Cold Fusion? Never heard of it. Pons and Fleischmann? Names don’t ring a bell. From now on, the University of Utah is the home of Mario Capecchi, who just landed the U its first ever Nobel Prize. Capecchi, an Italian immigrant and defector from the Harvard labs where DNA was first described, won a share of the 2007 Nobel Prize for medicine for work developing genetically engineered “knockout” mice that have become the primary means of determining the function of the thousands of genes discovered each year. In The New York Times, Capecchi partly credited the U’s lack of a Pons-Fleischmann-style rush to judgment for his success, saying that, unlike Harvard, the U didn’t press for quick research results.
That arithmetic stuff sounds a little too much like evolution for the liking of some Utah lawmakers who have decided Utah’s Legislature, rather than state education officials, should write math textbooks for state schoolchildren. When American Fork parents complained their children weren’t memorizing multiplication tables like they did in the good old days, the state Board of Education was pressured into making the approved math textbook optional. That wasn’t good enough for some lawmakers on the Education Committee. They hired a longtime “fuzzy math” critic to provide a predictably bad “review” of Utah’s math standards, then ordered state school officials to do a rewrite. Hopefully, the rewritten math curriculum for all of Utah will be up to American Fork standards.
For the first time in a quarter century, the federal Bureau of Land Management has canceled an auction of oil and gas leases in Utah. The decision to withdraw 140,000 acres of public land from the block follows an order saying the BLM must scientifically determine if energy leases would hurt wildlife, rather than simply assume animals would be OK living with oil derricks. Hopefully, the move signals a rethinking of the Bush administration’s drive to rapidly develop gas basins throughout Utah. Pre-drilling studies of federal lands throughout southern Utah are underway, including elk and deer habitat. The fact that some of the land has been designated “wilderness quality” hasn’t slowed down the oilmen in the White House. Maybe science will.