NEWS | IN BRIEF
Smallpox found in federal lab
BETHESDA, MARYLAND | Federal
researchers discovered six forgotten vials
of smallpox virus in a storage room at the
National Institutes of Health (NIH). The
vials, apparently dating to the 1950s, were
found in a Food and Drug Administration
lab at NIH, according to the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
On 7 July, CDC transferred the vials to
its high-containment lab in Atlanta,
where testing confirmed they contained
variola virus DNA. CDC says the vials will
be destroyed per a 1979 World Health
Organization agreement that allows
smallpox stocks to be retained only at CDC
and at Russia’s VECTOR laboratory in
Novosibirsk. Most Americans born since
1972 are not vaccinated against smallpox,
which killed hundreds of millions before it
was declared eradicated in 1980.
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Ancient ‘pyramid’—or volcano?
A controversial research project in West Java, Indonesia, claims that piles of colum- nar andesite rock littering the site of Gunung Padang represent remnants of “the world’s oldest civilization.” But Indonesia’s scientific community disputes the claim, saying that the rocks are likely just remnants of a volcano. Lead scientist Danny Hilman Natawidjaja, who received a Ph.D. in geology from the California
Institute of Technology and is now at the Indonesian Institute of Sciences, says that
beneath the jumbled rock columns lies an underground pyramid constructed more
than 10,000 years ago. A tomographic analysis of the site reveals a low-velocity zone
that he says is likely humanmade—like a large room. But geologists dispute this; for
example, Awang Satyana, a senior geologist at Indonesia’s Ministry of Energy and
Mineral Resources, told Kompas.com in October 2013 that the low-velocity zone could
be due to the presence of partial melt or even a natural cave—consistent with a volcanic
origin. Natawidjaja, however, says he is undaunted by the skepticism. “We’re not stupid
to put our reputation at risk,” he says. The project has drawn some support from
Indonesia’s president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who issued a presidential regulation
to protect it from vandals after local villagers attacked the site last year for fear that
drilling could generate landslides.
andesite columnar rocks.