TIME Science

Embattled Nobel Scientist Tim Hunt Resigns After Sexist Remarks

English biochemist, the Nobel-prize winn
AFP/Getty Images English biochemist, the Nobel-prize winner Sir Richard Timothy 'Tim' Hunt meets with the press at the Jozsef Attila Study and Information Centre of Szeged Sciences University in Szegede on March 22, 2012

Hunt said his remarks were intended as a "light-hearted, ironic comment"

Tim Hunt, the Nobel-winning scientist who made headlines Wednesday for comments on the “trouble with girls” working in laboratories, resigned from his position as honorary professor at University College London on Thursday, the BBC reports.

Hunt, who told a room full of high-ranking scientists and science journalists at a global conference in South Korea that working with women was troublesome because “they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry,” won a Nobel in 2001 for his work in physiology and medicine.

He told the BBC’s Radio 4 Wednesday that while he stood by his remarks, he was “really sorry that I said what I said” and noted it was “a very stupid thing to do in the presence of all those journalists”.

On the BBC, Hunt explained that his comments were “intended as a light-hearted, ironic comment” and had been misconstrued. He also said that the aforementioned “trouble” had been drawn from his own experience.

“I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me and it’s very disruptive to the science,” he said. “I found that these emotional entanglements made life very difficult.”

His now former employer has been careful to distance itself from him. “UCL was the first university in England to admit women students on equal terms to men, and the university believes that this outcome is compatible with our commitment to gender equality,” the University said in a statement.

[BBC]

Read next: Tennis Star Andy Murray Says He Has Become a Feminist

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TIME sexism

Nobel Laureate Walks Back Sexist Comments After Backlash

English biochemist, the Nobel-prize winn
AFP/Getty Images English biochemist, the Nobel-prize winner Sir Richard Timothy 'Tim' Hunt meets with the press at the Jozsef Attila Study and Information Centre of Szeged Sciences University in Szegede on March 22, 2012

The comments at a conference were tweeted by audience members

A Nobel Prize-winning British scientist attempted to apologize on Wednesday following backlash over sexist comments that he made about women in his field.

Sir Tim Hunt originally said at the World Conference of Science Journalists that the “trouble with girls” working in science labs was that “you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticize them they cry.” He went on to advocate for gender-segregated labs, adding that he hoped not to “stand in the way of women.” The comments were tweeted by several audience members.

He took back half this statement on BBC radio, saying his remarks were meant to be humorous and apologized if he “caused any offense.” But, he went on to say, “I did mean the part about having trouble with girls…I have fallen in love with people in the lab and people in the lab have fallen in love with me, and it’s very disruptive to the science.”

Hunt, a biochemist and fellow of the Royal Society, was a joint recipient of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

The Royal Society issued a statement on Tuesday titled “science needs women” saying it did not agree with Hunt: “Too many talented individuals do not fulfill their scientific potential because of issues such as gender and the Society is committed to helping to put this right.”

[BBC]

TIME A Year In Space

How Vaccines in Space Can Help on Earth

Looking good: A healthy and well-vaccinated Scott Kelly on March 23, 2015, six days before launch
Bill Ingalls—NASA Looking good: A healthy and well-vaccinated Scott Kelly on March 23, 2015, six days before launch

A unique experiment is happening aboard the International Space Station

You’d think it would be hard to get sick in space. There is no part of your body the medics wouldn’t have turned inside out looking for problems; you’d be placed in medical quarantine for days before launch; and once you did take off, well, goodbye Earth, with all its colds and flus and walking pneumonias. The bugs are down there and you’re up here.

But that’s not the way things work. Bacteria and viruses adore the environment of a spacecraft: it’s warm, it’s sealed, it’s climate-controlled, and best of all it’s full of people who have nowhere to go and no way to avoid sharing any stray germs they might have brought with them.

That’s especially true aboard the International Space Station (ISS), where crews rotate in and out and can stay for many months at a time, and where residents’ immune systems—flummoxed by long-term exposure to zero-g—are unable to function as they should. Now, NASA is taking an important step toward solving these problems, with an imaginative study of year-in-space marathoner Scott Kelly and his twin brother Mark, a retired astronaut. The cutting-edge, space-age tool that will be central to the work? The ordinary flu vaccine.

The Kelly brothers’ immune systems had already been studied in the run-up to Scott’s launch last March, and both men were certified fit. But they should be slowly diverging, and it is Scott who will be having problems. In space, some of the immune system’s billions of cells begin to change in shape and function, especially the critical T-cells — and none of it is for the better.

“There is suppression of T-cell activation pathways,” says Dr. Emmanuel Mignot, an immune system specialist and one of the year-in-space mission’s medical investigators. “They are the generals that coordinate the entire immune response.”

Making things worse, while the ISS is hardly germ-free, it’s a lot more antiseptic than Earth is, and that means the body can get forgetful, unlearning some of the immunities it’s acquired over the years. “The immune system needs to be challenged,” says Mignot. If it isn’t, it grows slack.

The experiment that will help study all of this began a few months before Scott even left Earth, when both brothers received a common trivalent flu vaccine—one that is formulated to protect against three strains of the virus. Blood was drawn from both men seven days later, which is typically the point at which the immune response peaks and the greatest number of cells that have been mustered to respond to the vaccine are present.

This coming November, as flu season is getting underway on Earth, both brothers will be vaccinated again—Scott in space and Mark on the ground—and more blood will be drawn. Scott’s sample will be frozen until it can be returned to Earth aboard one of the unmanned, round-trip cargo runs flown by the SpaceX Dragon. There will be a third and final round of vaccines and blood draws a year from November.

In all of the samples, Mignot will be scrutinizing the brothers’ twin immune responses in ways that haven’t been possible before. “We’ll be using a new technique that recognizes just pieces of the virus,” he says. “It’s quite sophisticated; we’ll have ideas both of the strength and qualitative nature of the immune response.”

Mignot and the other NASA researchers will be looking not just at how Scott’s immune system is changed by his time in space, but how well it recovers once he’s back on Earth. The results will have implications that go beyond the ISS.

Bad as an illness would be aboard the station, the astronauts are always only hours away from climbing aboard their attached Soyuz spacecraft and coming home. During a long-term mission to Mars—when an emergency return would take at least eight months—even a comparatively minor illness could present a far more serious problem. What’s more, as with most ISS biomedical studies, any basic knowledge about how the body works can have applications not just for astronauts, but for the seven billion other humans who have no plans to leave the Earth.

The Kelly brothers are hardly the only people who will be getting their flu shots this year and next. But over time, if things go well, they could prove to be the most important.

TIME zoology

Chimps Also Like to Drink Alcohol and Get Bombed, Researchers Discover

Some chimps drank the equivalent of a bottle of wine in fermented tree sap

A 17-year-long study of chimps by the Royal Society Open Science has recorded chimpanzees from the Republic of Guinea using leaves to drink fermented plant sap, reported the BBC.

The chimps made absorbent sponges with chewed leaves and then dipped them into the sap of the raffia palm trees. They often consumed so much ethanol that they showed “visible signs of inebriation.”

“Some individuals were estimated to have consumed about 85ml of alcohol,” said the leader of the research team, Dr Kimberley Hockings from Oxford Brookes University and the Centre for Research in Anthropology in Portugal. An amount which equates to a bottle of wine.

“[They] displayed behavioural signs of inebriation, including falling asleep shortly after drinking.”

This is the first time researchers have recorded any wild ape’s voluntary alcohol consumption.

TIME Science

A Nobel Scientist Just Made a Breathtakingly Sexist Speech at International Conference

Tim Hunt Nobel prize winner
Csaba Segesvari—AFP/Getty Images English biochemist, the Nobel-prize winner Sir Richard Timothy 'Tim' Hunt in Hungary in 2012.

Tim Hunt complained that female scientists "cry" and make male colleagues fall in love with them

Renowned scientist and Nobel prize winner Tim Hunt told a room full of high-ranking scientists and science journalists Wednesday that the trouble with “girls” working in science is that “three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticize them, they cry.”

Hunt, who was speaking at the World Conference of Science Journalists in the South Korean capital, Seoul, went on to say that scientists should work in gender-segregated labs, adding that he hoped not “to stand in the way of women,” the Guardian reports.

Hunt, 72, won the 2001 Nobel prize in physiology and medicine for his work on protein molecules and their role in cell division. He was knighted in 2006.

The Royal Society, of which Hunt is a fellow, quickly tweeted a message distancing itself from Hunt’s remarks, writing that the comments “don’t reflect our views” and later adding, “Science needs women.”

Hunt later tried to apologize on BBC Radio 4’s Today:

I’m really sorry that I said what I said. It was a very stupid thing to do in presence of all those journalists. And what was intended was a sort of light-hearted, ironic comment … was apparently interpreted deadly seriously by my audience. But what I said was quite accurately reported.

It’s terribly important that you can criticize people’s ideas without criticizing them. If they break in to tears then you hold back from getting at the absolute truth. Science is about nothing except getting at the truth. And anything (that) gets in the way of that diminishes, in my experience, the science.

I mean I’m really, really sorry that I caused any offense. That’s awful. I certainly didn’t mean … I just meant to be honest actually.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Twitter responded with outrage. Sabine Dittrich, an infectious-disease researcher based in Laos, wrote:

Lynn Schreiber, who runs a “girl-positive” online magazine, said:

And mechanical-engineering Ph.D. student Aaron Mifflin added:

The ratio of women to men in science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) careers has remained persistently low despite initiatives around the world promoting science education for young girls. Women hold only 25% of American STEM jobs, according to a 2011 report from the U.S. Department of Commerce.

[Guardian]

TIME Drought

Why Some California Cities Are Bracing for a Bear Invasion

Justin Worland A bear crossing sign on the side of the road in Monrovia, Calif.

Blacks bears are rocking the suburbs

MONROVIA, Calif.—June is the beginning of bear season, and California game warden Marty Wall is doing the rounds in this quiet suburb only 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles. In his green pickup truck, the wildlife veteran patrols the streets as he waits for locals to report problem bears.

That’s right—bears. Wall, a lieutenant at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), has 23 years experience with bears and other wildlife. He’s chased them through backyards, across golf courses and on freeways. And, like his counterparts across the state, he is likely to face a rapid increase in the number of bear calls in coming months.

The drought in California has killed more than 12 million trees in the forests of Southern California. And while many small animals that can’t move have died off as their habitat shrinks, bears and other big game have simply moved rather than compete for food in a cramped forest area. For many of California’s 35,000 black bears, that means venturing into residential neighborhoods, searching for food in garbage and trash. “Accidentally or not we supply what they need to survive. Just about every lawn has a meal in it,” Wall tells me as we roam the foothills in his green pickup truck. “Black bears are just looking for a handout, the easiest path through life.”

Whether or not you think bears are on the animal equivalent of welfare, the drought has increasingly brought bears into contact with humans in recent years. Wildlife officials in Central California’s Kern County, for instance, received 1,400 bear calls between June and December of last year, according to DFW wildlife biologist Vicky Monroe. That’s more than the county received in the 20 previous years combined.

“No one had any idea of what the drought really meant before last year. We weren’t in a position to be saying more publicly that there were measurable impacts,” Monroe said. “But last season was just insane.”

Officials say they expect these numbers to grow as the drought continues to kill off forest land. The ever smaller snowpack—which was at its lowest —may also be affecting hibernation patterns, causing bears to forage for longer than they would otherwise, according to Patricia Kruger, regional threatened and endangered species coordinator at the U.S. Forest Service. Officials have sent experts door-to-door in affected neighborhoods, held town hall meetings and canceled vacations to prepare locals for the day when a bear lands on their doorsteps.

Don’t get too worried, though—Wall says that there’s no reason to fear a bear invasion if you’re smart. Bears may stop by your backyard, but they’re more interested in sifting through your garbage for Big Mac leftovers than confronting you. In Wall’s experience, it’s people that tend to turn a bear sighting into a problem. Slapping a bear is bad idea, he tells me. So is trying to take a selfie with a bear. He’s seen locals attempt both.

Despite that, there hasn’t been a deadly bear attack in years. Most bears are captured and returned to their natural habitats, but, in cases where bears do attack, Wall and his counterparts respond and the bear is put down. “I like to think of it more as a misunderstanding than an attack,” he says of most interactions between bears and humans. “You have a bear trying to get a sandwich and then gets a finger. And then you call that an attack.”

Most Monrovia residents know how to handle bears. The city has more sightings of the animal than all but two cities in California—the mountain towns of Lake Tahoe and Mammoth Lakes. Official street signs are emblazoned with a “bear crossing” warning and most sightings don’t even elicit a phone call to wildlife authorities. Wall, one of four game wardens that works in the area, has become such a presence in the community that the city manager waves hello as he passes in an opposing car.

People in other communities where bears could appear in the coming months may not be as welcoming. Wall, who patrols a swathe of Southern California that includes two-thirds of Los Angeles County, says that people unfamiliar with bears are often unforgiving. Killing bears in residential communities is illegal, but it’s hard to prosecute, Wall says. Bears found in residential communities are often riddled with bullet holes. When they survive the bullets—and they often do—they still need to avoid poisoned food.

“How many of these bears, now that they have to wander further, are going to come across people and have negative interactions?” Jason Holley, DFW supervising wildlife biologist, asked rhetorically. “That’s what we’re worried about.”

TIME animals

An Undercover Investigation Alleges Major Mistreatment of Egg-Laying Hens

Costco Egg Investigation
Courtesy of the Humane Society of the United States Undercover investigation conducted at an egg supplier to Costco, the nation’s second-largest grocery retailer.

'It really is harder to imagine a worse existence'

An undercover investigation by the Humane Society of the United States found that a leading chicken farm that sells eggs to retail giant Costco has forced its chickens to live in cramped cages, often with decaying or mummified chicken corpses, the group said on Tuesday.

“It really is harder to imagine a worse existence than being confined in one of these battery cages,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society, on a telephone press conference. “The inhumane and unhygienic conditions that we exposed… are unsustainable.”

A Humane Society affiliate worked undercover at Hillandale Farms in Pennsylvania for nearly a month while simultaneously capturing photographic and video evidence of grim treatment of egg-supplying chickens. In the video several hens are crammed together in a small cage, each living on less space than a sheet of paper. The group alleges that a single worker may be responsible for more than 250,000 chickens, making it difficult to keep track of dead chickens. Many hens that have died will sit at the bottom of their cages for weeks before being removed, the investigation says.

Read More: A Guide to What Kind of Eggs You Should Buy

The eggs’ packaging, which portrays chickens roaming on an idyllic farm with green grass, couldn’t be further from the truth, Shapiro said. “These hens never feel sun on their back, never set foot on a blade of grass, never even spread their wings,” he said.

The treatment of caged hens could have health implications for humans as well as hens. Multiple studies have found that housing hens in particularly close quarters, known as battery cages, may increase the likelihood of salmonella poisoning. Indeed, a Hillandale facility in Iowa was at the center of a salmonella outbreak that affected more than 1,600 people and led to the recall of 500 million eggs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At the time, a Hillandale representative said that the incident had company officials “to take a hard look at our operations.”

This is not the first time undercover reporting by animal rights organizations has exposed practices seen as inhumane. A 2008 video captured by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) of brutal methods used to kill pigs at an Iowa farm sparked a national outcry. In response, agriculture lobbyists began to advocate for controversial laws that would criminalize undercover reporting on the treatment of animals.

The European Union banned battery cages in 2012 and many suppliers in the U.S. have followed suit. For its part, Costco announced in 2007 that it planned to move to cage free eggs, but didn’t provide a timeline for achieving that goal. Hillandale Farms and Costco representatives did not immediately return requests for comment from TIME. Reuters reported that a Hillandale employee said the company was aware of the investigation, but had no immediate comment.

TIME weather

U.S. Sees Wettest May on Record

Flooding Texas bridgeport
Max Faulkner—Fort Worth Star-Telegram/Getty Images Flood waters surround the Bridgeport Building Center in Bridgeport, Texas, June 1, 2015.

The contiguous U.S. saw record precipitation totals for the month of May

This May was the wettest on record for the contiguous United States, according to federal weather data.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports 4.36 inches of rain fell on the contiguous U.S. this May, 1.45 inches above average and the most rain the administration has recorded for the month of May in 121 years.

The total precipitation that fell in the spring was 9.33 inches, making it the 11th wettest spring on record for the contiguous U.S.

Severe weather events and heavy rainfall across the U.S. have contributed to the uptick in precipitation. Fifteen states had totals well above average, including Oklahoma, Texas, and Colorado which each suffered severe flooding. However, seven states along the East Coast had lower than average levels of precipitation.

About 24.6% of the contiguous U.S. was in drought according to a June Drought Monitor report, an improvement across the board though many states in the West, Northwest, Southeast and Northeast have seen drought conditions worsen.

So far, 2015 has brought a number of record-setting months weather-wise. January through March 2015 was the warmest first three months of the year on record across the globe. In the contiguous U.S., this January to May has been the 17th warmest in the 121 years that the NOAA has tracked temperatures.

TIME coca-cola

You Won’t Believe What Coca-Cola Is Using to Make its Bottles

Coca-Cola Co. Prepares To Release Quarterly Earnings Numbers
Tom Pennington—Getty Images

An earlier version was released in 2009

Coca-Cola now makes some of its bottles entirely out of sugar cane, the company trumpeted recently at the Expo Milano food conference.

Called the PlantBottle, the packaging differs in that it’s derived from sugar cane, not petroleum.

“The first-ever fully recyclable PET plastic beverage bottle made partially from plants looks and functions just like traditional PET plastic, but has a lighter footprint on the planet and its scarce resources,” the company said in a release. The new technology accounts for 30% of the company’s packaging in North America and 7% globally, Coca-Cola said.

The packaging isn’t entirely new. A version was first released in 2009, but at that time it was 30% plant-based plastic, according to Business Insider. Now, it’s made from 100% plastic derived from sugar cane.

More: Read about Coca-Cola in the new Fortune 500 list

“To date, more than 35 billion PlantBottle packages have been distributed in nearly 40 countries,” said Coca-Cola in a statement. “The technology has enabled us to eliminate the potential for more than 315,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions—equivalent to the amount of carbon dioxide emitted from burning more than 743,000 barrels of oil—and save more than 36 million gallons of gas.”

TIME movies

What Science Says About Jurassic World’s New Dinosaur

The film may be fun, the premise is cool, but the science says no dice

It’s easy to go Hollywood, but it can be hard to come back. That’s not something paleontologist Jack Horner has to worry about—yet. A little more scientific loose-talk, however, and he could be flirting with trouble.

Horner is the celebrated curator of paleontology at Montana’s Museum of the Rockies, the co-author of the provocatively wonderful How to Build a Dinosaur, and, most famously perhaps, technical consultant on all four Jurassic Park films, including the upcoming Jurassic World, opening on June 12. Good science fiction, like good science itself, changes as new discoveries roll in, and the Jurassic franchise is no exception.

The original film, based on a Michael Crichton novel, rested on the plausible-enough idea that dinosaur DNA could be recovered by collecting ancient mosquitoes that had been trapped in amber shortly after they supped on dino blood. Extract the blood, apply a little contemporary cloning and add only a comparatively small dash of suspension of disbelief and you’ve got your thunder lizards.

But DNA, it turns out, is not nearly such hardy stuff. Store it properly and it can, at best, survive a few million years. But the 65 million years since the death of the dinosaurs? Not a chance.

So the new movie adds a twist. It doesn’t junk its old premise entirely, but instead riffs off of it, imagining an entirely new species of dinosaur—the Indominus rex—engineered from the recovered genes of four actual dinosaurs: the Gigantosaurus, Rugops, Majungasaurus and Carnotaurus.

Since human-manipulated transgenic animals do exist, Horner has a certain measure of cover to promote the new movie as a scientific improvement on the old ones. “The cool thing about making a hybrid,” he said in a recent interview with BBC, “is that we can take a whole bunch of genes from other animals and mix them together to make a new animal, which is actually more plausible than bringing them back.”

That’s true enough as far as it goes—but it doesn’t go as far as he pushes it. Horner himself has explored the frontiers of dino DNA both in the lab and in his public appearances, making a wildly popular splash with a 2011 TED Talk, in which he discussed the possibility of creating a dinosaur by, effectively, reverse-engineering a chicken. Modern birds are the closest living kin to dinosaurs and, far better than the dead mosquito in a drop of amber, serve as repositories of their DNA. If you could shut off the genes that turned a claw to a wing, or reanimate the ones that coded for a dinosaur’s tail instead of a bird’s tail, you might work your way back to animals that haven’t been seen for tens of millions of years.

In 2014, Horner and his colleagues published a paper looking specifically at the evolution of the bird tail. Before that, Harvard geneticist Matthew Harris went further, engineering a chicken with crocodile-like teeth. (It’s chickens that wind up in these studies so often for the same reason they wind up on our plates so often: They’re cheap, domesticated and plentiful.)

Transgenic science is much further along than any dreams of rolling the chicken’s evolutionary clock backwards, though here too the steps have been relatively modest. Typically, animals created transgenically are a single recognizable species into which genes have been spliced to produce a single trait—goats that produce spider silk in their milk, which can then be used for manufacturing; cows that produce proteins for nerve-protecting myelin, which may have applications in treating neurodegenerative diseases; a pig that produces less-polluting manure thanks to a bit of mouse DNA.

None of that is even remotely close to the Mixmaster scenario Horner envisions—and for a reason. Geneticists have long been humbled by their work on genomes as simple as the yeast’s and as complex of the human’s, learning that things are never as easy as finding a discrete gene for a discrete trait.

Rather, even a relatively modest trait in a single species may be governed by a whole suite of genes, interacting with a whole suite of epigenes—essentially the genes’ on-off switches. And all of those must, in turn, work in a perfect symphonic cooperation with all of the other genes and traits that make up the organism.

It can take evolution billions of years to get that right and it balks at allowing any two species to commingle their genes and create who-knows-what kind of biological chaos. It’s the reason a dog can’t mate with a cat or a human with a chimp. It’s the reason too that on those occasion that species do sidestep the system—like the horse and the donkey producing a mule—the resulting offspring are often sterile. Best to shut down the whole experiment before things get out of hand. And that’s just with two species messing around with their genes. Things would get exponentially more complicated if you tried to combine three or four in the lab.

Jurassic World, of course, is all about fun. The fi in sci-fi does not stand for “fidelity.” But Horner, who remains an icon among paleontologists, should nonetheless stay a bit truer to the science. Suggesting that the newest entry in the Jurassic franchise is the most realistic depiction yet of dinosaur reanimation is like saying last year’s Interstellar is the most realistic depiction yet of what would happen if you jumped into a black hole. In both cases, this is not something you should try at home.

Read next: Watch All the Trailers for This Summer’s Biggest Movies

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