets after the accident to block absorption of radioactive iodine from breathing contaminated air or eating contaminated food.In 2013, WHO estimated that the 12 to 25 millisieverts (mSv) of exposure in the first year after the accident in the hardest hit areas might result in minuscule increases in cancer rates. (Worldwide, people receive on average 2.4 mSv per year from background radiation; a medical chest x-ray delivers about 0.1 mSv.) WHO noted that females have a 0.75% lifetime risk of developing thyroid cancer; it estimated that the highest exposures in the Fukushima area raised that risk by an additional 0.5%.The initial round of thyroid screening, started in late 2011, was simply to provide baseline data, as any radiation-induced tumors were not expected to emerge for at least 4 years. Children with nodules larger than 5.0 mm or cysts bigger than 20.1 mm underwent a second, more detailed examination and, if necessary, fine needle aspiration. After the initial screening, children will have their thyroids examined every 2 years until age 20 and every 5 years after that.Results were released as screening progressed, and right from the start there were surprisingly high rates of abnormalities. Findings from the initial round of screening, completed in April 2015 and released in August 2015, showed that nearly 50% of the 300,476 subjects had solid nodules or fluid-filled cysts on their thyroids. Smaller studies elsewhere had hinted that tiny thyroid cysts and nodules were common in all ages. But “specialists did not know whether the frequency [in the Fukushima results] was high or low,” says Noboru Takamura, a radiation health scientist at the Atomic Bomb Disease Institute at Nagasaki University in Japan.As the number of confirmed cancers rose, worries grew about a link to radiation—and those concerns gained a high-profile proponent. In 2013, Toshihide Tsuda, an environmental epidemiologist at Okayama University in Japan, started presenting analyses at international conferences claiming the number of thyroid cancers in the Fukushima screening was unusually high. Last October, he published his results online in Epidemiology, concluding that the first round of screening indicated cancer incidence rates ranging from 0 to 605 cases per million kids, depending on location, but overall “an approximately 30-fold increase” over the normal childhood cancer rate. That claim fed alarming headlines.Other scientists were swift and severe in their criticism. A fundamental error, according to several epidemiologists, is that Tsuda compared the results of the Fukushima survey, which used advanced ultrasound devices that detect otherwise unnoticeable growths, with the roughly three cases of thyroid cancer per million found by traditional clinical examinations of patients who have lumps or symptoms. “It is inappropriate to compare the data from the Fukushima screening program with cancer registry data from the rest of Japan where there is, in general, no such large-scale screening,” Richard Wakeford, an epidemiologist at the University of Manchester in the United  Kingdom, wrote on behalf of 11 members of a WHO expert working group on Fukushima health consequences. Theirs was one of seven letters to Epidemiology published online last month that blasted Tsuda’s methodology and conclusions.To see what comparable screening would find in a population not exposed to radiation, Takamura’s team used the Fukushima survey protocol to examine 4365 children aged 3 to 18 from three widely separated prefectures. They found similar numbers of nodules and cysts and one cancer, for a prevalence of 230 cancers per million people, as they reported in Scientific Reports in March 2015. Other Japanese  studies reported thyroid cancer rates of 300, 350, and even 1300 per million. “The prevalence of thyroid cancer detected by advanced ultrasound techniques in other areas of Japan does not differ meaningfully from that in Fukushima Prefecture,” Takamura wrote in Epidemiology. In a letter to Epidemiology, Tsuda claims to have addressed the screening effect by adjusting the number of cancer cases to account for the lag time between when an ultrasound examination would catch the cancers and when they could be clinically identified. He did not address other criticisms or respond to repeated requests for comment from Science.Although many scientists disagree with the spin Tsuda and activists have put on the findings, they endorse the screening effort. “A thyroid screening program would be expected to save lives by detecting cancers early, whether or not the cancers were caused by radioactivity,” says Timothy Jorgensen, a radiation health physicist at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.Yet it has become clear the public and even many doctors did not have the background to put the results in perspective. Even though the vast majority of thyroid abnormalities are safe to ignore, “finding small lesions causes patients anxiety,” says Seiji Yasumura, vice director of the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey. Virtually all of those diagnosed with thyroid cancer have had the glands removed, even though accumulating evidence suggests in many cases it might have been better to wait, the University of Tokyo’s Shibuya adds. “Careful observation would be the best option.” South Korea offers a cautionary tale. In 1999, the South Korean government initiated a health program in which care providers offered ultrasound thyroid screening for a small additional fee—and thyroid cancer diagnoses exploded. In 2011, the rate of thyroid cancer diagnosis was 15 times what it was in 1993, yet there was no change in thyroid cancer mortality, Heyong Sik Ahn of Korea University in Seoul and colleagues reported in The New England Journal of Medicine in November 2014. Virtually all those diagnosed underwent total or partial thyroid removal. Most required lifelong thyroid-hormone replacement therapy. To stem this “epidemic,” Ahn and others discourage routine thyroid cancer screening.Williams says the evidence suggests that thyroid growths among children are far more common than previously thought and must be considered normal. The Fukushima survey, he says, promises a “better understanding of the origins and development” of such growths and may lead to better treatment protocols.*Correction, 11 March, 10:40 a.m.: A previous version of this story implied that iodine tablets were offered to all Fukushima residents; they were actually available to only a limited number of residents. Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Five years after the meltdown, is it safe to live near Fukushima? How robots are becoming critical players in nuclear disaster cleanupcenter_img One result, says Kenji Shibuya, a public health specialist at University of Tokyo, was “overdiagnosis and overtreatment,” leading dozens of children to have their thyroids removed, perhaps unnecessarily. Activists trumpeted the findings as evidence of the dangers of nuclear power. The large number of abnormalities appearing so soon after the accident “would indicate that these children almost certainly received a very high dose of thyroid radiation from inhaled and ingested radioactive iodine,” antinuclear crusader Helen Caldicott wrote in a post on her homepage. The March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused extensive human suffering—evacuations, emotional trauma and premature deaths, disrupted jobs and schooling. What they have not caused, so far, is radiation-related illness among the general public, and few specialists expect dramatic increases in cancers or other ailments. The reactors spewed just a tenth of the radiation emitted by the Chernobyl disaster, winds blew much of that out to sea, and evacuations were swift. Yet one wave of illness has been linked to the disaster—the ironic result of a well-intentioned screening program.Months after the disaster, Fukushima Prefecture set about examining the thyroids of hundreds of thousands of children and teens for signs of radiation-related cancers. The screening effort was unprecedented, and no one knew what to expect. So when the first round of exams started turning up thyroid abnormalities in nearly half of the kids, of whom more than 100 were later diagnosed with thyroid cancer, a firestorm erupted.Related content: Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*)last_img read more

Meet the college dropout who invented the gravitational wave detector

first_img Click to view the privacy policy. Required fields are indicated by an asterisk (*) Sign up for our daily newsletter Get more great content like this delivered right to you! Country Rainer Weiss in his lab in MIT’s Building 20 in the late 1970s, working on radiation detectors called bolometers. Massachusetts Institute of Technology LIGO has spotted just the type of source Rainer Weiss had hoped to see: black holes spiraling together. Email Nearly 50 years ago, Rainer Weiss dreamed up a way to detect gravitational waves—infinitesimal ripples in spacetime predicted by Einstein’s theory of gravity, general relativity. Last September, that dream came true as 1000 physicists working with the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO), two huge detectors in Livingston, Louisiana, and Hanford, Washington, sensed a pulse of waves radiated by two massive black holes as they spiraled into each other a billion light-years away. The discovery makes Weiss, a physicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, a sure bet to win a Nobel Prize, his peers say. Weiss, 83, acknowledges the prospect with some apprehension. “It will fuck me up for a year,” he predicts as he nimbly steers his silver Volkswagen Beetle ragtop through Cambridge traffic. “That’s what it did to John Mather.” The line is vintage “Rai,” his friends will tell you: blunt, irreverent, funny, and impatient with anything that gets in the way of his work.By any measure, Weiss has led an extraordinary life. Born in 1932 in Berlin, he and his family fled the Nazis. He grew up in New York City, on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, a street-smart kid with a gift for tinkering who built and sold his own high fidelity (hi-fi) systems. As an MIT undergrad, Weiss flunked out, and he later struggled to get tenure there. Still, he established himself as a leading physicist and worked for more than 40 years on LIGO, one of the most audacious experiments ever attempted. He works on it even now. “He’s the best person I know with a soldering iron,” says David Shoemaker, a LIGO physicist at MIT.Shoemaker adds that Weiss’s foremost quality is empathy. A college dropout, Shoemaker credits Weiss with getting him into graduate school at MIT without an undergraduate degree. “He sought ways to bring out the best in me,” Shoemaker says. “He also took a rather irregular path, and I think because of that and just his nature, he is really interested in helping people.” Country * Afghanistan Aland Islands Albania Algeria Andorra Angola Anguilla Antarctica Antigua and Barbuda Argentina Armenia Aruba Australia Austria Azerbaijan Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh Barbados Belarus Belgium Belize Benin Bermuda Bhutan Bolivia, Plurinational State of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius and Saba Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Bouvet Island Brazil British Indian Ocean Territory Brunei Darussalam Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi Cambodia Cameroon Canada Cape Verde Cayman Islands Central African Republic Chad Chile China Christmas Island Cocos (Keeling) Islands Colombia Comoros Congo Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Cook Islands Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia Cuba Curaçao Cyprus Czech Republic Denmark Djibouti Dominica Dominican Republic Ecuador Egypt El Salvador Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Estonia Ethiopia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) Faroe Islands Fiji Finland France French Guiana French Polynesia French Southern Territories Gabon Gambia Georgia Germany Ghana Gibraltar Greece Greenland Grenada Guadeloupe Guatemala Guernsey Guinea Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti Heard Island and McDonald Islands Holy See (Vatican City State) Honduras Hungary Iceland India Indonesia Iran, Islamic Republic of Iraq Ireland Isle of Man Israel Italy Jamaica Japan Jersey Jordan Kazakhstan Kenya Kiribati Korea, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Kuwait Kyrgyzstan Lao People’s Democratic Republic Latvia Lebanon Lesotho Liberia Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg Macao Macedonia, the former Yugoslav Republic of Madagascar Malawi Malaysia Maldives Mali Malta Martinique Mauritania Mauritius Mayotte Mexico Moldova, Republic of Monaco Mongolia Montenegro Montserrat Morocco Mozambique Myanmar Namibia Nauru Nepal Netherlands New Caledonia New Zealand Nicaragua Niger Nigeria Niue Norfolk Island Norway Oman Pakistan Palestine Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay Peru Philippines Pitcairn Poland Portugal Qatar Reunion Romania Russian Federation Rwanda Saint Barthélemy Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Martin (French part) Saint Pierre and Miquelon Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa San Marino Sao Tome and Principe Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia Seychelles Sierra Leone Singapore Sint Maarten (Dutch part) Slovakia Slovenia Solomon Islands Somalia South Africa South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands South Sudan Spain Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname Svalbard and Jan Mayen Swaziland Sweden Switzerland Syrian Arab Republic Taiwan Tajikistan Tanzania, United Republic of Thailand Timor-Leste Togo Tokelau Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia Turkey Turkmenistan Turks and Caicos Islands Tuvalu Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates United Kingdom United States Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of Vietnam Virgin Islands, British Wallis and Futuna Western Sahara Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe Massachusetts Institute of Technology To probe the matter, Weiss and his graduate student Muehlner built a device that would fly on a weather balloon and measure the microwave spectrum to shorter wavelengths. In 1973, after three flights and a rebuild, they had solid data that fit a thermal spectrum and for the first time revealed the telltale peak. “It completely destroyed the rocket result,” Burke says. “Among those interested in the microwave background, [Weiss] was suddenly one of their stars.”Robert Birgeneau, chancellor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley, who was at MIT from 1975 to 2000, says that Weiss’s work won respect within the MIT physics department, too. “He liked to have the affectation of going to a working-class bar and stuff like that,” Birgeneau says. But “people looked up to him broadly at MIT. They respected his passion and his courage in going after really important physics.”The CMB study not only secured tenure for Weiss, but also propelled him to a leading role in the broader scientific community. In 1976, NASA began work on its Cosmic Background Explorer (COBE) satellite, and the project’s scientific working group elected Weiss chair. Launched in 1989, COBE measured the spectrum of the microwaves with exquisite precision, proving beyond doubt that the CMB has a thermal spectrum. It also sensed tiny 1-part-in-100,000 variations in the CMB’s temperature from point to point on the sky—traces of infinitesimal quantum fluctuations in the newborn universe that are essential to the standard model of cosmology. In 2006, Americans John Mather and George Smoot shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for, respectively, measuring the spectrum and detecting the fluctuations.Some physicists say Weiss should have shared that award. “It was a near miss,” Syracuse’s Saulson says. Nevertheless, Weiss’s contributions to COBE show he excelled in a role for which he says he’s badly suited: leader of a large scientific effort. “He’s a good collaborator,” says Mather, who works at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. “He’s also good at deciding who should do what and making sure that people get the credit they deserve.”Long before COBE, during his wayward untenured days, Weiss hatched the idea that would become LIGO. In the late 1960s, the MIT physics department asked him to teach a graduate course on general relativity. “I couldn’t tell them that I didn’t know any general relativity,” he says. So, striving to stay one step ahead of his students, Weiss focused on experimental tests of gravity.Weiss’s students asked him to discuss experiments in which Joseph Weber, an engineer at the University of Maryland, College Park, was trying to detect gravitational waves using aluminum cylinders the size of a footlocker. General relativity states that massive objects—such as two black holes—spiraling together should radiate ripples in spacetime. Weber argued that those ripples— gravitational waves—would stretch his cylinders and make them vibrate like tuning forks. In 1969, he would claim a discovery of the waves, which others couldn’t reproduce.Weiss couldn’t grasp Weber’s method, so he invented his own, based on an L-shaped device called an interferometer. It splits a laser beam and sends the two beams down perpendicular “arms.” The beams reflect off mirrors and race back to the beam splitter. If the arms are precisely the same length, the light waves return in sync and recombine so that light flows back toward the laser. But if the arms differ by a sliver of the light’s wavelength, then the out-of-kilter overlap sends some light leaking out a perpendicular “dark port.” Weiss realized that output could reveal a passing gravitational wave, which generally would stretch the arms by different amounts. He let the class chew on the idea in homework and wrote a 23-page report in the quarterly newsletter of MIT’s Research Laboratory of Electronics. LIGO sprouted from that document. In the 1970s, Rainer Weiss made his name studying the cosmic microwave background with balloons. Weiss insists the concept of an interferometric detector was already “floating around.” But others say he was the first to spell out that the detector would have to be kilometers long and to describe how to deal with the various types of noise—from seismic vibrations to the pinging of individual photons on the mirrors—that could drown out the elusive waves.Making the experiment a reality required mind-boggling technological feats. The twin LIGO interferometers have arms 4 kilometers long. To detect a gravitational wave, physicists must compare the arms’ lengths to within 1/10,000 the width of a proton. Approval to build the $300 million project did not come until 1994, 22 years later (see sidebar, p. 534).In the meantime, Weiss became a fixture in Building 20, identifiable by the corncob pipes he smoked until he suffered a mild heart attack in 1995. He would work until 2 a.m., says Nergis Mavalvala, a LIGO physicist at MIT who was Weiss’s graduate student from 1990 to 1997, and would stay even later to help a student. When Mavalvala failed her qualifying exams, Weiss had her attend “reform school” in his office every Saturday for weeks. “He didn’t give a damn about the exams,” Mavalvala says. “But he knew that I had to get past them.”Weiss earned a reputation for lending nontraditional students a helping hand. In 1983, Lyman Page, who had been out of school for 5 years and had spent 2 years sailing around the world, walked into Weiss’s lab and asked whether he could work for him. “He said ‘I can’t pay you, but you can work in the lab,’” Page says. “So I worked as a carpenter during the day and in the lab at night.” Page, now a cosmologist at Princ eton, credits Weiss for giving him a chance that others did not.A functioning workaholic, Weiss enjoyed a full life outside the lab, too. In 1959, he married Rebecca Young, a recently graduated biology student working at the Harvard University Herbaria. The two frequented the same diner, says Rebecca, a retired children’s librarian. “One evening he asked me to pass the salt and we started having this big conversation about photosynthesis,” she says. “After we had been married for years it occurred to me that he never puts salt on anything.”Rebecca says she was often a “physics widow,” especially in the 1960s and 70s, when Weiss would travel to Palestine, Texas, to launch his balloon experiments. Still, she says, he was a devoted husband and father. Even when he was away “there was always a lifeline,” she says. On Sundays Weiss would take his children to the lab, says Sarah Weiss, the couple’s daughter, now an ethnomusicologist at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. “I never felt that I didn’t have the access that I needed or hoped for,” she says.Through it all, Weiss has had music. “Music is a big factor in his life,” Rebecca says. Weiss says he started playing the piano at 20, when the woman he failed to win started teaching him. He plays for an hour every evening, favoring classical composers such as Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert, on a Steinway baby grand in the living room of the couple’s two-story Victorian in Newton, Massachusetts. “He goes in there at 8 o’clock and he shuts all the doors,” Rebecca says. “He thinks I can’t hear him.”Weiss insists that even after 63 years of practice, he isn’t very good. “My technique sucks,” he says. “You will recognize the piece I play, but you won’t be satisfied.” Weiss is also known for speaking his mind. “He is absolutely 100% committed to honesty both in his physics and in life,” says Peter Saulson, a LIGO physicist at Syracuse University in New York, who worked with Weiss at MIT in the 1980s. Dirk Muehlner, a retired physicist in Alamo, California, and one of Weiss’s early graduate students, shares that sentiment. “He’s totally honest. There’s no bullshitting for Rai. There’s no performance.”People say, ‘I failed out of college! My life is over!’ Well, it’s not over.Rainer WeissYet getting a fix on Weiss isn’t easy. An inveterate storyteller, he has clearly told his tales many times, smoothing the edges and burnishing the details. As he conjures up his past, little clues—loose threads, differing versions—suggest he’s not quite an open book. In fact, for Weiss, storytelling itself seems to serve some more subtle purpose.In his modest office at MIT, on the second floor of a brick building resembling an old warehouse, Weiss settles behind a small wooden desk with a gaping hole in the top. Before the advent of flat-panel displays, Weiss took a saw to the desk so that he could tilt back bulky computer monitors. In a staccato New York accent, he tells his tale.Rainer Weiss was born of a tryst between Frederick Weiss, a neurologist and scion of a wealthy German-Jewish family, and Gertrude Loesner, a stage and radio actress. While Gertrude was pregnant, Frederick, an ardent Communist, got into trouble by testifying in court against an incompetent Nazi doctor. The Nazis abducted him, and Gertrude’s family had to pull strings to get him released. The couple, who wed in 1933, soon fled to Prague, then in Czechoslovakia, where Weiss’s sister was born in 1937. Weiss says he was a happy, headstrong child. “I was probably an egotistical little bastard,” he says.The family soon had to flee again, when U.K. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed an accord ceding parts of Czechoslovakia to Germany. They heard the news on the night of 30 September 1938, while on vacation in the Tatra Mountains in Slovakia. As Chamberlain’s address blared from the hotel’s massive radio, 6-year-old Rainer stared in fascination at the glowing array of vacuum tubes inside the cabinet. The hotel emptied overnight as people fled to Prague.The family immigrated to New York City in January 1939, 2 months before Hitler’s Wehrmacht rolled into Prague. “It was a miracle,” Weiss says. Unable to pass the medical board exams because of the language barrier, Frederick set up a practice as a counselor and eventually became a noted psychoanalyst. Gertrude worked in department stores, as a housekeeper, and at odd jobs. It was an unhappy household. “My father was a dictator in the true German sense,” Weiss says. “He suppressed my mother.” Both parents blamed Hitler for their marriage, he says.Weiss says he grew up in an environment of benign neglect. “My parents were singularly uninterested in me,” he says. “My father was too self-centered and too busy with his own practice to pay a lot of attention to me, and my mother was probably deflected more by my sister.” He attended the prestigious Columbia Grammar and Preparatory School on a scholarship—“My mother went over and pleaded for them to take me,” Weiss says—but he sometimes cut classes, and teachers compared him unfavorably with his older schoolmate Murray Gell-Mann, who went on to win the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1969.As a teenager, Weiss developed two passions: classical music and electronics. Snapping up army surplus parts, he repaired radios out of his bedroom. He even made a deal with the local toughs: If they left him alone as he lugged radios to and from the subway, he’d fix theirs for free. “They would steal things and I would have to fix them,” he says. “It wasn’t a good deal.”Weiss’s sister, playwright Sybille Pearson, confirms that Weiss spent as much time as possible out of the unhappy home. But, as the only son, he was still something of a prince in his family, she says. For example, whenever the family moved to a new apartment, Weiss got the biggest bedroom to himself, she recalls. “He was adored.”Nor was he a laggard at school, Pearson says. “He was bright and interested in everything and very smart.” Michael Wallach, Weiss’s classmate at Columbia Grammar, agrees. “Rai’s scientific abilities were widely recognized at school,” says Wallach, a psychologist retired from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, although he adds that Weiss really was a street-smart kid and once broke his leg in some sort of a tangle.If Weiss did cut classes, it wasn’t to hang out on the corner, says his son, Benjamin Weiss, a historian and curator at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. “He was going to piano recitals at Town Hall.” At the same time, Benjamin speculates, Weiss was drawn to tinkering partly as a reaction to his family’s cerebral atmosphere. “This is a German-refugee kid with very self-consciously cultured parents, and he’s rebelling against them by doing things with his hands,” Benjamin says. “But he’s surely not rejecting doing things with his head.”If Weiss skipped cheerfully through his youth, he stumbled in early adulthood. He applied to MIT to study electrical engineering so that he could solve a problem in hi-fi—how to suppress the hiss made by the shellac records of the day. But electrical engineering courses disappointed him, as they focused more on power plants than on hi-fi. So Weiss switched to physics—the major that had, he says, the fewest requirements.Then, in his junior year, Weiss flunked out of school entirely. He fell for a woman he met on a ferry from Nantucket to Boston. “She taught me about folk dancing and playing the piano,” he says. Weiss followed her when she moved to Evanston, Illinois, abandoning his classes in midterm. But the affair fizzled. “I fell in love and went crazy,” he says, “and of course she couldn’t stand to be around a crazy man.” Weiss returned to MIT hoping to take his finals only to find he’d flunked out.Weiss says he was unfazed. “People say, ‘I failed out of college! My life is over!’ Well, it’s not over. It depends on what you do with it.” He took a job as a technician in MIT’s legendary Building 20, a temporary structure erected during the war, working for Jerrold Zacharias, who studied beams of atoms and molecules with light and microwaves and developed the first commercial atomic clock. Under Zacharias’s tutelage, Weiss finished his bachelor’s degree in 1955 and earned his Ph.D. in 1962.Other physicists say Zacharias’s approach to research—using high-precision measurements to probe fundamental physics— inspired Weiss’s. But Weiss says he owes Zacharias a larger personal debt. “He got me back into school, then he got me into graduate school, all with a very bad record,” he says. “I think that extends all the way up to tenure.” A photograph of Zacharias hangs on Weiss’s office wall.After a postdoc at Princeton University developing experimental tests of gravity under physicist Robert Dicke, Weiss returned to MIT in 1964. As a junior faculty member, he says, he published little and didn’t worry about advancing his career. MIT’s Shoemaker says Weiss probably got tenure only for his teaching—and wouldn’t get it today. Bernard Burke, an emeritus physicist at MIT, agrees that early on Weiss was a “happy gadgeteer” who “wasn’t likely to get tenure unless he did something that did something.” But, Burke says, Weiss soon turned things around.Burke suggested that Weiss turn his attention from gravity to measurements of so-called cosmic microwave background (CMB) radiation, an all-pervading fuzz of radio waves that had been discovered in 1965 and that had been tentatively identified as the afterglow of the big bang, stretched to longer, cooler wavelengths by the unrelenting expansion of the universe.In the late 1960s that connection remained tenuous, however. Radiation from the big bang should have a “thermal spectrum” with a lopsided peak indicating the radiation’s temperature. At long wavelengths, several groups had observed a climbing spectrum consistent with a temperature of 3°C above absolute zero. But in 1968, rocket measurements found high amounts of shorter wavelength radiation that clashed with a thermal spectrum and threatened the big bang hypothesis. © Matt Weber Now, Weiss’s tranquil life seems sure to be upended, as physicists expect him to share the Nobel Prize, if not this year, then the next. Since the LIGO team announced their discovery in February, he and LIGO cofounders Kip Thorne of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena and Ronald Drever, retired from Caltech, have already won several prizes: the Special Breakthrough Award, the Gruber Cosmology Prize, the Shaw Prize in Astronomy, and the Kavli Prize in Astrophysics. “To tell you the truth, these prizes give me the willies,” says Weiss, who adds that he plans to use 90% of the award money to help graduate students. Weiss’s humility, expressed in the many stories in which he is never the hero, is striking. “He’s a very modest person,” his friend Wallach says. “That’s part of his charm.” But Weiss’s compulsive storytelling also seems to serve some deeper purpose, as becomes clear in what he calls “this famous story”: how he fell in love and flunked out of college.The conversation circles back to the incident a couple times. At first, it seems simple enough. Weiss falls in love, comes on too strong, and scares the girl away. On the second pass, however, Weiss says that he wasn’t more of a lover than the woman could handle, but less than she wanted. “I had made a goddess out of her, and you don’t touch a goddess,” he says. “She wanted something more.” But that version soon fades, too. Asked whether he was popular as a young man, Weiss responds, “I wasn’t unpopular. I didn’t have any trouble getting girls.” When it came to love, Weiss says, “I had the experience.”Wallach remembers it all differently. When Weiss was in his early 20s he fell in love with his piano teacher, a woman in her 30s. Wallach recalls that Weiss spent most of his time at his teacher’s house. “She was, not surprisingly, very taken with him and wanted to marry him,” Wallach says. Too young to marry, Weiss broke it off, he says.Weiss’s sister questions how much any of it had to do with his failing out of college. “At that age that’s rebellion,” Pearson says. “And from the family we came from, what’s the way to do it? You drop out of school.”The specifics of the decades-old affair matter far less than the way Weiss tells the story. He revels in changing the details, revealing a little more each time. But he never explains exactly what happened, how he really felt, or why he tells the story in the first place. Perhaps that is the point.LIGO, Weiss’s brainchild, proved beyond a reasonable doubt the existence of black holes, the intense gravitational fields left by stars that collapse to infinitesimal points. Within a certain distance of that point—beyond the event horizon—gravity grows so strong that nothing can escape, not even light. In telling his tales, Weiss seems to create his own personal event horizon, a charming screen of words and anecdotes behind which he conceals his deeper self. For all his storytelling, Weiss remains a deeply private person.At the couple’s house, Rebecca explains how, tinkering as always, Weiss has rigged a computer monitor to magnify his sheet music to compensate for his weakening sight. At her insistence, Weiss shows how the system works. In the living room stands his aging Steinway baby grand, the gloss finish worn to matte, the wood showing through at the corners, the top piled with sheet music. A flatpanel screen on makeshift gimbaled mount displays the enlarged music—a Beethoven sonata?—the 16th notes running up and down like staircases. The keyboard beckons.“No,” Weiss says. “I won’t play.”*Correction, 26 August, 12:25 p.m.: The story has been updated to reflect that in the photo of Weiss at the lab bench, he is working on equipment for measurements of the cosmic microwave background.See also: The long road to proving Einstein’s biggest predictionlast_img read more